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Traces of Biblical Figures in Turkish Culture (Part One)

WritingOne of the first things being taught about culture in anthropology in US colleges is that it is the full range of human behavior patterns [1]. There are also many other definitions about  culture, but in this article is going to elaborate on this one. Indeed, culture is made of human behavior patterns which humanity has been learning since the creation of the first people. Languages, religions, environment, along with many other factors, are just other instruments that are helping to shape human behaviors. The way we talk, the way we walk, even the way we wave to our neighbors subconsciously, whether we notice it or not, are continuously under the impact of that collective mechanism. Therefore, if a behavior is shown repeatedly by a group of people from generations to generations that will tell us that that particular behavior must have some historical and thus cultural background. For example, in the country that we live in, which we often are proud of her diverse culture, we will see that Asian Americans will greet each other slightly different than African Americans[2]. Even in that slight difference we can track the traces of coming from or descending from different mother lands. Next time when you go on streets of whatever state that you live in, consider what I just mentioned above and observe your environment in that way.

However, in this article I am going to take you to a little far region, actually not that far anymore in the shrunk planet that we are on; to Turkey! Not the bird that we are accustomed to see on our tables on Thanksgiving Day. Turkey, or Turkiye which Turks prefer to use, is a crossroad of many cultures for last 10 thousand years. The archeological ruins that were lately discovered by German archeologist Prof. Dr. Klaus Schmidt in the city of Sanliurfa [3]suggest that the history of the land goes way back to 11 thousand years ago. Since then the discovery has attracted the international attention and it made it to be on the cover of the National Geographic magazine with the cover title “Birth of Religion”[4]

With a history so rich and being crossroad of many cultures, I knew a lot of diverse traces of past cultures during the years I lived in Turkey. However, specifically this time I tried to notice and see the Christian elements which I was zealous to write them down for my own record. I was much focused on finding traces of Christian culture in Turkish people’s “daily life”. As you know 99 percent of the Turks are Muslim who believe in many figures that Christians believe in such as Moses, Abraham, Jonah, Joseph, David, and all other Old Testament prophets which Qur’an, the divine scripture of Muslims, beholds as holy and respectful. Personally though, my heart was craving to see anything that was about Jesus Christ whom I am deeply attached and in love with. However, I am not willing to go into the deep roots of history and bring you what is hidden there. What I want to do in this article is to show you where Jesus stands in Turkish people’s life today and to show how popular he is among the Turks.

I came across with Turks saying “He has Job’s patience”[5] a phrase by which they describe a patient person. Or Turkish wives saying “He is as handsome as Joseph” for their husbands’ both inner and outer beauty. “He possesses David like voice” is another phrase Turks use to emphasis one’s beautiful voice, for David is known among Turks to sing the Zebur (Psalms) with his beautiful voice while mountains were singing along with him[6]. “For every Pharaoh there is a Moses”[7] say Turks, by which they mean that every tyrant there will face a righteous hero to defend the oppressed ones and I also heard the phrase “ Hizir gibi yeshtin“ [8]from Turkish people’s mouth a lot in daily conversations which simply can be translated as “You have arrived on time like Melchizedek”, the companion of Moses in his mysterious journey mentioned in the Qur’an [9]and a priest who blesses Abraham in Bible in the Book of Genesis[10].

To be continued…

  1. http://www.carla.umn.edu/culture/definitions.html
  2. http://nature.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article01.htm
  3. http://www.todayszaman.com/news-233727-gobekli-tepe-making-us-rethink-our-ancestors.html
  4. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/table-of-contents
  5. Erdener, Yıldıray. 101 Turkish Idiomatic Expressions. Springfield, VA: Dunwoody, 2004. Print.
  6. “We favoured David with excellence, (and commanded): “O mountains and birds, glorify the greatness of God with him”—Qur’an, chapter 34 (Saba), verse 10
  7. Erdener, Yıldıray. 101 Turkish Idiomatic Expressions. Springfield, VA: Dunwoody, 2004. Print.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Qur’an, Chapter Al-Kahf, Verses 60-82
  10. Genesis, 14-18


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