Theological and biological concerns in the cloning of Jesus

I’m home! I get one day of rest before charging on another venture, but I thought I’d let you know about some Important News. It’s an old story.

A billionaire-funded Christian organization is currently working to clone Jesus Christ after obtaining DNA from the Shroud of Turin and feel confident they will have a Jesus clone in 2016.

Which means, of course, that Jesus would now be in his Terrible Twos. I hope you’re ready for tantrums and loud shouts of “NO!”.

Although, actually, they may have hit a hitch or two. Reviewing their protocol, which is somewhat interesting and makes me wonder why fundamentalists haven’t seized on this idea before to hasten the Second Coming, there are substantial problems.

“The Jesus Has Returned Project is a private organization devoted to bringing about the Second Coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, as prophesied in the Bible,” the The Jesus Has Returned Project spokesman said. “Our intention is to clone Jesus, utilizing techniques pioneered at the Genetic Research Group in Switzerland, by taking an incorrupt cell from the Shroud of Turin, extracting its DNA, and inserting into an unfertilized human egg (oocyte), though the now-proven biological process called symbiotic cellular transfer. The fertilized egg, now the zygote of Jesus Christ, will be implanted into the womb of a young virginal woman (who has volunteered of her own accord), who will then bring the baby Jesus to term in a second Virgin Birth.”

Random thoughts:

  • 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.

  • Haven’t the Shroudians argued that the imprint was produced by a burst of intense energy from the miracle that raised Jesus from the dead? Any cells might have been exposed to all kinds of ionizing radiation. Maybe you’d get Jesus — but it would be mutant Jesus. A tumorous, deformed Jesus. Which would be kind of cool, at least for the atheists.

  • Unfortunately, we do not have a technique for extracting whole human genomes from dead cells and inserting them into enucleate cells. Transferring nuclei is one thing, but this is going to require large scale synthesis and reassembly of over 3 billion nucleotides. We can’t do that yet.

  • I am intrigued by the notion of “incorrupt cells” from Jesus lurking in the Shroud. Does this imply that all of the, for instance, shed skin cells from Jesus were also brought back to life? What about toenail clippings? Does the site of Jesus’ barber shop contain still-living hair and follicle cells creeping about in the dust of the cellar? Are they independent cells still crawling about like amoeboid Jesi?

  • I can see a serious theological issue here, too: 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. All of his old cells may have done so as well — we have to imagine that as Jesus rose bodily into the clouds, there was a corresponding ascension of all the flecks of sloughed tissue, the crusty socks, the gunk in the shower drain, sewer sludge in Jerusalem, all the accumulated detritus of his residence on earth. In which case the shroud may well be totally devoid of any shred of Jesus tissue.

  • This, unfortunately, prompts another worry. On arriving bodily in heaven, was Jesus also rejoined by everything that had ever flaked or oozed or squirted or dripped off of his body in life? I’m picturing a man surrounded by several times his body weight in slime, walking about the garden paths of heaven, repelling everyone he encounters.

Sorry, it’s been a long day of travel. I get home and my brain is a bit off-balance and is easily sent scurrying off in weird directions.


  1. vucodlak says

    Everybody knows that if you use Science! in any part of the baby-making the Holy Spirit won’t knit a soul for the child, and you’ll get a complete monster instead of a sweet and innocent savior. Basically, they’re making an antichrist.

    I wonder if he’ll be played by Sam Neill? He’s an entertaining bringer of doom, as long as the doom is dinosaurs or horrors from beyond summoned by a writer of popular horror novels. Or home-wrecking tentacle-monsters. That movie where he actually played the Antichrist actually kind of sucked, though. Not really his fault- the concept just isn’t all that interesting or coherent. Could really use more seductive tentacle monsters.

  2. machintelligence says

    Why use the shroud? Wouldn’t some of the transubstantiated host from Catholic communion be a better source?
    I guess he researchers must be Protestants.

  3. brucej says

    “mutant Jesus.” oh come now, PZ, don’t you know ANYTHING?? A mutant Jesus would have superhuman powers, like control of magnetism, shape shifting or superhuman strength and adamantium claws, of course!

