Friday, March 02, 2007

Jesus tomb found, says film-maker #1

Jesus tomb found, says film-maker, BBC, 26 February 2007 ...

[Above: Ossuary alleged to have held the bones of Mary Magdalene, Sydney Morning Herald]

Jesus had a son named Judah and was buried alongside Mary Magdalene, according to a new documentary by Hollywood film director James Cameron.

First, while liberal (i.e. neo-Gnostic) scholars claim that it doesn't matter if "Jesus' physical body" did not rise "from the dead," I agree with Albert Mohler that "Christianity `has always understood the physical resurrection of Christ to be at the very center of the faith" (my emphasis):

"Has the mystery of Jesus' tomb been cracked?," Independent Online, February 27 2007... The claim that Jesus even had an ossuary contradicts the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven. A panel of scholars that joined the filmmakers Monday at the New York Public Library addressed that criticism and others. James Tabor, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said that while literal interpreters of the Bible say Jesus' physical body rose from the dead, "one might affirm resurrection in a more spiritual way in which the husk of the body is left behind." But Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Christianity "has always understood the physical resurrection of Christ to be at the very center of the faith." ...

and that "the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected" bodily "and ascended to heaven" (Acts 1:9-11):

Claims about Jesus' `lost tomb' stir up tempest, MSNBC, Marshall Thompson, Feb. 26, 2007 ... One of the caskets even bears the title, "Judah, son of Jesus," hinting that Jesus may have had a son. And the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven. ...

Indeed, in November last year I wrote in a post to this blog that Christianity would be refuted if a coffin was unearthed that could only have been that of Jesus:

"And if the `science' of archeology found an undisturbed coffin near Jerusalem with bones in it radiocarbon-dated to ~30 AD, that had an authenticated inscription on it: `Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary, brother of James, Joseph, Simon and Judas, then that would refute the `historical event' of Jesus' resurrection, and therefore Christianity (1 Cor 15:12-20).

and while I inadvertently did not make it clear in the above post that I personally would cease to be a Christian in that case, I did previously make that point in the following excerpt from a 2004 post to my now terminated Yahoo group:

"However, Christianity (my `faith') claims its central fact, the resurrection of Jesus, really happened (and therefore is true for everyone, whether they accept it or not, which is the same sense of universal, objective truth that science claims to discover. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, in 1 Cor. 15:14,17 `... if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. ... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.' That is, Christianity would be disproved, falsified, and I would ease to be a Christian, if it could be shown that the resurrection of Jesus didn't happen (e.g. if archaeologists unearthed a 1st century grave that had an authentic inscription, like, "Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Joseph and Mary, brother of James and Jude", etc)."

Now clearly the key to the above would be the closeness of fit of that archaeological evidence to the Biblical Jesus. But on that basis, from the very outset this claim is refuted. There is no evidence that the Biblical Jesus "had a son." As was pointed out by a "Father Thomas Williams ... an NBC News analyst" on NBC'S `Today' show video interview with Cameron and the film's director Simcha Jacobovici, if Jesus had a "son ... he would've been a prominent member of this new church and he wasn't":

"Matt Lauer Boasts Today Exclusive 'That Could Rock Christianity to its Core'," NewsBusters, Geoffrey Dickens, February 26, 2007 ... Father Thomas Williams: "Well Christianity really stands or falls with the fact of Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead and that he physically ascended into Heaven." Vieira: "Father Thomas Williams is an NBC News analyst." Williams: "Where was this supposed son if, if he had one he would've been a prominent member of this new church and he wasn't."

And given that the names "Jesus", "Mary," "Joseph" and "Judah" (to use their anglicised equivalents) were among the most common of that day:

"Scholars Dismiss Jesus Documentary Film Claims Bones Found In Jerusalem Tomb," CBS, Feb. 26, 2007 ... The tomb bears the names Jesus, Mary and Joseph and one of the caskets even bears the title, "Judah, son of Jesus," hinting that Jesus may have had a son. But scientists argue the names were extremely common during that time period, and in no way prove the Jesus buried at the site was Jesus Christ. ...

