Jesus Burial Box Hoax

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One can only wander why a hoax is given its head.  The short answer is that the press is about money.  To me there is something very offensive about garbage, for the brain only has so much space for information.



The Jesus Hoax

By James Cameron at 2/27/07

The headline on CNN captured the question: Major Revelation or Titanic Fraud? And the first thing to say about the claims by "King of the World" James Cameron and "investigative journalist" Simcha Jacobovichi to have single-handedly debunked Christianity is that they're hardly the first to try. For 200 years, frauds and charlatans have popped up every few months claiming to "prove" that the Bible is true or that it's false.

As it happens, Cameron and Jacobovichi claimed only last summer to have "proved" the Exodus. Well, which is it? Either their first documentary is false, or this one is false. Of course, they don't care. They profit either way. (In fact, both are false.)

But for those who do care, here are the problems with their argument. First, at the risk of further promoting their hucksterism, the background. The filmmakers claim that burial boxes found 27 years ago outside Jerusalem contain the remains of Jesus, his mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene. DNA evidence "proves" that Mary was his wife and that they sired a son also found in the cave. If true, this would indicate that Jesus was never resurrected from the grave, thereby debunking a central claim of Christianity.

I'm not even a Christian, but I did live in the neighborhood where this cave was found, and I've spent most of the last ten years spelunking in far more important caves, from Jerusalem to Baghdad, looking at the relationship between the Bible and archaeology. Here's why they're wrong.

1. Caves like the ones where the ossuaries were discovered are commonplace in the area and were very familiar features of this neighborhood in the 1st century B.C.E. and C.E. The archaeologist who traveled with me for WALKING THE BIBLE and WHERE GOD WAS BORN, Avner Goren, made the fascinating point to me today that bodies used to be buried in groups but with the introduction of individualism from Greece, they started burying people in single boxes and labeling them. Basically, the bodies would be buried for a year, the family would come back and collect the bones and put them in an ossuary (a stone box). Then they would take the box out once a year and have a memorial service, as Jews still do today with candle lighting.

2. A family from Nazareth would not be buried in Jerusalem. {Thus even though Jesus could have been burried in Jerusalem, his relatives assuming they still resided in Nazareth wouldn’t be burried  beside him—jk,}  Jewish custom holds that a body should be buried within 24 hours. I recently heard of a family that hired a private plane to get a body from Cleveland to Jerusalem in time. It would have been impossible to get a body from Nazareth, in the Galilee, to Jerusalem in this time period. Also, there's no way for a family to tend a grave this far away. So the idea of a multi-generational family tomb for Jesus in Jerusalem makes no sense. Even the archaeologist who discovered the cave originally, Amos Kloner, has dismissed the show as "nonsense."

3. The names on the ossuaries are very common. As Avner pointed out, 21 percent of names of women are Mary; Joseph and Jesus (Joshua) are among the top four male names. The presence of these names in a tomb would not have been rare. The name Jesus has been found in dozens of tombs over the years. Further, we have no evidence that this is a family tomb; it could have been a communal tomb, or a neighborhood tomb."There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," Kloner said. "They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the 1st century CE."

4. The DNA evidence that Jesus was not connected to the Mary buried in the tomb does not prove anything, other than they are not related matrilnearly. For all we know, they could have been related patrilinearly. Or, they could never have met. There is no evidence the female body belonged to someone who was "married" to anyone else in the tomb. There is no evidence she was the mother of anyone else in the tomb. And we can be sure they checked that! So the claim that Jesus fathered a son with the "Mary" in the tomb is bogus.

Avner is a contemporary of Amos Kloner and has known him for decades. "It takes courage to say that the names on these ossuaries were very common," Avner said, "especially when it might benefit him to say otherwise." As for the filmmakers: "There is something cheap about playing on the emotions of people."

And therein is the truth of this tale: This exploitation of quasi-science is hardly new, but it's still tawdry. The bottom line: There is more truth in Dan Brown's fiction than in James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovichi's fact.


Bruce Feiler is the New York Times-bestselling author of seven books, including Walking the Bible, Abraham, and Where God Was Born, and the host of the acclaimed series Walking the Bible on PBS. He is a frequent contributor to NPR and CNN and a contributing editor at Gourmet and Parade. He has a blog, Feiler Faster, at






The Jesus Tomb:  Primeval Stupidity,

Robert Eisenman


The latest 'discovery' of the so-called "Jesus Tomb" or "Jesus Cave" is so preposterous that it has to be laughed out of court.

