Y-chromosomal Aaron

Y-chromosomal Aaron

Y-chromosomal Aaron is the name given to the hypothesised most recent common ancestor of many of the patrilineal Jewish priestly caste known as Kohanim (singular "Kohen", "Cohen", or Kohane). In the Torah, this ancestor is identified as Aaron, the brother of Moses. The hypothetical most recent common ancestor was therefore jocularly dubbed "Y-chromosomal Aaron", in analogy to Y-chromosomal Adam.

The original scientific research was based on the discovery that a majority of present-day Jewish Kohanim either share, or are only one step removed from, a pattern of values for 6 Y-STR markers, which researchers named the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH). However it subsequently became clear that this six marker pattern was widespread in many communities where men had Y chromosomes which fell into Haplogroup J; the six-marker CMH was not specific just to Cohens, nor even just to Jews, but was a survival from the origins of Haplogroup J, about 30,000 years ago.[citation needed]

More recent research, using a larger number of Y-STR markers to gain higher resolution more specific genetic signatures, has indicated that about half of contemporary Jewish Kohanim, who share Y-chromosomal haplogroup J1c3 (also called J-P58), do indeed appear to be very closely related. A further approximately 15% of Kohanim fall into a second distinct group, sharing a different but similarly tightly related ancestry. This second group fall under haplogroup J2a (J-M410). A number of other smaller lineage groups are also observed. Only one of these haplogroups could indicate ancestry from Aaron.

The J1e and J2a possible Cohen clusters (only one of them could indicate ancestry from Aaron), when including those tested who are of Sephardi background, have been estimated as descending from most recent common ancestors living 3,200 ± 1,100 and 4,200 ± 1,300 years ago respectively. Ashkenazis only have been estimated by the same article as descending from most recent common ancestors living 2,400 ± 800 and 3,800 ± 1,200 years ago respectively.[1]



Although membership in the Jewish community has, since at least the second century CE, been passed maternally (see: Who is a Jew?), tribal identity, and membership in the group that originally comprised the Jewish priesthood (Cohen or Kohen; plural: Cohanim or Kohanim), has been patrilineal. Modern Kohanim claim descent from a biblical person, Aaron, brother of Moses, in the direct lineage from Levi, the patriarch of the Tribe of Levi, great grandson of Abraham, according to the tradition codified in the Tanakh (שמות / Sh'mot/Exodus 6). DNA testing is aiding scholars to trace the lineages found among modern Jewish populations, including contemporary Cohen families, to decipher origins of the people groups who were joined to the ancient Israelites and to identify genetic admixture and genetic drift.

For human beings, the normal number of chromosomes is 46, of which 23 are inherited from each parent. Two chromosomes, the X chromosome and Y chromosome, determine sex. Women have two X chromosomes, one inherited from their mother, and one inherited from their father. Men have an X chromosome inherited from their mother, and the Y chromosome inherited from their father.

Males who share a common patrilineal ancestor also share a Y chromosome, diverging only with respect to accumulated mutations. Since Y-chromosomes are passed from father to son, all Kohanim men should theoretically have almost identical Y chromosomes; this can be tested with a genealogical DNA test. As the rate that mutations accumulate on the Y chromosome is relatively constant,   scientists can estimate the elapsed time since two men had a common ancestor. (See molecular clock.) "The Samaritan M267 lineages differed from the classical Cohen modal haplotype at DYS391, carrying 11 rather than 10 repeats", as well as, have a completely different haplogroup, which should have been "J1". Samaritan Kohanim descend from a different patrilineal family line, having haplogroup E1b1b1a (M78) (formerly E3b1a).[2]

Genetic studies

The Cohen hypothesis was first tested by Prof. Karl Skorecki and collaborators from Haifa, Israel, in 1997. In their study, "Y chromosomes of Jewish priests," published in the journal Nature,[3] they found that the Kohanim appeared to share a different probability distribution compared to the rest of the Jewish population for the two Y-chromosome markers they tested (YAP and DYS19). They also found that the probabilities appeared to be shared by both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Cohens, pointing to a common Cohen population origin before the Jewish diaspora under the Roman empire.

In a subsequent study the next year (Thomas MG et al., 1998),[4] the team increased the number of Y-STR markers tested to six, as well as testing more SNP markers. Again, they found that a clear difference was observable between the Kohanim population and the general Jewish population, with many of the Cohen STR results clustered around a single pattern they named the Cohen Modal Haplotype:

  xDE[3] xDE,PR[4] Hg J[5] CMH.1[4] CMH[4] CMH.1/HgJ CMH/HgJ
Ashkenazi Cohanim (AC): 98.5% 96% 87% 69% 45% 79% 52%
Sephardic Cohanim (SC): 100% 88% 75% 61% 56% 81% 75%
Ashkenazi Jews (AI): 82% 62% 37% 15% 13% 40% 35%
Sephardic Jews (SI): 85% 63% 37% 14% 10% 38% 27%

Here, becoming increasingly specific, xDE is the proportion who were not in Haplogroups D or E (from the original paper); xDE,PR is the proportion who were not in haplogroups D, E, P, Q or R; Hg J is the proportion who were in Haplogroup J (from the slightly larger panel studied by Behar et al. (2003)[5]); CMH.1 means "within one marker of the CMH-6"; and CMH is the proportion with a 6/6 match. The final two columns show the conditional proportions for CMH.1 and CMH, given membership of Haplogroup J.

