Scholars and Clergy Slam ‘Lost Tomb of Jesus’

February 26, 2007 § 7 Comments

Houston Chronicle | World News | February 26, 2007
By Marshall Thompson
Journalist, Associated Press (AP)

JERUSALEM — Archaeologists and clergymen in the Holy Land derided claims in a new documentary produced by James Cameron that contradict major Christian tenets, but the Oscar-winning director said the evidence was based on sound statistics.

“The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which the Discovery Channel will run on March 4, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries — small caskets used to store bones — discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued by the Discovery Channel.

One of the caskets even bears the title, “Judah, son of Jesus,” hinting that Jesus may have had a son, according to the documentary. And the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven.

Cameron told NBC’S “Today” show that statisticians found “in the range of a couple of million to one in favor of it being them.” Simcha Jacobovici, the Toronto filmmaker who directed the documentary, said the implications “are huge.”

“But they’re not necessarily the implications people think they are. For example, some believers are going to say, well this challenges the resurrection. I don’t know why, if Jesus rose from one tomb, he couldn’t have risen from the other tomb,” Jacobovici told “Today.”

Most Christians believe Jesus’ body spent three days at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City. The burial site identified in Cameron’s documentary is in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood nowhere near the church.

In 1996, when the British Broadcasting Corp. aired a short documentary on the same subject, archaeologists challenged the claims. Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.

“They just want to get money for it,” Kloner said.

Cameron said his critics should withhold comment until they see his film.

“I’m not a theologist. I’m not an archaeologist. I’m a documentary film maker,” he said.

The film’s claims, however, have raised the ire of Christian leaders in the Holy Land.

“The historical, religious and archaeological evidence show that the place where Christ was buried is the Church of the Resurrection,” said Attallah Hana, a Greek Orthodox clergyman in Jerusalem. The documentary, he said, “contradicts the religious principles and the historic and spiritual principles that we hold tightly to.”

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film’s hypothesis holds little weight.

“I don’t think that Christians are going to buy into this,” Pfann said. “But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear.”

“How possible is it?” Pfann said. “On a scale of one through 10 — 10 being completely possible — it’s probably a one, maybe a one and a half.”

Pfann is even unsure that the name “Jesus” on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it’s more likely the name “Hanun.” Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.

Kloner also said the filmmakers’ assertions are false.

“It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave,” Kloner said. “The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time.”

Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker’s claim that the James Ossuary — the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel — might have originated from the same cave. In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box.

“I don’t think the James Ossuary came from the same cave,” said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University. “If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus.”

None of the experts interviewed by The Associated Press had seen the whole documentary.

§ 7 Responses to Scholars and Clergy Slam ‘Lost Tomb of Jesus’

  • Phillip says:

    Jesus is a fantasy character who never existed. Irrefutable proof at:

  • David says:

    Let’s wait until more facts, analysis, and impartial investigation is made before we jump to conclusions. For James Cameron to make a documentary for money on this sacred subject, strikes me in a negative way. This may be a story in the same genre of “The DeVince Code,” that is, the story includes elements of imaginative conjecture passed off as fact, primarily for the sake of big profits.

  • Tim Nelson says:

    I find it hillaroius that there are so many people in this world willing to comment on things that they literally know nothing about. Ignorance is basing your whole life on one book , blindly believing literally everthing in it ,even though history has shown [And you can really look this up I swear] the contents have been modified many times over. Get real, the bible was written during a time of extreme ignorance. They didn’t even have schools back then. It has been rewritten, Edited and retranslated by Popes, Kings, Governments, and Churches alike. If there really is a God and Jesus really was his son, noone who walks this earth today could possibly know the real story. Now if there is not sufficient scientific evidence to prove the validity of Cameron’s assertions in his documentary, the skeptical thinking mind will look for answers elsewhere. But make no mistake the skeptical mind will ,in the interest of examining all the facts, watch and analyze this documentary. If more people were inclined to get all of the facts before opening their ignorant mouths this would be a much more peaceful world. Is it so hard to admit that you just don’t know? Do you really need someone to tell you what is right and wrong? Maybe you just like being part of a group? If there is a God he gave you free will so you could think for yourself not so you would have to pay a preacher to do it for you. Use your mind and check out the facts and don’t be so quick to judge without seeing. Otherwise, you sound like a complete moron ready to burn the witch.

  • Amad says:

    Is there anything in Islamic texts that states that Prophet Jesus married? Or for that matter had a child? As far as I know, there is no mention of this, but no denial either. And being that he was a man (per Islamic beliefs), then it should not be an affront to our beliefs if he did indeed have a wife or child or both. Wallahualam.

    Muslims deny of course that Jesus died (as per all mainstream sects of both Sunni and Shia Islam). So, that would be one part we would consider in opposition to our established tradition.

  • Hakim says:


    With all due respect, the site you are recommending from the outset exposes itself as a propoganda and outrageous. The site’s first claim is that,

    “The three Faiths of Abraham are purposeful deceptions used to hide the activites and true nature of the Vatican and the aristocrats, plutocrats, politians, and world leaders that conspire with it, precisely as they have done for centuries”

    Therefore, both Judaism and Islam are essentially charades masking the imperical controls of the Vatican and ultimately the Pope. Is that your claim?

    Sir, if this is in fact not a joke, you are seriously deluded giving far too much credit to those whom you feel contempt toward.

  • Ummyl Aisar says:

    I have watched the entire film and found it interesting. Anyone who wishes to know the truth should keep their ears, mind and eyes always open. It is true that the Quran states that Jesus (pbuh) did not die on the cross and likewise was not killed by the Jews on the cross, it does not…that I can find say that he NEVER died and it does not say he was risen…body and soul. It is not that specific. Nor was it ever said in The Bible that he never had a family. It simply is not mentioned. It is important in any search for the truth that we do not project. I find the possibility that Jesus (pbuh) did not actually die on the cross very possible…it would not be the first time people had thought someone was dead and later they revived. (that’s just one theory) The truth is…all we can do is theorize about how there came to be a family tomb belonging to the Jesus (pbuh) family complete with bones, assuming we can either prove or even safely assume that this tomb does in fact belong to Jesus the Christ (pbuh) and his family. All in all I thought the film was at the very least, well made, reasonable and captivating as a good documentary should be. The use of the statistician was compelling.

  • M. Landers says:

    Openminded as I was attempting to be in watching his film, Cameron’s own credibility was, in my opinion, rather shot when he proceeded to use Oded Golan’s ‘finds’ as a basis for his statistical-proof theory without once mentioning the evidence and charges levied against him. The accusations are not exactly what anyone could reasonable call obscure — I just can’t see it as anything other than intentionally dishonest to gloss over them.

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