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The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere

26th February 2007

The hype surrounding the forthcoming documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus shows no signs of abating quite yet. The main website for the documentary and book has come on-line now (last time I checked it just had a brief text message): The Lost Family Tomb of Jesus

There is a lot of hype and knee-jerk reactions around the blogosphere, but there have also been some thoughtful responses as well. Here are a few that I think are worthy of reading:

  • James Tabor, who was directly involved with the project, has some initial thoughts on the significance of the Talpiot tomb as well as a brief post on a comment by Joe Zias on the remarkable nature of the combination of names in one tomb.
  • Darrel Bock has a brief post musing the confusing between Hollywood and Jerusalem. Since Bock had a small consultant role for the documentary and has actually seen it, his comments are especially relevant. In short, he is quite skeptical to say the least.
  • Ben Witherington has an engaging (and humorous) discussion of the Talpiot Tomb at his eponymous blog. He has some personal experience working with Simcha Jacobovici on a previous documentary and while he affirms his abilities as a filmmaker, he questions his abilities as critical reader of history. He also pokes holes in the statistics, DNA evidence, as well as a bunch of historical problems with the whole hypothesis. His conclusion is work reproducing: “So my response to this is clear— James Cameron, the producer of the movie Titantic, has now jumped on board another sinking ship full of holes, presumably in order to make a lot of money before the theory sinks into an early watery grave. Man the lifeboats and get out now.
  • Duane Smith over at Abnormal Interests has a good discussion of the published archaeological sources for the Talpiot tomb complex, namely Amos Kloner’s article, “A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in East Talpiyot, Jerusalem,” from the journal ‘Atiqot 29 (1996): 15-22, and Levi Yizhaq Rahmani’s book, A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries: In The Collections of the State of Israel, Jerusalem (Israel Antiquities Authority: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994), 222-224. Duane also cites some other authorities that question the significance of the find and takes a more in-depth look at the actual inscriptions. He concludes: “So what can be made of all this? Very little. Jacobovici appears to be sensationalizing an otherwise unremarkable discovery now over two decades old. There is nothing here that should cause consternation for believers or give hope (or consternation) to non-believers. Theological issues will not be dispelled or supported by archaeological discoveries. This tomb is no exception.”
  • Tony Chartrand-Burke has a short note on his Apocryphicity blog about the questionable appeal to the Acts of Philip to identify the ossuary of “Mariamneâ€? with Mary Magdalene. Tony notes that one shouldn’t look to the Acts of Philip for reliable information about first-century figures and that the Mariamne referred to in the Acts of Philip is not Mary Magdalene, but Mary of Bethany.
  • Todd Bolen has some strong comments at his BiblePlaces blog. He is especially skeptical about the motives behind the documentary; he asserts: “In short, this ‘discovery’ has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with financial gain. You can make a lot of money and gain a lot of notoriety by creating the most sensational of discoveries. It would all be so much better if journalists would call up a few experts, determine that the story is rubbish, and then publish nothing about it. Unfortunately, journalists are complicit in perpetuating the fraud, because sensational stories like this are good for their ratings.”
  • Mark Goodacre has a couple posts on the whole Jesus tomb theory on his NT Gateway blog. His first post looks back to March 1996 when the The Sunday Times News Review in the UK had a story about the Talpiot tomb connected with an Easter TV special on BBC, while his second post highlights the valuable role that blogging can play in such “discoveries” in that we have access to the thoughts of some scholars who played a role in the documentaries and that blogging brings together a wide range of expertise. I would add that blogging also provides some amazingly fast feedback on such issues.
  • Fellow Albertan Michael Pahl has some good thoughts over at the stuff of earth.
  • Ed Cook at Ralph the Sacred River has a brief post lamenting the hype — especially considering that the Talpiot “Jesus bar Joseph” ossuary has been known for over a decade and is not even the only such ossuary that has been discovered. He concludes: “The rather limited onomastic repertoire of first-century Jews is a well-known fact to specialists, and it is both dishonest and cynical of the purveyors of this ‘theory’ to exploit the gullible with a proposal they must know is highly unlikely.”
  • Christopher Rollston has a guest post on Dr Jim West‘s blog where he criticises a number of the underlying assumptions of the whole theory and concludes, “The Discovery Channel special is sensationalistic and tragically flawed.”
  • Scot McKnight over at Jesus Creed also had a brief post questioning the sensationalism.
  • Rick Brannan has two posts over at ricoblog; one in which he provides links to an academic paper on the “Jesus Ossuary” by Dr. Michael S. Heiser.
  • Chris Heard of Higgaion fame has a short note questioning the theory that the James ossuary was originally from the Talpiot tomb. For an assessment of Simcha Jacobovici’s past track record, see Chris’s scathing 14-part review of the Exodus Decoded.
  • Michael Barber over at Singing in the Reign disputes James Cameron’s Titanic Claim (I liked the title of his post so included it here!)

