Unbroken Chain – Direct Link from Sinai through Genealogy

The Claim of the Unbroken Chain

unbroken-chain-judaismOne of the claims to the authenticity of the Torah is that there is an unbroken chain – the descendants of those who spent 40 years in the desert all hearing the word of the Creator all witnessed numerous miracles.  This is laid out in the book of Exodus / Shemos, where one event is more miraculous than the last.  Their descendants (the Jews) are still around to tell you about how their great-great-great-[insert a few more here]-grandparents were there.  That’s our family tradition, and in fact, the holiday of Passover is dedicated to reliving it as if we were there ourselves.  We use this holiday to pass down the story to our children.

You could make up a story about one man hearing the word of G_d who says “it happened to me” and some people will believe it.  (They’re not all true unless there really are a bunch of contradictory religions out there … but that goes under the “we’re-all-doomed-if-that’s-true” category, much like the negative pascal wager argument).  However, you can’t convince someone that something happened to you if it didn’t happen to them.

At a holiday party, I overheard a Torah observant Jew say, “The unbroken chain argument is a pretty strong argument, but I have yet to actually see such an unbroken chain.  Does anyone really have a family tree going back that far?”  I walked over, because, in fact … yes, my wife has such a family tree!  I did some searching, and such trees aren’t readily published, but if you go on Geni.com and know where to look, they’re pretty easy to find … and made public.  Geni.com is a collaborative family tree which I have used as a tool to locate many distant relatives.  Some trees, such as my wife’s, go all the way back to Adam.  I’ll take this from there through the generations as far as Elias Munk, my wife’s third-great grandfather who lived between 1818 and 1900.  At the time of this writing, he has 710 descendants on the tree, including my wife and children in the United States.  Others are in places from Israel to France to Australia to the United Kingdom.  Let’s get started.

Biblical Family Trees To King David (to about 970 BCE)

First, lineage in the written Torah itself is recorded from Adam, the first man, through Noach (you know, the flood…), Abraham, Moses, and King David (just before the first Temple period). The earlier lineage is found in Bereshis [Genesis] Chapter 5, and the miraculous stuff in exiting Egypt and the wilderness, and so on … that’s more or less the entire book of Shemos [Exodus] and much of Devarim [Deuteronomy]. Moses’s brother was Aaron.  Aaron’s wife was Elisheva [Shemos 6:23].  Her brother is Nachshon Ben Aminadav.   According to Jewish tradition, he was the first one in the water when the river split, exiting from Egypt.

Now, we can take this all the way to King David rather simply.  The very end of the book of Ruth, canonized in the Tanuch [Hebrew Bible] lists the generations from there to King David, emphasis added:

יח  וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדוֹת פָּרֶץ, פֶּרֶץ הוֹלִיד אֶת-חֶצְרוֹן. 18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begot Hezron;
יט  וְחֶצְרוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת-רָם, וְרָם הוֹלִיד אֶת-עַמִּינָדָב. 19 and Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab;
כ  וְעַמִּינָדָב הוֹלִיד אֶת-נַחְשׁוֹן, וְנַחְשׁוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת-שַׂלְמָה. 20 and Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon;
כא  וְשַׂלְמוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת-בֹּעַז, וּבֹעַז הוֹלִיד אֶת-עוֹבֵד. 21 and Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed;
כב  וְעֹבֵד הוֹלִיד אֶת-יִשָׁי, וְיִשַׁי הוֹלִיד אֶת-דָּוִד.  {ש} 22 and Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David{P}

There are, in fact, many Jews who can trace their lineage from King David.  This may be because the line of kingship will never depart from David’s descendants, so the descendants have been careful (and proud) to keep track of this knowledge.  Amongst other places, this fact is also recorded in the written Torah (Divrei Hayamim 2, 13:5):

ה  הֲלֹא לָכֶם, לָדַעַת, כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל נָתַן מַמְלָכָה לְדָוִיד עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְעוֹלָם:  לוֹ וּלְבָנָיו, בְּרִית מֶלַח.  {פ} 5 you should know that the LORD, the God of Israel, gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

(Salt is an often used biblical metaphor for something which lasts and does not get destroyed, bringing home the point that it’s “forever”.)

Rounding Out the Recorded Biblical Tree (to about 55 CE)

At this point, the trees are copied and pasted from Geni.com.  The links should work to view each person and the information recorded about them on Geni.com.

