Genesis Of A People

March 25, 2021 Category: History, Religion
Abraham proving his fealty to the Abrahamic deity by showing his willingness to sacrifice his son (Isaac in Judeo-Christian lore; Ishmael in Islamic lore)

Genealogical Machinations:

“[He] wondered if the ugly lie of an unpleasant outside world was some misguided attempt to keep people from wanting out.  Could someone have decided that the truth was worse than a loss of power, of control?  ‘[Knowing the facts about what really happened] doesn’t matter.  That’s the past; and the past is not the same thing as our Legacy.  You’ll need to learn the difference.’”

—from Hugh Howey’s dystopian novel, “Wool”

If one has been reared on the narrative of one’s own exceptionality (that is: as a member of an exalted in-group, designated by the Creator Of The Universe with unique provenance), one is inclined to adopt it; and consequently be swept up in an intoxicating sense of entitlement.  Indeed, when one has heard, from mother’s knee, that certain things are OURS by divine right, one can’t help but be inculcated with this extremely ingratiating ideation; which eventually becomes an indelible impression.

Such conditioning is re-inforced ad nauseam by ideologues who stand to benefit from a just-so historiography (i.e. an etiological myth that serves an ideological purpose). So it goes with Israel’s theocratic ethno-State, which ensures that its subjects spend their days guzzling the “Hasbara” Kool-Aid that is siphoned into the Israeli agora. Here: The Creator of the Universe is fashioned as–among other things–a real-estate broker; and the Torah is treated as a title-deed to a certain tract of land (Canaan). Amongst all mankind, he also picks favorite ethnic groups.

The fixation on bloodlines (patrilineal or otherwise) to define people’s place in the world (geographically) AND in the natural order (providentially) is the engine of ethno-centricity.  When a creed is inextricably tied to a certain stock, as is done in fundamentalist versions of Judaism, the result is the consecration of racism.  In my essay, “The Forgotten Diaspora”, I made a simple point: The fact that Ashkenazim have Turkic, not Semitic, roots does not make them any less Jewish.  {36}  Only someone who is racist would insist that a certain ancestry disqualifies someone from qualifying for any given Faith.

Since the Mishnaic era, what the denizens of any given Jewish community has considered its “Heimat” [true home] was simply where they happened to reside, which was RARELY the Levant.  For more on the fixation on bloodlines (viz. an obsession with blood and soil), see my essay: “The Land Of Purple”.

Taxonomies based explicitly on racial genealogy serve as a basis of racism–on the part of both the in-group (pro) AND the out-group (contra).  For it supposes that each purported “race” somehow fits within a divine master-plan.  Unfortunately, the Hebrew Bible speaks of everyone in the world in these terms.  In other words, rather than offering a conception of mankind qua mankind, the human race was categorized into kinships (based on patri-lineage) to be characterized—and judged—by the legacy of their ancestors.  All this becomes spurious once we realize that, if we go back far enough, we’re all Africans (a crucial point the Abrahamic deity neglected to make when delivering his messages).

Staking claim on a land (based on divine ordinance) typically involves the displacement or eradication of the indigenous populations.  This is par for the course when it comes to natural origin myths–especially those that assert spurious claims about blood and soil (by invoking Providence).  Take, for instance, the Book of Mormon, which claims that the Abrahamic deity allocated the New World (i.e. North America) for the prophet, Nephi (son of Lehi) and his progeny…even though the land had been occupied for tens of thousands of years by a native population numbering in the tens of millions.

There is nothing unique about basing the tribes of the known world on the divergent lineages of some (personified) source.  In Old Turkic etiological myths, the mother wolf, “Asena” / “Ashina” gave birth to ten sons, representing the ten Gök-Turk tribes (alt. Oghuz, Altai, Tocharian).  Such categorization schemes aren’t necessarily patriarchal.  Kikuyu (Bantu) folklore tells of the prehistoric couple, Gikuyu and Mumbi, who bore nine daughters–each of whom begat one of the nine Kikuyu tribes.

