I have criticized the “pots not people” paradigm on this weblog before. In short, the idea is that material cultural changes reflected in the archaeological record are an indicator of memetic, not genetic, evolution. So a shift from pottery style X to pottery style Y informs you of an cultural switch. This is not implausible on the face of it. In the year 450 the dominant religion in the Roman Empire was a derived Jewish sect, Christianity. The only other de jure recognized religious organization within the Empire was another derived Jewish sect, an early form of Rabbinical Judaism.* But most people assume that there was far less genetic gains to Jews and Jewish-derived people. Rather, it was Jewish ideas which spread to non-Jews, and superseded non-Jewish ideas.

There are two issues that immediately come to mind with this analogy. The first is that there are many debates as to the Jewishness of Christianity in substance. Some Christians have argued that the Jewishness of much of contemporary Christianity is superficial. Rather, they make the case that Christianity is fundamentally a Hellenic system of thought which has been outfitted in plausibly Hebrew garb. Much of their argument rests upon the fact of the heavily Greek philosophical intellectual superstructure of much of Nicene Christianity, and in particular the Christianity derived from the Roman Imperial Church (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy). These points are advocated often by self-identified Christians themselves. Isaac Newton believed that the Christian Church which came out of the Roman Empire had been hijacked by pre-Christian philosophy. Some modern thinkers, such as the physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne, also holds to this position (though not nearly as assertively and aggressively as Isaac Newton). There are whole Christian denominations which espouse this model. The Jehovah’s Witness are outspoken on this issue, while the Mormons are more muted, but often reflect similar sentiments in relation to the influence of pre-Christian philosophical thought on the Christian religion as a primary motive force in its degeneration.

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