Wednesday, February 28, 2007


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By Ben Witherington @

Having now scrutinized the book The Jesus Family Tomb book which accompanies the show there are further things that need to be stressed that are wrong with this whole theory and its varied speculations. I will list them seriatim as bullet points.

1) There is a major problem with the analysis of the names on these ossuaries. By this I mean one has to explain why one is in Hebrew, several are in Aramaic, but the supposed Mary Magdalene ossuary is in Greek. This suggests a multi-generation tomb, not a single generation tomb, and indeed a tomb that comes from after A.D. 70 after the Romans had destroyed the temple mount and Jewish Christians fled the city. This tomb is not in old Jerusalem. It is nowhere near the Temple mount, and we already know that the tomb of James was near the Temple Mount. The earliest Jewish Christians in Jerusalem including the members of Jesus’ family and Mary Magdalene did not speak Greek. They spoke Aramaic. We have absolutely no historical evidence to suggest Mary Magdalene would have been called by a Greek name before A.D. 70. She grew up in a Jewish fishing village called Migdal, not a Greek city at all. It makes no sense that her ossuary would have a Greek inscription and that of her alleged husband an Aramaic inscription.

2) The argument that the ‘Matthew’ ossuary still works with the theory this is a clan tomb because Mary had ancestors named Matthew does not work. We would need more distant descendents named Matthew, or immediate offspring named Matthew, neither of which we have. None of the brothers of Jesus as listed in the NT are named Matthew.

3) Mary Magdalene is called ‘Maria’ constantly in first century Christian literature, and indeed well into the second century as well. She is never called Mariamene or the like. It is anachronistic and inappropriate to bring in later Gnostic document evidence from the Acts of Philip or the Gospel of Mary, neither of which date before the end of the second century A.D. to make your case when you have perfectly good first century data to help you. In fact, in regard to the former manuscript what we have is a 14th century manuscript which is theorized to go back to the fourth century A.D. It does not identify Mariamene as Mary Magdalene, rather it identifies her as the sister of Philip the apostle. It is the unproven theory of Francis Bovon, without real supporting evidence that Mariamene refers to Mary Magdalene. There are two problems with this: 1) we have both Mary Magdalene, and Philip in the NT, and the two are never connected at all. Indeed they are from different cities it seems clear. In terms of historical methodology you cannot use later Gnostic documents filled with wild fictional accounts, indeed fairy tales, about talking animals (yes we have that in the Acts of Philip) and like and be taken seriously when you want to make historical claims on the basis of such later and non-historically oriented evidence; 2) the accounts in the Acts of Philip have Maramene evangelizing foreign countries, yet on the argument of the film producers of this Discovery Channel special, she stayed in Jerusalem and was buried there with Jesus. In other words, we have no good historical connection between the sister of Philip, and Mary Magdalene. None.

4) Jesus is never called ‘son of Joseph’ by anyone who knew him intimately in the NT--- not by his family members, and not by his disciples. Indeed where this idea arises, for example, in John 6.42 the Jewish officials who are accosting Jesus call him ‘son of Joseph’ (cf. Jn. 8.41). These can only be called hostile witnesses, not those who were likely to have known the actual case. It is telling that in Nazareth itself, in our account in Mk. 6.1-6 in our earliest Gospel Jesus is called “the carpenter, the son of Mary”. Now in that patriarchal culture you don’t call a person a ‘son of their mother’ even if the father has died. That is a pejorative way of addressing a person, rather like calling them an S.O. you know what today. Did the people in Nazareth know there was something unusual about Jesus’ origins, and it disconnected him from Joseph? Yes they did, which is why they were angry and did not think Jesus had any right to teach them. He was probably viewed as a mamzer, as Dr. Bruce Chilton has argued—an illegitimate child. And this is precisely what James Tabor argues in his Jesus Dynasty book, claiming he was the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera. But of course now, he has reversed himself to support the Jesus Family Tomb theory. You can’t have it both ways, and in fact neither are correct. Jesus was not the physical descendent of Joseph, was known not to be by his hometown folks. The uncharitable suggested he was illegitimate but Mary claimed his conception was a miracle. Those are the two opposing explanations we have from the first century about Jesus’ origins. What we do not have is a tradition that Jesus would have been called ‘son of Joseph’ by members of his own family or his disciples—and that is what is required if the Talpiot tomb is a family tomb.

