Note: This article was originally written in 2007.
In the Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem, in 1980, Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner found a tomb and ossuaries (bone boxes) inside. He found the find interesting, but of no particular archaeological importance.
Two years later, Tova Bracha’s children were playing, and accidentally discovered the tomb. They wiggled into the tomb and found 10 ossuaries. The mother called in archaeologists from Israel’s Antiquities Authority. After studying the find, no significance archaeologically was attached to this find.
This find eventually found the attention of Simcha Jacobovici (An Emmy-winning film-maker). He teamed up with James Cameron (the Oscar-winning director of Titanic fame). Together they have produced a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” It was to air on March 4, on the Discovery channel. I haven’t seen it yet, but I understand that it hints at the possibility that this could be the tomb of Jesus.
The evidence? The names inscribed on the ossuaries are names associated with The Christ. Six of the ten ossuaries are inscribed. There is a “Jesus son of Joseph,” two “Mary”s, a “Matthew,” a “Jose” and a “Judas son of Jesus.”
Additional evidence? Mitochondria DNA was found on two of the ossuaries, only two: The ossuary of “Jesus” and the ossuary of one of the Marys (specifically “Mariamene”). The evidence could only show that the two were not related through a common mother. The producers leap from this to the assumption that this Mary and this Jesus were likely married and that “Judah” may have been their child. U.S. News and World Report calls all of this a “huge leap.”
There is also some controversy over the name “Jesus.” U.S. News and World Report explains, “Some researchers claim that the alleged Aramaic name of ‘Jesus’ is too unclear to be confidently read as such.”
But, for the sake of argument: Let’s assume that the name does read “Jesus,” and that “Jesus” and “Mary” were married, and that “Judah” was their son. Does all of this establish that this is the tomb of Jesus Christ?
No, not even close! Consider the following: (1) The names are common. “Jesus” is a Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua,” one of the nation’s heroes. There are no less than four Jesuses mentioned in the New Testament. “Mary” was likewise common. Joe Zios (an anthropologist) is reported by ABC News as indicating 48% of women living at the time were named “Mary,” “Mariam,” or “Shlomzion.” Newsweek indicates that almost one-fourth of women in Jerusalem at the time would have been named “Mary,” or some derivative. There are no less that six Marys in the New Testament and three at the crucifixion scene; clearly whatever the percentage the names were extremely common. There are no less than twelve Josephs in the Bible, which shouldn’t surprise for Joseph was another national hero. There are thirteen Judahs, and Judases, and Judes (variations of the same names) found in the Bible. (2) We also point out that the name Jesus is not uncommon on burial sites. Amos Kloner, an Israeli archaeologist, points out that there are more than 900 burial tombs within a 2 mile radius of Talpiyot, of them, 71 bear the name “Jesus” and two “Jesus son of Joseph.” The tomb in Talpiyot is one of the two, but he points out the inscription is barely decipherable and therefore questionable (ABC News). (3) Who can believe that Jesus’ tomb was in Jerusalem, but neither Romans, nor the Jews ever pointed people to such as containing the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
What is the motive? While we cannot know for certain, many believe it to be money. Anthropologist Joe Zias says, “What they’ve done here is they’ve simply tried in a very, very dishonest way to try to con the public into believing that this is the tomb of Jesus or Jesus’ family” (ABC News). Archaeologist Amos Kloner, “The claim that the burial site has been found is not based on any proof, and is only an attempt to sell” (Fox News). It is also possible that the motive is to discredit the teachings of the Bible. Critics have been attempting to do this for years, for many even admit that they do not like the restrictions of the “narrow way” (Matthew 7:13-14 cf. John 3:19 cf. Romans 1:28).
- ABC News: “Bones of Contention” by Matt Gutman, Feb. 26, 2007.
- Fox News: “If James Cameron were honest about His Discovery, “by Jonathan Morris, March 2, 2007.
- Newsweek: “Raiders of the Lost Tomb?” by Lisa Miller and Joanna Chen, March 5, 2007 referenced in Kyle Butt’s article for Apologetics Press, “Have the Bones of Jesus been Found?”
- U.S. News and World Report, “Who is Entombed in the ‘Jesus Tomb?’ by Jay Tolson, March 12, 2007