Genesis correctly predicts Y-Chromosome pattern: Jews and Arabs shown to be descendants of one man!
Or: A brief history of the Jews
The biblical teaching
After the rebellion at Babel, God scattered the descendants of Noah and his three sons by confusing their languages (Genesis 11)—this event explains both the origin of the major language groups (see Towering change) and the different human ‘races’ or rather, people groups (see How did all the different ‘races’ arise (from Noah’s family)?).
After this, God chose to deal specially with only one man of His sovereign choosing, Abraham, and a people group descended from him. Genesis 12–50 explains their origin. However, this is linked with the first 11 chapters of Genesis. It is inconsistent for professing evangelical colleges to claim that real history begins only with Abraham, because Genesis 11 traces his ancestry back to Shem, the son of Noah, and Luke 3 traces it all the way back to Adam. It’s strange to think that a man could be real if his father was mythological!
God promised to bless all nations from this one great nation from Abraham (Genesis 18:18). In particular, the blessing would come through Abraham’s son Isaac, his son Jacob, and his 12 sons. The Bible refers to this nation in several ways:
Hebrews: Abraham himself is called a Hebrew in Genesis 14:13, the first use of the term. Joseph is also called a Hebrew in Genesis 39:14, 17 and 41:12. The people whom God (through Moses) rescued from Egypt were called ‘Hebrews’. The word ‘Hebrew’ may be derived from the name of one of Abraham’s ancestors, the patriarch Eber (Genesis 10:21–25, 11:14–17).
Israelites: means a descendant of Jacob, who in later life was given the name ‘Israel’ by God (Genesis 32:28).
Jews: this word derives from Judah (Hebrew Yehudah), one of Jacob’s 12 sons, and the one who was the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Mat. 1:3, Luke 3:33). Thus Jesus is Jewish, and the Hebrew version of His name is Yeshua Hamashiach = Jesus the Messiah. However the term ‘Jew’ became used for all descendants of Israel. So the term ‘Jew’ was used interchangeably with ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Israelite’. Thus a Jew is biblically defined as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
For example, ‘Jew’ is used synonymously with ‘Hebrew’ in Jeremiah 34:9. Mordecai was called a ‘Jew’ although he was from the tribe of Benjamin (Esther 2:5). Christ’s apostle Paul/Saul (Hebrew Sha’ul) calls himself a ‘Jew’ (Acts 21:39), and he also calls himself an ‘Israelite’ from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1, Philippians 3:4–5).
Another usage in the New Testament of the word Ιουδαίος (Ioudaios), usually translated ‘Jew’, should be noted. In this case, it probably mainly means ‘Jew’ in the widest sense (descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) when used by or to gentiles. When used among Jews, it was probably mainly a sectional term meaning ‘Judean’. This reflected the mutual dislike between Judeans and Galileans. The latter included Christ and his disciples who were most strongly opposed by Judeans, but all were Jewish in the wider sense. To illustrate the difference, the Roman Pontius Pilate had Jesus labeled: ‘King of the Jews’ (Mat. 27:37) while the Jewish leaders said: ‘If He be the King of Israel …’ [including Galilee and the Diaspora] (Mat. 27:42). (Compare in modern times: within America, ‘Yankee’ is often used by Southerners to mean a Northerner. But non-Americans outside America use it to mean all Americans. The technical terms are endonym for the in-group term and exonym for the out-group term.)
In the Bible, Jewishness was determined through the father’s line, as is clear from the genealogies. Modern Orthodox Judaism, which dates from about AD 70, and is not the same as biblical Judaism, has declared from about the time of the Crusades that Jewishness is determined through the mother’s line, but the scriptural teaching is all that matters. After all, King David himself had both a gentile great grandmother and great-great grandmother (Matthew 1:5, Ruth 4:21–22).
Non-Jewish descendants of Abraham
Other nations arose from Abraham as well. God promised to make a great nation from Abraham’s other son Ishmael via his slave girl, Hagar (Genesis 17:20), and Arabs have always claimed to be his descendants. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. King Herod was an Edomite (also called Idumean), not a Jew.
Also, after the death of his wife Sarah, Abraham married Keturah, and she bore him six sons, including Midian, the ancestor of the Midianites.
Blessings to the nations
The other nations (gentiles) were blessed through the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, in two main ways:
God committed His oracles to the Jews (Rom. 3:1–2), thus every one of the 66 books of the Bible (including Luke/Acts1) had a Jew as the author, except maybe Job who possibly lived before Abraham so the Jew/Gentile distinction would not apply. (The human authors wrote under the infallible direction of the Holy Spirit—2 Timothy 2:15–17, 2 Peter 1:20–21.)
