Howdy, all! I hope to leave this topic, but thought I would add this last post. I wrote an interent commentary for possible use by the office in Charlotte, but it was way too long for that format. Hopefully the revised, shorter version I submitted will work. But in the meantime, I thought I would post my original draft here. In some ways I like the shorter version better — it is tighter and more succinct (read: less hastily written, perhaps?). If it ends up being publishable, you can compare for yourself when it comes out! Until then, though, here is the longer, rougher draft (although, I will admit, adorned with a few edits that my editorial team (i.e., moi) found too tempting not to add).
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Edit, 5:25pm: I saw today on the Tomorrow’s World website that the “tighter” commentary is now up. You can read it here. (And if you didn’t read my instructions about how to subscribe to regular commentary e-mails, click here.) I do think I like the final version of the essay better in a number of ways (if not all), and I often find that restrictions such as word length caps really do help make for better writing. Anyway, the original draft is still given below.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Tomb of Jesus?
Have you seen “The Tomb of Jesus,” a Discovery Channel presentation brought to us by filmmakers James Cameron (of Titanic fame) and Simcha Jacobovici? If not, it is only a matter of time before you hear about it – such is the way with society’s current fascination with the “Da Vinci Code” spirit of “creative history.”
Mr. Jacobovici and his team point to a tomb discovered in 1980 and thought to be uninteresting archaeologically at the time, and claim it is the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. They note, for instance, that it contained ossuaries (coffins, or “bone boxes”) inscribed with the name “Jesus son of Joseph” as well as some other names associated with Jesus’ family (e.g., “Mary” and “Jose”) – though, including, as well, names that are not associated in any other resource or history with His family (e.g., “Matthew,” claimed to be a previously unmentioned brother, and “Judas,” who is supposed to be the son of this Jesus). What are we to make of their claim?
Well, for starters, many researchers and experts are publicly pointing out that – while good for drama and publicity – the show’s assemblage and interpretation of the facts represent bad science and pseudo-archaeology. Even the show’s probability calculation on the names found in the tomb is highly questionable in the way in which it is applied (and I noticed this, myself, having once been a practicing mathematician whose “bread and butter” involved performing such calculations).
Loose science and slipshod “archaeology” aside, the fact is that the arguments that have demonstrated the truth of Christianity to anyone not blinded by their own pre-formed assumptions are still as strong as ever, and suffer not even a dent from this television stunt.
Imagine the scene, if you will…
A hush spreads across the court of King Agrippa as the Christian apostle Paul begins to conclude his defense, discussing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ: “…this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
Then Agrippa says to Paul, “Very passionately delivered, Paul, but your tale is a fantasy. The tomb of this man you say rose from the dead is there, this day, outside Jerusalem! His bones lie along side those of his mother and the rest of his family. Why you persist in this horrible and perverse lie to your own destruction is beyond me! Festus is right: You are truly mad…”
However, this is NOT how it happened! You can read how Luke, the first century church historian, recorded the actual exchange in Acts 26:22-32. Even in the white hot heat of terrible first century persecution of the new religion, when the Jewish leaders of the day were desperate to end this “vile” and troubling sect that kept talking “nonsense” about their leader’s resurrection, no one was able to produce a body to refute the claim – let alone an entire family tomb. No one. No matter how passionately they must have searched for it, no matter how viciously they must have interrogated the many Christians they arrested: there was simply no body to be found to demonstrate the “lie.”
If the Jewish leaders of the time could not, with all the power and means at their disposal, discover the location of a family tomb that was located in the very area from which the heresy was spreading, then surely they are amongst the most incompetent individuals in the history of mankind. And if the original followers of Jesus – who suffered torments unimaginable – voluntarily endured such horrific treatment and violent deaths simply because they were unwilling to admit that their profession of a risen Christ was a lie they knew to be false, then surely they are amongst the most insane individuals in the history of mankind.
Believing that scenario requires an incredible amount of faith – more faith than a bad-science-but-ripping-yarn television program deserves. And more faith than believing in the other scenario that has been continually verified by the accumulated facts of almost 2,000 years of human history and experience: He is risen. And He lives today.
The apostle Paul and his fellow workers in the gospel would have gone down in history as laughing stocks if Jesus’ family tomb existed and contained His bones, not as a team of men who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). And yet, they – with their seemingly unbelievable and assumably easily disprovable “resurrection” story – did, indeed, turn the world upside down. This fact, history does not question.
While talented filmmakers and imaginative writers, these men have given us nothing more than an interesting tale – a pinch of fact surrounded by a good fistful of storytelling. Whoever this “Yeshua” is whose tomb has been found (and many were named so in Jerusalem at the time), one day in the general resurrection he might have a laugh hearing about how his “bone box” was paraded as the “silver bullet” that shot down Christianity. But this fellow will know then, as we can know now – the tomb was, and still is, empty.