The fabricated etiology used for the fabled 12+1 tribes of “Israel” is based on the male progeny of Jacob ben Isaac ben Abraham.  This includes:

  • Gad and Asher (via the concubine, Zilpah)
  • Naphtali and Dan (via the concubine, Bilhah)
  • Reuben [y]Issachar, Zebulun, Simeon, Levi, and Judah (via the Aramaean maiden, Leah)
  • Benjamin (via Leah’s younger sister, Rachel)
  • And also via Rachel, Joseph’s sons (who he sired via the Egyptian maiden, Asenath): Manasseh and Ephraim

These 13 are resolved into 12 in three different ways, depending on the source:

THE FIRST is by omitting Dan; as does the New Testament.

THE SECOND is by omitting Levi; as does First Kings.  (Here, the Levites were seen more a cast of priests [kohen-im] than as a full-fledged tribe.)

THE THIRD is by subsuming Manasseh and Ephraim under the singular mantle of their father, Joseph…or, as with Numbers 1:32-33, simply counts Ephraim as “Joseph” (disregarding Manasseh).

This discrepant taxonomy is illustrative of the larger point: Narrative glitches are inevitable when different people are concocting their own version of events so as to comport with their own preconceptions (and accord with their sensibilities).

I discuss the significance of the number 12 in my essay on mythemes.  It is a number that has played a role is cosmogony / astrology—the world over—for thousands of years.  In any case, TWELVE tribes makes the arithmetic much easier when calculating the number of saved souls (144,000; which is not only a multiple of 12, but of 12 squared); especially when those souls must be from certain bloodlines in order to gain entry into heaven.

Expositors who propound a version of this spurious tribal taxonomy insist that THEY ALONE hold the right answer…even as all of it is confabulation.  Trying to figure out which is the correct explanation is as productive as trying to figure out which color unicorns REALLY are.

I discuss the contrived genealogy from Adam and Eve down to Abraham in the Addendum to part 3 of my series: “About Mohammed”.  The typical genealogy from Abraham down to David is as follows: Abraham sired Isaac via Sarah…who sired Jacob (a.k.a. “Yisra-El”) via Rebekah…Jacob sired the eponymous son of the Yehudim (via Leah): Judah.  Hence the moniker by which the southern (Judaic) kingdom was known.  The lineage continues through Judah’s son, Phares / Perez, whom he sired via his daughter-in-law, Tamar (a scenario that accounted for the salience of Leverite marriage).

The genealogy then proceeds as follows: From Perez to Esrom / Hezron to [a]Ram to Amminadab to Na[h]shon.  Amminadab was also father-in-law of Moses’ brother, Aaron: the High Priest of the Israelites during the Exodus.

Along with Aaron (a Levite like Moses) and Joshua (an Ephraimite), Na[h]shon was a Hebrew leader during the fabled “Exodus” from the land of Goshen in Egypt.  The lineage then proceeds to Salmah / Salmon, who sired Boaz via Rahab of Jericho.  Boaz then sired Obed [“worshipper”] via Ruth of Moab.  It was Obed who sired David’s father, Yishai / Eshai (a.k.a. “Jesse”).

So far as geo-politics is concerted, the salient line is the Davidic line.  David sired Solomon who sired Rehoboam–who presided over the OFFICIAL division of the Hebrews into THIRTEEN tribes.

The Kings of Judah (who were from the House of David via Manasseh; and mostly Jewish) mustn’t be confused with the Kings of Israel [a.k.a. “Samaria”; alt. “Ephraim”] (who were of the House of Ephraim; and were mostly pagan).  BOTH houses were from the house of Joseph.  It was in the southern (Judaic) kingdom that the tribes of Judah and Benjamin settled.

After the bifurcation of the unified kingdom c. 930 B.C. (pursuant to Solomon’s death), the House of David (starting with Rehoboam) presided over the kingdom in southern Canaan (Yehud[ah]; a.k.a. the Kingdom of Judah).  The House of Ephraim (starting with Jeroboam) presided over the kingdom in northern Canaan (Shomron; a.k.a. the Kingdom of Israel).

The geographical area associated with the (southern) Kingdom of Judah is commonly referred to by its Romanized moniker: “Iudaea” (which correlates the the geographical “Judea”).  The geographical area associated with the (northern) Kingdom of Israel is commonly referred to by its Romanized moniker: “Samaria” (from Shomron).  Hence there existed a kingdom in the south (Judea) and a kingdom of in the north (Samaria). {11}  This is why, today, RZs insist on referring to Canaan as “Judea and Samaria”–which they now equate with the tract of land bequeathed to them by the Creator of the Universe as a fulfillment of his compact with Beth Israel.

