Over the past few weeks we have been examining the claims of the book, "The Jesus Family Tomb." The authors of this work want their readers to believe that we now have hard physical evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but rather has been found interred in what they claim is the family tomb.
The evidence they offer is spotty at best. It seems to me that their main argument is based upon a compilation of names discovered in the Talpiot tomb. The practice of the ancient Jews who were of significant financial means was to bury the body of their loved one for a year, let the flesh rot, then dig up the body and place the bones in a limestone box where they could remain for centuries. Right here we have a problem. According to the testimony of the New Testament, neither Jesus nor his family were people of "significant financial means."
What was discovered in the Talpiot tomb was a tomb containing 10 ossuaries and dozens of skeletons, some along the wall of the tomb. Six ossuaries were inscribed; the others were not. Those that grabbed the attention of Jacobovici and friends were inscribed: Yeshua bar Yosef–Jesus, Son of Joseph; Mariamene e Mara–Mariamne, also called Master; Maria–A Latinized version of the Hebrew Miriam; Matia–Matthew; Yehuda bar Yeshua–Judah, son of Jesus; and Yose–A nickname for Joseph. Based on these names Jocobvici and friends have attempted to link this tomb to the Jesus of Scripture.
At the risk of oversimplifying my refutation, claiming that we have the body of Jesus because we found his name would be akin to going to a cemetery in Mexico and claiming that we found the body of Jesus because we saw a tomb inscribed "Jesus son of Jose" in that cemetery.
Jesus was a common name for Jewish boys in the first century — one in 20 boys carried that name. Scholars tell us that are about 80 different tombs and about 26 different ossuaries inscribed with the name Jesus on them.
What of the other names? Don’t they really narrow it down? Do their findings in the same tomb really move the probability of this one being Jesus’ of Nazareth’s Tomb to 2.5 million to one? Hardly.
One out of seven Jewish males in the first century carried the name Joseph. Also, in no literature is Jesus ever referred to as "Son of Joseph." Why now?
Mary was the name of about 25 percent of the Jewish women in Jesus’ day. To claim that Marianmene e Mara refers to Mary Magdalene is a stretch of fantasy. Matthew was not a brother of Jesus, but a disciple — what’s he doing in a "family" tomb? And Judah identified as son of Jesus could only be possible if Jesus had survived the crucifixion and then in this case lived in anonymity in Jerusalem of all places. How likely is any of that?
One other thing, Joseph’s home was in Nazareth, not Jerusalem, and his ancestral home was in Bethlehem not Jerusalem. Thus if there were to be a family tomb discovered, it would be in one of these two places, not in Jerusalem.
The facts don’t add up to the claims of the book. Only by ignoring the facts and skewing the evidence can one claim that the Talpiot tomb is the resting place of Jesus.
If the Jesus of the New Testament is dead, there is no Christian message. The core of the Gospel is not the Sermon on the Mount or some other ethical system. The core of the Gospel message is Jesus Christ, crucified, buried and risen again. If you miss that, you have missed the whole message.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.