Friday, December 14, 2007

The First Christmas

Christmas--what's it all about? Let's see--tinsel and glitter, shopping malls and Master Card, Santa Claus and his reindeer . . . does it seem a little bit shallow and out of focus?

Christmas is the season of great contrasts in our culture. Materialism and poverty, familial joy and solitary suicide, homes decorated with lights and homelessness--these contrasts to name a few walk hand in hand through the season. One thing I believe is a constant for all classes of people. The need of the up and out and of the down and out is real hope. The irony is that the source of all hope--the One who put on flesh nearly two thousand years ago-- is often forgotten in the ring of cash registers, the honk of car horns, and the sound of unwrapping gifts that cannot satisfy the needs of the heart.
Let's put aside for a moment the dizzying rush of a our present day--when Christmas is so out of focus--and look away from the North Pole and strip away the tinsel and glitter, and look back two thousand years to the time of the first Christmas at a little town near Jerusalem known as Bethlehem.

When was the First Christmas?
When in grade school, a student learns to date their paper. Though the Ten Commandments have been removed from public classrooms and other religious liberties curtailed, every student still writes the date (usually at the top right). It is 2007. Literally, A.D. "In the year of our Lord, Two thousand and seven." Jesus' birth was used by chroniclers as the event that divides history.
Though the intention long ago (a few centuries after Jesus was born) was to divide time, it appears that He was actually born in about 5 B.C. The death of Herod occurred in 4 B.C. and Jesus was born while Herod was living (Matt. 2:1-6). John the Baptist's ministry began during the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar at the age of thirty. This means that John's birth occured in the Spring of 5 B.C. and Jesus' birth followed in the Fall of the same year (perhaps at or near the time of the feast of "booths").
December 25th was originally the date of the Roman pagan feast of Saturnalia when friends gave gifts and slaves enjoyed a day of some freedom. While pagans praised idols and practiced immorality, early Christians chose to celebrate the birth of Christ as a holy festival.

The Place: Bethlehem
Bethlehem was the place of King David's birth. The Gospel of Matthew begins by linking Jesus to David: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). Though Jesus' Father was God Himself, His mother was Mary who was in the line of David--the line of Israel's kings. For this reason, Luke's Gospel records, that because Caesar's census summoned all to the city of their ancestors, Joseph and Mary were to travel to Bethlehem.

Who Attended?

The Shepherds
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). Bethlehem is still a place of shepherds. One thousand years earlier (three thousand years ago), King David as a boy had watched his flock in the same hills surrounding Bethlehem.

The Angels
"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God . . ." (Luke 2:9 & 13a).

The Wise Men
The wise men come from a great distance following the star. Although many suggestions have been made as to astronomical events that might explain this "star," I believe the best understanding is that it was simply supernatural. If you believe that God made all of the stars, this was a simple matter for Him.
The wise men were not there on the first night as is often supposed. Matthew tells us that they came to a "house" (Matt. 1:11). They probably arrived two or three months after Jesus' birth and found Joseph and Mary in a house (the crowds having left after the census). Herod's command to kill all of the infants at Bethlehem "two years old and under" was probably just an attempt to make sure that he slew the child (Matt. 2:16). Some have supposed due to Herod's command that the wise men came as late a year or two after Jesus' birth. However, age was often counted from conception not birth.
There is a tradition that there were three wise men--probably stemming from the three gifts mentioned (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). We do not know how many wise men there were for certain. It must have been a large caravan, for we read that "all Jerusalem" was aware of their presence and inquiry (Matt. 2:3). They had come to "worship" the newly born King.

Who was Born?
Over six hundred years before Jesus was born at Bethlehem, the prophet Micah had written:
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephratah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2, NAS).

The context of Micah's prophecy contrasted the "tower" city of Jerusalem that would be without a king with the tiny town of Bethlehem where the future king would be born. In the shadow of the tower a king would be born. This king would enter time at Bethlehem--but He existed before it!
The One who was born at Bethlehem was the Lord Jesus Christ. The angel said to call Him Jesus because "He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). His name means Savior. His disciples called Him Lord. This was the word used in the Greek Old Testament for the name of God. Thus, when they said, "Jesus is Lord" they were declaring "Jesus is God!" Lord means "owner/ruler." He owns and rules everything.
They called Him Christ, which means "Anointed One/Promised One." The Gospel, as it is given in the Bible is that Christ "died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) was the One who would fulfill the promises of God.
Gospel still means "Good News." The Good News this Christmas has not changed. Those who are willing to turn from their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus this Christmas season will find that the greatest gift ever given was given by God long ago. In Him is hope, meaning, and real life.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Friday, November 9, 2007


Often around Easter questions will arise in the minds of those celebrating the anniversary of Christ's death and resurrection. Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead "on the third day" or "after three days" according to the New Testament? Did He eat the Passover meal or was the Last Supper held before Passover? On what day of the week was the Crucifixion of Jesus? All of these questions, and others as well, are related to the issue at hand.

Statements of the Time Factor
Twenty-one passages in the New Testament deal with the amount of time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospel writers employed four different phrases to express this interval of time:

1) “on the third day” as in Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, and 27:64; Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7, 24:21, and 24:46; Acts 10:40; and 1 Corinthians 15:4.

2) “in three days” (with en or diá) as in Mt. 26:61 and 27: 40; Mk. 14:58 and 15:29; and Jn. 2:19-20.

3) “after three days” (with metá) as in Mt. 27:63; and Mk. 8:31, 9:31, and 10:34.

4) “three days and three nights” as in Mt 12:40.

The formula occurring in the New Testament most frequently indicates clearly that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day ("on the third day" or "in three days" as in numbers 1-2 above). Sixteen of the twenty-one passages contain this formula pointing to the traditional understanding of Jesus' crucifixion occurring on Friday of Passion week. However, due to the phrases "after three days" and "three days and three nights" (listed above, numbers 3-4), some have argued that the crucifixion should be placed earlier in the week.

Matthew, Mark and Meta
Of the twenty-one passages in the New Testament that deal with the time factor between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, four of them use the Greek preposition metá with the accusative which is normally translated "after three days" (see above: 3 under "Statements of the Time Factor"). In Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, there is an interesting entry under metá with the accusative:

metá (with the accusative) . . . Mt 27:63; Mk 8:31; 10:34; Lk 2:46; cf. Mt 26:2; Mk 14:1 (cf. Caesar, Bell. Gall. 4,9,1 post tertiam diem=on the third day).[1]
The equivalent in Latin of the Greek phrase normally translated "after three days" (metá with the accusative) was post tertiam diem. While Mark uses metá with the accusative in 8:31; 9:31; and 10: 34 in reference to the time factor between the crucifixion and the resurrection, the only other place that it is so used is in Matthew 27:63. Since the traditional audience of Mark's Gospel was Roman and the audience in Matthew 27:63 was Pilate, the above reference to the Latin phrase from a time very near that of the New Testament should be seriously considered.

