The Lost Tomb of Jesus

The Lost Tomb of Jesus


In "The Jesus Family Tomb", Simcha Jacobovici claims the James Ossuary would have been a part of this tomb, but was removed by artifact dealers, and thus discovered separately. [ Lost Tomb of Jesus : Explore the Tomb : Discovery Channel ] ] The James Ossuary's authenticity has been called into question, and one of its past owners has been charged with fraud in connection to the artifact.

Ben Witherington III, who worked with Jacobovici on a Discovery Channel documentary on the James Ossuary, denies this connection on two grounds:
*"The James ossuary, according to the report of the antiquities dealer that Oded Golan got the ossuary from, said that the ossuary came from Silwan, not Talpiot, and had dirt in it that matched up with the soil in that particular spot in Jerusalem."
*"Furthermore, Eusebius reports that the tomb marker for James's burial was close to where James was martyred near the temple mount, indeed near the famous tombs in the Kidron Valley such as the so-called Tomb of Absalom. Talpiot is nowhere near this locale."

Another consideration was that the measurements of the James Ossuary did not match the measurements listed for the tenth ossuary, which is no longer stored with the rest of the collection. The James Ossuary was listed as being approximately 50 centimeters long by 30 centimeters wide on one end, and 25.5 centimeters on the other end. [ [ Official report on the James Ossuary by Dr. Rochelle I. Altman ] ] The tenth ossuary in the Talpiot collection is listed as 60 centimeters long by 26 centimeters by 30 centimeters. [ [ Book Review: James Tabor’s "The Jesus Dynasty" by Jack Poirier - ] ] Furthermore, Amos Kloner has stated that the tenth ossuary had no inscription. And Joe Zias, former curator of the Rockefeller Museum who received and catalogued the ossuaries, has also refuted this claim on his personal site.

New information has now shown that the discrepancy in the measurements had to do with measuring the base of the ossuary, which is indeed 50 centimeters, rather than the length. The top length of the James ossuary, not the base, which is trapezoid in shape, according to the latest remeasurement carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority, is 57.5 centimeters. However, this does not in any way prove that the James ossuary is the missing tenth Talpiot ossuary. [ [] ]

tatistical report

A central question has regarded the probability that a tomb might contain the specific group of names as the Talpiot Tomb. Experts such as Richard Bauckham,cite web |url= |title= Hollywood Hype: The Oscars and Jesus' Family Tomb, What Do They Share? (expanded version) |date=2007-02-26 |accessdate=2007-02-28] David Mavorahcite web |url=,,2022252,00.html |title=Is this really the last resting place of Jesus, Mary Magdalene—and their son? |last=Pilkington |first=Ed |coauthors=McCarthy, Rory |publisher="The Guardian" |date=2007-02-27 |accessdate=2007-02-28] and Amos Kloner have asserted the commonness of archaeological inscriptions bearing the name "Jesus." Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, notes that there were at least 21 "Yeshuas" or Jesuses famous enough to be included in the histories of Josephus.cite web |url= |title=Documentary examines supposed remains of Jesus and his family |last=Goodstein |first=Laurie |publisher="International Herald Tribune"|date=2007-02-28 |accessdate=2007-03-01] For their part, the filmmakers present a statistical study conducted by Andrey Feuerverger, professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto, which concluded that while the names are not uncommon, the conservative odds that such names would be found together in any one tomb around are (depending on variables) from 600 to 1 to a million to 1 in favor of it being authentic. cite web |url= |title=Documentary examines supposed remains of Jesus |last=Goodstein |first=Laurie |publisher="International Herald Tribune" |date=2007-02-28 |accessdate=2007-03-01]

However, Dr. Feuerverger later said, "It is not in the purview of statistics to conclude whether or not this tombsite is that of the New Testament family. Any such conclusion much more rightfully belongs to the purview of biblical historical scholars who are in a much better position to assess the assumptions entering into the computations. The role of statistics here is primarily to attempt to assess the odds of an equally (or more) 'compelling' cluster of names arising purely by chance under certain random sampling assumptions and under certain historical assumptions. In this respect I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family." [ [] ] Dr. Feuerverger's assessment was based on several assumptions:

*that the Maria on one of the ossuaries is the mother of the Jesus found on another box,
*that Mariamne is his wife
*that Joseph (inscribed as the nickname Jose) is his brother

Support for these assumptions comes, according to the documentary, from the following claims:cite web |url= |title=Jesus tomb claim sparks furor |last=Laidlaw |first=Stuart |publisher=Toronto Star |date=2007-02-26 |accessdate=2007-02-28]

*Mariamne is the Greek form of Mary.
*Mary Magdelene is believed to have spoken and preached in Greek.
*Jose was the nickname used for Jesus' little brother.
*The Talpiot Tomb is the only place where ossuaries have ever been found with the names Mariamne and Jose, even though the root forms of the name were very popular and thousands of ossuaries have been unearthed.