OK, I guess it was more than a few! As you can see, there is a lot of discussion on this in the blogs, and most of it is very skeptical and negative. As with Jacobovici’s other documentaries, I imagine this one will be a slick production. While I don’t want to pre-judge it, it’s really too bad that the same amount of resources and skill can’t be marshaled for a documentary that is also academically sound. Such is life.


22 Responses to “The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere”

  1. James Tabor Says:

    Dear Tyler,

    Your are surely right, the comments are flying. Unfortunately, there is so much out there that is not even reflective of anything those involved in the Talpiot tomb research have set forth that I am a bit taken back. I was on Larry King last night and the visciousness of the attacks by two of the guests were only matched by their utter ignorance of the subject. I am amazed at the nastiness that so many readily express about people they know nothing about and have ever met. I realize we all need time here, since the book that summarizes some of the latest research on the Talpiot tomb is just out, and the documentary has not even aired yet, but so many seem ready to condemn it wholesale in the most blanket manner, without even considering any of the evidence. BTW, Kloner’s complete article as well as Rachmani’s treatment were given out to ALL the reporters yesterday at the press conference. There was no attempt to hold back on alternative views, in fact Kloner’s views have now received more attention than they could have ever possibly had appearing just in Antiqot, a rather obscure journal for most. Further, he is presented in the documentary fully stating his views and Discovery is putting together a forum at which Kloner and many others with alternative views will be full participants.

    I did take out time this AM to try to address some of the many misconceptions my friend Ben Witherington has about the whole matter on my Blog (www.jesusdynaty.com/blog). I will do my best over the next week or so to present on my Blog as reasonable and informed treatment of the topic as I can.

    I think impuning motives here as so many are doing is really an ugly and unethical thing. I have worked with Simcha for three years now and I don’t know of anyone with more integrity and commitment to investigating a story. His Emmy documentaries on the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the Sex Slaves trade in Europe, and many other similar projects speak worlds of him. I have also found Jim Cameron to be one of the finest persons I have ever worked with. At every step of the way he was concerned with scientific intregrity and the highest standards of documentary evidence. We have exchanged countless e-mails and conversations and he was always consulting with me to try to get things as correct as possible.

    Thanks for you honest and good attempts to keep up with all this.

    James

  2. Targuman » Blog Archive » Biblioblog Tomb Roundup Says:

    [...] The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere nd the Blogosphere The hype surrounding the forthcoming documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus shows no signs of abating quite yet. The main website for the documentary and book has come on-line now (last time I checked it just had a brief text message): The Lost Family Tomb of Jesus [...]

  3. Jesus’ Tomb Found? at PastorResources Blog - Beta Says:

    [...] (and here, here, and here), Ben Witherington, Darrell Bock, Scot McKnight, Nathan Busenitz, and Tyler Williams. Update: Here’s the official site of the documentary and the [...]

  4. DH Says:

    This jesus tomb thing worries me!