Consequently, RZs arrogate to themselves–by divine right–unimpeachable license to incorporate this territory into what is now fashioned as the nation-state of “Israel”; even if it entails ethnic cleansing and land-theft.  Pogroms and forced evictions seem to be warranted when it is believed to have the imprimatur of the Creator of the Universe.  With god, anything goes–including crimes against humanity.

(It is worth noting: The world’s Jewish people–at least, those who are decent human beings—do not approve of the heinous acts done in their name by the Israeli government.)

Esther foiling Haman (nefarious vizier of the Persian King), thereby saving Beth Israel

Happily today, the term “Hebrew” usually refers primarily to a language (whether modern or Classical), not to a posited race.  It should also be noted that “Semitic” is now ALSO used as a linguistic rather than an ethnic designation.  In other words: It denotes a family of languages (stemming from Old Aramaic) instead of the descendants of Shem.  In modern parlance, “Semitic” merely refers to anyone who spoke one of the Canaanite (i.e. Semitic) languages—the earliest of which were Eblaitic, Ugaritic, Moabitic, Edomitic, and the language of the Phoenicians.  This continues on through Old Aramaic, Samaritan, Babylonian Aramaic, and—later—Punic, Mandaic, Syriac, Ge’ez, and the familiar block-letters of Classical Hebrew.  Neo-Aramaic (a.k.a. Syriac; and variants like Palmyrene and Nabataean) would yield Classical Arabic (see my essay: “The Syriac Origins Of Koranic Verse”).

Early Semitic scripts (which are variants of the Phoenician alphabet) coalesced into Old Aramaic.  This is illustrated by the Siloam / Shiloah inscriptions from the early 7th century B.C., the text of which are clearly using a derivative of the Phoenician alphabet like the one found on the Tabnit sarcophagus from Sidon (which dates from the 6th century B.C.)  It is misleading to refer to such scripts as “proto-Hebrew” or “paleo-Hebrew” or “Old Hebrew”.  (It would be like referring to Attic Greek as proto-Cyrillic; as if THAT was the direction it was always going.)  If anything, these Phoneician variants are proto-SAMARITAN.  Classical Hebrew, on the other hand, was an offshoot of Aramaic, and came later than Samaritan.

The revamped usage of such loaded terms in modern times follows from a de-emphasis of racial taxonomy. {12}  Ergo “Canaanite” no longer refers to descendants of Ham’s son, Canaan; it refers to anyone who happens to have once lived in the geographical region now dubbed the Levant (e.g. Amorites, Phoenicians, Hurrians, Philistines, Hebrews, and eventually Palestinian Arabs).  This shift in SENSE reflects the fact that race (qua bloodlines) no longer matters for modern minds.

Alas, such thinking is nothing new.  The vaunting of ancestors is a protocol as old as history.  In Canaan, a fixation on patriarchal lineage predated Judaism, as was the case with the Philistines.  Many Amorites even referred to their godhead, “El” as “Hatikuka” ( a moniker that meant “lord of the patriarchs”).

Most of us are predisposed to romanticize our own past.  Consequently, we are inclined to think that our forebears were somehow more lofty than ourselves–as if bygone eras were more cosmically significant.  Harking back to a (fanciful) halcyon era is a way of marshaling hope in trying times; and girding (false) pride so as to galvanize members of the in-group.  This proclivity is reflected in the fact that, for progeny, we say “descendants” instead of “ascendents”–as if the progression of generations were a matter of going DOWN (a regression from some higher place) rather than going UP (a progression to an every-more-lofty stature).  Even Darwin was not tempted to entitle his book on evolution: “The Ascent of Man”…even as we say that time “progresses”, and evolution tends to IMPROVE things.

The notion that certain people (i.e. the in-group) come from a special place justifies a burnished image of themselves in the present: heightened stature via heightened origins. {13}  Legacy augurs destiny; so ancestry plays into eschatology.

European colonialists invoked “Manifest Destiny” when vanquishing the native population of America, so as to push the frontiers of their new-found domain.  Displacement of an indigenous people (of THE OTHER) to make way for an anointed tribe.

