Today's Bible Lesson...

... will focus on Christmas.

Actually, he's wrong in comparing his ability, or yours or mine, to trace back a genealogy with Luke and his buddies. Back in those days, and in that culture, people did indeed walk around with pretty deep genealogies attached to them (though the extensive and intensive study of genealogies in anthropology tells us that those genealogies are not expected to be accurate).

(Sorry, I meant for this to come out yesterday but forget to hit the "publish" button)

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As an atheist I have no more problems with Christmas than I do with Wednesdays

Love that one!

By Rich Wilson (not verified) on 26 Dec 2010 #permalink

Back in those days, and in that culture, people did indeed walk around with pretty deep genealogies attached to them (though the extensive and intensive study of genealogies in antrhopology tells us that those genealogies are not expected to be accurate).

Oh, they were expected to be 'accurate', I think (social anthropologist here). It's just that there weren't many ways in which one could test the accuracy of a genealogy in the absence of written records going back to Adam (ha!) and genetic tests. Something as important as genealogy would not have been taken lightly - it certainly isn't in the places I've studied and done fieldwork. There's a certain leeway, but (a) genealogies are still expected to be generally accurate and (b) some traditional genealogies from around the world actually are accurate. Jim Fox, formerly of Harvard, Oxford, and Australian National University, wrote a great article based on his fieldwork on the Indonesian island of Roti, showing overlaps between Dutch archives and Rotinese oral genealogy (1971, "A Rotinese dynastic genealogy: structure and event", IIRC). That's just one example that comes to mind.

It's like the Tea Partiers - I expect they believe that their warped view of history with which they justify their current political programme is accurate. Just because it isn't doesn't mean that they don't expect it to be so.

Anyway, Merry Yule to you.

They be accurate and the were treated as though they were, if the people were living in a middle range patrilineal (or at least lineal) society similar to those studied from more recent times. But, the importance of the genealogy also meant that it could be manipulated. A person's marriage history (from the past) could be changed retrospectively to change the lineal membership of living people in order to allow for, or disallow, a marriage that a powerful individual was trying to arrange/avoid, for instance. That's what I meant by not accurate.

I have never looked into these two alleged genealogies of Jesus from this perspective. I'll have to do that.

I find this piece interesting in a perspctive point of view. You're right Greg, he does use his own experiences/comprehension of family history as a cultural tare. I have personally found this to be not uncommon among White Men especially. Not only did people back then know long family histories, there are MANY other examples in history across cultures that "keep" very long oral histories. I am reminded of the Griot tradition in many African cultures.

Plus, his personal distance from spiritual culture also affects him. Whether one identifies as Christian or something else, I have become particularly keen to discern atheist/agnostic individuals who just don't "get it" the cultural connections to spiritually that exisits in many cultures. These traditions, whether mainstream or not, still hold some special signficance to the pracitioners. And when I hear someone denigrate traditions as merely fabricated histories/mythologies or practices, I realize they still miss one important part of the tradition...that is special & personally meaningful in a way that cannot be easily articulated - esoteric even.

So if this failure to articulate, or the complexity of the events, isn't for someone or they just don't get it or not interested....then that is absolutely fine. But I find it unpalatable when I hear anyone (& I do mean anyone, including Christians, Muslims, etc) speak with such authority about the mindset, poltical purpose, and organizational precepts of a group of people or culture they are not personally apart of, a member or or have personal connection to.

D: It is very interesting that you chose to make these comments on this particular post.

I like the basic thrust of this video and the key point that there is probably some funny business with the post-hoc story telling is interesting, but this post and a couple of comments I've come across just now (on Facebook, etc) did make me cringe as an anthropologist and as a person very interested in racism. I so often hear phrases that could easily be interpreted as ignorant/racist from a run of the mill white traditional racist person ... not a hood wearing KKK nutbag, but just a middle class educated but insensitive economist or lawyer or whatever ... about people living in a traditional society (about their inferiority), only coming from skeptics who would be shocked to find that they are saying something that is really rather stupid.

There is, indeed, a blog post brewing on this. I'm going to start collecting examples.

Love it!I will have to remember the 'Wednesday' remark!