In recent years archaeologists have uncovered many tombs in Israel, particularly around Jerusalem. One tomb in particular termed, ‘The Family Tomb of Jesus’, has created a great deal of controversy. In 1980 a construction crew uncovered a tomb in the Talpiot suburb of Jerusalem. Some have claimed that this tomb is where Jesus and family members were buried. The main contention by many is that Jesus was buried in this tomb and was not resurrected. In other words, he decayed in the dirt of the earth for the last 2000 years.
Because many reader may not know about ossuaries and tombs, which were common in the Middle East 2000 years ago, some background information may be helpful.
After people died they were placed in a tomb for a year, assuming they could afford one. After a year when the flesh had decayed, the bones were placed into a bone box called an ossuary. The box was carved of limestone, common in the area, to fit the size of the bones of the deceased. The ossuary containing the bones was placed in a tomb which usually was a man made cave. As you will see not everyone was placed in such a tomb. However, one archaeologist has stated that he knew of 900 tombs in the Jerusalem area. Sometimes the name of the person in the ossuary was inscribed on the outside. If you care to see what ossuaries look like go to Google and enter, ‘Ossuaries Around Jerusalem’ and once there click on, ‘images’.
Now back to the Talpiot Tomb uncovered in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem. When the tomb was uncovered by a contractor, hoping to build there, Israeli archaeologists were contacted who then investigated the tomb. In the tomb they found 10 ossuaries, six of the ten had inscriptions on them. According to one source about 17 skeletons were in the ossuaries and another 18 were lying about elsewhere in the tomb. A good number of the bones were damaged and deteriorated.(See Dr. Craig Evans, ‘The Tomb of Jesus and Family’).
The ossuaries and bones were taken by Israeli officials .The contents of the ossuaries were removed and probably reburied. The ossuaries are now stored in a warehouse which holds many other ossuaries.
In 2007 a documentary prepared by two gentlemen, namely Jacobovici and Cameron, was aired on TV and caused a great deal of debate on the part of Christians and non-Christians alike. In short the TV program maintained that Jesus and his family were buried in the Talpiot Tomb, based on the names inscribed on the side of the ossuaries. One scenario laid out by some non- believers which is totally contrary to what the Christian scriptures say, is as follows. After Jesus died he was placed in a tomb. At night Jesus was removed by his followers and taken to the family tomb. This would have been the Talpiot family tomb. Jesus body would have been left there for his flesh to decay. After a year disciples and followers returned and placed his bones in an ossuary.
The names on the ossuaries were, ‘Jesus?,son of Joseph’; Mariamne Mara’; ‘Maria’; ‘Matia’;’ Judah, son of Jesus’ and ‘Joseh’.Some archaeologists and other experts have opinions that differ from those who produced the TV documentary, and some of their differing views are briefly stated in the paragraphs below.
The names that appear on the ossuaries don’t prove much because the names were very common at the time of Jesus. An ossuary inscribed ‘Jesus son of Joseph’ had been found elsewhere before. One expert has said that the inscription ‘Jesus’ is not clearly inscribed and could read ‘Hanun’and not ‘Jesus’. That being the case it would negate everything believed about the Jesus family tomb.
Jesus’ family lived in Nazareth and if they were to have a family tomb it would not likely have been in the Talipot area.
A DNA test was conducted with what little material remained in the ossuaries which belonged to ‘Jesus’and ‘Mariamne Mara’ (Marymagdalene ?). The test showed they were not genetically related, so gave rise to the idea that they were married and had a son named Judas. That, of course, is a very questionable assumption. Furthermore, Judas would have been an unlikely choice for a son’s name given that it was the name of the disciple that betrayed Jesus.
There is some disagreement about the name and meaning of ‘Mariamne Mara’. One observer suggested that perhaps there were two ladies in one ossuary.
The name ‘Matia’ translated is Mathew. Jesus had brothers and sisters, mentioned in the bible, but a sibling named Mathew is not to be found. If he was not a relative then how did he end up in the family tomb?
What about the ossuaries that had no inscribed names? Furthermore, what about the skeletons and crushed bones that were not in ossuaries but found elsewhere in the tomb? Who were they and how did they get there? If all the bones in ossuaries and those not in ossuaries had been tested for DNA then the question about the tomb being a family tomb would have been resolved. However, it still would not have proven that the tomb belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth.
One report stated that there was a substantial amount of soil in the Talpiot Tomb. Also, there was evidence that the tomb had been entered by grave robbers so material likely was moved about. The tombs in the area in question have been there for many hundreds of years, so there was ample time for tombs to be vandalized. This makes coming to a valid conclusion, about the Talipot ossuaries, based on science, virtually impossible. However, there is another source of information which is different and reliable and provided by eyewitnesses.
It is important to understand that the body of Jesus of Nazareth was not stolen and hidden away to deceive anyone. The scriptures say that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believed on him could have eternal life.( John 3:16).While Jesus was on our earth, even during his death of three days, he was under the care of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Also, the scriptures say that angels were present at his tomb. In addition, Pilate gave instructions that guards be stationed at the tomb. Jesus’ resurrection was a physical resurrection, not just a spiritual one as some have argued. Jesus was resurrected and seen by many people.
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on Sunday morning and found the tomb empty. An angel was there and explained to her what had taken place. Among several sightings were two women returning from the tomb, (Mathew 28:9-10): two disciples on the road to Emmaus,(Luke 14:13-32); Peter in Jerusalem, (Luke 24:34) ; disciples and followers in a locked room in Jerusalem, (John 20:19-23) ; seen by 500 believers at one time, (1 Corinthians 15:16) ; Finally, he walked with his disciples and ascended into heaven.
The above may be hard to believe if you deny the existence of anything incorporeal. However, God does exist. That’s how we got here. We’re not here by accident. We will never fully understand how the universe, all the planets, and our earth came to be, but we need to give credence to the the idea that God exists and loves us as shown by the death of his son.
Jesus said, ” I came that you might have life and have it abundantly”. (and that would include eternal life).(John 10-10).
Archaeology is an interesting study, but its not possible to ever have contained Jesus in an ossuary. In Revelation 1:17-18, Jesus speaking says, “….Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore…. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death”.
“Christ died for our sins… He was buried… He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures”. ( 1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Start a dialogue with Him. Talk to Him. Ask Him to forgive your sins, and make Him a friend and Lord of your life.