"The cave in which Jesus Christ was buried has been found in Jerusalem, claim the makers of a new documentary film," so says the article above from the popular Israeli news and culture netzine.
It seems that every Easter season we are exposed to books, news releases and films that are supposed to bury God once and for all. Well, this year, James Cameron (of Titanic/Terminator) fame is seeking to overshadow last year's entry, "The Da Vinci Code." However, this two-hour program, which will air Mar 4, 2007, is not simply a work of "fiction," as is the work of Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code," which is based on an earlier discredited hypothesis set forth in the Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln pop mystery, "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." In contrast, the "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" special is about an "assembled team of international scholars" who have brought to light a fantastic tomb from the first century, which was once filled with ten ossuaries (bone boxes) which are inscribed with such names (Anglicized here) as Jesus, son of Joseph, Maria, Mariamne, Jose (Joses), Matai (Matthew), and unexplainably, Judah, son of Jesus (not to mention the further allegation that a "missing ossuary" is none other than that of the famous James, son of Joseph, 'brother of Jesus' - which is also a highly controversial issue in its own right).
Allegedly, it is presented that finding a "family" tomb with this name cluster makes it virtually certain that this is the final resting place of many in Jesus of Nazareth's family, including JNaz himself. Supposedly, it will not be presented as a threat to Christianity or even the doctrine of the resurrection -- remember, this is supposedly pure science at work - the film's underlying hypothesis will be that JNaz was indeed married to Mary Magdalene, the Beloved Disciple of the Johannine Gospel is none other than his "son" (who laid on his breast during the Last Supper), Joseph of Arimathea "temporarily" placed his body in a tomb because of the Sabbath until the family/disciples could move the body to a final resting place, JNaz would have been lain/buried in this Talpiyot tomb (in a shroud) for one year until his body would decompose at which time the family would have collected his bones and put them in an ossuary in the same tomb, Mary Magdalene would go on to be a true "teacher/master" of the gnosis of JNaz (compare the sisters of Philip being prophetesses - cf. Acts of the Apostles), and so on. It will be interesting to see if the film presents anything else . . . I'm sure it will.
The truth is that this alleged "Jesus Family Tomb" (Talpiyot site) is really old news - i.e. it was discovered in 1980 by legitimate archaeologists. Scholars and archaeologists have known about it for years, and if it were true, we certainly would have heard about it from the establishment, especially those who have gone to extreme lengths to disprove the resurrection. However, the commonality of the names in Israel at the time makes this virtually impossible to "prove" that we have here our very own "Jesus of Nazareth." In fact, Dr. Amos Kloner, the expert archaeologist who was the overseer of this excavation says that the "chances" that we have discovered the ossuary (bone box) of JNaz are "virtually zero."
Nevertheless, we can be sure that James Cameron's "international team of scholars" will fashion and edit this film in such a way as to convince many that "JNaz was buried in Jerusalem along with his family, and the resurrection is really a matter of faith." Or that Paul was really teaching about a 'spiritual resurrection,' not a 'bodily resurrection.' Although such claims can be refuted with conventional resurrection apologetics, I'm sure we will be hearing quite a bit of academic dissent against the film's claim from both liberal and conservative scholars. Cameron's "international team of scholars," seems, at this point, to be everyone from the popular amateur archaeologist/journalist (Simcha Jacobovici - The Naked Archaeologist, Exodus Decoded - History Channel), a writer and paleo-biologist (Charles Pellegrino), and James Tabor (yes, he is a biblical scholar -- however, Tabor is already invested in this thesis (cf. his book The Jesus Dynasty). As with such documentaries, I anticipate that other scholars will be consulted, yet their expertise will be compartmentalized and edited -- i.e. they will comment on certain things (e.g., "Yes, this is a first century ossuary") -- but their opinions regarding the underlying hypothesis will be wholly missing (at least until they can comment later in journals and so on). Apart from that, it will make for good television, along with amusing refutation and pushback. At this point, prior to its release on the Discovery Channel, the film and hypothesis has received such media hype and promotion (Cameron's $$) that I expect millions of people will be watching. Sadly, few will follow the scholarly discussion that will ensue . . . For those of you are interested in the ensuing scholarly discussion, I will provide links to scholarly websites as the discussion unfolds. NOTE: This is James Cameron's second adventure into biblical studies with Jacobovici and Pellegrino - the first attempt, The Exodus Decoded, was harshly criticized by the academic world. -- see Higgaion , Associates for Biblical Research
- Discovery Channel
- Jesus Family Tomb (Simcha Jacobovici)
- NT Gateway
- Joe Zias - Israeli Antiquities Authority
- Society of Biblical Literature (Jodi Magness)
- Society of Biblical Literature (Scholars' Forum)
- Gary Habermas
- Craig Blomberg
- Ben Witherington
- Darrell Bock
- Amos Kloner
- James Tabor
- Craig Evans
- Statistics Challenged
- Richard Bauckham
- Chris Rosebrough
- Michael Heiser (2003 paper on the topic)
- Stephen Pfann (On the alleged Mary Magdelene ossuary)
- The James Ossuary - Biblical Archaeology Review
- The James Ossuary - New photos from the 1970s prove authenticity?
- Jesus Tomb Film Scholars Backtrack - Jerusalem Post 4/11/07