“Yeah, something sexy and big.”
“Well, you know that DaVinci Code thing is big.”
“DaVinci Code… DaVinci Code… hmmm…yeah, not as big as Titanic though.”
“Certainly not as big as Titanic.”
“But what if it was true? You know, what if Jesus had hooked up with Mary Magdalene and had a kid? That would be huge. Huge!”
” Yeah, yeah… Jesus meets Titanic. I like it, I like it. We can sell that. What is the evidence?”
“Well, none really, just an old tomb dug up in 1980. The BBC already did a documentary on this but, you know, who watches the BBC?”
“Yeah, no one watches the BBC.”
The conversation above is actually imagined. But it is no less fanciful than the hyped “discovery” of Jesus’ “family tomb”. That “discovery” is actually so absurd it is hard to know where to begin. It is as if I said the Potomac river just parted in front of me and the Loch Ness monster emerged and handed me a bagel. Look, here is the bagel. It is an onion bagel.
For starters, there isn’t anything new. Although people associated with the project are tossing around words like “DNA analysis” and “statistical analysis” and “forensic evidence” to distinguish this book and documentary fromthe BBC’s 1996 Easter Sunday edition of Heart of the Matter, presented by Joan Bakewell (that attempted to make the same case), there isn’t anything new.
Take “DNA analysis” for instance. DNA analysis would certainly be extraordinary if someone actually had a verified sample of Jesus’ DNA to compare the “new” sample with. Since that is obviously not the case, all this proves is that the person whose bones were in the ossuary had DNA.
Let’s look at the “statistical analysis” question. Ben Witherington does a good job of tackling that one on his blog found here. But the bottom line is that there aren’t any new statistics now versus a decade ago and a decade ago here is what The Times of London wrote in response to the BBC documentary: ”The fact that in this case you have the combination of names in the same tomb is simply a matter of statistics,” said the former curator of the Antiquities Authority in whose warehouse the empty ossuaries were found and put on show for the press this week. There are many, many more areas to critique. The most interesting part of all of this, however, is a simple question:
L. Y. Rahmani, an archaeologist who has catalogued almost all the 1,000 ossuaries found in Israel, said the BBC’s conclusions were absurd. The names Joseph, Mary and Jesus were common in antiquity, he said, and some ten ossuaries bearing the name of Jesus in either Hebrew or Greek have been found. Variations of Miriam, from which Mary is derived, and Joseph are far more common.
Why is it that so many people spend so much time and passion attempting to disprove Biblical faith and Christianity in particular?
”The fact that in this case you have the combination of names in the same tomb is simply a matter of statistics,” said the former curator of the Antiquities Authority in whose warehouse the empty ossuaries were found and put on show for the press this week.
There are many, many more areas to critique. The most interesting part of all of this, however, is a simple question:
There is not, for instance, a very big industry for disproving Buddha. Mohammad doesn’t have an industry devoted to disproving him or Islam. Why Jesus? Why is that Jesus’ name can people more frothed up more quickly than any other name?
There are certain easy answers – it has become the most politicized faith, it has the deepest roots in Western culture, it has been the root of past sins. But I think it lies far deeper than that. I think it lies in words written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
It is. Renowned theologian Bishop N.T. Wright writes of it this way:
“The Christian good news is all about God dying on a rubbish-heap at the wrong end of the Empire. It’s all about God babbling nonsense to a room full of philosophers. It’s all about the true God confronting the world of posturing power and prestige, and overthrowing it in order to set up his own kingdom, a kingdom in which the weak and the foolish find themselves just as welcome as the strong the wise, if not more so.”
That message is an affront, it is an offense. It requires a submission of human will to the will of a God who demands we see ourselves as worthless and priceless. It is a message that human hearts and human minds rebel against because of all that it requires – unconditional love received, unconditional love given…things the human heart has such trouble with. It is also a message that is true no matter how many times people think they have disproven it and a message grounded in timeless truths like an empty cross and an empty tomb.