God Himself would take on human nature in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1–3, 14), who was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah (Matthew 1, Luke 3). In fact, Paul in Galatians 3:16 makes it clear that Jesus, the seed (singular) of Abraham was the ultimate fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, although he also said that God had not cast off the Jews as a whole (Romans 11:1). Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Jewish prophets (e.g. Genesis 3:15; Is. 7:14, 9:6, 53:1–12; Micah 5:2), and took away the sins of the world (John 1:29) by dying on the cross and being resurrected from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).
By believing on Him, both Jews and Gentiles can become spiritual children of Abraham, who himself ‘believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6).
Separation from the nations
To keep the Messianic Line spiritually pure, God commanded the Jews/Israelites to be separate from the nations, to avoid being corrupted by them. However, individuals from other nations could still be blessed by following the true God in the way Moses commanded.
Part of the separation was forbidding intermarriage between the Jews and other nations. However, this separation was not on grounds of ‘race’, but because the other nations generally believed in false gods, and would corrupt the worship of the true God. This indeed happened many times. But if a non-Jew followed the true God, there was no barrier to marriage, e.g. the Canaanite Rahab and the Moabitess Ruth in the Messianic Line itself (Matthew 1:5), the Egyptian princess Bithiah (1 Chronicles 4:18), and the godly Hittite Uriah, married to the Jewess Bathsheba—and God severely judged King David for dishonouring this marriage (2 Samuel 11, 12). This is consistent with the overall scriptural teaching that a believer should never marry an unbeliever—see The Bible and interracial marriage
Christ breaks down barriers
Note also, the true biblical definition of Jew is purely one who is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It has nothing to do with religion. Biblically speaking, one is born either a Jew or a Gentile, and one remains this way till death. The Bible calls Gentiles who converted to Judaism ‘proselytes’, not ‘Jews’ (Acts 2:10–11). Conversely, a Jew remains a Jew whether he believes in Jesus Christ or becomes an atheist. The first Christians were all Jews, and I myself am a Jewish Christian; conversely many Israelis are secular.
History of the scattering of the Jews2
A number of times, the Jews were scattered from their homeland. The kingdom founded by Saul and David in c. 1000 BC split into two in the time of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, 930 BC. Assyria scattered the northern 10 tribes of Israel, whose capital was Samaria, in 722 BC. The neo-Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in 587 BC. 70 years later, the Persian king Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland. This first happened under Zerubbabel, then later under Nehemiah (see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah).
But many Jews stayed behind, and there were sizable communities in Babylon and Persia (see Esther). Even at the time of Christ, there were sizable Jewish communities outside Israel, and they were referred to as the Diaspora (dispersion). 1 Peter 1:1 uses this Greek word because he is writing to the Jews of the Dispersion, and he was writing from Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), where there was still a major Jewish center at the time. Faithful Diaspora Jews would come to Jerusalem for the major feasts of the Law of Moses—Acts 2:5.
In AD 70, the Romans under Titus sacked Jerusalem, and over a million Jews were slaughtered. Significantly, no Jewish Christians lost their lives. They had heeded Jesus’ warning in Luke 21:20–21: ‘When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.’ When the Roman siege was temporarily lifted in AD 66, they fled to Pella in the Transjordan.
When Jerusalem was captured, most of the records were destroyed. This is significant, because no (false) Messianic claimant since then can fulfil the biblical requirements, because there is now no way to prove Davidic descent. Therefore the Messiah must have come before the destruction of Jerusalem. This also fits the timetable of the Seventy Sevens of Daniel 9.
Since then, Jews kept very reliable records, so most claiming Jewish ethnicity have a reliable basis for their claims. But they cannot trace which tribe they come from. That is, with the exception of the tribe of Levi. The Rabbis took special care to preserve the genealogical records of the Levites because they were the priestly tribe. Even today, it is possible to identify the Levites, because they have names such as Levy, Levine, Levinson, Levental (or Löwenthal in German orthography). The rabbis also kept records of one subset of Levites, the only ones who could be actual priests, the descendants of Aaron (Exodus 40:1, 12–16) through Zadok (Ezekiel 40:46, 43:19, 44:15). These Jews have the name Cohen, the Hebrew for priest, or variants like Cohn, Kohn, Cowen, Kogan, Kagan, etc.
Bar Kochba led a revolt against the Romans in AD 132, in the reign of Hadrian. At first, Jewish Christians joined the revolt as loyal Jews. But Rabbi Akiba declared Bar Kochba to be the Messiah, and the Jewish Christians then refused to follow a false Messiah. The rebellion was crushed in AD 135, and Jerusalem was plowed under, renamed Aelia Capitolina, and declared off-limits to the Jews.