The data shows that the Kohanim were more than twice as likely to belong to Haplogroup J than the average non-Cohen Jew. Of those who did belong to Haplogroup J, the Kohanim were more than twice as likely to have an STR pattern close to the CMH-6, suggesting a much more recent common ancestry for most of them compared to an average non-Cohen Jew of Haplogroup J.

Further study published in 2009 found new markers and better defined variant J1e* (now J1c3, also called J-P58*). This research demonstrates that 46.1% of Kohanim carry Y chromosomes belonging to a single paternal lineage (J-P58*) that likely originated in the Near East well before the dispersal of Jewish groups in the Diaspora. Support for a Near Eastern origin of this lineage comes from its high frequency in our sample of Bedouins, Yemenis (67%), and Jordanians (55%) and its precipitous drop in frequency as one moves away from Saudi Arabia and the Near East (Fig. 4). Moreover, there is a striking contrast between the relatively high frequency of J-58* in Jewish populations (»20%) and Kohanim (»46%) and its vanishingly low frequency in our sample of non- Jewish populations that hosted Jewish diaspora communities outside of the Near East.[6]

Thomas, et al. dated the origin of the shared DNA to approximately 3,000 years ago (with variance arising from different generation lengths). The techniques used to find Y-chromosomal Aaron were first popularized in relation to the search for the patrilineal ancestor of all contemporary living humans, Y-chromosomal Adam.


The finding led to excitement in religious circles, with some seeing it as providing some "proof" of the historical veracity of part of the Bible[7] or other religious convictions.[8] There was also criticism that the paper's evidence was being overstated.[9]

Cohens in other haplogroups

Behar's 2003 data[5] points to the following Haplogroup distribution for Ashkenazi Cohens (AC) and Sephardic Cohens (SC) as a whole:

Hg: E3b G2c H I1b J K2 Q R1a1 R1b Total
AC 3 0 1 0 67 2 0 1 2 76
4% 1½% 88% 2½% 1½% 2½% 100%
SC 3 1 0 1 52 2 2 3 4 68
4½% 1½% 1½% 76% 3% 3% 4½% 6% 100%

The detailed breakdown by 6-marker haplotype (the paper's online-only table B) suggests that at least some of these groups (eg E3b, R1b) contain more than one distinct Cohen lineage. It is possible that other lineages may also exist, but were not captured in the sample.

Does a CMH prove Cohen ancestry?

One source of early confusion was a widespread popular notion that only Cohens or only Jews could have the Cohen Modal Haplotype. It is now clear that this is not the case. The Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), whilst notably frequent amongst Cohens, is also far from unusual in the general populations of haplogroups J1 and J2 with no particular link to the Cohen ancestry. These haplogroups occur widely throughout the Middle East and beyond.[10][11] Thus, while many Cohens have haplotypes close to the CMH, a greater number of such haplotypes worldwide belong to people with no likely[clarification needed] Cohen connection at all.

Statistically the value of matching the CMH can be assessed using Bayes' theorem, which in its odds form can be written:

\frac{P(C|D,I)}{P({C^'}|D,I)} = \frac{P(C|I)}{P({C^'}|I)} \cdot \frac{P(D|C)}{P(D|{C^'})}

In words, this says that the odds in favour of Cohen ancestry C (i.e., the probability of having Cohen ancestry, divided by the probability of not having Cohen ancestry), having observed some piece of data D, is given by the odds one would assign given only one's initial information I, multiplied by the probability of having observed D if C is true, divided by the probability of having observed D if C is false.

(In fact, for convenience we shall work with the reciprocal of this equation, i.e. work in terms of odds against, rather than odds on).

The proportion of the whole male Jewish population that has Cohen ancestry has been estimated at 5%.[3] So if we take that 5% as our initial estimate of the probability of shared Cohen ancestry, then on the basis of the data above:

  • Not belonging to haplogroups D or E improves the odds for a Sephardic Jew from 19/1 against to (19/1)*(0.85/1.00) = 16.2/1 against (a 5.8% probability)
  • Not belonging to haplogroups D,E,P,Q or R takes the odds to (19/1)*(0.63/0.88) = 13.6/1 against (6.8% probability).
  • Membership of Haplogroup J improves the odds to (19/1)*(0.37/0.75) = 9.4/1 against (9.6% probability).
  • Being within the CMH.1 group takes the odds to (19/1)*(0.14/0.61) = 4.4/1 against (18.7% probability).
  • A full 6/6 match takes the odds to (19/1)*(0.10/0.56) = 3.4/1. (22.7% probability).

