So I watched “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” with Simcha Jacobovici who is a sort of annoying Geraldo Rivera for the bible, wandering around making absurd claims about the historical stories in the bible via layman archeology.  Like for instance the tomb of jesus and his family which were found back in 1980 near the Talpiot Apartment buildings.   What happened is these kids stumble on some builders blowing up earth for building purposes and they see into the tomb full of ossuaries and notify the authorities who take a quick look back in 1980 shelve the bone containers and rebury the bones.  Nothing to see here.  An ossuary is where you bury the body, wait a year for it to decompose then put the bones into an urn, which is stored along with other urns, a sort of family plot of bones.  This practice was common for jews for about 100 or so years around the time Jesus lived.

the first archeologist who looked at this was convinced that this was indeed jesus’ tomb.  During the 2008 Princeton Symposium in jerusalem, Ruth Gat, while accepting a posthumous award for Yosef Gat, announced: “My husband, the lead archaeologist of the East Talpiot tomb in southern Jerusalem, believed that the tomb he excavated in 1980 was, indeed, the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.”

Now the problemw ith Simcha Jacobovici is that he doesn’t really care too much for what is true or not, he’s just there to dig around and make some scandalizing movies.  However, i actually think he has it right in this case.  The single greatest reason that archeologists believe this can’t be the tomb of jesus is that his name is so common.  And Joseph’s name is common.  And Mary’s name is common.  So it’s just a coincidence.  Which proves to me that archeologists are really bad at math.  First of all Mary is probably Jesus’ wife, they did DNA analysis which didn’t show a match and since it is a family tomb that probably means they were husband and wife.  Common sense also tells you that they were probably married.  Paul is constantly preaching abstinence in his letters except he never says that Jesus was celibate.  Certainly if Jesus were celibate Paul would said so and used it as an example.

So there is an ossuary with “Mary”, “Jose” (the same nickname given in Matthew to one of Jesus’s brothers). Joseph, “Jesus son of Joseph”, given the frequency of all those names, 1/190 for “Jesus son of Joseph”, 1/160 for Mariamne, 1/20 for Yosah, 1/4 for Maria, you get the odds of 1 in 2,432,000.  That’s good enough for me.

Now there are a lot of questions.  Like why was this in jerusalem and not nazareth.   That would make more sense that’s where Joseph lived, but I have read about the “tomb of Lincoln” enough to know that it is probably more common than not for famous dead people to get their remains moved around.

What’s the reaction of the religious people?  Well for the Jews there is a certain amount of fear, they want to downplay this. Of course it’s not Jesus.  Just a coincidence.  And I can’t blame them they are kind of touchy about the whole Jesus thing.  That and the holocaust has made them cautious.  Christians of course want to deny it because I guess it would buttress the gnostics.  A gnostic is a christian who believes that Jesus’ body indeed died at the cross and he was never resurrected physically.  That while the crucifixion was going on, the spirit of Jesus was in a nearby tree laughing.   There are plenty of gospels that have been unearthed that showed many followers of gnosticism, the gospel of Mary, the gospel of  Judas, so it was a healthy part of christianity until  it was crushed by Constantine in the council of Nicaea in 325.  Constantine didn’t care one way or another about which version of christianity won he just wanted one single version to unite the Roman empire.  So yeah it’s possible that this finding could bolster the gnostics but I don’t think it really matters.

Religion is not about facts it’s about faith.  And knowing that the bones of Jesus were discovered in 1980, it doesn’t really matter.  Faith is more important than some bones in the ground.

However I think it’s an interesting and compelling story.   And it’s really unfortunately how botched up the entire operation by the archeologists has been.  At least one of the ossuaries have been stolen, possibly the one that ended up listed as “James brother of Jesus.”  That was in the news a few years ago, some guy stole an ossuary that had the letters “James” on them, and then added himself “brother of Jesus” to it, so he could sell it for more.  The irony of course is that this ossuary is quite possibly the literal brother of Jesus, it’s possible it was the one stolen from the Talpiot tomb, but he couldn’t have sold it for decent money until he added the “brother of Jesus” which instead got him convicted of forgery and let him serve time in jail.

This is one of those things that you might think “Hey if it’s true it will change the world!  It’s proof that Jesus was never resurrected in the body and that he died at the cross once and for all.”   Except of course it doesn’t change anything.  Everyone believes the same things they have always believed.  All the archeologists, all the Christians all the jews the linguists everyone denies that this might be Jesus’ tomb.  Except I look at that bit of math and the numbers 1 in 2,432,000 and think, “Yeah sure why not.  It’s Jesus.”  By the way they discovered the ossuary of Caiaphas in 1990, the High Priest Caiaphas the very same described in the new testament.  And apparently nobody has a problem with that one because Caiaphas is such a rare name.  In 2011 archeologists also recovered a stolen ossuary enscribed “Miriam, daughter of Yeshua, son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma’aziah from Beth ‘Imri” unfortunately it could not be examined in situ because it was stolen but it adds to the legitimacy of the Caiaphas in the bible being an in real life person.

I think right now the bones of Jesus are somewhere in an anonymous ossuary in Jerusalem.  They will never be found again.  I am thankful that Simcha Jacobovici made a movie about it all we at least have that and it’s thanks to the movie that archeologists might want to re-open the question of whether they really did find the bones of Jesus back in 1980.