In D'ooge and Eastman's treatment of the Gallic Wars they gave both a note and a grammatical explanation for understanding this prepositional phrase. In the note to the passage, they wrote:
"108 6 [line] Chap. 9. post diem tertium: i.e. the next day but one. The first and last days are usually included in the Roman reckoning (227.g)."
In their note they referred to 227.g in their grammatical section that treated this phenomenon with Latin dates:
227.g The dates intervening between any two points were counted as so many days before the second point. The Romans, however, in reckoning a series, counted both extremes; for example, the eleventh day of April was
counted as the third day before the Ides (that is, the thirteenth), the tenth of April as the fourth day before the Ides.

The example of the eleventh day of April being counted as the third day before the thirteenth harmonizes beautifully with the traditional day of the crucifixion (crucifixion on Friday). The above was not always considered when translating Latin, much less when considering Greek equivalents of Latin thought concerning time.

Though he does not allow that this was the usage in New Testament times, according to A. T. Robertson, the use of metá with the accusative should yield "into the midst" or "among."[2] However, this classic, root idea behind metá helps to make sense out of Matthew 27:62-64. Had the rulers of the Jews understood Jesus to mean “after three days,” then they would have asked for a guard until the fourth day. But the text clearly indicates their request was limited “until the third day.”

Instead of the later Greek idea of metá meaning “after,” the context clearly calls for understanding the earlier idea of “within” behind the use of the proposition. Since the traditional audience of Mark's Gospel was Roman and the audience in Matthew 27:63 was Pilate (a Roman), it seems that the Gospel writers were using metá for a Roman audience whose first language was Latin knowing that they would equate the usage to Latin "post diem tertium."

The Sign of Jonah
The “three days and three nights” statement by Jesus in Matthew twelve is a quotation from the book of Jonah. Some interpret this to mean that Jesus was in the tomb a full seventy-two hours. Not only is this untenable due to the many references that emphasize the truth that Jesus rose on the third day, it is also impossible considering the simple understanding of the prophecy of the preservation of Jesus’ body from decay (cf. Acts 2:27 and John 11:39).

The Jewish Talmud held that “any part of a day is as the whole.”[3] The Old Testament, in parallel or similar Hebrew usage, clearly presents the teaching that "part of a day" is to be looked upon as comprising the whole of that day [cf.. Gen. 40:13, 20; I Sam. 30:12, 13; II Chron. 10:5, 12; Esther 4:16 and 5:1]. Hence the Friday of Passion week began, according to Jewish reckoning, on Thursday at sunset (see Gen. 1:5, the first day began in the evening). So, day one consisted of Thursday night and Friday during the daylight hours. Day two was Friday from sunset until and Saturday at sunset. Day three began as the sun set on the Sabbath.

In Matthew 12, Jesus said “as Jonah was… so will I be….” In Greek the use of the verb “to be” was not required; but in this passage Jesus’ emphasis is clear by its presence in both places. Jesus said, "as Jonah was" using the imperfect form of the verb "to be." For those considering the chronology of Passion week, the focus is generally upon the statement of time. Yet, since the phrase relating the amount of time here differs from the other six mentions of it in Matthew, the actual emphasis here appears to be upon the state of Jonah in the great fish and the state of Jesus in the tomb.

Most Christians learn from an early age that Jonah was preserved in the great fish by a miracle of God; and they understand the language of Jonah’s second chapter as figurative with regard to death. Rare, “urban legend,” type examples of men swallowed by sharks or other large fish are drawn upon from far and wide to prove the possibility of such. While nothing is impossible for God, was Jesus alive in the tomb?

The followers of Islam are quick to pick up on this widespread, Christian approach to the book of Jonah (stressing Jonah's preservation) to argue for the “Swoon Theory.”[4] In a debate between Ahmed Deedat and Josh McDowell in South Africa, Mr. Deedat called out to his followers in the crowd about Jonah's state in the whale and they answered, "Alive!" Then he asked about Jesus' state in the tomb, and they again responded, "Alive!"[5]

Jonah 2 indicates that Jonah cried out the name of the Lord as he lost consciousness in the fish (Jonah 2:7). A greater miracle than preservation is taught by way of the “sign of Jonah.” Resurrection was the debate of Jesus’ time. Even the language of resurrection is used by God in Jonah 3:1-2 (compare the Hebrew command “Cum…”--“Arise” with Jesus’ words when he raised the little girl in Mark 5:41). Ultimately only two people knew the state of Jonah in the belly of the great fish: Jonah and God. Jesus, who is God incarnate, knew the state of Jonah during his ordeal in the fish.

While some might balk at the possibility of Jonah actually having been raised from the dead by God on the shore, his would not have been the first resurrection in the Old Testament. The miracles of resurrection that God wrought in the days of Elijah and Elisha would predate the resurrection of Jonah. While some prefer to consider the text of Jonah presenting a miracle of preservation and merely figurative language referring to a death-like state, the mystery of the state of Jonah in the great fish is merely hinted at in the poetry of Jonah's second chapter. The "sign of Jonah" alluded to in Matthew 12 pointed literally to Jesus' death and resurrection.

According to this reckoning, Jesus arrived at Bethany on Friday before sunset, six days before the Passover (John 12:1), which was Nisan 8, in keeping with the Jewish custom of arriving in the vicinity of Jerusalem six days before the feast.[6] He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Nisan 10 (cf. Exodus 12:3) as many lambs were being set apart for inspection at Jerusalem. The disciples came to Jesus and inquired where they should prepare to celebrate the Passover together on Thursday, Nisan 14, the day when the feast lambs must be slain (see Mt. 26:17; Mk. 14:12; and Lk. 22:7-8). Jesus was crucified on Friday, Nisan 15, the anniversary of their freedom from Egypt, at the time the Law of Moses called for sacrifice and solemn assembly (See Exo. 23:14-15; Lev. 23:5-8; Num. 28:16-25; and Deut. 16:1-8).

Jesus arose on Sunday, Nisan 17, the anniversary of the ark of Noah coming to rest (cf. Gen. 8:4 and Exo. 12:1-2). Peter used the Ark of Noah as a type of Christ (1 Peter 3:20). The Ark kept those eight passengers safe "through" the waters of death. The Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat many centuries before Jesus' resurrection. However, Genesis 8:4 says that it came to rest in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month. The seventh month of Genesis is the first month of Exodus 12.

