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Biblical genealogies

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1295883.  Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:07 am Reply with quote

This really ought to be a simple question, but I can't find a simple answer to it.

Traditionally, Jewish identity is inherited from one's mother. So why do all those Biblical genealogies go through the male line?

1295891.  Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:40 am Reply with quote

Imho, the simple answer is that religion is self-justfying bolleaux. Other people's opinion may differ.

1295893.  Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:45 am Reply with quote

How much of the bible was written by women?

1295914.  Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:51 am Reply with quote


1295927.  Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:05 am Reply with quote

To return to my original question, it appears that the matrilineal principle in Judaism may in fact postdate the Hebrew Bible. Here's Wikipedia on matrilineality in Judaism:

Matrilineality in Judaism or matrilineal descent in Judaism is the tracing of Jewish descent through the maternal line. Virtually all Jewish communities have followed matrilineal descent from at least early Tannaitic (c. 10-70 CE) times to Modern times. The origins and date-of-origin of matrilineal descent in Judaism are uncertain. Orthodox Jews, who believe that matrilineality and matriarchy within Judaism are related to the metaphysical concept of the Jewish soul, maintain that matrilineal descent is an Oral Law from at least the time of the Receiving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai (c. 1310 BCE). Conservative Jewish Theologian Rabbi Louis Jacobs suggests that the marriage practices of the Jewish community were re-stated as a law of matrilineal descent in the early Tannaitic Period (c. 10-70 CE).

The latter seems more likely to me, given that the article on Patrilineality says:

In the Bible, family and tribal membership appears to be transmitted through the father. For example, a person is considered to be a priest or Levite if his father is a priest or Levite, and the members of all the twelve tribes are called Israelites because their father is Israel (Jacob). Because of this they are called the "chosen people" by virtue of being "sons of Israel"; that is, the biological male descendants of Israel, who is referred to as their "father" in the sense that he is their lineal male ancestor.

I'm not sure how Orthodox Jews are supposed to reconcile that with their belief that matrilineality goes right back to the days of Moses, although I did find this site:

Although Jewishness is matrilineal, there are many aspects of Judaism that are patrilineal.There are many aspects of Judaism that are patrilineal. But this too is eminently sensible.

For example, within the Jewish people there is a division of Yisrael, Levi and Kohen. And thatís patrilineal.

The Kohen, as long as the Jewish Temple is standing in Jerusalem, must take care of the offerings and services and live in ritual purity. The Levi is there to assist the Kohen. Someone has to go to work for six days and rest on the seventh, so thatís the rest of us ó Yisroel.

How does a child know if he or she is a Kohen, Levi or Yisroel? That goes by the father. Thatís what I meant when I said that Judaism is patrilineal, even though Jewishness is matrilineal.

Doesn't make a great deal of sense to me, but then I'm not Jewish...

EDIT: Another interesting little snippet from Wikipedia's article on Jews:

A popular theory is that the rape of Jewish women in captivity brought about the law of Jewish identity being inherited through the maternal line, although scholars challenge this theory citing the Talmudic establishment of the law from the pre-exile period. Another argument is that the rabbis changed the law of patrilineal descent to matrilineal descent due to the widespread rape of Jewish women by Roman soldiers.

Puts a whole new angle on it!

1295945.  Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:11 am Reply with quote

It actually does make sense, once you remember that the word "Jewish" means two different things. It is possible to be one kind of Jewish, the other kind of Jewish, both, or neither.

Some people are of the Jewish religion (referred to as Judaism above) but are not of Jewish ethnic origin (referrred to as Jewishness above). Sammy Davis Jr was an example of this. Some other people are of Jewish ethnic origin but not of the Jewish religion, and Bob Dylan is an example of this.

Time was when practically all people were either both things or neither. But that all changed after an individual named Jesus started a new religion, and lots of people who possessed Jewishness decided to be abandon Judaism and be Christian instead. At that point, the people in charge of Judaism tinkered with their rule book a bit, perhaps hoping to stop more people going off to follow Jesus.


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