The Burial Cave of Jesus
Vol: 65 Issue: 24 Saturday, February 24, 2007
A new documentary is set to air on the Discovery Channel, Canada’s Vision TV, as well as in Britain and Israel, entitled, “The Burial Cave of Jesus.”
The film is a joint production between an Israeli-born Canadian documentary producer and Oscar-winning Canadian film producer James Cameron, whose film credits include “Titanic” and “The Terminator.”
From what I have been able to find out so far, the archeological bona fides behind the film seem to be that one producer was born in Israel, both are Canadian and one makes entertaining movies.
According to the filmmakers, a cave dating to the first century was discovered in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood in 1980. In it were ten coffins. Six of those coffins bore inscriptions. One of the coffins is labeled, “Jesus, the son of Joseph”; another, “Judah, son of Jesus”; and two bore the inscriptions “Maria”.
The filmmakers evidently offer this explanation: One of the Maria’s is Mary, the mother of Jesus, the other, Mary Magdalene.
The coffin (actually, they were ossuaries) bearing the inscription “Judah” is offered as “proof” that Jesus had a son, and therefore, the 3rd century Gnostic accounts of Jesus and Mary Magdalene getting married that formed the basic premise of “The Davinci Codes” are true.
The backstory is that, upon discovering the ossuaries, the find was covered up to avoid offending the Christian community. All ten ossuaries were given over to the Israeli Antiquities Authority archive in Beit Shemesh who buried them in the bowels of the archive where they’ve languished, forgotten, for almost thirty years.
Most astonishing of all is the claim that, unlike the ossuary bearing the inscription, “James, the brother of Jesus” these ossuaries contained the bones of their original occupants.
Noted the website, Israel Insider, “If it proves true, the discovery, which will be revealed at a press conference in New York Monday, could shake up the Christian world as one of the most significant archeological finds in history.”
Shake up the Christian world? THAT would be an understatement of, ahem, Biblical proportions.
If true, that is.
Remember when the “James” ossuary was in the headlines? Its announcement sent shockwaves throughout the Christian world.
If it were authentic, it would have served as the first archeological confirmation of the existence of Jesus, and would have also confirmed the Bible’s account that Jesus had both brothers and sisters.
Such a confirmation have forced the Vatican to rewrite its theological position of “Mary, ever-virgin”, destroying her credentials as the fourth member of the Divine God-head.
The Vatican teaches that Mary has the power to forgive sins, and that, as the perpetual Virgin mother of God, was bodily assumed into heaven in the same way that Jesus was.
Now, remember the arguments that were advanced in dismissing the “James” box? First, there was the ‘forgery’ argument. Secondly, there was the ‘coincidence’ argument.
Either the inscriptions were forged, or it was a coincidence, since the names “Jesus” “James” and “Joseph” were among the most common names in Jerusalem at that time.
In any case, the “James” box was discredited and the story went nowhere.
According to the senior Israeli archeologist who both researched the tombs at the time of their original discovery, and was the original translator of the inscriptions, the same argument applies in the so-called “Jesus Burial Cave”.
“It’s a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever,” says Professor Amos Kloner. “The names that are found on the tombs are names that are similar to the names of the family of Jesus,” he conceded.
“But those were the most common names found among Jews in the first centuries BCE and CE,” he added. Kloner dismissed the combination of names found in the cave as a “coincidence,” according to the Israel Insider report.
What I find fascinating is that, while the coincidence argument was enough to discredit the “James” ossuary (which confirms the Bible) when the same argument is applied to the “Jesus Cave” (which, if true, would destroy the foundation of Christianity) it is hotly denied by everybody involved.
(Except for the man who conducted the examination of the cave and translated the inscriptions. And his assessment is dismissed out of hand.)
Same argument, same evidence, but two entirely different reactions, depending on what light it casts on the historical account of Jesus of Nazareth.
If the “James” ossuary is authentic, then the Bible’s account is reinforced. If the “Jesus Cave” is authentic, then Jesus Christ wasn’t resurrected, mankind has no hope of redemption, and we remain dead in our sins.
So “James” is discredited because the names were so common, but the “Jesus Cave” MUST be true because the (equally common) names (almost) fit.
Let’s look at the difficulties. If the ossuary actually contains the bones of Jesus of Nazareth, then who was crucified at Golgotha? If the tomb is that of Jesus’ family, then who paid for it? Tombs were exceptionally expensive in 1st century Israel.
How did a tomb containing the bones of Jesus of Nazareth escape the attention of the Jewish authorities who tried so desperately to discredit the new religion of Christianity that they routinely arrested Christian converts and ordered them stoned to death?
How did it escape the attention of the Roman authorities who tried to stamp out Christianity by martyring Christians for three centuries? The “Jesus Cave” didn’t just contain the evidence that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, but also evidence that He was married and had children.
And it was a family tomb. Family tombs were registered with the Jewish authorities.
If Jesus didn’t die at Calvary, (or even if He did and was subsequently entombed) why would the Apostles go willingly to their deaths rather than recant their testimony, of which they claimed to be eyewitnesses?
If they knew that Jesus was married and had a son before His crucifixion, why was it omitted from the Gospel accounts? If they didn’t know, why didn’t they?
And why didn’t anybody else who lived at that time? As already noted, if it could have been proved that Jesus went to the grave like every other man, it was in the best interests of the Sanhedrin to reveal it.
Not to mention the fact that proving Jesus was not Divine would have eliminated the religious conundrum they faced when they were accused of ordering the death of their long-awaited Messiah?
Finally, how can it be that it was all kept secret in a time and place where such a revelation would be of such earth-shattering importance to the contemporary authorities, but managed to stay intact until it was found in Jerusalem in 1980?
Until the destruction of the Temple, in AD 70, Jewish genealogies were so carefully documented that most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem could easily trace their lineage all the way back to Adam.
Births, deaths and burials were as carefully documented in early first century Jerusalem as they are in 21st century New York. How did Jesus, Mary, Mary Magadalene, Judah and the other six ossuaries slip through the cracks — particularly when Jesus of Nazareth was such a polarizing and controversial figure?
Now, to the present day problems. Why would the Jewish authorities in modern Israel want to cover up the discovery of the bones of Jesus of Nazareth? For two thousand years, Jews have endured endless pogroms and persecutions based on the blood libel that they killed Jesus Christ.
If the “Jesus Cave” is authentic, not only are they NOT guilty as charged, but it would also put to rest any lingering doubts that the Jews put their own Messiah to death.
The government of Israel may have some political motive for covering up the “Jesus Cave” to keep from alienating America, but it would have religious Jews shouting the news from the housetops.
IF — and that is a big ‘if’ — there were even a scintilla of convincing evidence.
I have little doubt of the ability of a documentary film to be very convincing. Most of us will be hearing from our unsaved friends and loved ones who will point to its assertions and say, “what about this?”
It won’t matter much how we respond. People will believe what they want to believe. James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici want to believe that the “Jesus Cave” is authentic, because it means the Bible’s account is not true.
So will our unsaved friends and loved ones.
If the Bible’s account is not true, then they can walk away comfortable in their sin, reassured that there is no eternal accountability for the things done in this life. Look at the success of the “Davinci Code”.
The “evidence” for the “Jesus Cave’s” authenticity is so weak that it doesn’t even convince the original translator, himself a Jew with a vested interest in the “Jesus Cave” being authentic.
But it will convince the skeptic. Because that is what he WANTS to believe.
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:” 2nd Thessalonians (2:11)