Monday, February 26, 2007

THE JESUS TOMB? ‘TITANIC’ TALPIOT TOMB THEORY SUNK FROM THE START



(This picture of the Talpiot tomb courtesy of the Discovery Channel via the Toronto Star article).

Remember the tale of the Titanic? How it was supposed to be impregnable, and nothing could poke holes in it? How it would never be sunk? Well all I can say is that human hubris knows no bounds, and that hasn’t changed in the last century. On April 15th 1912 the supposedly leak proof Titanic rammed into an iceberg and sank—sank like a giant stone. Sank quickly, with great loss of life.
Why do I bring this up? Because in one of the interesting ironies in recent memory, James Cameron the movie director who made the enormously successful film “Titanic”, on the night after the Oscars, will give an Oscar winning performance at a news conference along with Simcha Jacobovici who have now produced a Discovery Channel special on the discovery of Jesus’ tomb, ossuary, bones, and that of his mother, brothers, wife, and his child Jude as well! Who knew! The show will air on March 4th. In addition we are now regaled with a book by Simcha and Charles Pellegrino entitled The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History just released today by Harper-Collins timed to co-ordinate with their news conference and the Discovery Channel special. Why should we be skeptical about this entire enterprise?

First of all, I have worked with Simcha. He is a practicing Jew, indeed he is an orthodox Jew so far as I can tell. He was the producer of the Discovery Channel special on the James ossuary which I was involved with. He is a good film maker, and he knows a good sensational story when he sees one. This is such a story. Unfortunately it is a story full of holes, conjectures, and problems. It will make good TV and involves a bad critical reading of history. Basically this is old news with a new interpretation. We have known about this tomb since it was discovered in 1980. There are all sorts of reasons to see this as much ado about nothing much:

1) The statistical analysis is of course only as good as the numbers that were provided to the statistician. He couldn’t run numbers he did not have. And when you try to run numbers on a combination name such as ‘Jesus son of Joseph’ you decrease the statistical sample dramatically. In fact, in the case of ‘Jesus son of Joseph’ you decrease it to a statistically insignificant number! Furthermore, so far as we can tell, the earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus ‘son of Joseph’. It was outsiders who mistakenly called him that! Would the family members such as James who remained in Jerusalem really put that name on Jesus’ tomb when they knew otherwise? This is highly improbable. My friend Richard Bauckham provides me with the following statistics:

Out of a total number of 2625 males, these are the figures for the ten most popular male names among Palestinioan Jews. the first figure is the total number of occurrences (from this number, with 2625 as the total for all names, you could calculate percentages), while the second is the number of occurrences specifically on ossuraies.

1 Simon/Simeon 243 59
2 Joseph 218 45
3 Eleazar 166 29
4 Judah 164 44
5 John/Yohanan 122 25
6 Jesus 99 22
7 Hananiah 82 18
8 Jonathan 71 14
9 Matthew 62 17
10 Manaen/Menahem 42 4

For women, we have a total of 328 occurrences (women's names are much less often recorded than men's), and figures for the 4 most popular names are thus:

Mary/Mariamne 70 42
Salome 58 41
Shelamzion 24 19
Martha 20 17

You can see at once that all the names you're interested were extremely popular. 21% of Jewish women were called Mariamne (Mary). The chances of the people in the ossuaries being the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the New Testament must be very small indeed.

By the way, 'Mara' in this context does not mean Master. It is an abbreviated form of Martha. probably the ossuary contained two women called Mary and Martha (Mariamne and Mara).

There are so many flaws in the analysis of the statistics themselves, that one must assume the statistician did not have the right or sufficient data to work with.

2) there is no independent DNA control sample to compare to what was garnered from the bones in this tomb. By this I mean that the most the DNA evidence can show is that several of these folks are inter-related. Big deal. We would need an independent control sample from some member of Jesus' family to confirm that these were members of Jesus' family. We do not have that at all. In addition mitacondrial DNA does not reveal genetic coding or XY chromosome make up anyway. They would need nuclear DNA for that in any case. So the DNA stuff is probably thrown in to make this look more like a real scientific fact. Not so much.

3) Several of these ossuaries have very popular and familiar early Jewish names. As the statistics above show, the names Joseph and Joshua (Jesus) were two of the most common names in all of early Judaism. So was Mary. Indeed both Jesus’ mother and her sister were named Mary. This is the ancient equivalent of finding adjacent tombs with the names Smith and Jones. No big deal.

4) The historical problems with all this are too numerous to list here: A) the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would be be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem? It’s unlikely. B) One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married; C) the Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary-- and that's about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names. D) we have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don't match up with the list of brothers' names.
E) By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty-- even the Jewish and Roman authorities acknowledged this. Now it takes a year for the flesh to desiccate, and then you put the man's bones in an ossuary. But Jesus' body was long gone from Joseph of Arimathea's tomb well before then. Are we really to believe it was moved to another tomb, decayed, and then was put in an ossuary? Its not likely. F) Implicitly you must accuse James, Peter and John (mentioned in Gal. 1-2-- in our earliest NT document from 49 A.D.) of fraud and coverup. Are we really to believe that they knew Jesus didn't rise bodily from the dead but perpetrated a fraudulent religion, for which they and others were prepared to die? Did they really hide the body of Jesus in another tomb? We need to remember that the James in question is Jesus' brother, who certainly would have known about a family tomb. This frankly is impossible for me to believe.

5) One more thing of importance. The James ossuary, according to the report of the antiquities dealer that Oded Golan got the ossuary from, said that the ossuary came from Silwan, not Talpiot, and had dirt in it that matched up with the soil in that particular spot in Jerusalem. In fact Oded confirmed this to me personally when I spoke with him at an SBL meeting. Why is this important? Well because the ossuaries that came out of Talpiot came out of a rock cave from a different place, and without such soil in it. To theorize that there was a Jesus family tomb, and yet the one member of Jesus' family who we know was buried in Jerusalem for a long time did not come out of the ground from that locale contradicts this theory. Furthermore, Eusebius reports that the tomb marker for James' burial was close to where James was martyred near the temple mount, indeed near the famous tombs in the Kidron valley such as the so-called tomb of Absalom. Talpiot is nowhere near this locale.

6)What should we make of James Tabor’s being co-opted into this project? You will remember his book which came out last year The Jesus Dynasty. In that book he had quite a good deal to say about the Talpiot Tomb, and about Panthera being the father of Jesus, and about Jesus being buried in Galilee, and of course nothing about a ossuary which claims that Joseph is the father of Jesus. Why such a quick reversal of his earlier opinions? This makes him appear very quixotic, not a very reliable witness who sticks by his guns when he draws a conclusion, for he has now reversed himself not just on one or two minor points, but on several major ones. My advise to James, whom I respect and who has not only done some fine archaeological work but is a nice guy, is to disassociate himself from this speculative and flawed theory just as quick as possible if he cares for his reputation as a scholar.

In the Toronto Star article from Sunday’s paper, we find that the unraveling has begun before they even hold the news conference today--- here is a brief quote from the article written by Stuart Laidlaw---

“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. The trial resumes tomorrow.

Jacobovici conceded 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 the 1980s.”

Here is the link to the Toronto Star article.

http://www.thestar.com/News/article/185708

In fact the same article reports that Professor Amos Kloner from bar Ilan University has already told the German press “It's a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever." He is important since he did extensive work and research on this very tomb and its ossuaries and came to negative conclusions published in a journal in 1996. In short, this is old news, to which has been added only the recent DNA testing and statistical analysis neither of which makes the case the film makers want to make.


I feel sorry for Simcha, but I know how these things happen. One’s enthusiasm for a subject propels one into over-reaching when it comes to drawing conclusions. The problem with keeping these ideas secret for the sake of making a big splash of publicity, and lots of money, is that peer review by a panel of scholars could have saved these folks a lot of embarrassment down the road. ‘C’est la vie.'

So my response to this is clear--- James Cameron, the producer of the movie Titantic, has now jumped on board another sinking ship full of holes, presumably in order to make a lot of money before the theory sinks into an early watery grave. Man the lifeboats and get out now.

For those wanting much more on the historical Jesus and James and Mary see now my WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH JESUS? (Harper-Collins, 2006).

NEW ADDENDUM

And one more thing to add---Eusebius the father of church history (4th century) tells us that there had been since NT times a tomb of James the Just, the brother of Jesus, which was near the Temple mount and had an honoric stele next to it, and that it was a pilgrimage spot for many Christians. It was apparently a single tomb, with no other Holy family members mentioned nor any other ossuaries in that place. The locality and singularity of this tradition rules out a family tomb in Talpiot. Christians would not have been making pilgrimage to the tomb if they believed Jesus' bones were in it-- that would have contradicted and violated their faith, but the bones of holy James were another matter. They were consider sacred relics.

Here is part of the passage from Eusebius on Jesus' brother--- James "was buried on the spot, by the Sanctuary, and his inscribed stone (stele) is still there by the sanctuary." (Hist. Eccles. 2.23.18). This is clearly not in Talpiot, and remember to claim there is a Talpiot family tomb means that Jesus would have been buried there long before James was martyred in A.D. 62. In other words, the James tradition contradicts the Talpiot tomb both in locale and in substance. James is buried alone, in another place.



189 comments:

Xon said...

Thanks so much, Dr. Witherington.

(I'm an Asbury College grad from 2000, by the way. I'm a Calvinist, but love your work. Keep it up.)

He is risen.

Jordan Potter said...

Dr. James Tabor has a well-worn track record of believing and promoting what can only be called nonsense about the history of early Christianity. Many years ago he was a member of Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, a seventh-day adventist sect that promoted all kinds of drivel, such as British Israelism and the conspiracy theory that Simon Magus, not Simon Peter, was the first Pope and was buried on Vatican Hill.

Thankfully Dr. Tabor is no longer an Armstrongist, and he has genuine credentials as a scholar and an archaeologist. But there seems to be one aspect of his old Armstrongist worldview that he has retained. He still thinks the true message of Jesus was distorted and suppressed, and he still has a yen for a "conspiracy theory" approach to early Christianity history. In my opinion, and to be blunt, I think Dr. Tabor's theory is basically "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" without the stuff about the Order of Sion and Knights Templar. It's not surprising that someone like James Cameron would be attracted to such dubious and reckless speculations as Dr. Tabor promotes.

Stephanie said...

I think your criticisms are valid, but I can't help but think your own immediate rejection of the discovery is in itself a reflection of an unwillingness to think critically. Don't you think it will be in MANY people's interest to discredit these findings? Don't you think it's first necessary to see what evidence they are providing? I checked out the site (Jesus Family Tomb) and I must say I was very impressed. You can see that Simcha and his team took the time to consult experts on all of the big questions. YES the names were common, but that CLUSTER of names is NOT.

Get the facts first, that's all I ask.

Anyway, check out the official site at: http://www.jesusfamilytomb.com

Ben Witherington said...

Stephanie:

The facts about the Talpiot tomb have been known for a very long time, and you are wrong about the cluster of names like that. That's not surprising or uncommon either. And as for the DNA evidence, you can't prove a negative with this sort of evidence. You can't say--- o.k. the Jesus DNA and the Marimeme DNA don't match and THEREFORE THEY MUST BE MARRIED! This is nonsense. The slickness of the presentation does not equal the quality of evidence or argumentation. And for the record--- various of us already had a prescreening of the show itself. See Darrell Bock's blog.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Blessings,
Ben W.

Steve Bedard said...

I remember reading about a tomb being discovered many years ago with ossuaries inscribed with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. I have not seen people claim this is the biblical family because finding the historical Lazarus is a lot less sensational then finding the historical Jesus. It just demonstrates that marketing has a very real influence on how we interpret evidence.

I do find it interesting that the people who saw the James ossuary as being likely the biblical James because of the cluster of names are denying this find as those same names are so common. I would like to believe the James ossuary and deny the Jesus tomb, but only based on my personal beliefs and not on the evidence. It is something we all have to watch out for.

ClydeG said...

Ben,

Thanks for the article. Do you mind if I makes copies for my church?

Clyde G

Ben Witherington said...

Fine Clyde. Steve the issues are different with the James ossuary which was unprovenanced, which means it came to us from the antiquities market not out of the ground. That we know more about the Jesus tomb ossuaries makes it clearer and more certain that they are not connected with the holy family. Just the locale of the tomb makes this improbable, for starters.

yuckabuck said...

sn"One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus"

This is the proof that Cameron and company are arguing from prior assumptions instead of thinking critically here. We have zero evidence of Jesus having a son. This is current given, though open to being disproved. The presence of a "son of Jesus" is a good reason for a critical historian to say, "The probability of this being the biblical Jesus decreases because of this issue." It still could be the historical Jesus, but the odds drop because of this.

But that is not how Cameron and company are viewing it. Instead of saying, "Well, we have no evidence of a son, so this musn't be Jesus;" their argument goes like this- "Well, we sure believe this tomb belongs to Jesus, and there is a son there, so therefore, it's proof that Jesus had a son." Their belief in their theory is their prior assumption, which is not open to debate, and which is then used to "correct" every other bit of evidence and history built up over 2000 years.

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Witherington,

What a sorry thing you've done! Why I was looking forward to all the hoopla about this incredible new find that will banish historic Christianity forever into the ashheap of forgotten ideas.

Now, I guess we may celebrate Easter afterall:)

With that, I am...

Peter

p.s. I very much appreciate your scholarship, Dr. Witherington...

Bob said...

Thanks for the article, Dr. Witherington. Out of curiousity, does it bother you that the publisher of your book (HarperCollins) is publishing another text that, to put it bluntly, isn't worth the paper it's printed on?

yuckabuck said...

Steve,

As I recall, the thing that raised eyebrows about the James ossuary, causing some to think it belonged to the biblical James, was not specifically the cluster of names (James and Jesus), but the particular way it was stated. It was rare that a person's ossuary would have been identified by his brother, unless the brother was famous. The question was, "Why was this James identified as the brother of Jesus on his ossuary?"

However, this latest announcement concerns a cluster of names that do not stand out in the same way. Everyone is identified as "son of," including Jesus, and the son Jude. There is nothing remarkable here at all, except a coincidence of names which were actually quite common.

In fact, the specific combinations of names argue against identifying the tomb as belonging to the biblical Jesus. As Dr. Witherington pointed out in his post, if the tomb does belong to the biblical Jesus, then why is he identified by his father? The unbelieving Jews thought Jesus was illegitimate, and the believing Jews believed that Mary conceived as a virgin, so neither group was really into calling Joseph Jesus' father. Also, the mention of the son, as I said in the previous comment, also points away from the historical Jesus, unless one is willing to take James Cameron on faith and ignore every other bit of 2000 years of historical inquiry.

Harneet said...

dr.
the first thing you have said about the names being very common in those days makes me laugh .
by even basic khowledge of THEORY OF PROBABILITY the chance of what you are supporting is less than 0.33%.
simple mathematics will support james tabor .......

Alex said...

Hey Ben,

Can you tell me the primary sources for Roman and Jewish claims of an empty tomb? I didn't know this could be found outside the gospels, other than I guess some first-century Roman or Jew saying that the early Christians claimed this.

Thanks,

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Bob:

Nope--- Harper is a secular publisher, and its their business.

Alex-- you will want to look first at the evidence in Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius. The person to really ask about this particular point is Gary Habermas.

Blessings,

Ben

Ben Witherington said...

Mr. Harneet:

Just remember the old saying-- he who laughs last, laughs best.

In fact you are wrong. Various of the names found in the tomb on these ossuaries do not match up with the Holy Family names at all--- for example the names Matthew and Martha. I'm sorry but you can't conveniently ignore the evidence that doesn't comport with your theory, then run the numbers and say-- presto, the chances are infintessimally small that this is not the tomb of Jesus.

There is no historical evidence that Jesus had a son named Jude, or any son for that matter. This idea flatly contracts James Tabor's own theory about the Jesus dynasty being passed from Jesus to James his brother, and then others (not direct descendants of Jesus). In short Tabor has done yet one more flip flop to endorse this flawed theory.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Cumanus said...

Don't you just wish that people would be as insistent on historical rigor with this production as they have been with Prof. Ariel Toaff's recent book "Bloody Passover"?
But I suppose I'm asking too much...

Jay said...

Bravo, Dr. Witherington! And let me take an opportunity -- as somebody with many of your books on my shelf -- to say first that I am a fan and second that I greatly appreciate and admire your hard work and your intellect. I'd like to amplify your critique of the statistical mumbo-jumbo that the creators of this documentary are profering.

The statistical analysis that Discovery is promoting on their website seems to me to be caused, on a sociological level, by what I'd call "expertise creep." The CV of their in-house statistician, Andrey Feuerverger, shows a man interested in theoretical statistics. There is a big difference between this and applied statistics. In the latter -- you need to employ not just statistical knowledge, but also the logics of descriptive and causal inference. In fact, in most instances of applied statistics -- I'd rather have somebody trained 10% statistics to 90% logic of empirical inquiry. This is because most real-world statistics problems, even those encountered by academics, can be handled with 3 semesters of graduate-level statistics; and also because the logic of empirical inquiry seems easy at first blush, but is actually quite difficult and tricky. It takes not just a close reading of somebody like Popper, but a re-orientation of the way one thinks and looks at the world. Just as lawyers start to think differently after having been trained in the ways of evidentiary procedure, so also should scientists. So, you need not just coursework, but also lots of practice in your spare time! There is nothing in Feuerverger's CV to indicate that (a) he has been trained in this method and (b) he has learned to think in this method.

I think this might explain why Feuerverger made a major inference-related mistake, which it appears he did. It seems to me that he calculated the chances of this tomb being Jesus of Nazareth's by multiplying all of the individual probabilities together (i.e. the chances that this is our Jesus = the chances of finding a "Jesus son of Joseph" X the chances of finding a "Joseph" X the chances of finding two "Mary"s, and so on). From this, he gets an impossibly small number -- too small, actually, for his tatse because he then arbitrarily increases it by a factor of at least 25% -- and claims, "The odds that this is Jesus of Nazareth is 600 to 1." The problem with this is that, like so much in lefty NT studies (and generally all NT studies that try to rewrite the Gospel narratives while largely relying upon them as evidence), his logic is circular and the overarching hypothesis is unfalsiable. He cannot calculate the probability that this is Jesus by recourse to any but the Joseph and the ONE Mary ossuary. The reason is clear: it is his hypothesis, and not the pre-existing data, that calls for the inclusion of these other names in the calculation. For instance, the 600 to 1 number seems to include the probability of finding an ossuary with the name "Matthew" on it. But this cannot be included in calculating that this is Jesus Christ's ossuary because we have no evidence -- independent of this tomb -- that Jesus had a relative named Matthew. If we establish that this is Jesus of Nazareth, then we can say that he indeed had a relative named "Matthew." However, we first have to establish that this is "Jesus of Nazareth," which means we have to work from the biographical data that is already accepted.

This is how I would see the calculation occuring. The easiest way to the goal is to estimate the number of people whose tomb this could be. My understanding is that the average population of Jerusalem in the Herodian period was 100,000. Meanwhile, of the 1,000 or so ossuaries that have been discovered, 2 of them have the name "Jesus son of Joseph" on it. If we assume that our ossuary record is not a biased estimate of the Herodian population of "Jesus son of Joseph," we can say that -- at any given time in Jerusalem in the Herodian period -- there were 200 people who could say, "Hi! I'm Jesus. The son of Joseph." Across the entire Herodian period, I'd say that maybe 500 (maybe more -- here my knowledge of Jersualem demography begins to break down, but the point is still valid even if some of the numbers that follow need to be rejiggered) or so people could say the same thing.

Let's go on and assume that this tomb represents an average family who buried their dead in a tomb. One will find about 10 ossuaries in it and -- by extension, any given male person would have about 9 other relatives with whom he was sufficiently close to be buried with (in all 5 males, 5 females). What are the chances that at least one of said relatives would be named "Joseph?" If we assume that Dr. Witherington's friend's sample values of names are unbiased estimators of the Herodian Jerusalem population, it will be 29.3%. However, what are the chances that at least one of the 9 related to a "Jesus son of Joseph" would be named "Joseph"? Much, much, much higher! "Jesus son of Joseph" and "Joseph" are NOT independent. If you find the former, you are highly likely to find the latter -- and, by extension a guy named "Jesus son of Joseph" is more likely to have a "Joseph" in his family than a "Tim son of Tom." The "Joseph" they have found from this tomb is not spelled the same as the "Joseph" on the "Jesus" ossuary, but if "Joseph" is a family name, often times you will see variations. "Little Joe" for instance in our culture. It need not even be a close name. My name, "Jay," is derived from my grandfather's, "James" (at least in my mother's mind!). In other words, the chances that a "Jesus son of Joseph" would have a Joseph-esque name in his family would have to be much, much higher. Let's be charitable to the documentaries and say 60%. Thus, multiply that 500 by 60% and you get 300 people in Herodian Jerusalem named "Jesus son of Joseph" with a close relative with a "Joseph" name.

Doing the same for "Mary" is easier because, presumably at least, "Mary" and "Jesus son of Joseph" are independent. A male with 5 female relatives stands a 76.2% chance of having a "Mary" in the family somewhere. Thus, we multiply this chance by the 300 remaining people in our sample, and we get 229. This would be the number of people in Herodian Jerusalem named "Jesus son of Joseph" with a close relative named "Joseph" and a close relative "Mary."

What about the remaining ossuaries? Again, we cannot really include them in our mathematics because they are not extant in the historical record. What is more, they begin to damage the idea that this is our man Jesus. With 228 different people in our pool of contenders -- the fact that the tomb in question contains 3 surprise names becomes a falsifying instance. A critically falsifying instance. What is more -- if this is a family tomb, where are the other relatives of Jesus? Where are his sisters? Where is James? Where is his father? Why would James be buried in a different place? Their introduction of the theft of the James ossuary stinks of the kind of ad hoc hypothesizing needed to salvage a hypothesis that has encountered a falsifying instance. It makes no sense for James and Jesus to be buried in Jerusalem in separate spots -- the latter with his mother and another brother. Thus, the James ossuary MUST have been stolen. What about the photographic/forensic evidence that it had been discovered before this 1980 discovery? That must be wrong. This is like adding Ptolemic epicycles to explain the movement of the planets without recourse to Galileo. You can do it as long as it needs doing, but it doesn't make you right. It's a sign that you are wrong, wrong, wrong!

Which is more reasonable: (a) the historical record completely missed 3 closely-related relatives and the Jesus family forgot something like 70% of its remaining relatives or (b) this tomb belongs to one of the other 228 Herodian Jersualem citizens named "Jesus son of Joseph?" (This analysis, further, assumes that our Jesus would be buried IN Jerusalem, that he would be 1 of the 229. You'd have to have a blind eye to the political-social-cultural milieu in 32 AD Jerusalem to believe that -- if Jesus were to be buried (big if!), he'd be buried, and left undisturbed, in the capitol city of his organized, mobilized opponents? That makes A LOT of sense. Imagine burying Hitler in Moscow in 1946. How long do you think that tomb would go unpilfered/undescrecated?)

