“Bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests.” (Exodus 28:1)
The Cohen line is patrilineal — that is, it has been passed down from father to son over the last 3,300 years.
One can trace their priestly lineage through family trees, oral traditions, and possessing a common priestly surname, such as the obvious Cohen as well as Kahn and Katz, which stands for Kohen Tzedek (Righteous Priest).
Since AD 1000 when the Jews separated into Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities, Cohanim have adopted a myriad of skin color, eye color, and hair color.
Nevertheless, one Israeli scientist, Dr. Karl Skorecki, a Cohen of Eastern European parents hypothesized that if Cohanim are descendants of one man (Aaron) there should be a common set of genetic markers, a common haplotype that is shared by all male ancestors dating back to Aaron HaCohen.
Working with Prof. Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona, a pioneer in Y chromosome research, Dr. Skorecki conducted the first study to test his hypothesis that Cohanim have more specific common genetic markers than the Jewish population in general. The results of this first study were published in the British science journal, Nature.
Of the 106 men who identified themselves as Cohen before the study, 97 of them had six of the same chromosomal markers.
This collection of markers has come to be known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), and now serves as the standard genetic signature for helping to determine who is a member of the Jewish priestly family.
While the chance of such markers occurring randomly is greater than one in 10,000, merely possessing the CMH haplotype does not certify a man for Temple Service.
This is because tribal identity is derived through one’s father but Jewishness is derived through one’s mother.
If a Cohen’s mother is not Jewish, his status as a priest is stripped. Converting to Judaism does not make him eligible either. (chabad)
Markers have been identified for non-priestly Levites as well; they can also be pointed out through such surnames as Levy, Levin, or even Lewis.
More than identifying who can serve as a Cohen and Levite in a Third Temple, the genetic markers of the Cohanim are helping scientists hunt for Jewish genes and dispel myths throughout the world as to who is or is not Jewish by descent, especially in relation to the lost tribes.
Discovering Our High Priest: Yeshua HaMashiach
“Since we have a great Kohen Gadol [High Priest] who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua Ben-Elohim (Jesus, Son of God), let us hold firmly to our confessed allegiance. For we do not have a kohen gadol who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all the same ways—yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14–15)
We learn in Scripture that Yeshua (Jesus) is our Cohen Gadol in the order of Melchizedek in that He served the Most High God even before Abraham was called to become the Father of a chosen people (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 2:17, 6:20; John 8:58).
Yet, Yeshua is also our Cohen Gadol in the order of the Levitical priests in that He came to offer the final sacrifice and make atonement for all who believe (Isaiah 53; Hebrews 2:17).
Moreover, as we look toward His return during the Messianic reign to come, we see that Yeshua also fulfills the role of Jewish priests who were known for honoring God with zealousness.
While exempted from army service, an honored position in the Cohanim was the “Cohen anointed for War,” who spiritually prepared soldiers for battle.
Moreover, it was the Levites who physically avenged God’s honor when the Israelites worshipped a Golden calf instead of the God of Israel (Exodus 32:25–28).
Centuries later, the priestly family of the Hashmonaim, known as the Maccabees, led the revolt against the foreign pagan influences and rededicated the Holy Temple for service unto the Lord, an event marked by the holiday of Hanukkah.
The Book of Revelation (19:11–13) describes this warrior priest who will judge the nations:
“There before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. … He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:11–13)
Similarly, the Prophet Zechariah (14:1–21) describes how Yeshua will fight for the Jewish people upon His return to the Mount of Olives.
Zechariah 14:16 tells us that during the millennial reign, “the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.”
Will the Cohen being trained today serve the Lord as the people worship the King and Lord Almighty on His throne?
Will they serve in the Temple that the Prophet Ezekiel describes in the last four chapters of his book?
Will they serve in the Temple whose blueprints are being prepared today?
What we do know is that the Lord is fulfilling all of His promises to the Cohen, to the Levites, to the Jews, and to all who Believe in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
And now, those who Believe in Him are priests as well, anointed to teach God’s word and be ministers of reconciliation between an unbelieving generation and the Most High God.
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
As the Lord moves the hearts of His people to draw close to Him and return to their Promised Land in these Last Days, let us keep prayerful watch and prepare our own hearts and souls for the return of the true Messiah and the Temple from which He will reign.