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Friday, 9 January 2015
Ethnic Groups

Judaism, the First Phase: the Place of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Origins of Judaism,
Joseph Blenkinsopp, Eerdmans, 2009, page 15

Joseph Blenkinsopp, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Univerity of Notre Dame, sets out to write a book about Jewish origins starting from an unusual position.

We shall call "ethnic groups" those human groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent because of similarities of physical type or of customs or both, or because of memories of colonisation and migration; this belief must be important for the propogation of group formation; conversely, it does not matter whether or not an objective blood relationship exists.

That is a quote from Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, by Max Weber, originally published in German in 1956. Blenkinsopp comments ...

We see that for Weber the belief in descent from a common ancestor is no less effective for being subjective and artificial.

That sounds scary - as if he is saying that it doesn't matter whether you have a real genealogy or not; if you believe it, that's good enough. Blenkinsopp is ggoing to build a theory about the development of Judaism and Israel that depends on just such an identity shift.

Posted By Jonathan, 9:00am Comment Comments: 0