The Lost Tomb of Jesus…

6 03 2007

This documentary is quite simply that. A documentary. A documentary that follows a passionate filmmaker and his crew through their adventures in uncovering facts about a first century tomb found in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Period. That’s it. Every now and then, a dramatization is inserted to support the hypothesis that they present. Perfect. Fine. Quite formulaic. What’s with all the controversy and accusations of irresponsible journalism?

Well, the tomb may very well contain the remains of Jesus and a number of incredibly important members of his family. Why this is so hard to grasp, I have no idea. However, when religion and faith are involved in scientific discoveries, it seems that regardless of the amount of evidence, people just do not change their minds. Isn’t that right Mr. Evolution? We’ll save that topic for another day.

So, what are the actual facts? It’s simple. Forget all the docu-drama aspects of the film and all your own personal beliefs and read the facts for what they are:

1.) A tomb is found is Talpiot, Jerusalem in 1980 holding 10 ossuaries.
2.) The tomb is from the first century and contains a rare marking above the entrance of a Chevron with a circle at the base.
3.) Of the ten ossuaries found inside, six of them bear inscriptions.
4.) The inscriptions read: Jesus son of Joseph, Maria, Mariamne e Mara, Matia, Jose, Judah son of Jesus
5.) Jesus, Mary and Joseph are all very common names in the first century.
6.) One of the ten ossuaries goes missing before they are all brought back to a warehouse to be cataloged.
7.) The inscription “Maria” is a Latinized version of the Hebrew name Miriam.
8.) In the Acts of Philip, the Virgin Mary is referred to and differentiated from other Marys by this exact name. Maria.
9.) The inscription “Mariamne e Mara” is a Greek version of the name Mary the Master or Mary the Teacher.
10.) Mary Magdalene was known to preach with her brother Philip and known to preach specifically in Greek.
11.) The name “Mariamne” has never been found on any other ossuary.
12.) In the Acts of Philip, Mary Magdalene is specifically referred to as “Mariamne”.
13.) The oldest known copy of the acts of Philip is from the Fourth Century.

Let’s stop here and let the picture unfold. A lot of the arguments against these findings argue that the names Jesus, Mary and Joseph were incredibly common in the first century and therefore cannot be used as strong evidence. This is very true and no one will argue this point. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were all very common names in the first century. So, finding a tomb with one ossuary and the name “Jesus” on it isn’t that big of a deal. Finding a tomb with one ossuary and the name “Jesus son of Joseph” on it still really isn’t that big of a deal. Finding a tomb with two ossuaries bearing “Jesus son of Joseph” on one and “Maria” on another gets a little more interesting. Finding a tomb with three ossuaries bearing “Jesus son of Joseph”, “Maria” and “Mariamne” now starts getting incredibly interesting, especially when the name “Mariame” can only be found in the Acts of Philip when referring to his sister Mary Magdalene and is not found on any other ossuaries. See where we’re going with this? Now, combine that with the fact that Jesus’ brother was named Joseph. One of the ossuaries bears the name “Jose”. “Jose” would have been a term of endearment, like calling a Joseph “Joey”. We also know that Jesus’ brother was referred to as “Jose” in the bible. So, now we have FOUR ossuaries in ONE tomb bearing FOUR KNOWN NAMES of Jesus’ family, all dating from the right time and the right place.

Here’s a kink: “Matia” was not a known name of any of Jesus’ direct family members. Does it hurt the case? Not necessarily. While it does somewhat lessen the credibility of the hypothesis, it also in some ways helps strengthen the picture as a whole. Mother Mary or “Maria” was of Davidic descent and came from a very long line of “Matthews”. “Matia” is simply another version of “Matthew”. Now, one of the other reasons this isn’t such a huge blow to the case is that considering the other incredibly common names of the first century, “Matia” was not one of them. So, if you’re going to use the “common name” argument, then you would have to take into consideration the argument that while Jesus, Mary and Joseph were all common names, Matthew was not, yet is still found within the tomb and can be traced back to the Davidic lineage of Mary. There is a connection regardless of how weak one may think it is.

Now we come to the interesting part: “Judah son of Jesus”. Not much can really be said about Judah considering that if this really is the tomb of Jesus Christ, this will be the first time we are hearing about his son in 2,000 years. All we can ask is, “Is it possible” and the answer is surprisingly, yes. Jesus was considered a rabbi and according to ancient Judaic customs, to be considered a rabbi, one must be married. NOT being married was incredibly uncommon. Jesus would have been the outcast for not being married yet we find nowhere any statement that tells us that he was not. Considering the fact that Jesus would have been the rightful heir to the Davidic House, any son of his would have to be kept quite a secret to avoid any number of search and destroy tactics the Romans would have employed to find him. So, with that information, it’s not such a surprise that we have no record of a “Judah son of Jesus”. So, does this hurt the case? No. Had the inscription simply read “Judah”, then it might hurt. But, for the inscription to specifically point to being the “son of Jesus”, it makes the ossuary an integral part of the familial tomb and whether we know about a Judah or not, the fact is, the ossuary really does belong there.

Here’s another kink: The Acts of Philip. The oldest known version of this book comes down to us from the fourth century. 400 years AFTER Jesus. And we’re lucky we even have that! Thousands of now unknown Gospels and books were burned early in the history of the Church. The Acts of Philip were copied by monks and survived all that time until the Acts of Philip was found in 1974 by French archaeologist Francois Bovon. So, our REAL eyewitness, if you will, was standing 400 years away from the scene. So, does THIS hurt the case? Unfortunately, yes. But, it’s not the end.

