More on the Jesus Tomb

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength has done an excellent job of pulling together more information about the bone boxes that I discussed yesterday.

Also, it is interesting what the official website for the Lost Tomb of Jesus says is the relevance of this discovery:

“The Lost Tomb Of Jesus” does not challenge the fact of the Resurrection. It does, however, ask viewers to consider the possibility that it occurred from another tomb.

The writer of the Gospel of Matthew (28:12-15) addresses a rumor that was circulating in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion, a rumor that we suggest can be taken for the truth. The rumor was that the disciples came by night to remove Jesus’ body from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a temporary tomb close enough to bury Jesus before sundown on the Sabbath. They would have moved Jesus to safeguard his remains from desecrators.

His followers then would have taken Jesus to a permanent tomb, a family tomb.

Theologically speaking, even if Jesus were moved from one tomb to another, this does not negate the possibility that he was resurrected from this second tomb. Our documentary does not address the issue of whether or not the Resurrection took place, and how. Belief in the Resurrection is based not on which tomb Jesus was buried in, but on alleged sightings of Jesus that occurred after his burial as documented in the Gospels.

It is also a matter of Christian faith that Jesus, on the fortieth day after the Resurrection, ascended to Heaven. Christians accept the Ascension as a fact; however, they have long debated certain issues around the Ascension.

For example, if Jesus ascended into Heaven, does that mean Heaven is "up?" Did Jesus really sit in a throne at the right hand of God or is this actually a metaphor? And finally, was the Ascension spiritual or physical? Did Jesus leave his body behind or did he take it with him?

If Jesus’ mortal remains have indeed been found, this would contradict only the idea of a physical ascension. However, it says nothing against the possibility of a spiritual one nor does it dispute the idea of the Ascension.

Obviously, if there was a finding of the real tomb of Jesus, that would have incredilbe implications for the Christian faith because Christianity is built on the claim (backed by evidence found in historical records) that Jesus actually, physically rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven.

Counter-cult Apologetics has also gathered together a number of responses to this "discovery". One of the links is to Dr. Paul Maier who has written a piece entitled Who's Writing the Ficiton Here? in which he gives more reasons for rejecting this tomb as being the tomb of Jesus. He notes (among other things):

5) What in the world is the “Jesus Family” doing, having a burial plot in Jerusalem, of all places, the very city that crucified Jesus? Galilee was their home. In Galilee they could have had such a family plot, not Judea. Besides all of which, church tradition – and Eusebius – are unanimous in reporting that Mary died in Ephesus, where the apostle John, faithful to his commission from Jesus on the cross, had accompanied Mary.

* * *

8) Please note the extreme bias of the director and narrator, Simcha Jacobovici. The man is an Indiana-Jones-wannabe, who oversensationalizes anything he touches. You may have caught him on his TV special regarding The Exodus, in which the man “explained” just everything that still needed proving or explaining in the Exodus account in the Old Testament! It finally became ludicrous, and now he’s doing it again.

Right now, I can say that I find this find of the "Jesus Family Tomb" interesting, but for the reasons I stated yesterday plus the additional reasons posed by Weekend Fisher at Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, I find it far from convincing that this is the actual tomb of the Jesus Christ.


Addendum: Dr. Ben Witherington has posted about the problems with identifying these burial boxes as being those of the Jesus, Mary and Joseph described in the Bible. His post is entitled THE JESUS TOMB? ‘TITANIC’ TALPIOT TOMB THEORY SUNK FROM THE START and includes some information provided by Richard Bauckham about how common the names of Joseph, Mary and Jesus were at that time. One of his points is actually a number of points related to the problems from what we know from history:

The historical problems with all this are too numerous to list here: A) the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would be be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem? It’s unlikely. B) One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married; C) the Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary-- and that's about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names. D) we have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don't match up with the list of brothers' names. E) By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty-- even the Jewish and Roman authorities acknowledged this. Now it takes a year for the flesh to desiccate, and then you put the man's bones in an ossuary. But Jesus' body was long gone from Joseph of Arimathea's tomb well before then. Are we really to believe it was moved to another tomb, decayed, and then was put in an ossuary? Its not likely. F) Implicitly you must accuse James, Peter and John (mentioned in Gal. 1-2-- in our earliest NT document from 49 A.D.) of fraud and coverup. Are we really to believe that they knew Jesus didn't rise bodily from the dead but perpetrated a fraudulent religion, for which they and others were prepared to die? Did they really hide the body of Jesus in another tomb? We need to remember that the James in question is Jesus' brother, who certainly would have known about a family tomb. This frankly is impossible for me to believe.