Further information regarding the methodology of this study is due to be published soon. [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] [Annals of Applied Statistics, February 2008.] Fact|date=February 2008

On February 25, 2007, Andrey Feuerverger, professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto conducted a statistical calculation on the name cluster as part of "The Lost Tomb of Jesus". He concluded that the odds are at least 600 to 1 that the combination of names appeared in the tomb by chance. The methodology of this study has been submitted to a journal, but in the meantime a summary can be found on the Discovery Channel and documentary [ [ The Jesus Family Tomb: Probability & the "Jesus Equation" ] ] websites. A more detailed explanation of the statistical approach can be found also on Prof. Andrey Feuerverger's website] as well as in a recent interview given to Scientific American. [ [ Q&A With the Statistician Who Calculated the Odds That This Tomb Belonged to Jesus: Scientific American ] ] The frequency distribution for names prevalent during theperiod of time during which ossuary burials took place was inferred by studying two key sources:
* Rahmani's Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. [L. Rahmani, A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel, (IAA/Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994)]
* Tal Ilan's Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity. [ Ilan, Tal. 2002. LEXICON OF JEWISH NAMES IN LATE ANTIQUITY: PART I, PALESTINE 330 BCE-200 CE. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.] According to Prof. Feuerverger, the goal of the statistical analysis is to assess the probability level of a null hypothesis, I quote:

"A 'null hypothesis' can be thought of here as asserting that this cluster of names arose purely by chance under random sampling from the onomasticon. The alternative hypothesis is the opposite of this, in some sense. It is not in the purview of statistics to conclude whether or not this tombsite is that of the New Testament family."

Feuerverger multiplied the instances that each name appeared during the tomb's time period with the instances of every other name. He initially found "Jesus Son of Joseph" appeared once out of 190 times, Mariamne appeared once out of 160 times and so on:

Colin Aitken, a professor of forensic statistics at Edinburgh University, stated that the study is based on a number of assumptions, and that, "even if we accept the assumptions, 600 to one is certainly not the odds in favour of this tomb being Jesus." [ [] ] meaning that even if it were true that to find this cluster of names is very unlikely it does not follow that therefore this is probably the tomb of the family of Jesus. According to the Discovery Channel documentary Feuerverger's statistical model concludes that there is only a 1/600 chance that the Talpiot tomb is not the Jesus family tomb if Mariamne can be linked to Mary Magdalene. In his personal website Feuerverger has distanced himself from this claim, explaining: "I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family." [cite web|url= | title=Dear Statistical Colleagues | work=personal website | author = Andrey Feuerverger | date=2007-03-04 | accessdate=2007-03-07] Also, the Discovery Channel website has removed all previous associations of Feuerverger's name with the 1/600 estimate of the Talpiot tomb not belonging to Jesus family.

DNA tests

Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (a tool for tracking matrilineage) performed by Lakehead University on the remains found in the ossuary marked "Jesus son of Joseph" and the one marked "Mariamne," or "Mary" (who some claim to be Mary Magdalene) found that the two occupants were not blood relations on their mothers' side. Based on these tests, the makers of the documentary suggest that "Jesus" and "Mariamne" were probably married "because otherwise they would not have been buried together in a family tomb," but the remains were not dated using radiocarbon to further sustain this supposition, neither was any announced DNA testing done on the others ossuaries to see if any familial relation existed there. Additionally, scholars argue the DNA tests only prove that they didn't have the same mother and they could easily have been father/daughter, cousins, half brother/sister, or any number of possibilities that do not include a matrilineage line. [ [ Society of Biblical Literature ] ]

"The Lost Tomb of Jesus—A Critical Look"

Following the March 4, 2007 airing of "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" on the Discovery Channel, American journalist Ted Koppel aired a program entitled "The Lost Tomb of Jesus—A Critical Look", whose guests included the director Simcha Jacobovici, James Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who served as a consultant and advisor on the documentary, Jonathan Reed, Professor of Religion at the University of LaVerne and co-author of "Excavating Jesus Beneath the Stones, Behind the Text," and William Dever, an archaeologist with over 50 years experience in Middle Eastern archaeological digs.

"The Washington Post" in an article of 2/28/07 [Cooperman, Alan, "Jesus tomb claim denounced [] ] cites Dever as being "widely considered the dean of biblical archaeology among U.S. scholars" and quotes him as saying, "I just think it's a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated" and "all of the names [contained in the tomb] are common."

