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James Cameron’s ‘documentary’ on tomb of Jesus digs up huge controversy

James Maceron shows Tomb of Jesus, Church and scholars skeptical.

February 28, 2007:

Scholars in New Testament are challenging the controversial claim by an upcoming television documentary that researchers have discovered the ‘tomb’ of Jesus Christ.

Discovery Channel will air The Lost Tomb of Christ – produced by James Cameron of Titanic fame – at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday.

Among other things, the documentary claims that the ossuaries (bone boxes) of Jesus and his family were found in a tomb in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot.

The documentary says those ossuaries belonged to Mary, as well as Jesus’ ‘wife’ Mary Magdalene and his ‘son’ Judah.

There also is a Matthew in the documentary, supposedly the apostle.

The Discovery Channel says on its website that the find could “rewrite the history of early Christianity.”
The ossuaries were discovered in 1980, and archaeologists – both Christian and non-Christian – had long ago written off any possibility that the ossuaries were related to Christ.

“This is not new information. These tombs have been known and were published in the archaeological community,” Steven Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and Biblical backgrounds at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, the United States, says.

For centuries, Christians have pointed to two empty tombs in Jerusalem as the possible place where Jesus’ body was initially placed. One of the tombs is within the Church of Holy Sepulchre, which Ortiz believes is the most likely location.

But the documentary challenges the bedrock belief of Christianity – the bodily resurrection of Christ.

Among the problems with the documentary’s claim, experts say, is the fact that the names on the ossuaries were common during biblical times.

“Joseph is the second most common male name in the period. Jesus is the sixth. Matthew is the ninth,” Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, says. “Mary is the most popular female name – 21% of the female names of the period. So, you are dealing with a lot of familiar names.”

According to the documentary’s website, the six ossuaries read, ‘Jesus Son of Joseph,’ ‘Mary,’ ‘Mary known as the master,’ ‘Judah son of Jesus,’ ‘Jose’ and ‘Matthew.’

The ossuary for Mary’s husband, Joseph, was not found, according to the website.

Yet the Bible has no mention of Jesus being married, much less having a son. Also, there is no known relationship of Jesus to Matthew.

Mark 6:3 lists four half-brothers of Jesus Christ – James, Jose (or Joseph), Judas (not Judas the traitor) and Simon. Jesus also had half-sisters, according to the passage.

Though there were ossuaries for a James and a Jose, no other ossuaries with inscriptions for these additional brothers and sisters were found.

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said he believes the script on the Jesus’ ossuary more likely says ‘Hanun’ and not ‘Jesus.’

Cameron and those behind the documentary say they asked a statistician to calculate the odds of finding the biblical names of the New Testament period – Jesus, Mary, Mary, Jose and Matthew – together in one tomb. The statistician, Andrey Feuerverger of the University of Toronto, said the odds are only 1 in 600 that it was not Jesus’ family tomb.

The documentary also claims support from supposed DNA evidence scraped from the bone boxes of Jesus and ‘Mary, known as master.’ A laboratory in Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, concluded that the two were not maternally related, and a laboratory official said the two “most likely were husband and wife” because it was a familial tomb.

Researchers were not able to extract DNA evidence from the other ossuaries, according to the documentary’s website.

“We have no evidence from any ancient document, Christian or non-Christian, that points even to rumors that the body or bones of Jesus were there in Jerusalem,” according to George Guthrie, a professor of Bible at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, the USA.

Biblical evidence and Christian tradition hold that 11 of the 13 apostles (including Matthias) died martyrs’ deaths for their faith. Skeptics of the Discovery Channel documentary ask: Why would 11 men die for something (the bodily resurrection) they knew to be a lie?

Guthrie argues: “No opponent of Christianity has pointed to the Talpiot tomb. No followers of Jesus revered the tomb. There is no evidence – beyond the circumstantial evidence of exceedingly common names – that points to this as being the tomb of Jesus’ family.”



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