Sunday, February 25, 2007

Discovery Channel: Jesus Tomb Believed Found (Update)

A special to air on the Discovery Channel will be on a recently discovered tomb in Jerusalem. In addition to Jesus, the tomb contained a number of stone coffins inscribed with New Testament names including a name Mary Magdalene may have been known under and one labeled Judah, son of Jesus.
Scholars know that from 30 B.C. to 70 A.D., many people in Jerusalem would first wrap bodies in shrouds after death. The bodies were then placed in carved rock tombs, where they decomposed for a year before the bones were placed in an ossuary.

Five of the 10 discovered boxes in the Talpiot tomb were inscribed with names believed to be associated with key figures in the New Testament: Jesus, Mary, Matthew, Joseph and Mary Magdalene. A sixth inscription, written in Aramaic, translates to "Judah Son of Jesus."

In addition to the "Judah son of Jesus" inscription, which is written in Aramaic on one of the ossuaries, another limestone burial box is labeled in Aramaic with "Jesus Son of Joseph." Another bears the Hebrew inscription "Maria," a Latin version of "Miriam," or, in English, "Mary." Yet another ossuary inscription, written in Hebrew, reads "Matia," the original Hebrew word for "Matthew." Only one of the inscriptions is written in Greek. It reads, "Mariamene e Mara," which can be translated as, "Mary known as the master."

Francois Bovon, professor of the history of religion at Harvard University, told Discovery News, "Mariamene, or Mariamne, probably was the actual name given to Mary Magdalene."

Bovon explained that he and a colleague discovered a fourteenth century copy in Greek of a fourth century text that contains the most complete version of the "Acts of Philip" ever found. Although not included in the Bible, the "Acts of Philip" mentions the apostles and Mariamne, sister of the apostle Philip.

"When Philip is weak, she is strong," Bovon said. "She likely was a great teacher who even inspired her own sect of followers, called Mariamnists, who existed from around the 2nd to the 3rd century."
The Discovery Channel has set up a website here for the special which will air March 4. There are some theological considerations if the mortal remains of Jesus, his wife and a possible son have been found. This would mostly have to do with those who believe Jesus physically ascended to Heaven and those who believe not only is the Bible literally true but means what they traditionally have taught it means. The Catholic Church might be more rocked by this discovery if true than some other churches.

Archaeological discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic very early documents found in Egypt have yet to be integrated into traditional Christian theology. It seems clear to me that the Jesus movement was badly splintered at the end of the first century and that the branch controlled by the family of Jesus lead by his brother James lost out to their bitter rivals lead by Paul who began converting non-Jews. The Catholic Church was the heir to Paul's fraction and suppressed history and documents they considered heretical when they became a state supported religion of the militaristic Roman Empire much later.

Most Christians would not support my interpretation.

UPDATE - A very thoughtful response but I disagree with him about the probability that this is related to Jesus's family based on the Discovery name frequency analysis. While not 600-1 in favor I would say about 100-1 it is. The Discovery Channel does imply that the other recently found ossuary inscribed with “Yaakov bar Yosef a khui d’ Yeshua,” or “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” in Aramaic, belongs in the missing space in the tomb, not that it is present. Expanded news.


Anonymous said...

be sure to check out the official movie site at

Anonymous said...

As unlikely as it may seem, is it not possible that the names mentioned could have belonged to other people that lived around the same time, or that they were planted to try and expose Jesus as a fake?

Gary said...

The names are common, but to have all the names associated with Jesus would be improbable. The crypt that appeared to be removed was examined for fakery in the inscription and part but not all was found to be added later. Altman, an expert on scripts and an historian of writing systems, wrote that the limestone burial box was "genuine," but the second half of the inscription, with its reference to Jesus, "bears the hallmarks of a fraudulent later addition, probably around the 3rd or 4th centuries, and is questionable to say the least."

Gary said...

One of the most important parts of the Jesus followers stories occurs right when the New Testament ends. Israel revolts against the Romans. God's chosen people and the followers of the Son of God believed God wanted them to through out the arrogant pagan infidels. If God was for them how could they not win? After being initially sucessful Israel was razed by several Roman legions and all the Temple treasures sent to Rome to celebrate the great victory. Nearly all of the Christians in Israel were killed and only outlying churches survived.

Paul's Christians HQ'ed in Rome had a network of churches scattered in the Empire and feuded with the other branches. Centuries later, after becoming the official state religion of the Empire, it razed the other churches and destroyed their writings.