The Synoptics and John’s Gospel
Jesus ate the Passover not at an earlier time than the Law stipulated, but at the only time the Law allowed. Matthew and Mark recorded the initiative of the disciples to come to Jesus. Their initiative demonstrated that Jesus did not eat the Passover early. Luke's version does not explicitly replace the disciples' initiative with Jesus' initiative; instead, he recorded the names of the two that Jesus sent to make preparations. The Greek construction with "must" that Luke added is noteworthy. This was the day when the feast lambs "must" be slain. Since the Exodus, this day had been the close of Nisan 14. The lambs for the memorial supper were slain just before evening when the fifteenth of Nisan began.

Jesus was crucified, therefore, on Friday morning, Nisan 15. Though the Synoptics give clear testimony to this, John's Gospel has been interpreted by some to indicate that the crucifixion occurred on Nisan 14. John used the term “Passover” several ways to indicate either: 1) the Passover meal, 2) the feast lamb itself, or 3) the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.” This varied usage is the source of the confusion (See John 13:1; 18:28; and 19:14).[7]

Sixteen of the twenty-one statements that mention the time factor between the death and resurrection of Jesus pointed to His resurrection on "the third day" (see above: 1-2 under "Statements of the Time Factor"). Three of the statements (normally translated as "after three days") should be understood in light of the traditional, Roman audience of Mark's Gospel with one like this kind occuring in Matthew's Gospel when a Roman audience is obvious in the context of the passage (see above: 3 under "Statements of the Time Factor"). An accurate translation for these phrases would be "within three days." All four of these passages (listed under 3 above) indicated the same interval of time expressed through the other phrases, namely, on the third day or within three days. The fourth phrase used to express the time factor between the death and resurrection of Jesus (see above: 4 under "Statements of the Time Factor") was cited as a quotation from the book of Jonah and was an idiom understood by the ancient audience in line with the other phrases. Thus, the New Testament is consistent when it comes to the expression of the amount of time that elapsed between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


[1]William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A Translation and Adaptation of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer's "Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neun Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur," 2d ed. revised by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), s.v."meta" [p. 510 B. II].
[2]A[rchibald] T[homas] Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed. (Nashville: Broadman, 1934), 609-12."With the Accusative. At first it seems to present more difficulty. But the accusative-idea added to the root-idea ("midst") with verbs of motion would mean "into the midst" or "among." But this idiom does not appear in the N.T." p. 612.
[3] Nazir 5b.
[4] The “Swoon Theory,” which is popular among modern Muslim apologists, is the theory that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but swooned and awakened in the tomb.
[5] Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist, The Islam Debate (San Bernadino, CA: Here’s Life, 1983), p. 153.
[6] J. B. Segal, The Hebrew Passover: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 70 (London: Oxford, 1963), 256.
[7] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ (Chicago: W. P. Blessing, 1922), 283.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

King Immanuel as the Branch of King David's Hope

Palm branch on Coin of Judea

Above the head of Jesus and fixed to His cross was a sign written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin). His "crime" the text declared: "This is Jesus the Natsarene the King of the Jews"

A Millennium before the Sign

"Now these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, 2 "The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. 3 "The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, 'He who rules over men righteously, Who rules in the fear of God, 4 Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, When the tender grass springs out of the earth, Through sunshine after rain.' 5 "Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, Ordered in all things, and secured; For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow? 6 "But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns, Because they cannot be taken in hand; 7 But the man who touches them Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, And they will be completely burned with fire in their place."
[2 Samuel 23:1-7, NAS]

When King David was on his death bed, he spoke of the focus of his desire for the future. This focus was regarding the eternal kingdom promised to him and as such was messianic.

King David's rhetorical question in verse five concerning the future of his throne ("For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow?") calls for the unreserved affirmative response, "Surely He will." It is the root of the word "cause it to grow" (yatsmiyach from the root tsamach) in Hebrew that lays the foundation for the messianic allusion of the psalmist (132:17) and of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah.

In one of these allusions to this messianic vein of prophecy, Isaiah used the word netser, meaning branch, shoot, sprout to refer to the Messiah (Isaiah 11:1).

Jesus the Nazarene does not signify "Nazarite"—because it is not a "z." The Greek equivalent to "z" leads us at first to think of Hebrew "z" = zayin. While Hebrew has a "z," Greek did not have a "ts" consonant. Hence in Greek they rendered the Hebrew "ts" (tsade) as the Greek "z" (zeta). Hence we read in English, "He shall be called a Nazarene" when it should be understood, "He shall be called Natsarene [i.e. "the Branch"]."

Isaiah 4:2 (The Beautiful Branch)

Isaiah 6:13 (The Branch from the stump of the felled tree of Judah)

Isaiah 11:1 (The Branch from Jesse's household)
(On the community of the Branch see Isa. 60:21 & 61:3)

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (The Righteous Branch)

Jeremiah 33:15-16 (The Righteous Branch)

Ezekiel 29:21 (The horn that will "sprout")
Zechariah 3:8 (My Servant the Branch)

Zechariah 6:12 (The man whose name is "The Branch")

Psalm 132:17 (The horn of David that will "sprout")

Matthew 2:23 (He shall be called a Natsarene)

Acts 24:5 (The sect of the Natsarenes)

Far from being a recent discovery, this apparent relationship between netser and Nazareth was proposed by Eusebius' (260-341 AD) Onomasticon and Jerome's (345-420 AD) Ad Marcellam, Epist. 46:13. From Jerome's Letter XLVI, Paula and Eustochium to Marcella, Paragraph 13: "If only you will come, we shall go to see Nazareth, as its name denotes, the flower of Galilee." So strong was this association, early on the followers of Jesus were called Nazaraioi (Branches, or implying followers of the Branch).

The Branch and Isaiah 53

Of whom does Isaiah speak? He speaks of the Messiah, as many rabbis of the distant past concluded. The second verse of Isaiah 53 makes it clear. The figure grows up as "a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground." The shoot springing up is a reference to the Messiah, and it is a common Messianic reference in Isaiah and elsewhere.

The Davidic dynasty was to be cut down in judgement like a felled tree, but it was promised to Israel that a new sprout would shoot up from the stump (Isaiah 6:13, Isaiah 11). The Messiah was to be that sprout. Several related words in Hebrew were used to refer to this Messianic image.

Isaiah 11, which virtually all rabbis once agreed referred to the Messiah, used the words "shoot" (hoter) and branch (netser) to describe the Messianic King. Isaiah 11:10 called Messiah the "Root (shoresh) of Jesse," Jesse being David's father. Isaiah 53 described the suffering servant as a root (shoresh) from dry ground, using the very same metaphor and the very same word as Isaiah 11. We also see other terms used for the same concept, such as branch (tsemach) in Jeremiah 23:5, in Isaiah 4:2 and also in the prophecies of Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides: "What is the manner of Messiah's advent....there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place' (Zech. 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sprout before him, and as a root out of dry earth, the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will harken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived." (From the Letter to the South (Yemen), quoted in The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, Ktav, 1969, Vol. 2, pp. 374-5).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Temple of Augustus or Temple of the LORD?