5) The second word on the Mariamene ossuary is Mara which is short for Martha another female name. It is not a reference to her being a master or teacher. You need to remember that the inscriptions on these ossuaries are very different in character to the one on the James ossuary. The latter has an honorific or monumental inscription on the side of the ossuary in a clear steady hand. The former all have what I call toe tag inscriptions scrawled hastily on the boxes as they are interred in order to distinguish the ossuaries. All that was required then was names, just names. No honorific additions like we find on monumental inscriptions would be used. So either we have two women in this ossuary, perhaps sisters, or we have one woman neither of which names match up with the first century naming of Mary Magdalene.

6) There is an interesting rosette or symbol over the Talpiot tomb, and from the pictures in the book inside the tomb as well. This is very interesting and it tells us one thing. This was a highly unusual and ornamental tomb meant to be recognized by the symbol. It is not, and indeed was not a secret tomb where a despised split off sect of Jesus following Jews could have hidden the bodies of Jesus or James or other family members. The ornamental decoration is meant to attract attention and draw people to the tomb. Indeed it is meant to distinguish the tomb from others. This is the opposite of what we would expect if this is a pre-70 A.D. Jesus family tomb. Remember we have clear historical evidence that Saul of Tarsus, from his own letters and from Acts was a persecutor of Christians. By the 40s this persecution got so bad that some Christians fled the city (see the sweep and trajectory of the story in Act 3-9). Under no circumstances would these beleaguered early Jewish Christians have been advertising where the bones of Jesus laid, if they knew.

7) No explanation is given as to why we have a monumental or honorific inscription on the James ossuary, but not on these other ones. My view would be that this makes clear that the James ossuary was not originally in the Talpiot tomb, indeed not likely there at any point.

8) Much is made of the fact that the chemical analysis of the patina on the James ossuary and some of the ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb match up. This is not actually surprising at all since you can find terra rosa in various locales in and around Jerusalem. This analysis cannot prove that these ossuaries all came from the same place or were interred in the same spot. Terra rosa is not a soil specific to the Talpiot region! And why is nothing at all mentioned about the very different sort of soil found within the James ossuary and not in these others--- namely soil from Silwan, which is where the James ossuary likely came out of the earth. Silwan is indeed within sight of the temple mount. Talpiot is not. It is miles away.

It is incumbant on any historian who wants to dispute a theory about the Jesus tomb to provide some other explanation for the Talpiot tomb. Clearly it is an important tomb, and it may be a Christian one. It would be interesting to know about the Greek inscriptions on the ossuaries or at least in the adjacent tomb which are pictured in the book The Jesus Family Tomb. Since they are in Greek it suggests to me they are not from early Aramaic speaking followers of Jesus, but they could be from later Christian ones, after the profile of who was Christian had broadened considerably with many Gentile Godfearers as converts even within Israel. It is therefore my tentative suggestion that the Talpiot tomb may well be an early Jewish tomb not connected with the followers of Jesus, but it could also be an early Christian tomb from a generation subsequent to the time of Jesus. And what we know about those Christians is that they related to each other as family, even when they were not physically related, and were in some cases buried together, not in clan tombs, because their religious families were more important to them than their physical ones. This tomb may reflect that later Christian practice and reality. It would be nice if the other ossuaries from the Talpiot tomb could be DNA tested so we could find out if any of the folks in this tomb were related. We do not know. But it would not surprise me if none of them were. The practice of osslegium, or burial in ossuaries, continued on after A.D. 70 until the Bar Kokhba revolt at least. There is no reason why this Talpiot tomb might not reflect the period between A.D. 70 and 125 or so.

Tales From the Crypt: Do we have the bones of Jesus?

by Kerby Anderson
Probe Ministries @

The last week in February started out with an incredible announcement. James Cameron (director of the film “Titanic”) and Simcha Jacobovici announced that they have found the bones of Jesus! At their news conference, they promoted their Discovery Channel special “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” that will air on March 4th and also promoted the book by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino entitled The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History released by Harper-Collins.