Even a full 6/6 match for the 6 marker CMH thus cannot "prove" Cohen ancestry. It can only somewhat strengthen a previously existing belief. But for populations where the background probability assessment of shared Cohen ancestry must be vanishingly low, such as almost all non-Jews, even a full 6/6 match makes only a small difference. For individuals in such populations, the CMH likely indicates Haplogroup J, but a completely different ancestry to the Kohanim.

Higher resolution

Principal components analysis scatterplot of Y-STR haplotypes from Haplogroup J, calculated using 6 STRs. With only six Y-STRs, it is not possible to resolve the different subgroups of Hg J.
Principal components analysis scatterplot of Y-STR haplotypes from Haplogroup J, calculated using 37 STRs. With 37 Y-STR markers, clearly distinct STR clusters can be resolved, matching the distinct J1, J2 and J2b subgroups. The haplotypes often associated with Cohen lineages in each group are highlighted as J1 C37 and J2 C37, respectively.

The discussion above applies to the published scientific papers. In principle, additional resolution could be obtained by determining the Cohen haplogroup more narrowly, and/or testing more Y-STR markers to determine whether there is an extended characteristic Cohen haplotype.

Haplogroup placement

The largest population of Kohanim which most closely match the 6-marker CMH cluster are believed to belong to subgroup J1 of haplogroup J, thus often identified as Y-Aaron.[12][13] [14] Nevertheless, various opinions exist about which Haplogroup the direct descendants of Biblical Aaron belong to.

Note, some lineages of subgroup J2 also, coincidentally, developed a similar set of genetic markers corresponding to the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Low frequencies of individuals with these lineages even exist among Jewish Kohanim, albeit they do not descend from Y-Aaron. 

The subdivision of J2 which most closely matches the genetic signature of the J1 Cohens is subclade J2a4b (M67), a large fraction of members of which will also have a 6/6 match for the 6-marker CMH. However, this is an example of haplotype convergence: Basically the haplotype "distribution" within one lineage (Haplogroup) overlaps with the haplotype "distribution" of another lineage – it is like overlapping branches from two different trees. The more likely reason for the match is convergence (coincidence) or sharing a common haplotype in the same lineage (Haplogroup). Convergence: Mutation is a random process and over thousands of years can occur in different lines so that by coincidence, different "lines" end up with "matching" haplotypes. This accidental agreement is called convergence of different genetic lines, which it is believed have been not been closely related for at least the last 10,000 years; the group in J2a4b (M67) who have the 6-marker CMH are devoid of any Cohen traditions in their families.[15]

On the other hand, there are families in Haplogroup J2 who do have a Cohen religious tradition (as there are in several other haplogroups, including Haplogroup R1b). The haplotypes of these Haplotype J2 Kohanim cluster under J2a4h (L24), not the J2a4b (M67) clade.[15] These J2 Kohanim typically have a 4/6 match for the 6-marker CMH (with DYS19=15 rather than 14, and DYS388=15 rather than 16). The J2 Cohens do not match the 12-marker J1-extended CMH. The important difference is the two SNP mutations, M172 and M267. These mutations are believed to be at least 10-15,000 years old; but they are equal co-inheritors of a patrilineal tradition which appears to date back well before the Diaspora.  Some suggest that this group may, in fact, descend from the biblical Levi, but not Aaron.[citation needed]

As it happens, three of the four markers for which they do match the CMH-6 were the markers tested by Malaspina et al. (2001).[16] This appears to explain the finding of that paper that "typing a limited number of Italian Cohanim (A. Novelletto unpublished obs.) for the STRs used here, we determined that the Cohen Modal Haplotype ('an important component in the sharing of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Israelite Y chromosomes', Thomas et al. 2000) does indeed belong to network 1.2" (i.e. the population having DYS413a,b<=18, which is the signature of the J2a4 subclades).

More detailed Cohen haplotypes

In the table below, the first line gives the original 6 marker Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH-6), which was the basis for the original published papers. The second gives an extended 12 marker haplotype (CMH-12) informally released by the private company Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), based on further work by much of the same research team. It has not yet been peer group reviewed by other scientists or published in the open technical literature.

The next sequence of rows identify other 6-marker haplotypes in haplogroup J found to occur more than once in the sample of 145 Kohanim tested in Behar et al. (2003)[5] (table B (web-only) in that paper). Probable extensions of these haplotypes to 12 markers are shown, where it has been possible to find corresponding clusters of Cohen-type names in publicly accessible DNA databases, together with the apparent sub-clade of haplogroup J. This is more possible for the apparently Ashkenazi clusters than for Sephardim, who are much less strongly represented in the databases.