King David / דוד המלך . → King Solomon / שלמה המלך his son → Rehoboam / רחבעם King of Judah / מלך יהודה his son → Abijah / אביה King of Judah / מלך יהודה his son → Asa King of Judah / אסא מלך יהודה his son → Jehosaphat / יהושפט King of Judah / מלך יהודה his son → Jehoram / יהורם King of Judah / מלך יהודה, מלך יהודה his son → Jehosheba / יהושבע . his daughter → Jedidah / ידידה . her daughter → Josiah / Josias / יאשיהו King of Judah / מלך יהודה her son → Jehoiakim/ Yehoahaz / יהויקים King of Judah / מלך יהודה his son → Jechoniah / Yehoakhin / יהויכין / יכניה King of Judah / מלך יהודה

So far, this is all still “biblical”.  Yehoakhin is listed in both 2 Kings Chapter 24:6-16 and 2 Chronicles 36:8-10.  The patralineal line is broken already in this chain, but my wife can’t be king, anyway.  Yohoakhin marks the beginning on the Babylonian exile, the first of many exiles of the Jews around the world.  (I wrote more about this point from Devarim 4:27 in my debates with atheists, found here.)  Yehoakhin died in about 55 BCE.  According to his profile on Geni, his name and date of death are confirmed by tablets found in modern day Iraq (Babylonia) speaking of Nebuchnezzer’s exiling of the Jews.

The Babylonian Exile (to about 1085 CE)

Now, as I get closer in time, I’ve discovered there are often more and more paths to get from King David to my wife.  For sake of brevity, I’m going to follow just one very direct path.  For background, the Babylonian Exile continued from the destruction of the First Temple period (only a small percentage of Jews went back to Israel during the Second Temple period) through about the 1930s when, due to persecution and Zionism, Jews started returning to Israel in great numbers.  In the 1800s the city of Baghdad was between 1/3 and 1/4 Jewish (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Iraq for more information)!

Much of the following is recorded in the Bablyonian Talmud, written during this time period and wildly popular in Jewish learning today.  Every 7.5 years or so, we gather to celebrate the completion of the learning cycle (which filled Giant’s Stadium this past cycle!) to begin it again.  All of this was written by our sages, to preserve the information as our exile began.

