Claims swirl around 'tomb of Jesus'

The makers of a new TV documentary claim to have uncovered the biggest archaeological story of the century –- the tomb of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. But several archaeologists and biblical scholars challenge the evidence. One calls it"much ado about nothing much."...

"The tomb is a fact, the names are facts, the DNA relationship is a fact, the statistical studies are facts," insists [Toronto filmmaker Simcha] Jacobovici."There was enough to say it's time to bring this to the attention of the world and let a scientific, academic, theological debate begin."...

"The names [on the ossuaries] are coincidental," says Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University."The historian Josephus records 21 Yeshuas [Jesus], and those are people famous enough to be included in his histories. And 25 percent of Jewish women at the time had the name Mary."...

As for the DNA evidence, critics say the idea captures people's attention today, but there is no DNA evidence related to the historical Jesus."They simply say they've demonstrated that the two people are not related by DNA," says Ben Witherington, a New Testament expert and author of"What Have They Done With Jesus?""That proves nothing. There are [many] explanations for why you could have two people in the same extended family tomb that are not related by DNA."...

Dr. Witherington also challenges the statistical analysis, charging that it involved a more selective sampling than should have been used."Another problem is that the majority of the statistics are still in the ground – in ossuaries that haven't been dug up yet." he says."We can't assume the evidence we have is representative of what is still in the ground." Jacobovici stands by the analysis, and says the expert, Andrey Feuerverger, has submitted it to a statistical journal for peer review. Apparently unfazed –- perhaps even pleased – by all the controversy (the bloggers are in full cry already), he concedes that the evidence"isn't 100 percent."

"All I'm saying is that you have here an interesting tomb, a compelling cluster of names, the DNA doesn't undermine the theory. Hey, world, let's look at this."

The critics have a different take."It's the same hype that attended 'The Da Vinci Code,' which was plainly fiction. Yet this is cast as fact," says Dr. Maier."The guy is a showman, an Indiana Jones wannabe."

Related Links

  • 'Lost Tomb of Jesus' Claim Called a Stunt (Washington Post)
  • An Empty Theory and an Empty Tomb (by Ben Witherington III)
  • Critique at PaleoJudaica
  • 'Lost Tomb of Jesus' website (with trailer)

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