Alan Cooperman, writer of "The Washington Post" article also states this: "Similar assessments came yesterday from two Israeli scholars, Amos Kloner, who originally excavated the tomb, and Joe Zias, former curator of archaeology at the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Kloner told the Jerusalem Post that the documentary is "nonsense." Zias described it in an e-mail to "The Washington Post" as a "hyped up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest."

Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner, who was among the first to examine the tomb when it was first discovered, said the names marked on the coffins were very common at the time."I don't accept the news that it was used by Jesus or his family," and "The documentary filmmakers are using it to sell their film." he told the BBC News website. ["Jesus tomb found, says film-maker" [] ]

During the documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus", various professionals had claimed:

# concerning the ossuaries marked Yeshua` ("Jesus") and the one believed to be that of Mary Magdalene: because "the DNA did not match, the forensic archaeologist concluded that they must be husband and wife";
# that testing showed that there was a match between the patina on the James and Yeshua` ossuaries and referred to the James ossuary as the "missing link" from the tomb of Yeshua` (Jesus);
# and that an ossuary that became missing from the tomb of Yeshua` had actually been the infamous James ossuary believed to contain the remains of the brother of Yeshua`.

During Ted Koppel's critique, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus—a Critical Look", Koppel revealed he had denials from these three people Simcha Jacobovici had misquoted in the documentary.

# Koppel had a written denial from the forensic archaeologist asserting that he had NOT concluded that the remains of Yeshua` and Miriamne showed they were husband and wife. In fact, he had logically stated, "you cannot genetically test for marriage."
# Koppel had a written denial from the Suffolk Crime Lab Director (Robert Genna) asserting that he had NOT stated the James ossuary patina matched that of the Yeshua` ossuary. He denied ever saying they were a match, and said he'd have to do much more comparison testing of other tombs before he could draw any conclusions. [Quarles, Charles "Buried Hope or Risen Savior" B&H Publishing Group, 2008 ISBN 9780805447170 p17 [] ]
# Koppel had a verbal denial from Professor Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who had supervised the initial 1980 dig of the tomb of Yeshua`, with whom he spoke on 3/4/07, asserting that the ossuary that later turned up missing from the alleged Tomb of 'Jesus' could not have been what is now known as the James ossuary. In fact he indicated there was evidence that it was not the same by saying that the now missing ossuary he had seen and photographed and catalogued in 1980 had been totally unmarked, whereas the James ossuary is marked with the name of James and a rosette.

The archaeologist William Dever summed it up when he stated on Koppel's critical analysis, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus—A Critical Look", that Jacobovici's and Cameron's "conclusions were already drawn in the beginning" of the inquiry and that their "argument goes far beyond any reasonable interpretation." [Quarles, Charles "Buried Hope or Risen Savior" B&H Publishing Group, 2008 ISBN 9780805447170 p.16 [] ]

Theological implications

Although the film's premise questions theological renderings of the Bible's account of Jesus' resurrection and ascension (which are central tenets of Christianity, affirmed also in the Nicene Creed), the filmmakers exclusively reject this claim. [cite web |url=|title=Jesus tomb found, says film-maker|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2007-03-05] . [cite web |url=|title=Theological Considerations—The Resurrection||accessdate=2007-03-05] Speaking at the news conference held at the New York Public Library, film's religious consultant James Tabor stated that the fact that Jesus' tomb was discovered does not put in doubt biblical accounts of his resurrection, which he said could have actually been spiritual. [cite web
title=Documentary Shows Possible Jesus Tomb
publisher=ABC News

With regards to the ascension, however, the documentary's website suggests that while the tomb's discovery does not render impossible the notion of a spiritual ascension, it does do so for those who believe that Jesus physically ascended to heaven. [cite web |url= |title=Proviso | |accessdate=2007-02-28]

Michael Licona (Co-author of "The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus") in an interview with Lee Stroebel for his book, "The Case for the Real Jesus" speaks on the empty tomb. He points out that most scholars support the empty tomb theory on the basis that "it would have been impossible for Christianity to get off the ground in Jerusalem if Jesus' body was still in the tomb. The Roman or Jewish authorities could have simply gone over to the tomb, viewed the corpse and the misunderstanding would have been over." Instead we have Peter within a couple weeks of the crucifixtion attesting to a risen Christ and the enemies of Christianity saying the apostles stole it. These same apostles then went to their deaths attesting to a risen Christ and unbelievers such as St. Paul and James (Jesus' own brother) become Christians.Fact|date=May 2008