If proved reliable, these findings would call into question the very cornerstone of Christianity: the resurrection of Jesus. But are they true?

The foundational claim is that they have discovered the family tomb of Jesus Christ. But is this really the tomb of Jesus or his family? There are many good reasons to believe this tomb has no relationship at all to Jesus and his family. Many are asking what to think about these claims. Therefore, I put together a quick two-page summary of some of the criticisms and concerns that surfaced in the first few hours after the announcement. Before we look at those criticisms, let’s first review the history of this tomb.

We have known about this tomb since it was discovered in 1980. Back then, Israeli construction workers were digging the foundation for a new building in a Jerusalem suburb. Their digging revealed a cave with ten limestone ossuaries. Archeologists removed the limestone caskets for examination.

When they were able to decipher the names on the ten ossuaries, they found: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua. At the time, one of Israel’s most prominent archeologists (Professor Amos Kloner) didn’t associate the crypt with Jesus. He rightly argued that the father of Jesus was a humble carpenter who couldn’t afford a luxury crypt for his family. Moreover, the names on the crypt were common Jewish names.

All of this hasn’t stopped Cameron and Jacobovici from promoting the tomb as the family tomb of Jesus. They claim to have evidence (through DNA tests, archeological evidence, and Biblical studies) to prove that the ten ossuaries belong to Jesus and his family. They also argue that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah. However, a number of biblical scholars say this is a really just an old story now being recycled in an effort to create a media phenomenon that will sell books and guarantee a large audience for the television special.

First, does it really make sense that this wouldbe the family tomb of Jesus? Remember that Jesus was in Jerusalem as a pilgrim and was not a resident of the city. How would his family be able to buy this tomb? As we already mentioned, Joseph (who probably was not alive and died in Galilee) and his family did not have the funds to buy such an elaborate burial site. Moreover, they were from out of town and would need time to find this tomb location. To accept this theory, one has to believe they stole the body of Jesus and moved it to this tomb in a suburb of Jerusalem all within about a day’s time.

Second, if this is the family tomb of Jesus and his family, why is Jesus referred to as the “son of Joseph?” As far as we can determine from history, the earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus the “son of Joseph.” The record of history is that it was only outsiders who mistakenly called him that.

Third, if this is the family tomb of Jesus, why do we have the name of Matthew listed with the rest of the family? If this is the Matthew that traveled with Jesus, then he certainly was not a family member. And you would have to wonder why James (who remained in Jerusalem) would allow these inscriptions as well as allow the family to move the body from Jerusalem to this tomb and perpetrate a hoax that Jesus bodily rose from the grave. Also, the fourth-century church historian Eusebius writes that the body of James (the half-brother of Jesus) was buried alone near the temple mount and that his tomb was visited in the early centuries.

Fourth, there is the problem with the common names on the tombs. Researchers have cataloged the most common names at the time. The ten most common were: Simon/Simeon, Joseph, Eleazar, Judah, John/Yohanan, Jesus, Hananiah, Jonathan, Matthew, and Manaen/Menahem. These are some of the names found on the ossuaries and thus suggest that the tomb belonged to someone other than Jesus of Nazareth and his family. In fact, the name Jesus appears in 98 other tombs and on 21 other ossuaries.

Finally there is the question of the DNA testing. Apparently there is evidence that shows that the DNA from the woman (in what they say is the Mary Magdalene ossuary) and the DNA from the so-called Jesus ossuary does not match. So they argue that they were not relatives and thus must have been married.

But does the DNA evidence really prove that? It does not prove she is his wife. In fact, we really don’t even know who in the ossuaries are related to the other. Moreover, we do not have an independent DNA control sample to compare these findings with. At best, the DNA evidence shows that some of these people are related and some are not.

All of this looks like sensationalism from Simcha Jacobovici (who has a reputation as an Indiana-Jones type) and James Cameron (the director of the highly fictionalized “Titanic”). The publicity s certain to sell books and draw a television audience, but it is not good history or archaeology.


