Thursday, September 24, 2009

"It doesn't damage my faith in any way."

The death of another sacred cow?

"Genetic researchers have revised an earlier hypothesis that members of the Jewish priestly caste, the Cohanim, can trace their paternal lineage to a single progenitor, perhaps the biblical Aaron, brother of Moses."

"Additional Y chromosome lineages that are distinct from that defined by the extended Cohen Modal Haplotype, but also shared among Cohanim from different Jewish communities, reveal that the priesthood was established by several unrelated male lines."

"I think it's still sort of amazing that there is a genetic marker. The question of whether it was one progenitor or was it four or five, it doesn't damage my faith in any way." said Sam Cohon, rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Tucson.

Will Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman now add a chapter to his book consisting of only "Never mind."? Nah, expect OrthoFundies to put an interesting spin on this latest research, mitigating its significance.

An interesting side note: opponents of the Documentary Hypothesis have long been critical of the claim that in addition to the Ahronite priestly line there was also a rival "Mushite" priestly lineage that originated with Moses. It seems that the latest research suggests that such a claim, rather than being baseless, turns out to be quite a conservative suggestion!

News articles here and here, scientific abstract here.

34 comments:

jewish philosopher said...

"opponents of the Documentary Hypothesis have long been critical of the claim that in addition to the Ahronite priestly line there was also a rival "Mushite" priestly lineage that originated with Moses. "

I wouldn't say baseless, however it seems logically inconsistent that secular scholars believe that the Torah is basically bogus, yet they embrace the Talmudic statement (Bava Basra 109b) that there existed in ancient Israel a priesthood descended from Moses, claiming that these priests wrote the E document. (See Richard E. Friedman in “Who Wrote the Bible” pages 48 and 79)

Joshua said...

This is utterly unrelated to the claim of kohanim descended from Moshe since Moshe and Aaron would have had the same father (and would have just pushed the data back one generation).

I'm currently reading the paper which looks fascinating. I'm not sure the result given is so strong as to conclude definitely that there were establishments by multiple lines. (Disclaimer: I'm a math grad student not a genetecist). I may have more to comment on this when I've had more time to digest it.

JP,

As usual you seem to not understand the basic aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis. It doesn't at all claim that the "Torah is basically bogus." Much of the material is acknowledged by the DH as being more or less historically accurate and some sections are acknowledged as being very old. Moreover, there's no contradiction in using sections from the Talmud which could conceivably have records of older ideas or traditions that were not included in the text. Such use needs to be careful since there are clearly highly ahistoric elements in the Talmud. But that's very different than ignoring the document entirely. Especially when data in it is consistent with other evidence.

shoshi said...

If Moshe and Aharon had the same father, as is postulated, it still would be the same Y haplotype.

It is said that priesthood could be bought/was falsified in the second temple period. This would be a more logical explanation for the existence of several haplotypes...

Joshua said...

Ok, I've read through the paper. It makes a strong case for a small founding population about 3000 to 3500 years ago. Note that that's not easily explainable by the ability to buy kahunah in the second temple period. Moreover, my understanding is that people paid to become kohen gadol. I'm not aware of any evidence that people paid to become kohanim in general during bayit sheini.

The data looks very strong and it is hard to reconcile with the mesorah. The only critique I can see is of sample size but that's a very weak critique given the sample sizes. More research is needed, but I doubt the overall thrust of the results will be that different in further studies.

Moshe said...

The new study, even if eventually confirmed, is still remarkably consistent with an exodus 3200 or so years ago , immediately after which the priesthood was founded. In contrast, the thrust of most critical scholarship is that the whole exodus story, and the founding of a priesthood immediately thereafter, was a much later fabrication. The study thus still provides much support for one who upholds the basic historicity of the exodus.

Frum Heretic said...

This is utterly unrelated to the claim of kohanim descended from Moshe since Moshe and Aaron would have had the same father

Perhaps I was somewhat unclear regarding this connection. Yes, of course Moshe and Ahron would have inherited the same Y-chromosome. I'm not saying that the study supports the assertion of a Mushite vs Ahronite priesthood per se, only that there is now confirmation of multiple priestly lines.