Later in an interview, [cite web|url=|title=Simcha Jacobovici: "Da Vinci Code" is fiction, my Jesus movie is science||accessdate=2007-03-05] Simcha Jacobovici said that the film can be seen as a proof for those who question Jesus' existence, and stressed on the idea the film being about science, truth and facts. But it's worth mentioning that only the few lines of theological considerations drawn on the film's website [] , (resurrecting from a second tomb after being moved or the spiritual only ascent to Heaven) are directly contradicting the majority of Christian views, which make this confirmation of Jesus historicity at least of no use [cite web|url=|title=Ignore film on Jesus' tomb, Jerusalem Catholic bishop says|publisher=Catholic Online|accessdate=2004-03-10] from this perspective, if not tearing apart ["If the claims of the documentary prove to be true, the faith of millions could be torn apart," Terry Edwards, professor of Bible and Humanities at Freed-Hardeman University—cite web|url=|title=Holy site or hoax? Documentary claims to find Jesus' tomb|publisher=The Jackson Sun|accessdate=2007-03-10] the belief.

Asked what he believes about the resemblance with "The Da Vinci Code", executive producer James Cameron said [cite web|url=|title=Cameron: Jesus tomb film is a 'detective story'|accessdate=2007-03-10|publisher=MSNBC] he looked "at it as paving the way for some of these ideas that some people may consider to be quite radical, but were rather well researched in that movie" and, although the documentary team was working for a year when it was released, they decided to wait for another year "to let these ideas marinate."

Contradictions with Christian views

The film proposes new interpretations of the events regarding Jesus depicted in the New Testament, as seen by mainstream Christianity. The film's suggestions contradictcite web
title=Jesus tomb discovery 'nonsense'
publisher=The Catholic Register
] the basis of the faith in the majority's view, ["The identification of the Talpiot tomb as the tomb of Jesus and his family contradicts the canonical Gospel accounts of the death and burial of Jesus and the earliest Christian traditions about Jesus."—cite web
title=Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?
publisher=Biblical Archaeology Society
] if considering only Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy by number of members (other denominations' teachings being contradicted at least partially), and may be considered blasphemies [For another definition of the word, see [ blasphemies] at the Catholic Encyclopedia] ["For some Christians that [Jesus bones in an ossuary] would be heresy and blasphemy and wrong, and for others I don't think it's going to be a big shock. They have a faith that doesn't necessarily depend on that."—Roy Fuller, Indiana University Southeast—cite web
title='Lost Tomb of Jesus' is old news, scholars say
publisher=The Courier-Journal|accessdate=2007-03-09
] ["To say that the Holy Sepulchre is not holy and that East Talpiot, a mundane south Jerusalem neighborhood, was the final resting place of Jesus' remains is nothing short of blasphemy and a complete rejection of the foundations of Christian faith, according to church traditionalists."—cite web
publisher=The Jerusallem Post
title=Analysis: Christian heresy of the Talpiot tomb?
] by the Church:
* Jesus remains found (see Death and resurrection of Jesus, Nicene Creed)
** Presumably only spiritual ascension, not a bodily ascension (see Hypostatic union, resurrecting Lazarus)
***Chapter 24 of the Gospel according to Luke explicitly shows he was bodily resurrected [ [;&version=31; - Passage Lookup: Luke 24 ] ]
* Mary remains found (see Assumption of Mary, Dormition of the Theotokos)
* Jesus being married (see Clerical celibacy (Catholic Church))
* Jesus having a child (see Clerical celibacy (Catholic Church))
* Jesus having brothers and/or sisters (see the discussion about Jesus' siblings)
** Presumably Mary not being virgin (see the perpetual virginity of Mary)
*New tomb of Jesus (see Church of the Holy Sepulchre)
** Presumably Jesus body being moved (see Empty tomb)
*Ordaining women (see Apostolic Succession, Ordination, Ordination of women)
* Appeal to sources not included in the Biblical canon, of Gnostic origin, such as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene or Acts of Philip, considered by scholars to be written later (see Origin of the canonical Gospels, dating of canonical Gospels, New Testament apocrypha)

The claim that Jesus was married also undermines the theological metaphor of the Church being the "Bride of Christ" (found in the writings of the New Testament). Jimmy Akin, director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers, wrote: "This image would never have arisen if there was a Mrs. Jesus living right there in Jerusalem…. We know about [the wives of religion founders] because they were honored figures as wives of The Founder, and if Jesus had a wife then (a) we would know about it and (b) the whole Church-as-the-Bride-of-Christ metaphor would never have come into existence." As for a possible "son of Jesus," he noted: "We tend to know about even the daughters of religious founders. Muhammad's daughter Fatima comes to mind. It would be much harder to sneak a forgotten son by the eyes of history…. It's not just hard to sneak sons past because patriarchal cultures focus more on sons; it's also because of this: In traditional societies, the son is looked on as the father's natural successor." [Jimmy Akin, "The Tomb of Jesus Nonsense" [] ]