  5. mario rossi Says:

    There is a nice story in the gospel of Matthew (28:11-15) about rumours of Jesus body being stolen from the tomb. The gospel says: “this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day�. The gospel of Matthew has been written around 70 AD. Why should people have circulated the story, if nearby there was a tomb with the remains of Jesus, his wife and his son?

  6. arbitrarymarks.com » Blog Archive » Linkdump 02.27.07: Jesus Tomb Edition Says:

    [...] has weighed in as well, on the con side.  You can find a good roundup of relevant posts as well here, on [...]

  7. Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot » Blog Archive » More from Tabor on the Jesus/Talpiot Tomb Says:

    [...] The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere [...]

  8. the blog of brandon withrow » The Jesus Tomb Says:

    [...] Worth reading are Codex’s Jesus Tomb in the blogosphere survey and Abnormal Interests recent discussion.  Don’t miss Ben Witherington’s examination [...]

  9. Blue Cord » The So-Called Jesus Tomb Says:

    [...] you are interested in reading other blogs on the subject, Tyler Williams at Codex has pulled together an extensive list of links to posts by bloggers.  I was planning to do this [...]

  10. James F. McGrath Says:

    Thank you for the list of recent blog entries on this subject! I’ve added my own thoughts on my own blog at and thus will not comment at length here!

  11. TALPIOT TOMB | Diffusion of Regeneration Says:

    [...] Witherington’s Blog Tyler Williams The Jerusalem Post The Discovery [...]

  12. biblicalia » Blog Archive » That Jesus Tomb Stuff Says:

    [...] Williams over at Codex has begun keeping track of the best posts amongst the Biblioblogs in response to the latest media pseudo-scandal about a particular tomb near [...]

  13. Fr Alvin Kimel Says:

    You may wish to add to your list this article by Jim Davila. It contains a lengthy citation from Richard Bauckham.

    http://paleojudaica.blogspot.com/2007_02_25_paleojudaica_archive.html#117256772472454579

  14. Fr Alvin Kimel Says:

    Richard Bauckham has now weighed in.

  15. Dr. R. Kirk Kilpatrick Says:

    FYI please see:

    http://confirmedword.blogspot.com/

    regarding the “Jesus Tomb.”

  16. James Snapp, Jr. Says:

    Greetings.

    I,too, have chimed in about the “Lost Tomb of Jesus.” Besides critiquing the basic ideas promoted by the film, I also point out the anti-miracle bias of one of the scholars involved in the project — one who has posted in the comments above, namely James Tabor.

    http://www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombOne.html

  17. Dr. R. Kirk Kilpatrick Says:

    On the “mysterious” chevron and circle:

    http://confirmedword.blogspot.com/

    RKK

  18. Matt Jones’ Random Acts of Verbiage » The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Really? Says:

    [...] Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot: The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere [...]

  19. Joseph Thimes Says:

    On the Talpiot tomb, there are many fantastic claims made. In reveiwing the TV documentary and the ossuary inscriptions, their claims can be attacked by translating the Aramaic and Greek inscriptions. There are of course transliterations involved. Any successful attacks on this documentary should start with the faulty transcriptions on the ossuaries. Thou not an expert, I can read most of the inscriptions.

    There are serious problems with the “Mariamne–mara”, especially the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuaries. In reading the “mariamne” part, I get “M-a-r-i-a?-e-e-? followed by m-a-r-a”. The “a’s” are shaped differently! There appears to be two letters missing (m and n) where I have my first ?. There is a possibility that the first ? could be a very archair “n” but if so, it is misshaped.

    Severe problems exist on the Jesus inscription. First of all, there is no “s” or “sh” ( a shin as tv documentary says) in the word Yeshua as written. What they called a shin (a “k-like” letter) is not an s or sh at all. Closest thing it resembles may by a “k” of some kind. The 1/2-swastika-like figure that the tv documentary shows is Not the aramaic word “bar”. There is no “b” in this 1/2 swastika figure. The last word does resemble Yehowceph (Joseph).

