Thread: ARTICLE: The Lost Tomb of Jesus
March 1st 2007, 02:37 PM #1
ARTICLE: The Lost Tomb of Jesus
The Lost Tomb of Jesus by Melinda Penner
We saw the documentary yesterday thanks to an advance copy from The Discovery Channel, and our Amy has read the book released in conjunction. We've seen all their evidence.
Simcha Jacobivici, the documentarian, has been saying in interviews that they’re just connecting the dots. I’d say it’s more like first arranging the dots to get a certain picture and then connecting them. Their reasons for arranging the dots in their particular order is full of speculation at each step. They tell a coherent and affecting story to account for the information, but there’s no rationale for why that story is the most plausible one, no attempt to discount other possible explanations, and the sources they draw from to explain the story are disparate and never examined for reliability. It’s a very interesting story told effectively, and many viewers will likely be persuaded by that skill. But the facts are less than compelling.
The documentary begins and ends with suggestions of secrets and conspiracy, though these are never examined. And those hints just bug me because they seem to be included just for atmosphere. Since The Da Vinci Code, mystery seems to somehow add to the persuasive power of a tale.
The first biblical reference is to Matthew’s account of rumors that the body was stolen, but, the narrator tells us, Matthew said this was a lie. But they believe that is what happened: His followers stole away with the body. This is the first instance of a major flaw in the sources the explanation draws on. They use the Bible as a source to support details of the story many times, but then disagrees with the biblical account on major details with no explanation why it should not be taken seriously all the way through. The Bible also tells us that Jesus was physically resurrected, but this entire story depends on that being fabricated by people who knew it was a lie.
The documentary tells us that Jesus’ body was secretly buried by his closest disciples and family, left to decompose and reburied a year later, according to Jewish custom. So at times we are to take their word as true and other times not. This isn’t explained.
There are curious details found in the tomb. First is the decoration on the outside of the tomb, also found on another Judeo-Christian ossuary found in the Jerusalem area. They say no one knows what it stands for. But, I suppose, even two instances could be simple decoration. We use design patterns in architecture and furniture all the time.
Ten ossuaries were found in this tomb, six with inscriptions. In the course of making the program, they discovered that one is missing in the storage area. The location of the missing one is discussed later. These types of ossuaries were used for about 100 years ending in 70 A.D., so they date to the time of Jesus. And only family members were buried together so the presumption is that all of these ossuaries are relatives. Some of the ossuaries bear nicknames and some of the examples do appear interesting, but then other scholars may have more to say.
The first inscribed ossuary is Jesus son of Joseph. It’s very plain with no decoration, crudely written, and they interpret this as evidence that it’s Jesus’ of the Gospels because He was a humble man.
The Mary ossuary bears the Latinized form “Maria,” which they explain has come down in tradition as the name of Jesus’ mother. True, but the reliability of that tradition isn’t examined and neither is whether other Marys were sometimes called this.
The Matthew ossuary is thought to be a family name on Mary’s side of the family based on the Luke genealogy. True, but then it was a common name in many families.
The Joseph ossuary uses the form Yose, which Mark uses for Jesus’ brother. This is the only ossuary found with this form of Joseph.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are the ony names with direct ties to the Bible. The rest are tied to the Jesus family on the basis of speculation.
At this point you can see that they are building a case, step by step, with explanations at each step for the ossuaries being Jesus’ family, not just an average Jewish family. At every fork in the road they cobble together a rationale for choosing the fork that keeps the story alive, yet never is there anything like compelling proof for choosing that option.
The real lynchpin piece of evidence that ties these ossuaries to Jesus’ family is their explanation for the other Mary ossuary. This one is inscribed “Mariamene e Mara.” Mara can mean lord or master, or it can be a nickname for Mary. Mariamene, they argue, is what Mary Magdalene was called based on the Acts of Phillip, 4th century Gnostic writings. This is the key bit of evidence and they rely on very questionable sources here, without examining how reliable they are. We’re told that Mary was “Jesus most trusted apostle” so she would have been called “lord” or “master,” thus explaining the rest of the inscription. And they take the familiar Dan Brown anti-female conspiracy diversion to explain how Mary Magdalene’s prominence could have been missing from the biblical account.
The statistics they offer show the odds are 1 in 600 this is not Jesus’ lost tomb IF this is Mary Magdalene. The statistics are presented as objective facts, but they are only as good as the assumptions behind the numbers based on the identities of who was in the ossuaries.
They last inscribed ossuary is Judah son of Jesus, which they take to be the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Here’s how.