Conforming with Islamic views

Finding someone's remains in Jesus' tomb conforms the Muslim belief that a substitute for him was crucified, while he was raised bodily to heaven. The Islamic view of his disappearance, as mentioned in the Qur'an, states: "That they said (in boast), "We killed Al-Masih 'Isa the son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah"; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them" [ [ ÇáÊÑÌãÉ ] ] . The general Muslim interpretation of the verse is that God, to revenge from Judas' betrayal to Jesus (the fatherless prophet), made his face similar to that of Jesus, while Jesus ascended into heaven and is to return near the end of time and kill the anti-Christ. Accordingly, the discovered remains in his tomb would then actually belong to Judas, a Roman guard, or a volunteering disciple. [] [] [] [] []

Archaeological Questions

The Three Skulls

Three skulls were found on the floor of the tomb in 1980 which the film makers assert was unusual but others disagree. "- "This too was decidedly not typical. In ancient Jerusalem, the dead were placed inside tombs; in tombs, the dead were placed inside ossuaries. If anything was left behind, it was a lamp or a bottle of perfume—not skulls.?" [cite web|title=Official site quotation about the skulls."|url=
] [cite web| "Inside, they found 10 ossuaries and three skulls."|url=|format=HTML]

Criticism of the documentary

Early Christianity scholar R. Joseph Hoffmann, chair of the skeptically minded Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, says the film alerts the public to the fact that there are no secure conclusions when it comes to the foundational history of a religious tradition. But he charges that the film "is all about bad assumptions," beginning with the assumption that the boxes contain Jesus of Nazareth and his family. From his view as an historian specializing in the social history of earliest Christianity, he found it "amazing how evidence falls into place when you begin with the conclusion—and a hammer." ["Who is Entombed in the 'Jesus Tomb'?" "U.S. News," March 12, 2007, p. 34-35]

When interviewed about the upcoming documentary, Amos Kloner, who oversaw the original archaeological dig of this tomb in 1980 said::"It makes a great story for a TV film, but it's completely impossible. It's nonsense." [cite web |url= |last=Bozell |first=Brent |title=What Bones of Jesus? | |date=2007-02-28 |accessdate=2007-02-28]

"Newsweek" reports that the archaeologist who personally numbered the ossuaries dismissed any potential connection::"Simcha has no credibility whatsoever," says Joe Zias, who was the curator for anthropology and archeology at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem from 1972 to 1997 and personally numbered the Talpiot ossuaries. "He's pimping off the Bible … He got this guy Cameron, who made 'Titanic' or something like that—what does this guy know about archeology? I am an archeologist, but if I were to write a book about brain surgery, you would say, 'Who is this guy?' People want signs and wonders. Projects like these make a mockery of the archeological profession." [ [ Have Researchers Found Jesus Christ's Tomb? - Newsweek Beliefs - ] ]

The aforementioned Joe Zias has published in his own site a "viewers' guide" to the Talpiot Tomb documentary, in which he systematically rebuts the film's argumentation and gives much background information about the people involved in it.cite web|url= | title=Viewers Guide to Understanding the Talpiot Tomb 'documentary' | work=personal website | author = Joe Zias | date=2007-03-05 | accessdate=2007-03-06]

Stephen Pfann, president of Jerusalem's University of the Holy Land and an expert in Semitic languages, who was interviewed in the documentary, also said the film's hypothesis holds little weight:

:"How possible is it?" Pfann said. "On a scale of one through 10—10 being completely possible—it's probably a one, maybe a one and a half." [ [ Scholars Criticize New Jesus Documentary ] ]

Pfann also thinks the inscription read as "Jesus" has been misread and suggests that the name "Hanun" might be a more accurate rendering. [cite web |url= |last=Matthews |first=Karen |title=Jesus tomb claim derided
publisher=Winnipeg Free Press |date=2007-02-27 |accessdate=2007-02-27

"The Washington Post" reports that William G. Dever (mentioned above as excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years) offered the following::"I've known about these ossuaries for many years and so have many other archaeologists, and none of us thought it was much of a story, because these are rather common Jewish names from that period. It's a publicity stunt, and it will make these guys very rich, and it will upset millions of innocent people because they don't know enough to separate fact from fiction."

