Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jesus tomb found, says film-maker #2

Jesus tomb found, says film-maker, BBC, 26 February 2007 ... Speaking in New York, the Oscar-winning Titanic director said statistical tests ... Continued from part #1.

[Above: The Lost Tomb of Jesus (so-called), Discovery Channel]

and DNA analysis backed this view.

And as for "DNA analysis" how could it show that this "tomb ... belonged to Jesus and his family" given that "No one has the DNA of Mary" Magdalene (for starters):

"Experts say 'Jesus tomb' is a fantasy," ABC, 28 February 2007 ... The film-makers also obtained two sets of samples from the ossuaries for DNA and chemical analysis. The first set consisted of bits of matter taken from the 'Jesus Son of Joseph' and 'Mariamene e Mara' ossuaries. The second set consisted of patina, a chemical film encrustation on one of the limestone boxes. The human remains were analysed by Dr Carney Matheson, a Canadian scientist at the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario. Mitochondrial DNA examination determined the individual in the Jesus ossuary and the person in the ossuary linked to Mary Magdalene are not related. Since tombs normally contain either blood relations or spouses, the film-makers say the DNA results suggest Jesus and Mary Magdalene could have been a couple. But Dr R Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is far from convinced. "The DNA testing is to me the most laughable aspect of this," he told CNN. "You have to have the basis of a DNA sample that would make any sense," he says. "No one has the DNA of Mary."

Note above that it was only "bits of matter" taken from the ossuaries that were tested. That is because there are now no actual bones in the ossuaries-they were removed and reburied in 1980:

"Film-maker shows relics from disputed Jesus tomb," ABC, February 27, 2007 ... After they were discovered, the bones were reburied according to Orthodox tradition, leaving just the boxes with inscriptions and human residue to be examined though ongoing DNA testing. ." ...

Now it is very difficult in DNA testing to rule out contamination from other DNA, as this news article shows, i.e. " Every cell in the human body contains a copy of a person's unique DNA" and so "the same test that can link someone to a crime scene with a few minuscule cells left on a doorknob can also be contaminated by a passing sneeze" (my emphasis):

Rare look inside state crime labs reveals recurring DNA test problems, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 22, 2004, Ruth Teichroeb ... For the detective working the case, it looked like a sure thing. The 58-year-old suspect had confessed to raping his young niece. He had a prior sex-crime conviction. Charged with child rape, the road-crew worker from the South King County town of Pacific faced up to 26 years in prison -- until authorities learned of startling test results coming out of the Washington State Patrol's Tacoma crime lab. The genetic evidence excluded the victim's uncle and pointed to an unknown man. The airtight case suddenly had a gaping hole. Four months later, on Jan. 8, 2002, prosecutors offered a deal. The defendant pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child molestation, shaving a decade off his sentence. A couple of weeks after that, the lab made an embarrassing discovery. The mystery man was a mistake. Forensic scientist Mike Dornan had bungled the test, accidentally contaminating the child's clothing with DNA from another case he'd been working on. DNA contamination and errors at the State Patrol crime labs are recurring problems, an investigation by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has found. Forensic scientists contaminated tests or made other mistakes while handling DNA evidence in at least 23 cases involving major crimes over the last three years, according to State Patrol and court records. The list of DNA testing errors, uncovered through public-records requests and interviews with defense attorneys and experts, offers an unusual glimpse into what can go wrong. Crime labs across the country are struggling with similar problems but documented evidence has been hard to come by. The State Patrol cases reveal that the technology has an Achilles' heel: human error. Forensic scientists tainted tests with their own DNA in eight of the 23 cases. They made mistakes in six others, from throwing out evidence swabs to misreading results, fingering the wrong rape suspect. Tests were contaminated by DNA from unrelated cases in three examinations, and between evidence in the same case in another. The source of contamination in five other tests is unknown. Every cell in the human body contains a copy of a person's unique DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, a microscopic foot-long strand that determines eye color, height and other inherited characteristics. A DNA match is considered infallible proof of guilt or innocence in many crimes. Sophisticated DNA testing has played a crucial role in high-profile cases, including the crime lab's work in helping put Green River Killer Gary Ridgway behind bars for life last year and cracking a number of "cold-case" murders. Crime lab officials here and elsewhere don't like to talk about the fact that the same test that can link someone to a crime scene with a few minuscule cells left on a doorknob can also be contaminated by a passing sneeze. Or that DNA tests are only as reliable as the humans doing them -- a troubling prospect when dealing with evidence that has the power to exonerate suspects or imprison them for life. "The amazing thing is how many screw-ups they have for a technique that they go into court and say is infallible," said William C. Thompson, a forensic expert and professor of criminology and law at the University of California-Irvine, who reviewed the incidents at the request of the P-I. "What we're seeing in these 23 cases is really the tip of the iceberg." ...

