The lost Tomb of Jesus?
By Vera Alvares
Time and again the Church of Christ has been assaulted by people, trying to tear down the religion in an effort to either acquire fame, riches or both. It has happened again in the cradle of Christianity, that holy land nurtured and healed with miracles and on the very ground that soaked the blood of the Healer!
Twenty seven years ago, a batch of construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb in Israel. The foundation caved in revealing ten stone caskets in a crypt. At the discovery, officials rushed in with archeologists and carried the stone caskets away for examination. According to sources it took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on six of the limestone bone boxes called assuaries that served as First Century Jerusalem-area coffins. The names are said to be the some of those found in the New Testament – ?Jesua son of Joseph,??Maria,? ?Mariamene e Mara,? ?Matthew,? ?Yose? and ?Judah son of Jesus.? Now, in 2007, Canadian film maker and Director of ?Titanic? and filmmaker archeologist Simcha Jacobovici have set to prove that the limestone ossuaries in the Talipyot crypt held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The evidence and interpretations of the artifacts will be presented in a documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" on the Discovery Channel March 4th at 9 p.m. and also on Britain’s Channel 4, Canada’s Vision, and Israel’s Channel 8. The Jesus Family Tomb, a companion book by Jacobovici and Dr. Charles Pellegrino, has just been released.
This 90-minute documentary based on many presumptions is bound to outrage Christians as it challenges the greatest tenet of Christianity- Resurrection. On 26th February, 2007, during the press conference held by the Discovery Channel to promote the documentary, the discovery of the crypt was described as ?the tomb that once may have held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.? Taking it further, the documentary will suggest that Jesus may have had a son named Judah! According to a Discovery Channel press release, "scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world’s foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. A slender possibility, even according to the makers!
This reminds us that not long ago another Channel had produced ? The lost Gospel of Judas? based on the Nag Hammadi Gnostic texts, closely tracking the storyline of Dan Brown?s fiction novel- Da Vinci Code. Besides generating interest in literally circles, it had also amassed great wealth for the author! Note how the world is witnessing the resurrection of lost material of Christ?s era, an elaborate sham to debunk Christianity.
Taking liberties with the interpretations of inscriptions seems to be the smartest move in an old game. On Dec. 19, 2003, the Biblical Archaeology Review had published an article on the discovery of a ?bone-box? or ossuary that held the remains of ?James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus?. But in June that year experts from Israel?s Antiquities Authority announced that an analysis of the inscription showed it was a modern forgery, although the box itself dated back to the first century, a time when burial in stone boxes was a widespread Jewish custom in Jerusalem. The Israeli collector Oded Golan who owned the box, was arrested with some others. The Israeli researchers had found the inscription was phony as its letters had been cut through a soft gray residue that was most likely a homemade paste smeared over the inscription to make it appear old.
So like the old incident, the new attempt to sensationalize the 27 years old discovery by condensing the Messiah into one of the ossuaries, will not shake the foundation of a monolith built on the profound theory of ?love one another as I have loved you?. But it makes one wonder as to why the unbelievers of Christ CARE so much about PROVING He is NOT who He says He is? If you have been touched by HIS teachings and suffering, this will not shake your Faith and if you are an Athiest? what do you care anyway!
But, in the court of the Crucified one, the first witness holds forth his beliefs. Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television! Kloner also said the filmmakers’ assertions are false because the 2,000-year-old cave contained coffins belonging to a Jewish family whose names were similar to those of Jesus and his relatives. "I don’t accept that the family of Miriam and Yosef (Mary and Joseph), the parents of Jesus, had a family tomb in Jerusalem. They were a very poor family. They resided in Nazareth, they came to Bethlehem in order to have the birth done there — so I don’t accept it, not historically, not archeologically, they just want to get money for it," said Kloner, a professor in the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archeology at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
The second witness steps forth. Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, 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." Pfann is even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it’s more likely the name "Hanun." Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher. Under these circumstances, if the names of Jesus, Joseph, Mary, etc, were very common at that time, how did they positively determine that whatever inscriptions are on these coffins belong to the Holy Family and no one else?
Another luminary nabs the lie. As reported by Reuters, Professor L. Michael White, of the University of Texas, said he also doubted the claims were true. "This is trying to sell documentaries," he said, adding ?a series of strict tests needed to be conducted before a bone box or inscription could be confirmed as ancient.But this is not archeologically sound, this is fanfare."
