It’s Almost Easter . . . Time For Another “Jesus Tomb” “Discovery”
Larry Hurtado, one of the world’s foremost scholars of early Christianity (and whose blog should be in your feed), draws attention to, as he puts it, “This year’s hoo-ha“: James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici are releasing a book and (natürlich) a Discovery Channel special in which they claim to have discovered the earliest Christian tomb, dated before the destruction of the Jerusalem in AD 70. If these two names are familiar, it is because this is the same team who released a book and TV show several years back claiming to have discovered the “Jesus Family Tomb,” with ossuaries (bone boxes) containing remains of Jesus, his wife(!), Mary Magdelene, and their son(!), Judah. This “proposal” has met with universal rejection by scholars of all stripes.
But, there are books to write and TV specials to produce at Easter time, so here is a press release that lays out the newest claims. Go ahead and read the connect-the-dots argument (last year it was lead codices, remember?). But then read a sober analysis by Prof. Christopher Rollston.
I’ll let you work through the details, but essentially what Tabor and Jacobovici read as an inscription that mentions “God” and “resurrect” actually says neither “God” nor “resurrect.” And some engravings that they take to be a depiction of Jonah and the great fish are simply depictions of tomb entrances. As Rollston points out, even if these are vague references on these ossuaries to some kind of afterlife, we already knew that some strains of first-century Judaism had a belief in after-life existence. Far from being a sensational find with no historical support, these items fit with what we already knew about burial beliefs and practices in Jerusalem in the first century.
But that doesn’t sell books or TV shows.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Mary Magdalene is referred to as “Lord” in their reading of an inscription. Will The Davinci Code ever go away?