James A. Johnson
Bones of Contention:
A Lost Tomb or Simply Lost?
James Cameron, known for 1997's Titanic, and Simcha Jacobovici, a Canadian filmmaker, have joined a
familiar chorus. This chorus includes the voices of The DaVinci
Code and the Gnostics in trying to debunk the Truth that
Jesus Christ is Who He claimed to be, including the (physically) risen
Son of God! Cameron and Jacobovici (neither of them archaeologists) are on the production crew of The Lost
Tomb of Jesus (March 4, 2007, The Discovery Channel). In the
production, the claim is laid forth that the tomb of Jesus and His
family has been found and includes evidence that Jesus was married to
Mary Magdalene and had a son with her named Judah. Yet, there are
problems with this tale as evidenced by history, experts, reports, and
The Associated Press mentioned in a 2007 article
that 11 years ago, the BBC aired a documentary similar to the aforementioned one, and
archaeologists challenged the claims. Among them was (and is) Amos Kloner,
the first archaeologist to examine the tomb. He stated, "The idea fails to
hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television" (AP, 2007).
According to the Associated Press (2007), "Shimon Gibson, one of
three archaeologists who first discovered the tomb in 1980, said
Monday [February 26, 2007] of the film's claims: ‘I'm skeptical,
but that's the way I am’" [date insertion mine].
The documentary included an interview with Stephen Pfann of the
University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem. He doubts the hypothesis
of the film, saying, "I don't think that Christians are going to
buy into this. But skeptics, in general, would like to see something
that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear" (AP, 2007).
Pfann further questions whether the name "Jesus" on the
ossuaries was read correctly, saying the name is more likely
"Hanun" (AP, 2007).
Kloner questions the assumptions behind the film since all of the names
on the ossuaries are the most common Jewish names of that period in
history (AP 2007, and CBS video mentioned below).
As reported by the AP (2007), "William Dever, professor
emeritus at the University of Arizona and an expert on near
eastern archaeology and anthropology, who has worked with Israeli
archeologists for five decades, said specialists have known about
the ossuaries for years." He stated, "The fact that it's
been ignored tells you something."
In looking at the Discovery Channel's description of the documentary
I found some interesting material.
The film mentions DNA extraction from human residue found in two
of the boxes in the tomb. Specifically, this "evidence"
discloses Jesus' relationship with Mary Magdalene.
According to the Discovery documentary, "By studying the ancient
DNA in bone fragments and residues from ossuaries, scientists may be
able to determine familial relationships between the various people
buried in an ancient tomb. … In the case of the Talpiot tomb,
researchers were able to extract usable tissue samples from only two
of the ossuaries -- the ‘Mariamne’ and
‘Yeshua bar Joseph’ boxes. Those two samples were sent to
the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay,
Ontario, a facility that specializes in analyzing ancient remains.
The lab was able to recover mitochondrial DNA from the samples and
determined that the two individuals were not maternally related.
According to the lab's Dr. Carney Matheson, because the two sets
of remains were found in what is suspected to be a familial tomb,
the two people ‘would most likely be husband and wife.’"
How presumptuous! How can they conclude that the two were indeed
husband and wife? What if they were paternally related? Also, do they
even have DNA for Jesus or Mary Magdalene? No.
The documentary points to the James ossuary matching the samples
from the tomb according to patina evidence and then says that because
the name is James, it increases the probability of the tomb being
that of Jesus' family to 30,000-to-1.
Kloner says that the names were among the most common of the day.
So, how does this prove anything? All it proves is that a man named
James was in the family. That doesn't mean it is the James.
The documentary pulls statistics allegedly supporting a 600-to-1
probability. However, these "impressive" statistics are
based ONLY on names. In fact, one of the names was thrown out due to
not being mentioned in the Gospels. This is like saying that there
were 2 families. Family A was Larry, Curly, and Moe while Family B
was Bob, Larry, Curly, and Moe, and then concluding Family A is Family
B since Bob was not well-known. What if a family existed that had
the name Matia (the name thrown out - and a family likely did
according to Kloner's argument of the common Jewish names)?
The documentary claims that it does not dispute the story of the
resurrection. My question is this: Why would He resurrect only to die
again? Also, the documentary says that if His physical remains have
been found, it would not contradict the Ascension, saying a
spiritual rather than physical could have occurred, and even adding that
their view is "consistent with Christian theology." They
could not be further from the TRUTH!!! Gnosticism was antithetical to
Christianity and was deemed heretical. This amounts to nothing new,
but rather is the same Gnosticism that existed centuries ago.
Even Time/CNN realizes that the Bible teaches bodily ascension (see http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1593893,00.html?cnn=yes).
Regarding the documentary, Time/CNN puts forth the following: "But as
its creators have revealed more and more of it over the last two days,
key parts of it seem increasingly like debatable conjecture."
New Testament expert Richard Bauckham of the University of St. Andrews
(Scotland), like Kloner, concludes that the names with Biblical
resonance are so common that even when you run the probabilities
on the group, the odds of it being the famous Jesus' family are
"very low" (Time/CNN).
Time/CNN also reports that Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary asks why
Jesus' family/followers would bury His bones and
"then turn around and preach that he had been physically raised
from the dead?"
Bock stated to those of the documentary: "I told them that
there were too many assumptions being claimed as discoveries, and
that they were trying to connect dots that didn't belong together"
CBS News shared a video report
which pointed out that Jesus' family was poor and likely would not
have been buried in such a tomb that would indicate wealth. The report
also points out that there was a prior time Discovery tried to sell
on a box of bones, and now the man at the center of that claim is
facing charges of fraud. The CBS video says, "if the claims are
true, and that is a massive if."