Coin of Herod Phillip (The British Museum)

Initially, when I saw the “symbols” of the so-called “chevron and circle” I thought that, as tomb decorations, they might be associated with the Temple of the LORD instead of the association made in the "Lost Tomb of Jesus" film to some mysterious, early Christian symbol.

While I still fully reject the sensational, embarrassing claims of the "Lost Tomb" film for the marking on the tomb facade, I think that an association other than my first impression seems more likely.

After finding the similarity on the coins of Herod Philip II, I made an association that may have been too hasty with the Nicanor gate. There was a frequent association of tombs with temples by way of decorative motifs (see also this motif on an ossuary here).

Considering the names of those in the tomb together with the proximity to Jerusalem, the temple at Jerusalem seemed likely. Yet, the Temple of the LORD was usually depicted with a “flat roof” and not a pitched (gable) roof. There is an example on a fourth-century plate discovered in the Via Labina cemetery in Rome, though late (4th century), of the temple of the LORD with a pitched roof (Sporty, 121). However, the height of the Ulam (portico) is said to have been much higher than the rest of the temple.

The Nicanor gate has been depicted at times having a pitched-roof feature (either above the doorway or over the columns depicted on the facade). I suggested in the last entry that, since these were Jews that this was more likely. The coin of Herod Philip II, I thought, must have been depicting the temple at Jerusalem and not the temple of Augustus as it has normally been treated.

Upon further reflection and additional research, I believe that another possibility should be considered:

The Temple of Augustus. The coin of Herod Philip II (see examples of coins catalogued as Hendin 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 538, 539, etc.) struck at Caesarea Philippi shown above and in the last entry of this blog is almost universally associated with the Temple of Augustus in his territory by numismatists (Meshorer, 76-77; Roller, 191). See Hendin 530 where the shield feature is enlarged (here). It is thought that the temple appeared in this way at Sebaste as a tetrastyle (four columned) temple (though possibly enlarged at some point to be peristyle--six columned across the front and surrounded by columns as was the one at Caesarea Maritima). Such a tetrastyle temple of Augustus (with shield motif nicely matching the “circle”) may be seen at Pula, Croatia:

Note the raised, circular shield under the pitched roof just as depicted on the coin of Herod Phillip II and nicely matching the feature of the so-called "Lost-Tomb." See other photos of the Pula temple here and here.

While the Temple of the LORD at Jerusalem was also tetrastyle (possibly by relief on the Ulam--Portico) in depiction (such as the below example from the time of Shimon Bar Kochba) there is no evidence for the same "shield" design under a pitched (gable) roof.

Another example of a temple to Augustus with the same features (though eight-columned) once stood at Ankara and and artist's representation may be seen here.

Summary of Considerations: The occurrence of this “symbol” or architectural feature raises many questions for the so-called “lost tomb.” Who are those buried within? Why would Jews want to be associated with the temple of Augustus? Were they Herodian Jews? Were they Roman citizens who wished to be associated with the emperor? Or were they representing on their tomb facade some other feature of architecture, possibly a motif repeated by Herod, from a similar building facade? Is this a primary feature of the tomb or a secondary feature?

Did Herod repeat this “shield design” above the doorway of the Temple of the LORD on the facade? or above the Nicanor gate? or above the entrance to the Royal Stoa (also tetrastyle)? There is no hard evidence for it in such places. However, there is concrete evidence for the design on the temple of Augustus.

It appears that some of those buried within this tomb were identifying themselves with the dynasty of Herod or with the temple of Augustus.

Early Christians would not declare “Caesar is Lord.” To the contrary they declared “Jesus is Lord” in the face of martyrdom. Symbolism related to the cult of Caesar over a tomb doorway seems entirely unfitting for early Christians. It appears to be the "Lost Tomb" of some devotees to Caesar.

Selected Bibliography:

Mazar, Eilat. The Complete Guide to the Temple Mount Excavations. Jerusalem: Old City Press, 2002.

Meshorer, Ya’akov. Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period. Translated from the Hebrew by I. H. Levine. Tel-Aviv: Am Hassefer and Massada, 1967.

Overman, J. Andre, Jack Olive and Michael Nelson. “Discovering Herod’s Temple to Augustus: Mystery Temple Found at Omrit.” Biblical Archaeological Review, March/April (2003) 40-49.

Roller, Duane W. The Building Program of Herod the Great. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Sporty, Lawrence D. “Identifying the Curving Line on the Bar-Kochba Temple Coin. The Biblical Archaeologist 46, 2: 121-123.

Monday, March 5, 2007

So-called "Lost Tomb of Jesus": Mysterious Chevron and Circle?

Coin of Herod Phillip, 4 BC-AD 34

Nicanor gate facade
with the Temple in the background

Coin of Herod Phillip (The British Museum)

In a previous post I mentioned the possibility that the symbols that are being used in such a sensational way on the official "Jesus Tomb" website ( --just as they were used in the "documentary" -- might not be early Christian symbols at all.

On the coins above (Herod Phillip) a "chevron and circle" pattern is clearly visible as a depiction of the facade of the Nicanor gate of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The Nicanor gate marked the end of a pilgrimage. The last fifteen steps are still marked by the "Psalms of Ascent," or better, "the Psalms of the ascending ones." The entrance to the tomb also marked the end of a pilgrimage.

Such an architectural feature points to temple worship; and this means that those buried in the tomb on last night's "documentary" were more likely observant Jews. Though it is not impossible that they were Jewish Christians (who met for a while in "Solomon's porch"), given the numbers of Jews to Christians over the amount of time ossuaries were in use... I don't think it would take a statistician to figure out that the odds are much better that this is simply a Jewish tomb.

But the Pontormo Code? or the All-seeing eye? or the Knight's Templar? This is where conspiracy theory meets archaeology in my opinion. If they can't, I blush for them.

Perhaps this was a priestly family (see comments this entry). Or perhaps this was a family related to the restoration of temple worship (see earlier article on "The Talpiot Tombs..." below for Hasmonian/Maccabean possibilities for the names on these ossuaries). Or, perhaps this was just a very observant family that loved to worship at the temple. Certainly the verse comes to mind from David's Psalm 23, "...and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Jesus Tomb Exposed: Excellent collection of links
Faithmaps: Another good collection of links Another good collection of links
Targuman: "The Chevron and Circle on "Jesus'" Tomb
Dr. Craig A. Evans: "The Tomb of Jesus and Family? Second Thoughts"
Rod Bennett: Progress on the Lost Tomb

In the so-called “Family Tomb of Jesus”: Mariamne or Mariamenon?