Cameron has openly admitted that he is neither a theologian nor an archaeologist, but documentary filmmaker. He went after this because he ?has a passion for good DETECTIVE story?. So here is a detective story that has circumvented the truth and with single minded devotion pursued the goal of shocking the world. Christianity provides untold possibilities for someone in search of another ?Titanic?. Resurrection is one of them. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. For those who don?t believe Scripture, there are non-Biblical sources that attest to the Lord?s ministry AND His resurrection. The following is an excerpt from an article in the Archaeological Study Bible, NIV, published by Zondervan in 2005:
?A Josephus text known as the ?Testimonium Flavianum? is found in Antiquities, 18.63-64.(Antiquities was completed in A.D. 93, less than 60 years after Jesus? crucifixion.) Describing the days of Pontius Pilate, it states: ?At this time Jesus, a wise man (if it is appropriate to call him a man), appeared. For he was a worker of incredible deeds, a teacher of men who happily receive the truth, and he drew to himself many Jews – and many Greeks, too. This man was the Christ. And when Pilate had executed him at the instigation of the leading men among us, those who had first loved him did not give up. For he appeared to them on the third day alive again (the divine prophets had spoken concerning him of these and countless other wonders). And to this day the tribe of ?Christians? (named after him) has not vanished.?
Christians believe Jesus’ body spent three days at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City. The burial site identified in Cameron’s documentary is in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood nowhere near where Jesus lived and worked. It is also a matter of Christian faith that after his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven. Some Christians believe that this was a spiritual ascension, i.e., his mortal remains were left behind. Other Christians believe that he ascended with his body to heaven. If Jesus’ mortal remains have been truly found, this would contradict the idea of a physical ascension but not the idea of a spiritual ascension. The latter is consistent with Christian theology. Those who think this discovery would destroy Christianity fail to understand the Faith. G K Chesterson once wrote of the secular skeptics: "I refuse to take direction on God and happiness, from people who have neither." So do we!
If Titanic wasn’t reason enough, Cameron has now given us another megalomaniac fantasy full of holes. He claims that he has amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family. The DNA tests sound phony. If they could maybe get some damaged DNA from the 2000 year-old bones how can they prove that it is from the Jesus of the New Testament unless they compare it with the DNA of Jesus? Where did they get the DNA of Jesus, from the pages of the Bible? How can anyone use DNA evidence to prove that Jesus never resurrected? The use of DNA tests seems to be more to establish the relationship of Mary Magdalene with Jesus as dictated by Da Vinci whose code is nothing but fiction?
Hopefully the documentary will clear some of the ambiguities pointed out here. The crypt of limestone ossuaries is a luxury tomb of the rich and powerful, not within the means of a poor carpenter, his friends and family. And presuming that the interpretation of these names was correct, all are common Jewish names, found among members of large Jewish families of that time. Also, were the Ossuaries written in Aramic or Greek? (Jesus? name was Yeshua in his native language)
Christianity has survived many attempts on its life because there were eyewitness accounts of what He did, both inside and outside of the Bible. Jewish scholars and philosophers of the day spoke of Him in glowing terms. There is plenty of evidence that he existed and believed himself to be the Son of God. If Jesus didn’t resurrect then what motivated the 11 men to spread His teachings to an entire world? Are they not the same 11 Apostles hiding after the death of Jesus who suddenly came out of hiding and preach the word of their Master with no fear whatsoever? How did this happen? How did Christianity thrive while the Jewish elders and Roman Empire were trying to desperately stamp it out during those early days?
Reacting to the disclosure, a staunch Christian defends his faith. ?I can look around and find graves for Jesus, Mary, Joseph and others in Mexico. Doesn’t mean it’s the Holy Family. It is a matter of pride for the Catholics in these countries to be christened after the Holy Family. It means nothing.? A comment posted on the net effectively challenges Cameron?s external evidence test. ?How about the writings of Josephus, or Eusebius who preserved the writings of Papias from 130 AD, and Iraneus, Bishop of Lyons in 180 AD who was a student of Polycarp, one of John the Apostle’s followers?? Seems plenty of homework was left undone by the two film makers. By cold shouldering such writings, the duo has given rise to suspicions that the whole exercise was conducted to prove a preconceived notion? A conspiracy theory?
Stunned by the revelations Catholics round the world have presented proof that could easily derail James? theory. ?Here is just a sampling of more verifiable evidence regarding the New Testament. In Corinthians, written by Paul about 55AD only 25 years after Christ’s death "Hundreds" of eyewitnesses are noted, most of which would still be alive at the time of writing and presumably would have easily refuted the Resurrection story if it was contrived.? Here in Mumbai a parishioner reacted with, ?Why don?t they dig all over Galilee, they may find more tombs with the same name. Then they have to prove that there was only one Jesus!?
Whatever the flaws in the structure or rituals used to practice Christianity, millions have walked in the footsteps of the man who fed the hungry, healed the sick, touched the sinners and finally said, ?Father forgive them, they know not what they do!? Amen!
( References courtesy internet)
– Vera Alvares
Author: Shalona Joseph- Kuwait