The “Tomb” of Jesus — A Few More Comments

Howdy, again!  I figure some of you (having read my February 27 post about the subject) have been expecting me to write again about this with more to say.  Unfortunately, I did not give you a time element in that last post!

I really wanted to see the Discovery Channel show, “The Tomb of Jesus,” that Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron have given us before I wrote anything too specific.  Well, earlier tonight I (and the rest of you who might have seen it) got to do just that!  And I was pleased that after the two hour “popcorn” treatment was over, the Discovery Channel had Ted Koppel host a panel of experts discussing (& disputing) the issue for an hour or so with Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. James Tabor, his partner in this matter.  Actually, the length of the main program, itself, could have been cut by an hour (or more) while still giving it time to present the important facts and “analysis” (the quote marks there are very intentional) — which would have given the Discovery Channel more time to allot to the panel discussion, which was much more beneficial, and could have been even more so.

Augh!  I have much more on my mind about this show and its issue, but I absolutely MUST get to bed!  Suffice it, for now, for me to make a few comments (else I may get to bed, but I won’t be able to sleep!):

•  The real “evidence” presented on the program is less than overwhelming, especially when stripped of the rather thick coat of gloss and varnish laid upon the actual facts at hand.

That the program’s creators have an agenda (and one that goes beyond, “Let’s just get people talking!”) should have been rather clear for those who have eyes to see.  For example, Dr. Tabor was true to form when he said at the very beginning of the show that the “historical” approach is to assume that Jesus’ body was buried and should theoretically be with us today.  Christians claim that the transformation and resurrection of Jesus’ body was a historical event — how can you claim that the “historical” approach is to assume from the start that a potentially historical event did not happen?  (I should give him credit, though, in that it is my understanding that by associating himself with this production he shows a willingness to change his previously stated position on some matters.  But trading one falsehood for another can’t earn one too many points…)

•  The mathematics used to calculate the “probability” touted on the program is fundamentally flawed as a measure of how confident we should be in Jacobovici and gang’s conclusions.  I don’t mean to diminish the reputation of the statistics professor who did the calculations for the Mr. Simcha, but anyone (like me) who has had to do real calculations like that in real situations so that you can advise someone to make real decisions recognizes that no hypothesis was being tested in those calculations.

If you want to test the credibility or confidence level of a hypothesis, fine — do that, and then tell me how confident that I can be in that hypothesis.  There was no hypothesis tested with those calculations.    All the talk about the “probability of the cluster” is impressive sounding, but it isn’t the analysis that is really needed.

Again, I do not mean to besmirch the reputation of Professor Feuerverger — he makes his own choices, and I do not know exactly what he was asked to do.  But asking someone, “What is the probability of this cluster of names?” is simply NOT the same as asking, “How statistically confident should we be that these names represent the family members of Jesus of Nazareth?”  Not only is the first question a bit vacuous (which would explain why not much more than a single “high school” level rule of probability is used to calculate it), it would likely be answered by most using a completely different (an not applicable) set of beginning assumptions.

(I could go on and on and on this point, and if I feel like rambling some time in the next few days, I just might.  I hate it when mathematics is abused and MISused to lend an air of authority to something that does not deserve that authority.  If you like the sort of “math” that you saw on “The Tomb of Jesus” tonight, you might as well go out and buy a Michael Drosnin “Bible Codes” book — the “mathematics” is just as “sound” in those things (I refuse to dignify them by calling them books).  It might help sell books and boost ratings, but it just ain’t responsible mathematics!  OK, Smith: surpress the urge to rant, surpress the urge to rant…  I think I need to find a paper bag to breathe into…)

•  There is currently a great deal of discussion about the assumptions concerning the names, as well.  In fact, many have quite authoritatively argued that the supposed “Mary Magdalene” inscription should not be interpreted to be Mary Magdalene.  In fact, it has been powerfully argued that the way in which the name is inscribed on that ossuary actually provides evidence against the identification of the woman with Mary Magdalene.

•  On some of these matters, you might consider taking a look at the blog of Ben Witherington.  I read his article in the Wall Street Journal on March 2, “Tomb of the (Still) Unknown Ancients” and found it well done.  (You can read here, though it may require a subscription, I’m not sure.  If the link works for you, I do recommend the article to those who might be interested.)  Though written before the show aired, he had seen an advance preview and has actually worked with both Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor, before, on other matters in which they are in agreement.  His conclusion?  “Make no bones about it — they have not found Jesus’ tomb.”