Finally, for comparison, the 12-marker modal haplotypes for the haplogroups J1 and J2 are also shown. It is apparent that in both cases, their haplotype clusters are also centred very close to the Cohen modal haplotype. However, because of the much greater time that has elapsed since the mutations occurred that define the haplogroups, there has been much more time for Y-STR mutations to build up; so, although they have almost the same centre as the Cohen cluster, the J1 and J2 haplotype clusters are much more diffusely spread out. Thus although the CMH-6 is also very near to the most probable haplotype for both J1 and J2, its occurrence frequency is only about 1 to 8% amongst arbitrary members of haplogroup J with no particular Cohen connection.[citation needed]

Hg Clade or cluster[17] Y-STR
AC[5] SC[5] Some DNA
CMH-6 12 23 14 10 16 11
J1 CMH-12 12 23 14 10 13 15 11 16 12 13 11 30 47% 52% 8EZ7F
J2 J2a4h (L24,L25) 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 16 12 14 11 30 13% 0 XWPTP
J2 J2a4h (L24,L25) 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29 5% 0 645CH
J2 J2b2e (M241) 12 24 15 10 15 17 11 15 12 12 11 29 11% 0 F6FSU
J2 J2a4h1a ? 12 24 15 9 16 13 11 29 0 6%
J1 J1 "388=13" 12 23 14 10 13 11 0 6%
J1 modal 12 23 14 10 13 15 11 16 11 13 11 30
J2 modal 12 23 14 10 13 15 11 15 11 13 11 30
J2 J2a1b (M67) 12 23 14 10 13 17 11 16 11 13 11 30

Other carriers of the DNA

Following the discovery of the very high prevalence of 6/6 CMH matches amongst Cohens, others were quick to look for it, and often to see it as a signpost for possible Jewish ancestry, though the chromosome itself is not exclusive to Jews.

News of 6/6 matches in the Lemba of Southern Africa were seen as confirming a possible Jewish lineage (Thomas MG et al. 2000);[18] possible links were discussed between the Jews and the Kurds;[19] and some suggested that 4/4 matches in non-Jewish Italians might be a genetic inheritance from Jewish slaves, deported by Emperor Titus in large numbers after the fall of the Temple in AD 70, some of whom were put to work building the Colosseum in Rome.

Such speculation was to some extent tempered when it was realised that Haplogroups J1 and J2 represented at least two different lineages which could be associated with the CMH, (the Italians mostly belong to Haplogroup J2); and that individuals with at least 5/6 matches for the original 6 marker Cohen Modal Haplotype occur widely across the Middle East, with significant frequencies in various Arab populations mainly with J1 Haplogroup, "that are not traditionally considered admixed with mainstream Jewish populations" -- notably Yemen (34.2%), Oman (22.8%), Negev (21.9%), and Iraq (19.2%); and amongst Muslim Kurds (22.1%), Bedouins (21.9%), and Armenians (12.7%).[20]

On the other hand, Jewish populations were found to have a "markedly higher" proportion of full 6/6 matches, according to the same (2005) meta-analysis,[20] compared to these non-Jewish populations, where "individuals matching at only 5/6 markers are most commonly observed".[20]

The authors nevertheless warn that "using the current CMH definition to a infer relation of individuals or groups to the Cohen or ancient Hebrew populations would produce many false-positive results," and note that "it is possible that the originally defined CMH represents a slight permutation of a more general Middle Eastern type that was established early on in the population prior to the divergence of haplogroup J. Under such conditions, parallel convergence in divergent clades to the same STR haplotype would be possible."[20]

Y-DNA patterns from around the Gulf of Oman were analysed in more detail by Cadenas et al. in 2007.[21] The detailed data confirms that the main cluster of haplogroup J1 haplotypes from the Yemen appears to be some genetic distance different from the CMH-12 pattern typical of Eastern European Ashkenazi Cohens.

J2 Kohanim haplotype tree

The J2 Kohanim haplotype tree[22]
The J2 DNA Kohanim Migration[23]

Dr. Karl Skorecki,[3] the founder of CMH, reported during a Conference for Kohanim in Jerusalem 2007,[24] that he and his research team have discovered not one but two Cohen Modal Haplotypes, which he called J1 and J2. “Pinchas the zealot mentioned in the Bible may be the origin of J2[25]” said Skorecki. According to the observed mutations rates, certain J2 haplotypes found on FTDNA[26] database projects share a common ancestor who lived 3100+/-200 years bp, as Skorecki revealed to the public. Below we can see the J2 Cohanim haplotype tree formed by 21 different traditional surnames related to Cohanim lineages in both Ashkenazi[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37] and Sephardic[38][39][40] respective communities. - [32][41] This is how Joseph Felsenstein`s scientific genetic computer software[42] placed them, considering their haplotypes. Only one different Cohanim surname was used in this case to represent the closest haplotype found in each family that can best stand for the exclusive cluster below formed by these 21 haplotypes.[43]