I would take all of this a step further. Cameron, Jacobvici and Pellegrino are not just a lot wrong. They are irresponsible and, I would say, even immoral. There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world today. Minimally, it is irresponsible to leverage the faith of 2.1 billion for television ratings and book sales. The psychological effect this could have on the world's population -- taken in the aggregate -- is enormous. It is staggering. Is this really worth a 0.7 share for Discovery? Of course, most Christians will not be affected because the argument is so terribly weak. However, that does not excuse their intentions -- which were to deal a severe psychological blow to 33% of the world so as to gain ratings/book sales/notoriety/money.

This is a general phenomenon that is all too present in our society. People who specialize in areas of knowledge that are, at first glance, far removed from the foundations of modern society are often all too unaware of the social/cultural/moral effect that their findings could produce. Think of the Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray. Even if they were correct, which they weren't -- the effect that such knowledge could have had on society makes its publication very, very suspect.

In other words, the claim that scientific knowledge is the highest good is a specious claim. We as a culture are pro-science, so we do value it highly. As well we should, I would t hink. But none of us value it above all else. It is easy for each of us to imagine an instance where we would prefer NOT to have a certain bit of scientific knowledge because it would disrupt all of us so badly (e.g. pre-birth genetic screening could lead to eugenicsf; thus, it is best to deny parents this knowledge). This is a sign that any given discovery must be weighed against its social effect. The presumption, of course, should be on the side of science -- but there still must be a weighing and certain scientific truths would probably have to be rejected.

As I said, I think it moves beyond irresponsibility. They clearly have not weighed the consequences. So they are irresponsibile. Their ostensible motives make them immoral. Cameron et al. -- with their motives (money, ratings, prominence, etc) and their circus-show promotion (Behold, I give you...Kong!) -- have moved beyond the type of irresponsibility of which Herrnstein and Murray were guilty (those two could be said to have had a genuine and paramount interest in knowledge, but who failed to do the proper weighing of knowledge against social consequences). Cameron et al. are not just being irresponsible, they are immoral -- to intend to affect so negatively such a large porportion of your fellow-species for...money? Their actions are contemptible. No human being should be prepared to damage so many other human beings for money and fame.

Steve Bedard said...

I agree that there is a difference between the James Ossuary and the Talpiot Tomb. What I am saying is that traditional Christians must be aware that we have a bias to want historical evidence that Jesus lived and to not want historical evidence that Jesus' physical remains still exist or that He had a son. I am not saying that we are wrong. I am just saying that we must be aware of our own bias. The same goes for those who are critical of traditional Christian beliefs and are looking for support in this discovery.

interlocutor said...

I'm having trouble finding the university at which Richard Bauckham teaches statistics. He is the statistician that you quote above as disproving Andrey Feuerverger's work. Can you point me to his university profile so that I can see his statistical qualifications?

Ben Witherington said...

These statistics can be found in Tal Ilan's book on the Jewish Lexicon of Names. One doesn't need to be a statistician to present the raw numbers. Presumably it helps to be one to analyze them :)

Ben W.

山宗原人 said...

Ben can you please enable the RSS so that we can receive feed of your blog's update?

Dave said...

I've been reading a couple of the articles around the 'net and have seen two numbers published on the likely hood that this is "THE" Jesus tomb. One of the numbers was 600-to-1, and the other was 1 million-to-1.
Which on is it?

interlocutor said...

Thanks, Ben.

Is that the same Tal Ilan that is a part of the Jesus Family Tomb project? Kind of ironic, don't you think?

And, my question wasn't about the listing of the numbers. I was referring to the quote that I assume is Baukham's in which he states, "You can see at once that all the names you're interested were extremely popular. 21% of Jewish women were called Mariamne (Mary). The chances of the people in the ossuaries being the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the New Testament must be very small indeed."

This seems like analysis, no?

Dave said...

So, something else that is bothering me....
I have been reading that these tombs have been known about for decades, and that they weren't thought to be any big deal because the names were very common.
But then again I've read that it's taken 20 years to translate the names?! 20 years?!
So which is true?
Also, if it's so difficult to translate what are the statistical probabilities that they've even translated the names correctly?

David Drury said...

Thanks for your timely post on this matter and your helpful responses to some comment objections here.

Your point about peer review and publicity is well taken. Using secrecy as a weapon to drive promotion also weakens the testing of such pseudo-factual reporting.

-David

Jay said...

Re: Dave's comment about the probability.

My understanding is that Cameron et al. estimate it at 600 to 1. Tabor contracted independently for an estimate that assumes the James ossuary is part of this tomb, which would "put" it at 1 million + to 1.

As I said, their ostensible need to place the James ossuary at this tomb is a sign of the trouble that their hypothesis encounters.

Question 1: If this is the Jesus family tomb, why was James buried "across the street?"

Answer 1: It MUST have been stolen!

Question 2: What about the forensic evidence that suggests the James ossuary was found before 1980 AD?

Answer 2: It must be mistaken. The film must have been housed for several years before it was used.

Question 3: Why should we believe that this evidence is indicating a "false positive," but yours is not?

Answer 3: ...

Side inquiry: Cede their probabilities for the sake of argument. The chances that this isn't Jesus is approximately 0.00167%. Are those odds greater than, less than, equal to the odds that we would find the ossuaries of members of Jesus of Nazareth's family from TWO independent sources with less than 5 years between discoveries, after they have been lost for 2,000 or so years?

My intuition is that it is LESS, much, much much less. So, if we are going to talk about statistical probability -- the chances are actually greater that this is NOT Jesus of Nazareth, even if we cede their ridiculous probabilities.

It is thus unsurprising to me that a filmmaker is bankrolling this whole project. Odds like this are "natural" to filmmakers. Almost always, movies deal with occurrences that have a probability of close-to-zero. That is why we all go to the movies: we can't see that stuff in real life!!!

exapologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Simmons said...

Thanks for your post. It was really helpful. I found out about it on the today show this morning, and thought something seemed a little fishy when I saw a film maker was pushing this as a new documentary the day after the oscars. I would think a legitimate historical find (and one as significant as this one would be) would be guarded by historians and presented in a reasonable fashion, not one designed to make film makers a lot of money.

Philip said...

The statistics:

(1) 8.3% of Jewish men were named "Joseph."

(2) If 21% of them married women named "Mary":

1.8% of Jewish men were "Joseph, husband of Mary."

(3) If 3.8% of Jewish men were named "Jesus":

0.067% of Jewish men were "Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary."

(4) If there were 100,000 Jewish men in first century Palestine:

67 of them were "Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary."

Jesus Christ was 1 of these 67. That is, there is only a 1.5% chance that the Jesus of the tomb is to be identified with Jesus Christ.

If we take into consideration the names "Judah son of Jesus" and "Matthew", it becomes even less likely that the Jesus tomb can be identified with Jesus Christ. It was probably a family that lived in Jerusalem.

[Notes: I am not claiming that Joseph was Jesus' biological father. I don't know the actual population of Jewish men in first century Palestine; 100,000 is just a guess. These calculations assume that there is no correlation between people of different names.]

Ann said...

Dr. Witherington,

What is your current belief about the authenticity of the James ossuary? Has it changed since the Golan trial and the prosecutors' claim they have evidence that he and others were part of an antiquities forgery ring?

matt gallion said...

Dr. Witherington,

Your knowledge simply astounds me. Incredible argument! Thank you for your contribution to the Christian community.

Rainsborough said...

Will Dawkins and Harris clamber aboard this leaky vessel? If they're as evidence-driven as they say surely not.

FrankDG said...

Great analysis Dr. Witherington. I vaguely remembered the Talpiot Tomb discovery from somwhere in the murky past when this hit the headlines. They'll trot it out with breathless wonder thinking they've found the silver bullet against Christianity, unfortunately, deceiving and confusing some folks.

Thanks and blessings!
Frank

JDT said...

Ben, I wonder how you could say I make nothing of this tomb or this ossuary in my book when more than half the Introduction is devoted to it. I never argue for the Jesus tomb in Safed, what I try to do, as with the father of Jesus, to cover the various ideas and possibilities that are out there in an effort to honestly inform readers. I end up saying I am not sure which tomb might most likely be the Jesus Family Tomb and I also say that we would have to say "father unknown" for Jesus' birth certificate. We now have new evidence linking not only the James ossuary to the Talpiot tomb but DNA and other indications, plus the statistics. It is one thing to list the names and their frequencies. That we all have, but you have to then determine the liklihood of the cluster. I also am puzzled as to why you say Jesus was never called "Jesus son of Joseph" when it is found a number of times in the N.T. itself? Look, even if there was only a 50/50 chance that this was Jesus of Nazareth that would make it of interest but by any measure I have seen from those who do these sorts of numbers, the probabilities are vastly greater. See my Blog for a few details and I will publish the math sometime next week. jesusdynasty.com/blog

J. B. Hood said...

Joseph died early in Galilee (Mk 6, Jesus is "son of Mary" and Joe is not mentioned). Was he exhumed and moved to Jerusalem?

Ben Witherington said...

I believe the James ossuary is genuine. The latest examination of the ossuary last year by a careful German scholar once more confirmed that the inscription, all of it is genuine, and Yuval Goren admitted under oath at the trial of Golan that there was ancient patina in the word Jesus-- the very word on the ossuary they most wanted to discredit. I look forward to further testing after the ossuary survives the trial.

And Rainsbrough I think that Prof. Dawkins is not a foolish person. We need to remember that Cameron and Jacobivici are the ones who regaled us with the special about finding the ark of the covenant as well--- NOT.
I was so glad to see Amos Klosner on the major networks tonight, the original discoverer and archaeologist at the Talpiot tomb say emphatically that this is fairy tale.

Blessings to all in blogland, pray for me as I do the umpteeneth interview. I am already worn out and have a headache brought on by lack of critical thinking by so many of these folks,

Ben

Ben Witherington said...

Hi James (Tabor): Welcome.

Did you read what I said carefully? I do not say that you made nothing of the Talpiot tomb. Indeed you did. But what you did not do is come out and claim that it was the tomb of Jesus in the Jesus Dynasty. And you have no evidence at all to connect the James ossuary to this tomb--- none. Where is the connecting link please? It is surely not that the James ossuary manifests the same age or sort of patina as these other ossuaries. That doesn't link one ossuary to another-- that only links them all to the same locale in antiquity!

Do we have a single Bible passage where any insider, any disciple or family member or some other intimate who would have known, not some opponent or objector, calls Jesus the son of Joseph? No we do not, unless you claim that the reference to 'your parents' in Lk. 2.41-52 points in this direction . But Luke in that same chapter had already claimed that Jesus was born of a virgin, so I doubt you should read even Lk. 2.41-52 as claiming Jesus is literally the son of Joseph.

And while we are asking questions, why in the world would Joseph's body be dragged all the way from Nazareth to Jerusalem to be buried? This is far fetched. At best this is a family of artisans, not ones who can afford a rock cut tomb in Jerusalem. And let us be clear-- Joseph would surely be the first to be buried there. What about the traditions in Eusebius that indicate James was buried elsewhere near the temple mount? What about the traditions that say Mary left Jerusalem and went to Asia Minor and died there? Why exactly is anyone claiming that the lack of DNA connection between the 'Jesus' ossuary and the 'Mariameme' ossuary proves they were married? Many people can be buried in the same extended family tomb, and numerous of them without DNA link.

I would welcome your answer.

Seven Star Hand said...

Hello all,

Ever consider that the New Testament and the stories of Jesus Christ are the Roman deceptions that the original Hebrew texts warned about? Isn't it odd that the New Testament is full of Greco-Roman names from Europe, not from Judea? Isn't it odd that all of the purported authors of New Testament books have European names and made numerous geographical errors. For example, the proven fact that there was no town named Nazareth during the Second-Temple period. Why have the Vatican, Papacy, and Christianity been characterized by such extreme duplicity and deception for their entire existence if they were truly representatives of the Creator?

You do understand that Gog from Magog refers to Greeks and Romans (Greco-Romans) who invaded, subjugated, and scattered the children of Israel? Isn't it at all worrisome that the Vatican and Christianity have "whitewashed" the names, images, and activities of all of the supposed Judean characters in the long-dubious New Testament that history proves would have been dark-skinned, dark-haried locals, not blue-eyed European invaders. Consequently, billions of people have long been deceived into worshipping a false god with a name that never could have existed in ancient times!

Ever heard of strong lies and strong delusion? Read 2 Thessalonians 2:11 again.

Can you say woe, woe, woe?

Here is Wisdom !!

Dave said...

Here's a little bit about seven hand star :
Lawrence W. Page II is the Teacher of Righteousness reincarnated who now stands forth as the long-prophesied Messiah and Lion of the Tribe of Juda, the Root of David; (a.k.a. Melchizedek, “Archangel” Michael, Moses, Elijah, the Branch, the Stem and the Rod from the Stump of Jesse) to decisively end millennia of Vatican deception, injustice, genocide, false doctrine, and false prophecy. Here is Wisdom!!

I guess we're blessed to have the TRUE messiah right here, right now, blogging with us.

Kamal said...

Please keep an eye on Tabor's blog for us. He's already calling for professionalism from you guys. >_>

http://jesusdynasty.com/blog/

Thanks.

Dim Bulb said...

Hi, Doctor,

Do you know when the Discovery channel began hyping this? I don't whatch much TV and only heard about this stuff yesterday. The reason I ask is that if this documentary has come out of the blue with with only a short period of hype before its airing, I have to assume that the Discovery Channel is either engaging in bad business practice by not giving it much advertisement, or, it wanted to get a sucker punch in with the show before it was rendered useless by the facts.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Dim Bulb--- you're not so dim. No they have not been regaling us with lots of publicity for next Sunday night's show.

Ben Witherington said...

o.k. I've been to James Tabor's blog and read the latest post. James himself is not claiming that Joseph was buried in Jerusalem. But here is something he does not seem to have considered. This tomb is not at all within the confines of ancient Jerusalem. Indeed it is well outside Jerusalem, and without question Eusebius says James the brother of Jesus was buried near the Temple Mount. Why in the world would the family of Jesus be buried in a sheep field somewhere outside Bethlehem? This makes no sense.

Ben Witherington said...

Oops I meant outside of Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb is well outside of ancient Jerusalem.

Ben Witherington said...

I have now watched the Larry King Live special, which typically had rebuttal witnesses who are not experts ancient historians of the NT period-- the President of the Catholic League and the President of Southern Baptist Seminary.

James Tabor and Simcha and James Cameron on the other hand came across composed and sensible while the rebuttal witnesses appeared flustered angry, and with minimal detailed arguments. Not helpful.

Stephen Roberson said...

Typical of the media to give a biased one way answer. Wonderful.

DimBulb said...

Dr Witherington,

It seems to me that the Larry King show was quite helpful for the other side. We saw the same sort of stacked deck presentation was used by 20/20 (ABC) in a show it did on the DaVinci code a few years ago. Likewise, more recently one major network did a stacked deck piece on the Pope Joan myth.

In the present case two men with "credentials": the guy from the Catholic league (who's fairly well known) and a President of a Baptist College, were pitted against two other men with credentials (Simcha and Tabor).

Of course, the credentials of the first two are very different to the credentials of the second pair. The subject matter gave the second pair the edge, and this was, no doubt, why the first pair were chosen.

Lord Veritas said...

Thanks Ben for displaying to us that their 'story' has more holes in it than the titanic.

(Well someone had to say it)

Clayton said...

"First of all, I have worked with Simcha. He is a practicing Jew, indeed he is an orthodox Jew so far as I can tell."

Relevance?

Phil said...

Some questions that came to my mind...what state were the remains in and was there enough for any forensic analysis? Specifically, would there by any way to tell whether the Jesus individual had been crucified?

Secondly, I was struck by the lack of ornamentation and the almost careless inscription on the side of the Jesus ossuary compared to the Mariamne ossuary. It almost seems that Mariamne was more highly revered than Jesus. But perhaps it simply indicates a later burial date or that Mariamne's family was wealthier?

How certain are we that the Jesus inscription is in fact Jesus?

Finally, at least for here, I'm wondering if these could be forgeries, for whatever reason, say from the second century.

Oh I suppose I've got one more thing, how certain are we that Golan had the James ossuary in his possesion prior to 1980? Or could that simply be a deceit on his part, so that he could claim ownership?

www.wildrye.com

the Finnie's said...

As ever your Blog is a really helpful resource, thanks Ben!

A quote i read recently sprang to mind as i read the news article on the BBC; "Remember, the Ark was built by a lone amateur, the Titanic was built by a team of professionals."

JDT said...

Dear Ben,

I think it best for you to wait and read the case presented in the documentary and the book as I think you have quite a few things confused. No one is claiming, for example, that Joseph's body was taken from Nazareth to Jerusalem. What seems to be the case, if this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, is the Jose is his missing brother, not his legal father. I say "missing" in that we know the fate of Shimon and Jude, but Jose drops out of view in our records. We have a Jose in this tomb. Since Shimon, who was third, takes over from James, rather than Jose, who was second, it makes sense with this new evidence that Jesus 2nd brother, Jose, had died before 62...this it fits for him to be buried in such a tomb.

As far as "Jesus son of Joseph," what name would you suggest would be used in calling Jesus, a 1st century Jew, the "son of" another? The two we have are Jesus son of Joseph and Jesus son of Pantera. Do you suggest a third? As a Jew how would Jesus have been described in terms of the Yeshua bar ____ formula as you see things?

Also, you need to have time to catch up on the patina studies that Rosenfeld and others have carried out that link the James ossuary to this tomb. Why do you write so dogmatically when you have not even read what is being claimed but are all ready to refute it, saying there is not a shred of new patina evidence. Again, please, calm down, read and consider the evidence, then reply as you like. The patina tests of Rosenfeld, etc. have to do with the specific patina that develops in a given singular tomb environment. You are incorrect, there is quite a bit of new information that I did not know in Nov 2005 when I finished my book, and yes, it has now pointed toward the Talpiot tomb. I have not "flip flopped" as you charge, and I think that kind of tone and language is unfortunate. Obviously if the Talpiot tomb can be identified with Jesus of Nazareth then in that tomb is a Jude son of Jesus--that is in my book, it is nothing new, but whether one accepts it depnds on one's view of this tomb.

Unfortunately, because of my inability to keep up with so many Blogs on this I will not be able to continue to put my responses here but I do direct any interested in my reasoning and the latest data on the Talpiot tomb from my own perspective to read my Blog: jesusdynasty.com/Blog. I will over the next week or so, and particularly after the documentary is shown where a fuller picture of the facts is presented, address many of the points that you and your readers have raised here.

Thanks, James Tabor

Lanarion said...

Just a quick rebuttal to Tabor, because it seemed so glaring.
What else to call jesus other than yehsua bar ___? Well, how about just plain Yeshua? I mean, unless you are saying that ALL ossuaries have to contain patronymics and genealogies in their inscriptions (which, considering there are some there which don't, would seem unlikely) then why is it impossible for the christian yeshua, were you to find his tomb (etc.) to simply have yeshua, not necessarily yeshua bar___? For example, the 'matthew' doesn't have a 'bar ___' in his inscription.

Just a thought.

Jeffinoh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffinoh said...

I have no opinion on this latest controversy since I need to look at all claims and evidence first. I admit I'm a bit biased against it because of the hype, so I'll have to guard against that.

Recent posts and comments on this blog have caused me to think A LOT about personal bias.

If belief in a literally resurrected Christ is essential to our faith system, then anything suggesting Jesus might have a tomb and ossuary will be automatically rejected. It's just a matter of figuring out the best way to discredit the evidence or messenger.

If we have publicly promoted and defended an archaeological find, staked our scholarly reputation on it, and profited from the sale of books released on the topic, then we will likely defend its authenticity to the very end.

If we occupy a position in the evangelical world where our job, our readership, our listeners, and our friends expect us to oppose the acceptance of homosexuality (committed, loving same-gender relationships), then we will do so or almost certainly lose everything.

Do any of us adequately recognize the power of personal bias? And how do we overcome it?

Jay said...

Dr. Tabor --

Re: Your "Some Initial Thoughts on the Talpiot Tomb" Blog Post and your comments on this thread.

The statistical analysis you proffer on your blog is incorrect. I mean that in two ways. First, you are taking elements of your theory as data points to test your theory. I was hoping that you and the documentarians would offfer something a little bit better than this. Second, your numbers are wrong.

I also have something to say about the petina, as well as the way which your coterie has chosen to promulgate this "discovery."

1. Theoretical Concerns

You cannot arrive at the probability that you arrive at by multiplying: P(Joseph) X P(Jesus son of Joseph) X P(Mary 1) X P(Mary 2) X P(Matthew) X P(Judah son of Jesus).

Well -- actually you CAN. In fact, you MUST. But your mathematics are all screwed up. You see -- your FIRST method is how you would arrive at the man whose tomb this is. The problem? This is NOT Jesus, based upon what we know about him. Your second method, with the stadium analogy, arrives at Jesus, but it arrives at more people than you think because you have calculated incorrectly.

So -- let's take the first method first. It is valid, at least in theoryj. But the man you find, by this method, is likely NOT going to be be Jesus of Nazareth, based upon what we know. The reason is that there is no evidence independent of this tomb that Jesus of Nazareth would be buried with an additional Mary, a Judah and a Matthew. Indeed, the chances are very small that any one person would have these six people in his "constellation." It is one thing to say that. I agree with that. But, it is another thing to connect this person to Jesus of Nazareth. You have failed to do that, at least by what you have written in your blog.

The probabilities are actually the least interesting part, though your calculations seem to be very problematic. Your main task is to demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth would be this particular guy. This requires not simply a working out of the probabilities, not simply marveling at the eeriness of finding a "Jesus son of Joseph," a "Mary" and a "Joseph," but an accounting of three things.

To assert that Jesus is the man at the end of your first mathematical operation (where you account for all six), you first have to make an independent argument that Jesus would (a) be buried, (b) be buried in Jerusalem, (c) be buried in Jerusalem apparently not in a borrowed tomb, (d) be able to rest for 2,000+ years without being looted, despite the fact that everybody (including the Romans and the Jewish leadership) would have loved nothing more than to have produced his ossuary, which apparently was right across the street this whole time! How'd they miss that, eh?

Can you name the percentage value of the NT scholarship field who hold any of these postulates, let alone all four?

Borrowing the metaphor from your second mathematical operation, you have a stadium full of people. First, you have to show that Jesus is in the stadium to begin with!