They have the wrong name. As I noted below in my first article that dealt with the history of sensational claims from Talpiot, “The Talpiot Tombs: Again, and Again and Again,”—early on R. Bauckham caught the fact that the name inscribed on the ossuary read by Simcha Jacobovici, Dr. James Tabor, et al. “Mariamne” should be read “Mariamenon.” The inscription reads: “Mariamenou e Mara.” The genitive of Mariamne would be Mariamnes (final letters eta, sigma). Hence Mariamenou comes from Mariamenon.

Repost from below "The Talpiot Tombs...":
“Belonging to Mariamenon who is Mara” [Genitive of Mariamenon with a second name “Mara” (a short form of Martha)]. This has been suggested by R. Bauckham [ (See Wednesday February 28, 2007)]. The Discovery Channel film proposes to read Mara as the Aramaic word ‘the master’ (as in Maranatha). Bauckham later wrote: "But, since we know that Mara was used as an abbreviated form of Martha, in this context of names on an ossuary it is much more plausible to read it as a name. This woman had two names: Mariamenon and Mara. It could be that the latter in this case was used as an abbreviation of Mariamenou, or it could be that the woman was known by Mariamenon, treated as a Greek name, and the Aramaic name Mara, conforming to the common practice of being known by two names, Greek and Semitic" [].

Note that R. Baukham’s early notice that they had the wrong name did not phase the defenders of the "documentary" last night. Both Jacobovici and Taber misrepresented the name either due to poor scholarship or… well I think the rest would be transparent enough. It is a little hard to believe that they would not know this after months... years in some cases of studying these inscriptions. See also:

The Mariamne connection to Mary Magdalene was already one of those great big “ifs” alluded to by Bock on the Koppel program that followed. Since it is Mariamenon… as this is weighed by scholarship today, let’s just say that “if” has really grown.

“Family Tomb of Jesus”--or Simcha's Cash Cow?

[This is one of four articles on the so-called "Lost Tomb of Jesus" on this blog. Please see blog archive on the right side of this page].

The resurrected Jesus said to His disciples:

"Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Lk. 24:39).

Does it matter whether or not Jesus of Nazareth’s bones were placed in an ossuary. The answer to that is a resounding yes! The Apostle Paul wrote: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

Could Jesus have risen from the dead and simply "left His body behind" before he ascended as Dr. James Tabor suggested to Ted Koppel last night? That would make a mockery of the Apostle Peter’s sermon which hinged on the difference between David’s bones resting in his tomb and the fulfillment of the prophecy that David made about Christ; namely, that the flesh of the Holy One of God would not “see corruption” (Acts 2:27-31).

If there is any value to the future study of this tomb, it is hard to see past the heresy for the blasphemy. The Apostle Paul prophesied a "falling away" before the end time. These are interesting times in which we live.

What about the mysterious “chevron and circle”? Often on tomb facades there were decorative connections related to the temple. What did the temple facade look like before the renovations of King Herod? What did it look like afterward? Never mind that… on the official site we are fed theories related to the “all-seeing eye.”

Did we see a film on the “Lost Tomb of Jesus”--or Simcha Jacobovici’s cash cow?

Count the many agendas name them one by one--
Count the many agendas see what Simcha & Co. have done.

1) Direct a dramatized hypothesis in coordination with his book’s release $.
2) Promote his dramatized hypothesis just before Easter $.
3) Conclude a dramatized hypothesis leaving room for Talpiot Tomb II $.
4) Use these ossuaries to help the case for his other book on the James ossuary $.
5) Use scholars for analysis of inscriptions while editing out their opinions.
6) Order the inscriptions so that those most acceptable to Christians appear in the “documentary” first—while the radical suggestions are left as a sneak attack.
7) Present a not-so-subtle feminist agenda in depicting Mary Magdalene.
8) There was no mention of the fact that 35 persons were buried in this tomb: “17 in the ossuaries (based on an average of 1.7 individuals per ossuary), and 18 outside the ossuaries” [See Amos Kloner, “ A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” ‘Atiquot (Jerusalem), vol. 29 (1996), 15, fn. 2]. With an average of almost two persons per ossuary, exactly how were they certain that they had the DNA of the person mentioned in the inscription? This is just one of many gaps in logic in this “documentary.”

As I point out in the article below [“The Talpiot Tombs: Again and Again and Again!”] the difference in the quality of the inscription on the “Yeshua bar Yehosef” ossuary was given little attention.

According to Amos Kloner’s report, the tomb was vandalized in antiquity and the blocking stone, known as a golal, was never found for this tomb. It was supposed to have been removed in antiquity. Or was it removed in more modern times? Though the original maps of the Talpiot tomb shows that the soil level was almost a foot above the buried ossuaries, the inscription on the “Yeshua bar Yosef” ossuary was scratched in a messy fashion near the lid. Only one or two of the first four letters are fairly legible.

In an article for MSNBC [“Have Researchers Found Jesus Christ’s Tomb?” March 5, 2007 issue], Lisa Miller and Joanna Chen related the Concern of John Dominic Crossan, “leader of the liberal Jesus Seminar and author of “Excavating Jesus.” According to Crossan, “the biggest questions relate to the early break-in: who vandalized the cave, when, what did they do there and why?”

Many Palestinian Arabs and also Israelis have been known to enter tombs to find and sell antiquities. An ossuary inscription from Talpiot was the focus of Islamic claims against the resurrection of Jesus in 1945. The inscription “Yeshua bar Yosef” is the most interesting that has been found in the tomb for many reasons. Several ossuaries have been found bearing this same inscription. Of all of the inscriptions it is the one done poorly—scratched—with apparent lack of light or visibility. The others appear possibly to have been done outside the tomb in antiquity and are more deeply etched. “Jesus, son of Joseph” looks suspiciously like it was accomplished inside the tomb itself. If so, when was it inscribed?

Even if all of the inscriptions are genuine, these were very common names. As I point out below, several of these names were Maccabean and very popular in this period. As for Mariamenon e Mara, I offer a few suggestions below that the "documentary" did not explore. How many possibilities did it explore? Oh, yes... one.

Can anyone call this “documentary” what it is—callous, prideful, sensational, unscholarly opportunism! As I described below, there were sensational claims for an ossuary in 1931 with the same inscription (Yeshua bar Yosef) and again in 1945 (two ossuaries with the name “Jesus” appeared—from a Talpiot tomb). Yet in those days there was no Hollywood producer biting—and no Emmy-award-winning directors who had read Dan Brown’s book.