But even if they could show conclusively that the DNA is that of the ~2,000 year old occupants of these two different ossuaries, and that they were not related, that does not mean that the "Jesus" and this "Mariamene" were married to each other. She could have been married to one of the other males in the family. Or she might have been a later (or earlier) addition to the tomb, since according to Prof. Amos Kloner these bodies typically "would be buried over several generations in Jerusalem":

"Mysterious bones of Jesus, Joseph and Mary," Telegraph.co.uk, Tim Butcher, 25/02/2007 ... The story went cold until two accounts of the discovery were published by Israeli academics in the mid 1990s. Prof Kloner wrote the second one in the IAA's in-house magazine Atiquot in 1996. It sparked publicity, most notably a BBC programme shown that Easter produced by Ray Bruce called The Body In Question. However, Prof Kloner said there was no way the tomb housed the Holy Family. "It is just not possible that a family who came from Galilee, as the New Testament tells us of Joseph and Mary, would be buried over several generations in Jerusalem." ...

Or the DNA ascribed to this "Jesus" and "Mariamene" might have come from the archaeologists (e.g. "contaminated by a passing sneeze") who moved the bones out of the ossuaries in 1980, and would never have thought that the ossuaries' contents were going to be DNA tested nearly 30 years later (especially since DNA fingerprinting was not invented until 1985)!

But Mr [James] Cameron's claim has been attacked by archaeologists and theologians as unfounded. Archaeologists said that the burial cave was probably that of a Jewish family with similar names to that of Jesus. But Mr Cameron said the combination of names found on the tombs convinced him of their heritage.

See part #1 on "the combination of names found" being against this being the tomb of the Biblical Jesus' family. I assume this is a deliberate scam with Cameron only pretending to be "convinced" because he stands to make a lot of money out of it if he can convince others (or even get them watch his "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" documentary.

Samples tested Israeli construction workers building an apartment complex in Jerusalem's East Talpiot district first uncovered 10 of the 2,000-year-old ossuaries - or limestone coffins - in a tomb in March 1980.

See also part #1 on this being ~27 year old news!

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, six of those coffins were marked with the names Mary; Matthew; Jesua son of Joseph; Mary; Jofa (Joseph, Jesus' brother); and Judah son of Jesua.

See also part #1 on there being no known "Matthew"in the Biblical Jesus' family, nor two Mary's (although one could be an unknown sister). There is no evidence whatsoever that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus.

Another grave said by producers to be of Mary Magdalene convinced researchers of the truth of their find, Mr Cameron said at a New York news conference.

All it says is "Mariamene" (i.e. a variant of "Mary" - see below), not "Mary Magdalene." And again "Mary" was a very common name in Jesus' day (there are in fact up to six different Marys in the New Testament).

Note that "It is the only inscription of the six in Greek, and allegedly says "Mariamene e Mara" (it doesn't - see below) which" a "Professor Bovon has determined from the `Acts of Phillip' ["a late 4th or early 5th century fantasy"-Wikipedia] that Mariamene is Mary Magdalene's real name":

"Crypt Held Bodies of Jesus and Family, Film Says," The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, February 27, 2007 ... Perhaps the most shaky claims revolve around the inscription on the fifth box, which the filmmakers assert is that of Mary Magdalene. It is the only inscription of the six in Greek, and says "Mariamene e Mara," which the filmmakers say can be translated as "Mary, known as the master." The filmmakers cite the interpretation of a Harvard professor, Fran├žois Bovon, of the "Acts of Phillip," a text from the fourth or fifth century and recently recovered from a monastery at Mount Athos in Greece. The filmmakers say that Professor Bovon has determined from the "Acts of Phillip" that Mariamene is Mary Magdalene's real name. ...