You need to do more than this, though. Basically, you have to account for the extreme likelihood that, at some point along the way, the Jesus as we know him in the historical record will be sitting down. Your tomb has produced for you two types of error when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth: you have people who should not be there but who are there, and you have people who should be there but who are not there.

The historical record lacks any credible, accepted data, that Jesus had within his family a Matthew, another Mary and a Judah. Thus, you must offer a compelling explanation for why these people would be in Jesus's tomb. With all of the information we have -- how did we miss three of the five named boxes associated with this Jesus tomb if this in fact JC? In other words -- we need serious, independent evidence that Jesus of Nazareth had a son named Judah, a Matthew and the second Mary in his family. Otherwise, these three names work AGAINST you. They are a falsifying instance.

In other words, when you call out "anybody with a relative named Matthew?" -- guess who sits down? Our boy Jesus! You need to explain why he would not sit down.

After that, one must begin to offer explanations as to why more than half of Jesus's family is absent from this tomb. It is simply not enough to proclaim those who are included in this tomb as evidence that the tomb is legitimate. One must also account for those who are NOT in the tomb. Where is Simon? Where is Judas? Where are the sisters? Where's Poppa Joe?

All of this works independent of your statistics. Error must be dealt with in a serious way. This is especially necessary because your statistics (which again, I disagree with and will discuss below) offer what boil down to a very small confidence interval and a statistically significant result. However, your THEORY -- that this is the tomb of Jesus -- has a LOT of error. It fails to explain at least 6 data points. That is, there are 3 people who should not be there, and at least 3 people who should be there. Bear in mind that you only have 6 ossuaries with names on them. So -- yikes on the error front! That dings your impressive odds. Big time.

The information I have seen -- both on your blog and on the website -- have little-to-none of this requisite explanatory work. My hunch is that this will not fit into a 90 minute documentary and that the folks over at HarperCollins don't want a book filled to the gills with tedious stuff that satisfies us sticklers for the logic of causal inquiry. I also doubt that the authors of the book -- given their non-NT backgrounds -- could produce this kind of argument, anyway.

I hope you have and your fellows have prepared another, more scholarly, forum for the evaluation of this hypothesis, and that your intention is not just to pass it off to the unsuspecting general public that is unqualified to evaluate these claims for a quick buck and some notoriety.

II. Mathematical Concerns

It seems to me that your second mathematical operation -- where you use your football analogy -- is a way to get around the problem of error and the possibility that JC might not be in the stadium at all. Your argument seems to be that when we calculate the known relatives of JC in that tomb, we get such a small number that the error doesn't even matter. In other words, the odds are so great that this is Jesus that our historical method MUST be wrong.

However, I do not think you have executed the math properly (perhaps miscommunication between you and your statistician?). First off, I am not sure your theoretical model is accurate. Your football analogy seems to be narrowing down to Jesus of Nazareth as we know him independent of this tomb (hence your references to "mother," "brother," etc.). What you need to do is narrow down the people who COULD be in this tomb, see how many are left, and see whether JC is in the batch. The reason I mention this is that the questions you ask to those in the stadiums are JC-as-we-know-him questions, not Jesus-of-this-tomb questions.

The best way to review your work is to recreate it correcting the mistakes I see.

For simplicity's sake, let's assume that each family has, on average, 10 family members who are sufficiently closely related to be in the tomb -- just like the tomb in question. Let's also assume that each family has 5 males and 5 females. Both reasonable assumptions. Another reasonable assumption: let's assume that the sample we have on Herodian Jerusalem names is not a biased sample (i.e. the population values and the sample values are expected to be the same).

First, you have those named "Jesus son of Joseph" remain standing. Fair enough. I am with you there.

Second, you ask those with a "mother named Mary" to remain standing. This is not valid. What we should be doing is asking those with "any relative named Mary among your five female relatives" to remain standing. This is a huge difference because, again, we are trying to see whose tomb this could be. If we could confirm that either of the Mary ossuaries contains the mother of the man in the Jesus ossuary, then indeed we could multiply the number by 23%, which is what you have done. But, in actuality, what we have to do is multiply the probability that, a given "Jesus son of Joseph" will have at least one woman out of five in his family named "Mary." By my calculation, there is about a 69% chance, not a 23% chance.

Your second mistake is unrelated and even more damaging to your argument. Your statistician factored in Joseph a second time by multiplying by 13.3%, which is indeed the correct probability -- if and only if the two observations are independent! This is MAJOR trouble for you because "Joseph" and "Jesus son of Joseph" will not be independent events. The observation of one increases the likelihood of observing the other. My hunch is that their correlation will be upwards of 100%. The actual probability would be something like this:

P(Jesus son of Joseph AND Joseph) = P(Jesus son of Joseph) X P(Joseph, given Jesus son of Joseph).

The latter term will approach 1 because Joseph has already been established to be a family name, and after all this Joseph ossuary might be the dad's. Which means that you have over-estimated the number of people who would sit down when you call for the non-Joseph people to sit down. You already basically accounted for the "Joseph" crowd when you accounted for the "Jesus son of Joseph" crowd.

And your write-up mentions "brother." How do we know that this ossuary contains the brother of the man in the Jesus ossuary? So, here again, we have to factor in having one relative in four being a "Joseph" given a "Jesus son of Joseph."

Also, my estimate starts out with a greater population than yours. You mention the "average" population in Jerusalem. However, this ossuary -- by my understanding -- is dated from the Herodian period. My understanding is that the average population was 100,000 -- not 25,000 to 50,000. Even if I am wrong, you are not right. You can only use this smaller figure if you know for sure that this tomb was filled during JC's lifetime, which you do not know. Thus, you would have to take as your population the number of people who lived in Herodian Jerusalem altogether, not the number of people who lived at any given time.

This would be the extent to which this tomb correlates with known facts about Jesus. The number of people with whom he stands would be the number of people with whom the tomb correlates just as well. My estimate of this is 229 people, which means that you need to start explaining that error and making a case that Jesus would be in the stadium at all. If we use your baseline population and my calculations, we still get 55 potential candidates -- which means you have to start explaining the error and justifying why JC is in the stadium to begin with.


III. The Wait for the Petina

On a personal note -- from one scholar to another -- I have to say that this "wait and see about the petina" is unseemly, unbecoming and downright inappropriate for a scholar.

Unseemly, unbecoming, downright inappropriate. This is how I would characterize this whole absurd, carnivalesque affair that you have gotten yourself into.

For this reason, I am skeptical about your analysis of the petina.

But more than this. I am skeptical because it seems to me that you have misexecuted your statistics. I am somebody who knows about statistics. I do not know much about petina. Why should I trust your judgment on this thing when I think you are wrong on another?

But more than this. Why is your new revelation about petina, and its application to this particular case, not in a referred journal? How is it sufficient to introduce new, revelatory methods via a Discovery documentary and a HarperCollins book? Why, generally, are there no stated plans to subject your analysis of the petina, not to mention everything else, to the rigors of peer-review? If you do not plan to do that, why should I believe anything that Jim Cameron has to say on the matter? Personally, I like Ridley Scott's Alien more than his hackneyed sequel. "They mostly come out at night. Mostly." Puhlease. What else is there to recommend him?

Another question. What about that photograph that just came out in the trial of Oded Golan? It is dated prior to the discovery of the tomb in question. Its dating was verified by an FBI expert witness. The initial claim I read from your camp is that this is a false positive -- that the film was just old film used several years after purchase. You have no evidence for this. So, this question is relevant: why should I believe that Golan's expert witness has hit upon a false positive, but that your expert witness has not? On top of that, what about the testimony of Amos Kloner, who is quite clear that the 10th tomb was unmarked, and who has the documentation from the IAA to back up the claim, and who has nothing to gain from lying, and who spent time doing a write-up on the subject and who probably could remember the details?

Basically -- Kloner, the first guy to deal with the tomb in question, disagrees with your assertion. So does Oded, the first guy to deal with the James ossuary.

So, I will be interested to know whether the probability of a "false positive" about the petina (assuming that your man has the capacity to test whether two boxes shared the same square footage for 2,000 years) is greater than the probability of a false positive on the initial reports of that tenth ossuary being nameless multiplied by the probability of a false positive on that photograph.

Nevertheless, I'll cede you, for the sake of the following argument argument, the James ossuary. We have a subsample of about 200 people. To what extent does its inclusion diminish the probability of finding somebody other than Joseph?

Again -- finding a James ossuary like this is NOT an independent event in relation to finding a Joseph ossuary and a Jesus ossuary. Finding one necessarily increases the chances of finding the others. The formula for calculating it would be similar to the one I mentioned above, so all in all you would have a greater value than what you estimate.

And if you find my tone offensive, sir, know this. I AM offended. And it is not just because I am a Christian, which I am. I also happen to be a Christian well schooled in the logic of causal inquiry, and I have to say that I have found it LACKING thus far. And, based upon my experiences with both Discovery and HarperCollins, I am NOT holding my breath for the rigor that is necessary for such a bold claim!

More than this, I am offended because the filmmakers are toying with the psychology of 2.1 billion of their fellow human beings. And, to be honest, I suspect they are doing it for fame and/or money. By extension, they are attacking the very social-political-moral fabric of this nation and, indeed, the world. And the circus-show nonsense that your coterie has chosen to engage indicates to me that, not only do they recognize this to be true, but that they also are enjoying that. It is also my evidence of the desire for fame and/or money. Why else would they chose THIS manner to publicize their findings? This is about sales at Barnes & Noble and ratings on next Sunday.

So, yes -- I am offended. I am offended by the whole, sorry spectacle. I am offended, OFFENDED, that this has been treated like a King Kong moment. I am offended that this group is proffering an argument OUTSIDE of normal scholarly circles. I am offended that there will be a big payday. I am offended that the faith of billions has become a circus side show to bump the ratings on Discovery to 0.7.

Above all, sir -- I am offended, OFFENDED, at the fact that the filmmakers et al. seem to have no idea how potentially damaging these claims are. Or, perhaps better stated, I am offended at the fact that they seem to be jubilant that they are upsetting so many people, and that they are ignorant as to the long-term implications of turning 2.1 billion believers into non-believers. They court social-political-cultural disaster. Some truths, even non-truths like your friends' arguments, are best left unsaid. Any truth must be weighed against the social-cultural-political cost of its promulgation. That is called being a responsible scientist.

So, yes, sir! I am GREATLY offended!

I would refer you to Philip Kitcher's Science, Truth and Democracy. I have inferred that you have not read it, though I believe you should have. I will send you my copy pro bono, if you like.

Jay P. Cost
Doctoral Candidate in Political Science
The University of Chicago

PS: I was greatly interested in this comment:

"What bothers me most about the approach of Witherington, Bock, and others is their beginning assumption that this can not be the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, their approach is not an open quest for evidence but an apologetic effort to save the faith. The conclusions one draws then are determined without even looking at the evidence. The only task is to refute and charge others with “bogus” ideas, not to examine and consider what we can know. I think there is a better way."

I did not know that it was possible to excise oneself from non-scientific predispositions? Silly me -- I thought our non-scientific predispositions were the FOUNDATION of our hypotheses. What's more -- what about YOUR predispositions. After all, you're pretty "locked into" this story, are you not? You signed up without a full vetting from critics like Ben Witherington, right? Now you're in. You wouldn't look good if it were debunked, right?

So, why is it that you are not biased and Dr. Witherington et al. are? And, generally, don't you have a pre-existing biased about the resurrection? Is that not OFF the table a priori for you just as it is on the table for Witherington et al.?

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Albert said...

Yes and some of us even remember how professor Witherington uncritically accepted the authenticity of the James Ossuary a few years ago. You have no credibility Sir. Evangelical scholarshop is an oxymoron.

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean Babu said...

Question: has this documentary and the work behind it been peer-reviewed at any point, or is it all direct-to-public?

Jay said...

Dr. Tabor --


Re: Your "Some Initial Thoughts on the Talpiot Tomb" Blog Post and your comments on this thread.

The statistical analysis you proffer on your blog is incorrect. I mean that in two ways. First, you are taking elements of your theory as data points to test your theory. I was hoping that you and the documentarians would offfer something a little bit better than this. Second, your numbers are wrong.

I also have something to say about the petina, as well as the way which your coterie has chosen to promulgate this "discovery."

1. Theoretical Concerns

You cannot arrive at the probability that you arrive at by multiplying: P(Joseph) X P(Jesus son of Joseph) X P(Mary 1) X P(Mary 2) X P(Matthew) X P(Judah son of Jesus).

Well -- actually you CAN. In fact, you MUST. But your mathematics are all screwed up. You see -- your FIRST method is how you would arrive at the man whose tomb this is. The problem? This is NOT Jesus, based upon what we know about him. Your second method, with the stadium analogy, arrives at Jesus, but it arrives at more people than you think because you have calculated incorrectly.

So -- let's take the first method first. It is valid, at least in theory. But the man you find, by this method, is likely NOT going to be be Jesus of Nazareth, based upon what we know. The reason is that there is no evidence independent of this tomb that Jesus of Nazareth would be buried with an additional Mary, a Judah and a Matthew. Indeed, the chances are very small that any one person would have these six people in his "constellation." It is one thing to say that. I agree with that. But, it is another thing to connect this person to Jesus of Nazareth. You have failed to do that, at least by what you have written in your blog.

The probabilities are actually the least interesting part, though your calculations seem to be very problematic. Your main task is to demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth would be this particular guy. This requires not simply a working out of the probabilities, not simply marveling at the eeriness of finding a "Jesus son of Joseph," a "Mary" and a "Joseph," but an accounting of three things.

To assert that Jesus is the man at the end of your first mathematical operation (where you account for all six), you first have to make an independent argument that Jesus would (a) be buried, (b) be buried in Jerusalem, (c) be buried in Jerusalem apparently not in a borrowed tomb, (d) be able to rest for 2,000+ years without being looted, despite the fact that everybody (including the Romans and the Jewish leadership) would have loved nothing more than to have produced his ossuary, which apparently was right across the street this whole time! How'd they miss that?

Can you name the percentage value of the NT scholarship field who hold any of these postulates, let alone all four? Do you, in your work prior to this, hold any of these opinions?

In other words, borrowing the metaphor from your second mathematical operation, you have a stadium full of people. First, you have to show that Jesus is in the stadium to begin with!

You need to do more than this, though. Basically, you have to account for the extreme likelihood that, at some point along the way, the Jesus as we know him in the historical record will be sitting down. Your tomb has produced for you two types of error when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth: you have people who should not be there but who are there, and you have people who should be there but who are not there.

The historical record lacks any credible, accepted data, that Jesus had within his family a Matthew, another Mary and a Judah. Thus, you must offer a compelling explanation for why these people would be in Jesus's tomb. With all of the information we have -- how did we miss three of the five named boxes associated with this Jesus tomb if this in fact JC? In other words -- we need serious, independent evidence that Jesus of Nazareth had a son named Judah, a relative named Matthew and another Mary in his family. Otherwise, these three names work AGAINST you. They are a falsifying instance.

In other words, when you call out "anybody with a relative named Matthew?" -- guess who sits down? Our boy Jesus! You need to explain why he would not sit down.

After that, one must begin to offer explanations as to why more than half of Jesus's family is absent from this tomb. It is simply not enough to proclaim those who are included in this tomb as evidence that the tomb is legitimate. One must also account for those who are NOT in the tomb. Where is Simon? Where is Judas? Where are the sisters? Where's Poppa Joe?

All of this works independent of your statistics. Error must be dealt with in a serious way. This is especially necessary because your statistics (which again, I disagree with and will discuss below) offer what boil down to a very small confidence interval and a statistically significant result. However, your THEORY -- that this is the tomb of Jesus -- has a LOT of error. It fails to explain at least 6 data points. That is, there are 3 people who should not be there, and at least 3 people who should be there. Bear in mind that you only have 6 ossuaries with names on them. So -- yikes on the error front! That dings your impressive odds. Big time.

The information I have seen -- both on your blog and on the website -- have little-to-none of this requisite explanatory work. My hunch is that this will not fit into a 90 minute documentary and that the folks over at HarperCollins don't want a book filled to the gills with tedious stuff that satisfies us sticklers for the logic of causal inquiry. I also doubt that the authors of the book -- given their non-NT backgrounds -- could produce this kind of argument, anyway.

I hope you have and your fellows have prepared another, more scholarly, forum for the evaluation of this hypothesis, and that your intention is not just to pass it off to the unsuspecting general public that is unqualified to evaluate these claims for a quick buck and some notoriety.

II. Mathematical Concerns

It seems to me that your second mathematical operation -- where you use your football analogy -- is a way to get around the problem of error and the possibility that JC might not be in the stadium at all. Your argument seems to be that when we calculate the known relatives of JC in that tomb, we get such a small number that the error doesn't even matter. Thus MUST be JC. In other words, the odds are so great that this is our boy that our historical data MUST be incomplete.

However, I do not think you have executed the math properly (perhaps miscommunication between you and your statistician?). First off, I am not sure your theoretical model is accurate. Your football analogy seems to be narrowing down to Jesus of Nazareth as we know him independent of this tomb (hence your references to "mother," "brother," etc.). What you need to do is narrow down the people who COULD be in this tomb, see how many are left, and see whether JC is in the batch. The reason I mention this is that the questions you ask to those in the stadiums are JC-as-we-know-him questions, not Jesus-of-this-tomb questions.

The best way to review your work is to recreate it correcting the mistakes I see.

For simplicity's sake, let's assume that each family has, on average, 10 family members who are sufficiently closely related to be in the tomb -- just like the tomb in question. Let's also assume that each family has 5 males and 5 females. Both reasonable assumptions. Another reasonable assumption: let's assume that the sample we have on Herodian Jerusalem names is not a biased sample (i.e. the population values and the sample values are expected to be the same).

First, you have those named "Jesus son of Joseph" remain standing. Fair enough. I am with you there.

Second, you ask those with a "mother named Mary" to remain standing. This is not valid. What we should be doing is asking those with "any relative named Mary among your five female relatives" to remain standing. This is a huge difference because, again, we are trying to see whose tomb this could be. If we could confirm that either of the Mary ossuaries contains the mother of the man in the Jesus ossuary, then indeed we could multiply the number by 23%, which is what you have done. But, in actuality, what we have to do is multiply the probability that, a given "Jesus son of Joseph" will have at least one woman out of five in his family named "Mary." By my calculation, there is about a 69% chance, not a 23% chance.

Your second mistake is unrelated and even more damaging to your argument. Your statistician factored in Joseph a second time by multiplying by 13.3%, which is indeed the correct probability -- if and only if the two observations are independent! This is MAJOR trouble for you because "Joseph" and "Jesus son of Joseph" will not be independent events. The observation of one increases the likelihood of observing the other. My hunch is that their correlation will be upwards of 100%. The actual probability would be something like this:

P(Jesus son of Joseph AND Joseph) = P(Jesus son of Joseph) X P(Joseph, given Jesus son of Joseph).

The latter term will approach 1 because Joseph has already been established to be a family name, and after all this Joseph ossuary might be the dad's. Which means that you have over-estimated the number of people who would sit down when you call for the second round of non-Joseph people to sit down. You already basically accounted for the "Joseph" crowd when you accounted for the "Jesus son of Joseph" crowd.

And your write-up mentions "brother." How do we know that this ossuary contains the brother of the man in the Jesus ossuary? So, here again, we have to factor in having one relative in four being a "Joseph" given a "Jesus son of Joseph."

Also, my estimate starts out with a greater population than yours. You mention the "average" population in Jerusalem. However, this ossuary -- by my understanding -- is dated from the Herodian period. My understanding is that the average population was 100,000 -- not 25,000 to 50,000. Even if I am wrong, you are not right. You can only use this smaller figure if you know for sure that this tomb was filled during JC's lifetime, which you do not know (again, a sign that you are working from Jesus-as-we-know-him, not Jesus-of-the-tomb). Thus, you would have to take as your population the number of people who lived in Herodian Jerusalem altogether, not the number of people who lived at any given time.

This would be the extent to which this tomb correlates with known facts about Jesus. The number of people with whom he stands would be the number of people with whom the tomb correlates just as well. My estimate of this is 229 people, which means that you need to start explaining that error and making a case that Jesus would be in the stadium at all. If we use your baseline population and my calculations, we still get 55 potential candidates -- which means you have to start explaining the error and justifying why JC is in the stadium to begin with.

III. The Wait for the Petina?!

On a personal note -- from one scholar to another -- I have to say that this "wait and see about the petina" is unseemly, unbecoming and downright inappropriate for a scholar.

Unseemly, unbecoming, downright inappropriate. This is how I would characterize this whole absurd, carnivalesque affair in which you are involved.

For this reason, I am skeptical about your analysis of the petina.

But more than this. I am skeptical because it seems to me that you have misexecuted your statistics. I am somebody who knows about statistics. I do not know much about petina. Why should I trust your judgment on this thing when I think you are wrong on another?

But more than this. Why is your new revelation about petina, and its application to this particular case, not in a referred journal? How is it sufficient to introduce new, revelatory methods via a Discovery documentary and a HarperCollins book? Why, generally, are there no stated plans to subject your analysis of the petina, not to mention everything else, to the rigors of peer-review? If you do not plan to do that, why should I believe anything that Jim Cameron has to say on the matter? Personally, I like Ridley Scott's Alien more than his hackneyed sequel. "They mostly come out at night. Mostly." Puh-lease. What else is there to recommend him?

Another question. What about that photograph that just came out in the trial of Oded Golan? It is dated prior to the discovery of the tomb in question. Its dating was verified by an FBI expert witness. The initial claim I read from your camp is that this is a false positive -- that the film was just old film used several years after purchase. You have no evidence for this. So, this question is relevant: why should I believe that Golan's expert witness has hit upon a false positive, but that your expert witness has not? On top of that, what about the testimony of Amos Kloner, who is quite clear that the 10th tomb was unmarked, and who has the documentation from the IAA to back up the claim, and who has nothing to gain from lying, and who spent time doing a write-up on the subject and who probably could remember the details?

Basically -- Kloner, the first guy to deal with the tomb in question, disagrees with your assertion. So does Oded, the first guy to deal with the James ossuary.

So, I will be interested to know whether the probability of a "false positive" about the petina (assuming that your man has the capacity to test whether two boxes shared the same square footage for 2,000 years) is greater than the probability of a false positive on the initial reports of that tenth ossuary being nameless AND the the probability of a false positive on that photograph. My guess is that it is greater, and the reasonable choice is to claim that the James ossuary is unrelated, even if both probabilities are small. The wise choice is to always minimize error!

Nevertheless, I'll cede you, for the sake of the following argument argument, the James ossuary. We have a subsample of about 56 people (minimally, recall that we are using your 50,000 population baseline). To what extent does its inclusion diminish the probability of finding somebody other than Joseph?

