Before the Discovery Channel decided to air his mockumentary about the startling news that the actual tomb of Jesus (complete with His remains) has been discovered, James Cameron was best known for his role as director of the blockbuster movie Titanic. The Tomb of Jesus is a figment of Camerons imagination, which he hopes to pass off as a documentary. But close examination of Cameron and Simcha Jacobovicis tale of the Jesus family tomb being discovered has more holes than the real Titanic after it struck the iceberg and is likely to sink with the same speed and finality.
Cameron hypes this film saying, This is the biggest archeological story of the century. Its absolutely not a publicity stunt. I agree with the last part of Camerons statement because while The Tomb of Jesus is certainly designed to bring Cameron and Jacobovici publicity, the ultimate goal of the archeologically and theologically flawed film is to make money and undermine Christianity. It is no accident that this so-called documentary is being aired close to Easter, when Christians all over the world celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Last year in the weeks leading up to Easter we had the release of the supposedly newly discovered Gospel of Judas which made Judas out to be the good guy in the story. The fact is, the Gospel of Judas was not a new discovery but one resurrected from 1978 and repackaged just in time for Easter 2006. It is an example of heretical Gnostic literature written sometime after 180A.D. The date means it was written nearly 110 years after the four gospels, which in contrast, were all written within the life span of the eyewitnesses.
Likewise, the so-called family tomb of Jesus, originally discovered in 1980 was immediately dismissed as to it authenticity by credible archeologists and biblical scholars. It took two filmmakers looking to make a buck and take a slap at Christianity to bring this story back to life. When the tomb was discovered in 1980, a team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority was dispatched to examine its authenticity. Archeologist Amos Kloner summed up the findings of the team saying, It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave. The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time. Commenting on Cameron and Jacobovicis documentary Kloner says, Its impossible, its nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and His relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem.
Dont miss the power of Kloners statement. The fact the burial cave belonged to a middle class family excludes the possibility it belonged to Jesus. Every shred of biblical and extra-biblical information we have concerning the life of Jesus confirms that He lived and died as a virtual pauper in the material sense of the word. There is no way His remains would ever be found in a middle class burial site.
The names at the burial site also cannot be used to confirm anything. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Simply finding a tomb with the name Jesus(or Yeshua) and assuming this must be the Jesus of the New Testament would be like finding a grave today marked John and assuming you had discovered the true grave of President John F. Kennedy. I have seen Jesus Alou, baseball player for the Oakland Athletics, play on T.V. but I didnt assume that because his name was spelled like the Jesus of the Bible that Jesus had returned to earth and joined the American League.
Jacobovici claims to have DNA evidence to back up this fiction. Thats interesting since in order to verify the claim he would have to have a viable, preserved sample of DNA from Jesus or one of His family members. Concerning the DNA evidence, Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary says, In order for them to establish a positive claim that these are Jesus relatives, you have to have control samples to compare it to, but we have no such objective control samples.
Gary Burge is a professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. His quote in Christianity Today serves as a fitting final commentary on Cameron and Jacobovicis work. Burge says, This is really a brilliant example of archaeological sensationalism. It happens again and again in the Holy Land that people win their 15 minutes of fame by discovering some new burial cave. Part of the collateral damage caused by the loss of the idea of absolute truth in our culture is the rise of ideologically driven pseudo-science masquerading as fact-based truth. Claims made by the scientific community concerning the absolute fact of evolution, global warming, and the so-called gay gene which causes people to be born homosexuals, and the communities utter disdain for any dissenting voice demonstrates the total ethical bankruptcy of their discipline. I guess we can now add some archeologists to the growing list of scientists who resemble the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz who kept his standing in the community by projecting an overblown and totally made up image.
This latest attempt to roll the stone back in front of the tomb of Jesus is nothing new. It began with a conspiracy hatched up by the chief priests and elders of Jesus day when some of the guards told them the body of Jesus was no longer in the grave. The elders gave the guards a large sum of money and told them to say, His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep (Matt. 28:13 NASV). But the lie of the priests and elders could not stop the early church from echoing the words of the angel at the tomb, He is not here for He has risen, just as He said. As for me, if you ask me how I know He lives I will simply add my voice to the millions upon millions who have sung through the ages, He lives inside my heart!
Dr. Tony Beam is Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.