Priestly Genetics

Mordechai Perlman (
Thu, 2 Jan 1997 17:09:29 -0500 (EST)

I received the following from a relative of mine. I don't know how factual
it is, but it might be of interest:

LONDON, Jan 1 (Reuter) - Scientists have shown the Jewish
priesthood has been passed down the male line for thousands of years,
supporting biblical accounts dating it back to the appointment of the first
Israelite high priest 3,300 years ago. In a letter to the latest edition of
Nature magazine, published on Tuesday, the scientists said they carried out
tests on 188 unrelated members of the priesthood from Israel, North America
and Britain. The composition of Y chromosomes -- which are inherited from
the father -- in the samples taken from the priests was markedly different
from the lay Jews. Male Jews who can claim descent through their fathers
from the priesthood are known as the Cohanim or Cohens and have certain
social and religious obligations. The scientists said they determined who
were members of the priesthood by questioning them about their family
background. "Subjects who were not sure of their designation or who
identified themselves as Levite (a separate, junior priesthood, based on a
different, less-well-defined patrilineal lineage) were not included in the
current analysis," they wrote. Past studies have shown chromosomal
variations between Jewish communities in different parts of the world, at
least in part because of genetic mixture with neighbouring non-Jews. But
the study showed Y-chromosome composition in members of the priesthood was
similar, wherever they were, suggesting a common origin. The scientists
said this was consistent with the view that the Jewish priesthood predated
the development of the distinct Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities in the
last millenium. The scientists, from the Bruce Rappaport Faculty of
Medicine and Research Insitute in Haifa, University College in London and
the University of Arizona, said the study could also offer a benchmark to
measure Y-chromosome change in other communities.

May Eretz Yisroel be blessed with rain,
Mordechai Perlman