In case you haven’t heard, there is a lot of buzz this week about a TV special on the Discovery Channel that is going to air this Sunday evening. The program claims that a family tomb has been discovered in Jerusalem that contains the remains of Joseph, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus, not to mention his son Jude! Obviously if this were true it would have some rather far reaching implications.
But it turn out that this is really much ado about nothing (to borrow a phrase from the Bard). Even Jewish and atheist archaeologists are speaking out to say that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt. The tomb that is the center of this discussion was discovered in the 1980’s, so it is nothing new. Do you think that it is a coincidence that the show is airing a few weeks before Easter? (Hint: Do you remember when The Da Vince Code came out?)
There is a good article on the growing skepticism about this show in today’s newspaper:
“I’m not a Christian. I’m not a believer. I don’t have a dog in this fight,” said William Dever, who has been excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years and is widely considered the dean of biblical archaeology among U.S. scholars. “I just think it’s a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated.
Dever, a retired professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona, said that some of the inscriptions on the Talpiyot ossuaries are unclear but that all of the names are common.
“I’ve know about these ossuaries for many years and so have many other archaeologists, and none of us thought it was much of a story, because these are rather common Jewish names from that period,” he said.
“It’s a publicity stunt, and it will make these guys very rich, and it will upset millions of innocent people because they don’t know enough to separate fact from fiction.”
I won’t go into more detail because the claims in the show have so little merit. But if you are interested, here are some links for further reading:
- A detailed analysis by Professor Ben Witherington (who has seen a pre-screening of the show)
- A summary of the key problems with the show by Dr. Andreas Köstenberger
- A list of links to responses by Christian scholars and others by Denny Burk
The sad thing is that some people will believe this because it fits in with what they want to believe. Others will be influenced by it because they don’t take the time to look into the facts.
Now let’s get on with preparing for Easter. Christ is Risen!
In 2002 Ben Witherington said this about his phony James Ossuary:
“This is probably going to be the biggest New Testament find in my lifetime, as big as the Dead Sea scrolls.”
In 2007, James Cameron said this about HIS phony ossuaries:
“This is the biggest archeological story of the century. It’s absolutely not a publicity stunt.”
It’s true that a prophet has no honor in his own country. The press in Witherington’s native Kentucky have delicately raised the issue of the pot calling the kettle black, that is, the pot calling the ossuary cracked in Witherington’s overheated (the gentleman protests too much) protestations against the latest “biggest New Testament find” in his lifetime.
I know that there have been some challenges to the James Ossuary. But the difference is that Witherington published his article in a scholarly journal where it could be properly discussed by other scholars. James Cameron on the other hand made a TV special before giving scholars a chance to review his claims. Cameron’s claims have been widely rejected by archaeologists.
Leave a comment