Claims based in (divine) Providence invariably involve contrived provenance.  Hence a fixation on genealogy when it comes to etiological myths (analogous to the role of Providence in teleology).  This way, one can legitimate the in-group’s agenda (i.e. special privileges) by appealing to a gilded legacy.  Hence the notion of “birthright” as a function of reputed bloodlines.  (What good is Providentialism, after all, if it does not favor a well-demarcated group?)

Sometimes, onomastics are revamped for self-serving purposes—as with ethnic co-optation (the appropriation of that vaunted legacy).  For example, Pashtun legend tells of Malak Avagana [a.k.a. “Afghana”] of Gandhara (c. 1,000 B.C.), son of the Abrahamic prophet, “Irmia” [“Jeremiah”], and thus the grandson of “Talut” (King Saul ben Kish ben Ab-i-El of the Matri)…thereby associating Afghan lore with the House of David; though not in the Davidic line.  This gives Pashtuns an air of Abrahamic legitimacy, according to them an Abrahamic pedigree via the Benjamite line.

One eventually loses track of the number of dynasties within Dar al-Islam that have claimed to trace their bloodlines back to MoM himself.  Even today, the (Hashemite) Jordanian monarchy claims to be descendants of MoM…while the (Wahhabi) Saudi Arabian monarchy claims the same.  So does the (Alawite) Moroccan monarchy and the (Alawite) Syrian monarchy. {14}  The fact that potentates STILL feel the need to make such a silly claim illustrates that the cockamamy notion of divinely-ordained stock is as rousing as ever.

Abrahamic historiographers are not alone in the craft of genealogy-fabrication.  The Sumerians / Assyrians and Egyptians pioneered it thousands of years before.  Dynasties around the world adopted it thereafter.  The Jews later took it to new heights in the Torah.  It was inevitable that–sooner or later–Christians and Muslims would get in on the action as well.  (Historiographers tend to dissemble on the matter of Abraham being an Amorite / Chaldean as opposed to a “Hebrew” qua descendent of Shem.)

All this, so that a group of people could pretend that the Creator Of The Universe was their own, personal real estate agent, and THEY the exclusive beneficiaries of his bequest.  All they needed to justify this brazen assertion was a document, certifying their commanding stake.  Lo and behold: The Torah was that title-deed, readily invoked to substantiate present-day territorial claims.

To illustrate the spuriousness of using ancient lore to justify geo-political agendas TODAY, let’s look at a parallel.  Vedic genealogy begins with the fabled patriarch, Pandu of Hastinapur.  The next major patriarch was the fabled Pandava king, Yadu of Pauravas.  (This is significant because Lord Krishna was ALSO a descendent of King Yadu.)  Meanwhile, the Braj region of present-day Uttar Pradesh was said to be home of the Yadavas: descendants of Yadu.  According to Vedic lore, the land was ruled by King Madhu; and was thus christened “Madhu-Van[a]”. {25}

As legend has it, Madhu was overthrown by prince Shatru-ghan[a] of Kosala–twin brother of Kakshman[a] and younger brother of “Raghava” Rama-chandra (all of whom were sons of the Ikshvaku king, Dasharatha of Ayodhya and Queen Sumitra of Kashi).  Shatru-ghan[a] later slew Madhu’s descendant, Lavana-sura of Madhu-pura (nephew of “rakshasa” King Ravana of Lanka).  Shatru-ghan[a] would then claim the land and establish the Sura-sena Kingdom (per the Pali scripture: “Sutta Pitaka”).  The Yadavas were eventually forced out of their homeland by the (Aryan) Kurus and the rulers of Magadha.  Or so the story goes.

Are the Yadav (alt. “Ahir”; “Abhira”; a.k.a. “Gaoli”) people now trying to establish a Yadava ethno-State in Uttar Pradesh?  No.  Why not.  Because resurrecting the era preceding the Sura-sena epoch would be harebrained.  Indeed, such an enterprise wouldn’t make sense even if the Yadav people of today made appeals to Madhu and invoked lingering grievances with Shatru-ghan[a].

Meanwhile, the (Brahmin) Bhargav[a] leader, Par[a]shu-Ram[a] vanquished what were then known as the Haiheya (named after a great-grandson of Yadu), who hailed from Avanti (in what is now western Madhya Pradesh).  The most fabled Haiheya figure was Karta-virya Arjuna.  Their defeat led to the so-called “Haiheya” diaspora across the Indian subcontinent (consisting primarily of the progeny of Tala-jangha, grandson of the legendary hero, Arjuna). {26}

Today, those who now identify with the “kshatriya” heritage of the Haiheya are not trying to establish an ethno-State in Madhya Pradesh.  Why not?  Because resurrecting enmity with ancient Brahmins would be absurd.  Indeed, identity based on the antiquated “varna” system is anathema to modern minds.

