Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Things I Learn

[posted by Callimachus]

Oh, so he wants to talk about it after all. Though of course he won't accept the challenge in the field where it was made. Easier to go home and talk tough to the mirror. Including using "anti-Semitism" in quotes where no such term was used. But it wouldn't be Probiglio if he got his facts right, would it?

So let's go see what Probiglio can teach us ignorant Americans. Why, lookie here: Jesus wasn't a Jew. Naw, he was a Palestinian!

Christ was not a Jew. His first tongue (and his last words) were Aramaic. That, I am told, would make him a Palestinian.

I read that, and read it again. And I was astonished at the barrel-full of ignorance in me. Why, it seems my ignorance was so large it should have been knocking down buildings as I walked down the street.

Just consider:

  • Here, I always thought language was a different thing from ethnicity. For instance, lots of Jamaicans and black South Africans and Singaporeans and African-Americans have grown up all their lives speaking a flawless English. And here I thought that didn't necessarily mean they were descendants of Alfred the Great. But I was wrong. It does! Martin Luther King Jr. was a good ol' Anglo-Saxon boy!

  • Here I thought Aramaic was a set of regional Semitic dialects of Syria that emerged as the lingua france of the polyglot Levant under Persian rule (much like English was in colonial India) and continued until it was displaced by Arabic in the eighth century. Here I thought a socially active person in Judea in Christ's time would have been fluent in Hebrew, common Greek, and Aramaic. When Christ spoke to the priests in the Temple, he likely would have spoken Hebrew. When he conversed with Pilate, they likely talked in Greek. When he spoke to the masses, he would have spoken Aramaic. Nobody regards any of these tongue-switches as a miracle.

    [When Christ died on the cross he cried out his last words, which Matthew and Mark give, transliterated into Greek, as El(o)i El(o)i lema sabachthani. This is Aramaic; the canonical Hebrew would have been eli eli lama `azabtani.]

  • Here I thought the name "Palestinian" historically meant "person of Palestine," which was the name the Romans gave (Provincia Syria Palaestina) to the former Provincia Judaea in C.E. 135, after they crushed the second Jewish revolt. So there were no "Palestinians" in Jesus' day. The Romans got that word from the Latinized form of the people named Philistines, who lived along the coast and were not Arabs or even Semites, and seem to have had cultural, if not ethnological, links with Mycenae in Greece.

  • Here I thought the modern people called Palestinians were descendants of Arabs who moved into the region from traditional Arab lands east of the Jordan after the Muslim conquest in the 630s. And many are descended from Arabs who moved there from Syria and Jordan after 1850. They would have been merely "Arabs," without national identity, until the British revived the name "Palestine" after they took the district under mandate at the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Here I thought only two kinds of people were obsessed with proving that Jesus was not a Jew. The first were Christian Jew-baiters and the second were every other kind of Jew-baiter. I thought the kind of intelligent people whose enthusiasm to pry Jesus away from his Jewish context and heritage was so enormous that it overrode the most basic common sense were hard-core haters, people who also were fond of referring to Jews as "Sons of pigs and monkeys." People like Yasser Arafat, who, addressing a press conference at the United Nations in 1983, called Jesus "the first Palestinian fedayeen who carried his sword."

But at least I can guess, thanks to this same site, that my ignorance in these matters is an inevitable result of being an Ugly American. I learn, we're all the Ugly American:

I would not, as James has done, limit the R[est] O[f the] W[orld]'s contempt of the President and Americans as a people solely on the head of the President. Yes, as head of that nation he should take note of the culture and attitude of the countries he visits in determining his responses and actions. I agree with James, but would put it slightly differently.

Once again, the American nation and not just its President has confirmed the caricature penned originally by Graham Greene in "The Ugly American".

Some people, you see, separate their powerful distaste for certain American policies or aspects of American life or even individual Americans from their blanket condemnation of an entire chunk of the human race.

And some don't.