The Jesus Tomb

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Ossuary of Mary

As you’ve heard, James Cameron, director of the blockbuster movie “Titanic,” is out to sink an even bigger ship—Christianity. He claims that Jesus’ bones and those of his mother, brothers, wife, and child named Jude, were found in ossuaries (bone boxes) in a Jerusalem tomb.

On Larry King Live, Cameron and his collaborator Simcha Jacobovici claimed that they produced a TV documentary (aired on the Discovery Channel) simply in an effort to “report the news” so that people can draw their own conclusion. Yet according to Ben Witherington, Simcha is a practicing, orthodox Jew. Are we really to believe that the “revelation” that Jesus’ bones have been found—hence no resurrection—are of no religious concern to this man? To me, at least, this one has the almighty dollar sign written all over it.

Let me list just some of the most egregious problems with the way in which this find (in the 1980s!) is being interpreted by Cameron and Simcha:

  • the claim that Mary Magdalene’s bones were found in one of the ossuaries on the basis that the name “Mariamne” (Mary) is inscribed on it is bogus; the connection drawn here is pulled completely out of thin air
  • the highly suspect use of statistics and DNA “evidence” to support their case; Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were among the most popular names in first-century Palestine, and, of course, people buried in the same family tomb would for the most part be related; as Witherington rightly points out, we “would need an independent control sample from some member of Jesus’ family to confirm that these were members of Jesus’ family”—but, of course, we have no such thing
  • all the earliest accounts of Jesus’ death and burial indicate that Jesus’ body could not be found and had not been moved; there is no ancient evidence at all for Jesus’ family tomb whatsoever
  • why would this family tomb have been in Jerusalem? Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth
  • there is no historical evidence for Jesus having a son named Jude; there is no credible historical evidence that Jesus was married, to Mary Magdalene or anyone else (plus see the first point above)
  • if Jesus died and a year later his bones were transferred to an ossuary, and this ossuary was placed in a Jerusalem family tomb, this would mean that all the early Christian martyrs, including the apostles, knowingly died for a fraudulent religion; this is highly implausible
  • if you had been Jesus and (for argument’s sake) had had a son, would you have named him Judas (same as Judah or Jude), like the man who betrayed you?

It is hard to know whether one should dignify this kind of warmed-up sensationalist commercial ploy with a serious rebuttal. Why would an orthodox Jew and an unbelieving Hollywood producer time the release of a television documentary denying Jesus’ resurrection just prior to Easter? Because of serious scholarship or maximum personal profit?

Simcha says we Christians should be open to the evidence he presents. I agree; if Jesus’ bones were in that box, Christianity is based on a false premise—the resurrection of Jesus (see the Gospel resurrection narratives; the apostles’ preaching in the Book of Acts; and Paul’s summary of the gospel in 1 Cor. 15:3–4). The problem with Simcha’s “evidence,” however, is that he is connecting the dots far too quickly to arrive at his desired conclusion. Surely it will take better evidence to overturn the well-attested fact of Jesus’ resurrection.


  1. Hi,
    I haven’t seen the movie/documentary? yet but I have recently been to Jerusalem. Going into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and seeing Calvary, Golgatha, Jesus’ Tomb was amazing. I left with an incredible sense of awe as well as doubts, could the things I saw all encased in the Holy Sepulchre really be the are that these events took place, could Jesus really have been buried and resurrected ‘right there?’ Later, I came across this research site regarding the tomb, you might find it interesting too.

  2. All you have to do is look at the filmmaker’s motivations. You can find the interview here:

  3. James,

    1. Fair enough, but where is the ancient evidence for this “Jesus family tomb”? Non-existent, right? How do you explain this silence? It seems inexplicable to me, because Jesus’ enemies would certainly have pointed to Jesus’ tomb as evidence that he did not rise from the dead as his followers claimed.

    2. James Tabor may have an answer, but it is certainly wrong in light of scriptural evidence. In Acts 2:25-28, for example, in his Pentecost sermon, Peter cites David’s psalm Ps. 16:8-11, according to which God would not allow his Holy One to undergo decay. According to Peter, David “looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that ‘he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses” (vv. 31-32). More could be said, but no more need be said. If you saw the panel discussion moderated by Ted Koppel after the “Jesus Tomb” program, you heard how Darrell Bock, one of the leading experts in this field, vehemently refuted James Tabor at this very point.

    3. I’m not so sure. On the discovery channel website, and in the special and the book, the contention is made that Jesus gave Mary Magdalene charge of their son per John 19:25-27. If so, he was already alive according to the makers of the “Jesus tomb special” and presumably also James Tabor, correct?

