Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where Did Jesus' DNA Come From?

An inquirer from my Bible Study Program sent me a very interesting question:

For humans, our DNA comes half from our fathers and half from our mothers. I am getting confused here. My question is where is Jesus’ DNA comes from? Did it come from The Holy Spirit? Did Virgin Mary’s DNA form part of Jesus’?

The mystery of the Incarnation (i.e. Word became flesh) means that it is "in [Mary] that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled" (JPII, Redemptoris Mater 9). Therefore, Mary is not only "full of grace" (kecharitomene)(Lk 1:28); "because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all other creatures both in heaven and on earth" (Vatican II:Lumen Gentium 53).

There were many different ways that God could have used to save us. In His infinite wisdom, God had chosen to send His Son to save us through the Pascal Mystery, i.e. through his suffering, death, and resurrection. The "critical path", if I may use this popular business term, for accomplishing God's economy of salvation was for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14). Mary was given the singular and sublime grace of being the "woman" from whom Christ took on his body and his human nature.

St. Paul highlighted the significance of the role that Mary played in giving Jesus a body when he said, "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons...crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal. 4:4-6). "Born of woman" is significant in that it underscores the Incarnation - Christ taking on a human body and the human nature from Mary for the redemption of men and humanity. It was a true human body – “born of woman” as St. Paul said – for Jesus is true God and true man (CCC 464).

Having established the singular and significant role that Mary played in the economy of salvation - giving birth to Christ, giving him a true human body; now the answer to the inquirer's question - where did Jesus' DNA come from? - has become self-evident.

From the above scriptural analysis, it's clear that Jesus' body came from Mary - God made a point of seeing that it did: she was "overshadowed" by the power of the Holy Spirit; she conceived; and baby Jesus grew in her sacred womb. She is sublime and surpasses all other creatures on earth and in heaven because of this special vocation - giving birth to Jesus, giving him a human body and the human nature. It follows that Jesus' body had his mother's DNA since it came from her. It was God's will that Jesus had Mary's DNA!

According to the inquirer, biologically a child's DNA must come from a father and a mother. How is it possible that Jesus received his DNA from just Mary alone? The question is similar to Mary's own question to Gabriel: "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Luke 1:34). As a result, its answer also is similar to the answer that Gabriel gave Mary: "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...for nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:35-37).

Does this mean half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit? As a divine Person, the Holy Spirit is neither man nor woman. He doesn't have a human body. While it was the power of the Holy Spirit that caused Mary to conceive, it's wrong to say that half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit. With humility, we have to admit that we don't know exactly how God did it, but we do know that "nothing will be impossible for God".


  1. PC forwarded to me the following comment from Henry, who gave me permission for publication. I will respond to Henry's comment later.

    Thanks PC, coincidentally one of my groups also chatted about this interesting question recently.
    The article is well supported by verses but the reasoning for Jesus having Mary's DNA is hardly convincing.
    He quoted "it's in Mary", "the woman from whom Christ took on his body..." and saying "Jesus' body came from Mary". Literally these are valid observations, but the question is, these verses didn't explain the formation of Christ's fresh. As the author concluded in his final statement, "we don't know exactly how God did it, but we do know that nothing will be impossible for God" -- then how can he be so sure that Jesus had his mother's DNA? He is assuming that God somehow made Mary's egg divided and developed without the activation of sperm. But could God did it in some other ways? Just like in the beginning of the universe, God created everything with His words, out of vain. Likewise, Jesus's body COULD had formed from vain.
    The writers of the quoted verses used the terms "in Mary", "the woman from whom" merely referring that Jesus came out from Mary's womb, and therefore one cannot conclude from that saying Jesus had only half DNA as we have. Frankly, just like how we are trying to understand the creation and evolution of the universe, we simply don't know. The Bible deals with the "Why" question but not the "How" -- "Why humans were created?" "Why did Jesus come and live among us?", the answer for "How" is simply out of our imagination.
    There's a much more interesting article on the internet saying 23 DNA were found from Jesus's blood.
    It's a fun reading but I'd suggest reading some follow up articles on the validity of Jesus' blood or His tomb.
    Again, I thank you for sharing this, I do enjoy it. :D


    1. There’s nothing I like more than a serious and respectful ecumenical dialogue between a Catholic and a Protestant. I appreciate the insightful comment of Henry, who I understand is a good Christian from the Baptist church.

      You’ll notice that before I concluded that Jesus’ DNA came from Mary, I built up my argument by pointing out the inseparable connection between Jesus’ body and that of Mary; that it was by God’s will that Jesus as a human person received his body and humanity from a human being – “born of a woman” as St. Paul took the pain to point out. Why would St. Paul say that? "Born of a woman" - isn't that very obvious? What else could Jesus have been born from? But that's exactly the point St. Paul was trying to make: Jesus received his body from a woman - a human being. Mary is truly Jesus’ mother; she is truly the human person from whom Jesus received his flesh and blood. As a result, her title as the Mother of God was confirmed by the Church at the Council of Ephesus of 431 A.D. – an ecumenical Council recognized not only by the Latin Church of Rome but also by all Eastern Orthodox churches.