From then until the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jews were scattered in communities around the world, including large numbers in Spain, Poland, and then the USA. They are often regarded as comprising two main groups, the Ashkenazim and Sephardim, a division that even predates the fall of Jerusalem. The Ashkenazim are the descendants of Jews who settled in Eastern Europe, and take their name from the Hebrew word for that region, Ashkenaz, named after the grandson of Japheth (Genesis 10:2–3) whose descendants migrated there after Babel. The word Sephardim comes from Sepharad (Obadiah 20), now the Hebrew word for Spain, because the Sephardim come from Jews who settled in Spain, Portugal and North Africa.
Jews faced many persecutions, sadly some from professing Christians, although the Bible strongly condemns anti-Semitism and racism of all forms—see also Alleged Antisemitism in the New Testament. For example, it is absurd to persecute the Jews on the grounds that they are ‘Christ-killers’— the New Testament clearly states that Jesus was sentenced to a cruel death by a Roman leader, flogged by a Roman whip, fastened to a Roman cross by Roman nails—but no-one is crazy enough to persecute Italians as Christ-killers!
Acts 17:26 teaches that God made all people from one man (‘one blood’ in the Majority Text), so Creation Ministries International has always stood strongly against racism (see Q&A: Racism) and anti-Semitism (and its common corollary, Holocaust denial). The main Jewish communities in turn have largely ostracised Jewish Christians ever since they were forced out of the Bar Kochba rebellion. And this century, they faced their worst enemy to date, the evolution-inspired Nazi Holocaust (see The Holocaust and evolution), which killed six million Jews, solely because they were ethnically Jewish—many thousands of Jewish Christians and atheistic Jews were slaughtered pitilessly alongside Orthodox Jews.
It’s important to realize that although professing Christians have persecuted the Jews in history, they were acting contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Bible (which are one and the same). It’s more likely that the pseudo-biblical rationalizations were excuses for prejudice and for stealing the Jews’ property. Conversely, as even many evolutionists have noted, Hitler was acting consistently with evolution, even overtly trying to conform Germany to evolutionary principles.
How do Y chromosomes fit into the biblical framework?
Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, including one pair of ‘sex chromosomes’ which are XY in males and XX in females. Thus the Y chromosome is passed down only through the male line, from father to son. A 1995 study of a section of Y chromosomes from 38 men from different ethnic groups around the world was consistent with the biblical teaching that we come from one man, Adam—see Y-chromosome Adam?
Females have no Y chromosome, but an analogous test can be performed on them—it’s only through the female line that mitochondrial DNA is transmitted.* The mtDNA evidence is consistent with all humans being descended from a single woman as the Bible teaches, although it doesn’t actually prove that there was ever only one woman in existence. And recent evidence about rapid mutation rates in mtDNA is consistent with this ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ having lived only about 6,000 years ago—see A shrinking date for ‘Eve’.
Application to Jews
Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona in Tucson and colleagues, some from Israeli universities, analysed 18 sections of the Y chromosomes from 1,371 men. They came from 29 different populations, including seven Jewish (Ashkenazi (European), Roman, North African, Kurdish, Iraqi and Iranian, Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews), five Arabic (Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Israeli Druze and Saudis) and 16 non-Semitic groups.3
The close similarities within the Jewish Y-chromosomes, even from widely scattered populations, was compelling evidence that they all come from a common ancestor. The study also showed that Arabs are closely related to Jews.
Dr Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Program at New York University School of Medicine, one of the co-authors of the paper,2 said:
‘Jews and Arabs are all really children of Abraham … And all have preserved their Middle Eastern genetic roots over 4,000 years.’4
The study also showed that the Jewish populations had generally remained genetically isolated from gentile populations all this time. It is further evidence that modern Jews largely kept the Old Testament laws (albeit with extra man-made traditions) for centuries after they were dispersed, until quite recently.
This is consistent with an earlier study by a team involving Dr Hammer, on the Cohanim (Hebrew plural of Cohen) from both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews; from Israel, the UK and the USA. They analyzed their Y chromosomes for the presence or absence of the Y alu polymorphic (YAP) insert, and they concluded that the evidence is consistent with the common descent of all Cohanim/Cohens from a common ancestor at a time consistent with the biblical chronology, well before the division into Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities.5,6
Evidence against false views about the Jews
Are today’s Jews really descendants of Abraham?
