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Have Archeologists Found Jesus’ Body?

Monday, February 26th, 2007

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ hae perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:17-20).

It is doubtful that the filmmakers behind a new Discovery Channel documentary have ever read Paul’s logic on the resurrection of Christ, but they understand it. That much is clear from a new claim that archeologists have discovered the body of Christ in a 2,000-year-old tomb located in a suburb of Jerusalem.

New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world’s foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

A documentary presenting the evidence, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” will premiere on the Discovery Channel on March 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The documentary comes from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici.

My observations…

1. First they tell us Jesus is a myth, and now they have found his body. Which is it? At least the skeptics could take a position and give Christians an opportunity to respond.

2. Tradition that goes back as early as the fourth century holds that Jesus’ body rested in a tomb over which the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands. Which is better, a theory formed 400 years or 2,000 years after the fact?

3. Six names will be revealed in the documentary. These were found among ten coffins in the newly discovered tomb: Jesua son of Joesph, Mary, Mary, Matthew, Jofa, Judah son of Jesua. Here’s where I find several problems.

There is not one shred of evidence that proves Jesus and Mary Magdalene were ever married (“The Da Vinci Code” doesn’t count). Despite the recent enthusiasm of anti-Christian literature, The Gospel of Philip never makes this claim, neither do any of the other Gnostic Gospels. Therefore, Jesus’ family tomb would include only one Mary, his mother.

It follows that if Jesus were unmarried he would not have a son named Judah. By debunking the “Da Vinci” drivel, we show that this tomb looks nothing like Jesus’ family tomb.

One brother, Jofa (Joseph) is mentioned. Where are James, Jude, and Simon? (Mt. 13:55). The filmmakers claim they have found an empty space where the infamous “James ossuary” might have rested, which is interesting, since that little artifact was the center of a famous antiquities fraud in 2005.

Who was Matthew? The apostle? Why would he have been buried with Jesus?

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film’s hypothesis holds little weight. He’s not even sure the name “Jesua” was translated correctly. Another possibility is “Hanun.”

In addition to all these problems, the names Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Judah were very common in first century Palestine. For proof of this fact one need look no further than the New Testament.

4. According to the most authentic history we have on the life of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Jesus was buried in a tomb in Jerusalem, only it was not his family tomb. He was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Jn. 19:38-42). According to Jewish tradition, the rest of Jesus’ family would have been buried in Galilee where they were from, that is, if they could afford a tomb in the first place.

5. The biggest question of all is, “Why did it take 2,000 years to discover Jesus’ tomb?” His enemies knew where it was (Mt. 27:62-66). They carefully sealed it and stationed a Roman guard there to prevent his disciples from stealing the body in the night. And yet when Peter declared the resurrection 50 days later nobody protested. Jesus’ enemies would have stopped his movement in its tracks by producing his body. But instead Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the world. The idea that we’ve been able to discover something Jesus’ enemies could not find 2,000 years ago is not even worth considering. The idea is ludicrous.

Contrary to its name, The Discovery Channel hasn’t “discovered” anything. This is a 30-year-old controversy that, until now, was jettisoned by skeptics as insufficient evidence against Christianity.

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,” he said.

But James Cameron may be able to pull this off anyway. After all, he was able to get a PG-13 rating for “Titanic,” an extremely graphic movie, and take away an Oscar despite Leonardo Di Caprio’s cheesy “King of the World” scene.