Jechoniah / Yehoakhin / יהויכין / יכניה King of Judah / מלך יהודה his son → Shealtiel, 2nd Exilarch / שאלתיאל his son →Nechemya . his son → Meshullam משולם הסופר MP his son → Hananya חֲנַנְיָה ben Meshulam, Exilarch his son → Berahya ben Hananya, Exilarch his son → Yishaya ben Hananya, 8th Exilarch his son → Rafaya ben Yishaya (ben Chananya), 10th Exilarch his son → Arnan ben Rafaya, Exilarch his son → Obadya ibn Arnan, Exilarch his son → Shechanya ben Ovadya, 12th Exilarch his son → Shemaya ben Shechanya, Exilarch his son → Nearya ben Shemaya, 18th Exilarch his son → Elioenai ben Neariah, 20th Exilarch his son → Akkub ben Elioenai, Exilarch his son → Da’ud ibn Akkub (ben Akkub) his son → Shlomo III ibn Da’ud, Exilarch his son → Shemaya I ben Shlomo, Exilarch his son → Da’ud ben Shemaya, Exilarch his son → Shechanya II ben Da’ud (ben David), Exilarch his son → Hizkiya ben Shehanya, 33rd Exilarch Hizkiya III his son → Shalom II ben Hizkiya, Exilarch Interregnum his son → Nathan ben Shalom, Exilarch Interregnum his son → Hunya ben Nathan, Exilarch Interregnum his son → Shlomo ben Hunya, Exilarch Interregnum his son → Ya’akov ben Shlomo, Exilarch of Babylon his son → Son of אחיה בן יעקב Achaya bar Akkub, 1st Exilarch 2nd Dynasty his son → נחום בן אחיה Nachum ben Achaya (ben Ahijah), 2nd Exilarch Nachum II his son → Nathan ben Nachum, 7th Exilarch ‘Mar Ukba I’ his son → Anani bar Nathan, 8th Exilarch Huna II his son→Nathan de-Ẓuẓita bar Hanan (Ukvan), 11th Exilarch ‘Ukban’ his son→נחמיה Nechemya ben Nathan, 14th Exilarch Nehemiah I his son→‘Ukba ben Nechemya (Ukvan), 17th Exilarch Mar ‘Ukba III his son→Abba Mar ben ‘Ukba (ben Ukba), 20th Exilarch Abba Mari I his son→Nathan bar Abba Mari, 21st Exilarch Nathan II his son→Huna ben Nathan, 24th Exilarch Mar Huna IV his son→Rabeina II “Sof hora’a” רב אבינא בר רב הונא his son→Rav David ben Rabeina II, Grandson of Exilarch Mar Huna IV his son→Mar Zutra II, 30th Exilarch his son→Mar Zutra III a/k/a Mar Sutra I ben Mar Zutra II, 1st Exilarch of Tiberias his son→Mar Sutra II (Sa’adya) ben Mar Tsutra I, 2nd Exilarch & Gaon of Tiberias his son→Mar Sutra I “Guriya” ben Mar Zutra III, 3rd Exilarch & Gaon of Tiberias his son→Mar Sutra II bar Guriya, 4th Exilarch & Gaon of Tiberias his son→Rav Yakob ‘Zakai’ ben Mar Sutra II, 5th Exilarch & Gaon of Tiberias his son→Haninai “Magis/Majus” ben Mar Sutra II, 7th Exilarch & Gaon of Tiberias his son→Nechemya נחמיה ben Magis, 8th Exilarch & Gaon of Tiberias “Nechemya II’ his son→Rab Dimi ‘Abba Dimi’ ben Nechemiah II, 9th Exilarch & Gaon of Ramla, hasofer his son→Rab David I ‘Pinchas’ ben Abdimi, Exilarch & Gaon of Ramla his son→Mar Rab Judah ‘Hazub’ bar Pinchas, Exilarch, Gaon, haSofer of Pumbeditha his son→R’ David Nathan ben Chazub, Exilarch, Rosh Golah of Judah his son→David Avraham ben Hazub, Exilarch ‘Rab David II’, haSofer b’Pumbeditha his son→Yehuda “Zakai” ben David, 29th Exilarch ‘Judah II’ his son→Hizkiya “Zuṭṭa” ben Yehudah, Exilarch #30,33 & 35, Final Gaon of Pumbeditha his son→דוד David ben Zakkai, Exilarch his son →Chyzkiya II ben David his son → Yitzhak ben Chyzkia, Nasi his son

An “exilarch”, by the way, is the spiritual leader of the generation in exile.  A “nasi” is the “president” or one who runs the civil affairs of the community, as I understand it.  These exilarchs were careful to record their genealogy, and those who have learned the Talmud will recognize many of these names.  Some of the generations listed above are actually in Israel . . . such as the goans of Tiberias, a city in Israel where a fairly constant Jewish presence remained throughout history, in addition to Tzfas (not far from there) and, of course, Jerusalem.

The tree above actually takes us all the way to about 1060 CE.  This is already the time of the famous Rishonim such as Rashi, the Rambam, and the Ramban.  (My wife is actually a direct descendant of Rashi in at least two different ways, but the tree from King David is less direct that way.)

The Spanish Years (to about 1450 CE)

Around 1085, things went fairly well for the Jews in Spain.  There were some religious-inspired attacks on the Jews (you know, like the Crusades…) but otherwise the Jewish population grew along with Torah scholarship.  This lasted until 1492.  Here’s the line of my wife’s tree extending from Yitzhak ben Chyzkia (see above) to Josef Halevi of Horovice:

 Yitzhak ben Chyzkia, Nasi → Mar Solomon Shealtiel “Felez Ferruz” Pattish haHazak, Nasi, Vizierhis son → Yosef “Cidellus” ibn Ferruzi’el, Nasi of Toledo, Vizier, Lt of El Cidhis son → Meshulam Shlomo Yitzhak Perfet (1st)his son → Zerachiah Gracian-Hen haLevi of Girona (Ba’al haMaor) / רבנו זרחיה השני מחירונהhis son → Rabeinu Yosef Hanassi HaLevi, רבנו יוסף הנשיא בן זרחיה הלויhis son → Benvenisti Ha’Levihis son → Yosef / יוסף Halevi Benveniste / הלוי בנבנישתיhis son → Pinhas haLevi of Barcelonahis son → Yitzhak haLevi of Narbone / יצחק הלוי מנרבונהhis son → Rabeinu Yosef / רבנו יוסף Halevi / הלויhis son → Benvenisti Ha’Levi his son →Josef Halevi of Horovice his son

Note that the names also are spanish-ified.  Now we have “Felez” and “Perfet” and “Benveniste”.  Note also that while my wife is quite Ashkenazi (of Eastern European descent), as am I, neither of us can do this with our trees through Eastern Europe.  We have to go the Sefardi route, probably because Ashkenazi Jews were more persecuted (probably descending from jews in Italy, taken captive after Rome destroyed the second Temple in 70 CE) and less stably located throughout the course of history.  Through the Sefardi line, we’ve gone about two thousand years with only two major location changes.  (An interesting side-note is that through population genetics, there’s probably no such thing as a “purely Ashkenazi” Jew – just a slight amount of intermarriage with Sefardim means that we’re all mixed together at this point.  See http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/10/the-universality-of-sephardic-ethnicity-as-explained-by-mathematical-genealogy/ for more on this – my wife’s tree is very strong evidence that his mathematical postulating is quite correct.)

So why did Mar Solomon (the first in Spain) move from Iraq to Spain?  Well, the history books tell us he was a knight who commanded armies and was a personal advisor to the Knig of Aragon.  Read more about him on his Geni profile.

Then why did Josef Halevi (the last in Spain) leave for Bohemia?  It wasn’t the inquisition, as he died about forty years prior, but things were already getting worse for the Jews in Spain.  I can only speculate as to the true reason.  It needs further study.

The Last Few Hundred Years (To 1900 CE)

From here, again we can take a variety of paths.  The shortest one goes through the famous Rabbinic family, the Katzenellenbogen family.  Many still have this last name today and are known for not only their well respected lineage, but also for having a street name in Har Nof, Jerusalem and the longest Jewish last name:

Josef Halevi of Horovice his son → Moshe Asher Halevi pre Horowitz, משה הלוי, אבי הראשון לבית הורוביץ his son → Yeshaya Zalman HaLevi Horowitz – ישעיה הלוי, הראשון לבית הורוביץ his son→ Aaron Avraham Meshulam Zalman Horowitz / אהרן משולם זלמן הלוי הורוויץ his son → Rabbi Yisrael Horowitz – ישראל הורוביץ  his son → Rabbi Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz his son → Hinda Katzenellenbogen, הינדה קצנלנבויגן his daughter → Moshe Katzenellenbogen משה קצנלנבוגן her son → Meir Katzenellenbogen his son →Benjamin Katzenellenbogen his son → Saul Katzenellenbogen his son → Hanale Katzenellenbogen his daughter → Raatza Kastan her daughter → Channah Munk her daughter → Elias Munk her son

So there you have it.  Again, any of the links will take you to more information about the person.  This takes us through what is today the Czech Republic, Germany, and sometimes a bit through France and other surrounding countries.  My wife’s grandmother (the great-granddaughter of Elias Munk), along with many other descendants of Elias Munk and King David, again live in Israel.  She tells me that when she grew up in Germany it was a requirement to have your family tree documentation.  Thus, German Jews tend to know their family trees very well.  For those of us from further to the East in Europe . . . not so much.

… but wait, there’s more.

You see, the Torah doesn’t claim that there are only Jews in the world or that everyone is supposed to be Jewish.  It’s a discipline and a responsibility.  Rather, there are 70 nations each with different purposes.  The Jews are chosen for one, but surely there are reasons for the others.  Ishmael, for example, is another son of Abraham.  The Creator promises Ishmael’s mother that he’ll be great too [Bereshis / Genesis 17].  The Arabs claim descent from here, so shouldn’t they also have a family tree extending back that far?  In fact, evidence from other cultures with their own biases would serve to confirm the authenticity of the genealogical claims.  Then, through conversation (both from and to Judaism), thanks to the math of population genetics, we’re not only physically descended from Isaac, but through the close proximity in Iraq and Spain for about 1500 years, we should also be descended from Ishmael, and probably many others, for that matter.  Here’s another tree I ran across:

