Friday, June 5, 2009

Riddle for the Readers

Americans are a racially and ethnically diverse people. We often ask "What's your background?" and what we mean is "Where did your ancestors come from?"

My father's parents were the children of missionary families. His mother was born in India and lived there until age 16. His father was the nephew of Adoniram Judson, American Baptist missionary to Burma. So while my father's parents were ethnically Americans and lived in California, they had a view of the world that included India and Burma.

My mother's parents aren't easy to label either. My maternal grandfather was British and although he married an American, he retained his British citizenship until his death. As a young man he collected taxes for the Crown in South Africa. My maternal grandmother was the only daughter of Bavarian immigrants who settled in the Yakima Valley of Washington. So my mother's side also held a large view of the world.

It is evident that Abraham's family held a view of the world that included Egypt, Mesopotamia and Horite Territory in Canaan. How might Abraham respond to the questions "What's your background? " "Where did your ancestors come from?

If we are to trust the Genesis geneological information we would have to say that Abraham's background was Horite, since his mother was Horite and race was traced through the mother. And we would have to say that Abraham's ancestors came out of Africa, since he is directly descended from Noah and Noah lived near Lake Chad.

Here is where it gets interesting... How might Ishmael answer these questions?

Or Isaac?

Or Joktan?

All are first-born sons of Abraham by three different woman.

Let's hear your ideas!


Alice C. Linsley said...

Ochlophobist, we have much in common then. My English maternal grandfather had a Welsh mother. I have an old photograph of her sitting on a bench in front of her cottage in Wales. She was dressed in a black high-neck dress and wore a lace shawl. She definitely wanted nothing to do with Calvin.

My paternal grandfather was Paul Judson Linsley. He was a poet and a professional horticulturalist. He developed roses for the Burbank family. His brother was Earle G. Linsley, an astronomer who was the Director of the Chabot Observatory in Oakland, California.

I was named after my father's mother, Alice Williams Linsley, who was ordained a Baptist pastor in Los Angeles in 1925.

My father's book was published on Judson Press.

So the riddle to unravel is:

If bloodline was figured through the mother among Abraham's people, and Abraham was Horite, what ethnic group did Ishmael belong to?

What about Joktan, Abraham's first-born by Keturah?

What about Isaac's ethnic background?

Jonathan said...

OK, let me try this:

1. Ishmael - Egyptian
2. Isaac - Aramean
3. Joktan - Possibly, African?

Now here's one for you to unravel: Barack Obama.

Alice C. Linsley said...


Hagar was Egytpian so that means Ishmael was Egyptian as well. - right answer!

Sarah was Horite so that means that Isaac was Horite also.

Keturah was of the House of Sheba and Sheba was one of the Horites clans, so Joktan was also Horite.

Barack Obama's father was Kenyan. (the name "Obama" is related to the name Oholibama, Gen 36:14). His mother was American. Obama was raised by his maternal grandmother in Honolulu, but that grandmother was originally from Kansas, I believe.

Jonathan said...

I'll count your answer of Kansan, for Barack Obama, as partial credit. Grandmother Madelyn Lee Payne was born in Kansas. Native American (Cherokee?) seems to be in the maternal blood line, along with English; so those could also be correct answers. Will we ever know for sure? His maternal bloodline seems to be obscure. How far back are you supposed to go? Is it cheating if you use (mitochondrial) DNA, which is carried by the mothers?

Alice C. Linsley said...

mtDNA suggests multiple wives out of Africa. Interesting, isn't it, given that Abraham's ancestors lived in Africa and the rulers had 2 wives. The bloodline was traced matrilineally... that corresponds to the mtDNA passing from mother to daughters. The African Eve, however, was not the only primal mother, nor the Adam Y chromosome the only original father.

Jonathan said...

When I brought up the MtDNA concept, what I meant was, it could be interesting to know whether there is any way it can be used to validate current family stories (such as the supposed, but unsubstantiated, Cherokee blood of Leona McCurry (b. 1897)(Barack Obama's maternal ancestor)), and maybe find out to what degree there is a further truth to those stories written in his MtDNA (which is the part of the DNA he would have inherited from his mother, and she from hers, and whence the entire matrilineal blood line is revealed). I wasn't trying to go all the way to their extreme origins (African Eve); I was just wondering whether science was robust enough that it could be used to detect the intermediate stoppping points of a blood line, such as verifying Obama's more recent (maternal) ancestors and their journey to the new world. About the idea of an African Eve, yes, I heard about that, and I would like to learn more about your views. So far, I think what is being asserted about this primal female ancestor of us all, has not struck me as in any radical way incompatible with a Biblical world view, -- in that, estimating a date for when this African Eve might have lived never gets you more distant into the past than 10,000-50,000 years ago, correlating more closely to the time of Noah's emergence from the flood, than to any distantly imagined paleolithic past. Same goes for tracing an ancestral Adam, or so I have understood: the Y chromosome variation of all the discovered living human population in the world today, is not great enough to account for more than 50,000 years' worth of mutation, since the emergence out of Africa. Do you understand it to be different?

Alice C. Linsley said...

The African Eve theory is compatible with the Biblical worldview. Yet there is an even older mitochondrial sample, dating to around 130,000 years. Also an African strain. The earliest strains present the greatest genetic complexity in Africa. Then we have to consider the complexity of human languages. There are 17 distinct language families. They are classified separately because they can't be shown to have evolved from a common prehistoric language. What does this suggest about human origins? It seems to point to the possibility of multiple sets of first parents. This would be supported by the mitochondrial studies that indicate perhaps 3 original mothers.

Jonathan said...

Man, Nephilim, makes 2. What is No. 3?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Three mothers of the human race, possibly 4... if we are to credit mtDNA samples analysis.

If you are interested in the nephilim, read this:

Jay Eppinga said...

I think that Isaac and Joktan would say that they were from their father's people. I think that Ishmael would resent the question.

My fraternal grandfather was from Holland. Dutch families typically gave the majority of the family property to the eldest son, and sent the rest away with consolation prizes. My grandfather was educated in a fine trade school, married extremely well, and then emigrated to the US (Detroit, during its heyday).

He was comfortable in his own skin, though his family in Holland regarded him as sort of the oddball, as he was quite religious. He was thrifty, entrepreneurial, hospitable, and extremely proud of his heritage.

My money says that Joktan would be a lot like my grandfather. Furthermore, Joktan would identify with his father Abraham (rather than with his mother) .. since he too was a sent-son. He'd probably identify less with his family and lineage, though not by much.

Isaac .. he'd probably identify with his -family- and heritage, but he'd have a sense that he wasn't as much like his father as say, Joktan or other of the consolation-prize siblings (since Abraham was a sent-son and Isaac was not). He'd be comfortable in his own skin enough to identify with either of his lineages. He's "part of the family." The interesting thing about him, is that having everything makes him .. uninteresting.

Ishmeal is a tragic figure who would be plagued with ambivalence towards Abraham and the latter's family throughout his life. Sarah too. Think about it - he grows up with Mom telling him that "he's the one." Then he's pretty much forsaken by his Dad. And almost dies.

His Mom probably grew to resent everyone who sent her away. Probably became a harridan as she aged.

The blessings conferred upon Ishmeal would not make things better. There is no reason for him to "be," and yet he is - and any blessing and greatness would simply be reminders of his father. How would it feel to have this be the first thought in your head when you woke up, and the last before you went to sleep?

Probably explains why he was the way he was.