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A Jesus bloodline is a hypothetical sequence of lineal descendants of the historical Jesus and Mary Magdalene, or some other woman, usually portrayed as his wife or a hierodule. Differing and contradictory versions of a Jesus bloodline hypothesis have been proposed in numerous books by authors such as Louis Martin (1886), Donovan Joyce (1973), Andreas Faber-Kaiser (1977), Barbara Thiering (1992), Margaret Starbird (1993), and various websites. Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code used the premise for its plot line. The 2007 documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus proposed that evidence existed to show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that their son was named Judah, based upon inscriptions found on ossuaries discovered in Jerusalem in 1980. Biblical scholar and author James Tabor has recently affirmed his belief in a married Jesus, while Karen King announced the discovery of text in a Coptic papyrus fragment, alleged to be a translation of a lost 2nd century Gospel, in which Jesus is made to refer to "my wife".
According to the vast majority of professional historians and scholars from related fields, there is no historical, biblical, apocryphal, archaeological, genealogical, or genetic evidence which supports this hypothesis. Hypothetical Jesus bloodlines should not be confused with the biblical genealogy of Jesus or the historical relatives of Jesus and their descendants, who are known as the Desposyni.
The 13th-century Cistercian monk and chronicler Peter of Vaux de Cernay claimed it was part of Catharist belief that the earthly Jesus Christ had a relationship with Mary Magdalene, described as his concubine.
Early Mormon leaders Jedediah M. Grant and Orson Hyde stated it was part of their religious belief that Jesus Christ was polygamous, quoting an apocryphal passage attributed to the 2nd-century Greek philosopher Celsus: "The grand reason why the gentiles and philosophers of his school persecuted Jesus Christ was because he had so many wives. There were Elizabeth and Mary and a host of others that followed him".
The French 19th century socialist politician, Louis Martin, in his 1886 book Les Evangiles sans Dieu described the historical Jesus as a turned atheist, who had married Mary Magdalene, and that both had travelled to the South of France, where they had a son.
The Jesus bloodline hypothesis which held that the historical Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and fathered a child with her was brought to the attention of the general public again in the 20th century by Donovan Joyce in his 1973 book The Jesus Scroll. In his 1977 book Jesus died in Kashmir: Jesus, Moses and the ten lost tribes of Israel, Andreas Faber-Kaiser explored the legend that Jesus met, married and had several children with a Kashmiri woman. The author also interviewed the late Basharat Saleem who claimed to be a Kashmiri descendant of Jesus. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln developed and popularized the hypothesis that a bloodline from Jesus and Mary Magdalene eventually became the Merovingian dynasty in their 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, in which they asserted:
The symbolic significance of Jesus is that he is God exposed to the spectrum of human experience – exposed to the first-hand knowledge of what being a man entails. But could God, incarnate as Jesus, truly claim to be a man, to encompass the spectrum of human experience, without coming to know two of the most basic, most elemental facets of the human condition? Could God claim to know the totality of human existence without confronting two such essential aspects of humanity as sexuality and paternity? We do not think so. In fact, we do not think the Incarnation truly symbolises what it is intended to symbolise unless Jesus were married and sired children. The Jesus of the Gospels, and of established Christianity, is ultimately incomplete – a God whose incarnation as man is only partial. The Jesus who emerged from our research enjoys, in our opinion, a much more valid claim to what Christianity would have him be.
In her 1992 book Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Unlocking the Secrets of His Life Story, Barbara Thiering also developed a Jesus and Mary Magdalene bloodline hypothesis, basing her historical conclusions on her application of the so-called Pesher technique to the New Testament.
In her 1993 book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, Margaret Starbird developed the hypothesis that Saint Sarah was the daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and that this was the source of the legend associated with the cult at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. She also noted that the name "Sarah" meant "Princess" in Hebrew, thus making her the forgotten child of the "sang réal", the blood royal of the King of the Jews.
In his 1996 book Bloodline of the Holy Grail: The Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed, Laurence Gardner presented pedigree charts of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as the ancestors of all the European royal families of the Common Era. His 2000 sequel Genesis of the Grail Kings: The Explosive Story of Genetic Cloning and the Ancient Bloodline of Jesus is unique in claiming that not only can the Jesus bloodline truly be traced back to Adam and Eve but that the first man and woman were primate-alien hybrids created by the Anunnaki of ancient astronaut theory. The 2000 book Rex Deus: The True Mystery of Rennes-Le-Chateau and the Dynasty of Jesus, Marylin Hopkins, Graham Simmans and Tim Wallace-Murphy developed a hypothesis based on a 1994 testimony by "Michael Monkton" (who claimed to be descended from Hugues de Payens), that a Jesus and Mary Magdalene bloodline was part of a shadow dynasty descended from twenty-four high priests of the Temple in Jerusalem known as "Rex Deus" – the "Kings of God".