  4. weylguy says

    Sounds like Christians are getting a little tired of waiting. It’s only been 2,000 years, a nanosecond in God-time but, for people who just gotta believe, it’s just been too damned long.

  5. archangelospumoni says

    To all our God worshiping, Drumpfh-supporting, Bible-quoting-but-not-following evangelicals: All I want is the winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby. If they can clone Jeebus, can’t they grant me this simple wish?

  6. Mark Jacobson says

    I see no reason it would stop there. Just think of all the other once-living matter the man must have pissed, shat and exhaled in his lifetime, now part of the world around him. That oxygen molecule here, that phosphorus atom there, those many kilograms of carbon now happily living in their new tree-homes. Surely it all deserves to be resurrected too!

  7. davidnangle says

    I found His toenail clippings on a trip to the Holy Land. They are immortal, of course. I wired them into my universal translator, but all I got was constant, agonized screaming, for some reason.

    Second thought… I wouldn’t envy that virgin’s life if she actually catches.

  8. woozy says

    From article:

    b. Throughout the Christian world are churches that contains Holy Relics of Jesus’ body: his blood, his hair, his foreskin. Unless every single one of these relics is a fake, this means that cells from Jesus’ body still survive to this day.


    no comment.

  9. nomdeplume says

    The level of stupidity is very high in this one. Up to the need to implant in a “virgin” who has volunteered “of her own accord”. Seriously, these are very sick people.

  10. monad says

    This was the plot of a Star Trek: The Next Generation, using a holy relic to clone the Klingon messiah as a way to bring about his second coming. It didn’t take, and they at least had the technology to implant memories.

  11. chrislawson says

    Looks like they read Peter Goldsworthy’s novel Honk If You Are Jesus and didn’t realise it was satirical.

  12. gijoel says

    If science fiction has taught me anything is that this billionaire will go into partnership with Ken Ham to create a Je-rasic park. A biblical themed, young-earth creationist park where tourist can come and see the resurrected Jesus in his natural environment. Of course, Ken will hire Numan (or Kramer) who will shut down the electrified fences in a bid sell the Jesus cloning samples to Kenny Roger’s Roasters, or due to a mishap with a Russian mail order bride.

    The Jesuses will go berserk whipping the gift shop attendants, attacking fat tourists, and preaching communist bullshit about love and charity. Kirk Cameron will be caught in the midst of the chaos as he is filming a Christmas Left Behind special. Kirk saves the day by crashing Crefelo Dollar’s Lear Jet into a local dam. The resulting deluge will kill all of the Jesuses as he couldn’t really walk on water, he was just on a sandbar at the time. The day is saved, except for one lone Jesus who floats away on Ken’s concrete ark.

  13. jacksprocket says

    I’ve never worked out why Jesus needed a touring shroud. I wonder if it has a secret pocket for his credit card and passport. But don’t forget that the original virgin didn’t volunteer of her own accord, she was annunciated by an angel, and that was a crucial part of the process. To get the zygote to implant, they’ll have to locate an angel and hire him (her?). And I hope it goes better than our infant school nativity play, where the angel got stage fright and lost control of her bowels.

  14. Glenn Graham says

    Next thing we know there will be a grand cloned jesus army of the republic arriving just in time to defeat the nasty trade federation.

  15. zetopan says

    The credulity of the supremely superstitious is always bottomless and a source of boundless amazement to rational people. Walter McCrone showed that the shroud was a fraud long ago. Even the catholic church knows that the shroud is a fraud, although they prefer suckering true believers.

  16. Rich Woods says

    @Lofty #26:

    If his yelling at a fig tree was anything to go by then Jesus was a bit of a dick.

  17. davidw says

    “Unfortunately, we do not have a technique for extracting whole human genomes from dead cells and inserting them into enucleate cells. Transferring nuclei is one thing, but this is going to require large scale synthesis and reassembly of over 3 billion nucleotides. We can’t do that yet.”

    We’ll use frog DNA to fill in the gaps! (That really *would* make him ‘God of the gaps’ then, right?)

