NEW YORK Oscar-winning film director James Cameron and credited Jewish archaeologist and documentarian Simcha Jacobovici have claimed one of histories greatest discoveries: the remains of the Jesus Christ.
A new documentary called The Lost Tomb of Jesus, premiering on Sunday, Mar. 4, on the Discovery Channel, has asserted that it has credible evidence of the remains of Christ and his descendants, including a supposed son, Judah, who Jesus had with Mary Magdalene.
The film has already roused up debate among Christians, who base their faith on the resurrection of Jesus Christ; the existence of Jesus remains would negate his ascension.
"It doesn't get bigger than this," said Cameron in a statement. "We've done our homework; we've made the case; and now it's time for the debate to begin."
The alleged tomb was discovered in Talpiot, Jerusalem, some 27 years ago and contained six limestone boxes that had inscriptions of notable New Testament names. The captions read Jesus son of Joseph," "Maria (Mary), "Mariamene e Mara (Mary Magdalene), "Matthew," "Yose (Joseph)" and "Judah son of Jesus."
Evidence was supposedly collected using a variety of sources including experts in Aramaic script, ancient DNA analysis, forensics, archaeology and statistics. The research is said to have been accumulated over a decade.
"Tests prove the names are genetically of the same family and statistically, there is a one in 10 million chance this is a family other than the Holy Family," noted the pre-publication publicity for the book, The Jesus Family Tomb, co-written by Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. Charles Pellegrino.
However, Christians are highly skeptical over what the evidence suggests and whether it is truly credible.
There are no known descendants of Mary alive today, so what does DNA have to do with it? questioned the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, in a statement.
Christian counters also mention the commonness of the names in question, that the inscriptions on the boxes do not necessarily prove anything.
"These were very common names at the time and it would be like someone in 2000 years time claiming to have found the tomb of the royal family because it contained the names Charles, son of Philip, Andrew and Diana, argued Dr. Tom Wright, renowned church scholar and Dean of Lichfield, according to the Associated Press. "This is no more than an interesting coincidence."
Besides the current research, Christians also cite past frauds that have tried to break apart Christian beliefs.
This kind of sensationalism has been tried before, said Schenck. Only five years ago no less of a prestigious organization than Biblical Archeological Review Journal claimed it had the coffin of James, the brother of Jesus. It was later determined to be a hoax.
The reverend went on to say that the filmmakers have an obvious bias against Christianity.
The location of the remains also has brought up criticism about the research.
"It is just not possible that a family who came from Galilee, as the New Testament tells us of Joseph and Mary, would be buried over several generations in Jerusalem," proposed Professor Amos Kloner, expert on burials and burial customs during Second Temple period Jerusalem.
A press conference will be held Monday at 11:00 a.m. EST in New York at an undisclosed location. During the meeting, the hypothetical ossuaries of Jesus and Mary Magdalene will be revealed.
Guests comprise of James Cameron, Discovery Channel president Jane Root, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Charlotte Professor James Tabor, co-author Dr. Charles Pellegrino, Albright Institute archaeologist Dr. Shimon Gibson, and professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto Andrey Feuerverger,.
Thinking people should take this announcement with a grain of salt, Schenck warned Christians viewing the documentary.