Appeals to Vedic patriarchs like Pandu and Yadu–or even to Krishna–hold no water in modern geo-politics.  Making reference to legends about a particular tribe–involving events that took place in a particular land–does not confer license on that tribe to lay exclusive claim to that land.  This is the case whether the legends are Hindu or Judaic; whether the genealogies are Vedic or Hebrew.  Indeed, the Torah is no more credible a source of history than are, say, the Puranas.

This principle applies to the Levant as much as it does to northeast India.  The Assyrians / Babylonians—then the Persians—ruled in Canaan far longer than the short-lived Judaic Kingdom under David and Solomon; or the Maccabees during the brief Hasmonean epoch.  The Romans / Byzantines ruled the land longer still; and then the Arabs even longer than that.  Hence: If this highly-coveted tract of land is to be declared anyone’s ancestral “homeland”, Jews are far from the top of the list (as I show in “The Land Of Purple”).  And even then, only the Mizra[c]him, Sephardim, and Samaritans could make such a claim with any credence (see “The Forgotten Diaspora”).

In terms of etiological myth, the idea of a gilded suite of tribes (based on patriarchy) goes back to the Archaic Greeks, who told of their progenitor, Hellen of Pithia.  Hellen begat Aeolus, Dorus, and Xuthus–hence the Aeolians, the Dorians, and (via Xuthus’ two sons: Achaeus and Ion) the Achaeans and Ionians.  Ergo four Hellenic tribes.  We also encounter such rigamarole in Scythian etiology, starting with the patriarch, Targitaus.  According to Herodotus, his three sons accounted for the four Scythian tribes: Skoloxias begat the “Paralatae”, Lipoxias begat the “Auchatae”, and Arpoxias begat both the “Kitiari” and “Traspians”.  According to Bantu folklore, the first couple, Gikuyu and Mumbi, bore nine daughters–accounting for the nine Kikuyu tribes that exist today. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Jacob favoring Rachel over Leah

So as to justify their choice of Messiah, early Christians tried to trace the vaunted Davidic line “down” to a Hebrew carpenter in Galilee named Yeshua ben Yussef (born in the late 1st century B.C.): a Palestinian Jew who is better known as Jesus of Nazareth.  As might be expected, the authors of “Matthew” and of “Luke” (syncretic gospels) posit entirely different lineages for this fabled Nazarene.  The more touted, that of “Matthew”, is as follows:

David to Solomon to Rehoboam to Ab-i-Jah / Abijam / Abia to Asa[ph] to Jeho-Shafat to Jeho-Ram / Joram.  Then, via the maiden, Athal-i-[y]ah, Jeho-Ram sired Jeho-Ahaz (more commonly referred to as “Ahaz-i-[y]ah”).  Then, via his own mother (Athal-i-[y]ah), Ahaz-i-[y]ah sired Jeho-Ash / Joash.  Athal-i-[y]ah then massacred the entire royal family EXCEPT her son / grandson, Jeho-Ash (thereby erasing Ahaz-i-[y]ah from the lineage).  Jeho-ash would sire Amaz-i-[y]ah via the maiden, Jeho-addan.  Amaz-i-[y]ah then begat Azar-i-[y]ah / Ozias / Uzziah…who reigned for much of the 8th century B.C.

Unsurprisingly, this entire episode was omitted by the authors of “Matthew”–who skipped directly from Jeho-Ram to Azar-i-[y]ah (that is: from Joram to Uzziah).  Since the first Jeho-Ahaz was re-cast as “Ahaz-i-[y]ah” (a name that would be used again), this omission likely went un-noticed.

Thereafter: Jeho-Ram to Jo[a]tham / Yotam to Jeho-Ahaz (typically referred to as “Ahaz”), as “Jeho-Ahaz” would be used for a THIRD time later on.  (And NONE of these should be confused with yet another king of the same name, a pagan from the House of Jeroboam who had ruled the northern kingdom of Israel at the end of the 9th century.)  