      Jesus is the only mediator between God and men (1Timothy 2:5, cf. Genesis 28:12, John 1:51). He mediates between God and men and connects divinity with humanity not by “pretending” to be human, but by being truly human. His human nature was made possible by receiving a genuine human body from a true human being – Mary. Any other way of taking on a human body would have rendered his unique mediation ineffectual. Henry suggested that “Jesus's body COULD had formed from vain.” The possibility of God giving Jesus a human body out of nothing and putting it in Mary’s womb – as Henry appeared to suggest – is incompatible with the biblical concept of incarnation and mediation. The fallacy of such an argument is, therefore, self-evident. Mary is truly Jesus’ mother (filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth had no hesitation in recognizing her as such when she addressed her as “the mother of my Lord” in Luke 1:43); her pregnancy was not simply a feminine “body shell” holding the body of an infant planted by God from outside.

  2. "But could God did it in some other ways?" - absolutely!!!
    "Just like in the beginning of the universe, God created everything with His words, out of vain." - agreeing so far....
    "Likewise, Jesus's body COULD had formed from vain." - absolutely!!! Could have, but did NOT; otherwise, Mary wouldn't have been in the picture.
    The Word was made of a woman!!! Born OF a woman.
    I'm not a scientist, neither do I know anything about genetics other than the few classes taken from my high school years. But I know this much: half of Jesus' DNAs came from Mary, but whether He has the other half or if so, from where? I have NO idea.
    But, again, this I know: half came from Mary.....this is indisputable!!!

    Tony Chow

  3. From yet another angle:
    The Messiah was foretold to come from the bloodline of David. Jesus was referred to as the "seed" of David.
    If Jesus' DNA did not come from Mary, then Mary would have been a gestational surrogate at best, and should have been referred to as Jesus' wet nurse (since there was no such term as "gestational surrogate" back then). But NO, Mary was referred to as "the Mother of our Lord" by Elizabeth who was filled (inspired) by the Holy Spirit.

    Tony Chow

  4. When I was still a kid, I used to ponder the existence of Jesus in his mother's womb as a magical event. The feeling was like: all of a sudden, poof! the baby's there! My view could be explained by a rather premature logic that if a virgin can't get pregnant without help from a man, then the help it needs to accomplish the miracle must be completely external, coming from the outside of the woman's body. Thus unintentionally believed that the baby is literally put there in the womb. I could have hold on to that fallacy if no one corrects me.

    But for some none-catholic Christians, it isn't merely a problem of childish thinking as I did. But also the reason behind their tendency to undermine the role of Mary. Many of them think that Mary isn't worthy to be called ''mother of God'' (somehow confused Mary as mother of God the Father?), I think this explain why Mary's DNA isn't good enough for Jesus.

    Then again, this DNA argument is only a drop in a bucket. Being able to agree with the authority of the Church will make one's mistake much more easily correctable.

  5. I have no knowledge of DNA stuff. This seems like some kind of Biological Discussion? However, I like to share my view.

    As from the Theological Anthropology, we understand and believe that Jesus was the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us. He is 100% Human. His DNA is of course from a Human Being, Mary, the Mother of God. Otherwise , who else do your think the DNA could be??

    In fact, the DNA is not my faith concern. I have been taught that our Lord's Humanity is the WAY to the Father. Jesus is the Way and Mary is our model. Our humanity is the path to the eternal life.

    In Christ

  6. Well, half dna from Mary and another half from divine being implies dem-god by definition, isn't it?

    Let me quote from a webpage:

    But the Orthodox Christian theology has decisively rejected the idea that Jesus Christ is a demigod in this sense.

    At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 a definition of the faith was agreed with the following words about the two natures of Christ:

    "... one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ"

    1. Jesus definitely is not a demigod, and I had made that quite clear in the last paragraph of this post. Although the term "demigod" was not used, I took pains to point out that it's wrong to say that half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit. To say so is to suggest that Jesus PHYSICALLY came from the Holy Spirit, which would have been possible only if the Holy Spirit had a human body. This is clearly heretical and, as the Gentle Wisdom article indicated, is venturing into the area of Greek mythology.

  7. I think there is a chance that aliens from another part of the universe, or even another dimension, inseminated Mary with genetically engineered "super sperm" with the intent of giving the human race the gift of unconditional love.

  8. My article explains the issue based on the Scripture. In other words, a "scriptural boundary" has been set, within which the discussion is to be conducted. We are trying to understand the Incarnation (or the side issue of Jesus' DNA) based on the revealed truth - presumably what God has revealed to man as necessary for his salvation. Seeing the Bible as God's revelation is something one can choose to accept or reject. This discussion is carried out on the premise that the readers accept the Bible as God's revelation. Is it possible to abandon this premise and assume other things in discussing this issue? Sure it is. In which case, the sky will be the limit and all kinds of possibilities can be suggested, as David did. But I appreciate the suggestion and the interest.