More On “The Jesus Tomb”

ABC has a piece that shows the level of scholarly skepticism over the claims that the tomb found in 1980 was actually the tomb of Jesus Christ and his family. On a more religious note, The Anchoress also finds the story less than plausible.

One needn’t reach to religious reasons to doubt this story. The names on the ossuaries were all very common names in 1st Century Palestine. For instance, one out of every four women in that time were named “Maryam” (the Semitic version of “Mary”), so to find a tomb with that name is not surprising. Likewise, “Yeshua” was a common name at the time — even “Yeshua bar Yosef” (Jesus, son of Joseph) wouldn’t have been a particularly noteworthy name.

The problem with this being the gravesite of Jesus of Nazareth is that one would think that a man who had already attracted a number of followers would at least have been buried in an ossuary with more than a crudely scratched inscription — or any inscription at all.

Historically, none of this seems to make much sense, even if one doesn’t take the Biblical accounts at face value. While statisticians will say that the chances of all these names being in the same spot is rare, it is not impossible. The people selling this story seem to be making considerable referential leaps — for instance, there’s no evidence that Joseph was buried in the tomb. It would be odd that the patriarch wouldn’t be buried in the family crypt. Furthermore, the family tree that is presented isn’t supported by any evidence from the tomb itself. All we know is that the Jesus/Joshua buried there isn’t related to the Mariamne buried there. We have no idea if the Maria in the crypt is the mother of Jesus/Joshua, or any of the other relationships between the individuals there.

This is certainly an authentic First Century A.D. burial, of that there can be little doubt. However, no matter what the statistics say, the chances of this being the burial site of Jesus Christ seems to be an inferential leap that is wholly unwarranted by the evidence. However, I’ll certainly watch the special and see if they have anything else that can justify such a powerful claim.

5 thoughts on “More On “The Jesus Tomb”

  1. Jay- Nice points. The “statistical” evidence definitely aught to leave many wanting. The fact that they did not factor in the frequency of the names found in the tomb among males/females at the time is surprising and definitely a flaw in their data. I also agree that if this was the final resting place of the Biblical Jesus’ remains, one would expect more of an indication of his reputation on the inscription- especially if one is to believe that the “Mariamne e mara” inscription should be translated “Mary the Master!” If Mary’s “mastery” merited an inscription, what about Jesus?
    More thoughts here:

  2. Jay,
    thank you for interjecting not only reason, but sanity as well into the Shot In The Dark thread. If only half of our liberal bretheran understood Islamic thought perhaps we would not be having these pointless, unproductive debates and focus on reality.
    Maybe that’s not what God wants. I don’t know.

  3. Cameron’s absolutely conclusive DNA evidence turns out to be the analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) found in residue inside the two ossuaries he identifies as belonging to the Scriptural Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The results showed two different mtDNA types. Cameron concludes that this means that the two occupants of the ossuaries were not related to each other, and that the only way two unrelated people would be buried in a private family tomb would be if they were married. Problems abound. First, although there are clues on some of the ossuaries about relationships, they are the exception, not the rule. The family charting Cameron has devised exists in his mind. There could be other combinations and relationships. Since he has not tested the other ossuaries, it is impossible to use whatever feeble evidence mtDNA results might yield from them. Second, Cameron’s assumption that differing mtDNA types means no relationship is absolutely false. Mitochondrial DNA is not contributed by the father, unlike nuclear DNA. A father will always have different mtDNA from his children. All of a mother’s children will have her mtDNA, but another generation along, her grandchildren by her sons will have different mtDNA than hers. Those grandchildren will have inherited their mothers’ mtDNA. Only the grandchildren through her daughters will have her DNA. Half-siblings sharing a father, but with different mothers, will have different mtDNA. So it cannot be assumed that two skeletons with differing mtDNA are unrelated, and, without that assumption, one cannot assume that those two skeletons represent a married couple. There is no way of knowing any of the dates of burials (actually re-interments of skeletal remains) within the First Century A.D. in this hypothesized tomb of Jesus. Perhaps the “Jesus” here is the father, uncle, grandfather or half-brother of the “Mary Magdalene”. Such an hypothesis has equal validity with Cameron’s. All I see here are smoke and mirrors.

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