Cloning Jesus

I am sure I am not alone in not expecting theological insight from PZ Myers. But lately he has been sharing things that are on target, and in one recent post in particular, he focuses in on a topic of crucial theological and scientific importance, and one that is certainly of universal interest: what happens if someone tries to clone Jesus?

Now, let me immediately follow up by noting that Myers failed to fact-check the story that came across his radar. Snopes has an entry from back in 2007 debunking the authenticity of the “Second Coming Project.” Nevertheless, the scenarios that Myers explores would themselves make for great science fiction stories. For instance, he writes:

  • The shroud isn’t going to be a particularly rich source of Jesus cells. It would have had only brief, weak contact with the body, and probably contains far more cells from passing pilgrims and holy men over the centuries. You’re more likely to resurrect some 15th century priest who is not going to be very happy with the high expectations given to him.
  • The shroud isn’t old enough — it’s been dated to the 13th century. You’re not going to find any Jesus cells at all. Although you may extract a few cells from the fraud who manufactured it, in which case the resurrected man, if such traits are at all hereditary, might be very happy to take advantage of your expectations.

There are other scenarios in his post, but the ones above seem to me that they would make for two or perhaps one great story, in which scientists create a clone based on DNA found on the Shroud of Turin, eventually realize that the individual they have produced is not a replica of Jesus, and then debates ensue about whether they have before them a devout keeper of the shroud, or its fraudulent creator…

There is already a series of novels called The Christ Clone Trilogy and another called The Messiah Conspiracy: The Race to Clone Jesus Christ. There is also apparently a comic book about a clone of Jesus Christ being created for a reality TV show (called Punk Rock Jesus), and another that involves an army of clones created by the Vatican to fight vampires. Have any of you read any of them? I haven’t, but have wondered occasionally whether I ought to. Indeed, for all I know, the stories that seem worth writing based on PZ Myers’ post may already exist, and I simply don’t know about them, and so I will invite readers of this blog to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of Jesus-cloning sci-fi where appropriate. There are certainly a much larger number of such stories in existence than most people are aware of. Perhaps an academic monograph focused entirely on stories about cloning Jesus is needed?

Finally, there is also a cartoon on this theme from People in White Coats


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  • Michael I

    Jo Walton’s short story “What Would Sam Spade Do?” is set in a world where there are a LOT of Jesus clones. The viewpoint character is a private investigator who is one of the Jesus clones and is called in to help investigate a murder of one of the Jesus clones (apparently by another Jesus clone).

    (The story is collected on the anthologies “Starlings” and “The Best of Jim Baen’s Universe”.)

  • Erp

    Should point out that Myers spells his name with one ‘e’.

    • Thanks – I’ve updated the post with the correct spelling!

  • John MacDonald

    And then there is the story of Kahless the Unforgettable returning after 15 centuries after being cloned in “Star Trek The Next Generation: Rightful Heir”.

  • arcseconds

    The business about the 15-century priest seems to repeat a common (at least, I think it’s common) misapprehension that somehow cloning reproduces the entire person, including memories.

    The only thing cloning replicates is DNA. The effect is basically the same as if you had a twin, but the zygote of your twin was frozen before you were born, only to be unfrozen and gestated today.

    So you end up with an identical twin just several decades younger than you, who grows up normally — except for the expectations of being just like their sibling in every respect!

    (There may actually be inherited differences as well, depending on where they get the cytoplasm from.)

    Are we expecting Jesus’s ‘son of god’-ness to be carried somehow in his DNA? What would that even look like?

    ETA: I’m sure Myers is well aware of the mechanism of cloning and what it copies, and if he intended the idea of an adult and confused 15-century priest, that would be facetiousness.

    • Yes, if the idea is that we would get the memories of the 15th century priest, then that is not cloning in the scientific sense. Of course, that doesn’t always prevent something from becoming part of a science fiction story! 🙂

  • arcseconds

    Also, I know Myers has his knives out for Christianity, but really, envisaging atheist glee at a tumorous and deformed 2-year-old because he might be seen as significant for Christianity is in rather poor taste.

    • Matt Cavanaugh

      Myers has his knives out for Christianity…

      Are you referring to his threat to stab in the belly anyone who tries to convert him? LOL. Poor taste is Peez’ only schtick.

      • arcseconds

        no, but I wish I had! He said that?

        Isn’t Myers the guy who fantasizes about watching the last priest die?

        Obviously I don’t pay a lot of attention to him. I don’t get much out of reading view steeped in blinkered hostility.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Yes, in his post “What makes for a good death?”, he fantasized about strangling the ‘last priest on earth’. In “It must have been an act of god” he laughed at the cluster ballooning death of Fr. Adelir Antônio de Carli, and imagined himself shooting other priests out of the sky. And in “cause to celebrate!” he wrote: “Just so all you Christians know, if I’m in a fatal accident, and I’m lying in the street dying, and you’re not running over to stop the bleeding or otherwise physically help me, and you try to pull that prayer-and-conversion sh*t on me, I’m going to stab you.”

          Because of his crudity and abusiveness, PZ is now regarded by most atheist activists as a pariah, having been formally denounced by Atheist Ireland, for example.

          • arcseconds

            Oh, that’s right, he strangles the last priest on Earth himself.

            Using the death of an actual human being as an occasion for mirth and murder fantasies seems a bit beyond the pale.

          • Matt Cavanaugh

            Oh, we haven’t even gotten to his bestiality posts yet.

  • Gary

    The more interesting question…
    What exactly would Jesus’ DNA look like?
    Half Israelite, half Roman?
    100% Israelite, with only female DNA present?
    100% Israelite, with David DNA? Joseph DNA?
    Half Israelite, Half unexplainable YAHWEH DNA?
    Half Israelite, Half alien?
    Nephalim DNA?

    Interesting to see where the “Y” chromosome came from? The “Y” had to come from somewhere (based upon Him being 100% human).

    • Gary

      Or, as old texts of Mark say, Jesus was adopted at Baptism. Then DNA would be irrelevant.

  • “it’s been dated to the 13th century”

    Myers has a track record of mangling history, so it’s hardly surprising that he gets this wrong. The 1987 C-14 dating came up with a result of 95% confidence that the shroud material dated to 1260–1390 AD. So that means it’s most likely to be dated to the fourteenth century, not the thirteenth. And given it suddenly appears in France around 1354 and the local bishop investigated it then and found the guy who faked it, added to the fact that the weave of the linen is one common in the fourteenth century and the image conforms to fourteenth century iconography, it’s pretty clear it dates to the fourteenth century.