Simcha Jacobovici , Canadian filmmaker known as the naked archaeologist is claiming that Christ’s tomb has been found and that burial boxes found in the tomb belonged to Christ’s family
Jacobovici will reveal at a news conference that he has strong evidence a group of burial boxes unearthed in Jerusalem belonged to Jesus Christ and his family.
Here is the new report published in the Toronto Star:
The discovery could have profound implications 2,000 years after the boxes were placed in the ground, shaking the foundations of modern faith and raising Da-Vinci-Code-like speculation that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene.
“It’s mind boggling. It’s an altered reality,” Toronto documentary director Simcha Jacobovici told the Star last week.
The location of the press conference is being kept secret until Monday to prevent a stampede of people wanting to see the artefacts on display.
The documentary is called The Lost Tomb of Jesus and its claim that the burial box of Jesus has been found along with his DNA, are sure to be met with scepticism, if not outright hostility, by church leaders.
In an interview, Jacobovici said that while nothing in archaeology can ever be proven beyond doubt, there is “compelling evidence” that the tomb he explores under a Jerusalem apartment building is that of the holy family.
“You have to kind of pinch yourself,” said Jacobovici, known as the Naked Archaeologist after a Vision TV series. “Are we really saying what we are saying?”
James Tabor, chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina and an expert featured extensively in The Lost Tomb, said that as an academic he has seen enough to convince him of the evidence, but admits to some trepidation about claiming that the tomb of Jesus has been found.
“There’s a part of you that says, it’s too amazing. How can this be true?” Tabor told the Star. “It’s an archaeological dream.”
Critics are already dismissing the documentary’s claims.
“It’s a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever,” Bar Ilan University professor Amos Kloner, who researched the tomb for the Israeli periodical Atiqot in 1996, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Friday.
Jacobovici says there is nothing in the documentary that should offend devout Christians, since he does not argue that Jesus did not ascend to heaven, at least spiritually, as told in the Bible.
“People who believe in a physical ascension — that he took his body to heaven — those people obviously will say, wait a minute,” he said, adding he hopes the film sparks more scientific study of the tomb and the ossuaries found inside.
The tomb was unearthed in 1980 during construction of an apartment building and was first connected to the Jesus family in a 1996 BBC documentary. Jacobovici’s documentary uses scientific methods, including DNA testing, statistical analysis and forensic examination, not available to the BBC 11 years ago.
It airs on Discovery in the U.S. and on Channel 4 in the U.K. on Sunday, and March 6 in Canada on Vision TV. A book, The Jesus Family Tomb by Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, comes out this week. Titanic director James Cameron, executive producer of the documentary, wrote the introduction.
The film and book follow years of growing interest in the private life of Jesus, fuelled by the 2003 Dan Brown novel The Da Vinci Code, made into a movie last year, in which Jesus is said to have married Mary Magdalene and had a daughter, sparking a centuries-long cover-up.
The novel, denounced by church groups around the world, spawned a mini-industry speculating about the historical Jesus, his relationship to Mary and his family life. Church leaders, including the Pope, dismissed the book and movie as pure fiction.
Tabor, whose book The Jesus Dynasty last year raised many of the same questions as the documentary, says the film cannot be as easily dismissed as Brown’s novel, even though it too suggests that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene.
“This is archaeology. We got the casket. We’ve got the bones,” he told the Star. “I think we can say, in all probability, Jesus had this son, Jude, presumably through Mary Magdalene.”
DNA tests conducted for the documentary at Lakehead University on two ossuaries — one inscribed Jesus son of Joseph and the other Mariamne, or Mary — confirm that the two were not related by blood, so were probably married.
“Perhaps Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married as the DNA results from the Talpiot ossuaries suggest and perhaps their union was kept secret to protect a potential dynasty — a secret hidden through the ages,” narrator Ron White says over re-enacted scenes of a happy Jesus and Mary home life.