    I’ll be here all week, folks…

  18. Larry says

    Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

  19. ragdish says

    The average human poops 1 ounce per 12 pounds body weight. Clearly Jesus pooped at least daily. Do the math! Between birth and his death at 35, there was a total of roughly 6000 pounds of holy poop. I’m factoring in his weight change during growth of course and likely any intestinal germs that cause diarrhea. Then again, Christ is God. He probably had the most excellent BMs free of watery stool. And from Bethlehem where he was born to Jerusalem where he was crucified there’s got to be a holy poop trail. The holy coprolite contains ancient intestinal cells. They’ve got to exist! His body was resurrected and therefore, those cells are alive! Clone those cells from the blessed shit! I await the turd messiahs! I’m having a holy orgasm just think about this!

    Ah! I know what your thinking. All those intestinal cells would have left with the rest of his ressurected body. Oh, you skeptics!

  20. Ragutis says

    Another thought, as alluded to above, shouldn’t the egg be forcibly harvested from the unwitting surrogate mother?

  21. KG says

    We’ll use frog DNA to fill in the gaps!

    A leap of faith, I’d say.

    PZ, did you notice the link sources the article to, which appears to be a spoof site?

  22. komarov says

    At least that should render the transubstantiation obsolete. God would approve, after centuries he must be tired of the constant miracle-work involved. Instead at the back of every tabernacle there’d be a small cloning vat constantly bringing forth the actual body and blood of Christ. Yum!

  23. says

    Everything was going so well, until they handed Kahless, err Jesus, a bat’leth, uh.. I mean, tried to have him curse a fig tree, and he just stood there looking constipated.

  24. DLC says

    Wait. . . these immortal Jesus cells . . . what if The Lord did have a Godly wank ? are there going to be sacred sperm rolling around somewhere, just waiting for some poor virgin girl to sit in some ?

  25. chrislawson says

    KG — I don’t think is a spoof site; it looks more like a news reposting site with an emphasis on the “stupidest, strangest” stories on the internet…which means some of their stories look fake but some look quite genuine (albeit often reported with zero critical analysis). Without digging further it’s hard to say if this story is completely fabricated, exaggerated in the retelling, or the actual thoughts of delusional people.

  26. chrislawson says

    Fortunately, there is to help do the digging…and they have labelled the story FALSE…but it didn’t originate with, they just reposted it.

  27. davidc1 says

    Yes ,yes ,but what will happen when the original JC turns up ,not going to be very pleased is he ?
    A gun fight at the holy Sepulchre no doubt.

  28. lumipuna says

    Wouldn’t some of the transubstantiated host from Catholic communion be a better source?

    I guess they want to bring back the accident of Jesus, not just his substance. It looks better in publicity photos.

    OTOH, if they’d just multiply bread, humanity wouldn’t need another Jesus.

  29. johnlee says

    The Catholic Church has just announced miracle number 70 at Lourdes. One Sister Bernadette has recovered from Sciatica, and the only possible explanation is the miraculous intervention of Our Lady of Lourdes. Praise be indeed! Take that, Atheists. Where’s your Dicky Dawkins now’ eh?

  30. imnotspecial says

    Suppose they succeeded. Wouldn’t it be fun he he turned out to be a raving socialist!

  31. blf says

    Since there are multiple foreskins and holy nails and nail holes, then why stop at one imaginary clone?


    On a slightly different note, is anyone uncomfortable with poopyhead calling the artist who created the shroud’s image a “fraud”? As far as I am aware, we don’t know who they are or why they created the image, or even if the artist intended the image to be Mr Carpenterson (albeit that does seem, given the time & place, plausible). Having said that (from Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge):

    [In 1390] Bishop Pierre d’Arcis wrote a memorandum to Antipope Clement VII, stating that the shroud was a forgery and that the artist had confessed.

    That certainly suggests the artist did intend a fraud (or was so comissioned), but the “justice” system at the time suggests some caution.

  32. bachfiend says

    If it’s a spoof, it should be true.

    I read a science fiction book ‘der Jesus-Deal’ by Andreas Eschbach in which a billionaire fundamentalist wanted to bring on the Second Coming by using a time machine to go back to the time of the crucifixion and rescuing Jesus from the cross.

    One of the signs of the Second Coming, apparently, is a perfect red cow that hasn’t yet calved. In the novel, the fundamentalist also set about creating the perfect red cow by using ‘science’, including cloning.