But according to Professor of New Testament Studies Richard Bauckham: 1) "The form of the name on the ossuary ... is Mariamenou" which "is a Greek genitive case, used to indicate that the ossuary belongs to Mary;" 2) "Mariamenon is a diminutive form, used as a form of endearment," 3) there is no "Greek particle `e' (meaning `or') ... nor is there space for it between the two names"; 4) The inscription also has a second name Mara" which "is known to have been used as an abbreviation of the name Martha"; therefore "It is better to suppose that the bones of two women (or perhaps a woman and her child, the diminutive Mariamenon being used for the latter) were placed in the same ossuary":

"MORE ON THE `JESUS FAMILY TOMB' from the New York Times," PaleoJudaica.com, March 01, 2007, Jim Davila ... My colleague Richard Bauckham has sent me some material on these claims. He is one of the world's foremost experts on the family of Jesus. .... With regard to the second claim, the programme makers have somewhat stretched the evidence. The most common Greek form of the Hebrew name Mariam (which would have been Mary Magdalene's Hebrew name) was Mariame or Mariamme. A less common Greek form of the name was Maria, which is the form the New Testament uses (for Mary Magdalene and all the other Maries it mentions). The form of the name on the ossuary in question is Mariamenou. This is a Greek genitive case, used to indicate that the ossuary belongs to Mary (it means 'Mary's' or 'belonging to Mary'). The nominative would be Mariamenon. Mariamenon is a diminutive form, used as a form of endearment. The neuter gender is normal in diminutives used for women. This diminutive, Mariamenon, would seem to have been formed from the name Mariamene, a name which is attested twice elsewhere (in the Babatha archive and in the Jewish catacombs at Beth She'rim). It is an unusual variant of Mariame. In the Babatha document it is spelt with a long e in the penultimate syllable, but in the Bet She'rim inscription the penultimate syllable has a short e. This latter form could readily be contracted to the form Mariamne, which is found, uniquely, in the Acts of Philip. So we have, on the one hand, a woman known by the diminutive Mariamenon, in the ossuary, and, on the other hand, Mary Magdalen, who is always called in the Greek of the New Testament Maria but seems to be called in a much later source Mariamne. Going by the names alone they could be the same woman, but the argument for this is tenuous. A final point about the Mariamenou inscription. The inscription also has a second name Mara. When Rahmani published this inscription in his catalogue of ossuaries he conjectured that the Greek particle `e' (meaning `or') should be supplied between the two names, making them alternative names for the same woman. The `e' is not actually in the inscription, nor is there space for it between the two names. It is better to suppose that the bones of two women (or perhaps a woman and her child, the diminutive Mariamenon being used for the latter) were placed in the same ossuary (this would not be not unusual). The name Mara is known to have been used as an abbreviation of the name Martha. The programme makers take it to be the Aramaic word for `master,' but this is implausible in the context. Beside the name Mariamenou on an ossuary, one would expect Mara to be a name, and since it is attested as a name this is the obviously correct reading.

So with this, the last semblance of their case, collapses (although see also below where it collapses even further)! This was just a tomb of a wealthy Jerusalem family who just happened to have some (not all) of the same very common names as Jesus' family (the latter being Jesus, Joseph, Mary, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas - Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3).

Unveiling his documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus, Mr Cameron said the chances of finding that combination of names together was like finding a grave marked Ringo next to others marked John, Paul and George. "Mariamene is Mary Magdalene - that's the Ringo, that's what sets this whole film in motion," he said.

This is patently false. "Ringo" is a very uncommon name, whereas "Mary," "Joseph", "Jesus" and "Judah" were very common names, and "Mariamene" is "a name which is attested twice elsewhere" and is a "variant" albeit "unusual ... of Mariame".

And as Professor Bauckham further explains on Ben Witherington's blog, "Mariamne" (by which he evidently means also " Mariamene") was not Mary Magdalene's name while she was living, since "In the Gospels Mary Magdalene' name is always given in the Greek form Maria"* but was "a late deformation of the form Mariamme, a deformation made by Greek speakers not familiar with the name" (my emphasis):