Cohen Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29
Kahan Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29
Mazer Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29
Kaplan Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29
Katz Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29
Cowan Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 13 11 29
Coyne Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 16 12 13 11 29
HaKohen Family J2 12 23 15 10 13 16 11 15 12 13 11 29
CohenPereira Family J2 12 23 15 10 13 18 11 15 12 13 11 29
CohenRodrigues Family J2 12 23 15 10 13 18 11 15 12 13 11 29
CohenMachado Family J2 12 23 15 10 13 18 11 15 12 13 11 29
Shapiro Family J2 12 23 15 9 13 17 11 16 12 13 11 29
Ben Ezra Family J2 12 23 15 10 13 15 11 14 13 13 11 29
Levy Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 17 11 15 12 14 11 31
Pereira Cunha Family J2 12 23 13 10 14 16 11 15 12 13 11 29
Garfinkel Family J2 12 23 15 10 14 16 11 15 12 13 11 29
Kagan Family J2 12 23 16 10 14 18 11 15 12 13 11 30
Kovacs Family J2 12 23 15 11 14 19 11 15 12 13 11 29
Kohn Family J2 12 23 15 11 14 19 11 15 12 13 11 29
Kohen Family J2 12 23 15 11 14 18 11 15 12 13 11 29
Kunha Family J2 12 23 15 11 14 16 11 15 12 13 11 29

The left branch is the Sephardim branch. All J2 Kohanim families listed have a surname and tradition directly related to Sephardic Kohanim,[32][38][39] as Askenazi Kohanim[27][28][29][30][31][32][34] also carry in their respective communities. In this case illustrated above with table and graphic, Joseph Felsenstein`s methods for making coalescence statistically independent comparisons using 21 familiar markers haplotypes shows a well shaped, defined, and geographically distributed Kohanim Tree. Despite two thousand years since the destruction of the Second Temple, and the spread of the Jewish population into the Diaspora, the deadly Crusades, Kohanim families managed to survive the persecutions and kept their lineages intact, imprinted in their Y Chromosomes as a unique and common signature. This signature, distinctly reflecting the Kohanim ancestral haplotype, visibly identifies today and recognizes these 21 Jewish priest families, directly related to one common Kohanim ancestor who by some estimates lived 2400 ± 300 years ago. This is because both Askenazi and Sephardic Kohanim for thousands of years preserved their genealogical lineages since the Temple period. Of course they did not think in terms of the DNA, however, they have faithfully followed priestly Jewish tradition until present day. As a result this is exactly what the haplotype tree shows. Families which haplotypes sit on the tree next to each other on flat branches live (or lived) in close territories and more likely share a recent common ancestor, as the tree shows. The Kohanim Tree places the correspondent families in the branches based on respective mutations. DNA results confirmed, by positioning the families in their respective places of origin, that the geographical location is correctly connected in genetics according to the Jewish tradition and records found in each one of these 21 different Kohanim families. It formed two branches, Askenazi and Sephardic. The Sephardic Kohanim is the older lineage compared to Ashkenazi, though both of them are derived from the same common ancestor. The Shapiro family from Marrocos presented the oldest signature among all, passing from Sephardi branch in Spain, Portugal, and Netherlands and from there moving to Northern East Europe to Central and reaching Southern East Europe. As the history and records tells, correctly confirmed by DNA, Kohanim fled the Romans after destruction of the Temple and went to Marrocos, Spain/Portugal, to England, France, Germany. In the 14th century many fled to Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia.

Y-chromosomal Levi

A similar investigation was made with men who consider themselves Levites. Whereas the priestly Kohanim are considered descendants of Aaron, who in turn was a descendant of Levi, son of Jacob, the Levites (a lower rank of the Temple) are considered descendants of Levi through other lineages. Levites should also therefore share common Y-chromosomal DNA.

The investigation of Levites found high frequencies of multiple distinct markers, suggestive of multiple origins for the majority of non-Aaronid Levite families. One marker, however, present in more than 50% of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish Levites points to a common male ancestor or very few male ancestors within the last 2000 years for many Levites of the Ashkenazi community. This common ancestor belonged to the haplogroup R1a1 which is typical of Eastern Europeans or West Asians, rather than the haplogroup J of the Cohen modal haplotype, and most likely lived at the time of the Ashkenazi settlement in Eastern Europe,[5][44][45], and thus was not really a Levite.

The E1b1b1 haplogroup (formerly known as E3b1) has been observed in all Jewish groups worldwide. It is considered to be the second most prevalent haplogroup among the Jewish population outside of the J haplogroups. According to one non-peer reviewed paper[46] it has also been observed in moderate numbers among individuals from Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Samaritan communities having traditions of descending from the tribe of Levi, suggesting that the E1b1b1 men claiming to be Levites may have existed in Israel before the Diaspora of 70 CE.

Samaritan Kohanim

The Samaritan community in the Middle East survives as a distinct religious and cultural sect and constitutes one of the oldest and smallest ethnic minorities in the world, numbering just less than 700 members. As a religious sect, reportedly, the Samaritans broke away from the mainstream Judaism around the fifth century BCE but according to Samaritan accounts it was the southern tribes that left the original worship set forth by Joshua. The Samaritans have maintained their religion and history to this day. Samaritans claim to descend from the Biblical Israelite tribes of Ephraim, Menashe and Levi.