R. Kirk Kilpatrick
Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

Jesus Tomb Exposed: Excellent collection of links
Faithmaps: Another good collection of links
Targuman: "The Chevron and Circle on "Jesus'" Tomb
Dr. Craig A. Evans: "The Tomb of Jesus and Family? Second Thoughts"
Rod Bennett: Progress on the Lost Tomb

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Talpiot Tombs: Again and Again and Again!

Photo courtesy IAA

Has “Jesus’ family tomb” been identified in 2007? Does the inscription in the photo above read "Yeshua bar Yosef" or "Hanun bar Yosef"?

Due to a messy, debated, scratched inscription near the lid of an ancient ossuary, James Cameron has recently claimed to have found the “Lost tomb of Jesus” at a place called Talpiot, a neighborhood in the southeastern environs of Jerusalem.

He claims that his discovery will change history.

“The Talpiot district of Jerusalem, where the so-called Caiaphas crypt was discovered, has yielded up many tombs and ossuaries (Fishwick 1963; Kloner 1996)” [Evans, 112].

These fantastic assertions about inscriptions on ossuaries (stone boxes for the secondary burial of bones) are being made in an upcoming documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” by James Cameron (A Canadian of Hollywood fame… Oscar winning film director of “Titanic,” “Terminator,” etc. who is producing the documentary) and Simcha Jacobovici (A Canadian Orthodox Jew who is an Emmy award winning director).

Also lending expert opinion to bolster their claims are Dr. James Tabor (Chairman of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who has just written The Jesus Dynasty that in some respects is a bit more scholarly version of the “Da Vinci Code”), Dr. Andrey Feuerverger (a professor of statistics and mathematics at the University of Toronto), and a few others.

In 1963, in an article by was entitled “Talpioth again and again,” Duncan Fishwick returned to examine some of the claims for ossuaries that have come from the Talpiot area outside of Jerusalem. This entry is simply the next installment. There has been a regular pattern of claims, from this area of ancient burial, that have stirred up media interest and have momentarily shaken the faith of some. These claims generally have come as attacks upon the deity of Jesus and the resurrection.

Since the nineteenth century more than a thousand ossuaries have been found in the vicinity of Jerusalem—many with “biblical names.”

In 1873 Charles Clermont-Ganneau made sensationalist claims about several ossuaries upon finding a “funerary cave” near Bethany. The Hebrew inscriptions on these ossuaries included the names: “Salome, Judah, Simeon son of Jesus, Martha, Eleazar (Lazarus), and Salampsion.” The Greek inscriptions “provided the names Jesus, Nathaniel, Hedea, Kythras, Moschas, and Marias.” The name Jesus appeared “three times in all” [Kraeling, 18].

In 1931 there was a flurry of activity among reporters distributing the story that “the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth had been found” due to the misunderstanding of a presentation by Professor E. L. Sukenik to the German Archaeological Society with regard to an ossuary that had the inscription: “Jesus, son of Joseph” [Kraeling, 18].

In 1946, Carl H. Kraeling reflected “Under a date of October 3, 1945 many American newspapers carried brief accounts of an archaeological discovery made at Jerusalem.” This time the discovery was at Talpiot. Kraeling continued, “Between them the accounts provide an interesting example of what happens to a simple record of fact when handled by sensation-hunting newspaper reporters.” The papers carrying sensationalist headlines included the New York Times, New York Daily, and the London Daily Herald, where it was written:

“…what is believed an eyewitness account of the death of Christ has been discovered by Arabs digging in the foundations of a house outside of Jerusalem. Described by the chief archaeologist of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a “most important discovery,” the Greek writings were believed the work of a family of Jewish disciples who stood among the multitudes on Calvary. A bitter and moving lamentation, the account was probably written within a few weeks of the crucifixion. It was incased in four stone coffins in a vault within the house, which is on the road to Bethlehem” [Kraeling, 16].

In the next issue of Biblical Archaeologist, G. E. Wright wrote: “The last number of the B.A. contained the interesting article by Professor Carl Kraeling on the urns reported last October as being the earliest witness to the death of Jesus Christ. It adequately debunked the whole thing, and showed that what we have here is merely another discovery of some Jewish ossuaries.” He also wrote that a “certain Mohammedan paper in Palestine… will have to look for other grounds on which to challenge the belief in the resurrection of Jesus” [Wright, 43].

The Official Guide to Israel in 1950, said, “About seven hundred metres behind Talpiot a tomb was excavated in 1945 and several ossuaries containing human bodies were found. Inscriptions and coins proved that the burial in the tomb took place in the years 41-42. Two ossuaries were found marked with the word “Jesus,” and some others have so far been undeciphered. It has therefore been assumed that followers of Jesus had been buried in this tomb. If this assumption proves correct, this tomb would show the earliest historical evidence known about the followers of Jesus” [Official Guide to Israel, Tel Aviv: 1950, 247].

According to Richard Bauckham (as quoted by Ben Witherington):
“We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women, excluding fictional characters). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph (including Yose, the abbreviated form) was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew (in several forms) was borne by 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme) [ (for Thursday March 1, 2007)].

The inscriptions on the ossuaries in question (5 Aramaic, 1 Greek):

1) Maryah or Maria [form of Miriam, spelled here Mem, Resh, Yod, Heh].

2) Matia [form of Matthew, spelled here Mem, Tav, Yod, Heh].
About 35% of Jewish males during this period had “Hasmonian” [Maccabean] names. These include: Matthew, John/Jonathan, Simon, Judah/Judas, Eleazar, and Joseph.

3) Yose [A contraction of Yosef (Joseph), spelled here Yod, Vav, Samech, Heh].

4) Yehuda bar Yeshua [Judah son of Yeshua/Joshua/Jesus (Gk.)].
The third most common name for a Jewish male during this period was Yehuda (Judah/Judas). Of 1986 names surveyed for this period, 128 times Yehuda [T. Ilan].

5) Yeshua (?) bar Yosef [Joshua (Hebrew) son of Joseph (Yeshua in Hebrew which in Greek is Iesous or the English rendering "Jesus"--See Acts 7:45].
Frank Moore Cross reads Yeshua bar Yosef. Amos Kloner and Stephen Pfann question this reading and suggest that it may read Hanun bar Yosef. In T. Ilan’s lexicon, the name “Jesus” was noted for 104 individuals during this period. Given that the greater environs of Jerusalem probably exceeded 100,000 in population, there were probably as many as 5,000 or more men with this name in the vicinity of Jerusalem. **Twenty-two ossuaries have been found bearing the inscription “Jesus” in some form—and four of them with the inscription Jesus son of Joseph.