Via the maiden, Abi-Jah, THAT Jeho-Ahaz (the twelfth king of Judah) sired Hezek-i-[y]ah / Ezekias (who ruled into the early 7th century B.C.)…then to Manasseh / Manasses to Amon / Amos to the fabled prophet, Yosh-i-yah[u] / Josiah / Josias.  Josiah was the king of Judah said to have who commissioned the Deuteronomic texts (though there is no extra-Biblical documentation of his existence).  This brings the lineage to the late 7th century B.C.

Via the maiden, Hamutal, Josiah sired Shallum, who—confusingly—reigned as (yet another) “Jeho-Ahaz”.  THAT “Jeho-Ahaz” only ruled for three months (c. 609 B.C.), and was promptly replaced by his brother, El-i-Akim (“god will make”), who was re-cast as “Jeho-i-Akim” so as to eschew the old Canaanite moniker for the godhead (supplanting “El” with “Jeho[vah]”).

King Jeho-i-Akim begat Jekon-i-[y]ah / Jechonias.  Later versions of Matthew’s genealogy skips directly from Josiah to Jechonias.  It was Jechonias who was dethroned by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II and replaced by his own nephew, Zedek-i-[y]ah (who would serve as the last King of Judah); though Zedek-i-[y]ah is not included in the relevant lineage (as he was a lackey for Babylon).

At that point (early in the 6th century B.C.), things become rather hazy–as the period of exile in Babylon (587 – 530’s B.C.) began.  As it happened, THAT is when much of the Hebrew Bible was composed, and Judaism started to be codified (i.e. rendered a formal dogmatic system), using Babylonian Aramaic. {15}

Jekon-i-[y]ah’s progeny is alleged to have proceeded as follows: Shealt-i-El (“I asked El”; alt. “Salath-i-El”) begat Zer-u-Babel (“One conceived in Babylon”), who was governor of the Persian Province in Canaan, Yehud Medinata.  Zer-u-Babel begat Ab-i-Hud.  Ab-i-Hud is often conflated with Obad-i-[y]ah; who was alternately said to be son of Hanan-i-[y]ah, who was said to be the son of Zer-u-Babel.  (Obadiah is the Hebrew equivalent of the Semitic “Abd-ullah”: slave of god.  The name was also used for the military leader from Sechem who was sent by the aforementioned pagan King Ahaz-i-[y]ah of Israel to fight the prophet, El-i-jah.)

In either case, Ab-i-Hud / Obad-i-[y]ah allegedly begat ANOTHER El-i-Akim.

Note: It is possible that the recurrence of “El-i-Akim” involved a scribal snafu at some point; as the authors of “Matthew” may have confused any one of them with King Hezek-i-[y]ah’s finance minister (of the same name; who was the son of the famed Hebrew priest, Hilk-i-[y]ah of Anathoth, who served King Josiah).  (Hilk-i-[y]ah’s other son was the famed prophet, Jerem-i-[y]ah.)

Anyhow, the purported genealogy continues: This latest El-i-Akim begat Azor, who begat Zadok.  This may have also been a misnomer, as “Zadok” was the name of a Hebrew priest under King David.  Next was…you guessed in, YET ANOTHER El-i-Akim (typically listed as just “Akim”), who begat El-i-[h]ud, who begat El-i-Azar (alt. “Eleazar”: Romanized as “Lazarus”; who was presumably named after the son of Moses’ brother, Aaron). {35}

The lineage proceeds with Matthan, who begat Jacob (presumably named after the son of Isaac and Rebekah).  The authors of “Matthew” seem to have selected this as the name for the father of Joseph (of Bethlehem) because it reflects the parentage of the other Joseph: Joseph of Genesis fame, who was also the son of a Jacob (via Rachel).  And so, in a reprise of the father-son sequence found in the Hebrew Bible, Matthew’s genealogy concludes with Jacob’s son Joseph (Jesus’ father).  Gilded patri-lineage complete.

Luke, on the other hand, posits Joseph’s father as [h]Eli (son of “Matthat”), who was supposed to be a descendent of David’s third son from Bathsheba: Nathan.  Thus: Instead of David’s son, Solomon, some Christians sought to trace Jesus to the Davidic line via Nathan (the son that David sired via Bathsheba; not the prophet by the same name).  This was done in the Bohemian “Vysse[g]hrad” Codex from the 11th century, which depicted the so-called “Tree of Jesse” (that is: a lineage beginning with Abraham’s father).