“A secret we just may be able to uncover in the holy family tomb.”
The tomb was found in the Talpiot neighbourhood of Jerusalem during the construction of an apartment building in 1980. Archaeologists were given three days to document the tomb and excavate it for treasures.
Inside, they found 10 ossuaries and three skulls. Six ossuaries had names etched into them — Jesus son of Joseph, Judah son of Jesus, Maria, Mariamne, Joseph and Matthew — all Jesus family names.
At the time, however, the inscriptions raised few alarms. These were, after all, very common names at the time of Jesus. Besides, with all the construction around Jerusalem at the time, it was a boom time for uncovering tombs, and the Israeli Antiquities Authority could barely keep up.
Any connection to the holy family was not made until 15 years later, when a BBC crew researching and Easter special stumbled across the collection in an IAA storage room. They immediately began work on a new program, based on the tomb, which aired a year later.
That show, aired as part of the BBC’s acclaimed Heart of the Matter newsmagazine, was dismissed by Biblical scholars as “laughable” for suggesting, as Jacobovici does, that the tomb was that of Jesus Christ’s family.
Today, Kloner and others still argue that the names were so common that there is no significance to them being found in a tomb.
“The names that are found on the tombs are names that are similar to the names of the family of Jesus,” he conceded. “But those were the most common names found among Jews in the first centuries.”
In The Lost Tomb, however, University of Toronto statistician Andre Feuerverger calculates that while the names are common, the chances of them being found together are 600 to one.
His conclusion is based on a few assumptions: that the Maria on one of the ossuaries is the mother of the Jesus found on another box, that Mariamne is his wife and that Joseph (inscribed as the nickname Jose) is his brother.
As the documentary tells us, there is reason to make these assumptions.
Maria is the Latin form of Mary, and is how Jesus’s mother was known after his death as more Romans became followers. Mariamne is the Greek form of Mary. Mary Magdelene is believed to have spoken and preached in Greek. Jose was the nickname used for Jesus’ little brother.
As well, the Talpiot Tomb is the only place where ossuaries have ever been found with the names Mariamne and Jose, even though the root forms of the name were very popular and thousands of ossuaries have been unearthed.
This is not, however, the first time a Jesus ossuary has been found. The first was in 1926.
Another famous ossuary, inscribed James son of Joseph brother of Jesus, is also featured in the documentary.
Forensic testing of the patina on the Jesus ossuary and that of James conclude that they came from the same tomb — seemingly proving the authenticity of the often-questioned James ossuary and further increasing the likelihood that it is the tomb of the holy family.
Feuerverger calculates for Jacobovici that if James is added to the equation, there is a 30,000 to one chance that the Talpiot Tomb belonged to the holiest families in Christendom.
The documentary speculates that the James ossuary was stolen shortly after the tomb was found. The archaeologists examining the tomb 26 years ago found 10 ossuaries, but only nine are in storage at the IAA. In The Lost Tomb, it is alleged that the James ossuary is that missing box.
But there is one wrinkle that is not examined in the documentary, one that emerged in a Jerusalem courtroom just weeks ago at the fraud trial of James ossuary owner Oded Golan, charged with forging part of the inscription on the box.
Former FBI agent Gerald Richard testified that a photo of the James ossuary, showing it in Golan’s home, was taken in the 1970s, based on tests done by the FBI photo lab.
Jacobovici concedes in an interview that if the ossuary was photographed in the 1970s, it could not then have been found in a tomb in 1980. But while he does not address the conundrum in the documentary, he said in an interview that it’s possible Golan’s photo was printed on old paper in the1980s.
I have not seen The Lost Tomb yet, but if the documentary is like Jacobovici’s documentary on the exodus event, then there is no reason to worry. It is just amazing the documentary is coming out just at the time Jacobovici’s book The Jesus Family Tomb is being published.
Should you as a Christian worry about this discovery? No, if you believe the tomb is empty.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary