In previous chapters, I showed that the vision given to Ezekiel also illustrated the formation of the early universe and its particles. Is it possible to find something similar for the blueprint found in DNA, the basis of life on Earth?
A skeptic could rightly argue that, if we are going to hunt for something that sounds like DNA in the Bible, we are likely to find it simply because of the size of the Bible, but it could just be coincidence.
This is a fair objection, so in order to reduce the probability of coincidence, we would need to find not just one, but several similarities to DNA, all within close proximity. Ideally, we would also want some other form of verification that the account is alluding to DNA, to demonstrate that we are not simply doing the equivalent of seeing faces in clouds.
A good place to start this search would be the account of what is often called “Jacob’s Ladder” in chapter 28 of Genesis. The description sounds quite similar to that of DNA, although I will readily concede for now that the similarity may be simple coincidence, and therefore by itself is not proof of anything.
In the account, Jacob was told by his father Isaac to go to Padan-Aram, and take a wife from the household of Laban, the son of Nahor. As he was heading towards a place called Haran, he found a location and set up stones as pillows to sleep.
While he was sleeping, “he dreamed, and look! a stairway was set up toward the earth, and its top touched toward the heavens; and look! messengers of God ascended and descended in it; and look! YHWH was stationed above it.” 1
We are told to “look!” three times, so let’s look closer. The Hebrew word usually translated “angel” actually means “messenger.” In this regard, the dream matches up with the description of the primary and secondary structures of DNA. The primary structure is its ladder-like shape, and the secondary structure is the series of base pairs that make up the rungs of the ladder and that contain the DNA “message.”
Just as the messengers ascend and descend, the two spines of the DNA double helix run in opposite directions, or “anti-parallel” as biologists call it. Curiously, while most English translations say the angels ascend and descend “on” the ladder, the Hebrew says “in” it, and this is also true of the base pairs.
While the similarities are intriguing, this by itself is certainly not proof that Jacob was dreaming about DNA. After all, we wanted to find something that resembled DNA, and DNA is often described as having a ladder-like structure, so Jacob’s Ladder was a natural place to start our search.
We would need to continue reading, to see if more features of DNA can be identified within close proximity. If not, all we can say is that Jacob’s dream might be about DNA, but the similarity could just be coincidence.
The account tells us that Jacob continued his journey, and came across a well in the field, with three droves of the flock lying there: “And he saw and look! a well in the field, and look! there were three droves of the flock reclining on it, because they gave the droves a drink from the well; and a great stone was over the mouth of the well. And all the droves were gathered there, and they rolled the stone from over the mouth of the well, and they gave the flock a drink, and they returned the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.” 2
As we learn shortly after, the account seems to be talking about the men from Haran and how they looked after the flocks. Jacob told them to give the flock a drink and to feed them, but the men replied: “We can’t, until all of the droves are gathered, and they roll the stone from over the mouth of the well, and we give the flock a drink.” 3
It’s tempting to say that the three droves make a good analogy for the DNA stored in the nucleus of a cell. It contains the blueprint for building proteins, in sets of three bases called “codons.” But just like the three droves, the DNA blueprint can’t do much by itself. It requires a molecular machine called “RNA polymerase” to roll over it, unzip it, and create an mRNA strand. Only then can the codons in the mRNA strand be converted into proteins that feed and water the body.
Just in case we wanted to use this story as an analogy, the droves could represent the DNA blueprint. The well could represent the nucleus, or the cell itself. The stone could represent the RNA polymerase machine. The men of Haran would represent mRNA.
At this point, I accept that such an analogy would seem like a major stretch. After all, it’s just a story about sheep and shepherds. That the name “Haran” contains an anagram of RNA is presumably just a coincidence. However, the next stage of Jacob’s life is very interesting, and gives us the first major clue that perhaps his life after the dream of the ladder was intended to be an analogy for DNA after all.
1 Genesis 28:12,13. 2 Genesis 29:2,3. 3 Genesis 29:8.