    In conclusion, sure, Simcha, Tabor, and others like them have given some answers, but that does not mean they are convincing or in keeping with the evidence we have. For example, when Simcha was told about Pfann’s findings, he said everyone can plainly see that the inscription on the “Mary Magdalene” ossuary was by one scribe, not two. He seems simply unwilling to face the evidence at this and many other points.

  4. Dear Dr. Kostenberger:

    While Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron were instrumental in the direction and funding of the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” movie, the most active scholar has been Dr. James Tabor of UNC-Charlotte. The opening chapter of his book “The Jesus Dynasty” sort of sets the table for the movie. I’m sure that he could easily silence a couple of your questions:

    (1) Why would this family tomb have been in Jerusalem?

    Because that’s where Jesus’ family settled after Jesus’ death. That’s where we see Mary, and Jesus’ brothers, in Acts 1, and that’s where James is later on in Acts, and that’s where James is when he’s killed, according to Josephus.

    (2) If Jesus died and a year later his bones were transferred to an ossuary, and this ossuary was placed in a Jerusalem family tomb, this would mean that all the early Christian martyrs, including the apostles, knowingly died for a fraudulent religion.

    Tabor would probably propose that what this means is that the Christians in Jerusalem believed that Jesus had been resurrected in some non-physical sense, and that this aspect of their belief was simply overwhelmed by the view of the resurrection advocated by Paul and Luke decades later.

    (3) If you had been Jesus and (for argument’s sake) had had a son, would you have named him Judas?

    In the scenario envisioned by Tabor, Jesus died on the cross and remained dead, so the hypothetical naming of his hypothetical child would have occurred before the betrayal.

    I welcome you to read my own thoughts about the premises of “Lost Tomb of Jesus” at and as well as a flaw-by-flaw review of the movie, at .

  5. So what difference does it make? Most religions throughout human history have been based on myth and superstition without any basis in fact. Never stopped the religions from flourishing. Jesus is and will always be a hero in the Christian faith. It does not matter if he was married, does not matter if he had children. His orations and beliefs created a religious fire that will only be extinguished when every culture practicing Christianity has gone. Hitler couldn’t stop it, Stalin tried and failed miserably. Faith has nothing to do with fact.

  6. For a history of sensational claims from Talpiot and information on the so-called “chevron and circle” as a Jewish reference and not some lost early Christian or masonic symol, etc. see:

  7. Its so easy to believe a lie, this way, your not responsible for anything. He who believes the lie falls for anything.
    Thank God, the truth has set believers FREE.
    You don’t have to believe the Bible to make it true, the Bibles is true even when you don’t believe it.
    GOD can not lie. Lying is the job of the father of lies, satan.
    To bad unbelievers. You have a choise: to believe the Bible and be set free or don’t believe the Bible and spend eternity with the father of lies. What agony you are for, just think, this life is so short but eternity is forever.

  8. It is my opinion that satan knows his time is coming to an end, an he is trying to deceive as many as who will listen with the Jesus tomb story. We should, as chistians, be lifting up our eyes towards heaven, because our redemption draweth nigh. Hallelujah!

  9. The only reason I have read any of this including other blogs, papers etc… is the fact that I as a Christian need some good starting points to ward off the best of Satans messengers. Greater is he who has not seen yet his faith alone carries the truth in his heart, mind and soul. Otherwise realistically I would normally not have the time or care to read any of this trash coming from Hollywood.

  10. i thought the film was very well done and produced. The use of DNA was used to show that Jesus and Marymag were not related and thus could have been husband & wife. Paul never knew Jesus, was not a witness to his death or resurection. The resurection story in the testiments was not consistent and very convoluted. The assention into heaven even more so and these stories were written more than 90 years after the supposed event.

  11. A very simple observation refutes that this was indeed the tomb of the Jesus of the New Testament. Do you think that if Jesus’ remains had indeed being buried, along with those of His entire family, in a tomb just outside Jerusalem that someone wouldn’t have pointed it out and stopped Christian preaching dead at its very beginning? What greater argument would Jewish polemicists against Jesus’ disciples have had then being able to simply point at his tomb? Yet none such ever made such a claim…

  12. You should all visit the movie’s official site. I found it very helpful as it has information on the movie and the background. All I can say is: bring it on!!

    The site is

  13. I’ve written a comprehensive rebuttal of the films claims. Please read it and decide for yourself whether or not the film claims are solid or a hoax.

