February 25, 2007
Movie director James Cameron climbs aboard his very own archaeological Titanic:
Has the DNA of Jesus Christ been found?
That tantalizing question underpins The Lost Tomb of Jesus — a new book and feature documentary film with potentially profound implications for Christianity.
The two provocative works suggest that ossuaries once containing the bones of Jesus of Nazareth and his family are now stored in a warehouse belonging to the Israel Antiquity Authority in Bet Shemesh, outside Jerusalem.
Although the evidence con-
tained in the film and book is hardly definitive, it is com-
pelling. Inscribed in Hebrew, Latin or Greek, six boxes — taken from a 2,000-year-old cave discovered in March, 1980, during excavation for a housing project in Talpiyot, south of Jerusalem — bear the names: Yeshua (Jesus) bar Yosef (son of Joseph); Maria (the Latin version of Miriam, which is the English Mary); Matia (the Hebrew equivalent of Matthew, a name common in the lineage of both Mary and Joseph); Yose; (the Gospel of Mark refers to Yose as a brother of Jesus); Yehuda bar Yeshua, or Judah, son of Jesus; and in Greek, Mariamne e mara — meaning ‘Mariamne, known as the master.’ According to Harvard professor Francois Bovon, interviewed in the film, Mariamne was Mary Magdalene’s real name.
The bones once contained in the boxes have long since been reburied, according to Jewish custom — in unmarked graves in Israel.
If the evidence adduced is correct, the bone boxes — and microscopic remains of DNA still contained inside — would constitute the first archaeological evidence of the existence of the Christian saviour and his family.
Er, only if someone has also obtained a DNA sample from God.
The $4-million documentary is the work two Canadians — Emmy-award winner director Simcha Jacobovici and his executive producer, Oscar-award winning filmmaker James Cameron. It will air on Canada’s Vision TV on March 6th and later next month on Discovery US and Britain’s Channel 4. A companion book, The Jesus Family Tomb, by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Charles Pellegrino, has just been released (Harper Collins).
Mr. Jacobovici and Mr. Cameron are scheduled to hold a press conference Monday morning at the New York Public Library, with the Jesus and Mary Magdelene ossuaries, flown in from Israel, on display.
Meanwhile, security agents have been hired to stand guard outside the Talpiyot apartments beneath which the tomb lies, covered by a large cement plate.
“I don’t think this changes the fundamentals of faith,” Mr. Cameron said in an interview this week. “But the evidence is pretty darn compelling and it definitely bears further study.”
“Pretty darn compelling,” huh?
“It’s a beautiful story, but without any proof whatsoever,” archaeologist Dr. Amos Kloner, who wrote the original report on the Talpiyot cave findings, told an Israeli reporter last week. “The names ... found on the tombs are names that are similar to the names of the family of Jesus. But those were the most common names found among Jews in the first centuries BCE and CE.”
But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a beautiful story?
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