Sunday, December 9, 2012

Father Abraham had many sons...but I am not one of them.

One of my favorite songs to sing in church when I was growing up was "Father Abraham." There is no real deep spiritual significance to the words, but being able to move your arms around sure made it fun to sing.

Father Abraham had many sons
And many sons had father Abraham
I am one of them, and so are you
So lets just praise the Lord! (right arm, left arm and so on)

Somewhat recently I was looking up some stuff about DNA and how much it would cost to do some genetic research on my ancestry. Since both of my parents descend from ancestors in the Netherlands (mostly from Friesland) I don't think there would be much new information I could get out of doing the test, except maybe find some genetic relatives or something.

Based on what others have posted, and also info on Wikipedia, it looks like my Y chromosome haplogroup would most likely be R1b, which is the most frequently occurring haplogroup in western Europe.

So I compared this information with the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, and what scholars have traditionally said about it. The Table of Nations is the passage in the Bible that talks about the descendants of the 3 sons of Noah after the great flood that destroyed every living thing on the earth that wasn't in the ark. They are Shem, Ham and Japeth. Here is a map that shows the approximate areas of the descendants of Noah's sons according to Genesis 10.

The descendants of Shem are Shemites or Semetic people (Jews, Arabs, middle east and Asia regions). One side note on this that I don't understand is that Semetic people include what would now include Islamic nations, and Islamic nations are anti-Semetic right? I thought anti-Semetism was hatred toward Jews, but it looks like it should include all descendants of Shem. And since the Muslims traditionally descend from Ishmael, son of Abraham and Isaac's half brother, they would definitely be included in that. I think they should come up with a better name for it, or maybe just stop hating people. It maybe also be that not all Muslims actually descend from Ishmael, they just follow.

The sons of Ham traditionally settled Canaan, Egypt and eventually Africa. I am pretty white. It's fairly obvious I don't have any Ham in me. I think it's interesting that the genetic material in Shem, Ham and Japeth (and their wives) had the genetic information for all the variety of people there are in the world. I'm sure that many would disagree that all the people in the world came from the descendants of Noah, but I would argue that even if they all came from the first humans that sprung out of east Africa (as seems to be the prevailing theory these days), my thought is still the same, it's interesting how the people of the world all have a common ancestry even though skin color and eye shape are different.

So it looks like I would be a descendant of Japeth then. I'm not from the middle east and definitely not from Africa. But Abraham is not a descendant of Japeth, which means I'm not a son of Abraham. How can I in good conscience swing my arms and legs while singing about being a son of Abraham when I am not? I guess I need to start singing about Japeth then. It just doesn't roll off the tongue as nice though, Father Ja-apeth...


  1. I would be interested in seeing the Broersma Y-DNA results as well. I believe there's a long forgotten Jewish connection.

    ~Ezra Jacob

  2. [Part 1] Hi Luke. DNA Analysis can sometimes lead to simplistic conclusions. Y-chromosome testing traces only ONE line of descent (father → son → grandson, etc). Mt-DNA testing also traces only ONE line of descent (mother → daughter → granddaughter).

    All of us have a lot more than two lines of descent. We have two parents, but four grandparents. Y-chromosome and mt-DNA tests can trace our paternal grandfather and our maternal grandmother, but NOT our maternal grandfather or our paternal grandmother, for example. Then, we have eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, and 32 great-great-great grandparents. The haplogroups will tell you about ONLY TWO of them. Go back 10 generations (approximately 600 years), and you have a whopping 1,048,576 ancestors (of course, many of these will be duplicates, as there will be inevitable inbreeding). Once again, the haplotypes will tell you about ONLY TWO of that multitude (only ONE, if you're a woman, although you might be able to get a paternal male relative to help you out with the second one).

    Suppose you have the E1b1b haplogroup. About 10 percent of Caucasians have that lineage — which is African in origin (Creationists are unanimous that it goes back to Ham), although it's been in Europe for a very long time. Okay, it tells a white man who has that lineage (e.g., Lyndon B. Johnson) that he has an unbroken male line of descent to Ham. I don't know what his mother's haplogroup was, but let's assume for argument's sake that it was probably a subset of "R" (as European women overwhelmingly are). That tells you that he has an unbroken female line going back to Japheth.

  3. [Part 2] What it DOES NOT tell you is who the MILLIONS of his other ancestors were, who were not in those two direct lines. What about his million-plus ancestors who lived just 600 years ago (long after Noah's time)? They could have descended from any of the 3 patriarchs (Shem, Ham, and Japheth). In fact, I'll be any money that everybody on the planet is ultimately descended from all there, though the Y-chromosome will go back to only one. Ditto for the mt-DNA haplogroup. I repeat, it's a statistical certainty that ALL of us go back to all three patriarchs, although the proportions will vary enormously.

    Another illustration : rumours have abounded for centuries that Marco Polo fathered children in China. It MAY or MAY NOT be true. But for argument's sake, let's suppose that it is. If so, his children will have carried his Y-chromosome, whatever it was. Italians, although predominantly Japhetic lineages, also have large minorities of lineages that go back to Shem and Ham, so we can't know what it was, but that doesn't matter. The point is, ALL of his Chinese patrilineal descendants (if there are any) will carry his Y-chromosome. Will they look European at all? Nope. They will have had several million other descendants since his time, likely all of them Chinese (or perhaps some Mongolian); they only giveaway will be their Y-chromosome. That will tell them nothing about their OVERALL ancestry!

    By the way, your assertion that "all" Europeans descend from Japheth is on thin ice. About 10 percent of Europeans are E1b1b — that's a Hamitic lineage. Another 10 percent or so are "J" — that's a certain Semitic lineage (known descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses, carry it, as do many modern Jews and Arabs). Haplogroup "I" is also common in certain parts of Europe — it reaches 40 percent in Sweden and in some parts of the Balkans, for example. Creationists are nearly unanimous that "I" is a Semitic (but non-Abrahamic) lineage — it is almost identical to to "J" and almost certainly derives from the same source.

    Africans are supposed to be descended from Ham — and DNA confirms that most of them (on the male-line) are. But there is a large minority going back to Shem. In Cameroon, of all places, most of them go back to Japheth. Then why are the Cameroonians black? For the same reason that E1b1b Europeans like Lyndon Johnson are white- there have been millions of ancestors who were NOT on the patrilineal line (most of those will be Ham in Cameroon, probably Japheth in LBJ's case).

    Your assertion that you are *not* a son of Abraham is also shaky — and not just on DNA grounds. First,Jews have always accepted converts. The book of Exodus talks about a "mixed multitude" leaving Egypt with the Jews! (That's undoubtedly where the Hamitic E1b1b line — about 25 percent of all Jews — comes from). Another 25 percent have Japhetic haplogroups. What's going on? As I said, they have always accepted converts — and these are considered to be spiritually adopted into the line of Abraham. Moreover, most branches of Judaism (except Karaites) go by the female line, not the male line.

    Secondly, as a Christian, I go by the New Testament, in which ALL Christians are considered Abraham's "spiritual" children. We have a "lineage of faith" rather than biology; that faith lineage goes back to Abraham, the Man of Faith.