If you believe Jesus rose bodily to Heaven, the claims archaeologist Arye Shimron has made – that he’s discovered the tomb of Jesus himself and his family – are impossible. If you’re a skeptic, you probably won’t be convinced either.
The contention Shimron is making is an incredible one (he calls it “an archaeological slam dunk”), and the science appears to be sound – but there’s one problem: The ossuary (or box of bones, for lack of a better description) the archaeologist is matching up to the famous “Jesus Family Tomb” may actually be a phony.
Here’s the rundown, according to the Jerusalem Post: In 1980, the site, known also as the Talpiot Tomb, was discovered, and in it, a bunch of ossuaries (it’s since been sealed). These boxes are just a few of a whopping 3,000 uncovered since. And of this 3,000, about 20 percent are inscribed. A handful of these fit the biblical story of Jesus.
The James Ossuary is the one that fits this story the closest. According to NBC News, this one featured the tantalizing inscription: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” in ancient Aramaic. There are a few things to keep in mind, however: Those names were very common 2,000 years ago, one religious studies professor claimed. But a statistician told the Post that the particular combo of a mom named Mary and a brother named Joseph is rarer.
But here’s the bigger problem: The James Ossuary materialized not from an archaeological discovery, but the private collection of a man named Oded Golan. Though he’s a serious collector of biblical ossuaries, his reputation isn’t the greatest.
That’s because Israel’s Antiquities Authority determined in 2007 that Golan wrote the “brother of Jesus” part himself. Seven years later, he was found innocent.
Given that piece of information, take the following “slam dunk” as you will. Back to Shimron.
He just got his hands on the ossuary two weeks ago and ran 200 tests. He compared the chemical fingerprints of the ossuary itself to the “Jesus Family Tomb” and found a match. His conclusion, after 35 years of looking: Jesus’ tomb has been discovered, and it’s located in East Jerusalem. (For good measure, Shimron did some random tests, too, and found no other matches)
Shimron doesn’t have the backing of other academics (one declared “it may prove that somebody named Jesus was buried in this tomb”) and ironically, not even Golan is convinced, the Daily Mirror reported. He said more testing is needed.
Which isn’t a bad call – after all, if archaeologists have discovered Jesus’ tomb, that challenges the central belief of millions of Christians, who both believe he rose bodily and didn’t marry or have kids. University of North Carolina James Tabor sympathizes with that viewpoint.
“There are lots of more modern Christians who view the resurrection as more spiritual, and as a historical and scientific event that doesn’t threaten the faith. But for most it is very controversial, let’s face it … It doesn’t necessarily contradict biblical findings, but it contradicts faith more.”
So was his tomb discovered? Perhaps this, too, is a matter of faith.
[Photo Courtesy Getty Images]