Again -- finding a James ossuary like this is NOT an independent event in relation to finding a Joseph ossuary and a Jesus ossuary. Finding one necessarily increases the chances of finding the others. The formula for calculating it would be similar to the one I mentioned above, which means that you would probably just multiply 56 by the probability of finding a James among one's 3 remaining relatives. So long as this number is greater than 3.57%, which my intuition is that it is, you have 2 people and you are confronted with an error problem (i.e. when the call is next for Matthew, our JC will be sitting down!).

And if you find my tone offensive, sir, know this. I AM offended. And it is not just because I am a Christian, which I am. I also happen to be a Christian well schooled in the logic of causal inquiry, and I have to say that I have found it lacking thus far. And, based upon my experiences with both Discovery and HarperCollins, I am NOT holding my breath for the rigor that is necessary for such a bold claim!

More than this, I am offended because the filmmakers are toying with the psychology of 2.1 billion of their fellow human beings. By extension, they are attacking the very social-political-moral fabric of this nation and, indeed, the world. And the circus-show nonsense that your coterie has chosen to engage indicates to me that, not only do they recognize this to be true, but that they also are enjoying the attack.

So, yes -- I am offended. I am offended by the whole, sorry spectacle. I am offended that this has been treated like a King Kong moment. I am offended that this group is proffering an argument OUTSIDE of normal scholarly circles. I am offended that you attack those of us critiquing you -- when you know full well that you and Cameron and the rest have chosen this forum RATHER than the forum of a peer-reviewed article. You picked the venue. Don't blame us for showing up for the fight. I am offended that there will be a big payday. I am offended that the faith of billions has become a circus side show to bump the ratings on Discovery to 0.7.

Jay P. Cost
Doctoral Candidate in Political Science
The University of Chicago

PS: I was greatly interested in this comment:

"What bothers me most about the approach of Witherington, Bock, and others is their beginning assumption that this can not be the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, their approach is not an open quest for evidence but an apologetic effort to save the faith. The conclusions one draws then are determined without even looking at the evidence. The only task is to refute and charge others with “bogus” ideas, not to examine and consider what we can know. I think there is a better way."

I did not know that it was possible to excise from oneself non-scientific predispositions? Silly me -- I thought our non-scientific predispositions were the FOUNDATION of our hypotheses. Isn't that what a theory is? Your preferred explanation? Who cares where it comes from? All that matters is whether it fits the facts.

What's more -- what about YOUR predispositions. After all, you're pretty "locked into" this story, are you not? You signed up without a full vetting from critics like Ben Witherington and a peer-review, right? Now you're in. You wouldn't look good if it were debunked, right? And, generally, don't you have a pre-existing bias about the resurrection? Is that not OFF the table a priori for you just as it is on the table for Witherington et al.?

So, why is it that you are not biased and Dr. Witherington et al. are?

SuzW said...

Clayton said...
"First of all, I have worked with Simcha. He is a practicing Jew, indeed he is an orthodox Jew so far as I can tell."

Relevance?


Maybe that he is predisposed to wanting to find evidence of a dead and remained dead Christ, by the very nature of his religion?

timstidham said...
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timstidham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
timstidham said...

Whew! This is quite a heated debate. As a Christian, I am definitely biased against any claims of this tomb. However, as an educated person in the 21st century I am also biased against sensasionalistic documentaries released on cable channels. I am an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, so boat loads of people interested in this topic will reject anything I have to say right off the bat. Until I see the special and/or read the book I will try to reserve specific critiques of the science, math, history, and archaeology involved. But the pressure is seriously on the filmmakers and scholars to make their case. They are not just trying to overturn Christian teaching. They are seeking to overturn many key accepted historical facts which have been noted in this blog. To James Tabor I say that it does seem a little too easy to find holes in some of what you have already said on the topic. I find the stadium argument to be highly flawed. I'm surprised that a scholar would make the mistake of saying, "Anyone with Mary as their mother..." when you can only claim Mary was a relative.
On the other hand, I will acknowledge that most people will find it interesting that all these names are clustered in a tomb.
The gut feeling most scholarly people will have is that only in a post-"Holy Blood, Holy Grail" world could evidence previously rejected by taken up again in such a sensationlistic way. These comments are still directed to Tabor. To a skeptical person like myself, admitedly biased from the outset, it appears that you are committed to presenting any evidence you can find that undermines traditional interpretation of the NT. Am I wrong? Have you published several findings that support a traditional view? If not, then you have to accept that your publications are going to be viewed with a lot of skepticism from the outset. Especially since your last two books have been unveiled on T.V. You don't seem to respect all the scholars that have come before you enough. Any finding you personally make seems to trump everyone else too easily. That is my impression. It may not be totally accurate in your opinion, but I don't think I'm alone or totally without basis in making the observations. That's why people probably jump all over you so quickly. You've kind of earned it lately. Plus, you're just a little too excited about it. I suppose that's not scholarly, but I've worked with a lot of people in the ups and downs of real life. People tend to have a hard time being objective when they allow emotion to take over. To me, your arguments have that feel. Again, go ahead and dismiss me if you want, but maybe there is something to think about.
Now, I'm sure lots of people will jump all over me for saying what I've said. That's fine with me. I restate that I will try to watch the show so that I am aware of its claims and I will even check out the book before I specifically respond to the history. Just don't try to put the onus on "us" to "prove" accepted history. Remember that the onus is on you, not just to present a plausible theory, but to actually overturn by both preponderance of evidence and strength of argument all that has come before you. Your theory has to be stronger in every way, not just in a few minor details. You have to win the overall debate. Just trying to poke holes in traditional views falls short. You have to present a more compelling overall case. I'm not saying that can't happen. I am saying your stuff better be good. If your stuff is just okay, may history forgive you (and God, if I might insert my own worldview for a second) for releasing in such a fantastic way, a worn out argument. Again, maybe you have more than I think. I wish you would have released your argument to a scholarly conference first. If it won the day there, then a T.V. show might be more valid. Just my thoughts. May God bless everyone who cares enough about these issues to respond about them.

Dr. Timothy Stidham (D.Min., McCormick- Chicago)
NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene
(Adjunct instructor @ Olivet Nazarene University)

TL said...

I think it is important for this particular story to be researced by experts theologians & historians. I feel it is reckless to assume that an archaeologist & a movie maker can make such claims as fact! Instead attacking Mr. Witherington for his article which gives very relevant points of fact, maybe you & e should be asking for proof positive of which I am quite sure and positive theuy and even the experts cannot give thus I would side with a family that had te same names and this Jesus in this tomb had a son named Jude.

In the Latin culture how many men are named "Jesus" pronounced "hey-sus" and women named "mary" ....answer....Millions! COme on people don't be a sucker and use the intelligent mind the Lord has given to you, unless you are out to disprove the Bible and believe Jesus Christ as just another carnal man not made of God. That is a side I would prefer not to error on!

rob said...

Well, to begin with, God is a delusion.

Secondly, Dr. Ben, (deluded) suggests that the Documentary in question is "full of holes, conjectures and problems."

Nothing could decribe the silly holy bible better.

So, Dr. Ben, in the name of intellectual honesty, take at look at the "gospels" if you want holes, conjecture, and problems.

You sir, are deluded, and are propogating a delusion. If there was a hell, you'd thus be going to it!

Ariadne Green said...

Thank you Ben for the clarifying facts,
I wrote you an email yesterday as I have another puzzle for you to decipher,
First it was the Gospel of Judas and now the tomb of Jesus and his family with a son named Jude or Judah. Is anyone even the least bit suspicious about the number of so-called new discoveries about Jesus being funded by National Geographic that are trying to clear the name of Judas? This is beyond coincidence in my opinion. I wrote you an email yesterday, to point you to an article I wrote that gives an excellent comparative analysis of the Gospel of Judas with other Gnostic essays. It hermeneutically proves that the Gospel of Judas is a fraud, pointing out peculiarities that should have been noticed by Gnostic scholars who studied the translations. The research began as innocent curiosity and inquiry, but I was so astonished by what I found that I sat for weeks researching and wrote for days an analysis, putting together an interesting puzzle. I sat on it for 7 months, but in light of this new so-called discovery I am compelled to share it. Putting all the scientific authenticating evidence aside, carbon dating etc, the Gospel of Judas is so packed and padded with Jesus idioms, and filled with outright plagiarisms derived from 6 other Gnostic essays that it is obvious that it was constructed with the one purpose in mind--to convince a load of people it was authentic. Who and why would someone create such a document? At first I thought it might have been written by a Gnostic scribe or student really because it lacked originality and seemed to plagiarize other Gnostic writers. But now I am almost convinced it is a more modern fraud. As far as the tomb is concerned, I see it as number two of a series aimed at making a mockery out of Christianity. I suspect that there will be number 3, and 4 soon as the other tractates found with the Gospel of Judas have yet to be talked about. I want you to read the analysis that I have posted at:
http://www.dreamthread.com/gospelofjudas.html And would respect your thoughts and opinion.

rob said...

Psssst..hey kid, ya want some immortality?


religion is fraud. get over yourselves already.

holes and conjecture? How can Dr. ben say that? Without looking at what he's talking about!!!???

Kendall said...

Dr. Witherington,
Thank you for your post on the empty tomb issue.

Do you know when they did the DNA test? Why didn't they do DNA test on all of the boxes?

Are you on any upcoming TV interviews?

Thank you

Dave said...

Why would Jesus still be in the tomb if his resurrection was a hoax perpetrated by his disciples? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to dispose of his body, or hide it, not leave it where it could be found?

ryancalderoni said...

I don't know who this Jesus guy is but it looks like he had good taste in grave sites. I do know Jesus the Christ however, and he is still alive.

Ben Witherington said...

More on statistics that seem to be the guts of the case for the authenticity of the Talpiot tomb as Jesus' tomb.

My problem with the statistical analysis is several fold. First of all one's analysis of numbers is only as good as the numbers you run. Even if all the numbers were run that we currently have (and I don't see any evidence that the new evidence since 2001 from digs has been taken into account), rather than a selection of numbers, one could not assume
that the known numbers are representative of the total set of numbers. Why not?

For the very good reason that we have more evidence under ground than above ground. This is not an argument from silence. We know of numerous sites waiting to be dug which have already provided us with potsherds with names on it etc. We don't know what the total set of evidence would prove
were representative etc. One has to assume that the numbers we now have are likely to be the same as what we would find later. That is a faith assumption, not a fact. I presume nothing about these numbers, but even as we have them they can be assessed in various ways.

Memo to Albert-- Both Dr. Tabor and I and Simcha agree that the James ossuary is genuine, and in case you have not bothered to pay attention, under oath at the Golan trial even a member of the IAA admitted that there is ancient patina in the name Jesus on that box-- thus reversing their opinion 180 degrees. Furthermore, the independent inquiry last year by a German scientist also concluded that the inscription on the James box is genuine. This is actually not a point of contention between myself and the proponents of this film.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Sewing said...
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Daniel said...

As a UNC-Charlotte alumnus and a resident of Charlotte, NC, I must say that I have seen all this many times before. Tabor seems to live by the aphorism "any publicity is good publicity" as he has been directly associated with several "earth shaking discoveries" of limited lasting power or impact (anyone remember the John the Batist Cave?). Everyone should be accustomed to the Great Man's mantra by now: "Don't form any conclusions whatsoever without buying the book and video and spoken word dvd..." My question is this: how does all the hucksterism and shameless self-promoting serve the Academy? How does purposely withholding information until the respondent pays for said information through buying a book fulfill any scholarly goal? The Titanic analogy is apt and hopefully the teetering hulk of sensationalistic fluff that is the "Tomb of Jesus" will take down several floundering careers with it when it sinks.

Sewing said...

Thank you, Dr. Witherington, for your yeoman's work on this. ...And Ryancalderoni's comment a few comments up is a hoot! I love meeting fellow Christians who have a sense of humour.

For years, my faith was sufficiently weak and my skills at scientific inquiry sufficiently undeveloped that I might have swallowed this fish tale hook, line, and sinker. (Yes to all non-Christians reading this, it is possible to be both a born-again Christian and a thinking scientist. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! ;) ) In fact, some of Joseph Campbell's stuff on mythology did me in well over a decade ago. But after a long time of highly skeptical inquiry (via the Jesus Seminar and the like) and myself regarding Christianity as exactly the sort of "Pauline Conspiracy" that James Tabor seems to push, God has removed the scales from my eyes and given me the maturity to recognize cooked-up bogus nonsense when I see it. The evidence for these claims is flimsy and has been ill fitted to prior assumptions.

Now, praise God that I can see how laughably ridiculous are the claims of authors and book publishers constantly seeking to make money from yet another book pushing the tired, old Pauline-conspiracy-Gnostic-truth-Jesus-and-Mary-married-and-had-kids line, the dustjackets or press conferences claiming that this will be the "revelation" that overturns 2000 years of mistruths the "Church" doesn't want you to know!

Now, if this really were Jesus' tomb and if this really were his ossuary, how on earth did Christianity ever emerge as a distinct religion!? It was entirely predicated on the idea of bodily resurrection of Jesus, as told to Paul soon after he converted, and as transmitted in the Gospels. Any Jew living at that time who had come to have faith in the Risen Lord who then found out about the tomb would surely have had his or her faith shattered? The claims of Paul, the apostles, and the evangelists would have been shown to be patent nonsense to any and all! An ostenatious tomb like this with marked ossuaries would have shattered the story of the empty tomb, and rendered questionable every other aspect of the gospel narrative. No one would have dared take up a faith that had been shown to be false, and no one would have dared to endure persecution and death for it. The only plausible stories that involve the burial of Jesus' unresurrected corpse would be if his friends or family hid the body somewhere—in which case it surely wouldn't have been in an ostentatious tomb—or if his body had been hidden by Roman or Sanhedrin authorities. In the latter case, however, why on earth would those who wanted to discredit the emerging Jewish Christian movement hide the body in the vain hope that it would be found 2000 years later, and not simply produce it at the time?

SuzW said...

sewing...love your comments.

Leah Maines said...

Thank you for writing this. Someone had to say it, and you said it well.

Sewing said...

SuzW, thank you--it felt good to get it off my chest. I get more exasperated every time I browse through the religion section of the local mega-bookstore and see yet another cynical attempt to make money on this constantly rehashed line of discrediting Christianity by claiming the Jesus whom a couple of billion people believe in is not the "real" Jesus. The beautiful, wonderful truth is that the risen Christ is the real Jesus, and he is alive and well!

J. B. Hood said...

For those interested, Chris Tilling's blog (http://www.christilling.de/blog/ctblog.html) will have a guest post from Richard Bauckham tomorow on this topic. I normally wouldn't link like that, but Prof W quotes RB so I figured it's cool!

Rebel Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blake said...

Rebel Girl-

It would also un-deify Christ, so to speak.

My suggestion would be to:

1)Not worry about prideful issues such as a woman's 'place' in the church and just love your Creator.

and

2)Find a different church if it bothers you so much. But don't Catholics regard Mary as somewhat of a deity?

José Solano said...

“. . . He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3

This seems as good a time as any to quote some Scripture. We of the faith accept the testimony of the witnesses. We refuse to imagine that the saints, the disciples of Jesus Christ, were flagrant conspiratorial liars or victims of some mass hallucinations. Their ethics and exemplary lives of goodness and self-sacrifice demonstrate this is not possible.

On the other hand, we know there are “lies, damns lies, and statistics.”

For me this discovery is most fascinating as it comes directly after the premier performance this last Saturday of my new play: The Da Vinci Code meets The Gospel of Judas. A Theatrical Lecture on a Simply Divine Comedy. I will now be able to incorporate some new exciting material into my little drama and make it more relevant to the present. Some had told me that it might be a little late for me to bring out my humorous parody as the DVC and GJ are somewhat passé. But just in the nick of time comes The Jesus Family Tomb Revealed. Now, we can’t let the anti-Christians do all the capitalizing on this discovery, can we? After all, they don’t own the tomb, or do they?

I’ve got the script and we can role it right after Easter if we hurry. Even May or June would be good times for the release. Just put them and the public on notice that the three-barrel shotgun drama is coming. One barrel for DVC, one for GJ and the NH Library, and one for this latest sacrileges stunt. And there is even some collateral damage done to the Pagels and Erhman inventions. Do you think the Discovery Channel or HarperCollins would like to fund my expose? Do they do spoofs and lampoons or should I try and contact Saturday Night Live? I really need a minimum of an hour for the presentation, without commercial interruption.

I can fully understand Jay P. Cost being so offended. The blasphemous circus approach to something that carries the potential to be horrendously damaging is totally irresponsible, to say the least. But as I love good theater, which this “documentary” is not, I think we have a wonderful opportunity here to bring out a rip-roaring drama filled with satire but fully founded on facts.

I could use a couple of outstanding scholars (BW?) and a couple of excellent statisticians. I’ll take care of the theatrics and drama. We make them laugh and we make them cry. That’s show biz. I’m a pacifist but I suggest we role up our sleeves and go at it like gangbusters. Do remember who is on our side: Jesus Christ.

Sally said...

Wonderful article, articulate with sound evidence for disproof. Now would you please address the next 7-day-wonder of 'The Secret'? You are able to refute silliness with such clarity that I would appreciate your reasoning to help a family member who is swallowing this rehash of gnostisim.

matthew said...

I will not attempt to prove or disprove either side of this argument, however, I would like to point out a couple of questionable aspects of Dr. Witherington's argument. I would like to premise my comments by saying that Dr Witherington seems to be an educated and decent person.

First of all, what positive significance could there be for pointing out that Simcha is an orthodox Jew? From my experience with Judaism, they are not truth seekers obsessed with pointing out the failures of Christianity, rather an introverted group not involved with mass conversion.

Second, there is an interesting statement towards the end of this article that reads, " One's enthusiasm for a subject propels one into over-reaching when it comes to drawing conclusions." Some could argue this same point in taking a leap of faith in accepting that Jesus in fact rose from the dead body and soul...something to think about.

Lastly, a bit of validity is lost in the sales pitch in the closing statement....thats all.

I do find this an extremely interesting topic though and I have enjoyed reading everybody's comments.

Sewing said...

Rebel Girl, sorry if I came across a little unhinged in my comments (I don't know if you were referring to me or not). Although I ended up ranting, I was initially intrigued by the claims and was prepared to be open minded about the reported discoveries, but as soon as I learned how flimsy the evidence was, I just ended up being exasperated that someone had yet again attempted to hoodwink the viewing or reading public into paying money (through book sales, royalties, ad revenues...) for what turns out to be fairy dust. And to be fair, let's face it, many high-profile, so-called "Christians" do the same thing...I would say there are a number of "Christian" writers and TV evangelists who are flim-flam artists and snake oil sellers—at least praise God that he's given me the discernment to see that not all Christians are like that (which as a skeptical atheist, I once thought).

Anyhow, I see where you're coming from, and I understand your dilemma. I would be among the happiest to learn of a movement that venerated Mary Magdalene as Jesus' spiritual peer. I just don't see why it's necessary to tarnish what could be a more positive way of seeing and celebrating the women around Jesus, by using the claim that MM and Jesus were physically intimate in order to discredit the Christian faith.

Clayton said...

SuzW, when you wrote, "Maybe that he is predisposed to wanting to find evidence of a dead and remained dead Christ, by the very nature of his religion?" in explaining the relevance of Witherington's remark, "Why should we be skeptical about this entire enterprise? First of all, I have worked with Simcha. He is a practicing Jew, indeed he is an orthodox Jew so far as I can tell.", you seem to suggest that Witherington is implying that we can discount someone's contribution because they're Jewish. Is that really what you think he thinks? Is that really what you were implying Witherington?

John said...

Thank you, Dr. Witherington, for your review of the data. Such sensationalism by James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici both saddens and angers me. Splattering the public with data that has not been subjected to peer review for publication in a respected, scholarly journal makes me suspect that the real objectives are greed and a hidden agenda. In the Archeology community does such an approach have the same consequences as the Cold Fusion debacle had on those perpetrators from the chemistry/physics community?

Sewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sewing said...

Hi, Clayton and SuzW:

I can't speak for Dr. Witherington, but I read it the opposite way. He seemed to be suggesting that in spite of Mr. Jacobivici's credentials as a person of deep faith, we need to look skeptically at this documentary.

I hope that's what he meant. I can see how the line could be construed the other way, though, and coming as I do from a Jewish background, I was kind of wondering about that when I read it, but in the context of the paragraph, Dr. Witherington seemed to be questioning the documentary's premises not because of Mr. Jacobivici's religious beliefs, but in spite of them...if that makes sense.

Sewing said...

...To continue my thought, more generally, there really is not a movement afoot among Jewish religious scholars (being a documentary producer, I would not call Mr. Jacobivici a religious scholar) in this day and age to discredit Christianity. This isn't Judea 2000 years ago. Obviously, many religious Jews would question Christianity's legitimacy, because from their point of view, theirs is the one true religion—but this pop-culture movement to push constant variations of "the real Jesus" myth seems to be coming largely from secular or atheist authors of Christian cultural upbringing (Baigent, Lincoln, Leigh, Brown, Pagels (?), Freke, Gandy, et al.)—who perhaps grew disillusioned with their own religion when they were younger, never having found the living Christ in their churches or personal faith experiences.

Stephen Roberson said...

"It would open many doors and loosen some chains."

I only see Jesus being a man with a wife as a shut door to heaven and the chains of sin more tightly wound around me.

Janette Kok said...

Clayton et al.

I thought the reason Dr. Witherington mentioned Jacobovici's orthodox Judaism was as part of his listing of Jacobvici's credentials, the things that make him worth listening to. I understood him to by saying, Jacobovici is a good filmmaker and a person of faith, and he recognizes a sensational story. Witherington mentions working with Jacobvici on a documentary about the James ossuary, which was both a sensational story and, BW believes, a true story. So I think BW is first establishing his fellowship with SJ--they are both men of faith, they have worked together, BW has agreed with SJ in their past work together.

Then BW introduces their differences with words to the effect of "Unfortunately, this time his sensational story is, BW believes, untrue."

So I don't at all think BW mentioned JS's faith as a reason for mistrusting him--that would be horrible--but rather as a reason for being disappointed this time that his work seems more sensational than substantial.

José Solano said...

“Evidence” that Jesus survived the crucifixion and moved to Kashmir where his real tomb is located. See http://www.tombofjesus.com/ For complete details buy the book Jesus in India by Holger Kersten. Extra, extra! Read all about it. “Aziz Kashmiri presents this work with raw vigor and honesty, proving that Jesus survived the crucifixion, travelled to Kashmir, and died at a ripe old age.” It’s less expensive than Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty. I’ve read neither and won’t. I didn’t buy the Da Vinci Code either but was actually given a free copy. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I did buy, at a discount, Beyond Belief, and found that it fully lived up to its title.

DocMichael said...

Thanks to all who contributed the many interesting and insightful comments thus far.

I must say, in regards to the Titanic analogy, it seems to me that this time around, James Cameron is trying to play the role of the iceberg!

