Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tomb of the family of Jesus

Discovery Channel broadcast last night the world premiere of the James Cameron directed documentary "Lost Tomb of Jesus". The program obviously would generate controversy since it appears to challenge the most basic of Christian beliefs that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Discovery channel got more than 10K comments on their website forum within 2 hours.

The title is a misnomer. Jesus tomb isn't lost. It's in Jerusalem and Christian tradition says its where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is now. What we don't know is what ever happened to the people closest to Jesus, like Mary Magdalene, Joseph, Mary etc.

The producers claim that they have found members of Jesus' family. The ossuaries apparently have the names of Jesus, Mary, Jeshua, Joseph and Mariamne. Scholars may debate on whether these names are common or not in 32 AD Israel but it sure does raise some questions. A DNA forensic analysis was made on the human remains found and indicates that the bones in the Jesus ossuary and the Mariamne ossuary belong to two unrelated individuals.

But the documentary I believe oversteps the evidence when it presents dramatizations of the life of Jesus in support of the producer's hypothesis. First of all Mariamne is proposed to be Mary Magdalene the evidence being an apocryphal Gospel published in the 4th century. The DNA analysis could only prove that the remains of the Jesus and Mariamne ossuary are not genetically related. The documentary suggests that Jesus and Mariamne are married. Jesus and Mariamne could be father-daughter or Mariamne could have been adopted.

In the end the producers had to resort to probabilities. This is where the problem in accepting their hypothesis begins. As one scholar noted, the historical evidence must linked to propose a strong hypothesis and it seems that their evidence is at best weak. The evidence seems to have been construed to support a hypothesis beforehand.

And about the hypothesis that Jesus was moved by disciples from Joseph of Arimathea's tomb to another one, there is a big question. Pilate had ordered Legionnaires to guard the tomb. The chance of someone running away with a body and not being lanced by a pilum would be small. The Gospel tells of an alternate story where the soldiers were blinded by a bright light.

Thus the whole documentary appears to me in the same category of docus produced by Creationists that say evolution is false, or by UFOlogists who say that the Earth has been visited. The documentary is not a scientific presentation but one that is of a religious kind. And here I am not talking about the great religions like Buddhism, Judaism, Island, Christianity etc.

Because to accept that their hypothesis is absolutely true on the basis of probabilities would require an act of faith!

1 comment:

Chris Rosebrough said...

You make some great points. Well written!

If you would Iike to see a good comprehensive and scholarly rebuttal of the film’s evidence please visit ExtremeTheology.com.