Responding to Recent Claims about the Tomb of Jesus
A couple of years ago, I was sent, as an email attachment, some footage of two young men attempting to rob a store. Thanks to a nearby security camera, millions have been able to watch as man-number-one rounds the corner of the building and takes his position as lookout. Man-number-two joins him a few seconds later and casually walks to the front of the store, stopping in front of its large display window. After a moment of making sure the coast is clear, man-number-two picks up a large brick from the ground and hurls it at the Plexiglas window. The brick not only fails to break the window, it ricochets and crashes into the back of the head of man-number-one who collapses onto the pavement, unconscious. Man-number-two fails to look behind him and notice that his companion is down for the count, so he picks up another brick. With as much strength as he can muster, he throws this one at the window, too. It bounces again and this time hits the would-be window breaker’s forehead, knocking him out also (at least I think they are both knocked out, although I suppose it is possible that they have killed themselves in their less-than-intelligent efforts).
However it may be for these two, we can find similar phenomena taking place in the realm of spirituality. Consider for a moment the claims of two movie directors, Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron (Cameron was the Academy Award winning director of “Titanic”). Jacobovici recently directed a “documentary” in which he claims that he has discovered a tomb in the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem containing the bones of Jesus and his wife, Mary Magdalene (as well as Jesus’ parents and a child named Judah supposedly belonging to Jesus and Mary Magdalene).
If this in fact proved to be the case, the implications would be cataclysmic in Christendom, for, after all, as Al Mohler, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, put it, Christianity “has always understood the physical resurrection of Christ to be at the very center of the faith” (quote taken from the Associated Press article by Karen Matthews, “Documentary Shows Possible Jesus Tomb”, 02/27/07).
And, of course, Jacobovici’s supposed discovery contradicts the Biblical account of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The problem then becomes who’s telling the truth? One cannot dismiss the Bible’s witness as merely symbolic since the language of the document is clearly not intended to be figurative in the Gospels or in the book of Acts. If it is not metaphorical and if it is not factual, then it is not only wrong but is a deliberate hoax. On the other hand, if the Bible is truly a dependable document, recording for posterity actual events, then we may measure the weight of claims made by men like Jacobovici, Cameron, or Dan Brown (author of “The Da Vinci Code”) using it as our standard.
Historical records do, in fact, support the Biblical account of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The tests used to determine the veracity (or accuracy) of an ancient document have three primary elements: first, whether or not the document internally agrees with itself (or is consistent throughout with what it records and with the claims that it makes); second, whether or not the document coincides with other reliable sources from the same time frame; and third, whether or not the document has eyewitnesses or second-hand reports taken from eyewitness accounts (much like a journalistic interview) verified by a bibliographic record (the sheer number of copies of the earliest Biblical manuscripts enormously support its authenticity). If a document fails in any one of these three categories, then it cannot be considered historically reliable.
Interestingly, the Bible passes all three tests with flying colors with a solidness that I doubt any other ancient manuscript can duplicate. And the few supposed contradictions that folks like to point to have more to do with either the common difficulty of translating ancient languages into English (it isn’t an exact science, after all), or a general ignorance of the cultural context surrounding a troubling passage.
Furthermore, while this latest pseudo-archeological discovery has perhaps generated a volley of “brick-throwing” from skeptics, the historical texts that comprise the New Testament did not come into being two to three hundred years after the life of Christ but in only decades following His death, burial, and resurrection (defying the theory that the accounts of these things are mythical). Three of the Gospels were eyewitness accounts and the fourth was an investigative report based on interviews with eyewitnesses!
Biblical evidence aside, for the moment, Jacobovici and Cameron’s claims are still problematic in of themselves. For instance, apparently their “ace in the hole” is that they have dismissed archaeologists as being insufficiently knowledgeable in the field of archaeology and have instead consulted “statisticians”. As I listened to them in an interview on MSNBC, they said that the mathematicians they consulted estimated that the range of probability of finding a group of ossuaries (stone coffins) with this list of names was in the hundreds of thousands (although Andrey Feuerverger of the University of Toronto actually said that the probability of finding something like this was 1 in 100 or 1 in 1,000 – far from Jacobovici’s figures but still not very exact for a mathematician). But the real problem with their citing of statisticians is that the careful scientific process employed by archaeologists is entirely overlooked. And while I have a great respect for mathematicians, it occurs to me that the professionals best qualified to make claims about archaeological findings are archaeologists themselves.
Having said that, it is extremely significant to me that Amos Kloner, the archaeologist that first opened the site, indicated that Jacobovici and Cameron’s theory does not measure up to archaeological scrutiny although it may prove sensational enough to make a lot of money in movies - hence an ulterior motive in making such a claim (see the Associated Press article by Karen Matthews, “Documentary Shows Possible Jesus Tomb”, 02/27/07).
The bottom line is that, in the end, the accounts of the Gospels will be vindicated by God Himself. Skepticism is understandable to an extent in an age of confusion like ours, yet we are all still accountable to God to seek the truth and then to yield to that truth. And if people today will humble themselves and consider this man named Jesus, they will find that truth isn’t a thing… it’s a Person… a Person Who can give them eternal life and everlasting hope. This Truth, Who defeated death and rules forever, is Jesus Christ. Any effort on our part to diminish the fact of His power and love is like throwing bricks at a Plexiglas window… we might try to smash it to smithereens, but the only real effect is that we knock ourselves out.
“Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.’… ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Luke 20:17-18, John 14:6 NIV).
Copyright © Thom Mollohan.
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Thanks for posting this thought-provoking article. It is assisting me in an article I'm writing to show how the enemy works to confuse the mind of the Christian away from the truth.
My heart just leapt with joy upon reading the scriptural reference you used at the end of this article. Also, I was reminded of Matthew 28:12-15 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. There have been people attempting to disprove Christ's resurrection ever since. I also recall having once watched a documentary made by a group of doctors who put together facts about a multitude of things that gave much credit to the Word. For example, they showed how the water and blood that poured from His side upon being speared was caused by a medical condition that resulted from hours of stress upon the lungs. Over and over, people attempt to disprove the Bible. But to no avail. They just keep knocking themselves out. Makes me wonder why they bother. It's so, so, so much easier to just accept the love of God. But I suppose it goes to show (once again) that we have a real enemy who would love nothing more than to lead people away from the Truth. Sorry about the extra long response. Very thought provoking article. And very creative.
Excellent article. Satan is walking to and fro, trying to deceive as many as he can. Thank you for pointing out the true facts, that the Biblical record of the Resurrection of Christ is accurate. Mathematicians have never answered a single prayer of mine, but Jesus sure has. May God bless.