A couple of observations, and then a lengthier addendum to Jay's discussion of the statistical "analysis" put forth by the Tomb of Jesus advocates.

First, I'm surprised that there has been so little comment-here or elsewhere- on what initially struck me as the weakest aspect of the evidence, namely the question of whether or not their even is a Jeshua bar Joseph ossuary. When I look at this inscription, I find it illegible. To my eyes, there is not a single clear, distinguishable Hebrew letterform anywhere. Trying to determine what it says it a bit like looking at cloud formations and picking out an identifiable shape. (Is Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds” part of the film’s soundtrack, BTW? If not, it should be.)

I know that this sounds strong, but I challenge anyone to look at this inscription, compare it to what the phrase "Jeshuah ben Joseph" looks like even in primitive Hebrew letterforms, and then honestly express absolute certainty that they are one in the same. For my part, I stared at this inscription for well over an hour, and while I can see that the final letters might possibly be "yosf", to me, the rest is a mystery. If one reads the accompanying original reports on the DC webpage, it will be seen that in Kroner's 1996 report on the tomb, his comments on this inscription say: "In contrast to the other ossuaries in this tomb, the incisions are here superficial and cursorily carved. Each of the four letters suggesting YSHUA is unclear, but the reading is corroborated by the inscription on Ossuary 2." In other words, this reading isn't completely based upon the inscription itself, but—at least to some degree— upon the Jehudah son of Jeshua box.

My point simply being that I don't think that the primary bit of evidence being presented (that we're even dealing with a Jesus son of Joseph burial box) is above dispute. So far, I've read that at least one scholar is of the same opinion, suggesting that the correct reading might be Hunan.

While the Jeshua reading may in fact be correct, I don't see how any fair and unbiased person could look at the evidence and not at least admit that there is a reasonable chance that it is not. The fact that virtually no one (well, to my very limited knowledge, at least!) is discussing this matter is both surprising and sad. Particularly since this is the one bit of evidence that ordinary people with no specialized training could assess with their own two eyes (or even their own one eye, for that matter).

Second, I'm a bit curious as to why the one inscription is consistently transliterated as "Mariamene e Mara"? This, to my eyes, is another difficult to decipher piece, but after more eyestrain, I overcame my initial skepticism and am ready to concede that Kroner et. al. have the most likely reading. However, the proper transliteration of this reading should be "Mariamenou e Mara". (And, yes, I realize that Mariamenou is a genitive form of Mariamene–though I wonder why it is in the genitive). This is a minor point and of little significance. But the cynic in me wonders if may be to suggest a subtle linguistic link to "Magdalene"? OK, I know that this was the translitertion used by Kroner himself, so my inner cynic is wrong.

BTW, as Kroner observes, the natural rendering of this inscription is "(of) Mariamene, also known as Mara [Martha]." How does this get turned into "Mary, the Master" or "Mary, the Lord"? After all, what is the likelihood that any 1st Century Jew or Christian would have called a woman Master or Lord?

Third, I'm also just a wee bit uncertain about the Maria inscription. If the first letter is a mem, it's either (a) very bad penmanship, or (b) a misuse of the mem letterform that normally only occurs at the end of the word. Does anyone else think that might be a samekh? Also, the last letter is a het rather than a heh. Granted, perhaps it was intended to be a heh and the chisel slipped. But to my admittedly inexpert, untrained eye, this inscription looks as though it could possibly be Sareet rather than Maria.

As to the statistical "analysis". I put the word analysis in quotes because the case presented here is so simplistic that I'm shocked any employed statistician would allow their name to be attached to it. After all, a third grader could crunch these numbers on their calculator in less than a minute. Why would it take a Ph.D. to do this?

As Jay, I think, has rightly pointed out, this "analysis" contains a number of false premises and assumptions. While I'm no statistician, there are errors in reasoning even I can see:

First, it uses the figure of 1 in 160 for the name of Mariamene. As I see it, this would only be valid if in fact one were looking for someone whose name was specifically “Mariamene”. However, this is simply not the case. The theorists have shown themselves willing to be quite flexible in this regard by postulating that Mariamenou e Mara = Mary Magdalene = an associate of Jesus (oh wait, an associate isn't quite good enough, is it? No problemo! We'll just say she was Jesus' wife! There, problem solved. ) In this game, exact matches are not needed, just getting close to the bulls eye works, so clearly any variation of Mary/Miriam/MarayamMaria/Mariamen name would have satisfied the low bar of evidentiary admittance. With that in mind, let’s redo the calculations. If the name “Maria” is assigned a probability of 1 in 4, the probability of the cluster of names that would satisfy the theory would actually be higher (1 in 3, perhaps). But in order to give the benefit of the doubt, let’s go with in 1 in 4.
We now have:
(Jesus son of Joseph) 1/190 x( Miriam Cluster) 1/4 x (Maria) 1/4 x (Yose) 1/20 = 1/60,800

Adjust for computational bias: /4 = 15,200

Adjust for all possible 1st Century Jerusalem Tombs: /1000 = 15.2

So, rather than 1/600 the actual probability factor is actually 1 in 15. (If the 1 in 3 factor is used for the Miriam cluster, it drops to 1 in 10). To take matters even further, consider the fact that any of the forms of the name Joseph would have served as well as Jose, and drop that probability factor to, say, 1/5 (Joseph was the most common name during the period. Now the calculations come out to 1 in 4 (1 in 2.8 with the 1 in 3 Miriam assumption).


Further, the analysis completely ignores the fact that there are two other ossuaries that do not fit our expectations. Having six chances to hit the bull’s eye four times isn’t quite the same as having only four chances. As the pool of possible matches increase, the odds of finding a match decrease considerably. If, for example, there had been 100 inscribed ossuaries in the tomb, once you located a Jeshua ben Joseph, finding a couple of Marys and a Jose would be a near certainty. In a game of chance, having a couple of wild cards to play with increases the chance of winning.

Neither does it account for the other known members of Jesus’ family whose names could have been found in this tomb and still “proved” the theory. After all, I assume James, Simon, and Judah would have worked equally well to establish this as Jesus’ family tomb. This is a bit like playing the lottery and having not one but a whole series of possible winning combinations. Once you’ve nabbed Yeshua, there are any number of permutations of names that would hit the jackpot. Joesph/Mary/Simon; Simon/Judah/Mary; Simon/James/Mary, etc. etc. Conveniently, a double hit on either the Joseph cluster (dad and brother, after all) or Miriam cluster would also allow you to walk away a winner. And since you could come up with a couple of duds like Matia and Judah and still claim victory, it seems to me that the odds of cashing in would be pretty high, especially if you could keep playing and playing (i.e., every tomb unearthed is a new opportunity.)

In order to do a proper analysis of this matter, it seems to me that one would need to define several things:

1) Precisely what names will be counted as “hits”, i.e., positive identifications of family members of that could be associated with a Joshua ben Joseph that would be considered consistent with this being the family tomb of Jesus. This must include all possible acceptable variations on these names.

2) Define the terms of “proof” I.E., how many positive identifications out of how many total ossuaries will the evidence need to rise to in order to satisfy the demands of the hypothesis? 3 of 3? 3 of 5? 2 of 6? 6 of 6?

3) What are the relative frequencies that each of these names appear in the given time period, region, and socio-economic class?

4) From the data in steps one and two, determine all the possible permutations that would define acceptable proof. Then, utilizing the data in step three determine the probability of EACH of these permutations.

5) Add all of probabilities of all acceptable permutations. The sum, I believe, would be the probability of finding one tomb somewhere that would “prove” the theory by its own terms.

As done in the Cameron analysis, calculating the odds of this particular cluster of is meaningless and establishes nothing. I could calculate the odd of finding the particular array of objects that are on my desk at the moment, and they would be astronomical. Does this say anything special about my desk? No. It simply says that it exists and is unique. Similarly, no one questions the existence of this tomb, or that it is unique. The real question is this: Are the terms by which we have defined its uniqueness sufficient to prove that is the likely burial plot of Jesus and his family?

If I were to produce a counter-documentary, at this point this is what I think I would do. Get one of those lottery machines that spin around and shoot ping-pong balls into slots that represent winning numbers. I would then fill it with 400 balls, each with a name on it, 200 male and 200 female. Like in the NBA lottery, each relevant name and its variations (Mary, Joseph, James, Jose. Joses. Mariam. Mariamne, Judah, Simon, etc) would be represented by a proportionate number of balls (46 Mary, 10 Jose, etc.). There would be five slots for drawing the Lucky Numbers. I would then play several rounds and see just how long it would take until 3 of the 5 tubes came up with winning names.

Of course, it would take a large number of trials to establish statistical credibility. But once a solid number had been determined, that probability would simply be multiplied by 200 to account for the Jeshua bar Joseph factor. Then calculate the estimated number of Jewish families that would have lived in or around Jerusalem during the span of the 1st century, and viola! This would be the realistic number of families who, if buried in family tombs, would have had the potential of being the focus of a Discovery Channel documentary 2000 years later.

Suurmestari said...

Just a tiny note here... If Jesus' family wanted to keep his non-resurrection a secret, wouldn't they have buried his bones in an unnamed ossuary just in case someone came to peek inside the family tomb? I do assume that having a safe and secret family tomb with 10 people buried in it would be quite a feat unless some later generation member of the family (maybe son of Judah son of Jesus) collected the ossuaries here from various places of burial.. I'm seeing a nice theory here, maybe I should write a book!

Suurmestari said...

Another note... if James ossuary was stolen from the same tomb, why was it picked instead of Jesus' ossuary? Ok, maybe the thief couldn't read the inscriptions and didn't understand the value of his merchandise-to-be.
This leaves another question, though. Why didn't the looter come back for more nice ossuaries with biblical names after he'd managed to sell the first one?
Maybe he died because of a curse... That sounds thrilling... Time to make a documentary!

exact55 said...

Does anyone know if there is evidence of crucifixion on the Talpiot Jesus remains? If this person was not crucified then these remains do not fit with our historical knowledge of Jesus. Evidence such as a large iron nail through the ankles on the other hand would greatly enhance the arguement that these remains are indeed Jesus remains.

Lanarion said...

There are no bones in the ossuaries, apparently.

John J. Kaiser said...

Watch the paroxysms of joy that atheists and God-deniers are going through over this. Then think on this:

“For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” II Thessalonians 2: 11-12.

Now watch how they take joy in “killing” God. How they revile those who continue to believe, while they worship their own reason.

-J. Kaiser

Matt said...

What an amazing discussion on this latest bit of sensationalism. The only thing that surprised me was that they failed to release the news on Good Friday or Easter.

José Solano mentioned another similar bit of sensationalism, Hulger Kersten's Jesus Lived in India. This has unfortunately gotten a lot of publicity in India and is even being made into a documentary here. What's funny is that Kersten bases his claims at least in part on the long-discredited Nicolai Notovich's The Unknown Life of Christ from the 1890's. Notovich claimed that he had come across this in a monastery in Ladakh ("Little Tibet"), and had it translated; his book was widely translated and published in a number of European languages. It was not well received in academia, however; Oxford orientalist Max Müller suggested in his initial review that it may have been a hoax perpetrated on the author by Buddhist monks.

Finally, scholar Archibald Douglas traveled to the monastery in question to inquire about the document at the center of the controversy, and made a startling discovery: The monks there had no idea who this Russian was, and had never heard of any such document (the head lama's response was actually, "Lies, lies, lies, nothing but lies!" when selections from Notovich's work were read to him). Confronted with the evidence that he had never even been to the monastery in question, and that no "lost life of Jesus" existed, Notovich confessed that he had made up the story of the visit to the monastery and the existence of the manuscript. At the end of Douglas' article published in the journal The Nineteenth Century was an addendum by Dr. Müller himself, including an apology to the Buddhist monks!

Nick said...

Dr. Witherington,

I noticed a comment about the "cluster of names" not being common and I wished to comment on that. In statistics it is difficult, if not impossible to make a statement about "clusters" based on data of individuals. The data that was investigated in this film was not on the clusters of names, but rather the names themselves.

Any time we take data on one level and use it to draw conclusions on another we lack validity.

Another problem is that the sample was limited to those who appeared on ossuaries and the determination of the number of families was made based on the number of known tombs in or around Jerusalem. This means that the analysis hinges on 3 assumptions.

1) the assumption is made that Jesus and his family is buried in jerusalem
2) the assumption is made that he and his entire family is buried in such a tomb
3) The assumption is made that his entire family was buried together.

If we take away any of these assumptions we quickly realize that figuring these odds are pretty impossible.

One final point, the sample is not a representative one. It is probably a pretty good one, but in both the figures you have presented and the ones the James Gang made only represent middle to upper class people who buried in these types of tombs. This is a skewed sample, however with the type of data being collected I think it probably still comes off as pretty accurate. I realize that historical statistics have to use the best they have, but unfortunately we cannot get a good bisection of this population using this method.

exact55 said...

Are there no photographs or descriptions of the bones that were contained in these boxes ? I would have thought that archeological digs would have kept these sorts of records in 1980.

Bruno de France said...

Example

French royal family

Henri III + Louise de Lorraine = no children

Crown of France to his cousin

Henri IV + Marie de Médicis = child Louis XIII

Saint Denis place of the tombs of the kings and queens of France

Cameron Reasoning

Saint Denis : we have Tomb Henri III + tomb Marie de Médicis + tomb Louis XIII

ADN : No the blood tie between Henri III and Marie de Médicis

first conclusion = married

second conclusion = Louis XIII is child of Henri III

Sorry for my english

Golfdane said...

Regarding the James ossuary.

Oded Golan has significant motive to claim, that he have had the ossuary in his possesion since 1976. According to Israeli law, is he not allowed to have such a box if it came to his possesion after 1978.

Also, there's some misinterpreting about the statement by the former FBI agent. According to Haaretz, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/823215.html , did he state, that nothing indicates that the photos weren't taken in march 1976. Quite a different meaning than the one reported by The Toronto Star. Remember that he's testifying in favor of Golan, so he's in fact stating, that these photographs aren't as recent as the IAA is claiming (that Golan forged the inscription recently).

According to various sources, are there only rough measurements of the missing ossuary. Some say it matches closely the dimensions of the James ossuary, while Kloner claims the opposite.

For all it's worth: I hope for a proper scientific investigation on this. One that turns all the stones, and not only those the TV crew wanted or had the means to turn.

Armando said...

Very Instructive:

http://www.israntique.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?module_id=&sec_id=17&subj_id=175&id=266

pravoslavna said...

Very Interesting comments, fascinating article. St. Mary Magdelen is known in my tradition, Eastern Orthodoxy; as the Equal to the Apostles (Apostle meaning one who is sent) because she was the first to see the risen Lord Jesus Christ and was sent to tell them; she was also NOT at prostitute but the woman healed of seven demons Lk 8:2, This woman, who we in Orthodoxy love so very dearly has been so very maligned by the rest of Christianity and the world. Also, another comment was made that RC's worship the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) their theology has slipped into some very strange, I am at a loss for words as to how to describe it, it varies from Latin to Latin, but it has become very sad to see what has happened. I can only speak to Holy Orthodoxy and what I have been taught and her proper veneration is a beautiful thing, she prophesied that "all generations would call her "blessed" and indeed she is, truly Theotokos.
James Cameron and his ilk, may God have mercy and bless them, know not what they do.
the handmaid,
Mary-Leah
http://handmaidleah.wordpress.com

finleykaren said...

Go to www.choosejesusrightnow.com & click on BUMPER STICKERS.

DocMichael said...

Jay-

Again, thanks for the passionate and informed posts on the statistical side of this debate. It's nice to know that my off the cuff calculations weren't too far a field of the real numbers.

(BTW, it strikes me as odd that someone like me, who has no training in stats or data analysis, can get closer to the mark on these things than a couple of folks with Ph.D.s in the field.)

I choose the number 200,000 for the total population of Jerusalem based on the following (perhaps erroneous) rationale. I assumed an average life span of 35, which would yield an annual average population turnover rate of 1425. Over the course of course of a century, this would yield a total of 142,500 new folks. Added to the initial 50,000 gives roughly 200,000.

However, if we follow the assumptions of Cameron et. al., this number really should be larger. Jesus' family, of course, wasn't from Jerusalem, so the Jesus Tomb folks are allowing for the possibility that any family in Palestine might have wound up buried in or near Jerusalem. This is, of course, a ridiculous idea, but if it's plausible for Jesus, why not for others?

Apart from the logical errors in the statistics, it seems to me that the theory begins with an error in logic. The presumption seems to be that there IS a Jesus family tomb somewhere, and that Jesus is in it. The statistics try to answer the question, "What are the odds that this is that tomb?" and concludes, "Bingo! This is probably it!" (This is in fact how the case is stated on the statistics page of the Discovery web site).

The real crux of the matter, however, lies in the underlying presumption! That is, is there a family tomb that contains the remains of Jesus? The real burden of proof lies in establishing the likelihood of this being the case. If this could be done, it really wouldn't matter that much if this is this one, or "should we look elsewhere" (the original Easter question!).

Even apart from the question of faith or belief in the Resurrection, there are of course numerous historical reasons to doubt that such a tomb exists. This is the issue that Cameron et. al. sidestep entirely.

By slyly framing the debate in such a way that what is sought to be proven is already assumed to be true, everything is turned round 180 degrees. Now we must demonstrate why this is NOT the Jesus Tomb. And as we all know, proving a negative is a very difficult matter.

It's a subtle but effective bit of deception. As Genesis 3:1 testifies, it's the oldest trick in the book.

Dianelos said...

I have computed that the probability of the tomb in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem being the family tomb of the Jesus of Nazareth is at least 12 to 1 *against*. Apparently the makers of the movie calculated the probability that more than one family living in ancient Jerusalem would produce a cluster of names like the ones discovered in the tomb in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem, and found that this probability is very small and that therefore this must be the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth's family. But I think they asked the wrong question. The right question is: How many families living in ancient Jerusalem would produce a cluster of names in a tomb that would appear to be as similar to the names in Jesus' family as the cluster of names actually found? And the answer is that more than 12 families would have produced such remarkable cluster of names in a tomb.

Here is how I computed this number. According to the gospels Jesus' family consisted of Joseph and Mary, Jesus, and four male brothers of Jesus named James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (besides unnamed female siblings). We also know the approximate frequency of names in ancient Palestine. According to http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/02/jesus-tomb-titanic-talpiot-tomb-theory.html these are: 9.2%, 8.3%, 6.2% and 3.8% for Simon, Joseph, Judas and Jesus respectively for male names, and Mary’s name frequency is a whooping 21.3% for female names. The tomb discovered in Talpiot contained 10 ossuaries, of which 6 carried inscriptions. The relevant inscriptions here are "Jesus son of Joseph", "Mary", "Mary", and "Joseph". These inscriptions were in different languages and used different forms for these names, but that's about it. (see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070228135009.htm) I read somewhere that first century Jerusalem had about 50,000 inhabitants. As the period in question spanned various generations I used a population of 10,000 families.

I wrote a computer program simulation that actually randomly produced 10,000 families of 10 members each (keeping the right name frequencies) and then proceeded to compute the following average numbers:

111 families would have a "Jesus son of Joseph". I understand that in fact other ossuaries have been found with the inscription "Jesus son of Joseph".

75 families would moreover have at least one Mary.

71 families would moreover have one more name that belongs to Jesus' family, be it Joseph, Simon or Judas, or maybe a second Mary (supposedly Mary Magdalene).

43 families would have two more such names. One of such clusters might be: [Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Joseph], as is the one discovered in the Talpiot tomb.

And 16 families would have three more such names. Here is in detail the very first family case my simulation produced: An unnamed (i.e. with no relevant names) couple have three children: a daughter Mary, a son Joseph, and an unnamed second daughter. Their daughter Mary marries Simon and produces an unnamed daughter. Their son Joseph marries an unnamed wife and produces two children, Jesus and Mary. Voila: A family cluster of 10 whose tomb might have had inscriptions "Jesus son of Joseph", "Mary", "Joseph", "Mary", and "Simon" – all names related to the circle of Jesus of Nazareth, but this is not Jesus Christ's family. Nevertheless this cluster would appear to be even more statistically conspicuous than the one discovered in the Talpiot tomb.

The film producers have tested the DNA of one of the Mary's and discovered it is not maternally related to Jesus' DNA. I compute that adding this condition we still get 12 families. Here is the very first such case my simulation produced: A Jesus (whose father was named Joseph) marries a Mary and has 4 children: Simon, Jesus, and two more unnamed ones. Their son Simon marries a second Mary but have no children that would be buried in the family tomb. One unnamed daughter marries Joseph and has a daughter Mary. That's the second Mary who is also not maternally related to "Jesus son of Joseph". – So, any of these 12 families might have produced tomb even more conspicuous than the one found, but at most one of these families could be Jesus'. Hence the chance of the Talpiot tomb being Jesus is less than 1/12.

Further: Taking into account that Jesus' family was not from Jerusalem, that his family was too poor to afford a family tomb, that if Jesus' bones were put in an ossuary one would expect the ossuary itself or the inscription on it to be more special in some way, and that if Jesus' body was buried in a tomb to decompose and then put in an ossuary then probably somebody would have found out back then when so much was made of Jesus' bodily ascension to heaven – taking all that into account the probability of the Talpiot tomb being of Jesus is much less than 12 to 1 against. Finally, if the movie producers really believed that this was Jesus' tomb one would expect that they would have asked neutral professional archeologists to evaluate their evidence or argumentation – which they haven't done.

There is some more arguments, such as the "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus" ossuary (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Ossuary) having come from this same tomb, but the archaeologist who first studied the tomb flatly denies it (see: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1171894527185&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull) and the archeological report on the Talpiot tomb counts six ossuaries with inscriptions, all accounted for (go to http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/tomb/explore/explore.html and click on "Enter the Tomb", then on "Download Documents" and then on "Download PDF").

I did the above computations in a hurry and it's possible that I have committed some mistake. If you send me an email to dianelos@tecapro.com I will gladly send you a copy of the program I wrote, so that you can check it yourself. It's written in Pascal, and it's a simple 150 lines program that any programmer can read.

Charles said...

Dianelos

A few quibbles.

1) A 1/12 chance translates to 11 to 1 against.

2)Don't your families have to have 6 members in them, not ten? Since we do not know the names of any of the other 4 people found in ossiaries we really can't count them.

I'm curious how that would change your result.

vlad said...

I dare say that all the hype is basically "Holy Blood, Holy Grail". Da Vinci Code is simply a rehash of the "Holy..." for people who cannot really read a book too "scientific". Dr. Tabor's "Jesus Dinasty" is the same rehash for "educated" audiences. The "doctoring" of the "James Ossuary" had in view the same scenario... James, the head of the "true" Christianity vs. the innovations of St. Paul. Same old hat.