David noticing Bethsheba as she bathes

The authors of Luke had a slightly different agenda than the authors of Matthew; as they emphasized the role of the Gentiles in the new Faith.  So when they decided to take a crack at this genealogy, the results were rather different.  The lineage of King David down to Jesus according to Luke (a span of just over a millennium) is thus: Nathan (rather than Solomon) to Mattatha to Menna to Melea to El-i-Akim (of course!) to Jonam to Joseph to Judah to Simeon to Levi to Matthat to Joram to Eliezer to Joshua to Er to El-madam to Cosam to Addi to Melki to Neri to Shealt-i-El to Zer-u-Babel.  Here, again, the lineage diverges from that of the Hebrew Bible.  Instead of Zer-u-Babel siring Ab-i-Hud, who sired (another) El-i-Akim, etc., we have the following:

Zer-u-Babel to Rhesa to Jo-anan to Jo-da to Jo-sech to S[h]emein to Mattathias to Maath to Naggai to Esli to Nahum to Amos to Mattathias (again) to Joseph (again) to Jannai to Melki (again) to Levi (again) to Matthat (again; instead of Matthan) to (h)Eli (instead of Jacob) to Joseph (third time’s a charm).  That’s 42 generations from David to Jesus: a dozen more generations than are accounted for in the patri-lineage of “Matthew”. {16}

So what of Jesus’ father: Joseph of Bethlehem? {17}  He was (most likely) an illiterate Palestinian peasant who (most likely) did not fashion himself as being someone auspicious…until, that is, his virgin wife notified him of her immaculate impregnation, courtesy of the Abrahamic deity.

Needless to say, the average Galilean craftsman would not have kept meticulous records of his family tree going back SEVERAL DOZEN generations.  As a poor, provincial carpenter, “Joseph” almost certainly would not have been apprised of his ancestral lineage reaching back further than, perhaps, a few generations (and even that would have presumably been done orally, by his own parents and grandparents).  So it is a mystery from where this crucial information (about his distant forefathers) may have come.  Certainly, nobody who WAS attending to written documentation at the time was paying attention to this particular plebeian (a lowly Palestinian Jew)…until, that is, his foster son achieved notoriety as the putative Messiah.  By then–long after the fact–there was probably not much to go on in the way of tracking his ancestry (beyond cobbling together tid-bits of hearsay about his ancestors from local elders).

Tellingly, this “Joseph” appears in neither the Pauline letters nor in the original Gospel (“Mark”): the earliest Christian scriptures.  The (retro-active) ascription of Davidic forebears to this particular man is a post-hoc invention by those who composed the later Gospels. {18}

In concocting their respective genealogies, the authors of “Matthew” and “Luke” opted to ignore the theological snafu entailed by claims of immaculate conception: Joseph was not Jesus’ REAL father (no insemination from homo sapiens was involved), yet Joseph’s paternity was essential to establish the Davidic stock of the “Christ” nevertheless.

Alas, the raft of genealogical contrivance didn’t end there.  Pursuant to the rise of Pauline Christianity, communities started spinning tales of the so-called “desposyni” (bloodlines of Jesus)…as if the “Christos” had secretly procreated.  (If god’s son HIMSELF had a son, then an entire lineage of divine progeny could be posited.)  In a gambit to assert a Providential heritage, the Merovingians (Franks who reigned from 457 to 752) tried to claim patrilineal bloodlines from Jesus; or possibly from his brother, James (if the thought of the Christ engaging in copulation was too much to bear).  There even arose the (quasi-plausible) hypothesis that Jesus was lovers with his closest disciple: the prostitute, Miriam of Magdala…who eventually bore him children.  (Though we are also told that he regularly laid with Simon-Peter.)