Asbury Theological Seminary's Ben Witherington III points out some other circumstantial problems with linking this tomb to Christ:
* "So far as we can tell, the earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus 'son of Joseph'. It was outsiders who mistakenly called him that."
* "The ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he [Joseph] was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would he be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem?"
* "One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married."
* "The Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary—and that's about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names."
* "We have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don't match up with the list of [Jesus's] brothers' names."

The Archaeological Institute of America, self-described on their website as "North America's oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archeology," has published online their own criticism of the "Jesus tomb" claim:

"The identification of the Talpiyot tomb as the tomb of Jesus and his family is based on a string of problematic and unsubstantiated claims [...] [It] contradicts the canonical Gospel accounts of the death and burial of Jesus and the earliest Christian traditions about Jesus. This claim is also inconsistent with all of the available information—historical and archaeological—about how Jews in the time of Jesus buried their dead, and specifically the evidence we have about poor, non-Judean families like that of Jesus. It is a sensationalistic claim without any scientific basis or support." [ [ AIA News - Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered? ] ]

DNA and family evidence

Dr. Darrel L. Bock, a New Testament scholar and research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary points out some of the inconsistencies, including: "If Jesus' family came from Galilee, why would they have a family tomb in Jerusalem?" [cite web |url= |title=No Need to Yell, Only a Challenge for Some who Need to Step Up and Could (expanded) |date=2007-02-27 |accessdate=2007-02-28]

Dr. Ben Witherington III points out an inconsistency related to the James Ossuary: He points out that the James Ossuary came from Silwan, not Talpiot. In addition, the James Ossuary had dirt on it that "matched up with the soil in that particular spot in Jerusalem." In his opinion, this is problematic, because "the ossuaries that came out of Talpiot came out of a rock cave from a different place, and without such soil in it." Therefore, he believes that it is difficult to believe that the one known family member of Jesus was buried separately and far away from Jesus' family.

In addition, during the trial of antiquities dealer Oded Golan there has been testimony from former FBI agent Gerald Richard that a photo of the James ossuary, showing it in Golan's home, was taken in the 1970s, based on tests done by the FBI photo lab. This would make it impossible for the James Ossuary to have been discovered with the rest of the Talpiot ossuaries in the 1980s.

With reference to the DNA tests, Witherington wrote in his blog: " [T] he most the DNA evidence can show is that several of these folks are interrelated…. We would need an independent control sample from some member of Jesus' family to confirm that these were members of Jesus' family. We do not have that at all." This quote clarifies the fact that the documentarians do not believe they have tested the DNA and have proven it to be Jesus. They simply used DNA testing to prove that the "Jesus son of Joseph" and the "Mariamne" in this tomb were not maternally related (i.e. that they did not have the same mother or grandmother). The film asserted that this DNA evidence suggests they were probably spouses. Critics contend they could have been paternally related (e.g. father and daughter, or grandfather and granddaughter), or related by someone else's marriage. Mariamne could just as well have been the wife of one of the other two males in the ossuary.

"The New York Times" article of February 27 ( [ reprinted in full on many websites)] states:

The documentary's director and its driving force, Simcha Jacobovici…, said there was enough mitochondrial DNA for a laboratory in Ontario to conclude that the bodies in the "Jesus" and "Mary Magdalene" ossuaries were not related on their mothers' side. From this, Mr. Jacobovici deduced that they were a couple, because otherwise they would not have been buried together in a family tomb. In an interview, Mr. Jacobovici was asked why the filmmakers did not conduct DNA testing on the other ossuaries to determine whether the one inscribed Judah, son of Jesus was genetically related to either the Jesus or Mary Magdalene boxes; or whether the Jesus remains were actually the offspring of Mary. "We're not scientists. At the end of the day we can't wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA," he said. "We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, I've done my job as a journalist."

In the televised debate following the airing of the film, Ted Koppel pressed Jacobovici on the same question and received the same response. According to the authors of one [ blog] , "the response is manifestly disingenuous. The question, in fact, necessarily arises whether the team or one of its members decided not to proceed with any further DNA tests. Such tests may have revealed that none of the ossuaries are related—hence defeating the underlying presupposition that the crypt was in fact a family tomb, and thereby eliminating any valid basis at all for producing and showing the film."

William G. Dever said that some of the inscriptions on the ossuaries are unclear, but that all of the names are common. "I've known about these ossuaries for many years and so have many other archaeologists, and none of us thought it was much of a story because these are rather common Jewish names from that period. It's a publicity stunt, and it will make these guys very rich, and it will upset millions of innocent people because they don't know enough to separate fact from fiction."

Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, notes that at the time of Jesus, wealthy families buried their dead in tombs cut by hand from solid rock, putting the bones in niches in the walls and then, later, transferring them to ossuaries. "If Jesus' family had been wealthy enough to afford a rock-cut tomb, it would have been in Nazareth, not Jerusalem," Magness writes.

According to Magness, the names on the Talpiot ossuaries indicate that the tomb belonged to a family from Judea, the area around Jerusalem, where people were known by their first name and father's name. As Galileans, Jesus and his family members would have used their first name and hometown. "This whole case (for the tomb of Jesus) is flawed from beginning to end."

There is no information on analyzing relation of "Mary" and "Jesus son of Joseph" or any other tomb occupants. In Jewish tradition after one year, when bodies in rock-cut tombs were decomposed, bones were collected, cleaned and then finally placed in an ossuary. Due to this conduct there is no real assurance that what scientists have really examined are remnants of "Mariamne e Mara" and "Jesus son of Joseph."

Interpretation of the inscriptions

David Mavorah, a curator of the Israel museum in Jerusalem, points out that the names on the ossuaries were extremely common. "We know that Joseph, Jesus and Mariamne were all among the most common names of the period. To start with all these names being together in a single tomb and leap from there to say this is the tomb of Jesus is a little far-fetched, to put it politely." David Mavorah is an expert of Israeli Antiquity, and (presumably) not an expert of statistics. However, Dr. Andrey Feuerverger, the statistician cited by the makers of the documentary, has said that determination of the identity of those in the tomb was the purview of biblical historians, and not statisticians. For another interpretation of the statistics see the statistics section above.

Professor Amos Kloner, former Jerusalem district archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the first archaeologist to examine the tomb in 1980, [cite web |url= |title=Clergy, scholars assail tomb of Jesus film |publisher=The Courier-Journal |date=2007-02-27 |accessdate=2007-02-27] told the "Yedioth Ahronoth" newspaper that the name Jesus had been found 71 times in burial caves at around that time. Furthermore, he said that the inscription on the ossuary is not clear enough to ascertain, and although the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards it makes for profitable television. Quote: "The new evidence is not serious, and I do not accept that it is connected to the family of Jesus…. They just want to get money for it."

Dr. Richard Bauckham, professor at the University of St Andrews, catalogued ossuary names from that region since 1980. He records that based on the catalogue, "Jesus" was the 6th most popular name of Jewish men, and "Mary/Mariamne" was the single most popular name of Jewish women at that time. Therefore, finding two ossuaries containing the names "Jesus" and "Mary/Mariamne" is not significant at all, and the chances of it being the ossuaries of Jesus and Mary Magdalene are "very small indeed."

Concerning the inscription attributed to Jesus son of Joseph, Steve Caruso, a professional Aramaic translator using a computer to visualize different interpretations, claims that although it is "possible" to read it as "Yeshua" that "overall it is a very strong possibility that this inscription is not '"Yeshua` bar Yehosef".'"

Name "Mary" and derivative of it may have been used by 25% of Jewish women at that time. [ [ "The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Response to the Discovery-Channel Documentary Directed by James Cameron"] ]


Lawrence E. Stager, the Dorot professor of archaeology of Israel at Harvard, said the documentary was "exploiting the whole trend that caught on with "The Da Vinci Code." One of the problems is there are so many biblically illiterate people around the world that they don't know what is real judicious assessment and what is what some of us in the field call 'fantastic archaeology.'"

William G. Dever said, "I'm not a Christian. I'm not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight. I just think it's a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated."

Jodi Magness criticized the decision of the documentary makers to make their claims at a news conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific article. By going directly to the media, she said, the filmmakers "have set it up as if it's a legitimate academic debate, when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in archeology of this period have flatly rejected this."

Joe Zias, former curator of archeology at the Israeli Antiquities Authority, described it in an e-mail to "The Washington Post" as a "hyped-up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest." He also wrote an extended Viewers Guide to Understanding the Talpiot Tomb documentary, published on his web site.

François Bovon has also written to say that his comments were misused. In a letter to the Society of Biblical Literature, he wrote: [cite web |url= |title=Society of Biblical Literature |]

: "As I was interviewed for the Discovery Channel's program The Lost Tomb of Jesus, I would like to express my opinion here."

: "First, I have now seen the program and am not convinced of its main thesis. When I was questioned by Simcha Jacobovici and his team the questions were directed toward the Acts of Philip and the role of Mariamne in this text. I was not informed of the whole program and the orientation of the script."