'Jesus tomb' documentary ignores biblical & scientific evidence, logic, experts say, Baptist Press, Feb 27, 2007, Michael Foust ... The documentary claims those ossuaries belonged to Mary, as well Jesus' "wife" Mary Magdalene and His "son," Judah, according to the documentary. There also is a Matthew in the mix, supposedly the apostle. ... 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's the ninth," Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press. "Mary is the most popular female name -- 21 percent of the female names of the period. So, you're 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 Christ: James, Joses (or Joseph), Judas (not Judas the traitor) and Simon. He also had half-sisters, according to the passage. Although there were ossuaries for a James and a Jose, no other ossuaries with inscriptions for these additional brothers and sisters were found. ...

and indeed there is some doubt that the inscriptions, being "`scratchy' and hard to read" even are the names "Mary, Joseph and Jesus":

"What Bones of Jesus?, "Human Events, L. Brent Bozell III, 02/28/2007 ... Hebrew University archeologist and epigraphist Leah DiSegni said that the names found in the tomb, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, were among the most common names of the day. It would be like finding a tomb with the name George on it in the future and asserting that it must have been the tomb of President George Bush, DiSegni told the Cybercast News Service. In addition, biblical scholar Stephen Pfann has questioned even the actual inscription on the tomb, claiming it's "scratchy" and hard to read. For all we know, it's Johnny, Mabel and Jerry. ...

for example "the name `Jesus'" may in fact be "Hanun":

Claims about Jesus' `lost tomb' stir up tempest, MSNBC, Marshall Thompson, Feb. 26, 2007 ... 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. ...

so as a serious scientific claim, as opposed to yet another money-making scam at Christianity's expense:

"Scholars Dismiss Jesus Documentary Film Claims Bones Found In Jerusalem Tomb," CBS, Feb. 26, 2007 ... Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television. "They just want to get money for it," Kloner said. ...

Titanic find: 'Christ's coffin', Sydney Morning Herald, February 27, 2007 ... Professor Juergen Zangenberg, an expert on the New Testament at the Dutch University of Leiden, said the documentary's claim was unrealistic, and more likely "about money and headlines". ...

this does not even get to first base.

The film examines a tomb found near Jerusalem in 1980 which producers say belonged to Jesus and his family. Speaking in New York, the Oscar-winning Titanic director said statistical tests and DNA analysis backed this view.

Note that these ossuaries were discovered "in 1980", i.e. ~27 years ago. Obviously no reputable archaeologist thought this was significant, whereas if it was true, it would indeed "be the greatest archaeological find of all time":

"Mysterious bones of Jesus, Joseph and Mary," Telegraph.co.uk, Tim Butcher, 25/02/2007 ... While Middle East academics doubt that the relics belong to the Holy Family, the issue is about to be exposed to a blaze of publicity with the publication next week of a book. Entitled The Jesus Tomb and co-written by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, the book promises the inside story of "what may very well be the greatest archaeological find of all time" ...

Another closeness of fit problem is, as Prof. Kloner (and others) have pointed out, that Jesus and his family came from Nazareth, and so they would not have been buried near Jerusalem:

"Film-maker shows relics from disputed Jesus tomb," ABC, February 27, 2007 ... Professor Kloner, from the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said 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 can say positively that I don't accept the identification [as] ... belonging to the family of Jesus in Jerusalem," he told Reuters. "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 archaeologically." ...

"Kloner: A great story, but nonsense," Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2007, David Horovitz ... Prof. Amos Kloner oversaw the archeological work at the Talpiot tomb when it was discovered during construction in 1980. What do you make of the assertion that Jesus and his family were buried there? It makes a great story for a TV film. But it's completely impossible. It's nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle class family from the 1st century CE. ...

and also that "such tombs were the fashion of the wealthy" and "Jesus' family was ...poor":

"Scholars Dismiss Jesus Documentary Film Claims Bones Found In Jerusalem Tomb," CBS, Feb. 26, 2007 ... In fact, the astounding claim is that the entire Holy Family was buried in a vault ... Astounding, critics say, because Jesus' family was famously poor and such tombs were the fashion of the wealthy. ... Another researcher whose work has focused on the Middle East, biblical anthropologist Joe Zias, has dismissed Cameron's claims as "dishonest". "It has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus, he was known as Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Jerusalem, and if the family was wealthy enough to afford a tomb, which they probably weren't, it would have been in Nazareth, not here in Jerusalem," he said. ...

As for "statistical tests", see above on these names being very common in Jesus' day. Assuming that the claim that "the odds are 600 to one" that these names "Jesus," "Mary" and "Joseph" were found in the one tomb was true:

"Experts say 'Jesus tomb' is a fantasy," ABC, 28 February 2007 ... The film-maker, Simcha Jacobovici, says a statistical analysis of the names being found together makes it extremely unlikely that it would be anyone else but the biblical family of Jesus. Andrey Feuerverger, a Canadian statistics professor at the University of Toronto, says the odds are 600 to one. ... Kloner says that of 900 burial caves found within 4 kilometres of Jerusalem's Old City and from the same era, the name Jesus or Yeshu was found 71 times, and that 'Jesus son of Joseph' has also been found. ...

for every "600" tombs around Jerusalem (and there is at least "900" - indeed many "hundreds" - see below) one would have those combinations of names, just by chance. And in fact "The name `Jesus son of Joseph' has been found on three or four ossuaries" (my emphasis):