I mention his blog because he has posted insightful news and comments about many additional, convincing critiques of the conclusions shoved forward by the team of Jacobovici, Tabor, and Cameron.  His February 26 post, “The Jesus Tomb? ‘Titanic’ Talpiot Tomb Theory Sunk from the Start” is a good start.  Two more later posts (February 28, “Problems Multiply for Jesus Tomb Theory,” & March 1, “The Smoking Gun—Tenth Talpiot Ossuary Proved To Be Blank“) contain more details and dissecting, which will be more than some will feel the need to read, but which I very much enjoyed reading after the show.

And that’s just got to be it, for now!  In summary, let me just say that the arguments for the truth of the Christian claim that Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead are just as true now as they have ever been.  For 2,000 years that claim has been attacked by hardier foes than we see today, and for 2,000 years it has survived because it is a matter of history, not fantasy.  The resurrection is not some “cunningly devised fable” (2 Peter 1:16) — a description which just so happens to fit tonight’s Discovery Channel telecast of “The Tomb of Jesus” quite nicely.  The apostle Peter prophesied that scoffers would come in the last days (2 Peter 3:3)…  Don’t let the fact that some of them have television cameras and slick websites bother you any more than it should!  Let the fairy tales crumble in the waste can, the truth will outlast them all.

Have a great night — or morning — or whatever part of the day you find yourself in!

12 thoughts on “The “Tomb” of Jesus — A Few More Comments

  1. Seven Star Hand (LW Page)

    Christians again prove many are unabashed enemies of the truth


    After finally watching the Jesus Tomb documentary and the hour of critical look “debates” following it, I am left with the sad conclusion that a large percentage of Christians will always oppose the truth, regardless of how it is presented. It has been amazing to watch people who regularly oppose critical thought and science hypocritically assert that critical thought and science supports so-called “biblical evidence” in their efforts to debunk this archeological find and associated theories. Many of these same people have the gall to complain about “theatrics” used to present these findings, as if Christianity has never turned a profit or stooped to even slicker and far more dubious methods pushing their stories and interpretations. Though I too have problems with the way this documentary and religion in general have been sold, for profit, I also think this information deserves a much closer examination and consideration than a simple knee jerk defense of New Testament claims. Do Christians really think that the Creator of all knowledge and wisdom wants them to blindly oppose all newly discovered truths? Which primary characters in the Bible is this level of deception most often attributed to?

    When finally confronted with the truth about what happened two millennia ago, these people will be completely unable to discern the true Messiah (me) from long-term lies and will fight tooth and nail to cling to the Roman deceptions and strong delusions of the New Testament. Christianity has always been an enemy of science, truth, and justice and recent events strongly reinforce this observation.

  2. How on earth do you type so much in what seems to be such a short time?

    Thank you for taking the time to deal with all of this. Misuse of historical method (the job of the historian is not to say what can happen, but to find out what did happen), of mathematics, of linguistics, of archaeology, of media itself — from all reports there isn’t much to commend in this film. I’ll have to forward Dr. Joe Zias’ own review of the film to you…

  3. Pingback: Whew! Finished a “Jesus Tomb” Commentary and realized… « Thoughts En Route

  4. Sally Mellor

    Talk about rambling – so let’s talk about “probability” – what are the odds of an individual being killed in the first century and then coming back to life again 3 days later to hang around for another 40 days before accending (body and all) into the sky??? Oh, and let’s not forget that this individual was the result of a virgin birth. Probability please!!!

  5. I would like to address Seven Star Hand and then in a separate comment Ms. Mellor.

    Mr. Hand: I appreciate your taking the time to comment. You will probably have noticed that I removed the webpage links you provided in your comment, leaving the original content. If you would like to characterize this as my “hiding the truth” from others, I certainly can’t stop you. But I do have a responsibility before God to do what I can to make sure I do not accidentally promulgate a false gospel, and please forgive my bluntness yours is about as false as they come.

    (If you do not like having your comments edited in this way, please feel free and let me know. It will not prevent similar editing in the future, but at least this way you have been informed up front that this will occur. Also, if you would rather I remove your comment from this post entirely since the links you provided are now gone, let me know and I will happily comply.)

    While on one hand, I was wondering if I should even comment at all on what you’ve said, on the other hand I saw a benefit that could come from it. I will admit that the principle of 2 John 10-11 caused me to consider deleting your comment entirely, but in this case what you have to say is so unconvincing that I am rather confident that it lacks deceptive force, and I think I can use your rant as a teaching point, so it remains for now — again, unless you ask me to remove it.