Since the Samaritans maintain extensive and detailed genealogical records for the past 13–15 generations (approximately 400 years)and further back, it is possible to construct accurate pedigrees and specific maternal and paternal lineages. Y-Chromosome studies have shown that the majority of Samaritans belong to haplogroups J1 and J2, while the Samaritan Kohanim belong to haplogroup E1b1b1a (formerly known as E3b1a).[2] However, the last member of the Samaritan High-Priestly family, which claimed descent from Eleazar, the son of Aaron, died in 1623 or 1624. There was a time in later periods like the 17-18Th centuries that Samaritan sages by mistake wrote to European scholars that their priests are from Uziel b. Kehat. But Samaritan sources, chronicles and lists of lineage connecting the Samaritan Priests of the last 387 years since 1624 [The year that the Priestly Family from Phinhas was ceased] to Itamar b. Aaron the nephew of Moses, meaning that they are all from Aaronic origin. All Samaritan Priests of the present are linked to the father of the family that lived in the 14Th century 'Abed Ela b. Shalma that was the House of 'Abtaa from Itamar, son of Aaron. Since that date the priest has called himself "Ha-Kohen Ha-Lewi", which means the Priest-Levite, instead of "Ha-Kohen Ha-Gadol", a title which referred to the High-Priest as in previous times.

The biblical tradition of the Cohen family living among the Samaritans is found in 2 Kings 17:27-28, where it indicates that only one Israelite Cohen was sent back from exile from Assyria by the King of Assyria to teach those living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria). This suggests why some Samaritans may claim association of haplogroup E3b1a with the biblical Kohanim. In the same period only 27,290 (Annals of Sargon)of the ten Northern Tribes were exiled to Assyria, the Assyrians relocated those non-Israelites to the region around Samaria, explaining why those claiming to be Leviim or Kohanim were actually Syrians, who appointed other non-Israelites as priests ("Kohanim") from their own people.

Thus far, no claims of ancestry of coming from the Levite tribe for male haplogroups outside of the "J" series can be scientifically substantiated because the mutation of haplogroups is so slow that no one coming from the family of Levi could have another haplogroup.