"Kloner: A great story, but nonsense," Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2007, David Horovitz ... Prof. Amos Kloner oversaw the archeological work at the Talpiot tomb when it was discovered during construction in 1980. ... The name `Jesus son of Joseph' has been found on three or four ossuaries. These are common names. There were huge headlines in the 1940s surrounding another Jesus ossuary, cited as the first evidence of Christianity. There was another Jesus tomb. Months later it was dismissed. Give me scientific evidence, and I'll grapple with it. But this is manufactured. ...

and indeed one of them (presumably) is currently " on display in Ft. Lauderdale as part of a traveling exhibition of early Christian artifacts":

"Tomb of Jesus, son found, film reports: Director claims titanic `new' evidence; experts call it bunk," Chicago Tribune, Dion Nissenbaum, February 27, 2007 ...When the tomb was uncovered in 1980, specialists were called. The man who led the effort was Amos Kloner, an archeologist from Bar-Ilan University who meticulously documented the findings. The tomb contained 10 limestone burial boxes and scattered bones. Among the inscriptions found on the ancient caskets: Jesus, son of Joseph; Mary; and Judah, son of Jesus. Five of the burial boxes, known as ossuaries, had names that could be linked to the Bible, including versions of Joseph and Matthew. Then and now, Kloner took no note of the names, saying they were common among residents of the area at the time. While the collection of names might seem compelling, [Israel Museum curator David] Mevorah said, they were popular at the time and that another ossuary with the inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph" is on display in Ft. Lauderdale as part of a traveling exhibition of early Christian artifacts. ...

That Cameron and Jacobovici are playing fast and loose with the truth is evident in them claiming on NBC's `Today' show that "statisticians found `in the range of a couple of million to one in favor of it being them'" (my emphasis):

"Scholars Dismiss Jesus Documentary Film Claims Bones Found In Jerusalem Tomb," CBS, Feb. 26, 2007 ... Cameron told NBC'S "Today" show that statisticians found "in the range of a couple of million to one in favor of it being them." Simcha Jacobovici, the Toronto filmmaker who directed the documentary, said the implications "are huge."

and indeed the publicity for Jacobovic's book had inflated this to, "statistically, there is a one in 10 million chance this is a family other than the Holy Family" (my emphasis):

"Mysterious bones of Jesus, Joseph and Mary," Telegraph.co.uk, Tim Butcher, 25/02/2007 ... "Tests prove the names are genetically of the same family and statistically, there is a one in 10 million chance this is a family other than the Holy Family," the pre-publication publicity for the book said. ...

Elsewhere Feuerverger stated the probability ranges "from 1 in 100 to 1 in 1,000 that there is some other family" (my emphasis):

"Scholars Criticize Jesus Documentary," The Guardian, February 27, 2007, Karen Matthews ... The first of the ossuaries' inscriptions, written in Aramaic, reads, "Yeshua bar Yosef," or "Jesus son of Joseph." The second, in Hebrew, reads, "Maria." The third, in Hebrew, reads, "Matia," or "Matthew." The fourth inscription, in Hebrew, reads, "Yose," a nickname for "Yosef," or "Joseph." The fifth, in Greek, reads, "Mariamene e Mara," which the filmmakers said means "Mary the master" or "Mary the teacher." The sixth, in Aramaic, reads, "Yehuda bar Yeshua," or Judah son of Jesus." Jacobovici said the ossuaries did not initially seem extraordinary because the names were all common. But the filmmakers had statisticians calculate the likelihood that any other family in first-century Jerusalem would have had that cluster of names. "The numbers range from 1 in 100 to 1 in 1,000 that there is some other family," said Andrey Feuerverger, a professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto. ...

But statistical analysis is only valid if "the sample that they ran the numbers on is representative of the whole set":

'Jesus tomb' documentary ignores biblical & scientific evidence, logic, experts say, Baptist Press, Feb 27, 2007, Michael Foust ... Cameron and those behind the documentary say they asked a statistician to calculate the odds of finding the aforementioned 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 it wasn't Jesus' family tomb. "Statistical analysis is only as good as the numbers that you run," said Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. "There are more statistics under the ground than above ground at this point, by which I mean there are tons more names out there and items with names on them out there that have not yet been excavated. There are more unexcavated sites than excavated sites in Israel. We don't know that the sample that they ran the numbers on is representative of the whole set. We have no way of knowing that -- that's just an assumption on their part." Said [Assoc. Prof. Steven] Ortiz, "Jerusalem is full of tombs. There literally are hundreds of tombs and groups of cemeteries."

and then if one is talking about the Biblical Jesus, then the only statistically relevant names to be included are those known to have been in the Biblical Jesus' family, i.e. "Jesus," "Joseph," "Mary, " "James," "Joseph," "Simon," and "Judas" (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). Then the only names this tomb and the New Testament lists have in common are "Jesus," "Joseph," "Mary, " and "Judas" (Judah), ignoring that the latter's inscription was "son of Jesus."

