When Discovery Channel aired documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus the first time, it stirred controversy worldwide, especially among theologians and practicing Christians. In The Lost Tomb of Jesus director James Cameron, claims that an ancient family tomb, unearthed in 1980 during construction of a Jerusalem apartment complex, once held the bones of Jesus family, including His mother, Mary, His son (Judah) and Mary Magdalene, supposedly Jesus wife. The new interpretation is very doubtful.
A construction crew uncovered the tomb in 1980 and before Amos Kloner and his team could excavate it properly it was looted and vandalized. In the tomb were ten ossuaries (or bone boxes), six with inscriptions. Some seventeen skeletons were in the ossuaries and another eighteen or so were lying on niches (or shelves) or scattered about on the floor. Many of the bones were broken or crushed into powder. Looters apparently stole coins, pottery, and other artifacts. (Bauckham, 2002)
Historical Evidence and Scientific Methods
DNA tests show that microscopic human remains scraped from the Jesus box and the Mariamene box are not related, at least not matrilineally. The technique Jacobovici uses to prove the match between the James ossuary and the Talpiot tomb is a technology he calls patina fingerprinting, which he and his coauthor Charles Pellegrino (a scientist who helped Cameron write Ghosts of the Titanic) essentially invented for the purposes of this project.
By comparing the mineral content of shards from the Talpiot ossuaries with shards from James, and by looking at them under an electron microscope with the help of a CSI specialist, Jacobovici and Pellegrino say they have a match. But do they? Its impossible to know for sure. For John Dominic Crossan, leader of the liberal Jesus Seminar and author of Excavating Jesus, the biggest questions relate to the early break-in: who vandalized the cave, when, what did they do there and why? (Evans, 2003)
The other part of Jacobovicis argument is statistical. He concedes all the names on the Talpiot ossuaries are common. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary says he has a first-century letter written by someone named Jesus, addressed to someone else named Jesus and witnessed by a third party named Jesus. But the occurrence of these names in one place, with these specific idiosyncrasies, how likely is that? Andrey Feuerverger, a statistician at the University of Toronto, came up with an estimate: 600-1 in favor of the tombs belonging to the Holy Family. (Kloner, 1999)
The Bible still the best existing historical record of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, argue against Jacobovicis claims. All four Gospels say that Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Sabbath; all four say that the tomb was empty when the disciples woke on Sunday morning. The New Testament is very clear on this, says Alan Segal, religion professor at Barnard College. Jesus was put in a tomb that didnt belong to him and then he rose and there was nothing left.
For Jacobovicis scenario to work, someone would have had to whisk the body away, on the Sabbath, and secretly inter it in a brand-new, paid-for family tomb”all before dawn on Sunday. As Segal goes on to argue, Why would Jesus family have a tomb outside of Jerusalem if they were from Nazareth? Why would they have a tomb if they were poor? (Rahmani, 1998)
If this were the tomb of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what of the other holy tombs, accepted by tradition or posited by scholars, around the world? The Roman Catholic Church accepts two places for Marys grave: one beneath the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, the other in Ephesus.
Constantine said in 328 that the final resting place of Jesus Christ”from which he rose”lay on the rock at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In a book published just last year, James Tabor, a Biblical scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the leading academic voice who lends enthusiastic, if qualified, support to Jacobovicis claims, wrote that he looked for, and found, a legendary tomb of Jesus near the city of Safed. (Bauckham, 2002)
Bauckham, Richard. (2002), Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the
Gospels, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Evans, Craig A. (2003), Jesus and the Ossuaries: What Jewish Burial Practices Reveal
about the Beginning of Christianity, Waco: Baylor University Press.
Kloner, Amos. (1999), A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in East Talpiyot, Jerusalem,
Rahmani, L. Y. (1998), A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of
Israel, Jerusalem: The Israel Antiquities Authority.