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Monday, March 05, 2007

The Lost Tomb of Jesus?


The Lost Tomb of Jesus?

Last night, the Discovery channel aired a docudrama called The Lost Tomb of Jesus, wherein it is claimed that the burial tomb of Jesus and his family have been found.

Within the tomb, ten ossuaries (bone coffins) were found, six of which bore inscriptions stating whose remains they held. Based on analysis of the inscriptions by epigraphers, docudrama director and journalist Simcha Jacobavici believes that the ossuaries contain the remains of Jesus of Nazarath, as well as those of the Maria (Jesus’ mother), Mariamne (Mary Magdelene, Jesus’ wife), Judah (the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene), Yose (Jesus’ brother), and Matthew (a relative of the Virgin Mary).

Jacobavici enlists the help of archeologists, statisticians, epigraphers, and forensic scientists to help his make his case. The two main lines of evidence Jacobavici puts forward are stastical evidence and DNA evidence.

For the statistical evidence, Jacobavici enlists Dr. Andrey Feuerverger, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Toronto. Essentially, Dr. Feuerverger analyzes the possibility that people with the names inscribed on the ossuaries would occur within one family. Although the names (Mary, Jesus, etc) were more or less common during the first centuty, the liklihood that the occurred in one family are roughly 600:1. Coupled with the appearance of these names in the New Testament and other gnostic writings, Jacobavici claims that the remains in the ossuaries are most likley those of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

For the DNA evidence, Jacobavici enlists a New York forensic crime lab. Bone fragments were removed from the ossuaries said to contain the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mitochrondrial DNA (mtDNA) was extracted from the samples to determine whether of not they were maternally related individuals. The tests results show that the two samples came from individuals who had different mothers. Archeological studies have shown that is it highly uncommon for unrelated individuals to be buried together in the same tomb - unless they were married. From this Jacobavici claims that this means that Jesus and Mary Magdalene must have been married.

While the docudrama provides compelling evidence that should be further looked into, Jacobavici falls fall short of proving his case beyond a reasonable doubt. For starters, the statistics on name frequency are being misinterpreted. They rest on the assumption that all the individuals in the tomb were life-time contemporaries. There is no evidence to support that assumption. In additon, it assumes that Jesus’ family had a tomb, and it is among the 1,000 or so tombs discovered to date. Again, there is not evidence to suggest that they did. Even Dr. Feuerverger admits that the 600:1 figure is only valid is the assumptions the statistics are based on are also valid. Without these assumptions, the probablility that this is the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is much lower, perhaps as low as 10%.

The interpretation of the mtDNA is even more troubling. Nuclear DNA which makes up our chromosomes, is inherited from both of our parents. mtDNA on the other hand is inherited through the egg cell, and therefore is contributed only by the mother. Comparison of the mtDNA extracted from the “Jesus” and “Mariamne” samples shows that these two individuals were not maternally related. This is all it says. Nevertheless, Jacobavici states that this is evidence that Jesus and Mariamne were marrried. To be fair, that is one possibility. However, there are other possibilities that are being discounted. Mariamne could have been married to one of the other males found in the tomb. Alternativley, the they could be a paternal cousins. They could also be totally unrelated.

When you boil the whole thing down, it seems that Jacobavici has an interesting story with some potentially compelling evidence. However, the evidence that he has is circumstantial. Furthermore, the evidence relies on statistical assumptions that are in no way proven to be valid assumptions.

There were also many lines of evidence that Jacobavici did not persue. For example, why not test the DNA of the other individuals found within the tomb. Were “Jesus” and “Yose” related to “Maria”, as would be expected if she were their mother? Was Judah related to Miramne? Jacobavici could have also gone back to the original bones that were removed from the ossuaries and buried by the Israeli Department of Antiquites. From these he could have obtained DNA samples – perhaps even nuclear DNA samples. This would go a long way in lending support to his case. But as it stands now, Jacobavici is left with a weakly supported case. It doesn’t mean that he is wrong, but that he has just not proven his case with sufficient evidence.

In other words, all this "Jesus family" stuff is just wild speculation at this point.

5 Comments:

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you say except that the likelyhood of the IAA allowing disinternment of the original bones is slim. Otherwise, a balanced review.

 
At 2:38 AM, Anonymous Seven Star Hand said...

Lying about the name Jesus, for profit, yet again...

Hey Joe,
A well balanced review. Worth reading to put certain things in the proper perspective. On the other hand, I also have a word or two on the subject.

The most interesting aspect of this Jesus Tomb story revolves around the actual names on the bone boxes compared to what is being asserted in the effort to make a profit. Pay special attention to the tortured explanations of how names like Jesus, Mary, Matthew, Joseph, and others were "translated" (interpolated) from inscriptions that actually say otherwise. Most specifically, both Christians and those who are promoting this "Jesus Tomb" discovery and its associated assertions are profiting from the very same long-term process of obfuscation and meticulous misdirection. For anyone, whether Christian leaders and adherents or James Cameron to keep a straight face while claiming that the name Jesus was one of the most common in Second Temple Israel is highly instructive. The name that is commonly translated as Joshua was very common, but the name Jesus is a very unique and narrowly targeted construction of recent centuries that simply cannot have truthfully appeared anywhere in the ancient Near East. Likewise, many are writing that Jesus is instead the english form of Joshua, as if the millions of english speaking Christians and Jews named Joshua have foreign names. Furthermore, does anyone know of any person named Joshua who would seriously assert that the English form of their name is Jesus? These deceptive assertions are beyond absurd.

This long-term charade about a name that simply could not have been written or pronounced in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, or even Latin, which is now being touted as one of the more common names from ancient Israel/Judea, serves as an illuminating microcosm for the entire New Testament and the many dubious assertions and activities that have accompanied it and Christianity throughout their entire existence. As Christians rally to "prove" that this archeological find can't be the tomb and bones of the "Jesus" and "Mary" of the New Testament, they too should honestly answer questions about why it is correct to interpolate those names in such a unique way to support the veracity of the most profitable story in history, but not to interpret an archeological discovery. Christians must truthfully answer the question of why it is wrong for the "Jesus Tomb" crew to use Christianity's own methodology to arrive at the names now being asserted as appearing on those bone boxes.

Read More ...

Here is Wisdom !!

 
At 3:23 AM, Anonymous RKK said...

See also:

http://confirmedword.blogspot.com/

for info on "chevron and circle" and a history of sensationalism from Talpiot.

 
At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Roy said...

I really enjoyed the docudrama. I thought the film maker created a very entertaining/thought provoking film.

I like you am very suspicious of his numbers and his conclusion. It seems very unlikely that we will find a specific person that existed 2000 years ago. I wish he would have used that statistics professor to calculate the odds of "stumbling" across the tomb of Jesus.

 
At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Hi Roy

Thanks for the comments.

I agree that the film was both entertaining and thought provoking. I think if this tomb was actually the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth it would be pretty exciting. It would also raise a ruckus in the bible belt.

But at this point, I am not sold on it.

 

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