    You will find it at

  14. Did not Josephus record that James was killed near the Temple, perhaps beheaded? I’ll have to check, but if his death was bloody, as was Jesus’, then at least 2 bodies should show some evidence of this

  15. Well, there is the possibility that since James the brother of Jesus – also known as James the Just – was the leader of the church of Jerusalem that his family ended up being buried in Jerusalem. Against this the possibility that such things would have been moved once established – after all Joseph would have been the first to be buried.

    Additionally, it’s rather convenient that the line of the desposyni end – if this tomb is to be believed – with children of Jesus but yet no one further on in this line.

    Furthermore, if Jesus had been buried in Jerusalem, not only would the apostles know – and have gone to their death for a lie – but the Jews of the time would have known. So why is there no reference to this in the Babylonian Talmud?

  16. One blogger (I think it was James White) makes the point that the Latinized appellation of Mary is also highly suspect. Why would his followers/friends want to Latinize the name in an environment so hostile to the Romans? Like the James ossuary, this smells bad.


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  2. » “Jesus Tomb” Resources Karis Blog - [...] “The Jesus Tomb” [...]
  3. Pulpit Magazine » Blog Archive » Asking the Experts about Jesus’ Lost Tomb - [...] Dr. Andreas Kostenberger, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: The claim that Mary Magdalene’s…
  4. The Lost tomb of Jesus- The Jesus Family Tomb- Discovery Channel -News Analysis « tombofjesus a Forgery - [...] 2.Bibilicalfoundations on the lost tomb [...]
  5. The Lost tomb of Jesus- The Jesus Family Tomb- Discovery Channel -News Analysis « Nasrani Syrian Christians - [...] 2.Discovery minting on Controversey3.Bibilicalfoundations on the lost tomb [...]
  6. The Lost Tomb of Jesus - How Should We Respond? « journeys - [...] Scholarly Reviews (from Evangelicals): Darrell Bock Ben Witherington - also follow up post here Andreas Kostenberger Craig Blomberg James…
  7. The Tomb of Jesus Found??? No Way! « PastorJD’s Weblog - [...] “The Jesus Tomb” – Andreas Köstenberger [...]
  8. “King of the World” finds tomb of “King of the Jews”? « The Every Nation Plog - [...] Click here to read Dr. Andreas Köstenberger’s blog - The Jesus Tomb [...]
  9. Reflections » Blog Archive » The so-called Jesus Tomb - [...] A summary of the key problems with the show by Dr. Andreas Köstenberger [...]
  10. Dem Bones « p o i k i l o s - [...] Andreas Kostenburger’s response [...]
  11. Denny Burk » Darrell Bock and Bart Ehrman Agree! - [...] “The Jesus Tomb” – Andreas Köstenberger [...]
  12. Bones of Jesus « Truthseeker - [...] Andreas Köstenberger Ben Witherington [...]
  13. Richard Cleaver » Blog Archive » Christianity Sinks Like The Titanic - [...] Time Magazine offers this take on the claim that Jesus had a family tomb in Jerusalem. Overlooked it was…
  14. The Lost Tomb of Jesus (Updated) « Countercult Apologetics - [...] The Jesus Tomb, Andreas Köstenberger. [...]
  15. Is Christianity a False Religion? « Green Baggins - [...] February 28th, 2007 at 3:28 pm (Apologetics) Everyone is talking about the documentary coming out on finding…
  16. Denny Burk » Scholars Speak against Farcical “Jesus Tomb” - [...] “The Jesus Tomb” – Andreas Köstenberger [...]
  17. Jesus’ Tomb Found? at PastorResources Blog - Beta - [...] Read Christian blog responses from James White (and here, here, and here), Ben Witherington, Darrell Bock, Scot McKnight, Nathan…
  18. No Compromise Ministries » More Links on the Jesus Tomb Controversy - [...] Andreas Kostenberger [...]
  19. Pulpit Magazine » Blog Archive » The Lost Tomb of Jesus? - [...] For those who have heard about the upcoming Discovery Channel special (asserting that Jesus’ remains have been found in…
  20. Parableman - The Lost Tomb of Jesus A lot of hay is being made about the forthcoming documentary The Lost Tomb…
  21. » Blog Archive » Resources and Responses to the “Tomb of Jesus and His Family” Story - [...] UPDATE VIII: Andreas Kostenberger has a superb summary of the case against. [...]
  22. The Barth’s Head Tavern » Blog Archive » Andreas Köstenberger Shakes It Down - [...] Andreas Köstenberger gives the Jesus tomb a good shake down. [...]
  23. Ochuk’s blog » Blog Archive » The Jesus Tomb - [...] UPDATE: Andreas Köstenberger gives it all a shake down. [...]

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