Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The "Titanic" Controversy about Jesus' Tomb

The big news going around is this announcement that James Cameron, the director of "The Titanic," has produced a Discovery Channel special that supposedly reveals the actual tomb of Jesus. Among the bombshells: Jesus' bones are found, suggesting that he was not physically resurrected; Mary Magdalene's remains are entombed next to him, suggesting that Jesus and Mary were married; another ossuary says "Judah, son of Jesus." In addition, the remains of Mary and Joseph are purported there as well. This news supposedly shakes the foundation of the Christian faith. Does it?

Nah. Most credible scholars are quick to point out that several tombs with the title "Jesus, son of Joseph" have been discovered. The name Mary is one of the most common of all during that time, and Jesus and Joseph were also common names. It's like the movie "Goodfellas" when Karen was introduced to all of Henry Hill's friends at the wedding: "I think I met two dozen Peters and Pauls...and they were all with girls named Marie." It could have been the family tomb of several different families who just happened to have the same name.

In addition, Jesus' family was from Nazareth in Galilee, and Joseph died before Jesus' public ministry which included Jerusalem. Scholars point out that a Galilean family would not have their family tomb in Jerusalem. This tomb was for a fairly well to do family, which goes against the evidence we have about Jesus' upbringing.

The discovery of this tomb was made in 1980. Why hasn't this supposed earth-shattering discovery made waves before? If there was any credibility to the claim, it would have been big news much earlier.

Rather than shaking the foundations of faith, I think it is just another attempt to "shake down" the wallets and the time of people who will scramble to watch the special, buy the products advertised, then buy the book and DVD. One person who lives in the area around the tomb was delighted about the news, because Christians will want to live near the tomb and her real estate values will go way up. That says it all about what I think this is really about.

I have often said that if they ever found the bones of Jesus conclusively, I would give up the whole Christian thing. The key word is conclusively. In this case and in any case, how could you ever conclusively prove that a certain set of bones was actually those of Jesus?

Therefore, since I will never know conclusively that the bones of Jesus will be found, I don't waste my time on stuff like that (although I will probably watch the special to help other people with questions about it).

However, if all this fuss causes a few more people to investigate for themselves the life of Jesus Christ, and it changes their lives, it will be a good thing overall.

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