Last week, being Easter, I wrote on the resurrection. Thomas Arnold, chair of modern History at Oxford, said, "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of the fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead" (McDowell: "The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict p. 216).
Lately, however, a different story has been told — a new "theory," if you will, to explain the empty tomb. In 2007 Simicha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino released a book entitled "The Jesus Family Tomb" which film-producer James Cameron turned into a documentary. Mr. Cameron’s claim in the forward to the book is "that the conclusions of the documentary are irrefutable and stunning in their implications (and) he writes that the story told about the Jesus’ family tomb is ‘pieced together from hard physical evidence, evidence that cannot lie," (Lutzer: Slandering Jesus p. 22) and the authors claim "the odds (are) 2.5 million to one in favor of the Talpiot Tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth."
In light of this startling find, there were Christians who declared that even if this find proved to be true, it would not change their faith. If the body of Jesus were found, it would destroy the faith. Those who want to hold to a spiritual resurrection have not been reading either their Bibles or history. If Jesus’ body is found, Christianity is dead. Even the writers of the New Testament realized this. As early as 55 A.D. Paul wrote, "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost" (1 Corinthians 15:12-18, NIV).
Dr. Erwin Lutzer wrote, "If the bones of Jesus were discovered, our faith would collapse like a house of cards held together by ropes of mist!" (Slandering Jesus p. 24). And renowned New Testament Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Cambridge University Charles Francis Digby Moule writes, "At no point within the New Testament is there any evidence that the Christians stood for an original philosophy of life or an original ethic. (The disciples) sole function is to bear witness to what they claim as an event — the rising of Jesus from among the dead... and the consequent estimate of Him as in a unique sense Son of God and representative man, and the resulting conception of the way to reconciliation (being made right with God))" (McDowell p. 215).
I agree with noted scholar Edwin Gordon Selwyn who writes that the evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead is "as secure as historical evidence can make it." And with Dr. Frank Morrison, a lawyer who set his sights on destroying Christianity by demolishing the resurrection, but who, as he proceeded to research the evidence, came instead to the irrefutable conclusion that the resurrection did indeed take place. He wrote, "In all the fragments and echoes of this far-off controversy which have come down to us, we are nowhere told that any responsible person asserted that the body of Jesus was still in the tomb. We are only given reasons why it was not there. Running all through these ancient documents is the persistent assumption that the tomb of Christ was vacant. Can we fly in the face of this cumulative and mutually corroborative evidence? Personally, I do not think we can. The sequence of coincidences is too strong."
The "Family Tomb of Jesus" far from being empirical evidence is a flight of hopeful fantasy by desperate unbelieving men who were all too willing to skew facts in order to line their own pockets. Unfortunately space is gone, so we will have to pick this up next week.
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.