I couldn’t resist posting on genealogy as it impacts one of the biggest blockbusters of the last decade (give or take, guess it’s coming up on 10 years old). Some of you may have noticed a recent article about some research on inter-relatedness of Europeans which suggests that anyone in Europe living within 2,000 miles of each other is related within a horizon of no more than 1,000 years and everyone in all of Europe is related if you go back 2,000 years. Hmmm…. 2,000 years puts us back at the time of Christ, and if you believe the Da Vinci Code, the time when Jesus’ first descendants moved to France. So… unless Jesus had a near-perfectly lineal line of descent (i.e., each generation had one and only one descendant), it would pretty much follow that if Jesus did have descendants who moved to Europe in the first century CE, everybody in Europe would be related to him.
I suppose for the sake of a good story, you good posit a lineal genealogy but that would come pretty close to proof of the divine (or some sort of advanced agency- maybe space aliens had a hand in this!): linear trees are almost impossible over so many generations. As one data point, some studies have shown that the average noble line died out after only three generations due to the failure to provide a male heir. On the one hand, that excludes female descendants but on the other hand, few of those families had just a single off-spring. Suffice it to say if a noble line can’t last 3 generations, how long could a lineal descent from Jesus last, at least not without some outside force ensuring it happened?
So, if you think Jesus had offspring but was not divine, either those offspring died within a few generations of his lifetime or they must have ‘hooked’ into the vast web of interrelations that we all are a part of and therefore anyone with a remote connection to the holy land (or France if you buy the Da Vinci Code theory), is related to Jesus. If you do accept the role of the divine, and are also one of the few who allow Jesus off-spring, than anything goes on how broad his tree is since an omnipotent God can do anything he likes with genealogy but in the end after 60-80 generations or so since Jesus lived, it sure seems like it would be difficult to keep his genes in a tiny branch of a really big, interwoven tree.
When Da Vinci Code first came out I observed that Jesus was either directly related to no one (because his line quickly died out or he never had children) or he was directly related to just about everyone with European or near eastern roots. It’s good to see the science to back it up. In the article, they say this was first posited about ten years ago… pretty good chance it was posited as a response to the Da Vinci Code. As for my own thoughts on it, it wasn’t a completely wild guess: when my mother-in-law and a genealogist on my mother’s side showed both families were related to Eleanor of Aquitaine by the time-honored method of finding a “hook” into one of the existing, researched lines, and only having to go back to the 1600s to do so, it made me realize most Europeans were probably related to Eleanor. Of course, she lived 800 years ago and did have quite the large brood which was scattered across Europe thanks to noble marriages, thus giving her a good head start in the inter-relatedness game.
I’ve read a number of different books debunking some of the stuff that Dan Brown presents as fact (of course, in the end he is a novelist, and one should take the preface as just another trick of the trade) but I’ve yet to come across the “plentiful offspring” refutation of the book’s main thesis, unless this study was spawned as a response to the Da Vinci Code.
Da Vinci Code was certainly a fun read but I never did buy the limited decent from Jesus part and as a lover of history, some of the other liberties in the narrative always rubbed me wrong. As a writer, I couldn’t go with a premise like that; for one thing, I’d have to have more explicit reasons for the lineal decent. But then again I’m an engineer who cares about often pointless details and more importantly, I didn’t write an 80 million book blockbuster. So go, Dan, go!
- The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry across Europe (plosbiology.org)
- Europeans are one big genetic family (cosmiclog.nbcnews.com)
- Europeans are One Big Family Closely Related for the Past 1000 Years (scienceworldreport.com)