Assuming that being very popular they each have a 1in 5 probability of occurring in any 1st century Jerusalem family (and it is likely to be more like 1 in 2 that one of these very popular names was in every such family), then the probability of all four names occurring together in such a 1st century Jerusalem family tomb would be 1 in 625 (1/5 * 1/5 * 1/5 * 1/5).

And as the above quote indicates, there are many "hundreds" of tombs around Jerusalem, both excavated and yet to be, so no one can know what the actual probability of finding all four (or indeed all seven) names known to be in Jesus' family.

Indeed the lack of known members of Jesus' family, i.e. "James" and "Simon," in this tomb and the presence of an unknown male (Jesus had unknown sisters) member "Matthew," not to mention this "Judah" being a "son" (not a brother) of Jesus, is further evidence against it being the tomb of Jesus and His family.

To plug one gaping hole in their theory, the absence of a James ossuary, Jacobovici and Cameron claim that one of the ten ossuaries is missing and that it is the famous (or infamous?) James ossuary:

"Mysterious bones of Jesus, Joseph and Mary," Telegraph.co.uk, Tim Butcher, 25/02/2007 ... In a scene worthy of a Dan Brown novel, archaeologists a quarter of a century ago unearthed a burial chamber near Jerusalem. Inside they found ossuaries, or boxes of bones, marked with the names of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Then one of the ossuaries went missing. The human remains inside were destroyed before any DNA testing could be carried out. ... The 10 ossuaries were taken initially to the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum outside the Old City of Jerusalem. Nine were catalogued and stored but the tenth was left outside in a courtyard. That ossuary has subsequently gone missing. ...

Finder of 'Jesus' tomb' shrugs off skeptics, National Post, Jennifer Green, February 27, 2007 ... Archeologists also balk at the filmmaker's claim that the James ossuary -- the centre of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel -- might have originated from the same cave. ... "I don't think the James ossuary came from the same cave," said Dan Bahat, an archeologist at Bar-Ilan University. "If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus." ...

But Prof. Kloner has stated that "Nothing has disappeared" including "The 10th ossuary" and moreover its "measurements were not the same (as the James ossuary)" and "It was plain (without an inscription)":

"Kloner: A great story, but nonsense," Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2007, David Horovitz ... What of the assertion that the 10th ossuary disappeared from your care and may be none other than the "James" ossuary? Nothing has disappeared. The 10th ossuary was on my list. The measurements were not the same (as the James ossuary). It was plain (without an inscription). We had no room under our roofs for all the ossuaries, so unmarked ones were sometimes kept in the courtyard (of the Rockefeller Museum). ...

I will deal with the claim that the inscription "Mariamene e Mara" actually is that in part #2 (or even part #3 - this has become much longer than I thought it would be!).

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).


Exodus 7:14-22. 14Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16Then say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. 17This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD : With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.' " 19The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt-over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs'-and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars." 20Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. 22But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.

4 comments:

Katie said...

I am a Christian. I of course believe in the ressurrection of Christ. But is not possible that when Jesus was beaten and then crucified that some of his shattered bones could've fallen and been left behind in there? His cloth was left. Couldn't bone fragments been left as well. This doesn't mean I believe this was his tomb. But why do tiny little bone fragments have to mean that his whole body was buried and stayed?

Stephen E. Jones said...

Katie said...

>I am a Christian. I of course believe in the ressurrection of Christ. But is not possible that when Jesus was beaten and then crucified that some of his shattered bones could've fallen and been left behind in there? His cloth was left. Couldn't bone fragments been left as well. This doesn't mean I believe this was his tomb. But why do tiny little bone fragments have to mean that his whole body was buried and stayed?

There were *not* any "shattered bones" from Jesus' body (for starters):

John 19:31-36. 31Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken,"[Ex 12:46; Num 9:12; Ps 34:20]

Stephen E. Jones

sray said...

This is one of the better outlines on the issue which was also published in Christianity Today and 22 other global publications. http://www.eternalpath.com/jesustomb.html

Stephen E. Jones said...

sray

>This is one of the better outlines on the issue which was also published in Christianity Today and 22 other global publications. http://www.eternalpath.com/jesustomb.html

Thanks. I agree with this comment by archaeologist Joe Zias (which applies to all those get-rich-quick scam artists who seek to make money out of a gullible public by sensational claims about the Bible):

"Simcha [Jacobovici] has no credibility whatsoever." "He's pimping off the Bible …

They will get their reward (if they don't repent)!

Probably they will have long forgotten this on their death-bed in ~40-50 years time, but Jesus their Judge won't have!

Stephen E. Jones