Ishmael / ישמעאל / إسماعيل . his son→ Kedar / קדר . his son → Imaam ‘Adnaan bin Imaam ‘Udd his son → Imaam Ma’ad bin Imaam ‘Adnaan his son → Imaam Nazaar bin Imaam Ma’ad his son→ Imaam Mudhir bin Imaam Nazaar  his son → Imaam Ilyaas (Habib) bin Imaam Mudhir his son →Imaam Mudrika (‘Amr) bin Imaam Ilyaas his son → Imaam Khuzaima bin Imaam Mudrika his son →Imaam Kanaana bin Imaam Khuzaima his son→Imaam an-Nazar “Qays” bin Imaam Kanaana his son→Imaam Maalik bin Imaam an-Nazar his son→Imaam Fihr (Quraysh) bin Imaam Maalik his son→Imaam Ghaalib bin Imaam Fihr (Quraysh) his son→Imaam Luwai bin Imaam Ghaalib his son→Imaam Ka’ab bin Imaam Luwai his son→Imaam Murrah bin Imaam Ka’ab his son→Imaam Killaab bin Imaam Murrah his son→Imaam Quṣayy Zayd bin Imaam Killaab his son→‘Abd al-Manaf bin Zahra his son→Imaam Hashim (A’mr ul-U’la) bin Imaam ‘Abd al-Manaf his son→Assad bin Imaam Hashim his son→Adai bint Assad ibn Hashim (PBUH) his daughter

That takes us from Ishmael through his descendants all the way to the Saasanid Empire (224 – 650 CE or so) in Babylonia (Iraq).  This is the period, as described above, when the Babylonian Talmud was written and the Jews and Arabs got along the best in history, just before the arrival of Islam.  I’d also imagine that the “PBUH” and “Imaam” tags were only added post-humorously.

Now take a look at what happens here when the names turn very Jewish:

Adai bint Assad ibn Hashim (PBUH)his daughterHaninai al-Nehar Peḳkod ben Bustanai bar Adai, Exilarch & Gaon of Sura her sonHananya “Dayan of the Gate” ben Haninai haKohen al-Nahr Paqod, Gaon of Sura his son →Meiri “Mari” ben Hananiah haKohen al-Nahr Peḳod, Gaon of Surahis son → Hillel “Hilai” ben “Mari”, Gaon of Surahis son → Mar Ivomai Mishael ben Hillel Kohen Zedeq, Gaon of Surahis son → Hophni “Boaz” Kohen Ṣedeq ben Ivomai, Gaon of Surahis son → Eleazar ibn Shmuel al-Hurga, Alluf al-Andalus & Resh Kallahhis son → Natronai Yosef “Mari” haKohen, Gaon of Sura & Jaen al-Andalushis son → Kohen Ṣedeq II “Yakob” ben Yosef, Gaon of Sura & Pumbedithahis son → Ḥophni Yosef ben Yakob haKohen Bar Saṭya, Av Bet Din,Gaon of Sura & Jaen al-Andalushis son → Shmuel ben Hophni haKohen haNagid, Last Gaon of Surahis son → ???? bat Samuel ben Hophni Nagid I his daughter → דוד David ben Zakkai, Exilarchher son → Chyzkiya II ben Davidhis son → Yitzhak ben Chyzkia, Nasi his son → Mar Solomon Shealtiel “Felez Ferruz” Pattish haHazak, Nasi, Vizier

It turns out that Yitzhak ben Chyzkia, Nasi, who was leader of the Jewish people in Iraq and went to Span (see above) was also a direct descendant of Ishmael!  Through this line are many of the leaders of the Saasinid Empire.  Adai bint Assad ibn Hashim seems to be close family with many rules of the Saassanid Empire and converted to Judaism.  Now I’m not quite sure how Saddam Hussein and other modern figures in Iraqi history fit on the tree, but suffice to say … we’re all cousins.

So there it is – at least two unbroken chains.  Again, I have chosen only two lines for purposes of illustration.  One goes through many great leaders of the Jewish people, and another through our cousins the Arabs . . . and then back to the Jews.  There are many more historical trees which take us back through there.  If child, parent, and grand-parent sat at a Seder together to retell the story of our ancestors in Egypt, we need only select about 40 Passover seders in history to find a direct line of transmission from the entire Jewish people living miraculously in the desert for forty years until today.  This is the basis of Jewish belief.

If the Exodus didn’t happen, how did such a story get passed down?  For more on this argument, see what Rabbi Sapirman has to say.


