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. http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/02/problems-multiple-for-jesus-tomb-theory.html
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 http://dev.bible.org/bock/node/106 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