Dianelos said...

Charles,

I think that the ratio of ossuaries with inscriptions on them is irrelevant: Consider that in ancient Jerusalem there is Jesus' family and 11 more with names very similar to it. These 12 families are competing for the ownership of a tomb that is now discovered. How many inscriptions are visible in this tomb does not give the actual Jesus' family any competitive advantage over the other 11.

Here is another way to see it. If we would take into account the number of inscriptions then we should consider that any tomb with 4 ossuaries *without* inscriptions might belong to the family of Jesus, because these 4 ossuaries might hold the bones of Jesus, Mary, Mary and Joseph.

I suppose my argument in a nutshell is this: Assume that Jesus' family is in fact *not* entombed in Jerusalem. Even so there is a good chance that a tomb would be found in Jerusalem with a cluster of inscriptions that is remarkably similar to the names that, according to the gospels, belonged to members of Jesus' family. And if people asked the wrong statistical questions they would conclude that this tomb almost certainly belongs to Jesus' family.

Golfdane said...

Sorry, but all I see here are assumptions based on the gospels being factual and free of historical errors. We can examine WWII documents, and still argue whether they objectively represents the actual events in an objective way.
My point is: The gospels (whether they are canonical or not), should be seen as what they are: Subjective recollections of past events. One might even suggest, that they are the result of narrating the same original text sometimes (when events are described with the exact same wordings).
We cannot take for granted, that Jesus was poor, and couldn't afford a family tomb. He could be of Davidean ancestry, and thereby heir to the throne of Israel (granting him the title of Messiah (The annointed One), and the King of Israel is traditionally referred to as the Son of God). We don't know......

From an objective and scientific POV, should all texts be weighted. The synoptic gospels are in fact not more valid (especially a translated text), than any other source. They are not objective and independent sources of information. The gnostic gospels, though free of years of churchly interpretation and revision, are not objective either. They sometimes corroborate the synoptic gospels, and are sometimes in opposition. One could question whether that opposition stems from the timelapse or from opposing views of the same events and teachings. This should be examined objectively by scientific means, and we shouldn't take our preconceived "knowledge" as factual.

I think the conclusion on the inscriptions on the ossuary is anything but objective. IMO, based on the testimony of these scientists, is it a possibility, that the inscription MIGHT be at least partially authentic but tampered with (cleaned or altered). From a scientific POV is it wrong to unanimously deem it a forgery.

Objective scientific research MIGHT be able to establish the genealogy of the DNA evidence present in each ossuary, if science were granted access to all of them. As far as I know, only two has been examined forensically, and a conclusion or assumption that these were indeed married is far fetched. It's a possibility, but only one in many.

IMO, it's a possibility, that Jesus was like the Dalai Lama or Mahatma Gandhi of his time. A much more political figure, than portrayed in the synoptic gospels (or how they are interpreted). It makes more sense than anything else.

HOWARD said...

I am not a biblical scholar or affecionado, but reading Josephus did not hint at the presence or influence of Jesus or a Jesus figure as suggested by Dr. Withington in his WSJ OpinionJournal posting of March 2.

HOWARD said...

While not a Biblical scholar or affecionado, I do recall looking intensely for a reference to Jesus in Josephus a decade or two ago without luck. I was not able to find even an oblique hint or reference acknowledging the presence or influence of Jesus at the time covered by the Josephus history of that time despite the assertion to the contrary of Dr. Witherington in the OpinionJournal of the WSJ on March 2.

Benji Overcash said...

Howard,

"Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works.... He was [the] Christ...." (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, III:3)

Josephus does mention Jesus' presence and influence, in fact. Check out all of Ch. III.

ValleyElf said...

You said: "By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty-- even the Jewish and Roman authorities acknowledged this." Then in the comments you refer to Josephus, Tacitus and, eventually, Gary Habermas.

I looked these historians up and read what experts say were the pertinent quotes from their works. I double-checked with Habermas' online quotes.

I found no acknowledgement of an empty tomb. I found references to Chrestus and solar eclipses and lots of martyrdom of earlyday Christians, but the only references to an empty tomb I came across were from the Scriptures -- and they all differ in their presentation.

Without specifically citing sources, your argument is flawed. That doesn't mean the claims about this being the tomb of Jesus are true; only that you have made a claim to the contrary that is not substantiated.

Doug said...

I posted as Charles earlier, sorry for the confusion.

Dianelos,

I think you misunderstand my point. I think that your program needs to take into account not only the number of families with the appropriately named individuals in them but also the likely hood that those individual graves will be marked.

To simplify, assume that we know the names of all of the people in the ossuarys, but we only reveal 4 of them. If this is indeed Jesus' family then we would expect all 4 of them to match, no matter which 4 we reveal. However, if we look at all families which have 4 names in common with Jesus' family and reveal only 4 names, what are the odds that the 4 revealed will be the same ones who match? So even though Jesus' family may only be one of twelve that could match the criteria, many different combinations of Jesus' family would have qualified but only 1 (or a few) combinations from each of the other families yields the observed names. So Jesus' family should be weighted much more than 1 in 12.

Chuck said...

I have been surprised that no one has challenged the "DNA evidence". Extracting ancient DNA from old sources is extremely problematic. A laboratory that ran a test to validate analysis of ancient DNA found that, even when a freshly unearth sample is tested using strict contamination protocols, with the sample taken from the interior of a bone, found that a sixth of their samples were contaminated with the DNA of those who had handled the sample. The ossuaries were unearthed and kept for 27 years with no thought given to preventing DNA contamination. We know that people reached inside the ossuaries to take out the bones. Who knows how many other people touched them over the years? A single touch of a hand would leave much more DNA than would have remained after 2000 years from the body. The scientist who performed the analysis did not know the source of the samples, and simply found what DNA was there. I am sure he would agree that it is overwhelmingly likely that the DNA came from contamination.

Jonathon said...

This is at least the fifth tomb to allegedly be that of Jesus.

1 Kashmir;
2 Pakistan;
3 Tibet;
4 England;

The only question about this claim (Talpiot) is if there will be an increase in revenue from tourism.

xan

jonathon

TomaszAntkowiak said...

I'm curious whether any analysis was done to the bones found in the ossuary.

If there was what did the analysis show? Did it suggest the remains were of a crucified individual?

I'm betting on no ;-)

Tomasz

mclane said...

What can be said about the patterns on the tombs. I have seen an impressive pattern on ONE of the tombs,
http://img.stern.de/_content/58/34/583437/grab500_500.jpg
i am not sure WHICH of the tombs
this is, but IMO the pattern on the outside of this tomb shows many links
jesus family. i could explain the pattern whenever you like.
the 3 structures are the 3 stars of the orion-belt, representing the ritual to make the new son-god.
the structure next to these 3 circles is a mixture out of the "marian star"
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/15/Marian_star_four-tenths.svg/226px-Marian_star_four-tenths.svg.png

and the hexagon/hexagram
(house of David).

one can make the marian star out of the hexagram...
e.g. look here:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/HexagonConstructionAni.gif

The Marian star is the Roman Catholic symbol which is the proper shape for depictions of artistic celestial objects related to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all other cases except when the Star of David is the appropriate symbol[2]

which pattern do the other tombs do have ? is there any analysis about these patterns ?
the pattern on the tomb i refer is mirrowed. this is because the zodiac of the stars is in heaven after dead and on earth while beeing alive.

here is the "heaven on earth"
picture that illustrates what i mean:
http://www.thorstenczub.de/orion.jpg

the slightly different position of the stars and the symbol of the marian star could give hints to the date when the person was born and burried.

best wishes
Thorsten Czub

mclane said...

What can be said about the patterns on the tombs. I have seen an impressive pattern on ONE of the tombs,
http://img.stern.de/_content/58/34/583437/grab500_500.jpg
i am not sure WHICH of the tombs
this is, but IMO the pattern on the outside of this tomb shows many links
jesus family. i could explain the pattern whenever you like.
the 3 structures are the 3 stars of the orion-belt, representing the ritual to make the new son-god.
the structure next to these 3 circles is a mixture out of the "marian star"
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/15/Marian_star_four-tenths.svg/226px-Marian_star_four-tenths.svg.png

and the hexagon/hexagram
(house of David).

one can make the marian star out of the hexagram...
e.g. look here:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/HexagonConstructionAni.gif

The Marian star is the Roman Catholic symbol which is the proper shape for depictions of artistic celestial objects related to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all other cases except when the Star of David is the appropriate symbol[2]

which pattern do the other tombs do have ? is there any analysis about these patterns ?
the pattern on the tomb i refer is mirrowed. this is because the zodiac of the stars is in heaven after dead and on earth while beeing alive.

here is the "heaven on earth"
picture that illustrates what i mean:
http://www.thorstenczub.de/orion.jpg

the slightly different position of the stars and the symbol of the marian star could give hints to the date when the person was born and burried.

best wishes
Thorsten Czub

Dianelos said...

Doug,

I have now prepared a more detailed analysis that takes into account the frequency of inscriptions. Here is what I did:

I assume the best possible scenario for the movie makers, namely that the family of Jesus included a wife Mary Magdalene and a son Judas, and that the entire family including Jesus’ parents and four brothers would be entombed. Further I assume that only 60% of the ossuaries in a tomb have an inscription, to reflect the facts of the Talpiot tomb. Finally I assume the existence of 1,000 tombs (i.e. I assume that 10% of the 10,000 Jerusalem families are entombed; observe that there is therefore a 10% probability of the Jesus family being entombed) and that all these tombs are discovered.

Then I randomly run a thousand world histories and I have the movie makers study each one of the tombs and statistically decide which (if any) of them were Jesus’ tomb. Multiple positives are allowed. The decision function they use is optimized for the Talpiot tomb, i.e. if they encounter the Talpiot tomb they will produce a positive identification but only just. Here are the results:

In 473 worlds out of the 1,000 the movie producers would not identify any tomb as being Jesus’ and would be correct. In 37 worlds they identify exactly one tomb as being Jesus’ and would be correct. In 305 worlds they identify exactly one tomb as being Jesus’ and would be wrong. In 150 worlds they identify more than one tomb and would be wrong in all of them. In 24 worlds they identify two tombs, one correctly one wrongly. Finally in 11 worlds they identify more than two tombs including the correct one. All in all they identify 762 tombs as being Jesus and are right only in 9.4% of these identifications. (Actually this was a lucky run; using a larger number of world histories I compute the more precise probability of 7.9%).

The proportion of families that were entombed does not affect the probability of a correct identification. If we assume that 30% of the 10,000 Jerusalem families were entombed (which implies that in 30% of the worlds Jesus’ tomb exists) then the results are: In 110 worlds out of the 1,000 the movie producers would not identify any tomb as being Jesus’ and would be correct. In 21 worlds they identify exactly one tomb as being Jesus’ and would be correct. In 220 worlds they identify exactly one tomb as being Jesus’ and would be wrong. In 512 worlds they identify more than one tomb and would be wrong in all of them. In 33 worlds they identify two tombs, one correctly one wrongly. Finally in 104 worlds they identify more than two tombs including the correct one. All in all they identify 2,185 tombs as being Jesus and their success rate of correctly identifying Jesus’ tomb is 7.2%.

The conclusion is that even assuming the best possible scenario the probability of the Talpiot tomb being Jesus’ is less than 10%.

mefolkes said...

This is at least my third attempt to post here. My previous comments have disappeared. Some of the readers seem confused. Cameron's crew only tested "organic residue" in two ossuaries. Their website claims that there were also some bone fragments in these two, and that they could only recover DNA from two of the ossuaries. But, in his press conference and interviews, Cameron clearly stated that they had only tested the two ossuaries most central to their contention, that testing of the other ossuaries would have taken too much time, and that there was only the organic residue to test. All the bones were reburied years ago in a mass grave with many other remains from archaeological excavations from all areas and eras of Israel. Now the bones from this particular tomb could not be recovered AND identified. The testing revealed no nuclear DNA, so that should allay concerns about contamination after the tomb was opened. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) did not match between the two tested ossuaries. Cameron stated that this proved that the two individuals were unrelated, thus they must be a married couple. Their website says unrelated matrilineally. Cameron's direct statement is completely false, and the website is misleading. The male tested (assumption from the inscription) could be the father, grandfather, paternal-side uncle, paternal-side cousin or half-brother with a common father but different mother of the female tested. All of those would be closely related, but not having mtDNA matches. There could also be a matrilineal relationship without a match. The tested male could be the son of the tested female's maternal uncle. I think that it is obvious why no further mtDNA testing was done. Although it is difficult to prove any relationship with mtDNA results alone, it is easier to disprove them. All of the ossuaries identified by Cameron with Jesus, Mother Mary and His brothers would have to match mtDNA types. If the supposed son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene did not match the mtDNA type of the supposed Mary Magdalene, then here too would be enough to shoot down the Cameron hypothesis.

Geoff said...

I'd like to summarize what I'm reading here, to see if I have it right.

The errors identified here indicate to me that (1) the producers have unfairly DEFLATED the joint probability of this cluster of names by using an invalid probability model which makes the cluster look far too unlikely; and (2) the producers then INFLATED the likelihood of a one particular PERMUTATION of relationships in the cluster, namely that Mary was the wife of Jesus and not the cousin or sister, etc. on the strength of nothing more than speculation and the desire for the most damning theory to be "true."

If my understanding is correct, this doesn't seem to me to science, it looks like junk science to me.

Alan said...

Thanks for the article! I'm sharing it with my friends.
-Alan

Kerry said...

Just saw it. Assumption based upon assumption, based on...etc.
The bottom line - for the film's obvious premise to be true, Jesus of Nazareth would have to have been a liar and deceiver, His mother, brothers, family, disciples and other followers would have to have all been complicit in what could only be seen as a colossal fraud and conspiracy,
which they maintained until their deaths or martyrdom. It takes more faith than I have to believe that.

Ron Keever said...

As we all know, as stories get told over the years, they are interpreted slighly different and may over time change slightly; however, with that being said, it's ok to have doubts, concerns, and even fears of what this can really mean for the world as a whole. But discoundting this idea or possible conclusion as dramazation on the film maker's part, is truely judging without bases. Therefore, I will remain cautous and reserved with my own conclusions and interpretations until I as an individual can draw my own belief from the newly uncovered evidence.

Remember, we thought the world was flat; the sun revolved around the earth; Columbus landed in America; . Was that dubious or reckless to speculate? NO! Simply, put.... we were wrong!

Doug said...

Dianelos,

I like your analysis. I wonder if there is some place you could write it up and submit it for peer review and publication?

Ryan Wayson said...

I couldn't resist making a comment after reading all this stuff. What about the Jewish dude that read the name as "Hunan" or something? If this is the case, the whole "case" is a wash and becomes uninteresting. It is so amazing to see how many "false Christs" have been prosyletized (sp?) over the years. The True, Risen and Living Christ was right on...many have certainly "come in His name" saying "there He is"...but we "must not believe them."

I am a former skeptically-minded person and I am not a carismaniac...I have seen real miracles. The kind that cannot be explained away as coincidence. We asked and God answered. Ultimately this is how I know this tomb bit is a farse and a lie from the pit. As a word of encouragment from 1Tim. 4...don't "pay attention to these deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" too much lest the enemy snag you. May we pray as much as we defend our faith because ultimately, Jesus "is our strength and shield"...we are not His. Blessings to all!

walksbyhimself said...

Of course the general public may not be aware of what may be an old argument among scholars. However, what I don't understand is the frantic tantrum being thrown by the academy over this issue. Professionalism and basic manners? No one is attacking anyone's faith. I simply don't 'get' why everyone is so up in arms. Can you give me an insight into this mindset Dr. Witherington?

Ron said...

Dianelos and Doug;

Please don't try to publish Mr. Dianelos analysis because it is flawed and missing the point of the documentary. In trying so desperately to prove the film wrong, he has provided incorrect assumptions.

Please refer back to the film during the part where they were speaking about this statistical analysis. First, Dianelos' analysis is assuming that there are multiple Mary Magdalenes which is his first and most important error. In the film, the name is "Mariamene" only and not Mariamene "Magdalene". Yes, you get a large number.... then, narrow those by all the ones with this "Mariamene" name written in GREEK. Yes, the number should be much, much, smaller..... then, provide evidence that at the very least they were not brother or sister. Yes, the number gets even smaller.... then, provide a tie between actual evidence that Mary Magdelene's real name is "Mariamene"... well here it is:

From the Acts of Philip, a fourth-century work ostensibly written about Mary Magdalene’s brother, Phillip, which recently was recovered from a monastery at Mt. Athos in Greece, Professor Franois Bovon (Havard University) has determined that Magdalene’s real name was “Mariamne.”

Yes the numbers gets smaller.

Therefore, Dianelos and Doug, please re-think your analysis and don't forget to add the evidence of the non-brother/sister, Greek written name that can be tied to a Greek book referring to Mary Magdelene as "MARIAMNE" and let’s not forget the possibility of a child. The very thing you are trying to prove about how the film used irresponsible statistical analysis, you are doing by leaving out very important facts.

It's ok to be afraid about what this means. Just take the facts... all of the facts, and just think.

normdoering said...

Wow! I can't even sift through all this argument today.

But as of now, I'm open to the possibility and I think more work needs to be done. I'd like to see DNA analysis of the actual bones, some more work on those tombs – wasn't there a Greek inscription inside they couldn't read?

I've got a review of the program up on my blog here:
http://normdoering.blogspot.com/

Feel free to leave critiques in my comments section.

Dianelos said...

Doug:

Well, I might do that if I knew which journal might be interested in this analysis. Incidentally I find it strange that on the one hand a lot of experts discard the movie makers' conclusions but none (so far I know) suggests what the right conclusions should be.

Dianelos said...

Ron:

Well, Prof. Feuerverger the professional statistician who in the film says that there is only a 1/600 probability that the Talpiot tomb does not belong to Jesus's family has already backtracked from his claim. See it in his own words here: http://fisher.utstat.toronto.edu/andrey/OfficeHrs.txt (the relevant bit is "I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family.") So there is really no question that the statistics in the film are bogus.

Actually, the discovery site explains the statistics of the movie makers (go to http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/tomb/explore/explore.html, click on "Enter the Tomb", then on "Supporting Evidence", and finally "Statistical Evidence"). Clearly the question they asked was: How probable is to find this combination of suggestive names in a tomb? The answer given to them by Prof. Feuerverger basically was: The frequencies of "Jesus son of Joseph", "Maria", "Joseph", and "Mariamene" (the relevant names found in the Talpiot tomb) are 1/190, 1/160, 1/20, 1/4 respectively; therefore the probability of finding them all in one tomb is their product, i.e. 1/2,400,000. Let's conservatively cut this number to a quarter of it in order to account for biases in the historical sources; we get then that the probability of finding this particular mix of numbers in one tomb is 1/600,000. There are a thousand tombs around Jerusalem from this era; therefore the probability of any one tomb having these names is 1/600.

So? How do they get from this answer to the conclusion that there is "a high statistical probability that the Talpiot tomb is the Jesus Family tomb" as the discovery site says? This would *only* follow if we knew 1) that Jesus family was entombed in Jerusalem and 2) that their tomb would have the names "Jesus son of Joseph", "Maria", "Joseph" and "Mariamene" inscribed in them. But neither 1) nor 2) are likely. Indeed most people would think that 2) is highly unlikely, especially taking into account that also an inscription "Judas son of Jesus" was found in the Talpiot tomb.

What's worse, you don't just simply multiply probabilities. Suppose you put two coins in a match box, toss it, open the box and find one coin showing heads and the other tails. How probable is that result? The probability of heads is 1/2 and the probability of tails is also 1/2 so, according to the film's logic, the probability of getting one heads and one tails is their product, i.e. 1/4. But that's grossly wrong. The correct probability of getting one heads and one tails is 1/2 (if you don't believe it try the experiment and count the results :-) The correct probability of finding a tomb around Jerusalem with ossuaries with inscriptions "Jesus son of Joseph", a "Mary", a "Joseph" and a "Mariamene" is in fact approx. 1/170. But again, that probability has little to do with the question at hand.

The question at hand of course is: Given that we found a tomb with this combination of suggestive names, what is the probability that this tomb belongs to Jesus's family? This is the question I tried to answer.

My first analysis shows that there were about 12 families in ancient Jerusalem who might have produced a tomb with just as unlikely a combination of names (that according to the gospels belong to Jesus's family) as the Talpiot tomb. So, *at best*, there is a 1/12 probability of the Talpiot tomb being Jesus's.

My second analysis shows that even assuming that the family of Jesus has the members the film makers hypothesize (Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Joseph, Mary), and even assuming that all these members would be buried in a potential Jesus family tomb, the film makers' method of identifying a tomb as being Jesus's based on the very low probability of finding a particular combination of names in it would be correct in only about 8% of the positive identifications (so again we get at best a probability of 1/12 for the Talpiot tomb being Jesus's).

Now you bring up the issue of the inscription "Mariamene". My understanding after reading http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/03/smoking-gun-tenth-talpiot-ossuary_9874.html is that "Mariamene" just an alternative form of the name Mary (or Miriam, or Maria, or Mariamme, etc). There is no good reason to believe that Mary Magdalene was called Mariamene and not Mary, as she is called "Mary" in the gospels and the earliest mention of "Mariamene" was written much later than the gospels (some 100 years later) in a rather primitive Gnostic text (the "Acts of Phillip", see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Phillip ). Neither do we have reason to believe that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus and would get a place in Jesus's family tomb, assuming that such tomb exists. In fact the film makers make an assumption that depends on four (count them) "ifs": If Mary Magdalene was known as "Mariamene", and if she was married to Jesus, and if Jesus's family was entombed in Jerusalem, and if Mary Magdalene was entombed in the Jesus's family tomb then it's probable that the Talpiot tomb is Jesus's tomb. I analyzed this case too. It turns out that if we accept all these "ifs" then indeed there is a probability of 90% that the Talpiot tomb belongs to the family of Jesus - but still far less than the 99.8% probability the film makers claimed.

But how probable are the various "ifs"? I think the probability of Mary Magdalene's real name being "Mariamene" and that for some obscure reason she was called Mary instead in the gospels is very low, I would say less than 10%. The probability that she was married to Jesus may be larger, let's conservatively put it at 40%. So the probability that she was both known as Mariamene and was married to Jesus is less 4%. But let's suppose for discussion's sake that there was a Mariamene married to Jesus of Nazareth. Then the following table gives the probabilities of the Talpiot tomb being Jesus's. The first column expresses the probability that the Jesus family would have a tomb near Jerusalem; the second column expresses the probability that a member of Jesus's family would be entombed in the family tomb; the third column expresses the probability that the Talpiot tomb (with "Jesus son of Joseph", "Mary", "Joseph" and "Mariamene") belongs to the family of Jesus:

0% 0%
10% 25% 2%
10% 50% 15%
10% 100% 42%
50% 25% 14%
50% 50% 47%
50% 100% 79%
100% 25% 23%
100% 50% 65%
100% 100% 90%

Doug said...