From Apprising Ministries @

According to The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California:

Freemasonry is a Brotherhood of Men under the Fatherhood of God, charged with the mission of identifying good men and giving them the opportunities and resources to become better men. Masonry is not a religion by the definitions most people use.

It should be noted at the outset that while the exact wordings for most of the teachings of Freemasonry will vary from Lodge to Lodge- the meaning is essentially the same in each of them.

In a pamphlet published by the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Wyoming entitled Freemasonry A Way Of Life we read:

Though religious in character, Masonry is not a religion, nor a substitute for one. It fosters belief in a Supreme Being-this being a prerequisite for [attaining] membership...emphasizing a firm belief in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Immortality of the Soul...

As you can see, despite the claims of Masonry officials that Freemasonry is not a religion, what you have just read is actually the very definition of a religious creed.


Whenever one attempts to understand what an organization teaches it is imperative that he go to those who speak with authority within it. In Freemasonry the highest authority is the Grand Lodge of each state, and virtually all Masons point to the ritual as the heart of Masonry. Larry Kunk, co-founder of the Christian apologetic ministry Ephesians 5:11-which primarily handles the subject of Freemasonry-notes:

The primary authoritative Masonic teaching method is ritual...Masonic ritual is always performed behind closed doors...Only those who have proven themselves to be Masons and those who are being initiated into the degrees of Freemasonry are allowed entrance.
The California Lodges, Free and Accepted Masons Homepage further informs us:
There are three degrees in Masonry, other appendant (sic) bodies confer additional degrees, like the York Rite which confers nine additional degrees, and the Scottish Rite, which goes up to the 32nd degree (or the honorary 33rd). The 33rd Degree is an honorary degree, given to those who have done a lot for Masonry or Humanity. However in symbolic Masonry (or Blue Lodge Masonry) proper, there are only three degrees - Entered Apprentice (First Degree), Fellowcraft (Second Degree), and Master Mason (Third Degree).

Those who reach the 32nd Degree of Scottish Rite Masonry can then join The Order Of The Mystic Shriners.

A man must be 21 or older to be a Mason, but other groups associated with Freemasonry include the Order of DeMolay for boys, as well as the Order of Job’s Daughters and the Order of Rainbow for girls.

As a man who did considerable research on the Masonic Lodge, Dr. Alva McClain, founder of Grace Theological Seminary, knows well whatt he is talking about as he tells us:

[perhaps] the highest and most authentic Masonic authority [is] The Encyclopedia of Masonry by Albert G. Mackey, one of Masonry’s most learned and famous men...Besides being a 33rd Degree Mason, he held many high offices in the organization...[including] “Past General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States.”

Christian Perspective

When Freemasonry is examined carefully it becomes obvious to the objective investigator that it is indeed a religion. And no less an authority on the subject than Dr. Mackey agrees with this assessment. A prolific author and faithful Mason who spent most of his life researching the subject of Freemasonry Mackey writes in his encyclopedia: “I contend without any sort of hesitation, that Masonry is , in every sense of the word except one, and that its least philosophical, an eminently religious institution.”

Despite protests to the contrary, Freemasonry is definately a religion, albeit an extremely liberal one. In fact, it would have an affinity to Deism. With a close look at the degrees of Freemasonry a basic theology emerges: There is a Supreme Being Who created the Universe, revealed His moral law, and to Whom we must give an account. The Masonic Lodge teaches that it has a deeper truth concerning God that only the “initiated” in Freemasonry can really understand. In theological circles this is known as esotericism (secret), and has its roots in the gnosticism of the 1st century. Gnosis means “knowledge” in the Greek language, and the gnostics essentially believed that only they had the “secret, hidden” knowledge about God. Books of the Bible like Colossians and 1 John are mostly devoted to correcting the false teachings of the different types of gnostics early believers in Christ were encountering.

Freemasonry further makes the claim that only they know the “true” pathway to God, the Master Mason, and that all other religions in their “darkness” may eventually lead to God. This can be seen even from the initial Ritual of the Entered Apprentice which all Masons must go through. Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon of The Ankerberg Theological Institute observe:

Masonry teaches that all non-Masons are living in spiritual darkness and that only the Lodge leads men into spiritual light. Mackey himself refers to the candidate: “There he stands without [outside] our portals, on the threshold of his new Masonic life, in darkness, helplessness, and ignorance. Having been wandering amid the errors and covered over with the pollutions of the outer and profane world, he comes inquiringly to our door, seeking the new birth, and asking [for] a withdrawal of the veil which conceals divine truth from his uninitiated sight.”