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24 Responses

  1. Mark David says:

    Hello, I question a part of the Spanish lineage from Yosef Ferruziel to Zerachia ha-Levi of Girona:

    Yosef “Cidellus” ibn Ferruzi’el, Nasi of Toledo, Vizier, Lt of El Cidhis son → Meshulam Shlomo Yitzhak Perfet (1st)his son → Zerachiah Gracian-Hen haLevi of Girona (Ba’al haMaor) / רבנו זרחיה השני מחירונה

    If this Zerachia ha-Levi of Girona is the same Ba’al ha-Maor, the following link lists his father as Isaac ha-Levi, son of Zerachiah ha-Levi (the elder), son of Shem Tov Ha-Levi. That would rule out him being the son of Meshulam Shlomo Yitzhak ben Yosef as the grandfather and great greatfather do not match. If you are solely using the Geni entries listed as reference, I’ve found several discrepancies in generations and names from this series of entries. There are duplicate entries, and I believe some of them have been confused for others with similar names.


    Zerachiah was born into a Rabbinic family called Yitzhari of Girona. His father was Isaac Ha-Levi, a Talmudic scholar in Provence, and the son of Zerachiah Ha-Levi, his namesake. The elder Zerachiah was a son of Shem Tov Ha-Levi, one of the greatest Talmudic scholars in Provence, who claimed direct descent of the prophet Samuel, who according to Jewish tradition was a direct descendant of Yitzhar (hence the family name “Ha-Yitzhari”), son of Kehath, son of Levi, son of Jacob.

    • tostien says:

      I am not familiar with all the details of the people you are referring to, but I concede that I too have found difficulties with the tree I published in this blog article a few years ago. It also relies on a connection between the Horvice family in Spain and Horowitz in Prague which I’ve since found doesn’t have so much evidence. Perhaps the tree on Geni is more accurate now that there are “curators” of these profiles who are professional genealogists, but at best, it seems there is guesswork in more than one place.

  2. Lisa Reik says:

    I too am a descendent of Rabbi Horowitz chief rabbi of Prague and Jerusalem (1600, 1640), down to my maternal grandmother Frances (Frumer) Horowitz-Weisberger.

    Can anyone help me connect to other descendents of the Horowitz rabbinic line?

    Lisa Reik
    Bet Yannay

  3. Kevin Lane says:

    I came across this article as I was following back my family tree and intersected with this tree with Rita Horowitz of 1486-1533. In trying to follow your unbroken chain, I am not finding the common person between the Spanish and the Babylonian chains. The Spainish chain starts with Yitzahak, 1005-1080 born in Spain. I am not able to find this person’s name or birthdate in the Babylonian chain. Any guidance on the link between these two chains would be most welcome.

  4. meera says:

    Do you have a hard copy of your wife’s family tree all the way to Adam. Can you share it with me. Thanks.

    • tostien says:

      The information I have is from a published book on the descendants of the Wurzberger Rebbe (1979 … a new version is being worked on by one of the descendants) and simply working collaboratively with people on Geni.com.

  5. Solomon Duskis says:

    You might find this informative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipuwer_Papyrus

    I heard a Rabbi talk about the details of the Ipuwer Papyrus as a corroboration of the Egypt story that we know and love.

    • tostien says:

      There is a ba’al tesuvah in my community who has a degree in Egyptology. (He became an accountant because he needed a real job.) He holds that the Ipuwer Papyrus has nothing to do with the Exodus … he said that ancient Egypt had a whole genre of “calamity writing”, maybe something like how today we have Steven King novels. He’s the only expert in the field I’ve ever talked to, so for now, I’m going with his opinion. 🙂

      • Solomon Duskis says:

        So the only other reference to the types of calamities at Yetzias Mitzraim that we know is fiction. Interesting.

  6. Solomon Duskis says:

    You can find more about the Ipuwer Papyrus here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipuwer_Papyrus. It discusses timelines and myths.

  7. Solomon Duskis says:

    Also, there are two distinct forms of chains that I was speaking about (as the Torah observant Jew who you paraphrased).

    1) The Kuzari Claim – A claim that 600,000 people witnessed the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and that we have descendants of those people to bear witness through the generations.

    2) Halacha LeMoshe MiSina – A claim that there is leadership chain of oral law from Moshe to Yehoshua and down through the generations. The early portion of that chain is captured by the Rambam and presented these days by Lawrence Kelemen.

    The claim that we’re discussing is #1. I like to understand the veracity of the claim. The specific question I had wasn’t about a single lineage, but one about a huge chain of the descendants of 600,000 men. In Tanach, there were at least 250 years where the vast majority of Israelites did not practice the religion. There were a small sect of believers who would have passed on the belief to their descendants. It’s hard for me to understand how that period would have strengthened the Kuzari Claim.

