The Jesus Family Tomb - What is it? Has the lost tomb of Jesus been found?
A 2007 book and television documentary made the startling claim that the lost tomb of Jesus may have been found. What is the evidence that the lost tomb of Jesus has been discovered?
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The modern story began when a construction crew discovered an ancient tomb in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot in 1980. Approximately ten bone boxes (called ossuaries) were found with inscriptions on each box. The names on these bone boxes included "Jesus son of Joseph," "Maria," "Judas son of Jesus," and others that led to speculation as to whether the tomb was connected with the family of Jesus from the New Testament.
In 2007, director Simcha Jacobovici and producer James Cameron (of Titanic and Avatar fame) developed a documentary to suggest that these remains proved the body of Jesus, along with many of His family members, had been found. If true, the New Testament account of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the belief that forms the basis for Christianity (1 Corinthians 15), would be disproven.
What is the real evidence for these claims? First, the most important claim, that the names are highly likely to match those of Jesus and His family members, is highly speculative. All of the names found on the alleged Jesus family tomb bone boxes were common names of the time period. One scholar noted that twenty-five percent of ossuaries from the first century with female names included a variant of the name Mary. In fact, the New Testament includes six different women by this name.
Second, the location does not fit. Though the dating of the tomb could fit a first century context, the location of Jesus' tomb was in another area already well known in Jerusalem.
Third, serious scholarship has not taken the Jesus family tomb theory seriously. The reason the tomb had not been discussed more since 1980 and prior to the film is that those who originally investigated the find determined there was no evidence to fit the speculation of a tomb connected to Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the tomb itself showed evidence of vandalism and tampering, indicating that no certain conclusion could be made regarding its contents.
Finally, it is clear the major motivations behind the Jesus family tomb project were financial profit and to cause controversy among Christians. Rather than a thorough examination by top scholars, the work was that of entertainment executives pursuing a theory made for news headlines.
Christians need not fear the information from the Jesus family tomb theory. The New Testament accounts remain our most accurate source regarding the end of Jesus' life, including His death, burial, and bodily resurrection on the third day.
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