That many individual Masons will argue their ritual is symbolic is irrelevant, the question remains: How can a Christian allow himself to be used in this way-symbolic or not? Jesus said, I am the Light of the world (John 8:12). A Christian has already been called out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9) and does not need the pagan teachings of Freemasonry which Dr. Walter Martin, a foremost authority in the field of Comparative Religion called “metaphysical satanism.” For a Christian to swear secret oaths to unite himself with his “brothers” in the Masonic Lodge-many of whom out rightly deny that Jesus is God incarnate and the only Savior of lost mankind-is to disobey Him Who said: I tell you, Do not swear [oaths] at all (see-Matthew 5:33-35), and it sets an extremely poor example at the very least. The professed Christian needs to come to the realization that this only encourages others that Freemasonry is somehow compatible with biblical Christianity, and to be joined together with unbelievers like this is a clear violation of Scripture (see-2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Can any possibly imagine the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth Himself going through these rituals? Those who would dare call themselves Christian and then turns to Freemasonry for the “light” of its secret teachings would do well to remember what their Lord and Master said in John 18:20, I have spoken openly to the world...I have said nothing in secret. The Gospel is for all mankind and most certainly is not to be “hidden” from anyone.

Dr. McClain was right when he said: “Christianity is the only true religion. Masonry has a religion. If it is Christianity, it is true. If it is not Christianity, then it is false.” And Dr. Mackey, writing in The Encyclopedia of Masonry, is honest enough to admit: “The religion of Freemasonry is not Christian.”


In the end, though spoken about Freemasonry over one hundred years ago, the following words by the great evangelist D.L. Moody still ring true today:

I do not see how any Christian, most of all a Christian minister, can go to these secret Lodges with unbelievers. They say they can have more influence for good, but I say they can have more influence for good by staying out of them and then reproving their evil deeds (see-Ephesians 5:11). You can never reform anything by unequally yoking yourself with ungodly men...Do not let down the standard to suit men who love their secret Lodges or have some darling sin they will not give up.

Indeed, the Masonic Lodge is no place for the Christian.

What Does Pop Music Have Against Marriage?

By Albert Mohler @

William Weir of The Hartford Courant asks a very interesting question. What does pop music have against marriage? The central institution of human social life is largely missing from the musical scene, and positive references to marriage are virtually non-existent. Given the influence of pop music, what does this say about marriage in American culture?

As Weir observes:

A look at last week's Billboard Top 50 finds plenty of songs about relationships in general, a few about dancing; there's even one about moving to Boston.But a single ditty about two people living in wedded bliss? Not a one.Television and the movies abound with weddings and marriages. The tabloids obsess over celebrity nuptials, or who's horning in on someone else's marriage.Pop culture loves marriage. So why doesn't pop music?

That is a very good question. As Weir notes, popular music was once filled with references to marriage. "Marriage was once something to sing about, and people did -- a lot," he remembers.

Some argue that the absence of marriage is not ideological, but demographic in origin. "Part of it is that it's a young person's market," says Steve Seskin, a California songwriter who has written hits for Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. "If they're thinking about getting married, they're not thinking too hard. They're thinking about next week." Well, maybe the next minute. Weir explains that "the gap between pop consumers and the marriage-minded" is now much wider than before.

When marriage is not ignored, it is often presented in what Weir calls "a tortured view of the institution." Some assert that marriage just isn't very conducive to the musical form. Why? As Weir reports:

"The subtle beauty of keeping a relationship together, there isn't a lot of glamor in it," says Glen Ballard, who co-wrote Alanis Morissette's album "Jagged Little Pill," as well as hits for Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson and others. "It's about hard work and trust and commitment."

Still, there is a sense that marriage has simply fallen off the charts, so to speak. Daniel Goldmark of Case Western Reserve University explains it this way: "We're not seeing so much focus on marriage because there isn't a central idea about relationships. There isn't this great narrative that everyone has tapped into. Now, there are a lot more ways of living your life that people are happy with."

