An Empty Theory and an Empty Tomb

Why should we be skeptical of 'The Lost Tomb of Jesus'? Let us count the ways.


the tale of the Titanic

? How it was supposed to be impregnable, and how it would never be sunk?

Well, human hubris knows no bounds. On April 15, 1912, the leak-proof Titanic rammed into an iceberg and sank like a giant stone. Now, in one of the most interesting ironies in recent memory, "Titanic"-director James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici have produced a Discovery Channel special (with a corresponding book, of course) based on a claim that is sure to sink. Their contention? That archeologists have discovered the tomb of Jesus, his mother, brothers, wife, and his child Judah as well! Who knew!

Why should we be skeptical about this entire enterprise? Let me count the ways.

First, I have worked with Jacobovici—he was the producer of another Discovery Channel special on the

James ossuary

(a box for bones of the dead) with which I was involved. He is a good filmmaker, and he knows a sensational story when he sees one. This is such a story. Unfortunately, it is also a story full of holes and conjectures. It will make good TV, but it is bad history.


Second, this is merely old news with a new interpretation. We have known about this tomb since it was discovered in 1980. On Sunday, the Toronto Star quoted an interview with Professor Amos Kloner from bar Ilan University, who said, "It's a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever." Professor Kloner knows that of which he speaks: he oversaw the discovery of the tomb in 1980, did extensive work on it in 1996, and came to negative conclusions regarding any links to the Jesus of the gospels. "There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," he told The Jerusalem Post.

Third, the names on these ossuaries are very familiar early Jewish names. Jude and Joshua (Jesus) were two of the most common names in all of early Judaism. So was Mary. Indeed, both Jesus' mother and her sister were named Mary. This is the ancient equivalent of walking through a cemetery today and seeing tombs with the names Smith and Jones. No big deal.

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