Family tomb of Jesus?

A big media splash took place this week when the The Discovery Channel announced that they were releasing a documentary and accompanying book, detailing the claim that the family tomb of Jesus had been found. The film will be released on March 4. Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron (director of the movie "Titanic") appeared on NBC's Today show along with an Israeli-born filmmaker, Simcha Jacobovici, to discuss the documentary and its claims. The full transcript of the interview can be read here, while the official website for the film is here.

One of the primary claims made by Discovery Channel:

"DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah."

It's important to understand that this is not a new discovery, no matter how sensationally it is billed as one. This tomb was excavated and the ossuaries inside it examined 27 years ago. The claims being made by the filmmakers are being challenged by archaeologist Amos Kloner, who oversaw the original excavation of the tomb in 1980. In the Jerusalem Post, Kloner had this to say:

But Bar-Ilan University Prof. Amos Kloner, the Jerusalem District archaeologist who officially oversaw the work at the tomb in 1980 and has published detailed findings on its contents, on Saturday night dismissed the claims. "It makes a great story for a TV film," he told The Jerusalem Post. "But it's impossible. It's nonsense."

"There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," Kloner said. "They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem."

More scholarly voices than mine are able to refute the archaeological evidence. Ben Witherington provides extensive reasons why the physical evidence argues against the tomb belonging to the family of Jesus. Witherington labels the documentary and book, "a sensational story," going on to label it as "full of holes, conjectures, and problems. It will make good TV and involves a bad critical reading of history."

Every year it seems as if there is a book or movie released -- often just before Easter -- which challenges the basic tenets of Christianity (Gospel of Judas, anyone?). How should followers of Y'shua (Jesus) view this particular movie and book? This writer thinks we should not just completely ignore it. As followers of Jesus, we must be able to refute such claims with the truth of the Bible. Here are a couple of responses to the claims being made by Cameron, Jacobovici, and the Discovery Channel.

Nowhere in Scripture is there either suggestion or evidence that Jesus had a son. None. The notion that Jesus escaped crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene, and had a child with her is found in some Gnostic writings, but is without credibility. The New Testament record -- by eyewitnesses -- tells us that Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19), and rose from the dead (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20).

The family of Jesus did not own a tomb in Jerusalem. The family of Jesus as described in the New Testament was from Nazareth, in the Galilee. His supposed father, Joseph, was a carpenter -- a much-needed trade, but not one that would have generated the wealth sufficient to own a tomb in Jerusalem. It defies logic, then, that the family would have owned such a tomb in Jerusalem, and indeed we have confirmation within the New Testament that such a tomb did not exist. After Jesus was crucified and died, His body was buried by one of his wealthy followers:

"When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a arge stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away." (Matthew 27:57-59)

Had the family of Jesus owned their own tomb in Jerusalem, why would it be necessary for Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus in another tomb?

What are your thoughts about the claims of this movie and book?


geoffrobinson said...

There is no evidence that the word found on one of the ossuaries means "Magdalene." A 14th century manuscript which may date back to the 4th century which some scholar conjectures means "Magdalene." They have to do better than that.

Plus, some names are in Aramaic and some in Greek (and Latin I think). That's another problem.

I would also recommend James White's blog at for coverage.

Chad said...

Thanks for the comment and blog recommendation, Geoff. I would commend to you also Derek Leman's postings on the subject of the tomb at his blog,

Yonathan David said...

I didn't realise that Jews 4 Jesus had a blog. Have a look at my blog

elettracri Yahoo said...

Ciao a tutti,ancora nn ho ben capito se siete di" tendenza cattolica" o " evangelica",vorrei capire meglio...cerco di chattare con voi non riuscendoci...Dio vi benedica C.Galbo(Palermo)

Chad said...

Not speaking Italian, I had to use AltaVista to translate the previous comment:

"Hello to all, still nn I have very understood if you are of "catholic tendency" or "evangelica", I would want to understand better... I try than to chattare with you not succeeding to us... God bless you C.Galbo(Palermo)"

C. Galbo, thanks for your comment and your question. We are of evangelical nature, not of a catholic tendency. I hope you are able to read English, but I have used AltaVista to translate this response as well: C. Galbo, ringraziamenti per il vostro commento e la vostra domanda. Spero che possiate leggere l'inglese, ma ho usato AltaVista per tradurre questa risposta pure. Siamo della natura evangelical, non di una tendenza cattolica.

Skeeter said...

There are two points I would like to adress.
Firstly. If Jesus was buried by those he loved, I would suspect he would be missing a rib. I imagine that through his preperation for buriel, those who loved him would not have cut him up any more then he was. I don't know if preperation for buriel can be done from the splien area, but something tells me they would have taken advantage of it.

Secondenly. Many think Mary was his wife, many think he didn't have one. I think he did and from the time he started his walk to when, 'she touched his garments' came into the story, was time enough for her to have a child. She drew power from him that didn't affect him healing the sick and raising the dead,so what kind of power did she draw from him? And I think the twelve year bleed is a clue to how long they had been together and not had any children.

Skeeter :)