: "Second, having watched the film, in listening to it, I hear two voices, a kind of double discourse. On one hand there is the wish to open a scholarly discussion; on the other there is the wish to push a personal agenda. I must say that the reconstructions of Jesus' marriage with Mary Magdalene and the birth of a child belong for me to science fiction."

: "Third, to be more credible, the program should deal with the very ancient tradition of the Holy Sepulcher, since the emperor Constantine in the fourth century C.E. built this monument on the spot at which the emperor Hadrian in the second century C.E. erected the forum of Aelia Capitolina and built on it a temple to Aphrodite at the place where Jesus' tomb was venerated."

: "Fourth, I do not believe that Mariamne is the real name of Mary of Magdalene. Mariamne is, besides Maria or Mariam, a possible Greek equivalent, attested by Josephus, Origen, and the Acts of Philip, for the Semitic Myriam."

: "Fifth, the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is part of the apostolic team with Philip and Bartholomew; she teaches and baptizes. In the beginning, her faith is stronger than Philip's faith. This portrayal of Mariamne fits very well with the portrayal of Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and Pistis Sophia. My interest is not historical, but on the level of literary traditions. I have suggested this identification in 1984 already in an article of New Testament Studies."

: "François Bovon, Harvard Divinity School"

2008 Symposium and Misleading Coverage

Following a symposium at Princeton in January 2008 the media interest in the Talpiot tomb was reignited with most notably "Time" [ [,8599,1704299,00.html Jesus 'Tomb' Controversy Reopened - TIME ] ] and CNN [ [ Video - Breaking News Videos from ] ] devoting extensive coverage, hailing the case as being reopened. Following the media's portrayal scholars present at the symposium accused Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron of misleading the media in claiming the symposium reopened their theory as viable. Several scholars, including significantly all of the archaeologists and epigraphers, who had delivered papers at the symposium issued an open letter of complaint claiming misrepresentation, saying that Jacobovici and Cameron's claims of support from the symposium are "nothing further from the truth" [ [ Duke University Religion Department: The Talpiot Tomb Controversy Revisited ] ] .

The list of scholars included:

*Professor Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
*Professor Eric M. Meyers, Duke University
*Choon-Leon Seow, Princeton Theological Seminary
*F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Princeton Theological Seminary
*Lee McDonald, Princeton Theological Seminary, visiting
*Rachel Hachlili, Haifa University
*Motti Aviam, University of Rochester
*Amos Kloner, Bar Ilan University
*Christopher Rollston, Emmanuel School of Religion
*Shimon Gibson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
*Joe Zias, Science and Antiquity Group, Jerusalem
*Jonathan Price, Tel Aviv University
*C.D. Elledge, Gutavus Adolphus College

DVD Editions

On March 15, 2007, Discovery Channel released a DVD of the documentary with a listed running time of "2 hours." [ [] ]

ee also

* Death and resurrection of Jesus
* Historical Jesus
* New Testament view on Jesus' life


Published References

Further reading

* Eric M. Meyers: "The Jesus tomb controversy: an overview", "Near Eastern Archaeology", Vol. 69, Iss. 3/4 (Sep-Dec 2006), pp. 116-118

External links

* [ Official Discovery Channel site]
* [ Official Vision TV site]
* [ The Lost Tomb of Jesus site]
* [ Official documentary site]
* [ "Israel May Open 'Jesus Tomb' to Public"] , "Jerusalem Post", February 27, 2007.
* [ "Is Discovery Burying 'Lost Tomb'?"] , "Television Week", March 8, 2007.

Critical views

* [ Discussion] by Ben Witherington and James Tabor
* [ Biblical Archaeologists Reject Discovery Channel Show's Claims] by Ben Witherington
* [ Family Tomb of Jesus story] ( - conservative Christian viewpoint with MP3 resources)
* [ Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?] by Jodi Magness of the Archaeological Institute of America.
* [ Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus's Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?] , Scientific American
* [ The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Response to the Discovery-Channel Documentary] , critical commentary by Dr Gary Habermas.
* [ The Jesus Tomb: Did they Find it?] by Dr. Bobby Harrington
* [ The Alleged Jesus Family Tomb] by New Testament Scholar Richard Bauckham
* [ Tomb of Jesus Nonsense] by Jimmy Akin
* [ Overview of evidence against the Jesus Tomb Documentary] by Chase A. Thompson
* [ Review of the Jesus Family Tomb] by Kent P. Jackson
* [ National Review Online: "The Fruit of Thy Tomb"]
* [ The Case for the Real Jesus - Lee Strobel ] A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ

upporting Views

* [ Jesus Dynasty Blog] by James Tabor (religious consultant of the film)

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