Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Re-Opening of the Jesus 'Tomb' Controversy

In Spring '07  the Discovery Channel aired a TV documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, made by Hollywood director James Cameron and Canadian investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici.

According to an article in Time magazine, the documentary "re-examines an archaeological find from 1980 in which a crypt [the Talpiot tomb] was found containing what were said to be the ossuaries of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the son of Joseph, Mariamne (possibly Mary Magdalene, say the film-makers) and Judah, son of Jesus."

The controversy whether or not the Talpiot tomb once contained the remains of Jesus and His family stayed on the media circuit for a few months in Spring '07 prior to the airing of the documentary and for a few weeks afterwards. Soon after several TV appearances by the filmmakers and a flurry of Christian articles refuting the claims of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, the controversy fizzled.

Now, says Time magazine the controversy is being opened once again. "Still, even after the furor over the film faded, the questions it raised about the tomb unearthed in 1980 continued to make waves among archaeologists and Biblical scholars," says the Time magazine piece.

Little did I know that when I wrote a booklet entitled Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy that The Lost Tomb of Jesus would make a re-appearance. At the time I composed the booklet, I felt the issues raised by Cameron and Jacobovici were so important that the errors and false conclusions made in the documentary had to be addressed. In fact, the Time magazine article admits the "debate over Jesus' supposed tomb will probably rage for years to come."

From the back cover of my booklet,  I summarize my major concerns with the Jesus Tomb documentary:
The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a documentary recently aired on the Discovery Channel, claims an ancient tomb discovered in Jerusalem may have held the bones of Jesus. Author Louis Lapides argues that the implications of such a find could drastically alter the historic faith of Christianity. What if the bones of Jesus of Nazareth were discovered? How do we respond to the claim that the tomb contained an ossuary (bone box) inscribed with the names of Mary Magdalene and Yehuda the son of Jesus? Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene secretly married and gave birth to a child named Yehuda? Using apologetic tools to support the resurrection of Jesus in Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy Lapides explores the major claims professed by the Discovery Channel documentary and refutes the validity of these arguments. For those concerned about the contemporary attacks on the person and work of Jesus Christ, Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy puts these harmful accusations to rest.

In light of the resurgence of this controversy, a Jerusalem conference to discuss whether or the the crypt of Christ has been found, was organized last week by New Testament expert Prof. James Charlesworth. After three days of heated debate the conference attendees voted unanimously that the Talpiot tomb, now sealed over with concrete in the garden of a suburban apartment complex, should be re-opened and scrutinized more carefully.

Journalist Simcha Jacobovici, one of the documentary's creators, told Time, "I feel vindicated. It's move from 'it can't be Jesus' family tomb'' to 'it could be.'"

Due to the reappearance of this controversy, the issues I raised in my booklet are essential to examine and understand. This booklet is a guide to the Jesus Family Tomb controversy and makes a great tool to give to others who may have been confused by the Discovery Channel program.

To order my booklet Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy for $2.50 go to Amazon or the ScriptureSolutions Store



lisa ransdell said...

My personal feeling is that they will not be able to tell whether this is Jesus bones, John's (the beloved) bones or even Josephus' bones. The only proof will be male-female, at what general age they died and how long ago they died. Lisa

Louis Lapides said...

Lisa: thanks for your comment. Regarding the Talpiot tomb, there are no bone fragments to be examined. In accordance with Orthodox Jewish law pertaining to burial and out of respect for the deceased, any bone fragments were buried in 1980 when the tomb was first opened up. I doubt if the bones would be available to be exhumed for further inspection. Even if they did find "Jesus' bones" there is no DNA matchup to compare His remains to. Joseph was not his biological father so we would have to conclusively prove we have Mary's remains or the remains of one of Jesus' brothers or sisters to try to do any DNA study on the alleged bones of Jesus. I appreciate your comments!