    I can never understand how the Shroud of Turin could ever have been considered to be authentic. Surely if it were authentic, someone would have had to decide it was worth preserving? If it displayed the miracle of the image of a person, wouldn’t it have been shown around to prove to disbelievers that the Resurrection occurred? Wouldn’t the existence of the miracle of the shroud be mentioned in the divinely inspired writings of the gospels, along with the story of Doubting Thomas?

  33. jrkrideau says

    @ 46 bachfiend
    There is a farmer in Nebraska working on developing a breed of red cattle as I type.

    Some Fundamentalist Christians believe that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ cannot occur until the Third Temple is constructed in Jerusalem, which requires the appearance of a red heifer born in Israel. Clyde Lott, a cattle breeder in O’Neill, Nebraska, is attempting to systematically breed red heifers and export them to Israel to establish a breeding line of red heifers in Israel in the hope that this will bring about the construction of the Third Temple and ultimately the Second Coming of Jesus.

  34. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Funny how an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and all powerful being needs assistance from humanity. Something is lacking if it needs such help. Maybe its existence…,.

  35. nomdeplume says

    This post shows, yet again, that there is no religious proposition so insane that it can be CONFIDENTLY labelled a fake news story (red cattle anyone?).

  36. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Cognitive dissonance
    Funny that “miracles” are by definition inexplicable through science and this is trying to use science to reproduce a miracle. Hmmm let’s think about that….

  37. davidc1 says

    @44 Good point ,he would make all the mega churches spend their cash doing good ,that goes for the big firm in Rome as well .
    In the end i think he will get nailed to a cross again ,by christians this time just to get rid of him.

  38. KG says

    On a slightly different note, is anyone uncomfortable with poopyhead calling the artist who created the shroud’s image a “fraud”? – blf@45

    No. Given that there was a full-scale medieval industry in faking relics, and that the “shroud” first surfaced being presented as a genuine relic, it’s a reasonable assumption. And this anonymous and dead person can’t be harmed by ithe assumption, if by some remote chance they were not intending to defraud.

  39. says

    gijoel “The resulting deluge will kill all of the Jesuses as he couldn’t really walk on water”
    Actually He could, at least before the crucifixion when those damned holes in His Feet put the kibosh on that little trick.

  40. Derek Vandivere says

    It doesn’t speak well of skeptics that nobody checked snopes until comment 35 or so…

  41. mamba says

    Even if they were to somehow magically succeed in cloning Jesus, by definition and their own definition of soul/spirit it isn’t going to contain Jesus’s SOUL, so therefore it won’t be Jesus.

    …it’ll be a genetic copy physically, but no spirit. a FAKE jesus if you will, with absolutely no context for anything they like about Jesus. God would have not sent his son again…you just made a lab human that looks like him. He;’ll have no jesus-like philosophy for you…the person that emerges will be a modern human mentally as you educate them and thus will be a modern human. He will have no insights into the afterlife or God becasue again, that’s not Jesus’s spirit/soul in the vessel. (unless they try and claim that they are STEALING Jesus from heaven upon the clone’s birth, but that’s messed up in it’s own right even by their standards).

    So even if they succeed, what’s the endgame? nothing proven, nothing accomplished, just one huge waste of everyone’s time.

  42. Ragutis says

    Wake up, sheeple! Snopes is run by the Illuminati!

    Look, this is a site mostly populated by skeptics. You can’t post crap like this here when we all know that the evidence clearly points to the lizard people.

  43. says

    It would be cool if cloning Jesus was something that could happen.

    “He’s not white!”
    “I know!”
    “What are we going to do?”
    “I don’t know!”
    “I just put a glass of water by him, and it’s still water!
    “I KNOW!”
    “Oh God! Gods? By Zeus’ beard, I don’t know what’s real anymore!”

  44. some bastard on the internet says

    imnotspecial #44

    Suppose they succeeded. Wouldn’t it be fun he he turned out to be a raving socialist!

    I think the jesusbots would be a lot more preoccupied with how he turned out so much darker than they were expecting!

  45. pita says

    It’s gotta work, there’s already a substantial scientific basis behind it. I mean, as you know, way way back in the 1980s, secret government employees dug up famous guys and ladies and made amusing genetic copies.