Jesus and the Mystery of the Third Cousin, Twice Removed

Jesus and John the Baptist were related through their mothers. What was the exact relationship between them all? Good question. More on that later.

First, let’s note that yesterday was Cousins Day (a holiday celebrated every July 24, apparently). Happy day to all my first, second, third and so on cousins, and to those who have been removed. But just what is a third cousin, and why would you ever remove one?

When cousins are from the same generation, they are known as first, second or third cousins. … On the other hand, when two people are not from the same generation, their relationship is described by adding the word removed. (Fun Holiday.)

For those still wondering what on earth third cousin twice removed means, here’s a chart I made. (It will come in handy when you get to Jesus and John a little further on.)


Here’s a PDF version

The chart shows how your relatives are related to you (you’ll find yourself halfway down the left-hand column). First cousins are relatives who each go up one generation to find siblings. Second cousins are those who each go up two generations to find siblings, third cousins go up three generations, and so on. The items outside the parentheses show the person’s relationship to you, while the items in parentheses show the relationship from one group to the group immediately to the right. You can ignore all these parenthetical items if you don’t care how those other people are all related to one another.

Here are a couple of examples to show how to use the chart as a tool for determining cousin and removal numbers.

Example A – Cousins: Find 3C on the chart. You and your relative each count up three generations to the siblings – your great-grand parents’ and great-grand aunt’s or uncle’s generation. You and your relative are third cousins.

If cousins do not go up an equal number of generations to find siblings, there is a removal. The way to determine removals is count the generations up for each person to find siblings; the lower number is the degree of cousins, and the difference between the two numbers is the removal.

Example B – Removed Cousins: Find 3C2R two steps down from 3C. You again count up three generations to the siblings, but your relative 3C2R counts up five to get to the same generation of siblings. You are third cousins based on you getting to the sibling generation in only three steps, but twice removed because there is a two generation difference for your relative to get to the siblings. (Your third cousin twice removed is also the grandchild of your third cousin from Example A.)

Bible Cousins

Luke 1:36 says that Mary and Elizabeth are related. That might mean they are first cousins or it might mean they are relatives of some other connection. Let’s assume for a moment they are first cousins.

That means that Jesus and Elizabeth are first cousins once removed as to each other, and the same for Mary and John. Using the chart above, can you then determine what the relationship between Jesus and John would be?

A fabulously illusory and nonexistent prize* will be awarded for every correct answer!


*Not only is the prize illusory and nonexistent, but it’s valueless as well!


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6 Responses to Jesus and the Mystery of the Third Cousin, Twice Removed

  1. I think they’re 2nd cousins. But my brain hurts from trying to figure it out (IT’S MONDAY, TIM, YOU MONSTER!) so please don’t quote me. 🙂

  2. Rachel Eggleston says:

    I am from a family that celebrates “double cousins”! My father and his brother married my mother and her sister. Where does that fit into the chart??? Tee Hee

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