Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Jesus Family Tomb

They found Jesus’ Ossuary!!

I’ve been watching with amusement as the Jesus Family Tomb documentary is getting mass coverage from various media outlets.

Here is an interview with James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, and here is an article in support of the find.

I read various articles about the find, and also decided to contact Paul L. Maier, Ph.D., Litt.D, who teaches in the Department of History at Western Michigan University. He's always been very helpful when I have questions about ancient history, and he is an expert in the time period surrounding the life of Christ. He sent me an email with quite a few arguments against the authenticity of the tombs. I’ve listed some of them below along with a few from articles I’ve read:

1. Scholars have known about the ossuaries ever since March of 1980 (yes, 27 years ago), so this is old news recycled.

2. The general public learned when the BBC filmed a documentary on them in 1996, and the “findings” tanked again. James Tabor’s book, The Jesus Dynasty, also made a big fuss over the Talpiot tombs more recently, and now James Cameron (The Titanic) and Simcha Jacobovici have climbed aboard the sensationalist bandwagon as well. Another book comes out today, equally as worthless as the previous.

3. All the names – Yeshua (Joshua, Jesus), Joseph, Maria, Mariamene, Matia, Judah, and Jose -- are extremely common Jewish names for that time and place, and thus nearly all scholars consider that these names are merely coincidental, as they did from the start. Some scholars dispute that “Yeshua” is even one of the names. One out of four Jewish women at that time, for example, were named Maria. There are 21 Yeshuas cited by Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, who were important enough to be recorded by him, with many thousands of others that never made history. The wondrous mathematical odds hyped by Jacobovici that these names must refer to Jesus and his family are simply playing by numbers and lying by statistics.

4. There is no reason whatever to equate “Mary Magdalene” with “Mariamene,” as Jacobovici claims. And so what if her DNA is different from that of “Yeshua” ? That particular “Mariamme” (as it is usually spelled today) could indeed have been the wife of that particular “Yeshua".

5. Why in the world would the “Jesus Family” have a burial site in Jerusalem, of all places, the very city that crucified Jesus? Galilee was their home. In Galilee they could have had such a family plot, not Judea. Besides all of which, church tradition and the earliest Christian historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, are unanimous in reporting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, died in Ephesus, where the apostle John, faithful to his commission from Jesus on the cross, had accompanied her. Eusebius also makes it quite clear that the body of James, brother of Jesus, was buried alone near the temple mount.

6. The “Jesus Family” simply could not have afforded the large crypt uncovered at Talpiot, which housed, or could have housed, 200 ossuaries.

7. If this were Jesus’ family burial site, what is Matthew doing there – if indeed “Matia” is thus to be translated?

8. How come there is no tradition whatever – Christian, Jewish, or secular -- that any part of the Holy Family was buried at Jerusalem?

9. Israeli authorities, who – were they anti-Christian – might have used this “discovery” to discredit Christianity, did not do so. Quite the opposite. Joe Zias, for example, for years the director of the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, holds Jacobovici’s claims up for scorn and his documentary as “nonsense.” Those involved in the project “have no credibility whatever,” he added.

10. Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the conclusions in question fail to hold up by archaeological standards “but make for profitable television.”

11. James, the half-brother of Jesus and author of the book of James, the early leader of the church in Jerusalem, was martyred for his faith. Why does James make no mention in his letter that Jesus was not bodily resurrected? When he was about to die why didn't he just recant his beliefs and say, 'Okay, okay! My brother didn't rise from the dead. Here's where we took him. Here's where his bones are. Here's our family tomb. We made the whole thing up?' People will generally not die for a lie when they know it's a lie. … Why would James die perpetuating a lie when it would have been so easy to disprove?”

Personally, I was thinking that if Jesus and his followers were trying to pull off some massive plot to trick the world into believing that he rose from the dead, wouldn’t they have chosen NOT to have his name inscribed on his ossuary? Good grief, it seems like they might have at least considered that someone might run across the thing and then the entire plan would be foiled.

What’s really weird is if Jesus went to all that work to proclaim himself a God, why did he only concern himself with the spiritual world? It doesn’t seem to me that he, or his family, or his followers ever gained anything here on earth with their devious plot to make Jesus a God. What was the point? They were being killed off for their beliefs, not handed an earthly throne.

It’s also interesting that even the atheists aren’t buying this one...I’ve been checking around.