Frum Heretic said...

Moshe - no, the study does not falsify the Exodus story. And I would agree with your nuanced phrase "basic historicity".

Happy said...

"This is utterly unrelated to the claim of kohanim descended from Moshe since Moshe and Aaron would have had the same father (and would have just pushed the data back one generation)."

It is most definitely related. The issue in question is if there were two (or more) groups who *believed* they were descendants of Moses and Aaron. You remind me of people who are convinced that Judaism is the oldest religion because it traces itself back to Adam.

Joshua said...

Happy, I agree with your statement about relevance to belief in later generations. I'm a bit puzzled as to what you mean by the comparison to people who make that claim about Adam. Could you explain in more detail?

Baal Habos said...

Those evil reshaim scientists.

Anyhow, one thing I'm uncertain about, should not a large part of our tribe have DNA that traces back to Avraham Avinu? I understand that only Cohanim have true paternal lineage which corresponds to the Y and is unafffectud by Geirus. But still shouldn't a large percentage of us have Y's that go back and same is true for mDNA on the maternal side?

Baal Habos said...

This reminds me of archaeology. At first it was believed that it supported the biblical tale, but then as those reshoim dug deeper it turns out it undermines it instead of supporting it. Same thing here.

> The question of whether it was one progenitor or was it four or five, it doesn't damage my faith in any way." said Sam Cohon, rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Tucson.

BS. He probably can't sleep at night, especially since he's probably a Cohen who just found out he may not be related to the Katz's, after all.


It may not falsify the Exodus story, but it definitely daamages the concept of the Kehuna, it actually damages it in right the heart. It's not as if the trail only goes back 2,000. Rather, it goes back 3,200 but to multiple sources, the signifigance of which, I did not quite appreciate on the first reading. Oh well. Something to think about as we listen to the Avoda this Y"K.

Holy Hyrax said...

There is something else here that I feel we are missing. This only goes to show that "AHA" claims are often wrong, on both sides. You see this as disproving something. I see this as the ever changing face of research and proving and disproving things. How do you know by the same confidence that the Kohen gene was proved and then disproved, that it won't happen again? This is the same thing that happened with the Tel Dan discovery. One minute we think a certain reality exists, then all of a sudden a different reality hits us.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Anyhow, one thing I'm uncertain about, should not a large part of our tribe have DNA that traces back to Avraham Avinu? I understand that only Cohanim have true paternal lineage which corresponds to the Y and is unafffectud by Geirus. But still shouldn't a large percentage of us have Y's that go back and same is true for mDNA on the maternal side

I have read two books on this subject. One is "Children of Abraham" and the other is "Jacob's Legacy." They both discuss that paternally, most ashkenazi Jews can trace the ancestry to the middle east, but maternally, its mostly converts from areas of Rome.

Holy Hyrax said...

Unless I am wrong, what this study shows is cohanim today are from multiple lineages, and not that there wasn't a single Cohen.

Joshua said...

Hyrax, the data suggests multiple lineages around the time of the founding of the population. This does contradict the standard mesorah unless one thinks that Eleazar and Itamar were getting seriously cuckolded by their wives. That would mean that the majority of kohanim are in fact mamzerim.

Holy Hyrax said...

so what is your problem with this then?

Holy Hyrax said...

Ok, nevermind. I just reread your comments.

Holy Hyrax said...

I'm still always amazed as to how they can actually date these things.

Frum Heretic said...

Anyhow, one thing I'm uncertain about, should not a large part of our tribe have DNA that traces back to Avraham Avinu?

Yep, along with much of the rest of the world since you have to include all of the descendants of Ismael and Esav who likewise inherited the same Y chromosome!

Baal Habos said...

>along with much of the rest of the world since you have to include all of the descendants of Ismael and Esav who likewise inherited the same Y chromosome!

Well, dummy me. But of course, how do you explain that most Jews DNA does not converge back to Jacob?

Frum Heretic said...

how do you explain that most Jews DNA does not converge back to Jacob?