    Your “theology” (if I can be allowed to call it that) suffers from the same sort of malaise as many aberrant theologies do: New Testament cherry picking. As many “scholars” like to do, you take from those parts of the NT those that can support your previously formed conclusion and abandon (even revile) those that that parts that disprove it. It was on display last night in the “docudrama” of “The Tomb of Jesus” and it is on display (as are many other things) in your comment here.

    As for Ms. Mellor, who brings up a different point, I’d rather address her words in a separate post which should follow shortly.

  6. Howdy, Ms. Mellor —

    Thanks for asking about the probability of a bodily transformation and resurrection and a virgin birth. (Actually, I know you weren’t really asking, but it was presented in the form of a question, so let’s pretend!)

    The probability of each of those things happening is virtually zero. Nada. Zilch.

    That’s one reason why the fact that Christ’s resurrection is undeniably present in the history of mankind provides proof that God performed a miracle and the message Jesus and His church brought is from God, Himself. When something with a probability of zero actually occurs we should sit up and pay attention, not pretend it didn’t happen.

    My beef is not with the use of statistics to address the question at hand (that being, “Is this the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth?”). Statistics and probabilistic analysis has its place in such considerations to be sure.

    Rather, my beef is how these principles were abused by the filmmakers (innocently, I do believe) to make it seem as though their conclusions were more solid than they actually are. For instance, the calculation is virtually begging to allow more thorough consideration of the data at hand. And it should be (in my opinion) a “hypothesis testing” calculation. As Jacobovici’s “Jesus equation” is currently displayed, it produces a number, yes — but that number does not actually communicate the probability of the hypothesis’ truth, even though that is the impression that the filmmakers leave you with.

    Thanks for writing, and have a good day!

    — Wallace Smith

  7. I wonder if Seven Star Hand is delusional or merely joking (not having the links here, I can’t find out offhand). After all, he did call HIMSELF (or HERSELF) “the true Messiah”. Either way, the comment appeals to my sense of humor (irony-driven as it is); and I find it difficult to take it seriously, as I know what the nature of the evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is. Thanks for taking it seriously anyway.

    I like your answer to Ms. Mellor too, but allow me to add this. Basically, Ms. Mellor is reasoning in a circle — she is assuming the truth of what she is trying to prove. But the historian’s job is not to decide beforehand what could happen — it is to determine what actually happened. Only someone pre-committed to the belief system of naturalism would deny categorically that miracles are possible, let alone on the basis of naturalistic probability. By definition, naturalistic probability doesn’t apply to miracles, nor does the scientific method. That’s where the historian comes in, for a historian who doesn’t deny a priori the possibility of the supernatural is best equipped to address the subject of miracles in history.

  8. Glen Dean

    I would add that reality demands that everything did not come from nothing and science has proven, to the best of my knowledge, that there was a definite beginning to the physical universe. Therefore the universe, and everything in it, was indeed created because, again, it didn’t just happen and something cannot come from nothing.

    That being said: If the Creator can make stars, suns, galaxies and all the other things in a universe that we really have no idea the size of in its vastness AND a myriad of life forms – (Now here is a stupid question) – what is the probability that this Creator could not cause a virgin birth or raise Jesus Christ from the dead?

  9. Ray Soular

    In order to make a infomed decision on the Jesus Tomb there are three unknown facts that need to be considered. These are explored in detail on

    1. The family or followers of Jesus would never scribble the wrong name of the Son of God in graffi fashion with a fallen cross.

    2. The tomb had been vandalized many centuries before and desecrated with three skulls in triangle to represent 666, the sign of the Antichrist. Their purpose being to create a blasphemous time bomb.

    3. The symbol over the entrance to the tomb makes it clear that the Savior was not buried inside.

    While this may be the Tomb of Mary, Jesus was definitely not buried there.

  10. Thanks, Mr. Soular for your comments, and I have checked out your website. (Though I removed the direct link from your comment. If this offends you, I will be happy to remove your post if you find my edit unacceptible.)

    Your belief that the chevron and the circle are a mark of the “Queen of Heaven” is new to me, and if it is true I am surprised that the filmmakers missed that, as desperate as they were to connect the tomb to Jesus.

    While I appreciate that you recognize the fact that the tomb did not contain the bones of THE Jesus of Nazareth, I can’t say that I agree completely with the argument on your website.

    For instance, the idea that Jesus meant for his name & title in Hebrew (Yeshua ha Mashiach) to be a secret code that would identify Him is far fetched and an unnecessary interpretation of Matthew 16:20. This is reflected in parallel verses (Mark 8:30, Luke 9:20-21), which indicate it was the fact of his Messiahship, not the specific name that was the concern. He simply was not commanding them “to protect His sacred name.” Other scriptures make this point even clearer.

