Pastor joins geneticist in a quest to find Jesus' DNA

(Reuters/Oleg Popov)A Bulgarian East-Orthodox priest holds up a box containing bones, believed to be the relics of John the Baptist, in front golden-domed "Alexander Nevski" cathedral in Sofia, November 12, 2010.

A pastor has teamed up with a geneticist in a "groundbreaking" search for Jesus' DNA to see if any of his living descendants can be found today.

Pastor Joe Basile, a biblical scholar and lead pastor of Encounter Road Church in California, and George Busby, a geneticist from Oxford University, have traveled to places like Spain, Italy, Israel, and the Black Sea to find a strand of Jesus' DNA, The Daily Mail reported.

Part of their quest has been featured on the History Channel in a two-hour documentary titled "The Jesus Strand: A Search for DNA," which premiered on Easter Sunday.

The team is analyzing DNA samples from the Shroud of Turin, an ancient cloth believed to be the burial shroud of Jesus, as well as the purported bones of John the Baptist, which were discovered in Bulgaria in 2010.

The 2,000-year-old bones are considered by the researchers to be "hugely important" because he is believed to be a cousin of Jesus, as well as a disciple.

"If we find other relics purported to be from John the Baptist, or a close relative of Jesus, then we could use genetics to compare the two to see if they are likely to have come from the same or related people," Busby explained.

"Also, we have growing collections of DNA sampled from people around the world, which we can use to make a guess on the geographical origins of the relics," he added.

Busby said he was skeptical about the discovery of the remains of John the Baptist at first because many people could have handled the bones and contaminated it with their DNA. However, he noted that researchers are now able to differentiate modern contamination from ancient genomes, which could lead them to the truth of who the bones really belong to.

In their investigation of the Turin Shroud, the geneticist revealed that multiple people's DNA have been recently discovered in the relic.

The mystery surrounding the shroud intensified in October 2015 when Italian researchers examining the object found DNA traces of plants from all around the world.

Busby also revealed that they met an archaeologist in Israel who has several crucifixion nails in his possession. However, the geneticist said that they will not be able to extract DNA from rusty iron.

He suggested that the world would have to face a very important question if DNA analysis could show evidence that the Shroud, the James Ossuary, and the bones found in Bulgaria are a familial match.

"Could this then have been the DNA of Jesus and his family? To answer that, all you need is a little belief," said Busby.

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