The data is still being collected so I don't know that firm conclusions have been established. One theory (largely a result of R-M17 chromosomes among Levites, which seems to show a much more recent origin of 1000 years ago!) is that there is Khazar origin for many Jews.

But just as interesting are maternal mitochondrial DNA studies. Only 40% of the lineages suggest a common origin up 2000-3000 years BP. The rest correlate strongly with the neighboring non-Jewish populations. The current suggestion is that Jewish merchants would travel to distant countries and take wives from the natives. I find it highly unlikely that took rabbis along with them and made sure the women converted al pi halacha!

Holy Hyrax said...

>is that there is Khazar origin for many Jews

I have read books on the question of this and it largly says that khazar influence on genes is very little. The two books discuss that most male ashkenazi come from middle east origins, but the female line does not. Most come from Rome.

Sephardics are a different question as they have seen a lot of intermarriages in both male and female.

Frum Heretic said...

HH - check out this fairly recent study of matrilineal genetic ancestry:

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?pmid=18446216

Holy Hyrax said...

FH

Too long. Give me the jist.

Anonymous said...

http://mevaseretzion.blogspot.com/2009/10/kohanic-gene.html

Joseph said...

>Yep, along with much of the rest of the world since you have to include all of the descendants of Ismael and Esav who likewise inherited the same Y chromosome!<

My understanding is that the vast majority of M and C folks are descendents of nations who were converted. We claim that, generally, we are of the 'seed' of A, I, and J.

(Not that there's anything wrong with being a convert!)

Frum Heretic said...

Yes, even though there is much more dna analysis to be done, there does seem to be a consensus that most Ashkenazi Jewish founder events are only about 500 years old (not for Cohanim, though.) See http://www.jogg.info/11/coffman.htm

This is pretty hot potato stuff for those who want to argue with the theories of Shlomo Sand.

The only thing wrong with being a convert (besides not being able to marry a kohain) is that they will be treated as second class citizens by many - tho' by no means all - frummies.

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William Dwek said...

1. The Dweks from Aleppo, Syria, are the only family of the true Cohanim.

We are the only true descendants of Aharon HaCohen, the Cohen HaGadol.

And, we are the only true descendants of Pinhas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaCohen.

It was the great act of Pinhas, who stopped the plague in Am Yisrael, when he struck the spear into Cozbi and Zimri. 24,000 died in a plague from the sins of idolatry and immorality with the Midianite women.

William Dwek said...

2. Anyone who has taken on the surname, ‘Cohen’/’Kohen’ is clearly identifiable as a fraud, a liar and an imposter of the true Cohanim.

This goes right back to his original ancestor who LIED, and said he was a Cohen when he was not.

Anyone called, ‘Mr. Cohen’ or ‘Rabbi Cohen’ is definitely NOT a Cohen. Someone who calls himself, ‘Mr. Cohen’ or ‘Rabbi Cohen’ is effectively calling himself, ‘Mr. Torah!’

3. The Kohanim are part of the Torah – but they are not called, ‘Mr. Torah.’

It is preposterous for a man to call himself, ‘Mr. Torah!’

If someone makes you a cup of coffee, or sells some bread to you, will you say, ‘Thank you Mr. CoffeeMaker!’ or, ‘Thank you Mr. Baker?!’

4. The coffeemaker and the baker have a Family Name.

Similarly with the true Cohanim.

And that family name is, ‘DWEK.’

Frum Heretic said...

Nice fairy tale that you have concocted.

Ever get your DNA tested?

Frum Heretic said...

Oh, sorry, I see that this is a boiler plate rant that you have posted on other Jewish blogs, but you never back up your claim.

I learned this when I did a Google search of "Dwek". Unfortunately, you'll have to keep posting because what one first sees are all of the reports of scandals and criminal behavior by Dweks (who are also dreks.)

Something tells me that "Dwek" is no longer synonymous with priestly ideals...

Baal Habos said...

>If someone makes you a cup of coffee, or sells some bread to you, will you say, ‘Thank you Mr. CoffeeMaker!’ or, ‘Thank you Mr. Baker?!’

Even the Talmud is replete with instances that show you're wrong, i.e. R' Yochanan Hasandler.