Christian Theologians Reject Jesus Family Tomb Claims

Correction appended

WASHINGTON – Less than a year after debates raged over National Geographic’s “Gospel of Judas,” another archeological finding is being lifted as “evidence” to challenge traditional Christian beliefs on the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The new documentary by Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron and Emmy-winning documentarian Simcha Jacobovici, set to air on the Discovery Channel on Mar. 4, claims that Jesus Christ is the husband of Mary Magdalene and the father of their son Judah based on ossuaries found in Israel with names etched on them.

Christian theologians, however, have quickly voiced their opposition to the documentary’s assertions, dismissing it as sensationalism without strong scientific evidence.

“You are talking about a tomb that was discovered well over two decades ago,” said Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on CNN’s Larry King Live Monday night.

The ossuaries were unearthed in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot in 1980.

“You are talking about frankly trying to dress up an old documentary, the BBC did something like this over a decade ago, with this kind of supposed statistical research and DNA testing.”

Mohler criticized the new DNA evidence offered by the documentary’s creators for its failure to make sense when compared to what the filmmakers claim it proves.

The SBTS president argued that the creators cannot justify the conclusion that the people in the Mary Magdalene and Jesus tombs are married just because DNA testing indicates that they are not blood-related. Mohler also contends that there is no DNA evidence to prove that the bones were of Jesus.

Meanwhile, Dr. George Guthrie, the Benjamin W. Perry professor of Bible at Union University, queried why the Apostle James and Jesus’ other family members did not know of this family tomb.

“As believers, his family members confess the resurrected Jesus,” said Guthrie, in a statement. “No opponent of Christianity points to the tomb. No followers of Jesus revere the tomb. There is no evidence – beyond the circumstantial evidence of exceedingly common names – that point to this as being the tomb of Jesus’ family.”

Other scholars expressed the peculiarity of the tomb considering Jesus’ background.

“You’re talking about a poor, peasant family from Nazareth with an ancestral heritage in Bethlehem. There’s no logical reason why their bones should end up in a middle class tomb in Jerusalem,” highlighted Mohler.

Dr. Paul Rainbow of the North American Baptist Seminary also remarked during an interview with The Christian Post that the tomb’s location in Jerusalem counters where experts have long-held the tomb of Jesus to be located.

“In a word, the argument that we have ‘found’ the family tomb of Jesus is an argument interested more in media attention than serious scholarship,” concluded Dr. Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College to The Christian Post. “When the professional archaeologists of Jerusalem independently validate such a finding, then we should take note.”

Correction: Sunday, March 11, 2007:

An article on Feb. 27, 2007, about how Christian scholars were rejecting a documentary’s claims that the tomb of Jesus was found in Israel incorrectly reported the title of Dr. George Guthrie. The Christian Post confirmed with Tim Ellsworth, director of News and Media Relations at Union University, that while Dr. Guthrie is the Benjamin W. Perry professor of Bible at Union University, he is no longer the chairman of the department of Christian Studies at the university.

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