The 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown accepted some of the above hypotheses as being valid. Elements of some Jesus bloodline hypotheses were propounded by the 2007 documentary film The Lost Tomb of Jesus by Simcha Jacobovici focusing on the Talpiot Tomb discovery, which was also published as a book entitled The Jesus Family Tomb. In 2007 psychic medium Sylvia Browne released the book "The Two Marys: The Hidden History of the Mother and Wife of Jesus", in which she tries to further validate the possibility of Jesus and Mary Magdalene producing a family.
The 2008 documentary Bloodline by Bruce Burgess, a filmmaker with an interest in paranormal claims, expands on the Jesus bloodline hypothesis and other elements of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Accepting as valid the testimony of an amateur archaeologist codenamed "Ben Hammott" relating to his discoveries made in the vicinity of Rennes-le-Château since 1999; Burgess claims Ben has found the treasure of Bérenger Saunière: a mummified corpse, which they believe is Mary Magdalene, in an underground tomb they claim is connected to both the Knights Templar and the Priory of Sion. In the film, Burgess interviews several people with alleged connections to the Priory of Sion, including a Gino Sandri and Nicolas Haywood. A book by one of the documentary's researchers, Rob Howells, entitled Inside the Priory of Sion: Revelations from the World's Most Secret Society - Guardians of the Bloodline of Jesus presented the version of the Priory of Sion as given in the 2008 documentary, which contained several erroneous assertions, such as the claim that Plantard believed in the Jesus bloodline hypothesis. By 21 March 2012 Ben Hammott confessed and apologised on Podcast interview (using his real name Bill Wilkinson) that everything to do with the tomb and related artifacts was a hoax; revealing that the actual tomb was now destroyed, being part of a full sized set located in a warehouse in England.
In September 2012, at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome, professor Karen L. King announced the discovery of a fourth-century papyrus fragment she and a colleague referred to as the Gospel of Jesus' wife. The small piece of papyrus includes text in Egyptian Coptic with the words, "Jesus said to them, 'my wife...'". The fragment has led to a revival of theories and discussion about a possible bloodline. The name of Jesus' wife is not given in the papyrus fragment.
The following is a list of persons who have publicly claimed to be from a Jesus bloodline, or have had such a claim made about them:
In reaction to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Da Vinci Code, and other controversial books, websites and films on the same theme, a significant number of individuals in the late 20th and early 21st centuries have adhered to a Jesus bloodline hypothesis despite its lack of substantiation. While some simply entertain it as a novel intellectual proposition, others hold it as an established belief thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed. Prominent among the latter are those who expect a direct descendant of Jesus will eventually emerge as a great man and become a messiah, a Great Monarch who rules a Holy European Empire, during an event which they will interpret as a mystical second coming of Christ.
The eclectic spiritual views of these adherents are influenced by the writings of iconoclastic authors from a wide range of perspectives. Authors like Margaret Starbird and Jeffrey Bütz often seek to challenge modern beliefs and institutions through a re-interpretation of Christian history and mythology. Some try to advance and understand the equality of men and women spiritually by portraying Mary Magdalene as being the apostle of a Christian feminism, and even the personification of the mother goddess or sacred feminine, usually associating her with the Black Madonna. Some wish the ceremony that celebrated the beginning of the alleged marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to be viewed as a "holy wedding"; and Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and their alleged daughter, Sarah, to be viewed as a "holy family", in order to question traditional gender roles and family values. Almost all these claims are at odds with scholarly Christian apologetics, and have been dismissed as being New Age Gnostic heresies.
No mainstream Christian denomination has adhered to a Jesus bloodline hypothesis as a dogma or an object of religious devotion since they maintain that Jesus, believed to be God the Son, was perpetually celibate, continent and chaste, and metaphysically married to the Church; he died, was resurrected, ascended to heaven, and will eventually return to earth, thereby making all Jesus bloodline hypotheses and related messianic expectations impossible.
