Thinking Clearly about the “Jesus Family Tomb” -- By: Michael S. Heiser

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 21:4 (Fall 2008)
Article: Thinking Clearly about the “Jesus Family Tomb”
Author: Michael S. Heiser

Thinking Clearly about the “Jesus Family Tomb”

Michael S. Heiser


On March 4, 2007, the Discovery Channel aired The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a riveting documentary produced by James Cameron, best known for the Oscar-winning motion picture Titanic, and directed by Simcha Jacobovici. The documentary complemented the launch of the publicity campaign for a book on the subject by Jacobovici, co-authored with Charles Pellegrino, entitled The Jesus Family Tomb. The two-hour special focused on the 1980 discovery of what appears to be a family tomb located in East Talpiot, Jerusalem. The tomb housed ten ossuaries (bone boxes), several of which bore inscribed names intimately associated with Christianity, including Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Jacobovici claims that one of the ossuaries should be identified as that of Mary Magdalene, whose inclusion in the family tomb of Jesus proves that she and Jesus were married. For Jacobovici and his associates, the find constitutes proof that Jesus had not risen from the dead as the New Testament describes.

The television documentary produced a flurry of responses from scholars across the theological spectrum who took umbrage with the way the archaeological material was handled and interpreted. I said as much four years ago at the Near East Archaeological Society meeting in Atlanta, when I delivered a paper on the Jesus ossuary in the Talpiot tomb. At the time, the ossuary was basically unknown except to specialists. My own knowledge of it came about due to my research into Jesus bloodline mythologies, an esoteric subject until The DaVinci Code. Since I have a habit of investigating the intersection of the arcane and Biblical studies, it has been gratifying to see so many scholars turn a critical eye toward this kind of material, since it has a profound impact on the general public.

With one exception, the scholars interviewed as part of the documentary have issued disclaimers and objections to the way their words and opinions were portrayed and utilized. The exception I speak of is Dr. James Tabor, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Despite the fact that popular interest in the Jesus Family Tomb has declined steadily in the wake of overwhelmingly unfavorable response, Tabor has defended the fi lm’s thesis. The reason is straightforward: an identification of the Talpiot tomb as the Jesus Family Tomb would lend support to Tabor’s own theory about the historical Jesus.

Tabor articulates his theory at length in his recent book, The the Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity. His thoughts can be summarized as follows. Tabor rejects the...

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