The History Channel released a new documentary called “The Jesus Strand,” in which scientists work with a man of the cloth to hunt for Jesus Christ’s DNA.
The History Channel explains it will use “the latest advances in DNA technology” to investigate the recently discovered bones of John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin.
By investigating John the Baptist’s DNA, researchers hope to uncover who could be related to the Messiah.
Oxford University geneticist George Busby and biblical scholar Joe Basile worked side-by-side throughout Europe and the Middle East in their trek from holy site to holy site.
Busby wrote a piece for The Conversation to explain their journey to the Black Sea, off the coast of Bulgaria.
The researchers were in Sveti Ivan to speak to archaeologist Kasimir Popkonstantinov, who believes he discovered the bones of John the Baptist.
Working with Basile, Busby quickly discovered several problems with the search for Jesus’ DNA.
The duo was working with bones that may or may not have belonged to John the Baptist. There is no way to unambiguously determine whether the bones are legitimate or not.
The second problem they encountered was the risk of contamination.
The ideal sample would come from a body that has not been touched since the person died, but the bones believed to belong to John the Baptist have been sealed in a church and could have been handled by anyone, which would leave their DNA behind.
DNA also degrades over time, but modern technology can take samples from within the bone and tell the difference between modern and ancient samples.
Material from the James Ossuary, which scientists believe carried the remains of Jesus Material from the James Ossuary, which scientists believe carried the remains of Jesus’s brother, is currently being sequenced by geneticists (Wikipedia).
The tech is also capable of offering researchers greater odds at estimating the geographical origins of the samples.
Radiocarbon dating suggested the bones Popkonstantinov discovered were 2,000-years-old and appeared to show a DNA sequence matching Middle Eastern populations.
The geneticist who conducted the research also discovered the DNA sequence on John the Baptist matched the person who had extracted the bones, which means the samples were contaminated.
Sadly, there was very little DNA available, leaving researchers questioning if it would ever be possible to accurately identify whether the bones belong to John the Baptist.
To help pinpoint DNA related to Jesus, the team researched samples found on The Turin Shroud, which is believed to have wrapped Jesus’ body when he was removed from the cross.
There were multiple DNA samples from the shroud, but Basile and Busby met with the researchers anyway.
In Jerusalem they met with a man sequencing DNA from the James Ossuary, a chalk box scientists believe to contain the bones of Jesus’ brother – But it should be noted the Catholic Church emphatically teaches against the possibility of Jesus having any siblings.
Unsurprisingly, researchers were unable to positively identify the remains but the documentary probes the possibility regardless.
The film, which runs 1 hour and 24 minutes, would seem to be more of an investigation than anything and concludes with more questions than answers, but remains a point of interest for millions around the world.
“The Jesus Strand” was released Easter Sunday and is available to watch through May 22.
By Kenya Sinclair