Reaction to “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”

I will be blogging tonight on the Discovery Channel documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” by James Cameron and Simon Jacobivici, which is airing tonight. The program and a follow-up will last until midnight. I may be able to get some thoughts on before midnight. Otherwise, I will have to work right after midnight. Check back for more.

*** “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” was very persuasive because it consisted of entertainment and half-truths thrown at viewers who had little time to evaluate their credibility and few critics to show the other side. I cannot comment on all the details of the documentary, but I hope to say enough to cause you to doubt the case that James Cameron and Simon Jacobovici have made. YOU MAY WANT TO SCROLL DOWN AND READ “THE JESUS-TOMB DECEPTION, PARTS 1 AND 2” BEFORE CONTINUING TO READ THIS POST.

Here is a brief summary of their case: a tomb was discovered in 1980 with ten ossuaries in it. These ossuaries contained the names: Yeshua bar Yekhosef, Maryah, Yoseh, Mattiyah, Mariamnou Marah, and Yehudah bar Yeshua (Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Jose, Matthew, Mariamne, and Jude son of Jesus). If you equate Mariamne with Mary Magdalene and assume she was married to Jesus, and further assume that the James ossuary was originally from this tomb, then you have an overwhelming case that this was the family tomb of Jesus. If that is true, the bones of Jesus have been found and the resurrection story of Christianity cannot be understood as a physical resurrection, but only as a spiritual one. And Jesus was not who Christians think he was, but was actually a married man who died like everyone else.


The real facts are these: a tomb was discovered from the time of Jesus. It contained ossuaries with the names Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Jose, Matthew, Mariamnou Marah, and Jude son of Jesus. The only two names not common in this list are Mariamnou Marah and Jose. I cannot, with the resources I have at present, confirm how common Jose (Yoseh) is in first century inscriptions and Jewish literature. I suspect it is not rare, just not one of the top ten names.

How likely is it that there would be a Jesus whose father’s name is Joseph and who has in the tomb with him people named Matthew, Jose, Jude, and Mary? Well, since most of these names are very common, the chances would be reasonably good. This would be like finding a tomb in which Bill the son of Bob is buried with Mary, Tom, and Jim.

Here are some of the film’s assumptions and claims that I find unproven:

1. That Mariamenou Marah is Mary Magdalene. Their case looks like this: Marah could be Aramaic for Master. Mary Magdalene in fourth century writings was considered an evangelist on par with the disciples and maybe some would call her master. Thus, Mariamnou Marah is quite likely Mary Magdalene. This case is so unlikely I would call it screwball.

2. That Jose must be Jesus’ brother from Mark 6:3. Their case: Jose is not a common name, so this Jose must be Jesus’ brother. My thought: I don’t have the documentation yet, but how uncommon is Jose? I suspect not all that uncommon. It is probably a short form of Joseph. I will research it and get the info on here later.

3. That Maryah must be Jesus’ mother Mary because the name is Latinized. Mary would be Miriam in Hebrew. Maryah is written on the ossuary in Hebrew letters following the Greek/Latin way to say her name. Their case: Mary became so famous by her Greek name, that she came to be called Maryah instead of Miriam and this was put on her ossuary. My thought: any Miriam in Jerusalem could have Latinized her name in the same way. Case far from proven.

4. That Matthew belongs in the Jesus family tomb because Matthew occurs many times in Mary’s genealogy, so it is a family name. My thought: first, I don’t agree that the genealogy in Luke 3 is Mary’s. Second, the name Matthew is not known to be a family member of Jesus. The existence of a Matthew ossuary is evidence against the Jesus identification–evidence conveniently ignored.

5. That the statistical probabilities overwhelmingly identify this tomb as that of Jesus of Nazareth. My thought: this is only true if you assume certain relationships between the names and certain identifications for the names. It is not likely to be Jesus of Nazareth is this tomb merely contains a family with the names Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Mariamne, Matthew, Jude, and Jose. It could be any extended family of the thousands of Jerusalem families.

6. That Jesus’ friends and family would know he was dead and not alive yet still would preach the resurrection and die claiming it was true.

7. That Mariamne must have been the wife of Jesus. See below for rebuttal.

8. That Jesus of Nazareth’s family would have such a tomb in Jerusalem. My thought: they were a poor family and they were not from Jerusalem at all, but from Bethlehem and Nazareth.

9. That you can explain away all the evidence for the resurrection and just believe this new hypothesis of Jacobovici. My thought: read N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God if you think you can say there is not enough evidence to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead. If you think the resurrection was a myth and you haven’t dealt with Wright’s solid case, then you are deceiving yourself. There are other good writers on the subject, but Wright’s case stands as the most thoroughly researched. I defy you to defy N.T. Wright on this topic.

