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The tomb of Jesus and his family?

Religious implications if the tomb
actually belonged to Jesus' family

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Implications of these discoveries:

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Jacobovici, the "Naked Archeologist" said that nobody's belief in the resurrection should be shaken by these developments. He said:

"What convinced people in the New Testament of the resurrection was Jesus' appearances, not his disappearance from the tomb. I am not a theologian. I didn't want to take anyone on." 1

However, there are other considerations beyond the resurrection of Jesus. If it can be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the tomb contains the remains of the family of Joseph and Mary, and further DNA testing might well show whether:

bulletJesus is the son of Joseph and Mary.
bulletJames, the brother of Jesus, is also the son of Joseph and Mary.

If Joseph is shown to be Jesus' father and if Mary is shown to be James' mother, then some long-held Christian beliefs would have to be adjusted:

bullet Having Jesus' remains on earth would indicate that he might not have ascended to Heaven. That is the belief of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. The passage in Acts 1:9-11: would then have to be interpreted as myth; Jesus' ascension would have to be considered spiritual in nature. He would not now be present in bodily form beside God in Heaven.
bulletAlternately, Christians might argue that:
bulletAs determined by the early Church councils, Jesus is 100% God and 100% man.
bulletThe description of Jesus' bodily ascension to Heaven in Acts 1 is literally correct.
bulletThe human part of Jesus might later have returned to earth to live.
bulletThe God part of Jesus might have remained in Heaven, with God the Father.
bulletJesus may have subsequently died and be buried in the family tomb.
bulletThe writers of the books in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) may have simply not recorded Jesus' return, death and burial, just as they recorded nothing of his youth and early adulthood.
bulletHaving the remains of Mary, the mother of Jesus, on Earth would indicate that the Roman Catholic church's teaching is wrong. Pope Pius XII wrote in Munificentissimus Deus:

"... we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith." 2

bulletPope Pius declared the assumption of Mary into heaven "ex cathedra" This means that it is an infallible teaching, free of error. If it is wrong, then the concept of the papal infallibility is also in doubt.


bulletIf DNA testing shows that Mary and Joseph were the parents of Jesus, Matthew, James etc. then the concept of the virgin birth would have to be abandoned. So too would be the Catholic and Orthodox teaching that Mary and Joseph led a celibate life and that Mary had no additional children beyond Jesus.


bulletTesting of Jesus' DNA would indicate whether his bodily structure is different from that of a normal human being. Most Christian denominations teach that Jesus was 100% human and 100% deity. It would be interesting to determine whether his deity affected his DNA. If Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, then Jesus' entire DNA would have come from her. There must have been some contribution from the Holy Spirit because otherwise Jesus would have been female. At a minimum, the Holy Spirit would have had to contribute a "Y" chromosome. DNA testing might indicate what additional coding the Holy Spirit made to Mary's DNA. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit might have created a pre-fertilized ovum -- a unique embryo with no DNA from Mary.


bulletIf Christianity could be so wrong concerning Jesus ascension, Mary's virginity, etc., some Christians are probably going to ask whether other church teachings about such miracles -- such as the six day creation, the flood of Noah, the resurrection of Jesus, etc. -- are also events that never happened, but are to be understood spiritually.

Fortunately, for devout conservative Christians, it is probable that very few will believe the archeological and DNA evidence. Their faith is secure.

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If Jesus bones were in the tomb, what does this say about his bodily ascension?:

Jesus' bones on Earth would indicate that that Jesus' ascension to Heaven, as described by the author of the Gospel of Luke in his Book of Acts cannot be interpreted literally. The author wrote:

Acts 1:9-11: "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (King James Version)

The discovery of Jesus' bones would be incompatible with his bodily ascension into heaven. Note that the ascension is attested to only once in the New Testament. Many conservative Christian theologians do not accept a fundamental doctrine that is based on only a single passage from the Bible. It needs to be confirmed by others.

The passage in Acts could be a simple error or forgery. It could have been a piece of folklore about an event that never happened in reality. It could have become incorporated as part of the legends associated with Jesus and finally written down in Acts circa 90 CE.

If scientists are eventually able to prove that Jesus' bones are on Earth, then the Church could simply reinterpret this passage in Acts. They could teach that Jesus was 100% man and 100% God during Mary's pregnancy, at his birth, as a child, as an adult, during his ministry, and at the time of his execution, death, resurrection, and post-mortem appearances with his disciples. Later, at the time of his ascension, his "God part" rose to Heaven, while his "human part" remained on earth. At some later time, perhaps in old age, he died for a second time and was buried.

Religious groups do not like to change their teachings. However, if proof of Jesus' bones were obtained, they could make a correction. Fortunately for Christian faith groups, there appears to be no way to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the tomb at Talpiot contains Jesus' bones.

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References used:

  1. Stuart Laidlaw, "Jesus tomb claim sparks furor," The Toronto Start, 2007-FEB-26, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  2. Pope Pius Xii, "Munificentissiumus Deus," Vatican, 1950-NOV-01, at: http://www.ewtn.com/
  3. "Toward a Common Date for Easter," World Council of Churches / Middle East Council of Churches Consultation, 1997 at: http://www.elca.org/ea/
  4. Laurie Goodstein, "Crypt Held Bodies of Jesus and Family, Film Says,"  New York Times, 2007-FEB-27
  5. "Who was the real Jesus?" Y-Jesus magazine, at: http://www.y-zine.com/
  6. Ben Witherington III, "Tomb of the (still) unknown ancients: More Jesus hype of the 'Da Vinci Code' type," Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, 2007-MAR-02, at: http://www.opinionjournal.com/

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Copyright 2007 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-FEB-26
Latest update: 2010-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

 
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