As almost everyone knows who watches the news, the Discovery channel just aired a so-called documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”, produced by Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron of “Titanic” fame. This is just the latest in a series of attacks on the authenticity of the Gospels and Christian belief concerning Jesus. The story line of the film is that Jesus’ family tomb has been found near Jerusalem, that the ossuary (casket) held the bones of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their supposed son, Judah, as well as others from Jesus’ “family”. My friend Dr. Eddie Hyatt made some interesting statements in his newsletter this week. Let me summarize his thoughts and then add a few of my own…
The story line of the film is that Jesus’ family tomb has been found near Jerusalem, that the ossuary (casket) held the bones of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their supposed son, Judah, as well as others from Jesus’ “family”.
1) James Cameron’s goal is to produce an exciting drama and make money, not to uncover historical facts. He is a film-maker, not a historian.
2) When archeologists first discovered this tomb in the 1980’s the find was considered insignificant. Amos Kloner, the district archeologists of Jerusalem oversaw the initial dig and stated “I don’t accept the claim that this tomb was the burial place for the family of Jesus, they just want to get money for it”.
3) The names inscribed on the caskets are all common first century names. Jesus’ specific name was Jesus of Nazareth to distinguish him from Jesus of Bethany or Jesus of Bethsaida. Kloner states, “It was an ordinary middle class Jerusalem burial cave. The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at that time”.
4) All of the epigraphers acknowledge that this inscription of Jesus on the caskets is difficult to decipher. Dr. Stephen Phann of the University of the Holy Land stated after examination of the casket that the writing supposedly of the name Yeshua is more like the Hebrew name “Hanun”. Scholars agree that ancient Hebrew is difficult to decipher.
5) The filmmaker’s statistical probability claim of 600-1 for this being the tomb of Jesus is based on a distortion of facts. Dr. Phann says, “This statement is based upon a number of fallacies and the general misuse of statistics. What database serves as the basis for the status and probability of this claim? There are no surviving genealogies or records of family names in Judea or Galilee to make any statement concerning frequency the various personal names and families here. The only genealogy that appears to have survived is the genealogy of Jesus presented in the Gospels.”
6) Other than the genealogy in the Gospels, the film ignores every historical record about Jesus, including the four Gospels, the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. All of these contain eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and resurrection. Jesus is also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus and by Latin and Greek authors, and none of these evidences suggest that Jesus had a wife or family.
7) Millions have experienced the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In addition to these excellent considerations let me add the following:
1) It is highly unlikely that twelve out of twelve apostles would have been willing to give their life for someone who indeed was not believed by them to be the Son of God, someone who had a wife and family.
2) The Gospels were written 30-60 years after Christ. If these current claims from Hollywood were true, there would be multiple documents written to discredit the Gospel story. The lack of such documents is in and of itself an indication of the validly of what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us.
3) The release of this documentary and the publicity it is receiving in the news is a reminder that we will never settle the Jesus issue through human wisdom. We do not win people simply by convincing them of the superiority of our arguments over the arguments of the skeptics. It will only be word against word. The reality of Jesus is known by each person who has received new life through Him. We love Him whom our physical eyes have never seen.