by Nathan W. Murphy, MA, AG®
Three thousand years ago, descendants of Aharon HaKohen (Aaron) officiated in Israelite temple ceremonies. These priests, or in Hebrew Kohanim, held many significant responsibilities amongst the Hebrews. The Cohen family, today spread throughout the world, has maintained the tradition that they are literal descendants of this priestly family. Scientists utilizing Y-chromosome tests have confirmed that the majority of Cohens are monogenetic and descend from a common ancestor who lived approximately 3,300 years ago.
Aharon HaKohen lived from 2365 to 2488 according to the Hebrew Calendar. He is known to Christians as Aaron, the elder brother of Moses (Moshe) and a descendant of Levi, who lived in the 14th Century B.C.E. Christians and Jews will recall from their religious lessons that Aaron served as Moses’s spokesperson when Yahweh commanded his prophet to lead the captive children of Israel out of Egypt. God later bestowed a special priesthood upon Aaron and appointed him a High Priest. For several centuries his male descendants served as priests to all of the House of Israel. In the tabernacle and later in Solomon’s Temple, “Priests could offer sacrifices for the people [and] burn incense on the altar.” Kohen or Cohen and Kohanim or Cohanim are the Hebraic singular and plural forms of the English word priest. Among the Jews, the Cohen family has preserved a unique lineage for millennia.
The results of geneticists’ Y-chromosome studies for the Cohen family validate their paternal ancestral claims. Today Cohens live in every part of the globe and serve their communities and nations in various capacities. According to Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman in his article “The DNA Chain of Tradition: The Discovery of the ‘Cohen Gene,’” one scientific study found that 98.5% of Cohens tested share the same genetic marker, which signifies descent from a common male ancestor. Astonishingly, Cohen progeny from both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewish groups share the same sequence. Judging by the number of mutations that has occurred in the Cohen haplotype, scientists conclude that the Cohens descend from one man who lived approximately 3,300 years ago. This man, proven to have existed genetically, is Aaron. A group known as The Tribe: The Cohen-Levi Family Heritage continues to conduct studies concerning this interesting family. Visit their website at www.cohen-levi.org.
Read more about it
- “Families and Family Trees,” “Jewish Genes and Genealogy,” The Tribe: The Cohen-Levi Family Heritage. Internet, available at: www.cohen-levi.org. Accessed: June, 1, 2004.
- “Genealogy by Genetics,” JewishGen. Internet, available at: www.jewishgen.org/dna/. Accessed: June 1, 2004.
- Kleiman, Yaakov, “Jewish Genes,” The Tribe: The Cohen-Levi Family Heritage. Internet, available at: http://www.cohen-levi.org/jewish_genes_and_genealogy/jewish_genes_-_dna_evidence.htm. Accessed: June 1, 2004.
- _____, “The DNA Chain of Tradition: The Discovery of the ‘Cohen Gene,’” The Tribe: The Cohen-Levi Family Heritage. Internet, available at: http://www.cohen-levi.org/jewish_genes_and_genealogy/the_dna_chain_of_tradition.htm.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Aaron,” “Aaronic Priesthood,” in Bible Dictionary. Internet, available at: http://scriptures.lds.org/bda/. Accessed: June 1, 2004.
- The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, “Kohen,” in Judaism 101: A Glossary of Basic Jewish Terms and Concepts. Internet, available at: http://www.ou.org/about/judaism/. Accessed: June 1, 2004.
Originally published by GenWeekly. Republished by permission.