6) Mariamne (?) e Mara or Mariamenou e mara [Beautifully carved in Greek].
According to the documentary this reads “Mary known as the master”—however, this could mean several things, including (but not limited to):

>“Belonging to Mariamenon who is Mara” [Genitive of Mariamenon with a second name “Mara” (a short form of Martha)]. This has been suggested by R. Bauckham [ (See Wednesday February 28, 2007)]. The Discovery Channel film proposes to read Mara as the Aramaic word ‘the master’ (as in Maranatha). Bauckham later wrote: "But, since we know that Mara was used as an abbreviated form of Martha, in this context of names on an ossuary it is much more plausible to read it as a name. This woman had two names: Mariamenon and Mara. It could be that the latter in this case was used as an abbreviation of Mariamenou, or it could be that the woman was known by Mariamenon, treated as a Greek name, and the Aramaic name Mara, conforming to the common practice of being known by two names, Greek and Semitic" [].

>“Bel. to Mariamenon the beautiful”

>“Bel. to Mariamenon the bitter”(?), unlikely but possible.

> "Bel. to Mariamenon [and?] Mara (short form of Martha) [2 person's bones in ossuary].

>“Belonging to Maraimenon the queen(?)” this would be a rare variant of the Aramaic word rendered in the documentary as “Master”--and as such it is unlikely. But this would follow an old semitic formula (Preposition, name, definite article, title), hence: LeMariamenon haMalqah (Belonging to Mariamenon the queen). Marana can mean “Govenor" or ruler and it is an interesting possibility that this could mean “Queen” due to the title of Herod the Great’s wife and the tower named after her, the Mariamne Tower a.k.a. “e Basilis”—“the queen.” Mariamne the queen had relatives whose names included Joseph, Matthew, Judah, etc. The Jewish historian Josephus was related to the Hasmonian dynasty and had the names Matthew (Matthew Ephlias, Matthew Curtis, and two other Matthews including his own father), Joseph (three ancestors so named), and Mariamne in his own family. It is interesting what can be done with these common names...

Variants of this name “Mariamne” have been found on over twenty ossuaries.

In 1974 a text called the “Acts of Phillip” was discovered by Francois Bovon and Bertrand Bouvier in the library of Xenophrontos Monastery in Greece. The copy that they found was made in the fourteenth century, but it is claimed that the text goes back to the fourth century in Asia Minor. In the Acts of Phillip (a fourth century AD heterodox, non-canonical work), Phillip’s sister is called Mariamne and is considered by Bovon to be Mary Magdalene. In this text there are mythical elements including talking animals, Mariamne slaying a dragon, and at one point under threat she turned into a cloud of fire.

There were ten ossuaries in the tomb. Why did they just take DNA from the one marked Yeshua bar Yosef and the one marked Mariamnou e mara? How many skeletons were in these two ossuaries? Amos Kloner’s report clearly indicated multiple burials in most of these ossuaries. Does it seem like there is an agenda here?

The use of the James ossuary in the documentary is to strengthen the case for the tomb. This ossuary, however, has been declared a fake by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The inscription: Yaacov bar yosef achdi Yeshua (James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus) is quite sensational. But is it real? Though the Israel Antiquity Authority’s ruling is in (forgery), the jury is still out in the collector’s trial that is on-going in Jerusalem.

Cameron and Jacobovici suggest that, based on tests that were developed just for this documentary, the patina of the James ossuary matches the patina of the Talpiot tomb’s ossuaries. They also claim that it is the exact same measure as one of the Talpiot tomb’s ossuaries that they claim “went missing.” Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who oversaw the original work in the tomb disputes their assertion that any of the ossuaries were ever missing. He also says that the James ossuary is the wrong size to have been one of this group.

In a note recently sent by Joe Zias who also was one of the archaeologists who worked at the site in 1980, Zias wrote:
Re: Jesus Tomb Sent: Thursday, March 1, 2007 6:02 AM
"Amos Kloner is right as I received and catalogued the objects, the 10th was plain and I put it out in the courtyard with all the rest of the plain ossuaries as was the standard procedure when one has little storage space available. Nothing was stolen nor missing and they were fully aware of this fact, just didn't fit in with their agenda. ShalomJoe” [See:].

Zias later wrote:
Re: Jesus Tomb Sent: Thursday, March 1, 2007 4:31 PM "There was no photo of the 10th ossuary as there was no reason to photograph it, plain white ossuaries, basically once you have seen one you have seen them all. time is money and it would be a waste of time to waste resources on something which was put out in the courtyard. Remember these are large, and heavy not to forget that Kloner has the measurements. They know this from me personally. The conspiracy idea fits in well with their agenda of hyping the film as well as his/their book."Joe [See:].

Numbers fly in this documentary from 1 in 97,280,000 to 1 in 2,400,000 to 1 in 30,000 that this isn’t Jesus’ tomb. The statistician eventually settles on 600 to 1 that this is Jesus’ tomb. Is that a fact, or is there a factor (or two) not being included in the mix?

In an article for MSNBC [Have Researchers Found Jesus Christ’s Tomb? March 5, 2007 issue], Lisa Miller and Joanna Chen related the Concern of John Dominic Crossan, “leader of the liberal Jesus Seminar and author of “Excavating Jesus.” According to Crossan, “the biggest questions relate to the early break-in: who vandalized the cave, when, what did they do there and why?”

One very important factor was added to the equation by David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post. In his article “Raiders of the Lost Tomb” that appeared 2-27-2007 as part of the Post’s Online edition, he mentioned that one man “called out from a top-floor window” of one of the apartments near the tomb, “We should be charging you an entrance fee.”

The reporter then noted that this same man “recalled that the tomb had been kept open for a long time after its initial discovery, and that it had been re-opened twice in the past year or so.”

According to Kloner’s own notes, “The discovery, made prior to construction activity, was reported by K. Mandil and A. Shohat of the Solel Boneh Construction Company. The site was initially examined by E. Braun. Salvage excavations were conducted from March 28-April 14, 1980 (Permit 938)” [Kloner, “A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries,” Note 1, p. 22].

According to Amos Kloner’s report, the tomb was vandalized in antiquity and the blocking stone, known as a golal, was never found for this tomb. It was supposed to have been removed in antiquity. Or was it removed in more modern times? Though the original maps of the Talpiyot tomb shows that the soil level was almost a foot above the buried ossuaries, the inscription on the “Yeshua bar Yosef” ossuary was scratched in a messy fashion near the lid. Only one or two of the first four letters are fairly legible.

The inscription “Jesus, son of Joseph,” while foreign to an ascription that would be made by a follower of Jesus, is, nevertheless, more welcome in other theological circles. Atheistic, Liberal Christian, Jewish and Muslim thought is much more welcoming of such an association when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth. Many Palestinian Arabs have been known to enter tombs to find and sell antiquities. An ossuary inscription from Talpiot was the focus of Islamic claims against the resurrection of Jesus in 1945. The inscription “Yeshua bar Yosef” is the most interesting that has been found in the tomb for many reasons.