See also


  1. ^ Anatole Klyosov (2009), Comment on the paper: Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish Priesthood, Human Genetics, 126(5), 719–724 doi:10.1007/s00439-009-0739-1 PMID 19813025
    But see also: Michael Hammer et al (2009b), Response, Human Genetics, 126(5), 725–726 doi:10.1007/s00439-009-0747-1
  2. ^ a b Shen, P; Lavi T, Kivisild T, Chou V, Sengun D, Gefel D, Shpirer I, Woolf E, Hillel J, Feldman MW, Oefner PJ (2004). "Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other Israeli Populations From Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation" (PDF). Human Mutation 24 (3): 248–260. doi:10.1002/humu.20077. PMID 15300852. http://evolutsioon.ut.ee/publications/Shen2004.pdf. 
  3. ^ a b c d Skorecki, K; Selig, S.; Blazer, S.; Bradman, R.; Bradman, N.; Waburton, P.J.; Ismajlowicz, M.; Hammer M.F. (1997). "Y chromosomes of Jewish priests". Nature 385 (6611): 32. doi:10.1038/385032a0. PMID 8985243. http://www.familytreedna.com/nature97385.html. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d Thomas, MG; Skorecki K, Ben-Ami H, Parfitt T, Bradman N, Goldstein DB (1998). "Origins of Old Testament priests" (PDF). Nature 394 (6689): 138–40. doi:10.1038/28083. PMID 9671297. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/tcga/tcgapdf/Thomas-98-Nat-Cohen.pdf. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Behar, DM; Thomas MG, Skorecki K, Hammer MF, Bulygina E, Rosengarten D, Jones AL, Held K, Moses V, Goldstein D, Bradman N, Weale ME (October 2003). "Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 73 (4): 768–79. doi:10.1086/378506. PMC 1180600. PMID 13680527. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1180600. 
  6. ^ Hammer, Michael F; Doron M Behar and 7 others (2009-08-08). "Extended Y chromosome haplotypes resolve multiple and unique lineages of the Jewish priesthood". Hum Genet (Springer) epub ahead of publication. 
  7. ^ Kleiman, Rabbi Yaakov (2000). "The Cohanim/DNA connection". http://www.aish.com/societywork/sciencenature/the_cohanim_-_dna_connection.asp. 
  8. ^ Clark, David (2002). "Cohanim Modal Haplotype (CMH) finds the Ten Lost Tribes! (among Iraqi Kurds, Hungarians, and Armenians)". Archived from the original on 2005-03-22. http://web.archive.org/web/20050322111222/http://www.geocities.com/hrhdavid/English/frames/index.html. 
  9. ^ Zoossmann-Diskin, Avshalom (2001). "Are today's Jewish priests descended from the old ones?". Journal of Comparative Human Biology 51 (2–3): 156–162.  (Summary)
  10. ^ Nebel, A; Filon D, Brinkmann B, Majumder PP, Faerman M, Oppenheim A (November 2001). "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 69 (5): 1095–112. doi:10.1086/324070. PMC 1274378. PMID 11573163. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal/issues/v69n5/013033/013033.html. [dead link]
  11. ^ Semino, O; Magri C, Benuzzi G, Lin AA, Al-Zahery N, Battaglia V, Maccioni L, Triantaphyllidis C, Shen P, Oefner PJ, Zhivotovsky LA, King R, Torroni A, Cavalli-Sforza LL, Underhill PA, Santachiara-Benerecetti AS (May 2004). "Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 74 (5): 1023–34. doi:10.1086/386295. PMC 1181965. PMID 15069642. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1181965. 
  12. ^ The private company FTDNA has indicated that the CMH Kohanim cluster is associated with J1 rather than J2. Although as of March 2007 no scientific paper has yet been published disclosing their full data, the conclusion matches a clustering of Cohen-type names close to Ysearch G6839 in very much more limited data from various sources that are publicly accessible.
  13. ^ The Y-Haplogroup J DNA Project- see Results page for CMH map
  14. ^ Nebel et al. 2001, Fig 3 - CMH network
  15. ^ a b Schrack, Bonnie (13 April 2007). "Cohen does not equal CMH,CMH does not equal Cohen — only in J1 do they coincide". GENEALOGY-DNA-L Archives. http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/GENEALOGY-DNA/2007-04/1176477472. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  16. ^ Malaspina, P; Tsopanomichalou M, Duman T, Stefan M, Silvestri A, Rinaldi B, Garcia O, Giparaki M, Plata E, Kozlov AI, Barbujani G, Vernesi C, Papola F, Ciavarella G, Kovatchev D, Kerimova MG, Anagnou N, Gavrila L, Veneziano L, Akar N, Loutradis A, Michalodimitrakis EN, Terrenato L, Novelletto A (July 2001). "A multistep process for the dispersal of a Y chromosomal lineage in the Mediterranean area". Ann. Hum. Genet. 65 (4): 339–49. doi:10.1046/j.1469-1809.2001.6540339.x. PMID 11592923. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1469-1809.2001.6540339.x. 
  17. ^ Nomenclature and analogues from Schrack, B; Schweitzer, J. "The Y-Haplogroup J DNA Project". FTDNA.com. http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Y-DNA_J/index.aspx?fixed_columns=on. Retrieved 2007-04-24.  Updated 2009-02-21
  18. ^ Thomas, MG; Parfitt T, Weiss DA, Skorecki K, Wilson JF, le Roux M, Bradman N, Goldstein DB (2000). "Y Chromosomes Traveling South: The Cohen Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba—the "Black Jews of Southern Africa"" (– Scholar search). Am. J. Hum. Genet. 66 (2): 674–86. doi:10.1086/302749. PMC 1288118. PMID 10677325. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal/issues/v66n2/990488/990488.html. [dead link]
  19. ^ Brook, Kevin Alan, The Genetic Bonds between Kurds and Jews, Netewe, January 19, 2002.
  20. ^ a b c d Ekins, JE; E.N. Tinah, N.M. Myres, K.H. Ritchie, U.A. Perego, J.B. Ekins, L.A.D. Hutchison, L. Layton, M.L. Lunt, S.S. Masek, A.A. Nelson, M.E. Nelson, K.L. Pennington, J.L. Peterson, T. Tolley, S.R. Woodward (2005). "An Updated World-Wide Characterization of the Cohen Modal Haplotype" (PDF). ASHG meeting October 2005. http://www.smgf.org/resources/papers/ASHG2005_Jayne.pdf. 
  21. ^ Cadenas, AM; Zhivotovsky LA, Cavalli-Sforza LL, Underhill PA and Herrera RJ (2008). "Y-chromosome diversity characterizes the Gulf of Oman" (– Scholar search). European Journal of Human Genetics 16 (3): 374–386. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201934. PMID 17928816. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal/issues/v66n2/990488/990488.html. [dead link]