    Jesus had a three-and-a-half year ministry to fulfill before His crucifixion, and He did not want events to accelerate too quickly (e.g., compare John 2:4; 8:20; 7:1-6; 7:30-31; with John 12:23 & 13:1). He made a similar prohibition on the demon who professed His identity in Mark 1:24-25 (see also v.34). As in this case, it wasn’t a secret code that Jesus was trying to suppress – rather it was the overexposure of the fact that He was, indeed, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.

    After His time was fulfilled, and His death and resurrection took place, the disciples openly proclaimed these facts, openly connecting the name of Jesus with his status as Christ (e.g., Acts 2:36) in whatever language they happened to speak (recalling that Acts 2:36 was spoken while Acts 2:8 was still in effect).

    While I’m not sure about all of your feelings on the matter of so-called “sacred names,” you might find one of our articles on the matter to be helpful. You can read it online at this link: The Truth about Sacred Names.

    Your comment about what you believe to be a depiction of the number 666 using the triangularly arranged skulls might indicate your possible interest in another of our free literature items, as well: The Beast of Revelation, Myth, Metaphor, or Soon-Coming Reality? In actuality, the mark of the Beast has little to do with national ID cards and everything to do with disobedience to the Ten Commandments, and our free booklet (which you can order online, as well) can help you see what your Bible actually says. Even without a national ID card, many people voluntarily exhibit the mark of the Beast today unknowingly, during a time when it is not yet required through force of law.

  11. Charles Gadda

    One thing that should be clear, after all the hubbub of the past week, is that the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” film is a hoax.

    To begin with — and this is something that has not been pointed out enough, although it lies at the core of the fraud — the name “Jesus” is not legible on the so-called “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary, as any serious semitics scholar will immediately tell you if you show him the tracing. The original transcriber himself (see the Israeli Catalogue of Ossuaries) put a question-mark after his reading, and two dots over the “Jesus” part of the name, thus indicating in standard fashion that he was making a conjecture (in this case one that is obviously remote). Jacobovici, however, has carefully omitted this fundamental point from his statements to the press, instead asserting that the reading had been “conclusively confirmed” by unnamed experts. For details, see

    As for James Tabor, he is the same character at the center of the recently debunked claim that an “Essene latrine” has been found near the site of Khirbet Qumran. This site, readers will recall, is the place where so-called traditional Qumranologists (including, it would appear, Tabor himself) continue to insist, in the face of mounting contrary evidence, that a sect of Essenes lived.

    Tabor also appears to be involved in the current biased and misleading exhibits of the Dead Sea Scrolls traveling around the country.
    For details, see and the other postings published by the authors of that blog.

    For Tabor’s “Essene latrine” efforts (also based in part on a misleading use of DNA evidence), see K. Galor and J. Zangenberg at…d-sea-latrine/ [WGS: Corrected link here], or the most recent article by N. Golb on the Oriental Institute website,

    Professor Jim Davila’s blog (March 6, 2007) [WGS: Archived post here] quotes Tabor as asserting to him in an email: “I have never excavated even one tomb, and I am not even an archaeologist and have never claimed to be such.”

    Yet Tabor himself, in an article published in the Charlotte Observer, excerpted on the same paleojudaica blog a year ago (February 13, 2006), wrote: “As an archaeologist, I have long observed and experienced the thrill that ancient discoveries cause in all of us. The look on the faces of my students as we uncover ancient ruins from the time of Jesus, or explore one of the caves where the scrolls were found, is unmistakable.”

    Tabor’s Ph.D. was awarded to him by the University of Chicago’s Department of New Testament and Christian Literature (which is housed in that institution’s Divinity School building). The title of his dissertation was “Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Paradise”. He clearly has no training as an archaeologist, historian, or semitics scholar, and we will no doubt be left to wonder at the motivations that led him to become involved in these phony scams.

  12. Thank you, Mr. Gadda, and I found your links very informative. (In a couple of instances I edited the entry to ensure a working link — hope you don’t mind!) Unfortunately, the full story will likely never get quite the same airing that the “smoke and mirrors” story we all watched on the Discovery Channel.

    As for Messrs. Jacobovici and Tabor, I would rather assume that passion and zeal for a desired conclusion and preferred outcome lies at the heart of the problem as opposed to a true willingness to commit fraud. Such self-deception has its influence on even the best of us (Jer. 17:9). While it doesn’t make for the best science, the history of science is certainly full of its share of examples.

    Thanks, again, for your comment, and your many references.

    Best regards,
    Wallace Smith

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