This is Doug Weller (hm, posting as Doug, but a different Doug).

A couple of quick points.
Most scholars think that the mentions of Jesus in Josephus are interpolations, that is they were added later and not by Josephus.

Bovon didn't 'determine' that Magdalene’s real name was “Mariamne.”
He uses the word 'probably' based on his discovery of a 14th century manuscript he thinks is a copy of a 4th century text. A lot of people disagree, particularly with the idea that 'Mara' in the inscription means Master rather than Martha. It's a dubious speculation at best,
not a 'determination'. Add to that the uncertainy about the 'Jesus son of Joseph' inscription and it is no surprise that the statistician has written "The role of statistics here is primarily to attempt to assess the odds of an equally (or more) `compelling' cluster of names arising purely by chance under certain random sampling assumptions and under certain historical assumptions.
In this respect I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family. The interpretation of the computation should be that it is estimating the probability of there having been another family at the time living in Jerusalem whose tomb this might be, under certain specified assumptions." He also cooments about the identification of Mary Magdalene's name: " Note that this assumption is contentious and furthermore that this assumption drives the outcome of the computations substantially."

DNA -- there is not way of determining what human remains were associated with which ossuaries. Many of the bones were found on the floor and the shelves, and of course ossuaries were reused. And the human remains were, according to Israeli law, quickly reburied elsewhere.

Ron said...

dianelos,

Yes, you are right about the professor backtracking now. It is expected... I am sure he was not considering his colleagues ostracizing him for his simple suggestions. As have you failed again to realize the point of the documentary. I am not suggesting the equation is correct, nor am I suggesting how to solve it. All I suggest is that you use all the evidence and draw you own conclusions and let people draw theirs. You have again failed to acknowledge the “GREEK” factor… but that’s ok.

Good luck with your opinion.

Doug:

You are right about the “probably” word. I used “ostensibly” which also means “supposedly”.

Thanks for your comments.

Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naustin said...

Irony of ironies. Witherington writes a book with Hershel Shanks about the James, brother of Jesus ossuary. He fights for the ossuary's authenticity even though it's not provenanced and he seeks to debunk 6 provenanced ossuaries.

To his defense he calls Joe Zias. Joe seems to have an uncanny ability to remember ossuaries once they become famous. In fact, and Witherington and Shanks have dismissed Zias, he "remembers" the James ossuary sitting in a store in old Jerusalem, without an inscription. I wonder if he also remembers specific Buzz Lightyear toys sitting on shelves at FAO Schwartz.

Now Joe "recalls" that he was the one who "worked with Kloner" on the original discovery at Talpiot. This is not what he told Dr. Gibson. This is not what he told Prof. Tabor. This is not what he said on the BBC doc in 1996. This is not what Kloner says in his report.

But Witherington now considers Joe "a fine archaeologist". Sorry Ben, Joe has never been an archaeologist. He has an MA in Anthroplogy and he was the bone man at the Rockefeller center for years before he left the IAA.

Incidentally, you might recall a few years ago "the face of Jesus" controversy. A BBC/Discovery program took a cast of a skull from a first century man in Jerusalem and reconstructed it in the UK. The program declared that this is closer to the face of Jesus than any modern man because the poor fellow lived during Jesus' time. The man who gave the BBC the skull - what did he say last week in Newsweek "pimping the Bible" - was none other than our friend Joe and he didn't do it for free. Holy J....didn't that break every Rabbinic law?

Here are the facts: The tomb is a fact. The ossuaries are real. The inscriptions are attested to by none other than Frank Moore Cross. So far, the only statistician that has weighed in has come out in favour of the significance of the cluster. With all due respect to the hot air, I would rather believe a Prof. of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Toronto with a speciality in probability than all the bone guys, archaeologists, New Testament experts and theological pundits.

With respect to the names themselves, you can huff and you can puff but the fact is that there has been only one - read my lips - only one ossuary ever found in situ that says "Jesus, son of Joseph". Only one - yes one - that says "Yose" (in Hebrew) as in the Gospel of Mark for the brother of Jesus. Less than a dozen that say "Maria" in Hebrew letters. And only one that says "Mariamne e Mara".

With respect to this last one, I know that some people say that this means "Mary also known as Martha". Maybe it can be read "Mary the best cook in town." But the fact is that it can also be read "Mariamne the master" or "of the Lord".

Isn't it interesting that church father Hippolytus says that "James brother of the Lord" handed down the tradition of the Lord to "Mariamne"? Doesn't this fit with a reading "Mariamne of the Lord"? Isn't it interesting that Mary Magdalene was known as Mariamne?

And then there's the DNA. Maybe it doesn't "prove" everything but it is suggestive, and you have to look at everything together: the tomb, the ossuaries, the Acts of Philip, Hippolytus, the DNA, the statistics... they seem to be telling the same story.

Maybe those Discovery guys aren't right but isn't the above suggestive enough to merit a civilized dialogue? Are peoples' faith and brains so weak that they have to attack the makers of the film and the writers of the book personally? What an unholy alliance between so called scholars and anti-Semites such as David Duke. And so much of this attack from people who haven't seen the film and haven't read the book in the name of defending the religion of turning the other cheek.

Naustin

Michael D. M. said...

I'm also appreciative of Mr. Witherington's scholarship and the presentation of his collection of facts, just as I am of all opinions rendered after -- the presentation aired. Unlike many, who automatically dismiss the filmmakers, lamenting the "evils" of sensationalistic and irresponsible journalism, he systematically sets forth contradictory evidence and welcomes the ensuing discussion -- as it should be... As the filmmakers intended it to be.

To everyone, I would suggest the idea of "sensationalism" is being unfairly attacked. I don't believe anyone can righteously criticize the stylized presentation or call the "dramatization" unfair or irresponsible. In fact, with respect, I would point out the significant 'Hipocracy' inherent to such dismissive attitudes and disrespectful rhetoric.
If I might be allowed to quote scripture from an accepted Gospel; Mathiew 13:34 reads; "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them"...
What is a "parable" anyway?
From Websters... PARABLE: a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle...
Is "Drama" then Okay while "Dramatization" is NOT?

I believe this is a major test for America and the Media. IS our faith as a Christian Nation strong enough to survive the challenge of a dissenting religious opinion? If we're not, then may God help us in the years to come. The Prophet Mohammed, nearly two billion strong and soon armed with Nuclear technology stands confidently on the horizon, willing to Kill or Be-Killed in order to express His dissenting opinion.
May the respectful dialogue continue and may each and every one of us search our 'common sense' with a fervor equal to our desire for incontrovertible facts.
The TRUTH is so much larger and more complex than we can possibly imagine.
Michael Mollick

Jordan Potter said...

Naustin, you're welcome to continue to believe in this pseudoscience if you want. Attack Zias all you want -- the facts are that the historical and archaeological and statistical and DNA evidence do not support, but even flatly contradict, this goofy notion that Jesus of Nazareth and his family were buried near Jerusalem.

Jordan Potter said...

Like the early Christians are going to bury St. Mary Magdalene in an ossuary with a special honorary inscription "Mary the Master," but just leave the bones of the Lord Jesus with the plain inscription, "Jesus son of Joseph." Mary more important to them than Jesus?

If this tomb were that of Jesus and His family, there is absolutely no way Christianity could have ever gotten off the ground. It would have been shot down the first time the apostles opened their mouths saying, "He is risen."

Jordan Potter said...

"Most scholars think that the mentions of Jesus in Josephus are interpolations, that is they were added later and not by Josephus."

Incorrect. Almost everyone acknowledges that the Testimonium Flavium is at least partly if not entirely interpolated, but most accept the authenticity of the account of the martyrdom of St. James the Lord's Brother, who is described as "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ."

Doug said...

Naustin wrote:
"The inscriptions are attested to by none other than Frank Moore Cross. So far, the only statistician that has weighed in has come out in favour of the significance of the cluster. With all due respect to the hot air, I would rather believe a Prof. of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Toronto with a speciality in probability than all the bone guys, archaeologists, New Testament experts and theological pundits."

1. Frank Cross has said that the inscriptions are authentic, not forged, but everyone agrees with that. He has not authenticated what they actually say.

2. Naustin could not have read what the Canadian statistician has actually said:
"I now believe that I should not assert any
conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one
of the NT family. The interpretation of the computation should be that it is estimating the probability of there having been
another family at the time living in Jerusalem whose tomb this
might be, under certain specified assumptions."

And he lists the assumptions --see http://fisher.utstat.toronto.edu/andrey/OfficeHrs.txt

He isn't qualified to say whether those assumptions are right or wrong, it's those archaeologists, etc. who are.

Jordan, you are probably right that most people think that the 'so-called Christ' statement is genunine, but I'm sure you are aware that that is not a universal feeling. But I had forgotten about it.
I don't doubt that there was a 'so-called Christ', by the way. Or that his bones were buried somewhere. But the evidence that they are at Talpiot is underwhelming.

Doug Weller

Ross said...

Thanks for your work on this, Dr. Witherington.

I work for and study at Kingsley College in Melbourne, Australia. We're also a Wesleyan college, and some of our faculty are Asbury alummi.

Blessings to you and all your readers.

Bobby said...

If this is really Jesus and they were able to get his DNA, then that implies that he is not the born of a virgin! A person born of a virgin could only be a female because asexual reproduction could only produce the X chromosome. It takes the male "input" to have the Y chromosome necessary to bring forth a son.

Don said...

Did Ben make a blooper on his blog?
Where is he getting this Joseph was moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem?
Isn't the Talpiot tomb the family of Mary rather than Joseph? I don't see the name Joseph listed on any of the six named boxes that were reported in the Discovery special. What am I missing here? Seems like sloppy deductions on Ben's part. If he is saying Jesus of Nazareth is the proper name that should have been on his box then why not say this instead of referring to a supposed origin of the tomb as the final resting place of the bones of Joseph? Totally confusing!!!

Bobby said...

Ben said, "Furthermore, so far as we can tell, the earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus ‘son of Joseph’. It was outsiders who mistakenly called him that!"

What's wrong, Ben, missed your Jewish History in Divinity School? Jesus' complete name if written would have been "Jesus son of Joseph." That is according to the naming style of the Jews at that time.

And why attack Simcha with an argumentum ad hominem? Do you mean to say that a practicing Jew could not present a cogent story about this archeological find? Who do you want to present an archeological finding that tends to question an orthodox Christian belief? The Evangelicals Christians?

HECTOR said...

Please, consider this chain of facts: In 1971 apears the movie "Jesus superstar" in wich, for the first time or so, Mary Magdalene is depicted as Jesus'wife.In 1972 is published the book "The Word", by Irwin Wallace. That same 1972, Henry Lincoln, co-author of Holy Blood...produces a documentary film about his investigation on the subjet of "Mary Magdalene-Jesus wife" he together with Baigent and Leigh would write the famous book about. At the end of that documentary film Lincoln states: " Something extraordinary is waitting for someone to find it...and it will be find in the near future". In 1979 Emmanuel Evsin publishes in France "The big Imposture- The falsified Jesus story" in wich he talks, among other things, about the suposed Nicea rewritting of the "truth story". In 1980 the Talpiot tomb is found (here the events seems to accelerate, someone, somewhere, seems to push the acceleratting pedal). In January of 1981 The Holy Blood, The Holy Grial is published.In 2002 the ossuary of "Jacob brothe of Jesus" is found. In 2003 The Da Vinci Code is published. In 2006, just before Eastern week, National Geographic presents the documentary about the finding and translation of the "Judas Gospel" Wich, as they said, "Could shake the roots or basements of Christianity"(or something like that expression).Immediately after Easter, that same year, apears The Da Vinci Code THE MOVIE. And now, in march of 2007, barely a month before Easter week,Discovery Channel introduces the documentary film about the finding of Jesus family tomb(and someone said,like before,things like: "This could make dissapear Christianity from the earth surface". An involuntary expression of desire??). I am not going to accuse anybody,but: Does not it,at least, look like a very careffuly planned campaign or operation?? In adition to all this, the man who first introduced the James, brother of Jesus ossuary,is being judjed for suspicion of forgery. And I think to myself: First possibility- The James ossuary is a fake, as the israeli archeology agency states. In this case, Could someone be trying to make the word cluster more difficult to accept as a mere coincidence? And, secondly: If the antique collector and owner of the James ossuary really had in his possesion the ossuary already in 1976, and if the ossuary, as the pettina seems to implie,really comes from the Talpiot cave...Would'nt it be more grave and preocupant? Becose if someone had in his house something that belonged to a cave-tomb that would be found and opened 4 years later, then...THE WHOLE CONTENTS OF THE TOMB FALLS UNDER SUSPICION!! Becose that could mean that someone (I am not accusing, just wondering and making a reflexion)could have altered the contents of the cave. Someone (it is just an hypotesis) could have prepared the tomb for the archeologists to find it, by "chance", in the future!!!
Your brother in Christ

Hector Amuedo (a Roman Catholic from Uruguay, in South America)

PS.: I liked very much many of yours coments, but I liked the most what Jay Cost expresed. He went right to the point, precisely, professionally.

HECTOR said...

Another question I ask to myself: Could not the pettina be falsified? Can we be shure about it? And a last thing: Sorry about my english! I, many times, hesitate about the proper way some words should be written.

Hector Amuedo (from Uruguay, where your President was last weekend)

HECTOR said...

One last thing: I forgot to add at least one more fact to the chain of events. The Scorsese movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" (that is the literal translation of the name of the movie in spanish, I don't know the title in english, sometimes the titles are different in defferent languages). When was that movie exhibited? In the mid eighties? That could be another link of the chain. Perhaps, some of the events I have listed (and many others I forgott to add) don't have any relation between each other. Talking about odds and clusters: What are the chances that such a cluster of events could gather in about 30 years? (gathering much closer in the last 5 years!) It was just a reflexion from an hypothetical point of view.And I affirm once more: I'm not accussing. It's just an exercise of deduction and exploration of posibilities. Hector Amuedo

Don said...

The thing I liked about Ben's book, The Brother of Jesus, was that it offered the first historical possibility that Jesus and his family may have actually exited. In the religious community we had folks like James Kennedy giving untruths that a Roman leader had recorded words on Jesus, and we were led to believe that this account was true (I have the tape of Mr. Kennedy to prove that he said it.) Later it was said to be a forgery, as all these sort of proofs end up being. With the Talpiot tomb being discussed, it was hoped that further knowledge could be obtained on this crucial historical evidence of Jesus. Sadly, none was forthcoming, only vapid speculations. Without some kind of validity of the reality of what the scriptures tell us actually happened, it is very hard to believe in it! More study needs to be done, and there are possibly other findings that may shed more light on the subject. What about Eyewitness to Jesus, published in April 1996, about the Magdalen Papyrus, relating to 3 fragments of the Gospel of St. Matthew, the earliest found copy of this work, as long as we are bantering titles about?
Thanks.

HECTOR said...

One more fact to add to the chain of events: In 1983 the novel "The Body" is published (the movie with the same name, released in 2000, starring Antonio Banderas, is based on that novel. Hector

Michael Z. Williamson said...

Speaking as an agnostic, I observe the following as an outside, neutral observer:

There is not enough evidence here, even if it were true, to "Destroy" Christianity, a religion based on faith in Christ as eternal savior.

The evidence that this tomb is that of Christ is not compelling. His publicized burial would make no sense, the names are common enough, the grave is not intact, and the whole presentation is common. Certainly none of that fits with a man or son of God who is the basis for a religion of such magnitude, even of the magnitude of the time.

Christianity is a religion. It is based on faith. It has withstood numerous issues where the followers believed something was true that turned out not to be (Earth as center of the universe, heaven in the sky, hell underground, etc). It will withstand others.

And watching the self-appointed debunkers scrabble for straws is on par to watching Holocaust deniers, 9-11 conspiracy nuts and gun control activists. First it's scary, then it's amusing, then it's merely boring.

da Beat said...

This century will be very good for the sellers of cloth...

Tony said...

Dr. Witherington, great article. One question, you stated "Furthermore, so far as we can tell, the earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus ‘son of Joseph’. It was outsiders who mistakenly called him that!" I was wondering what you thought of John 1:45 where Jesus is called "the son of Joseph" by Philip. Is this simply part of John's ironical devices which he uses in throughout his gospel? Best wishes.

Dohboy said...

You can look at the motivations of the filmmaker by looking at the interview regarding their answer to critics:

All you have to do is look at the filmmaker's motivations. You can find the interview here:

http://www.donsausa.com/

bill said...

Has anyone considered the statistical validity? There are ten boxes and one of them unnamed. If there were only six boxes with all the names of the Jesus family, it may be of some significance. If one only considered a targeted set of names from a larger set and applied statistical studies on them, whatever result that comes up from such is no longer valid and holes no water.

freethinker said...

Whether is real or not, indeed open to debate. However, there's always the possibility

CAM said...

Dear Jordan,
I am a devout Christian who believes every bit in James Tabor, The Jesus Family Tomb, The Jesus Dynasty, the documentary, and all it implies. This does not mean that it didn't unsettle me a bit, but science does that to people. If we can't give these guys a chance we might as well bring back the Inquisition as in the days of Copernicus. I have questions, yes, but to call James Tabor reckless and dubious screams to me that you haven't done your homework. Even his critics agree he is a lovely, honest man who (a blessing for us) also happens to be one of a handful of genius level historians living today. I count myself rich to be able to even read what he has found or think about things he is proposes.
Cameron hooked up to the documentary when Pellegrino intoduced him to Jacobovici. James had nothing to do with the sensationalism of that end. If you had done all your homework you would know that, and if you knew James' well you would have known that. Why don't you write him directly instead of venting in a blog like this. He is a very gracious man and answers even "little people" like me when I ask something. His book can make you question things, but it doesn't rock your faith. It only questions what I think have been glitches formed in our oral traditions about Jesus, etc.,which were then written down and translated too loosly for fact. Pray about it!

Olga said...

Thank you very much for this article, Dr. Witherington!

By the way, your commentaries on Pauline Epistles helped me a lot recently, when I was busy with my MA in Classics - thank you for this, too! (I am an Orthodox Christian).

Daniel said...

I put the inscribed ossuaries from Rahmani's Catalogue into an Excel spreadsheet if anyone wants view and sort the names or see what was in other tombs (good through 1994). It makes for an interesting excercise. It is only a sub-set of known inscriptions from the period but seems to be a fair representation of the larger group.

Keith L said...

It’s certainly true Dr. Witherington, that there is no historical evidence that supports Jesus had a son, or that tomb uncovered in the 1980’s did in fact belong to that of Jesus Christ.

What disturbs me is Christian literature taken as historical proof to repute the claims posed in the documentary. Many times we (I) are (have been) told by Christian leaders that events described should only be taken symbolically, and others should be seen as historical facts. Job can be stricken with ailments because of bet between god (not God) and the devil, Jonah is swallowed by a whale, –but, there is no possible way that a tomb can ever be found with the Christ because we are 100% positive that Jesus rose from the dead in front of 500 of his followers.

History always has a way of being terribly one-sided. Just as the documentary molds its conclusions to fit the theory in scope, biblical scholars have been guilty of the same for thousands of years. What better way to control people than through FEAR. And of course, who better to fear, than God? Not to mention, how many versions of the bible are they, and by how many people, over how many years was it written? Talk about statistical evidence…

BTW, not being a Christian or believer of the bible in a historical sense, doesn’t mean one cannot hold a strong faith in the lord. My God has no name or human face, but is unmistakably present everywhere, and in everything.

Thanks!

HECTOR said...

I have received new information: The inscription "Mary" should'nt be read as such. It should be read as "MERAYA",a male name, the name of a MAN. So, it could'nt be the name of the mother of Jesus.
Hector Amuedo

HECTOR said...

What I have said before is much better explained by NEHEMIA GORDON, a karaite jew, Israel citicen, in this site: www.hebrewyeshua.com/articles/
Dr. Witherington: The TITANIC is finally sinking!! (Let's propose the band on board to play some song!!) Hector Amuedo

Marty said...

Ossuary issue:
The Ossuary marked “Mariamene E Mara” may/might have been misread?
In Aramaic “E Mara” translates to “The Master”
But what concerns me is the first part “ Mariamene”
Is it “Mariamene” or ( Maria - mene)
“mene” in Aramaic, translates to “ counted”, or “to be counted”, or was counted

So! Mariamene = Mary + counted
So, does the translation read?
1- “Mary is to be counted as a Master”?
2- “Mary is counted as a Master”?
3- “Mary was counted by the Master”?

Why would any Mary have "counted" after her first name?

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin


(m ´n , m ´n , t ´k l, y fär´s n) (KEY) , in the Bible, the mysterious riddle written by a hand on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast. These Aramaic words may be translated literally as, “It has been counted and counted, weighed and divided.” Daniel interpreted this to mean that the king’s deeds had been weighed and found deficient and that his kingdom would therefore be divided.

Marty

oak said...

From the biblical documents, it appears to me that there is textual evidence against a connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the Talpiot Tomb. Read carefully, Acts 2 indicates that no one at that time knew of any claim that the dead body of Jesus Christ remained in a tomb anywhere. My position is expressed in the following three-part summation.

Phil Arnold, Ph.D.
The Reunion Institute
Houston, Texas


I. Historical method insists that the historical and religious
primary sources be searched for what evidence is present for belief in the existence of the Talpiot Tomb as the burial site for Jesus and his family. What do the texts, canonical or non-canonical, from the first century tell us about Talpiot and Jesus? None of these texts connects Jesus Christ to Talpiot. But, in my opinion, one passage by
Luke in Acts 2 weighs strongly against any connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the Talpiot tomb. Before turning to this passage in Part III below, let's examine other New Testament evidence against Talpiot having to do with Jesus Christ.

It is reasonable to suppose that had the Talpiot tomb been that of
the Jesus Family, it would have been known to both friend and foe of the Jesus Movement. Family members waiting their turn to be interred in Talpiot would have been keenly aware of the existence of this "generational" tomb. This means that the Talpiot Tomb would
have been known by Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the brothers and sisters of
Jesus, including James of course; not to mention their wives and
children, cousins, and household members. Many outside the immediate family of Jesus would have had to have known of the Tomb simply because their children had married into the Jesus family; not to mention outsiders in the "tomb" trade, such as stone cutters
and "tomb gardeners."

With such a large number of persons over the course of two, three, or more generations knowing about the existence and use of the Talpiot Tomb for the Jesus Family, it seems likely that the disciples and close followers of Jesus would have heard about the Tomb also.
Hence, it is likely that word of the Tomb would have reached the ears of early converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. Thus, surely both the "Hebrew and Hellenist" Christians, such as Peter, Stephen and others would have heard of the existence and use of the Tomb--had there been such a tomb connected to Jesus.