  22. ^ Joseph Felsenstein Software
  23. ^ Based on Joseph Felsenstein Software results
  24. ^ Israel First International Kohen Conference – The Center of Kohanim – Jerusalem – Cohen-Levi Organization
  25. ^ Understanding of Jewish priests’ genealogy - July 18, 2007 • By Gil Zohar
  26. ^ J Haplogroup Project at FTDNA, Cohen Project FTDNA, Iberian Project FTDNA
  27. ^ a b Katz surname – A surname common among Ashkenazi Kohanim. It is an abbreviation formed from the initials of the name Kohen Tzedeq (כּ״ץ), and has been used since the seventeenth century, or perhaps somewhat earlier, as an epithet of the descendants of Aaron.
  28. ^ a b Cohen surname - a kohen (or cohen, Hebrew כּהן, "priest", pl. כּהנִים, kohanim or cohanim) is a Jew who is a direct male descendant of the Biblical Aaron.
  29. ^ a b Kaplan is a surname common among Ashkenazi Kohanim, usually indicating descent from the priestly lineage. In Polish, "kaplan" means "priest"
  30. ^ a b Kahan - a Jewish surname from the Hebrew "Kohen", a priest. Variations of this are, Kohn, Kahen, Kahn, Kahan and Kahane.
  31. ^ a b Kovacs – the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen
  32. ^ a b c d Shapiro - very old surname where the first bearer was a Cohen (see Israeli Names)
  33. ^ Kagan - in Hebrew, this name is spelled "kaf-shin-daled-nun" and is an acronym for "Kohanei Shluchei DeShmaya Ninhu," which is Aramaic for, "priests are the messengers of heaven"
  34. ^ a b Maze - well-know kohen name among Moroccan Jews (acronym of "mi zerat Aharon," i.e. "from the seed of Aaron")
  35. ^ Garfinkel - common Ashkenazic surname from Yiddish gorfinkl ‘carbuncle’. Carbuncle is the stone used to represent the Tribe of Levi that Kohanim are part of
  36. ^ Cowan - frequently a variation of Cohen
  37. ^ Coyne - a common variation of Cohen surname in families that arrived from Ireland
  38. ^ a b Cohen Pereira or Cohen Paraira family – Some references in internet: (1a) “As the deportation of the Jews of Holland gathered momentum in the autumn of 1942, the Cohen Paraira family of four fled their house in Scheveningen, near the Hague, and looked for a place to hide. The father, David, and the son Bob (subsequently Avraham) found refuge on a large farm belonging to the Crum family, who lived in the village of Rhenen, near Arnhem” http://www1.yadvashem.org/righteous_new/netherlands/crum.html ; (1b)“The Righteous Among the Nations from Norway, the Netherlands, and Poland to be Recognized at Yad Vashem Ceremonies” On June 6, 2007, a ceremony posthumously honoring five Dutch people took place in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in the presence of children of the Righteous and survivors (Holocaust). Albartha and Klaas Crum hid the “Cohen Paraira” family for a year and a half in their home in Rhenen. Survivors of the Holocaust Avraham Cohen Paraira and Elisheva Lehman Cohen Paraira attended the ceremony.” http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_yad/press_room/press_releases/31.05.07.html (2) Cohen Paraira R. van D. – and – Benjamin van Jacob Rodrigues Pereira, two top Sephardim artist that have work published at Jewish Historical Museum – Amsterdam. http://www.jhm.nl/resourcecentre.aspx?database=joodsepers&trefwoord=Cohen%20Treves,%20R.%20van%20M. (03) David Ph. Cohen Paraira (President Portuguese Jewish Synagogue) – (Cohen Paraira et al., 1991) Book – De Snoge, monument van Portugees Joodse cultuur. http://www.jodensavanne.sr.org/article1.html (04) Mashuah Cohen Pereira – The Sephardi Association of Cohanim - Brazil. Elected President 2008. http://www.cohen.org.br/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=26(05) Frederico Gazel Cohen Pereira – National Brazilian Champion in Chess.
  39. ^ a b Cohen Rodrigues family – Some references in internet: From Genealogical Department of the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – 425 family members found – http://shum.huji.ac.il/~dutchjew/genealog/cohen_rodrigues/index.htm Some: (01) Moses Cohen Rodrigues “Hij woonde bij zijn zoon Salomon in februari 1941” . (02) Jacob Cohen Rodrigues – (died 1 Feb 1943 Auschwitz, occupation) (03) Aaron Cohen Rodrigues (birth 22 Feb 1835 Amsterdam) (04) Artur Cohen Rodrigues (Lisboa 1877–1961) (writer; Vida - Portugal. See the full Pedigree of Cohen Rodrigues here: http://shum.huji.ac.il/~dutchjew/genealog/cohen_rodrigues/c.htm
  40. ^ Cunha - Sephardic version of Cohen - Ibn Ezra - a famous family of Cohanim from Spain; Abraham ibn Ezra - famous Rabbi from Spain. Abraham ibn Ezra, in "Z. D. M. G." l.c. p. 422), it is certain that he was born in Toledo. - http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=11&letter=I
  41. ^ Found in the database of Cohanim Askenazim and Sephardim Project at FTDNA. http://www.familytreedna.com/public/cohen/default.aspx?section=yresults
  42. ^ The program software belongs to Joseph Felsenstein (Felsenstein, 2005).
  43. ^ Cohen Askenazim and Sephardim Project at FTDNA
  44. ^ Behar, DM; Garrigan D, Kaplan ME, Mobasher Z, Rosengarten D, Karafet TM, Quintana-Murci L, Ostrer H, Skorecki K, Hammer MF (2004). "Contrasting patterns of Y chromosome variation in Ashkenazi Jewish and host non-Jewish European populations" (PDF). Hum. Genet. 114 (4): 354–365. doi:10.1007/s00439-003-1073-7. PMID 14740294. http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/Behar_contrasting.pdf. 
  45. ^ Nebel, A; Filon D, Faerman M, Soodyall H, Oppenheim A (2004). "Y chromosome evidence for a founder effect in Ashkenazi Jews". European Journal of Human Genetics 13 (3): 388–91. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201319. PMID 15523495. 
  46. ^ http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/Behar_contrasting.pdf

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