Could our sense of who we are really turn on a sliver of DNA? In our multiethnic world, questions of individual identity are becoming increasingly unclear. Now in ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN bestselling author Jon Entine vividly brings to life the profound human implications of the Age of Genetics while illuminating one of today’s most controversial topics: the connection between genetics and who we are, and specifically the question "Who is a Jew?"Entine weaves a fascinating narrative, using breakthroughs in genetic genealogy to reconstruct the Jewish biblical tradition of the chosen people and the hereditary Israelite priestly caste of Cohanim. Synagogues in the mountains of India and China and Catholic churches with a Jewish identity in New Mexico and Colorado provide different patterns of connection within the tangled history of the Jewish diaspora. Legendary accounts of the Hebrew lineage of Ethiopian tribesmen, the building of Africa’s Great Zimbabwe fortress, and even the so-called Lost Tribes are reexamined in light of advanced DNA technology. Entine also reveals the shared ancestry of Israelites and Christians. As people from across the world discover their Israelite roots, their riveting stories unveil exciting new approaches to defining one’s identity. Not least, Entine addresses possible connections between DNA and Jewish intelligence and the controversial notion that Jews are a "race apart." ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN is a compelling reinterpretation of biblical history and a challenging and exciting illustration of the promise and power of genetic research.
About the Author
Jon Entine, author of the bestseller TABOO: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk about It, is an international columnist, adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and consultant on business and media ethics. He spent twenty years as a producer and executive with NBC News and ABC News and has taught at numerous universities, including Miami University (Ohio) and New York University. He has been awarded many fellowships and prizes for his journalism, including a National Press Club award and two Emmys.
Meaning in the genes, December 29, 2007
This weighty work encompasses genetics, history, spirituality, religion and includes travelogues to Israel and Jordan and many interviews.
In Part One: IDENTITY, Entine explains how genetics became a personal concern after tragic deaths in his family due to particular gene faults. He calls the tome a story of faith and science, contending that religious identity extends beyond belief. And in a symbolic and literal way, a blood current with its source in the ancient Hebrews runs through Western civilization.
The book addresses questions like: Did Abraham, Aaron, Moses and David really exist? What happened to the lost tribes of Israel? Can some modern Jews trace their ancestry to Aaron the High Priest? What happened to Spanish Jews who were forcibly converted during the Spanish Inquisition? What determines Jewishness? and Did people with Israelite ancestry have a hand in building Great Zimbabwe?
For those readers who would prefer more concise answers to most of the above questions in a much shorter book, I highly recommend DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman.
For those unfamiliar with genetics, Entine provides charming descriptions of the elements involved:
Genes: those portions of DNA containing the Recipe of Life
Proteins: the sentences
Amino Acids: the words
Nucleotides: the letters
At the outset he touches on the taboos of race, disease and intelligence and returns again to these in Part Three when dealing with the race theories of the 20th century, particularly in chapter 11: The End of Race, where various discredited notions, politics in genetic research, media myths, the sensitive issues of IQ and race and the DNA of identity are discussed. Understandably many people prefer to avoid the subject of racial differences, which would be unwise as DNA research promises tremendous benefits to mankind in the treatment and prevention of diseases.
Entine discusses the case of Father William Sanchez of Albuquerque, a Catholic priest whose DNA test revealed Jewish ancestry and more remarkably, the distinct marker of the Cohanim or priests. In chapter 5 he explains what the intriguing Cohen Modal Haplotype is and where it is found. The CMH is a distinct marker on the Y (male) chromosome (passed unchanged from father to son) first identified in Jewish males from both Ashkenazi and Sephardi backgrounds in a famous 1990s study and confirmed in subsequent research. "Modal" means "most common" thus the CMH is a DNA marker found in most males with the surname Cohen and its many variants or who are from families with a priestly oral tradition. Less than 10% of other Jewish males carry this marker which is guestimated to have first appeared between 3180 and 2650 years ago.