No matter.  Even the most untenable conjecture can catch on when it serves an ideological purpose.  And so it went: The Nicene Christian lineage began in the 5th century with the mythic (Salian) figure, Mar-wig [“famed light”] (a.k.a. “Merovech”), and on through his grandson: the great Frankish king, Clovis.  Ergo the fabled “Merovingian” dynasty; as attested in the “Historiae Francorum” by Gregory of Tours.  That this lineage could be traced back to a Palestinian Jew from the 1st century is rather far-fetched, as the Franks originally hailed from Pannonia…which means they were likely related to the Illyrians (from the south) and/or Salians (from the north).  What transpired in the intervening four-plus centuries is left to speculation (seeming to have something to do with Clovis’ son, Clothar). {19}  The tenuous link between the Merovengians and Carolingians was (purportedly) via the Frankish Arnulfing / Pippinid line of Austrasia / Neustria, which stemmed from the union between the son of Arnoulf of Metz (Ansegisel) and the daughter of Pippin of Landen (Begga).  In other words, it was Franks all the way back.

In any case, this fanciful genealogy was continued with the Carolingians—from the fabled military leader, Charles Martel (through his son, Peppin the Younger) to the great Frankish King Charlemagne, who ruled in the late 8th century (as attested in the “Chronicle of Fredegar”).  The Franks could thus claim the Abrahamic mantle by the time the Crusades were undertaken; as they saw themselves as carrying out Charlemagne’s legacy.

The point of exploring these Christian genealogical musings is show that this phenomenon is not unique to Judaic lore.  (I address the Mohammedan version of genealogical gimmickry in part 3 of my “About Mohammed” series.)  In every case, we find that people bend over backwards to fashion themselves the latest “feature presentation” in a series that goes back to exalted forebears…who’s valiant deeds occurred during some golden age, long ago.  Harkening back to a bygone era confers a veneer of legitimacy–and a sense of purpose–to the latest crusade du jour.  For the way forward can then be surmised as resurrecting the glories of the fabled epoch.  “If we were glorious BACK THEN,” the thinking goes, “Well, then we can be glorious again someday.  It’s our destiny!”

In order for this to work, one needs to establish a discrete “WE” that has subsisted over a long period of time.  (And if “we” are special, “they” are not.)  Alterity is endemic to tribalism; so is the fulcrum for Exceptionalism—replete with the derogation of the other as meddling interlopers, who deign to foil that which god has willed.

A hallmark feature of tribalism is collective narcissism; which is a lot like individual narcissism in that it involves a dependence on others perpetually deferring to one’s wishes, while praising those wishes as eminently laudable.  The difference between isolated narcissists and those who’ve been taken in by collective narcissism is that the latter demand special entitlements–even reverence–for their group.  They are in constant need for validation; and the vilification of anyone who differs; are hypersensitive to threats to the exalted group’s image.  The default reaction of the collective narcissist to having the exalted group’s image sullied is a lashing-out. When the exalted group is, in their view, criticized or insufficiently reverenced, collective narcissists become hostile and retaliate.  It is for this reason that the proponents of RZ often revel the misfortunes of the Palestinians.

The thinking here is relatively straight-forward: If WE are the posterity of those legendary figures, then WE are entitled to do whatever it takes to seize our destiny, which we have been accorded by divine ordinance.  So posit these progenitors we must.  The more we glorify THEM, the more we (vicariously) glorify OURSELVES.  Exaltation by association.

This is why sacred histories come in handy.  First, they can be confabulated AS NEEDED.  Enumerating patriarchs going back to the genesis of the human race is a cottage industry that has existed around the world–producing material from the Mayan “Popul Vuh” to the Mande “Epic of Sunjata”.  (The latter gives the vaunted Malian lineage a Mohammedan twist by tracing the Malian icon back to Mohammed’s companion, Bilal ibn Rabah.)

The lesson here is clear: The easiest way to establish provenance is to claim that it has been inherited through a designated series of inseminated wombs.  Delusive as this might be, the allure of such fanciful thinking is undeniable.  Indeed, it is very difficult to rebuff when it favors one’s own in-group.  After all, what good is a heritage if it isn’t venerable?  And what better way to burnish one’s legacy than to proclaim that one’s heritage was divinely ordained?

In the end, OUR sanctified historiography is deemed to be REAL history; theirs is merely fable.  OUR deity is the TRUE deity; theirs is merely a figment of their imagination.  And OUR sacraments represent the ONLY way to salvation; their sacraments are just daffy rituals.  Our sanctified dogmas are well-grounded religious beliefs; their is just silly superstition.  The upshot of all this: WE have the imprimatur of the Creator of the Universe; therefore WE are justified in carrying out our agenda.

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