Could there be traces of Jesus’ DNA in his tomb?

  • Question 187, from Ben

    If the tomb that Jesus was laid in was found, might it be possible to find traces of his DNA and what significance would that mean for the Christian Church (Perhaps in reference to the his Humanity and divinity)? The bible states ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay’, but that doesn’t imply decay as in a scientific perspective but decay as in rotting of the body.

    The practicality of DNA surviving two thousand years depends on several factors. DNA is destroyed by sunlight, water, and the action of some enzymes. It can survive far longer in teeth and bones. So, for Jesus’ DNA to be recoverable, it would need to be in a body.

    If a body was exhumed and could be proven to be the body of Jesus that would have a major impact on Christianity, as the resurrection of Jesus is one of the cornerstones of theology. The DNA sequencing wold be an interesting part of that discovery, but probably would not be the one with the biggest ramifications.

    The classic formulation of the doctrine of Christ that he had two natures – both human and divine – does not imply any unique DNA.  Jesus would have only had human DNA  as his divine nature would be drawn from God, who is a spiritual being.

    Although the phrase ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay’ is quoted twice in the New Testament (Acts chapter 2, verse 27 and Acts chapter 13, verse 35), it is a line from Psalm 16, taken from the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. Here ‘decay’ is a metaphor for ‘grave’ (‘sheol’) and should probably be understood that way, rather than literally as ‘decay’.

    It is also worth noting that the exact site of the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem is the subject of much debate. If the traditional site under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was only identified in the fourth century, is the correct  location, the centuries of building work and Christian rituals will no doubt have affected any residual contents of the tomb.

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