Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus, Mary, Joseph!

A few things come to mind after the James Cameron "I've found Jesus' bones" movie.

First, this whole thing strikes me as sort of the reverse of 19th century biblical archaeology. Then, they took the bible stories as literally true and set out to find evidence of it, like Noah's ark. Cameron's movie also takes bible stories as literally true to "disprove" some part of them. Think about it. The only way these bones could be those of Jesus and his family is if the gospels accurately describe him and his family with one exception: the Mary Magdalene thing so popular today because of the Da Vinci Code. I mean, if the real Jesus was not the son of Mary and Joseph, then this person is not the real Jesus. If Mary Magdalene is a composite, then we would not expect to find a "real" one at all. It's a little strange to both affirm and deny the gospel accounts at the same time like this. Is everything true but the resurrection? Hmmm. But more on bodily resurrection later.

Second, the idea that Jesus' family continued as an intact unit and buried its own in a nice higher-class family grave site in Jerusalem runs counter to everything we know about that family. The family site would have been in the Galilee somewhere, if at all. Moreover, the gospel is clear that Jesus never set foot in Jerusalem until the last weeks of his life. There aren't any Jerusalemites among the apostles.

Third, first-century Christians had no agenda to cover up the burial of Jesus. Nor would they have succeeded, if it was so publicly done in a family site. The Roman State had an agenda, perhaps, but that was three centuries later. If the bones were so accessibly in a known family tomb, I presume early Christians would have venerated his bones as holy relics and proclaimed his resurrection in some other form (perhaps a new body like the New Jerusalem or something... this isn't hard to gin up). Peter's burial site (the Vatican) became an instant site of veneration.

Fourth, I kind of feel like we went through a hoax like this just last year with another ossuary.

What really bothers me, though, is the fundamentalist/securlarist nature of the "debate" we are seeing. We are not free to "disbelieve" science in the name of faith. The entire question should be one of scientific factfinding. If science proves that those are Jesus' bones, it does not really matter to a Christian, unless your world is constructed on the foundation of biblical literacy and inerrancy. But then, someone warned us about the foolish man who built his house on sand.


Dr. Strangelove said...

I have not seen the movie, and I do not understand how it is possible to "prove" whose bones are in the tomb. But I think LTG may have overstated the extent to which the producers relied on the "literal truth" of the gospels. From this article, here is what I have been able to piece together.

1. Ten stone coffins ("ossuaries") were found in 1980 near Tapliot, Israel--a suburb or area of Jerusalem. The experts who have studied them feel confident they date from the 1st Century. The provenance of the coffins is imperfect, but chemical evidence indicates that .

2. Five of the coffins bore suggestive Aramaic inscriptions: "Jesus son of Joseph," "Mary," "Joseph," "Matthew," "Judah son of Jesus," and "Mariamne the Master." Some apocrypha indicate the name in the final inscription is consistent with woman we now call Mary Magdalene. The article did not give information on the other five boxes.

3. DNA tests indicate that the persons buried in the Jesus and Mariamne tombs are not related. Since those buried in the same site tend to be related by blood or marriage, it is reasonable to guess Mariamne was married to someone. The producers assumed it was Jesus.

So really the only reliance on the new testament is for the names.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's phenomenal that they can do DNA tests. I don't suppose they're ready to release the tests to see if Jesus was Joseph's son. =)

I guess I'm terribly skeptical, given the hoax last year. I think it's too much to hope for that they've actually found all this. Last year, the markings on a supposed ossuary for James, the brother, turned out to be forged.

Anonymous said...

I think this whole things smells like those old "In Search Of" shows with Leonard Nimoy? You know, the one where they would interview "scientists" about the Loch Ness Monster or something?

This facination with the Da Vinci code is a strange thing. It's not entirely secular. Indeed, really secular people aren't nearly as interested in this kind of thing (the graves we're talking about or the Da Vinci Code stuff) as are a certain subset of self described Christians.

Do atheists really care if they found the grave site of some minor aristocrat in Roman Judea named Jeshua or whatever?


Gainell said...

Thanks for writing this.