There are no bones left – they were buried 27 years ago when the ossuaries were found. They scraped biological residue from the inside of two of the boxes – Jesus and Mara - and sent it for DNA testing. The only kind they could get was mitochondrial DNA, which demonstrates maternal relationships, not paternal. The test came back negative for the two samples so the investigators say the tests “suggest” they were married. Now that is a huge leap of reasoning. It doesn’t suggest any such thing, it only disqualifies them as brother and sister via the same mother.
They only did one DNA test according to the program and the book. James Cameron said on Larry King that the tests are expensive and their resources aren’t unlimited. As it turns out, they chose to compare the two DNA samples that presented the least risk for their story. If they tested Jesus and Mary, his mother, and found no match, the story is over. If they test Jesus and Judah without a match, it’s over. Jesus and Mara was the safest comparison because a negative leaves open the possibility for them to suggest the marriage, which is necessary for their story to work. Yet there are any number of reasons they aren’t related via the same mother. The only reason to "suggest" Jesus and Mara were married is their weak speculation that this Mara is Mary Magdalene.
And here’s one of my major questions: Why this organization of the dots? After all, Jesus and Mara could have been half-brother and sister via the same father. Or they could have been in-laws, either being married to one of the others in the tomb. Jesus son of Joseph could be the son of the Yose in the tomb. There’s no reason to arrange them in this picture other than the story that it tells. There’s nothing to support the story itself and the sources they draw from are poor in many cases: Gnostic writing, tradition sometimes called “other tradition” or “later tradition,” and of course the Bible, sometimes reliable and other times not when it disagrees with their story.
So their story is that Judah is Jesus’ and Mara’s son, who was kept hidden because of the danger since Jesus was “a pretender to the throne.” They tell us that other of Jesus family and friends had been killed. John the Baptist, for example. But he was killed because he preached against Herod’s sin and made him mad. The other examples they cite don’t fit their theory either. They tell us that Jesus spoke to Mara and Judah from the cross when he said, “Woman behold you son….” His son was Jesus’ “beloved disciple” they tell us. He was telling his wife to take care of their son. But if they were hiding Judah because of the danger why would they pull him out in public at the moment of greatest jeopardy, his father being crucified? It just doesn’t make sense.
They think the missing ossuary is the James ossuary made public a few years ago. It is inscribed “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus.” The “brother of Jesus” is now thought to be a recent addition. Even if this is the missing box, it doesn’t add anything additional evidence to the story they tell because it could just as likely be that this Jesus and James were the son of the same Joseph. They spin the story as if each ossuary adds to the weight of the evidence, but actually they don’t. It all hinges on Mara being Mary Magdalene, which is quite a speculation.
They present a cumulative case for their explanation. But the legitimacy of the whole story is only as strong as the individual pieces of the story, and these are each weak. There are some interesting details with a lot of speculation to make it a coherent whole. It’s not enough that they tell a coherent story. Where does the independent evidence come from to support the reconstructed pieces? The details explained in the story can’t verify the story. Nothing verifies the story itself. The sources, and the way they use them, are not strong.
They want to use the Bible as a source, but also question it. But that doesn’t work. There are three possibilities. 1. The Biblical account is fully accurate. But that doesn’t help their explanation. 2. The biblical account is fiction. That doesn’t help them either because they can’t draw on it for evidence. 3. The Bible is partially true and partially false. But then how do you know the difference? Why can we trust one part and not another? They don’t tell us that.
There are some curious details that incite the imagination, but that’s not enough. I’d love to hear other experts talk about the nicknames found on the ossuaries and the decoration found on the tomb. Maybe these details suggest something, maybe they don’t. They also actually found the tomb underneath an apartment building and were able to get into it. That was incredible.
It’s an interesting and compelling program but only because there are pecularities and oddities they weave together into a story. But the goods just aren’t delivered in a substantive way.
It's airs Sunday night on The Discovery Channel.
Stand to Reason - Equipping Christian ambassadors with knowledge, wisdom, and character - www.str.org
Last edited by Trout; May 27th 2008 at 10:20 AM.
Stand to Reason - Training Christian in knowledge, wisdom, and character - www.str.org
February 18th 2011, 06:13 PM #2
Re: ARTICLE: The Lost Tomb of Jesus
If Jesus had a son named Judah, then why was the next head of early church James, the brother of Jesus, instead Judah, the son of Jesus?
And thanks for this response and your link.
April 6th 2011, 01:14 AM #3
Re: ARTICLE: The Lost Tomb of Jesus
I read a review of this on Amazon.com... Fascinating...
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