Many fundamentalist Christians believe the Antichrist, prophesied in the Book of Revelation, plans to present himself as descended from the Davidic line to bolster his false claim that he is the Jewish Messiah. The intention of such propaganda would be to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of Jews and philo-Semites to achieve his Satanic objectives. An increasing number of fringe Christian eschatologists believe the Antichrist may also present himself as descended from the Jesus bloodline to capitalize on growing adherence to the hypothesis in the general public.
Jesus bloodline hypotheses parallel other legends about the flight of disciples to distant lands, such as the one depicting Joseph of Arimathea traveling to England after the death of Jesus, taking with him a piece of thorn from the Crown of Thorns, which he later planted in Glastonbury. Historians generally regard these legends as "pious fraud" produced during the Middle Ages.
The Jesus bloodline hypothesis from the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is not contained in any of the "Priory of Sion documents" and was dismissed as fiction by Pierre Plantard in 1982 in a French radio interview, as well as by Philippe de Cherisey in a magazine article. However, Plantard's "Priory of Sion" documents prior to 1956 were found to be forgeries which were planted in French institutions to be later "rediscovered". Plantard only claimed that the Merovingians were descended from the Tribe of Benjamin, which contradicts the hypothesis of a Jesus bloodline as the missing link between the Merovingian line and the Davidic line from the Tribe of Judah. The notion of a direct bloodline from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and its supposed relationship to the Merovingians (as well as their alleged modern descendants: House of Habsburg, Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg, Clan Sinclair, House of Stuart, House of Cavendish, House of Bourbon, House of Orléans and other noble families), is strongly dismissed as pseudohistorical by a qualified majority of Christian and secular historians such as Darrell Bock and Bart D. Ehrman, along with journalists and investigators such as Jean-Luc Chaumeil, who has an extensive archive on this subject matter.
In 2005, UK TV presenter and amateur archaeologist Tony Robinson edited and narrated a detailed rebuttal of the main arguments of Dan Brown and those of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, "The Real Da Vinci Code", shown on Channel 4. The programme featured lengthy interviews with many of the main protagonists, and cast severe doubt on the alleged landing of Mary Magdalene in France, among other related myths, by interviewing on film the inhabitants of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the centre of the cult of Saint Sarah.
The Jesus bloodline hypothesis from the book Rex Deus: The True Mystery of Rennes-Le-Chateau and the Dynasty of Jesus hinges on the testimony of the authors' anonymous informant, "Michael", who claimed to be a Rex Deus scion. Evidence supporting the hypothesis was supposedly lost, and therefore cannot be independently verified, because Michael claimed that it was contained in his late father's bureau, which was sold by his brother unaware of its contents. Some critics point out the informant's account of his family history seems to be based on the controversial work of Barbara Thiering.
Robert Lockwood, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s director for communications, sees the notion of the Church conspiring to cover-up the truth about a Jesus bloodline as a deliberate piece of anti-Catholic propaganda. He sees it as part of a long tradition of anti-Catholic sentiment with deep roots in the American Protestant imagination but going back to the very start of the Reformation of 1517.
Although Jesus bloodline hypotheses were not submitted to the judgment of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars involved in the quest for the historical Jesus from a liberal Christian perspective, they were unable to determine whether Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a matrimonial relationship due to the dearth of historical evidence. They concluded that the historical Mary Magdalene was not a repentant prostitute but a prominent disciple of Jesus and a leader in the early Christian movement. Bart D. Ehrman, who chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, commented that, although there are some historical scholars who claim that it is likely that Jesus was married, the vast majority of New Testament and early Christianity scholars find such a claim to be historically unreliable.
Ultimately, the notion that a person living millennia ago has a small number of descendants living today is statistically improbable. Steve Olson, author of Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins, published an article in Nature demonstrating that, as a matter of statistical probability:
If anyone living today is descended from Jesus, so are most of us on the planet.
Historian Ken Mondschein ridiculed the notion that the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene could have been preserved:
Infant mortality in pre-modern times was ridiculously high, and you'd only need one childhood accident or disease in 2,000 years to wipe out the bloodline … keep the children of Christ marrying each other, on the other hand, and eventually they'd be so inbred that the sons of God would have flippers for feet.
Chris Lovegrove, who reviewed The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail when first published in 1982, dismissed the significance of a Jesus bloodline, even if it were proven to exist despite all evidence to the contrary:
If there really is a Jesus dynasty – so what? This, I fear, will be the reaction of many of those prepared to accept the authors' thesis as possible, and the book does not really satisfy one's curiosity in this crucial area.