As Marigold and I were eating breakfast this morning, The Today Show aired a most fascinating report. Jesus tomb has been found! Whaaaaaaat?
Turns out, evidence emerging in the last two weeks may shed some new light on an ossuary and a tomb that might actually have belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth.
Goldie didn’t seem too impressed by the claims, but the story definitely caught my attention. I had just preached from the text where we learn that Jesus’ tomb was empty, where Jesus himself asks Mary, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ (Jn 20.15)
Now this story about the Jesus artifacts wasn’t entirely new. The New York Times reported that the ossuary, a burial box for bones, bearing the Aramaic inscription ‘James son of Joseph brother of Jesus’ was bought from an East Jerusalem antiquities dealer in the 1970’s. The Israel Antiquities Authority had declared the inscription a forgery but in 2012, a Jerusalem court ruled that the state failed to prove its case.
In 1980, a tomb in East Jerusalem was unearthed which eventually drew the attention of Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron (Titanic) who wrote and produced a documentary first broadcast on The Discovery Channel in 2007. This tomb contained 10 ossuaries, some of which bear inscriptions naming ‘Jesus son of Joseph,’ ‘Mary’ and other New Testament figures. They argue that this was ‘probably the tomb of the family of Jesus of Nazareth.’ (NYT, 4/5/2015)
Neither space nor time permit me to relate all of the details, but these claims were naturally quite controversial. Two objections cast the most doubt upon them. First, even if they weren’t forged, the inscriptions were of names exceedingly common in First century Palestine. Second, there was nothing that conclusively connected the ‘James Ossuary’ to the ‘Jesus Family tomb.’
This is where things get interesting. A University of Toledo statistician calculated that on their own, the names inscribed upon the ossuaries each separately composed about 8% of the population. But of that population who had the common names, only a very small percentage had a mother named Mary and a brother named Joseph. (The Jerusalem Post, 4/7/2015) Continue reading »