The Hungarian-born Jewish author Arthur Koestler (1905–1973) theorised that today’s Ashkenazi Jews are really descendants of the Khazars, who allegedly converted en masse in the eighth century in what is today modern Russia.7 However, Koestler was prone to anti-establishmentarianism, and this Khazar conversion theory could have been motivated by his desire, as a secularised Jew, to assimilate with gentiles and avoid persecution.
The idea has been widely discredited by reputable historians, because the real history of the Jewish people is far too well documented to sustain such an idea. They point out that the theory presupposes lots of gentiles assimilating into Jewish society, the exact opposite of what normally happens where Jew/Gentile intermarriage occurs. In reality only a tiny number of Khazars converted to Judaism, while far more converted to Islam and also some to Russian Orthodoxy. The Khazar converts to Judaism had disappeared by the 14th century, largely by being incorporated into already existing Jewish communities in Poland. There is also a problem of what happened to the real Jews who are supposed to have mass-evangelised the Khazars, then disappeared without trace out of history.8
Many anti-semites quote Koestler as though he were verbally inspired, thus damning the Jews because they supposedly aren’t real Jews. Whereas the Nazis and those who absurdly called Jews ‘Christ-killers’ damned them because they were real Jews!
The studies by Hammer et al. shows that the Ashkenazi Jews really are the same people group as the other Jews, and that there is a common ancestry for the Cohanim from Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, so are the last nails in the coffin for Koestler’s idea.
Some have promoted the idea that the British people are descended from the 10 allegedly ‘lost tribes of Israel’. Alas, a major feature of British Israelitism is that it ignores or explains away the weight of biblical evidence, which must be normative for the Christian. It also ignores the well-documented history of the Jews after the close of the Biblical Canon, but places a heavy weight on non-biblical accounts of dubious reliability. Fact is, the tribes were not lost. The Bible is clear where the tribes went, and that representatives of all tribes returned from Israel (Ezra 6:17). The prophetess Anna was a Jewess from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36), which proves they were not ‘lost’ even by the time of Christ. Even later, James wrote an epistle ‘To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (literally ‘To the twelve tribes which are in the diaspora/dispersion’)’ James 1:1, and it would be hard to know where to mail it if 10 of the tribes had been lost!
Some try to justify British Israelitism by spurious linguistic and historic connection.9 For example, connecting the name ‘Dan’ with names like Danube, Denmark, etc., without any historical records to demonstrate the connection. Another claim is that the tribe ‘Saxons’ is alleged to come from Saac’s Sons, a contraction of Isaac’s Sons. Probably the most common claim is that the word ‘British’ comes from berith ish, supposedly meaning ‘man of the covenant’.
But all this is linguistic nonsense. ‘Saxon’ is a Germanic word probably coming from the name of the weapon they used, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It may come from the Latin saxum meaning ‘rock’ (thus weapon made of rock), or from secare to cut. There is no link to any non-Indo-European language. The alleged derivation from Isaac’s Sons is simply untenable—‘Isaac’ is the Greek form of the name (Isaak); the original Hebrew form of the name is Yits-khaq (with four consonants: yod, tsadhe, cheth, qoph).10 It boggles the mind that Israelite tribes allegedly lost centuries before Christ would adopt a name that is a contraction of a fairly modern English grammatical construction based on the Greek form of the name of Israel’s father! One must also wonder why the same ‘reasoning’ wouldn’t ‘prove’ a ‘British Edomite’ theory as well, since Isaac was the father of Esau/Edom too. Also, what about the modern Saxons in Saxony in Germany—surely they would have to be Israelites as much as the British? And what about the Celtic Britons (now Welsh and Irish) who lived before the Germanic Saxon invasions of AD 450, or other non-Saxon British such as the Angles (after whom England is named) and Jutes—do they count as Israelites too?
The correct Hebrew phrase for ‘man of the covenant’ is ish haberith. Rather, ‘British’/‘Britain’ comes from the Celtic tribe of the Britons which inhabited England before any Germanic peoples, of which the Saxons were only one, came. The form ‘Britain’ comes from the French form of the Latin ‘Britannia’, which the Romans would have formed from the name of the Celtic tribe.
And I never hear ‘British Israelites’ apply this etymological chicanery consistently, because then they would have to admit that their own reasoning leads to the word ‘Britain’ coming from berith ’ayin meaning ‘without a covenant’.
Overall, British Israelitism seems to stem from ideas of European superiority.
Bill Cooper’s book After the Flood historically documents how many European peoples, including the British (the Welsh, Saxons, etc.), are descended from Japheth, while Jews come from Shem. And the study by Hammer et al. show that the Jews are a Semitic people group, related more closely to the Arabs than to non-Semitic people like the British.