Of all of the inscriptions it is the one done poorly—scratched—with apparent lack of light or visibility. The others appear possibly to have been done outside the tomb in antiquity and are more deeply etched. “Jesus, son of Joseph” looks suspiciously like it was accomplished inside the tomb itself. If so, when was it inscribed?

Archaeologists and Scholars who have already spoken out against the claims of Cameron, Jacobovici, et al. include: Amos Kloner, William Dever, Joe Zias, Michele Piccirillo and the list is growing.

William Dever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona and an expert on Near Eastern Archaeology said, “The fact that it has been ignored tells you something.”

Professor Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who was in charge of clearing the Talpiot tomb in 1980, was interviewed on 2-27-07 by David Horovitz (questions below in bold) of the Jerusalem Post:

Horovitz: What do you make of the assertion that Jesus and his family were buried there?
Kloner: It makes a great story for a TV film. But it's completely impossible. It's nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle class family from the 1st century CE.

Horovitz: But there is apparently such a confluence of resonant names.
Kloner: The name "Jesus son of Joseph" has been found on three or four ossuaries. These are common names. There were huge headlines in the 1940s surrounding another Jesus ossuary, cited as the first evidence of Christianity. There was another Jesus tomb. Months later it was dismissed. Give me scientific evidence, and I'll grapple with it. But this is manufactured.

Horovitz: What of the assertion that the 10th ossuary disappeared from your care and may be none other than the "James" ossuary?
Kloner: Nothing has disappeared. The 10th ossuary was on my list. The measurements were not the same (as the James ossuary). It was plain (without an inscription). We had no room under our roofs for all the ossuaries, so unmarked ones were sometimes kept in the courtyard (of the Rockefeller Museum).

Some questions that have been raised for consideration are:
>Why are they making these claims just before Easter?
>Why don’t Cameron and Jacobvici cite scholars who disagree with their claims?
>Why are they using the James ossuary, labeled a forgery, as evidence for their claims?
>Why would Jesus’ family members bury Jesus’ bones in a family tomb and then claim that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead?
>Why didn’t Jesus’ enemies expose this tomb?
>Why would Jesus’ disciples endure torture, imprisonment, and die for a lie?
>Who is Matia?
>How many gaps in logic can be found related to the documentary’s use of “DNA evidence”?
>Are statistics completely reliable?
>Have the statisticians accurately factored in the popularity of the names inscribed?
>What about the tradition that says that Mary was with John at Ephesus and was buried there? >What about the Catholic tradition that places her burial beneath the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem?
>What about the record of Eusebius that the body of James was buried alone near the Temple mount?
>Jesus family was poor and from Nazareth… why would they have an expensive family tomb outside of Jerusalem?

Some matters the Scriptures make clear:
>Jesus never married and He certainly never had a child.
>Jesus was not called “son of Joseph” by his followers.
>Jesus’ body did not decompose—He was raised bodily.
(See the end of all four Gospels and Peter’s sermon in Acts 2).

Robert Knight, who is the director of the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute, said: “The Discovery Channel bills itself as the ‘number one non-fiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion people in over 170 countries.’ But this bigoted documentary is pure fiction. Numerous leading scholars, including the Israeli archaeologist who first studied the site, have already rejected the notion that Jesus of Nazareth’s bones were found in the Talpiot tomb.” L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center said, “In terms of credibility, the Discovery Channel will have dug its own grave if it doesn’t pull this documentary.”

The filmmakers have also located another tomb only 20-25 yards away from this tomb and after inserting cameras found that it contained three more ossuaries. Sounds like Lost Tomb II will be coming to a cable channel near you soon.

Isaiah the prophet (Yeshayahu haNabi) once wrote: “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”

Those who rejected the prophet’s report will be more likely to receive the report of this Hollywood producer (et al.) whose recent claims should be seen as nothing less than a prideful, vicious, irresponsible attack upon Christians everywhere.

Michele Piccirillo, with the Franciscan Archeological Institute, said: "Before, archeology was used to do politics. Now archeology is just to do money…. There are some people interested in destroying the faith of others and that's not good”].

When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, the issue still comes down to faith. Those who think the DNA in this tomb belongs to Jesus have faith grounded upon the opinions of a Hollywood sensationalist, a Canadian journalist, and a couple of maverick scholars who say that some etchings upon an ancient bone box—not even unique in its debatable inscription—disprove the bodily resurrection of Christ. Those who have faith that the Bible points to Jesus as the resurrected Son of God have faith grounded upon the Word of God.

James Cameron could not be more wrong—empirically, ethically, and ultimately. The find that changed history was the empty tomb.

1873 Charles Clermont-Ganneau makes sensational claims for ossuaries from Bethany.
1931 Professor Sukenik starts a media frenzy in Berlin over a presentation on an ossuary that had the inscription “Yeshua bar Yosef.”
1945 Two ossuaries found at Talpiot both bearing the name Jesus.
1963 Duncan Fishwick’s article re-examining the sensational Talpiot ossuaries.
1980 March… official “discovery” of the Talpiot tomb during an excavation for a housing project. Since the bones found in the ossuaries appear to belong to Jews, they are buried according to Jewish custom.
1996 BBC documentary “The Tomb that Dare not Speak Its Name”
2003 Simcha Jacobovici documentary on the James Ossuary.
2006 The Da Vinci Code released just before Easter.
2006 Dr. James Tabor’s book The Jesus Dynasty is released.
2007 Press Conference at the New York Public Library announcing “discovery” and documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus." Jacobovici and Pelegrino’s book The Lost Tomb of Jesus is released by Harper-Collins.

Evans, Craig A. Jesus and the Ossuaries, 2003; Fishwick, Duncan. "Talpioth ossuaries again.” New Testament Studies 10 (1963) 49-61; Ilan, T. Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity (TSAJ 91; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002); Kraeling, Carl Hermann “Christian Burial Urns?” Biblical Archaeologist 9, 1 (1946), 16-20; Rahmani, L. Y. A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel (Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities and Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994); Wright, George Ernest. “New Information regarding the supposed 'Christian' ossuaries” Biblical Archaeologist 9, 2 (1946), 43.

This article in Portuguese:

Translation by Alan Amorim and Airton Santos.

Some links: on the "Lost Tomb"

'Jesus tomb' documentary ignores biblical & scientific evidence, logic, experts say

'Lost Tomb' is pure sensationalism, Mohler says on 'LKL'

Examining the 'Jesus Tomb' Evidence

Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus's Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error? Should You Accept the 600-to-One Odds That the Talpiot Tomb Belonged to Jesus?

The Truth about the "Lost Tomb of Jesus"