slaveofone said…
There are a number of problems here... Not least the fact that it seems everyone is approaching the conclusion a priori with either malevolence based on what they are want to believe (the gospels are true) or benevolence based on what they are want to believe (the gospels are not true) instead of giving the evidence the opportunity to be thoroughly examined before making one's judgment about the conclusion drawn from that evidence (“he who answers a matter before he hears it is a fool”)

I do not think I would be wrong to say that no one here and no one in any other blog or article anyone here has linked to is actually acquainted with the evidence itself which is in question. They have not examined the names to see what they say or don't say in what language/script, whether that language/script is correct for the time or anachronistic, what the patina of the inscriptions date to, etc, and can therefore give an account of it. They have not asked about the necessary archaeological conditions—such as whether the evidence was found to be in situ or whether there is evidence of foul play or disruption. In short, the entire judgment being made against the conclusion is in no way based on evidence from which the conclusion has been made. Even Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, who makes some valid points, gives away the inherent presuppositional bias by conditioning the entire post in a frame of polemics against anti-Christian rants (the title of his piece being “the Annual Anti-Easter Pagaent”, the opening paragraph telling us this is being written to expose those who “attack Christianity”, and the conclusion saying it all looks like an attempt at dishonesty--although he has not been honest enough to look at the evidence itself which gave rise to the conclusion he rejects).

There are numerous conceptual possibilities for the idea that this is actually the tomb of the family of Yeshua—many of which have not even been mentioned. Such as, for instance, the possibility that the bones of the family were hidden in a tomb in Jerusalem later on by Yeshua's followers who didn't want the real and true bodies of the holy family to be disturbed since they as followers of Yeshua were being persecuted all around, since Yeshua was NOT accepted or welcome by his own people in Galilee (and, therefore, how much moreso would his family be rejected!), or, perhaps, because they believed the resurrection of God's people was shortly to take place and didn't want the remains to be disrupted before that time and so moved them to a different location.

Ben Witherington is posted as refuting the idea on many bases—one of which is the question of what the family burial was doing in/around Jerusalem, and yet it is this very person who wrote not long ago that it was not John the Apostle who was the Beloved Disciple and cared for Yeshua's mother (and by extension his family), but Lazarus—who lived right next to Jerusalem (and thus is likely to have cared for them in death as in life where they would have been—around Jerusalem and not Galilee).

And then, again, judgment is being made against one or another person being in Yeshua's family because of what? Because they aren't mentioned in texts that have no intention of telling us every person who was and wasn't an ancestor or descendant of his family? So an actual name carved in stone that might be linked to Yeshua (we don't know yet because the evidence has not been examined) is being thrown out the window based on silence and lack of evidence in other sources that are not meant to give us categorical listings of family members?

None of this speaks toward the possibility of a tomb for Yeshua—but so what? As far as we know, the name might not even be “Yeshua” or any reasonable derivative of it on the bone box because everyone has already made their judgment for or against the conclusion without examining the evidence to see whether the evidence supports or refutes the conclusion!

Unbelievers have excuse for such foolishness, accepting something simply because it promotes their beliefs, but believers should know better and not simply reject something because it might not promote their beliefs. Let the evidence been seen! Let the argument be heard! And THEN make your judgment for or against the conclusion that this is the burial place of Yeshua's family (or perhaps Yeshua himself).
Jason Pratt said…
Actually, Slave, BW3 says he was present at an advance screening, and presents his case in light of some of the factors you mentioned (including in situ issues.) Plus, it isn't as though this hasn't been thrashed out before (twice, including back in the mid 90s), including by people who so far as I know have no pro-Christian bias. (Actually, that would seem to include at least one or more of the scholars who initially studied the ossuaries.)

Jason Pratt said…
That being said, I agree that some of the initial response has been somewhat sloppy, too. {s} (Including in some places with BW3.)

However, I think it's a bit specious to complain about sloppy initial responses from opponents to the Jesus Tomb claim, when the whole presentation by the JT advocates has been geared primarily to engender prima facie responses. Otherwise they'd be presenting their claims first in an actually scholarly context. When opponents latch onto website info and other promotional data (much of which is scattershot and some of which is even flatly self-contradictory), the advocates have only themselves to blame for this: because _THAT_ is how they chose to present their claim initially. They didn't "wait"--and frankly that doesn't look good for their own evaluation of the data. (i.e., well if we go the proper route we're going to be flamed, without making any money, so since we're going to end up being flamed anyway by the time actual data is hashed out--which has largely been done already decades ago, darn it--we might as well make a circus out of it and sell tickets to the show. If it screws over some people meanwhile who don't have training to evaluate such things, much less access to all the data, what the heck do _we_ care? Look at the cash Dan Brown managed to churn out doing this!)

slaveofone said…
I find the reason for stooping to the level of someone else because they didn't do what should have been done in the first place to be no good reason at all. Even if the claim is being supported in a way that is unprofessional, the better response is the one that IS professional. What are we, lemmings?

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