The Jesus-Tomb Deception, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote giving you some ammunition against “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” a Discovery Channel documentary due to air Sunday, March 4 at 9 pm. It was produced by James Cameron, the director of Titanic. If you haven’t yet, read that first post before reading this one.

Note that I plan to blog Sunday night with some reactions to “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” I plan to post before midnight E.T.

Now, today, having had a little more time for research than when I last posted, I would like to share some critical insights with you into why “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” is bad theory seeking attention. The standards of the Discovery Channel (and other networks as well) for documentaries on religion are very low. Scholars way out in left field are regularly interviewed and given greater weight than recognized scholars. Who makes better television: the slightly loony professor who thinks Jesus descendants are hiding in Europe or the widely acclaimed scholar whose work verifies at least part of the truthfulness of the gospels? You know the answer.

I found some information about the documentary and some critiques that you should keep in mind as you watch it:

What is the Evidence that Jesus’ Bones Have Been Found?
1. A tomb discovered in 1980 and excavated by Amos Kloner was found to have ten ossuary boxes in it. Ossuary boxes are from the type of burial at that time, where bodies were left to decompose and then the bones were collected and stored in a box.
2. On these ten ossuary boxes, there were allegedly found eight names, all related to the family and story of Jesus.
3. These ten ossuary boxes allegedly contained the names of: Joseph, Mary, Jesus Son of Joseph, Mary (presumably the Magdalene), Judah Son of Jesus, and Matthew.
4. The statistical probability of one tomb containing these eight names, all related to Jesus, is said to be 600 to 1.
5. Thus, QED, this must be the tomb of Jesus.
6. Thus, the resurrection of Jesus is a lie and faith in him as Messiah is baseless.

Problems With This Evidence

1. Several of the name identifications are unlikely:
—-Mary Magdalene: Wouldn’t a lot of Dan Brown fans like to believe that Mary Magdalene is buried in the same grave as Jesus? Well, the ossuary doesn’t say Mary of Magdala in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. It says Mariamenou in Greek! In order to tie this name to Mary Magdalene, a Jew in Israel in the first century, the documentary looks at later semi-Christian writings which use that name. This is not evidence, but manipulating the evidence. Even worse, according to Ben Witherington, a man who knows New Testament archeology, the Mariamne in the so-called Acts of Philip from the fourth century, is said to be Philip’s sister and is nowhere called Mary Magdalene. Identifying Mariamenou on an ossuary with Mary Magdalene of the New Testament is a theory stretched on many tenuous theories–way past the breaking point of likelihood. Mariamenou is not the same as the Greek Maria or the Hebrew/Aramaic Miriam. With the number or Mary’s in the New Testament, if the Magdalene had a different first name, it would have been used.
—–Jesus son of Joseph (Yeshua bar Yosef) is practically illegible. It may be the right identification, but it is uncertain.

2. The case from the combination of names and their likelihood is ridiculous. These are the most common names in first century Judaism. It is like finding ten tombstones containing the names Bob, Bill, Jim, Tom, John, Dave, Joe, and Mary and saying this must be the family tomb of Bob Engstrom whom you went to college with in the 70’s! At the end of this post, you can find a catalogue of names known from Jewish sources in Israel at the time with frequencies in total and on ossuaries.

3. Why are the ossuaries in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek)? Ben Witherington suggests this indicates a multi-generational tomb.

4. Why is Matthew in the supposed family tomb of Jesus?

5. Why is Jesus’ supposed family tomb in Judea when they are from Nazareth?

When you watch on Sunday night, keep these things in mind. James Cameron is going to present the evidence in a way that makes light of the problems and pushes the envelope on the possibilities.

Catalogue of Known First-Century Jewish Names–From by Darrell Bock from the research of Richard Bauckham. The first number is the total number of times the name is found in all documents and artifacts. The second is the number of times it has been found on ossuaries. These names are listed in order of popularity. Yes, Jesus (Yeshua) is the 6th most common name for first-century Jewish men and Mary is the most common name for females!

1 Simon/Simeon 243 59
2 Joseph 218 45
3 Eleazar 166 29
4 Judah 164 44
5 John/Yohanan 122 25
6 Jesus 99 22
7 Hananiah 82 18
8 Jonathan 71 14
9 Matthew 62 17
10 Manaen/Menahem 42 4

Mary/Mariamne 70 42
Salome 58 41
Shelamzion 24 19
Martha 20 17


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Jesus-Tomb, Messianic Jewish, Theology, Yeshua. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Jesus-Tomb Deception, Part 2

  1. I’ve written a comprehensive rebuttal of the films claims. Please read it and decide for yourself whether or not the film claims are solid or a hoax.

    You will find it at

  2. leonine says:

    Thank you for providing facts rather than guesses and suppositions. It seems that most so called documentaries about the Bible, Jesus, and creation, are “supported” by assumptions delivered by experts on the fringe of their own specialty.

    Your blog is a breath of fresh air.

    May God Bless you.

  3. C.V. Van Raalte says:

    I think it is truly sad that phrases such as “The Jesus Discovery,” or “The Jesus Tomb Hoax” or even your title, “The Jesus-Tomb Deception.” As a Christian, my faith has nothing to do with the ideas or arguements of men. My faith is about my relationship with God. He, through prayer, guides my beliefs.
    As a student, I don’t feel any of the facts are proven or disproven in this case. These people, the archaeologists, want to have a deeper understanding of Jesus, and they’re finding it the only way they know how. I commend them for that.
    As a Christian, I was very angry with Dan Brown’s novel. I felt it attacked Christianity and made wild assertions, not to seek the truth, but to make money. I don’t feel these “journalist film makers” are doing that.
    Finally, shame on you for giving creedence to this debate if you don’t believe in it, by talking about it in your blog. And if you are going to give creedence to it, allow yourself to approach the debate with an open heart, as Jesus would have us do. And don’t tell me you do, you’re as confused on your facts as the maker of that documentary. First you tell me Mariamne is not the same as Maria, or Mary or Miriam, “Mariamenou is not the same as the Greek Maria or the Hebrew/Aramaic Miriam” and then at the bottom, you combine them to get your statistics, “Mary/Mariamne.”
    Now I’m sure you’ll find a reason to remove my comments, but you at least read it before you do.

    C.V. Van Raalte

  4. C.V.:

    You found an inconsistency in my article, for which I commend you. The point I meant to make was that “Mariamnou Marah” is not Mary Magdalene. I then went too far and said Mariamne is not the same as Maria (Mary). Shouldn’t have said that. My larger point still remains — Marimamnou Marah is not demonstrably Mary Magdalene.

    As for saying shame on me — well, shame on you. Shame on you for saying shame on me :-)

    You were angered by Dan Brown’s novel. I am angered by Jacobovici and Cameron’s documentary. If I want to point out factual inconsistencies and problems (just as you have done with me), it is my right to do so. “Shame” on you for attempting to deny me that right. I don’t even understand your point.

    It would seem you think debates about history have nothing to do with faith. I agree with Darrell Bock, who said on the program immediately following the documentary, that history and faith go together and are not separate spheres.


  5. Joseph Jarbi says:

    the numbers talk

    1/600 Jesus son of Joseph
    So if there was 600,000 tombs
    Then we got 1,000 tombs with same Jesus son of Joseph
    this does not stand in court

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