Even if the family members failed to identify this Tomb and kept
it "on the quiet," those opposed to the Jesus Movement certainly
would have been aware of it and would have used it as a tool against the Movement, publicly pointing to it as the final abode of Jesus and his family members. Talpiot would have surely been placarded as the tomb of a dead Jesus despite the claims of disciples who said otherwise. One would imagine that the authorities would have posted "guards" to watch over the Jesus Dynasty Tomb as a possible
site for manifestations of Davidic "messianic fervor"--to make sure no stone was rolled away a second time! And this then would be very well known.

But, the historical texts, canonical and non-canonical, know nothing of this.

A person in the position of Paul would have surely heard of Talpiot
from both sides. First, as an enemy of the Jesus Movement, he would have heard most evidence that the Jerusalem anti-Christian leaders would have had against belief that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. As the recipient of this "ammunition," Saul/Paul would have used it to wreak havoc on both Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity. It seems most probable that before he resorted to extreme physical punishment, he would have presented reasons to those he persecuted to reject the belief that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Even if some of these early believers understood the resurrection to be "merely" a non-physical spiritual life of the
crucified one, surely Talpiot would have served as evidence that
Jesus was indeed stone cold dead. In this way, the enemies of the
earliest Christians could portray Jesus as remaining in the tomb at
Talpiot, suffering corruption, and not in any special way ascended
into heaven. The propaganda value of Talpiot would have gone a long
way as a weapon in the quiver of Paul against the Christian sect.
One wonders how Paul could have switched sides in the face of Talpiot?


II. Since many of the objections used against early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus are "countered" in the gospels and letters of the New Testament, it would seem that there would exist in those pages some counter to the claims of Talpiot. Many claims are ountered, but why no argument against Talpiot? No where do we read
in our primary sources of any refutation of a claim that Jesus was buried in a family tomb at Talpiot.

The absence of such a refutation in the sources seems deafening. If
the Jesus stored at Talpiot was said by enemies of the resurrection to be Jesus of Nazareth, that charge would have had to have been refuted decisively. However, there is no historical evidence of any ecorded response to such an explosive charge. There are responses given to the charge that Jesus was born at Nazareth. That his birth was not legitimate. That he was not Davidic. That he broke Jewish laws. That he was inspired by Beelzebub. That his disciples "stole away" his body. All these responses prove that there were such charges in existence that had to be countered. It seems reasonable
to conclude that there was no charge or claim that Talpiot was a tomb containing the body/bones of Jesus Christ.

And when we read of certain stories that come close to the subject matter of tombs, death, and resurrection, it would seem that an opportunity to "refute" the Talpiot charges would be at hand. But, when Jesus confronts the tomb of Lazarus in John, the author makes no attempt to play off this tomb story to refute a "prevailing Talpiot tomb" charge. And, when Matthew writes that the enemies of the Jesus
Movement claim that his disciples came and took the body away, he
stops on the dime. He does not write that such enemies also say that Jesus was reburied down the road at Talpiot in the family tomb. Had that story been in circulation, as was the charge that the body was stolen, Matthew would have needed to have esponded to it also. It seems that it was not necessary for him to respond because no one was linking Talpiot to Jesus Christ.

Paul's statement in I Corinthians 15:17-20 that if Jesus is not
resurrected, Christian faith is in vain would surely mean that he had
confronted the Talpiot charge had such a claim been hurled at
Christians. How could Paul continue his new found faith in the resurrection of Jesus, if family members of Jesus, or Paul's former Jewish friends who were enemies of the Christians, had told him about Talpiot? Of all people, surely Paul would have heard of the Talpiot story--if it had been a story. So, we know, for a fact, that whatever Paul had heard about the Talpiot Tomb, if anything at all, it was not strong enough evidence to persuade him to drop his belief that Jesus was raised from the dead!

One would have every reason to expect that during his visit with
Peter and James in Jerusalem, after his escape from Damascus, Paul would have discussed Talpiot during his fourteen day visit
(Gal.1:18.) It is not plausible to believe that Paul talks with both
Peter and James, and neither one mentions Talpiot! Imagine, if you
can: James has "buried" both his father, Joseph, and his brother,
Jesus down the road in Talpiot; soon he knows he will inter his
mother, Mary, and other dear family members. Now, are we to think that James the Righteous looks Paul in the eye and says nothing, after first "winking" at Peter? Again, at the conference in Acts 15, James has to "conceal" Talpiot from Paul and others? Meanwhile, Mary and the brothers and the sisters continue the cover-up, as they all die one by one. Could James be so "double-minded?"

On the other hand, if everyone openly talks about Jesus' tomb
remaining at Talpiot, and that his body is suffering corruption
there, and that it has not been transformed and ascended in an unique way into heaven, how can Stephen, Peter, John, and others suffer persecution and death over how Jesus overcame death through
resurrection from the tomb? And what on earth would Paul think when he got wind of these open discussions?

None of these early sources provide any evidence for a connection between Talpiot and Jesus. From these primary sources, which we know for a fact speak of Jesus of Nazareth, there is no reference to or connection with Talpiot. This historian's judgment is that there are no reasons from these written texts to connect the two.


III. But there is written evidence against Talpiot being the tomb of
Jesus. It is found in Acts 2:29-34. Had anyone in the first century claimed that Talpiot was where the decaying bones of Jesus were kept, it would be very unlikely that Luke would have put the following words in the mouth of Peter while placing him next to the "Tomb of David," "I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day....He (David) spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he (Jesus) has received from the Father...for David did not ascend to heaven...."

If Talpiot was said to have been the very tomb of Jesus where his
body was decaying, why would Luke bring up the exact claim against
David? If enemies of the resurrection were pointing to the Talpiot Tomb as the location of the decaying body of Jesus, it is unlikely that a writer would introduce the subject of another tomb in Jerusalem where a decaying body that had not been resurrected and had not ascended into heaven was located!

Luke writes that we all know that this sepulcher is David's tomb. We
know that he is buried in this tomb. We know that his body is
decaying. We know that he has been abandoned to this grave. And we
all know that he is not ascended into heaven. We know these things
because this is David's tomb, and his decayed bones are inside.
If Talpiot had been associated with the burial of Jesus, the reader's response would be to imagine a voice from the crowd piping up, "Yes, but his family knows, and we know, that Jesus, too, is buried down at Talpiot, next to his father Joseph. "Everyone go down and see for yourself." Paul would have "fallen off his horse again" to get there.

My point is that it is most improbable that Luke writing in the first century would put such words in Peter's mouth when there is a devastating charge in circulation that Jesus is the one who is buried in a tomb nearby. It does not depend on whether Peter himself spoke these words at the time that Acts 2 is said to have taken place. If historically Peter did say similar words on Pentecost after Jesus was killed, then it is even more unlikely that there could have been a charge circulating that Jesus remained buried in a tomb in Jerusalem. Peter would have been taking a great gamble to bring up what would have been taken as a parallel to the Talpiot Tomb. The
crowd could have contradicted Peter on the spot. To go out of the way to have Peter say that which is being claimed against Jesus, would be a fatal flaw in the story line.

Whether it is the author Luke, or the apostle Peter, it makes no
difference for my point: to stand in front of what was thought to be
the Tomb of David and point to the decaying king in order to "show"
that Jesus is resurrected makes no sense when both the author and the
characters "know" that the exact same thing is being said of Jesus
down the road at Talpiot!

Such a rhetorical strategy would be as foolish as for a Mormon
apologist to write that we know David Koresh could not be a true
prophet, like Joseph Smith, because we know Koresh forged his Seven Seals from some golden plates he found which were planted by a writer named Solomon Spaulding. That would be the last thing a Mormon apologist would bring up to spike a rival prophet! Similarly with a Luke confronted with Talpiot. An author would avoid bringing up such a parallel. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Luke surely had never heard of any story connecting Talpiot to
Jesus. He freely uses the Peter story about David's tomb without
fear or hesitation.

An interrogation of these texts yields no evidence of a claim or
charge that the body of Jesus remained in a tomb in Talpiot or
anywhere. The internal evidence suggests that no such story
circulated, as it was bound to have done had there been such a tomb at Talpiot.


Phil Arnold, Ph.D.
The Reunion Institute
Houston, TX.
reunion@sbcglobal.net

sunu said...

soo cool

Biby Cletus said...

Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I'll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya...

Was
Jesus an Essenes ?


Bibby

Kerala, India

prof said...

hello
rendez vous sur jewisheritage.fr
a bientot

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Your Angels Say said...

Dear Ben,

I find your work interesting and I have followed this debate for some time.

I haven't made up my mind yet, but either way, I won't find the result disturbing at all.

However, I was wondering why the discovery of the "Jesus tomb" was well known in academic circles only?

Why did it take so long before the general public was made aware of this find?

Regards,
Victoria

HECTOR said...

The last book by David Yallop (The Power and the Glory)trying to discredit Pope John Paul II is the last (up to now)link in the chain of events of the anti christian (and particularly anti catholic)campaign I have wrote about above (long ago). Just wait for next Eastern weeck an we'll see another new "discovery" or novel or movie against the Christian Church in general or the Catholic Church in particular.

HECTOR said...

I forgot to mention something: next December 7 they'r gonna introduce the movie (a movie for kids) "The Golden Compass", starring Nicole Kidmann. It's based on the 3 books (for kids also) of the series called "His Dark Materials" by the british writer Philip Pullman. The story (a fantasy story) is about two children whose mission is...to kill God!!! (Yes!). Finally God is killed by...a litle girl!! (Wow!!!). To know more about this film (an the books)please read the article "The Christmas-Crashing Movie" by L.Brent Bozell III. Simply introduce the title of the article in any Internet finder. Hector (from Montevideo, capital city of Uruguay, in South America)

HECTOR said...

CORRECTION: The correct title of the article is "THE CHRISTMAS-CRUSHING MOVIE"

Louis Lapides said...

Dr, Witherington: Thanks for your helpful comments. Many evangelicals thought the Talpiot controversy faded away when the last vestiges of the Discovery Channel documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus flickered off the screen. Not so fast, buckaroos!

Last week Time magazine ran an article espousing that the Talpiot Tomb controversy is being "re-opened." So before we put away our arsenal of apologetic weapons, we need to realize that Easter is one it's way and the detractors of the veracity of the gospel and the resurrection of Christ are at it again. If you or your readers are interested, I have discussed this recent development on my blog, called "Thinking Outside the Blog" which you can access by clicking here. I also wrote a booklet entitled Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy which can be ordered at Atlas books. Thanks and God bless you. Louis Lapides

HECTOR said...

Mr. Lapides: What you have said is very interesting. Eastern is aproaching and...the antichristian campaign will regain virulence. Héctor Amuedo (hectoramuedo@gmail.com)

victorchin said...

My point of view is to look beyond the mathematics. If the disciples of Christ somehow stole the body away after crucifixion, it is best that they burn it. This is much better way to hide the truth than to bury the body in a tomb. Also, note that the disciples are fishermens, why would they risked their lives to spread the teaching of someone they know is a fake? Also, know that Saul is a member of Sanhendrin. He would loved to crucify Christians. But we see what happen to him in the book of Acts, and in the end landed him in prison. Why would a sane man holding an important position reversed his way 180 degree to become someone who defend Christ?

logisticmosquito said...

I tried to talk to this Dr James Tabor once, and all he wanted to know was how I got his email address.
IF any man should say they found the body of Jesus I would expect to hear this.

A the body is 2000 years old
B The body is flesh and bone remains
C the body has holes in his hands and feet.
D his head and back show signs of scaring from the crown of thorns and his beating
E He will be missing a rib that was surgically removed by those who prepared him for buriel.

Louis Lapides said...

I am glad we're still keeping this essential issue alive. Dr. Witherington and Darrell Block and myself have responded to the claims of the "Jesus Tomb" theory. One thing to remember is that the bones of Jesus, if they were discoverable" would not be available to Jacobovici and his team since the Orthodox rabbis buried whatever bone fragment were unearthed in 1980. I seriously doubt whether the Orthodox Jewish bloc would allow the bones to be examined by forensics. On the other hand, the rabbis had any inkling the bones fragments were those of Jesus, they would make an exception in order to disprove the belief that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. Take it from me as a Jewish believer, the rabbis would jump at the chance to dismantle the thorn of messianic Jews from their side.

Louis Lapides
http://thinkingoutsidetheblog.blogspot.com

Sean said...

Hmmm...this all is interesting but I look at it is an unwillingness to expose/accept a highly probable truth which will shatter religion/faith of many people. One day all will know the truth....whatever it may be.

Louis Lapides said...

Sean: why do we have to wait someday to know the truth. Based on archaeological evidence, historical studies and artifacts and ancient documents, we can know quite a lot about the past. Experts have examined the theories proposed by Jacobovici, James Cameron and Dr. James Tabor and have rejected it and the Jesus Family Tomb crowd have no really responded with any kind of scholarship . . . just mudslinging. Check out my booklet, "Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy" by Louis Lapides. You can get on Amazon. Read the articles posted by Dr. Witherington and Darrell L. Bock. You can't just say "someday we'll know the truth." I think you can know it with confidence right now. It's the Discovery Channel documentary making the accusations based on connecting a lot of questionable dots to build a case. Where is the body of Jesus? Dig it up. Do the DNA studies and either uphold the claims of Christianity or disprove it. I hope you do the research; you'll be amazed what you'll find. I did.

Brandy said...

The Government took the body, and used it's skull, like they did with all other powerful leaders and are calling upon that spirit to rise...They wear dark cloths, sometimes white and they plot and they chant...I think Joeseph gave the body to puchus pilot or was it King herod. Joeseph was a friend of one of these two..not to mention that Jesus was with Peter when a man was being Hung on the tree or cross...so there was an imposter..Search the truth guys..its out there, there is an imposter in churches today...being worshipped

Cool Dude said...

More Pictures of TITANIC click here

Marc said...

Alex - Unless you want to discount Biblical evidence the earliest reference to an empty tomb, albeit indirect, is Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians in chapter 15. Paul was a Jew and writing between 50 and 60 AD.

Itamar Bernstein said...

I've been studying this find for years, long before it became public knowledge following the mass media exposure. I believe that it's a serious find, which warrants further study.

The critics of this find's magnitude basically argue:

1. That the Jesus family would be buried in Nazareth, not Talpiot;
2. That the 'Jesus' ossuary would have been inscribed 'of Nazareth';
3. That the Jesus family couldn't have afforded a tomb like the Talpiot tomb;
4. That the "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary is not inscribed "Yeshua" (Jesus) at all;
5. That the names inscribed on these ossuaries were supposedly common;
6. That the "Mariamne" ossuary didn't contain the remains of Mary Magdalene, but of two other women;


I believe the first five of these allegations against the book's premise don't carry much water. The sixth argument actually supports the conclusion that this is the real thing. My comments:

1. Talpiot is the right place for Jesus' family tomb- Per Luke, 2:3-4, the family's LEGAL residence was Bethlehem, not Nazareth. The fact that Joseph and the pregnant Mary could not take the census in Nazareth but had to take it in Bethlehem indicates that Bethlehem was their DOMICILIUM under Roman Law. That basically means that they had no intention to reside in Nazareth permanently. Therefore it would have made little sense for them to have a family tomb in Nazareth, that they wouldn't be able to frequently visit at a later stage in their lives. They would have wanted a family tomb close to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, easily accessible also to future generations of the family. The fact is indeed that Mary and her children moved to Jerusalem around 30 AD.

2. The traditional name of Jesus in Hebrew, as reflected also in the Talmud, is "Yeshu Hanotzri." This appellation stems from "Netzer" (Shoot or Branch). It alludes clearly to Isaiah 11:1, indicating the Royal birth of Jesus, to substantiate his claim for Jewish messiahship. Not to indicate the place he comes from.

There's actually no evidence in Jewish sources, such as the Old Testament or the Mishna and Talmud, that a place called "Nazareth" even existed in or before the first century. I'm not disputing the evidence per the NT, that there was indeed a place called Nazareth. But to the best of my knowledge, there's no mention of Nazareth at all in any ancient writings outside the New Testament. So the place existed, but nobody knew about it. And those in close proximity in Galilee who did know about it, obviously thought derogatorily of it , cf. "can anything good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46.) Therefore there was no reason to call Jesus "of Nazareth." Either in life or on an ossuary. He was called "Jesus the Branch" (of David) in Hebrew/Aramaic.

The line of argumentation detracting this discovery around the supposed Nazareth origin of Jesus' family may therefore be based on a very shaky foundation.

3. Talpiot is located about 2.5 miles North of Bethlehem. Jesus' family, of Davidic descent according to the New Testament, could have held the burial cave there even before it moved to Nazareth. Davidic birth was absolutely the most exalted in Judaism, always. The suggestion that any person of Davidic descent could be of the lowest social echelon, that couldn't fund or get funding for a burial cave, doesn't make much sense, if any. There's substantial evidence to the contrary, e.g. 1. Jesus had some very wealthy active supporters like Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus (known as Nakdimon ben Gorion in post biblical Jewish sources-one of the richest Jews in Judea;) 2. Josephus, A.J. XX, 9:1. Note the prominence of James, brother of Jesus.

4. The inscription on the Jesus ossuary does say "Yeshua bar Yehosef" ("Jesus son of Joseph")to my eye. All letters but one are quite clearly there. The only letter which is somewhat more difficult to discern at first blush is the second letter- "Shin". That's because it's written in a somewhat irregular form (in a regular Shin there are three teeth in the fork, pointing upwards. Here there are two teeth, pointing sideways to the right.) But that particular irregularity appears also on other ossuaries- notably numbers 9 (this one has two "Shin"- one with three teeth pointing to the right, and one with TWO teeth pointing to the right. Exactly like the subject inscription) and 121 in the Rahmani catalogue, which both feature also a "Yeshua."

Still, the name "Yeshua" on this ossuary is among the most, if not the most, difficult to read names of all ossuaries listed in Rahmani's catalogue of Jewish ossuaries. It is almost written as a person's complex signature on a check. Contrast that with the patronymic following the first name. This is written in a simple straightforward fashion, which is very easy to read. There's no other example in Rahmani's catalogue of a first name that has to be deciphered, and a patronymic that's so plain and clear. Is this merely a coincidence?


5. Some critics make the following comment to my post:

"The inscription, Pfann said, is made up of two names inscribed by two different hands: the first, "Mariame,'' was inscribed in a formal Greek script, and later, when the bones of another woman were added to the box, another scribe using a different cursive script added the words "kai Mara,'' meaning "and Mara.'' Mara is a different form of the name Martha.

According to Pfann's reading, the ossuary did not house the bones of "Mary the teacher,'' but rather of two women, "Mary and Martha.'"

Here's my thought about that:
If the Mariamne ossuary indeed housed the bones of Mary and Martha, these are two sisters of NT fame. One of them could have been married to "Jesus son of Joseph." -Whether or not she was Mary Magdalene (Maybe the Mary who anointed Jesus' feet and then dried them with her hair- very intimate scene.) The other sister would than also automatically belong in the family. It still fits. Actually it increases the statistical odds that this is the real thing quite substantially.
This is a very intriguing possibility indeed, fitting perfectly with John 12:3. Intimate contact with a man, as described in this NT passage, was allowed only to a woman who was an immediate blood relative of that man, his wife (...or a working woman.) That's all. Therefore Mary of Bethany was quite possibly by elimination Jesus' wife or in the process of becoming his wife. In that context, Margaret Starbird already theorized that similar anointing with spikenard oil was part of pre marriage ritual of a Davidic king, per certain passages in the Song of Songs. Note also that intercourse by itself was sufficient under Jewish Law in certain circumstances to constitute valid marriage. That practice, termed Bi'ah marriage, was abolished in the 6th century, but it was lawful in Jesus' time.

Mary of Bethany could have become pregnant by Jesus while he stayed at her house, shortly before his crucifixion. In that case it's quite possible that she bore Jesus' son posthumously and named him "Judah." And in that case both she and her sister Martha would have become part of Jesus' family, which earned them a place in the Talpiot family tomb..

Reminds me of the reaction to this find of a BBC reporter in 1996- It seems like all balls in the national lottery coming one by one.




I have no knowledge of Greek, so I can only discuss the two propositions. Assuming that the ossuary does say "Mary and Martha", here's what I think the names are:
* 1."Jesus son of Joseph"("Yeshua bar Yehosef" in Hebrew/Aramaic script;)
* 2. "Mary" ("Marya" in Hebrew/Aramaic script);
* 3. "Joseph" ("Yose" in Hebrew/Aramaic script. Precise nickname of Jesus' second brother- cf. Mark 6:3);
* 4. "Mary and Martha" ("Mariame kai Mara" in Greek)-they must have been sisters because Jewish law didn't allow burial together of two unrelated women;
* 5. "Matthew" ("Matya" in Hebrew/Aramaic script)- Name of Jesus' first cousin, son of his father's brother Alphaeus/Clophas. As James Tabor suggests in a different context, Matya could also well have been Jesus' half brother, considering a certain specific rule of the Torah (Deuteronomy 25:5-10.) This rule was applied in Jesus time- see Matthew 22:24-28;
* 6. "Judah son of Jesus"("Yehuda bar Yeshua" in Hebrew/Aramaic script.)
* Therefore out of eight names actually inscribed on these ossuaries (including the "Joseph" father of Jesus on the first ossuary) four names undoubtedly relate to Jesus' immediate family, and three other names relate to the same with a somewhat lower probability. In any event, they all relate to Jesus' extended family. Note that first century Jewish family tombs were usually a clan thing.
* The eighth name is "Yehuda bar Yeshua"- must have been the son of Jesus and one of the sisters Mary or Martha. More likely Mary, as explained above.

6. While the full versions of all these names were indeed common in Jesus' time, the derivatives, nicknames and contractions were not. Thus "Yeshua" for Jesus was less common than "YeHOshua;" ditto "YeHOsef" instead of "Yosef" for Joseph; "Marya" for Mary was extremely rare in Hebrew/Aramaic script; "Yose" for Joseph is unique. Therefore out of these eight names, two are irregularities, one is a particularity, and one a singularity.

BOTTOM LINE- Ask yourself inversely a hypothetical question- If the Talpiot tomb hadn't yet been found, how would Jesus' family tomb have looked , which ossuaries would it have contained, to when would it have been dated and where would it have been located.

I would have thought of a tomb just like the tomb we're discussing. It fits perfectly with what I'd have expected Jesus' family tomb to be. Right place, right period, right names. I therefore believe that this matter, delicate as it obviously is, warrants further investigation. This could include opening and examination of the adjacent tomb, and forensic examination of the skeletal remains found in the Talpiot ossuaries, and apparently reburied back in 1980. These could hopefully be relocated by comparison to the mithochondrial DNA samples already taken from two of these ossuaries.