    • tostien says:

      I’m not that knowledgeable in the period in Tanuch, but a “small sect of believers” doesn’t faze me. Since when have believing Jews been anything other than that? That seems to be how G_d wants it and a better question might be, “why?” Our literature (midrashim) says the world is really created for the select few tzadikkim (extremely righteous people) and everything else is to support them. This is echoed in the design of the universe – they physical universe has such a tiny place where life can exist, and within that, we are one species of many, a tiny amount by biomass or number compared to others. Within that, the Jews are a small percentage. Within that, a small percentage are even “on the derech”. Of those, how many are really living up to their potential?

      Look at the situation today. It’s not much different – the vast majority of Jews denies the authenticity of the Torah, but this is mostly due to lack of education and counter-education in philosophies which are antithetical to Torah-true Judaism (e.g. my reform Hebrew school and the slant in the current general philosophies of the United States). Even in the time period we’re talking about – Exhodus from Egypt, the midrash tells us that even in Egypt only 1 in 6 Hebrews were saved.

      Back to your Tanach example – If anything, this shows even more consistency in the design and in how people are. The Tanuch didn’t ‘make up’ such a thing, because, after all, who would make up something like, “this is the truth but the majority aren’t living up to it.” We may not have all the answers, as to “why” but the “what” seems to present a very consistent and believable picture. Absolute proof it is not, but the more I study and the more I question, the more sense it does make.

      In any case, I think the line I have presented (the first one) is without breakage in the chain of transmission…

      • Solomon Duskis says:

        The comment wasn’t about your thoughts at all. It’s purely about the veracity of the claim of a large unbroken chain going back to Har Sinai. There was a small chain of people who claimed to have heritage back to Har Sinai; that’s different from the Kuzari claim.

      • Solomon, that would be because most people can’t *document* a specific linage.

        The vast number of ALL people in the entire [Western] World can NOT trace their lineage past the 1700s because it was only then when records started to become much more common AND had a chance of the records surviving to present time. If you look at the World Family Tree on Geni, then you will notice that past a certain point, the vast majority of profiles are through European “nobility” of various sorts

        The typical Jewish family tree (about 80-90% of those I have seen) is no more than 7 generations “deep”. Why that number? Because those would be the direct ORAL traditions in the family – what a person’s great-grandfather had heard /knew of HIS own grandfather. Being *constantly* on the move, especially when due to persecution, does NOT make record-keeping very easy.

        If you look at the World Family Tree on Geni, then you will notice that going back in time, past a certain point, the vast majority of profiles are through European “nobility” of various sorts. Because practically no-one else even could keep records. At the same time, in most of Europe, the Jews were “un-people” having little or no official records at all. As recently as 1922, my own grandmother, born in Hungary/Romania did NOT have a birth-certificate, was literally “not born”, until 1945!

        To “Patently Jewish”, thanks for the recognition of the hard work of many Geni users. Shmuel-Aharon Kam, Biblical Curator for Geni

      • tostien says:

        Thanks for the information … and the work on the trees which allowed me to trace my wife back to Adam. Please share the article with the Geni biblical community for more comment, etc.

        The interesting thing is that looking at this tree broken down to logical parts, it no longer seems like those near the other end of it are so distant.

  8. Solomon Duskis says:

    You leave off with “If the Exodus didn’t happen, how did such a story get passed down?” The closest narrative that we have for the type of story of Yetzias Mitzrayim is the story of how the Egyptians were saved by a diety from the the Hyksos invaders around 1,700 BCE.

    • tostien says:

      Take a look at what Mr. Freeman has to say about the Hyksos: http://www.freemaninstitute.com/Gallery/joseph.htm

      I’m not a scholar in this area of the Hyksos but it seems to be in a very similar time and place as the Jewish account. If the miraculous Exodus happened with the plagues and so forth, one would expect there to be evidence from other people. Just as the Arab tradition of a lineage back to Ishmael tends to lend credence to the narrative, so would such claims of mass salvation by the Egyptians, and for that matter, mass flood stories as far flung as the Phillipines and, of course, in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

      In my brief Googling I am unable to find the “saved by a diety” claim with the Hyksos, but is it something that’s passed down among the living who were actually there and witnessed it or an after the fact story? Is it written in one text, or passed down as having actually happened to the tellers ancestors? That is, is it in the form of “a revelation happened to him” or “a revelation happened to me”? Even if the former are answered to the strong side, is it over a period of 40 years, or a one time event which is easier to fake, misunderstand, or make up?

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