Medical Definition of Levite

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Levite: A member of an ancient caste of hereditary Jewish priests. Membership in the Levites is determined by paternal descent. The Levites have traditionally been considered the descendants of Levi, a son of Jacob. However, research has disclosed an unusual genetic signature called R1a1 on the Y chromosome in more than half of Levite males of Ashkenazi Jewish origin. (The Ashkenazi Jews, from whom most American Jews descend, are one of the two main branches of Jews.) The R1a1 signature on the Y chromosome in the Levites appears to have originated in Central Asia and is thought to have come from the Khazars, a Turkic tribe whose king converted to Judaism in the eighth or ninth century. Modern-day descendants of these converts make up a large proportion of the Ashkenazi Levites today.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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