To come back to Part One (Entine is a hyperactive writer expert at interweaving different subjects in his narrative), he discusses the work of Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, author of The History and Geography of Human Genes. Chapter 4: Eve and Adam, delves into human origins and the Book of Genesis. In this regard, a serious work on encryption Cracking the Bible Code by Jeffrey Satinover provides valuable insight. Whereas the Y Chromosome is passed through the male, the genes in the mitochondria (the cell’s tiny engine) are passed on through the female. Called mtDNA, it was a discovery of major importance. Further interesting and easy-to-understand information on human genes and origins is available in Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana.
Part Two: HISTORY, begins with a brief history of the Israelites from earliest times, including a passage on the Samaritans. In chapter 8: Sephardim – The Vanishing Jews Of Spain and the next, Ashkenazim – Converts Or Abraham’s Children? those histories are more thoroughly explored, including migration to the Americas and the myth of Khazaria first popularized by Arthur Koestler in his 1976 book The Thirteenth Tribe. It turns out the Ashkenazim came to Northern and Eastern Europe mainly via Italy and the Khazaria story is mostly nonsense.
Wandering Tribes deals with the lost ten tribes of Israel exiled in 722 BCE. This has proved to be a popular myth that has even exerted an influence on mostly respectable religious movements like Puritanism, Anglo-Israelism and Mormonism, and been and still is used by certain toxic cults like Armstrongism and various NeoNazi groups. Under the heading African Jews, Entine discusses the Beta Israel of Ethiopia who are not genetically close and the Lemba of Southern Africa who definitely are. Tudor Parfitt’s compelling Journey To The Vanished City is a must-read on the Lemba and their connection to Southern Arabia. The CMH occurs in 9% of Lemba males and an astonishing 53% in the priestly Buba clan. The Lemba: A Lost Tribe of Israel in Southern Africa by Magdel le Roux is an authoritative ethnographic study with particular reference to their customs and traditions of Israelite origin.
In India people with Jewish genetic markers are the Bene Israel and Cochin, and those without are the Bene Menashe. As for the ten tribes, scripture indicates many of the northern Kingdom’s people joined the Kingdom of Judah before and after the Assyrian exile. See Jeremiah 30:10, 31:17-20, Ezra 2:70, Zechariah 8:13, 15 & 23. In the book of Esther for example, the word "Jew" includes members of tribes other than Judah (Esth 2:5). In the New Testament, Luke 2:36 states that Anna belonged to the tribe of Asher whilst Paul (Rav Shaul) refers to himself as a Benjaminite in the books of Romans and Philippians. Peter refers to his Jewish listeners as "all the house of Israel" in the book of Acts (2:36 and many more), as does John (Acts 13:24), and in Acts 26:7 Paul uses the words "the hope of our 12 tribes."
Research reveals that Middle Easterners like Lebanese, Arabs, Kurds and Armenians and in Europe Hungarians and Southern Italians have a high incidence of the CMH marker meaning they are closest to Jewish people, since the CMH could reasonably be assumed to be a signature of the historical Abraham. Fans of Leonard Cohen that find spiritual solace and comfort in his music will now understand the root of his muse.
Part Three: RACE, covers ideas of race, disease, identity, IQ, the Jewish Enlightenment, Zionism, Israel, recent Middle East history and the current situation. Appendices include Human Migration Maps, Haplotype Descriptions and information on how to trace one’s ancestry using DNA with contact details of 5 genetic genealogy services, and Lists of diseases common to Ashkenazim in one and Sephardim plus other Jewish populations in the other. There are black & white maps throughout and the book concludes with 28pp of notes and an index.
Another Home Run for Jon Entine, November 7, 2007
Jon Entine has hit another home run with "Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People." In this informative, well researched and at times controversial analysis of the aforementioned topics, Entine has managed to take what could have been a dry science lesson and brought it to life with a compelling story line that ties together the various threads of religion, history, genetics and geneology. In some narrative sections, it actually had me in tears. It’s evocative of Hillel Halkin’s "Across the Sabbath River" in its search for Jewish identity. This is a must read for anyone who’s searching for their origins and a great read even for those who are secure in their origins and identity.
Author Proves: Most citizens of Israel are Gentiles under Israeli law!, December 5, 2007
Interesting stuff…that have emerged from this book of Jewish genetics-such as the fact that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended on their maternal line from Gentiles who more than likely never went through a formal conversion,which would make most citizens of Israel, Gentiles under Israeli law…this is all according to the author!