On Easter, the Sunday Monitor ran an article by of profound shallowness and charlatanism by Timothy Kalyegira. In it, he laid out several theories regarding the origins of Europeans, and why they are apparently very central to the New Testament. Such articles generally succeed in fooling the untutored, and causing some others anguish.
It is for the sake of these latter that I have undertaken to write this rebuttal to that article. Unfortunately, the article was filled to distension with falsities and it is hard to know where to start, or even how. I will take it point by erroneous point, and point out what the facts are.
For example, he lists the names of each of the three wise men who are mentioned in the gospels. The fact is that these names were just created to ease the telling of the story to children. The men are not named in any credible source, and certainly not in the Bible (where names and anonymity always carry equally-important symbolism). He goes on to say that the men were Zoroastrians. The fact is that they were not Zoroastrians, otherwise they would not have bothered with Jesus in the first place.
Zoroastrianism does not have room for Jewish messianism. They belonged to a little-understood cult that flourished in Persia under Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. As recorded in Daniel, chapters 3 and 6, these emperors were impressed by the God of Daniel that they not only legalised worship of Him, but were even encouraging of it. It is from the remnants of this movement that the three wise men came; not Zoroastrianism.
The prediction of the wise men was also not somehow obscure, as Kalyegira implies. It was common knowledge, since Daniel had predicted the very year of Jesus’ birth, in Daniel chapter 9. Contemporary rabbis of the time knew of this date prediction, and their opinion on it is recorded in the Talmud even today. The only thing that Herod required of the wise men was where the promised King would be born, not when. Ironically, even the prediction of where He would be born is available in Micah chapter 5, but this book was not available to the wise men, who therefore had to rely on the star to guide them.
Kalyegira also uses the very popular but inaccurate term “magi” to refer to these men. The term is an unfortunate misnomer. It is the plural of the Latin word magus, which means “magician”. It has its origins in the views of Greeks towards Persians, who they considered to be magicians. It was unthinkingly applied to many people from the East, but it is historically inaccurate. It doesn’t occur in the Bible, either.
Kalyegira keeps using the phrase “Land of Palestine” to refer to where Jesus lived. If he had to feign knowledge, he should have called it Judea. That is what it was called at the time of the New Testament; it is Latin for “Land of the Jews”.
It was only renamed “Palestine” much later, in AD 135, when the Jews were exiled again from there. Not only is it a historically-inaccurate name, then, but it is also derived from the Philistines, those ancient enemies of the Jews, and is therefore inappropriate when referring to such a crucial time for the Jews.
But those are the small mistakes which may be pardonable. The big one is his mindless regurgitation of European Israelism. This is the idea that Europeans are generally of Jewish origin, and that they are the “10 lost tribes”. One of the things that makes it unpardonable is that Kalyegira has, in the past, argued the version of this idea which restricts the 10 tribes to only Britain (called “British Israelism”). Both are wrong, and he should know better.
By the time of Abraham, Europe was already populated by populations of the same genetic make-up as its current native populations. In fact, the admixture of the Jews has happened more in the direction of the Jews gaining foreign blood than Jews mixing out into other populations.
Wherever a group of Semites has broken off, it can be established with DNA analysis. This is how we link the Lemba of Southern Africa back to the Middle East. There is no DNA evidence to link Europeans in general to any Semitic history. In fact, many characteristically-European populations have remained insular and stable over time - such as the Basques and the Irish - and they do not show any dramatic phenotypic (or genetic) difference with these alleged 10 tribes.
The forefather of the Europeans is listed in the Genesis table of nations, under the name Ashkenaz. The people who today can be recognised to be descended from this Ashkenaz include the Europeans in general. Instead, if they were the 10 lost tribes, they would be Semites, with concomitant phenotype.
In praise of Europe
Kalyegira likes to praise Europe on every occasion, and to trash Africa whenever he gets the chance. In this case, he punched himself in the face, because Africa is a more-natural destination for lost tribes from the Persian empire than Europe is.
For the Jews to get to Europe, they would have to cross nation after hostile nation just to get from Persia to the Mediterranean. On January 3rd, people said to be of the lost half-tribe of Manasseh landed in Israel.
They came from India. It should be noted that the theory of the lost tribes gets its main boost from the claim that there are Jews who did not move Westward from Persia. How this can support their being in Europe is a mystery to me. Kalyegira has a strange logic.
On the other hand, parts of Eastern Africa were occasionally under control of the Persian empire. (The name of Mogadishu, for example, is said to refer to the Persian “shah”).
Until the last century, Yemen had the largest population of Jews in the Middle East; and Yemen can be seen from the African coast. Africa is a more-natural destination for such a group, as demonstrated by the Lemba tribe, and indeed the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia. Yet even in these cases, the link to the lost tribes remains tenuous, due to contrary historical evidence.