Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Great Granddaddy Jesus
It has taken me a while to write about this, but it really annoyed me at the time, when the Da Vinci Code came out: this idea that there could be a single special bloodline descended from Jesus.
Now let’s be clear immediately. I am not annoyed or offended by this because the idea of Jesus having children is somehow unthinkable. It is entirely plausible, although unproven and unprovable, that he did have children. What irritates me is the sloppy thinking behind this idea of a single bloodline that has been preserved through the centuries. I am annoyed because if any one person alive today is descended from Jesus, then the chances are that just about everyone alive today is also descended from Jesus. This is just a question of maths. The further back in time we go, the more ancestors we have. This increases exponentially by a factor of two. Thus I have two parents (most of us do), four grandparents and eight great grandparents. By the time I go back twenty generations I have potentially 1,048,576 ancestors. This may be fewer, because I might be able to trace back to a particular ancestor through several lineages. When I go back forty generations I have 1,099,511,627,776 ancestors. The entire world population today is only around 7,000,000,000. Back forty generations – let’s say 2000 years at 20 years per generation, on average – in other words, to around the time of Christ – the entire world population was probably between 100,000,000 and 300,000,000. This means that I need at least 3,365 times more ancestors than there were people alive at the time. In other words, I am descended from many of those people via multiple bloodlines. There is, therefore, a very high probability that Jesus is among my ancestors, if he had any children at all; and, in all likelihood, he is my ancestor several times over via several bloodlines. This probability is certainly greater if my ancestry at that time is more likely to be from Europe and the Middle East, than, say, from Africa or Asia.
Of course, it is equally likely that I am also descended from Judas and Pontius Pilate and Herod and Caligula (although probably not from Caligula’s horse).
Now, it is entirely possible that Jesus had no children, and therefore has no living descendents. But if he did have children, well... It’s really all or nothing, after the passage of so many generations.
Finally, let’s suppose that by some sustained miracle a single bloodline of Jesus had been preserved. Even so, that person will also, in all likelihood, be descended from Judas and Pontius Pilate and Herod and Caligula – or else extremely inbred, with two heads and a tendency to hum show tunes backwards.
So if she (whoever that character is in The Da Vinci Code) is, indeed, a direct descendent of Jesus, I will either be saying to her, “G’day, sister”; or wiping the dribble from her mouths.
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