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The James Cameron documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”:
More holes than Swiss cheese

You undoubtedly witnessed the hype preceding the documentary film which aired on the Discovery Channel in March of 2007 entitled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.”  Produced by James Cameron of “Titanic” fame, and Simcha Jacobovici, this documentary was artfully done. It was artful in its ability to cobble together the comments of a group of scholars who often had doubts, completely disagreed with, or didn’t know, the central thesis of the documentary, and yet make these scholars to appear as if they agreed with the main thesis.

The sensationalistic claim the show made was that the “family tomb” of Jesus had been discovered in Jerusalem, complete with Jesus’ bones, those of His “wife” Mary Magdalene, those of His son Judah, and several others; never mind that this “discovery” actually occurred 27 years earlier with little fanfare.


Ten ossuaries (a stone box into which the bones of the deceased are transferred) were discovered in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot in 1980. Several of the ossuaries had inscriptions on them, which were reported to read “Jesus, son of Joseph,” “Judah, son of Jesus,” and “Mary, the Master.” “Mary, the Master” was linked by the film to Mary Magdalene, thus expecting the viewer to make a stupendous leap of “faith,” calling the bones of this particular ossuary Jesus’ wife. The actual inscription, which after further scrutiny was found to read “MARIAME KAI MARA,” translates as “Mary and Mara,” not “Mary, the Master.” (It was common to put the bones of multiple people into one ossuary.) The filmmakers were informed of the original transcription error, but chose the path Hollywood producers often take, ignoring the facts.

From a historical perspective, their claim is full of holes. Jesus was never married and never had a son. What has been reported is an empty tomb. Jesus, had He not been resurrected, would likely not have been buried in a family tomb in Jerusalem, since he was from Nazareth, and His family would not have had the financial means to purchase such an elegant tomb. Why would his brother James not have been buried in the same tomb, rather than near the temple mount as recorded by Eusebius? The names on these tombs were common Jewish names for the time, so their appearance together is not particularly noteworthy. Several of the experts who appeared in the documentary, and others from the original excavation, have subsequently voiced opinions that stand in contradistinction to Cameron and Jacobovici’s conclusions. The Discovery Channel itself, which aired the documentary, has subsequently distanced itself from the less-than-scholarly thesis of the film.

The most compelling evidence debunking the “Jesus tomb” speculation is, of course, that found in the Bible. The apostle Paul makes this creedal statement in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
There will always be those who are willing to make a buck at the expense of the Truth, such as James Cameron or Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code). The Bible warns against these people in Romans 16:17: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.” Stay alert!

Jesus Christ’s bones are not in a stone box. Why do they seek the living among the dead? He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

Written by Scott Diekmann

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