Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Tomb of Jesus

I see that Titanic director James Cameron is making a doco for Discovery Channel on Jesus' tomb which has apparently been found in Jerusalem! The idea is based on an excavation in southern Jerusalem of what is termed the Talpiot Tomb with 10 empty ossuaries (stone 'bone boxes' for burials). Some of the ossuaries are inscribed with the names Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus son of Joseph), Maria (Mary), Yaaqov bar Yehosef (Jacob son of Joseph), Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus), Yose (Joses), Matya (Matthew?) and Mary e Mara.

Now some have put two and two together and have concluded that this is the burial place of Jesus and his family along with a disciple or two (Matthew and Mary Magdalene).

Is this for real?

Well there are severe problems with the idea.

Firstly, the names are astonishingly common at the time. According to Richard Bauckham's analysis these names were all in the top ten most popular names in Israel at the time (Joseph 2nd; Judah 4th; Jesus 6th; Matthew 9th). Mary was easily the most common female name, up to 1/5 women were named Mary! This throws things into doubt; it lessens the probability that this is Jesus of Nazareth's family.

Secondly, we actually know the names of Jesus' brothers; James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. He also had a number of sisters (cf. Mk 6:3). If this is Jesus' family where is James, Judas, Simon and the sisters? Where is Joseph? The evidence begins to look less compelling.

Thirdly, the mention of Mary e Mara does not read 'Mary Magdalene'. Hence one has to surmise that this is a name which incidentally has never before been discovered for her.

Fourthly, how is is that one disciple, Matthew made it in. But wait, there's more! His name is Matya; is that Matthew? So we have a problem; is this really Matthew and why is he there? Where are the other disciples? Or maybe Matthew was a family member of Jesus? Another brother? Who knows?

Fifthly, we reenter the Da Vinci code with Judah son of Joseph. There is no evidence that Jesus married. The argument that the Wedding Feast in Cana is Jesus' wedding is nonsense; John's narrative clearly precludes this. Neither does Dan Browns appeal to the Gospel of Philip and Mary Magdalene wash; the latter does not mention marriage and for the former to supposedly mention marriage requires twisting a Greek word back into Aramaic which is bad scholarship. Neither is there any shred of evidence Jesus had a kid. At this point we realise it is another piece of historical reconstruction that can only be called fiction.

Sixthly, we have the problem of the evidence for the resurrection and the problem of alternative explanations. You can read my thoughts on this at http://godztuff.blogspot.com/2006/12/can-we-believe-in-resurrection.html whereby I argue that the best explanation of the available data is that Jesus rose from the dead.

So it is all a nice construct. It illustrates again that western humanity is squirming desperately to get away from its Christian roots. Anything else will do. The problem is that as we as a society increasingly shift to alternative religious and non-religious philosophical points of view, our societies decay is palpable. Western world, you can't have your cake and eat it to! If you want the ethics of the Christian faith, you need the power of the faith to drive it and bring about the society we all long for... the power is found through faith in Jesus Christ as risen Lord and crucified saviour; then the Spirit of God will turn our nations around. Stop all this rubbish and have faith! This idea needs to be sunk like the Titanic itself; may the wreck never be found!

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