Rebuttal to the claim that Mariamne was the wife of Jesus:
One claim that was made which I will specifically comment on is this: that DNA from the tomb proves that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married. The facts are these:
(a) Two ossuaries were found, one with the name Yeshua bar Yekhosef (Jesus son of Joseph) and one with Mariamnou Marah (which they claim means Master Mariamne = Mary Magdalene).
(b) The two ossuaries had bone fragments from which mitochondrial (not nuclear)DNA was recovered. Mitochondrial DNA can show whether the Jesus bones and the Mariamne bones shared the same mother or not.
(c) They did not share the same mother.
(d) Thus, since it was a family tomb (they assume that only spouses and brothers and sisters and parents and children would be in the tomb) the most likely explanation is that Jesus and Mariamne were married.
(e) They neglect to mention many other explanations: Jesus could be Mariamne’s father, Mariamne could be a cousin, Mariamne could be the wife of Jesus’ brother, there could be divorce and remarriage. etc.
–They fail to prove that the person called Yeshua (Jesus) and the one called Mariamne were married (much less that Mariamne is Mary Magdalene!).


About Derek Leman

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

7 Responses to Reaction to “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”

  1. Alien Drums says:

    Thanks, Derek. Good “first blush” response.

  2. iks says:

    christians are the ones who believe jesus was rich and noble, alinghned with King David so u guys shouldn’t have a problem with a burial in jerusalem

    as far as Jews are considered, he was not holy, and not from the noble family perse, but must have been rich and important enough to have all sorts of legends attributed to him

    so either way, it’s likely and quite probably that he was buried in Jerusalem

    miriam, written in a latinized way would not have been something done by a religious Pharisian Jew of this time, therefore more than likely this would have had to have been a woman associated with one of the secularized Jewish sects of the time. This goes in sinc with Jewish thought that Jesus would be one of the many people attributed to be a messiah in an era with many apocalyptic beliefs by many Jewish sects. Also, then this Miriam would have to be the one associated associated with the Jesus found in the tomb, who could very well be the famed one ivolved in two major religions: Judaism and Christianity.

    The only way for Christians to continue to believe in a form of bodily resurrection would be to assume that this tomb is not that of your Jesus, but it’s hard to fathom that many of the same characters in connection to a Jesus could belong to a family that is identical.

  3. Dale says:

    More than once since the controversy over the Talpiot tomb began, I have heard that money is the prime motive force behind the discovery of the Jesus Tomb. We believers may be missing the full motive behind the latest Cameron/Jacobovici project. I think it may be, for Jacobovici at least, not all about the profits.

    Last year there was a Discovery Channel special that Cameron/ Jacobovici produced on the Exodus. A lavish “connect the dots” piece called “The Exodus Decoded”. In that one, Simcha J made a seemingly convincing case for the authenticity of the Biblical account of the Exodus while divorcing it from the supernatural.

    The first few lines of Jacobovici’s narration in the Lost Tomb he states (in his best Lugosi of the Mounties style) that Matthew’s gospel says that the Sanhedrin LIED about the body of Jesus being stolen. There seemed to be an extra bit of venom dripping from the words, “They LIED”.

    Throughout the film, unless it supports his theory (ex: Jesus’ lineage in Luke), he misses no opportunity to show the New Testament to be false.

    I got the feeling I was watching a Passion Play in reverse, where the “bad guys” win. When Jesus is on trial before Ciaphas, the actor playing Jesus shoots the High Priest a look that could kill.

    Jacobovici is apparently an Orthodox Jew who takes his religion seriously and probably deeply resents the widely held notion among Jews that Christians hold them responsible for “killing Christ”.

    As Christians, we know that our sin was the reason the Messiah laid down His life. Evil men, in the name of God crucified Jesus and evil men in the name of Christ have persecuted Jews. I think Jacobovici’s primary goal is to clear the name of Ciaphas, his followers and wrong headedly the Jewish people. I pray Simcha J and everyone else for that matter will repent of their sin and trust the one and only Lamb of G_d to save them.

    For some reason, the “Strong Delusion” of 2 Thess. keeps coming to mind. I think this is very dangerous stuff. G_d bless you.

    An article containing Jacobovici’s beliefs can be found at:

  4. telson7 says:

    Many syncretistic religions formed gnosticism. Gnosticism was rivaling against Christianity and gnosticism held itself better religion as Christianity was. Word gnosticism comes from Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. Gnosticism had various effects, for instance, some Gnostics taught that divinity can be achieved through unity of the man and woman. This thought led some Gnostics to reach for divinity through sexual intercourse between the man and woman. There existed also some Gnostics, who abstained from sexual intercourse. When we know the fact that Gnostics held Christians as their enemies and that Gnostics held themselves better as Christians and that Gnostics wanted to show in every way that Gnosticism was better as Christianity, so Gnostics made so called gnostic gospels were they twisted, slandered and misrepresented the real gospels. Gnostics went so far in this misrepresent that they wrote “new gospels” by faking the real gospels. In these faked gospels Gnostics wrote that Jesus Christ was an ordinary man who has a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.

  5. bradgreen says:

    Many people do not know this, but a rebuttal program was made by Discovery following the backlash by the scientific community. In the rebuttal, a number of prominent archaeologists tear the original show to pieces, using many of the arguments listed here. The plan was to re-air the original documentary followed by the rebuttal, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus: The World Reacts”. It never aired, because after seeing the finished product, Simon Jacobivici threatened to sue Discovery. Being the wusses that they are, they caved, and left the non-scientific community believing that this POS used good science.

  6. joezias says:

    I need to get in contact with Brad Green above

    • bradleystephengreen (at) gmail (dot) com

      Its been years since i’ve seen the rebuttal movie, so I probably can’t help you with too much, but I can confirm that it does exist, and that is the reason why it never aired.

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