For starters one must say that one must be glad that ossuaries of this kind in Israel are finally getting the publicity they deserve and that sites in which they occur will, as a result, finally be open to and become visited by the public.

They are so rich and beautiful that they demonstrate what a richly beautiful life was being led in Eretz-Israel or "The Holy Land" at the time before - as D.H. Lawrence might have put it as he did the Etruscans - the Romans crushed the breath or spark of life out of it

First of all, all these names -- which are mostly "Maccabean," primarily demonstrating the popularity of the Maccabean family in Israel at the time and not what our intrepid 'archaeologists' seem to think they demonstrate -- found in the "Jesus Burial Cave" on the outskirts of Jerusalem (as many have now already said) were so widespread at the time that finding a family tomb with ossuaries inscribed with them proves nothing at all.

But even more to the point:

1) To think that an inscription seemingly bearing the name of one "Mariamne" has anything whatever to do with some character we think was called "Mary Magdalene" (only mentioned about three times in the Gospels and this cursorily or in passing) is a stretch of immense proportions. All "Mary"s in Josephus are called "Mariamne" in Greek. First disinformation. And what of this "Mary"'s other descendant all Gnostic Gospel enthusiasts and those wishing for the eternal feminine (to say nothing of "the bloodline of the Holy Grail" ) fantasize over, "Sarah"?

2) Then, of course, "Jesus"' father (if he existed or there was one) probably wasn't even called "Joseph" ( really the patronymical tribal name of the Samaritan Messiah). Most contemporary texts give Jesus' father or Mary's husband as "Clopas" or 'Cleophas". Even the Gospel of John does this, unless this was her second husband or there were two "Mary"s or three!

3) And what was "Matthew" (diminutive or otherwise) doing in this tomb - a "statistical" outlier, no? And "Mary"'s DNA didn't match "Jesus"', so they were married, right?

4) And "Jose" was Jesus' brother, right? Why not father - meaning,the one mentioned on the alleged "Jesus ossuary"? And what is Jose's DNA, since we seem to have "Jesus"' and "Mary"'s, or weren't we able to get a sample?

5) And who is this mysterious "Judas"? Of course, "Mary's child" by "Jesus" - why didn't I think of that? Again, another 'statistical outlier". And what were the results of his DNA if they were taken? Did we get a fix on this? Who was his mother?

6) Oh yes, and I forgot, "the James ossuary" was pilfered from here. Why of course. How sensible. And therefore, it wasn't forged (or was it from the Antiquities Authority's storeroom) - again, why didn't I think of that?

"Though I am no statistician" (sic - as they say), I would say that the statistical probability of this kind of primeval stupidity is about 666,000 to one.

Still, let's not take one's eye off the ball - the fact of a cave with such beautiful ossuaries is interesting in itself and should be examined for and by itself and not just sealed or stored somewhere out of sight. Hoorah, that it will now become part of the tourist itinerary. One plus from this sorry charade and display of historical ignorance anyhow! How beautiful and comely was thy daughter, O Children of Zion.





Robert Eisenman is the author of James the Brother of Jesus ( 1998 ) and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians ( 1996 ) and co-editor of The Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls ( 1989 ) and The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered ( 1992 ). He is Professor of Middle East Religions and Archaeology and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins at California State University Long Beach and Visiting Senior Member of Linacre College, Oxford.

He holds a B.A. from
Cornell University in Philosophy and Engineering Physics, an M. A. from N. Y. U. in Near Eastern Studies, and a Ph. D. from Columbia University in Middle East Languages and Cultures.  He was a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies and an American Endowment for the Humanities Fellow-in-Residence at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, where the Dead Sea Scrolls first came in.

His first book was Islamic Law in Palestine and Israel from E. J. Brill in Leiden, Holland in 1978 and this was followed by two other books from E. J. Brill In Leiden: Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran: A New Hypothesis of Qumran Origins ( 1982 ) and James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher ( 1984 ).

He was the leader of the worldwide campaign from 1987-1992 to break the academic and scholarly monopoly over the Dead Sea Scrolls, freeing them for research by all interested persons regardless of affiliation or credentials. As a consequence of this, he was the Consultant to the Huntington Library on its decision to open its archives and allow free access to the Scrolls. In 2002-3 he was the first to publicly announce that the ‘James Ossuary’, which so suddenly and ‘miraculously’ appeared, was fraudulent; and he did this on the basis of the actual inscription itself and what it said without any ‘scientific’ or ‘pseudo-scientific’ aids on the very same day it was first made public .

His latest book is The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the
Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ, ( Sterling/Barnes and Noble, October, 2006 ).

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