The tomb of Jesus and his family?
Would the finding of Jesus' bones
contradict belief in his resurrection?
Jacobovici, the "Naked
Archeologist" said that nobody's belief in the resurrection should be shaken by
the discovery of what some people belief is the burial tomb of Jesus and his
immediate family. 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, many Christian theologians are interpreting information about this
tomb as a direct attack on belief in Jesus' resurrection. There does not seem to
be any consideration in the media of an alternate
opinion that there would not necessary be any impact on the belief in Jesus' resurrection.
However, there would be an impact on the belief in Jesus'
bodily ascension to heaven.
The importance of the resurrection:
Belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is considered by most Christians
to be a cardinal doctrine. Many believe
that a person cannot really be called a Christian if they do not believe that
Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
Consider the following quotations:
|George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, London
Times, 1992-APR-19: "Belief in the resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith. It
is the Christian faith."|
|A statement of the World Council of Churches / Middle East Council of
Churches Consultation in 1997 said: "The apostolic faith of the Church is based on the reality of the
resurrection of Christ." 3|
|St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14: "Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the death, how can
some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no
resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised, and if
Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain
and your faith is in vain."|
Reactions by Christian theologians and commentators:
A number of theologians and commentators believe that finding Jesus' bones in an ossuary would disprove
-- or at least shed doubt on -- the bodily resurrection of Jesus:
|Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times wrote:|
"The claims were met with skepticism by several archaeologists and New
Testament scholars, as well as outrage by some Christian leaders. The
contention that Jesus was married, had a child and left behind his bones —
suggesting he was not bodily resurrected —
contradicts core Christian doctrine."
|An article titled "Who was the real Jesus?" was posted on the web site of
the magazine "Y-Jesus." It says, in part:|
"Why would Jesus’ disciples
endure torture for claiming he was resurrected, if they knew it was a
hoax? New Testament scholar Darrell Bock asks, 'why would Jesus' family
or followers bury his bones in a family plot and then turn around and
preach that he had been physically raised from the dead'?" 5
|Popular religious author Ben Witherington III wrote of the movie and book:|
"Of course, the main implicit contention of the documentary and book
is that the Resurrection is demonstrably a fraud--and thus, we must
assume, people like Peter and James, the brother of Jesus, were prepared
to be martyred in grisly ways to perpetrate a fraud. Resurrection had
only one meaning for early Jews--a miracle that happens to a person's
body so that they are raised from the dead."
|When interviewed about the "Jesus Tomb," Joseph Zwilling, a spokesperson for the Catholic church in New York City,
NY, told the New York Post:|
"I think this is more fanciful and absurd theorizing. Every Christian
knows that Jesus, the son of God and man, died and rose again on Easter
Sunday. ... No alleged DNA test or Hollywood film is going to change that."
The third quotation above in particular poses a few problems: The DNA test is not alleged; it really happened. The film
is not alleged; it exists and
was broadcast on MAR-04. There are over a billion Muslims in the world who
are absolutely convinced that Jesus was neither crucified nor resurrected. They
regard him as a human prophet, not as a God and not a member of the Trinity. If
current membership trends continue, Muslims will outnumber Christians in the
world during the 2030s and their belief about Jesus resurrection and deity
status will become the most prevalent.
Reactions by media personnel and bloggers:
|Tim McGirk, Time magazine's Jerusalem Bureau Chief wrote in Time
magazine's Middle East blog:: |
"In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha
Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the
cornerstone of Christian faith-- and that his burial cave was discovered
near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene."
Actually, the producer and director make no such claim, as noted
above. McGirk made his posting on 2007-FEB-23. Within 15
it had received over 4,200 comments. 7
|Izzy Bee of the Israelity Bites blog wrote:|
"Devout Christian congregations will abhor Cameron's publicity stunt
as absolute heresy. Some 27 years after archaeologists first uncovered
this unprepossessing family tomb containing half a dozen inscribed
caskets and four unmarked ones, the sensational scientific claims now
threaten to debunk belief in the Resurrection, a cornerstone of the
Christian faith. The New Testament recounts how three days after
crucifixion, Jesus arose from the grave (which is now supposedly the
site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at the heart of Jerusalem's old
walled city.) But scientists, archaeologists, DNA experts,
statisticians, and antiquities specialists are suggesting that Jesus'
burial site was on a hill rather far away from the old rugged cross."
|"TheFilmCritic" posted a comment to the Salt & Light blog:|
"Paul centers his entire message around the idea that Christ’s
resurrection glorified God, our resurrection will glorify God, and
because we have this glory to look forward to, our lives should be lived
to glorify God."
