Thursday, March 01, 2007

James Cameron's "Jesus Tomb"

Everybody else is talking about it, so I might as well be. For those of you who haven't heard, James Cameron has a new special coming out on the Discovery Channel in which he claims to have found the tomb of Jesus Christ. Why is this significant? Well, he also claims to have found Jesus' bones inside. It doesn't take a brilliant theologian to realize that if Jesus rose in bodily form, and ascended into Heaven in that same form, He shouldn't have left His bones behind here on Earth.

As of the time I am writing this, the show hasn't aired yet (I believe it airs sometime next week), but there have been some advanced screenings for the privileged few (of which I am not one, but I've read some comments from people who were). Here's basically what they found.

In first century Palestine, it was a common practice to lay a body in a tomb for a year, let it decompose, then go back in, get the bones and put them in a "bone box" (or more properly called an "ossuary"). In 1980, a well-respected archaeologist found a tomb containing ten such ossuaries. That's right. I said 1980, 27 years ago. Despite what the advanced publicity may be leading you to believe, this is NOT a new discovery, and has been discredited long ago (as far as being the purported tomb of Jesus Christ).

There were various names on the bone boxes, including "Judas" and two "Marys". But of course the most significant find was a bone box containing the inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph." The Discovery Channel documentary takes the position that this is a family tomb, meaning a family had purchased this tomb and used it to bury all its family members. The suggestion is that one of the "Marys" is Mary Magdalene, she was Jesus' wife, and "Judas" was their son. I know. Here we go with the DaVinci Code all over again.

So where is the proof that this was a family tomb and that this Mary was married to Jesus? There is none. First, a couple things need to be said about the names. "Jesus", "Mary" and "Joseph" were extremely common names in first century Palestine. The Hebrew name "Jesus" (technically "Yeshua") can actually also be translated "Joshua". So whenever you see "Jesus" or "Joshua", it is actually the same name. Yeshua was the 6th most common name at that time. "Mary" was the most common name for females. In fact, 1 out of every 5 females was named "Mary." So finding a tomb with these names in it would be the modern day equivalent of finding a tomb with people named John or Steve. So what? It would actually probably be more surprising if we found a tomb with 10 bone boxes without those names appearing!

What about the so-called family connection? Actually, a family would have to be pretty well off to be able to afford a tomb like this all of their own. Often times people from the same area would simply share a tomb, even when they weren't related, simply to split the cost. Now the producers of the Discovery Channel show claim to have DNA evidence that Mary and Jesus were married. What is this DNA evidence? Well, it is that when they compared the DNA of the bones in the two boxes, they were not close enough to be blood relatives. That's right, they DIDN'T match. So if they weren't blood related, they must have been married, or so the argument goes. Answer me a question. How many people in the town where you live are you NOT blood related to? Now out of all those people, how many are you married to? Basically, I think the proper response to this so-called DNA evidence is, "You've got to be kidding me."

Just a few final notes then I'll sign off. I mentioned briefly that a family would have to be pretty rich to afford a tomb like this. Was Jesus Christ's family rich? Not by any stretch of the imagination. He was the son of a carpenter! It is extraordinarily unlikely that they would have been able to afford such a tomb. Also, where was the tomb? It was in Jerusalem. Was Jesus' family from Jerusalem? No! They were from Nazareth! Jesus was only in Jerusalem for the Passover! Even if His family could have afforded such a tomb it would have been near their family home, not all the way down in Jerusalem!

Finally, what are the implications if this is a family tomb? Basically, Mr. Cameron's show would be insinuating that Jesus' family and/or followers let His body decompose for a year, took the bones, put them in a bone box, placed the bone box in a tomb, THEN WENT AROUND TELLING EVERYONE THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD IN BODILY FORM, ASCENEDED INTO HEAVEN, AND THEY DIED BRUTALLY RATHER THAN TELL THE TRUTH THAT HIS BONES WERE ACTUALLY SITTING IN A BONE BOX! Does this make sense?

These are just a few of the many problems with this theory, and a few of the reasons why it has been long discredited. But shows like this are interested in ratings, and they will definitely get them. But this is not good scholarship, and if you watch the show, please try to do so with a logical mind, and don't let yourself get sucked in by the showmanship instead of what the facts actually show ... or don't show.

God bless.

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