THE SMOKING GUN---TENTH TALPIOT OSSUARY PROVED TO BE BLANK ... In the Gospels Mary Magdalene's name is always given in the Greek form Maria, which is the New Testament's standard practice for rendering Mariam into Greek, except for Luke 10:39-42. As we have noted it is standard Greek form of Mariam. However, from probably the mid-second century onwards we find some references to Mary Magdalene (often identified with Mary of Bethany and/or other Gospel Maries) that use the alternative standard Greek form Mariamme (or Mariame). These references are all either in Gnostic works (using `Gnostic' fairly loosely) or in writers referring to Gnostic usage. We find the form Mariamme in Celsus, the second-century pagan critic of Christianity, who lists Christian sectarian groups, including some who follow Mary (apo Mariammes). These may wll be the group who used the Gospel of Mary (late 2nd century?), a Greek fragment of which calls Mary Magdalene Mariamme. This form of her name also appears in the Coptic (a translation from Greek) of the Gnostic Work the Sophia of Jesus Christ (CG III,4). The usage may have been more widespread in Gnostic literature, but the fact that we have most Gnostic works only in Coptic makes it hard to tell.) This tradition of using the form Mariamme for Mary Magdalene must have been an alternative tradition of rendering her name in Greek. It most likely goes back to a usage within the orbit of Jewish Palestine (since the name Mary in any form was very rare in the diaspora and Gentile Christians would not be familiar with the name Mariamme ordinarily). But so does the usage of Maria in the New Testament Gospels, at least one of which is at least a century earlier than any evidence we have for giving her the name Mariamme. It would be hazardous to suppose that Mariamme was the Greek form of her name used by Mary Magdalene herself or the earliest disciples of Jesus. The Gnostic use of Mariamme is also reported by Hioppolytus [sic] in his Refutation of All Heresies (written between 228 and 233). He says that the Naassenes claimed to have a secret teaching that James the brother of Jesus had transmitted to Mary (5.7.1; 10.9.3). What is especially significant is that the manuscript evidence is divided between two forms of the name: Mariamme and Mariamne (note the `n'!). It is probably impossible to tell which Hippolytus himself wrote. However, it is easy to see that, in a milieu where the name Mariamme was not otherwise known, the usage could slip from Mariamme to Mariamne. These variant readings in Hippolytus are the first known occurrences of the form Mariamne (which the Discovery Channel programme claims is the same name as that on one of the ossuaries). Since it occurs in Hippolytus as a variant of Mariamme, and since the latter is wll attested in Jewish usage back to the first century CE, it seems clear that the form Mariamne is not really an independent version of the name Mariam (independent of Mariamme, that is). But a late deformation of the form Mariamme, a deformation made by Geek [sic] speakers not familiar with the name. This must also then explain the usage in the apocryphal Acts of Philip (late 4th or early 5th century), where Mariamne is consistently and frequently used for the sister of the apostle Philip, apparently identified with both Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany. ...

* Actually according to my Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, the "Mary" in Mary Magdalene is rendered both "Maria" (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40,47; 16:1,9; Lk 8:2; 24:10; Jn 19:25; Jn 20:1) and "Mariam" (Mt 27:61; 28:1; Jn 20:18), including by the same writers, but this does not affect Professor Bauckham's argument.

Christian contradiction? The documentary asserts that tests on samples from two of the coffins show Jesus and Mary Magdalene were likely to have been buried in them and were a couple.

Again, the name "Magdalene" does not appear on the ossuaries. Cameron is just making this up.

The film-makers used this finding to claim that the coffin marked "Judah son of Jesua" contains the son of Jesus and Mary.

There is no evidence therefore that this "Judah son of Jesua" was the son of "Mary' also. And again there is no evidence that the Biblical Jesus had a son nor that He was married. Even the Gnostic `gospels' that Dan Brown relied upon don't say that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, let alone had a son.

But they said the discovery of the tomb does not undermine the key Christian belief that Jesus was resurrected three days after his death.

That is correct because there is no evidence for,and much evidence against,that any of the bones in this tomb were of the Biblical Jesus. But if some of these bones had been those of the Biblical Jesus, then it would "undermine" indeed it would totally refute "the key Christian belief that Jesus was resurrected three days after his death."

Academic Stephen Pfann, a scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said he did not expect Christians to accept the film's findings. "I don't think that Christians are going to buy into this," said Mr Pfann, who was interviewed by the film-makers. "But sceptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."

I doubt that even sceptics would use this flimsy evidence (see post and comments on RichardDawkins.net which indicates that most of them, to their credit, don't accept it). There is a difference between an honest (but mistaken) sceptic and a dishonest scam-artist!

Findings refuted Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner, who was among the first to examine the tomb when it was first discovered, said the names marked on the coffins were very common at the time. "I don't accept the news that it was used by Jesus or his family," he told the BBC News website. "The documentary filmmakers are using it to sell their film."

Agreed. This is just another money-making scam at the expense of Christianity. See part #1 and part #3.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).


Exodus 8:1-15. 1Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. 3The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.' " 5Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, 'Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.' " 6So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. 7But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. 8Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD." 9Moses said to Pharaoh, "I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile." 10"Tomorrow," Pharaoh said. Moses replied, "It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile." 12After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the LORD about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.

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