    The Maria ossuary has problems. What they call an “m” could be an “m” if it is the last letter of a word–not the first letter. The first letter could be an “s” (samech) instead of the m. If so, then the name could be sarah (however, we have the wrong s for sarah here). In the Matia ossuary, the fist letter could be a mishapenede N or two letters ( a “b” and a ? ). If the first letter is a B, then Bithiah (or batia, bitia, etc) is possible?. In the James ossuary, the fifth letter given is a “b”. But from the photograph, that letter may be a full box–in other words, an “m” as the final word of the name. If this is so, then the name could possibly translate as “jakim”. However, there is an extra letter (the ayin) that is not part of Jakim name.

    Finally, the DNA analysis could be faulty from the word go. According to Zahi Hawass, curator of Egyptian antiquities, the reason he is not allowing DNA tests on the mummies is that the pharaoh’s DNA has degraded and better DNA tests with shorter DNA strands is needed. Could this apply to this case? The statistics would vary quite a bit if the tomb is from multiple families.

    I have published articles on Egyptology and Biblical research. I do hope to hear from you. Someone should look into the Aramaic/Greek inscriptions. Also, there is much difference in the quality of these inscriptions!

    Joseph L. Thimes

  20. Jerry Derringer Says:

    I think this film is overhyped. You have to figure out who is telling the story. In an interview, the director says he didn’t have to prove anything. It’s a hot story so he was wanting to tell it. Read the interview here:

    http://www.donsausa.com/2007/03/how-credible-is-lost-tomb-of-jesus.html

  21. Logstaff Says:

    Logstaff said…
    I was seeing the moovie recently. I am surprised that the investigators clearly mentionned at the beginning of the moovie that the archeologist found the stone boxes with the bones inside. Also some skulls are standing arround in the corners of the cave. An archeologist has seen all these skeletons and apparently made an inventory of each of it. Here is an unanswered question… Who was that archeologist.. where is that report about the skeletons, and probably where are the drawings or photographs. I would expect that it would have been a routine job at least to analyze the remains in order to find out the age of the person??? Than the comment is done that because of the religious tradition of the jews a reburial was done. Now another question is obvious: I guess that such a reburial is not just done anywhere without inventory… so why is that entire moovie going arround the main trace? I was expecting that a team of investigators ready to scretch the bottom of the stone boxes in order to recover a couple bone chips for DNA analyze (which is a good way to trace all kind of info, for sure)… why such a team of “scientists” is not able to check at least the age of that individual by getting hold of the reburial place.. or to start with of the archeologist file describing the content of the stone box. That is why I felt strange about that theory.. all was tried out to malke the story look probable.. and than the most obvious control wasnt done…
    ………
    Also the reburried bones can be now 100% identified, since the DNA must be identical to the DNA already taken out of the stone box with the Jesus Name written on it.
    ………
    It would be of cause very interesting to check these bones in order to see if they could have been of a man aged like the Christian Jesus. Than it would be even better to discover the damages done to the bones on legs and hands, ribbs.. whatever.
    ….
    But here we expect too much…. Since probably the people who made all this reportage.. already saw the archeologist file.. which they hide in the moovie… that probably.. the bones found in that box.. did not fit the profile of the Christian Jesus… who knows.. maybe they found a guy 60 years old without his teeth.. than the entire story is ridiculous…
    ……
    Still an interesting point to mention: Who ever was burried in that precise grave, I think all agree that it is an ancient grave of the period of the christian Jesus. Now what I think is quite astonishing.. is that the symbols hammered into the rock over the entrance door to that tomb.. seem to me looking like some version of ALFA and OMEGA… You know that these greek letters stand for the Beginning and the End of all.. and that Jesus also used them in a speech to situate his mission on earth… so I just wish to mention this find.. this observation which to my surprise even the film maker did not mention.. and it would be quite in favor of their theories… or at least it is quite “greek”.. to put that alfa and Omega in front of a commun jewish grave..
    Any Comments welcome!

  22. Luke Martin Says:

    Just an update, there’s a new site on all of the compiled debunkings here:

    http://www.TheLostTombofJesus.com