"So, Mr. Jacobovici, don’t try to tell us your 'theory' is not a
rejection of the resurrection. It is not only a rejection of the
resurrection but also a rejection of the Gospel itself."
|"Aggregator" commented on the Freedom's Zone blog:|
"... the Discovery Channel will air a James Cameron/ Simcha
Jacobovici documentary called 'The Lost Tomb of Jesus.' The special
attempts, with these new 'findings,' contradict the idea of Christ's
resurrection and takes massive liberties with other areas of Holy
Scripture, Sacred Tradition and basic Christian belief."
|By 2007-MAR-08, four days after the movie was broadcast in the U.S.,
Canada and the UK, an Internet search on Google for
returned 4,170 hits.|
What is the impact of the tomb discovery on the resurrection:
If the tomb is shown to have belonged to a family other than Jesus' then the
discoveries will have no effect on basic Christian doctrines at all. The DNA in
the ossuary marked "Jesus" would simply refer to another Jesus.
However, if it is shown to be the tomb of Jesus and his family, it can be argued that the presence of Jesus' bones on Earth does not
necessarily have any impact on the belief in Jesus resurrection.
Consider two examples:
|Imagine a person living in the 21st century dying at the age of 33 to 40 and being
bodily resurrected -- just as most Christians believe happened to Jesus. One might
expect that at the age of 80 or so, he or he would eventually die for a second
time, and be buried. If the body were
handled according to 1st century Jewish custom in Palestine, then one might expect her or his bones to be
reasonably intact centuries later.|
|Consider Lazarus of Bethany, brother of Mary and Martha, and a man loved
by Jesus. John 11:1-45 describes that he became sick. It took some time for
Jesus to go to Bethany. By the time he arrived, Lazarus had been dead for
four days. Jesus called on Lazarus to "come forth," and he was resurrected.
After the passage of time, Lazarus would have eventually died
for the second time and
The same sequence could have happened to Jesus: birth, infancy, childhood,
adulthood, death, burial, bodily
resurrection, a passage of time -- perhaps decades long -- a second death,
a second burial, and survival of his bones.
Thus, the finding of Jesus' remains on Earth does not necessarily have any impact on belief
in his bodily resurrection. However, it might impact on the belief of his
Religious groups do not like to change their basic teachings. Changes over
the last 15 decades over human slavery,
women's role in the church,
contraception, equal rights for homosexuals, etc. have triggered schisms in a
number of denominations, and have come close to causing splits in others. Fortunately for
the stability Christian faith groups, there appears to be no way to prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that the tomb at Talpiot contains Jesus' bones.
- Stuart Laidlaw, "Jesus tomb claim sparks furor," The Toronto Start,
Pope Pius Xii, "Munificentissiumus Deus," Vatican, 1950-NOV-01, at:
- "Toward a Common Date for Easter," World Council of Churches /
Middle East Council of Churches Consultation, 1997 at: http://www.elca.org/ea/
Laurie Goodstein, "Crypt Held Bodies of Jesus and Family, Film Says," New
York Times, 2007-FEB-27
"Who was the real Jesus?" Y-Jesus magazine, at:
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:
Tim McGirk, "Jesus: Tales from the Crypt," Time, 2007-FEB-23, at:
Izzy Bee, "More on the Christ family's criptic crypt," Israelity Bites blog,
"TheFilmCritic, " 'I guess this means we're Jewish.' Part 1 of 3," Salt & Light
blog, 2007-MAR-06, at:
Aggregator, "Cameron's 'The Tomb of Jesus' Sinks Like Titanic - Wake up
America," Freedom's Zone, 2007-FEB-28, at: http://www.freedomszone.com/aggregator.php?id=19304
Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-FEB-26
Latest update: 2007-MAR-08
Author: B.A. Robinson