In 1990, Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner discovered a tomb in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot during the construction boom. This tomb had ten ossuaries and six of them had inscriptions related to the Gospels. No one thought much about it till Film Maker Simcha Jacobovici (of the Exodus Decoded fame) and producer James Cameron (of Titanic) decided to investigate this and two years of their effort was shown on Sunday in the Discovery Channel documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus.
In the documentary, they make the claim that this tomb, was the tomb of Jesus and his family. It is not any Jesus, but the one known as Jesus of Nazereth. The tomb, according to the film makers has markings which says Jesus, son of Joseph, Maria, Mariamene, Matthew, Judas, son of Jesus, and Jose. These are common names of that era and the Kloner thinks that it is a coincidence that the names are similar to the protagonists in the New Testament. Simcha Jacobovici thinks otherwise.
He got motivated to do this story after working on the story of another ossuary which had the inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This was later found to be a fake. During his investigation he came across the ossuaries which had the names of Jesus and others and he was astonished by it.
The filmmaker rests his case on four main points. First, he says, recent Biblical scholarship argues that Mary Magdalene’s real name was Mariamene, a common first-century derivative of Miriam. Second, DNA tests show that microscopic human remains scraped from the Jesus box and the Mariamene box are not related, at least not matrilineally, leaving open the possibility that the two humans whose bones were once in those boxes were married. Third, the patina on the Talpiot ossuaries—that is, the mineral crust accumulated over centuries—matches that of the James box. This “discovery,” if provable, is complicated but critical to Jacobovici’s argument: the match means, he says, that the James ossuary originally lay in the Talpiot cave, thus answering questions about the James box’s provenance. It also increases the probability that the tomb belongs to the Holy Family. Jesus had four brothers, according to the Gospel of Mark; two of their names—Joseph (or Jose) and James—were found in the Talpiot tomb.[Raiders of the Lost Tomb ]
There are no contemporary accounts of Jesus’s burial and the ones closest in time are from the Synoptic Gospels dated 60-70 AD. The mythology about Jesus is that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven (Some believe that the heavenly ascension was spiritual). He never married or had an offspring. If the Talpiot tombs are proved to be true, it contradicts the Gospels and the evangelical Christian world has not taken kindly to this.
Still Christian countries did not ask for a ban on the documentary nor did they “request” Discovery Channel not to telecast it. After the documentary was telecast no one was killed. What followed instead was a detailed analysis debunking the documentary. In countless discussion forums and blogs people started finding loop holes in everything from the statistical analysis to historical evidence. The film makers in turn have been debating scholars on forums and on Television.
In India, an organization funnily named Catholic Secular Forum wrote to the Discovery Channel’s office in India “requesting” them not to broadcast the documentary. According to CSF General Secretary, Joseph Dias, the documentary trivializes the credibility of the Bible and Christian faith. He also added that the documentary is all mistruth and would hurt sentiments. Guess what. A few people in India were able to prevent a majority of people from seeing this documentary as Discovery Channel postponed the screening. No one stood up and asked, why not let people see the documentary and think for themselves?
There is nothing wrong with critical probes, that is what scholarship is all about, but one does have to be open to where evidence might lead, and I fear that with the matter of the Jesus tomb, such is not the case. The “end” or result is determined beforehand and is absolutely set. [Heat and Light: The Talpiot Tomb]
Postscript: Since Catholic Secular Forum does not control the Internet, here are some links for people interested in this story