- The Y chromosome evidence is consistent with the Bible’s teaching that Abraham would be the ancestor of a great nation, namely Israel or the Jews, and that the Arabs are also children of Abraham (via Ishmael). It is also consistent with the biblical teaching that all Jewish priests are descendants of Aaron.
- The same evidence confirms that all Jewish people groups today really are physical descendants of Abraham, not from Khazar converts, while the British people are not physical descendants of Abraham.
- Jesus Himself, while fully God, is a Jew and a descendant of Abraham. Both Jews and Gentiles can become spiritual descendants of Abraham by believing on Jesus.
- This is my personal view, and there seems to be good support for it. For example, Luke begins his Gospel by saying that he was an eye-witness from the beginning. The Gospel wasn’t preached to Gentiles until Acts 10. This is even surer if Luke is in fact the unnamed disciple with Cleopas on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35), just as Mark was likely the unnamed young man who fled naked into the night (Mark 14:51–52). Luke certainly reports intimate details about what the disciples were thinking, and had access to Jewish temple records, unlikely for a Gentile (Luke 3:23–38). He also reports very intimate details from Mary, who had “kept them in her heart”. But she finally shared them with Dr Luke; it is most unlike that a Gentile would become a close confidant of a Jewish lady. Luke also showed detailed knowledge of the inner temple workings, although Gentiles were not allowed in. This argument would be re-inforced if Luke were the author of Hebrews, as some have taught—this is obviously someone extremely learned in Jewish rituals, writing to Jews, who would not have taken kindly to a Gentile telling them about their faith. Finally, we have Acts 21, where Luke, the author, was also an eye-witness. This recounts a mob incited against Paul for bringing a Gentile into the temple. But the Gentile concerned was Trophimus; apparently Luke was no problem.
The Greek name is no more proof that Luke was Greek than the equally Greek names of Andrew and Peter, and indeed the undoubted Jew Lucius (Loukios Λούκιος) in Acts 13:1; cf. Luke (Loukas Λουκᾶς). The main biblical evidence claimed to support the Gentile identification is Colossians 4:10–14. Here Paul lists his fellow workers in the preaching ministry “of the circumcision” but doesn’t include Luke. But Luke probably was not part of this preaching ministry, but rather a faithful physician (he explicitly calls Luke a doctor) and historian. Return to text.
- Fruchtenbaum, A.G., Hebrew Christianity, Ariel Ministries Press, 1983. Return to text.
- Hammer, M.F., et al., Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition, pp. 1–6, 2000. Return to text.
- Ostrer, H., cited in: Maggie Fox, Middle Eastern Roots: Shared Y Chromosome Illustrates Genetic Map of the Past, Reuters/abcNEWS.com, 9 May 2000. Return to text.
- Skorecki, K., et al., Y chromosome of Jewish priests, Nature 385(6611):32, 2 January 1997. Return to text.
- Travis, J., The priests’ chromosome: DNA analysis supports the biblical story of the Jewish priesthood, Science News 154(14):218–219, 3 October 1998. Return to text.
- Koestler, A., The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its heritage, Random House, New York, 1976. Return to text.
- Powledge, J., Replacement Theology: The Denial of Covenant, Appendix C: McKeever, Koestler and the Khazars: Questions of validity and factuality on historical research, M. Div. Thesis, Messiah Biblical Institute and Graduate School of Theology, 1991. Return to text.
- I acknowledge the linguistic input of Allan Steel, author of The development of languages is nothing like biological evolution, for many points in this section, but any errors are my responsibility alone. Return to text.
- The common English versions of many OT names are actually derived from Greek versions, starting with the LXX and continued in the NT. For example, Abel (Heb. Khevel), Phineas (Pinchas), Jeremiah (Greek Ieremias, cf. Hebrew Yirmeyahu). The Greeks had trouble with Hebrew velar fricative (‘guttural’) consonants, so they dropped them. This explains the strange double-a (or double alpha αα) in names like Aaron and Canaan in English Bibles, whereas the names had gutturals in the Hebrew. The Greeks also had no way of writing the Hebrew ‘sh’ sound, so they simply used ‘s’ (sigma σ/ς), hence names like Moses (Heb. Moshe), Solomon (Shlomo), Isaiah (Greek Esaias, cf. Heb. Yeshayahu), and of course Jesus (Gk. Iesous, Heb. Yeshua or Yehoshua). Return to text.
*This assumption has recently been questioned—Awadalla, Ph., Eyre-Walker, A. and Maynard Smith, J., Linkage disequilibration and recombination in hominid mitochondrial DNA, Science 286(5449):2524–25, 24 December 1999; Strauss, E., mtDNA shows sign of paternal influence, summary in same issue, p. 2436. Return to text.