The documentary offers nothing new, but repeated Gnostic beliefs
applied to something tangible that appears NOT to be the Lost Tomb of
Jesus. The Gnostic claim about the spiritual as opposed to the physical
Ascension is just as the age-old claim about Mary Magdalene. This
is not a new argument, but was beaten like a dead horse with The DaVinci Code.
A resourceful site is http://www.jesusanddavinci.com (archived since no longer a live site).
It quotes Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, Department Chair of Religious Studies,
University of NC, Chapel Hill: "Not a single one of our ancient
sources indicates that Jesus was married, let alone married to Mary
Much of the material for The DaVinci Code and, I would add,
the documentary at hand comes out of Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed
that matter was evil (The DaVinci Code: A Companion Guide to the Movie, p. 9).
"The Gnostic gospels are dated about 110 to 300 years after Christ,
and no credible scholar believes any of them could have been written by
their namesakes" ("Mona Lisa's Smirk", Y-Jesus,
Volume Two, p. 40). Regarding the Gnostic writings, the Gospel of Peter
and the Acts of John, New Testament scholar Norman Geisler stated,
"The Gnostic writings were not written by the apostles, but by men in
the second century (and later) pretending to use apostolic authority
to advance their own teachings. Today we call this fraud and forgery"
("Mona Lisa's Smirk", Y-Jesus, Volume Two, p. 40).
So, was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? See http://www.jesusanddavinci.com/theology/crashdavincicode.html#Question_12 (archived since no longer a live site).
I summarize key points on that site below:
- There is no mention of Jesus being married prior to the beginning
of or during His ministry.
- There is no mention of Jesus being married at the crucifixion, burial, or resurrection.
- Based on the 2 aforementioned points, one might say He did not have a wife.
- If Jesus had been married, surely the apostle Paul would have mentioned it, especially
in view of his discussions about marriage in 1 Corinthians 9:5 (and I would add, Paul's writing in
1 Corinthians 7:8-10: "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say:
It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot
control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry
than to burn with passion).
- A number of major prophets were never married—including the likes
of Jeremiah and John the Baptist (so not every Jewish man had to
fulfill the alleged expectation of marriage). There were whole
communities of Jews which included unmarried men, and Jewish leaders
often granted exceptions to the general rule of marriage.
- Jesus' marriage is yet future. He will one day marry the "bride
of Christ" (see Revelation 19:7-9 and I would also add Ephesians 5:22-33).
- Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code claims evidence for Jesus'
marriage is found in the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, which reportedly
says Mary Magdalene was the "companion" of Jesus, which Brown
claims means "spouse" in Aramaic. However, the Gospel of
Philip never mentions Jesus being married, dates to the year A.D. 275,
well after the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John;
the Gospel of Philip was written in Greek, not Aramaic. Brown assumed
that the Gospel of Philip mentions Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene on the
mouth, when the actual word is missing. And to quote directly from
the site: "Finally, the Gospel
of Philip portrays the disciples of Jesus criticizing Mary because
Jesus is said to love her more than all the disciples. However, one
must assume that if Jesus was really married, no disciple would
- No other "gospels" discovered from the second century
and after support the claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
- Despite Dan Brown doing so, DaVinci's painting of The Last Supper
does nothing to support the alleged marriage of Jesus. The figure to
the right of Jesus is John, not Mary Magdalene. The site mentions that
the artist DaVinci painted John the Baptist in an effeminate manner,
characteristic of his style, but that neither of the John's has "womanly bodies"
(And I would add that an other argument I heard about the "Feminine V" in
the painting is ridiculous! Again, the V is part of DaVinci's style and
proportion. Even if it is feminine, that does not make John into Mary
WHY AM I EVEN WRITING THIS? IF Jesus would have actually died and
stayed in the tomb, then the Christian movement would have been
destroyed long ago. The church exists because of Pentecost, which occurred around the time when men like Peter and Paul (the latter of whom went from a persecuting murderer of Christians
to a dramatically converted champion of the Gospel) were boldly preaching in the face of persecution. Why would Peter, who denied
Jesus, turn to boldly preach? He had seen something, which changed his life. Did he see a Jesus who happened to survive the crucifixion who claimed resurrection?
Of course not! First, it is well-documented from The Journal of the American Medical Association (http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/255/11/1455), that Jesus died due to exhaustion asphyxia and hypovolemic shock (plus the spear through the rib into the
heart). Roman crucifixion was an exacting execution. Why weren't Jesus' legs broken? The Romans broke the legs of the two
thieves to speed up the asphyxiation as then the thieves could not push up on their legs to breathe. Jesus' legs weren't broken because He was already dead.
The historian Josephus even supports the fact of Christ's death at the crucifixion. They could have
produced a body or tomb (as they try now) to crush the Christian movement, but they never did! Today's move is only an elaborate deception moving us closer to the end times.
If Jesus would have died and stayed in a tomb, then I wouldn't even be writing this as the ones who pointed me to Christ would not have nor would have their predecessors.
See http://beacondeacon.com/ichthus/cross_and_resurrection/ in countering some of
the ridiculous arguments against the Cross and the Resurrection.
They did not find the lost tomb of Jesus. What they have found is what persons who deny Jesus have found
throughout the ages: more being lost.
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