Even if the Acts of Philip can not definitively point at “Mariamne” as being Mary Magdalene and “Maria” as being the Virgin Mary, we still have tangible evidence that yields an incredibly high probability that this is the tomb of Jesus Christ. The conservative estimate that this is Jesus’ tomb is 600 to 1. That means we would have to find 600 other Judaic tombs within the same area dating from the same time with the same number of ossuaries and inscriptions to say with certainty that this is NOT the tomb of the real Jesus Christ. Those are incredibly high odds. When you factor in the tenth ossuary that just happened to surface, those odds go up to 30,000 to 1.

The tenth ossuary is pretty shrouded in mystery and skepticism and as I write this, the trial for its fate and the credibility of the tomb is taking place in Jerusalem. Oded Golan, the owner of the tenth ossuary acquired the relic through antiquity channels which immediately raises the flag on any artifact. He states that the ossuary showed up around 1980 which would correlate to the date of the discovery of the tomb. He also states that he was unaware of the significance of the ossuary until 1996 when the BBC ran a special about the tomb. This tenth ossuary bears the inscription “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”. Jesus did have a brother named James and had this tenth ossuary been left intact with the rest of them when they were discovered in 1980, I doubt this would even be a debate. So what’s all the fuss about? Scholars can not agree on whether the inscription is a forgery or if it is real. There is no question about the authenticity of the actual ossuary. Some argue “Brother of Jesus” was added later while others argue that the whole phrase was a modern addition. Yet still there are others that argue that it is completely genuine.

When these limestone bone boxes are left alone for thousands of years, they develop what is known as patina. Patina is simply the sediments mixed with the environment that settle within every crack of the limestone causing a veneer to form. This distinctive veneer forms somewhat of a fingerprint since each environment is different. The patina is nowhere near as distinctive as a fingerprint, but it is a very strong indication of how and where the artifact may have been. By taking the patina from the “James Ossuary”, patina from multiple other random ossuaries and the patina from the Jesus and Mariamne ossuaries, they were able to compare the trace elements and chemical makeup of each of the patinas. Within the random samples, none of them even came close to matching either the Jesus and Mariamne ossuaries or the James ossuary. However, when the Jesus and Mariamne ossuaries were compared with the James ossuary, they matched. They came from the exact same place. That means that at one time, “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” lay right next to Jesus, Maria, Mariamne and Judah. Now, we may never know for sure whether the inscription was always there or if it was all a hoax, but we do know that the actual ossuary was in the same tomb.

Our 30,000 to 1 odds would be a wonderful probability to help prove this case, but unfortunately, we have to rely on the more conservative 600 to 1 odds. 600 to 1 is still a great probability and is probably enough to persuade quite a bit of people. But, this is science. Science can not be persuaded. So let’s talk about the science behind it all. Let’s talk about the DNA. Small fragments of bone were found in both the Jesus and Mariamne ossuaries and were gathered together to help make some sort of connection between these two individuals. Since Mary Magdalene was in no way related to Jesus or his family, the hope was that the Mariamne DNA and the Jesus DNA would NOT match. This wouldn’t prove that they were married, but it would prove that they weren’t related. Considering the fact that this was a familial tomb, there would be no real reason for someone not in the family to be buried within it. Unless, of course, you were married. Now, it is very true that if their DNA did not match, Marimane and Jesus could be cousins or even “adopted” brother and sister. So, the lack of DNA matching does NOT prove a marital union between Mariamne and Jesus. It just simply strengthens the possibility. Since the DNA samples were so small and so old, only mitochondrial DNA was able to be extracted. This type of DNA testing can only prove or disprove maternal relationship. The result? Mariamne and Jesus were not maternally related. Once again, the possibility that the two individuals were cousins or “adopted” brother and sister are not ruled out. However, using the rest of the evidence and the conservative probability that the tomb in question is that of Jesus Christ, while introducing the possibility of a cousin or “adopted” brother and sister relationship, this also strengthens the possibility that the two were married. Had neither of these ossuaries bore any inscription and were found in the exact same place and DNA testing was performed, accepting that the two were married would not be as gigantic of a leap. The possibility that this tomb may hold Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene is the defining factor on why it is so hard to accept.

None of these findings on their own yield any real significant evidence for anything. However, put together they form an incredibly probable picture of the familial burial tomb of Jesus Christ.

The science can only take us so far as to what kind of relationship these two individuals had. At some point, we as humans must step in to hypothesize. Until this hypothesis can be proven, we’re left with a few possibilities, some stronger than others. If we take away the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, we’re still left with two ossuaries in one familial tomb that are not related. So, even if these two individuals were not married, there was a definite reason why they were buried together. We can speculate all we want about what their relationship was, but we’ll never be able to answer that question. The simple fact is that they were together in death and must have felt just as strongly enough about each other in life.

As for all the other evidence, I firmly believe that even if within the tomb there was concrete evidence that proved that it was the definitive final resting place of Jesus Christ, there would be a myriad of scientists, theologians, mathematicians and archaeologists that would find ways to dispute the discovery. We can not change the minds of the masses. The ongoing dispute over the validity of evolution is a perfect example of this. So, where do we go from here? We can only do more tests and make more people aware of this rare and monumental archaeological discovery and hope that science provides the proper evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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