That is a most interesting observation. Professor Goldmark's suggestion that marriage is no longer the "great narrative" of life and love in America is haunting. Indeed, all too many Americans do see "a lot more ways of living your life" than marriage, and popular music inevitably reflects this trend.

We should pause a moment and reflect upon what is missing in our popular music -- marriage. Music is a reflection of our souls, our aspirations, and our expectations. What does it say about us that our music is devoid of marriage?

What is Kabbalah?


Kabbalah is difficult to categorize because it is a subjective non-falsifiable belief system. In other words, it rests in non-verifiable philosophy not in historic fact. Nevertheless, kaballah is a mystical and esoteric system of observing and interpreting the universe and mankind that also seeks to reveal the true relationship between God, man, and the universe. It teaches that there is a divine being which is neither male nor female that has 10 primary aspects called sephirot which are represented in the Tree of Life (see diagram to the left). Kabbalah teaches that the supreme being created the universe through a series of those 10 aspects that descended through various levels until creation was fully realized.

There are slightly different definitions of the word "Kabbalah". One source says it comes from the three Hebrew kbl which means "reception". Another source says "Kabbalah is a word meaning "tradition."1

Kabbalah is also know as cabala, cabalah, kabala, caballah, qabala, qabalah, etc. You do not have to be Jewish to study Kabbalah and its proponents state that it can adapt itself to any religious system.

Furthermore, the Kabbalist is supposed to gain understanding about God and himself by learning to understand these 10 aspects, their relationship to each other, and then apply the principles thus learned in his own life to help him return back to God -- Kabbalah teaches the soul's pre-existence.
Kaballah is the way of viewing reality based upon subjective, experiential interpretations of the world, life, death, creation, meaning, purpose, etc. It is an inner-contemplative movement and is considered to be a way of life.

Kabbalah relies heavily on mystical interpretations of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as well as the rest of the Old Testament. Its premises is that there are secret and hidden meanings in the biblical text that can be discovered by examining the shape of Hebrew letters, the gematria of words (mathematical values), and how these word values relate to each other. The problem is that this method often draws conclusions that are in contradiction to the plain teaching of the text that it examines. Thus, Kabbalah can have a variety of disjointed beliefs. This is why David A. Cooper, a Kabbalist, says, "Kabbalah does not lend itself to a straightforward definition or even a clear-cut teaches us about the mysteries of life, how the creation works, where we are going, and how we get there."2

Where does Kabbalah come from?

Mr. Cooper in his book, God is a verb asks, "What is it that cabalists receive? And From whom do they receive it?"1 Mr. Cooper's questions are extremely important especially since Kabbalistic theology is unbiblical. It teaches reincarnation, a type of karma, inner divinity, and no need for a Redeemer. Indeed, we must ask where does the Kabbalist in the Kabbalist of history get their information? They get it from the Zohar and the The Zoar and the Sepher Yetzirah which are essentially mystical commentaries and interpretations of the biblical text as written and recorded by various Kabbalists throughout history.

Nevertheless, are we to conclude that the philosophy taught through Kabbalah is godly? If it contradicts both Old and New Testament teaching, then how can it be from God? We conclude that it is not from God but is in reality yet another deception that proceeds out of the Garden of Eden where Satan said "you will be like God," (Gen. 3:5). The Edenic lie echoes through the hearts of mankind and has taken root in the philosophy of Kabbalah.

Non Falsifiability

Kabbalists claim to receive their mystical interpretations of reality from beyond themselves. The more you read Kabbalistic writings, the more you will that it is mystical and unbiblical. You will also discover that the philosophy cannot be verified. In other words, there is no historical fact that verifies Kabbalah. It and borrows heavily from the accounts written in the first five books of the Bible, but it also radically reinterprets so many events and so many concepts in the Bible that it is quite foreign from what the word of God actually says.
Please consider some of the following phrases used in the the books that teach Kabbalah and notice their ambiguity and New Age "feel".

  1. connections with other realities
  2. contemplative exercises
  3. mystical awareness
  4. higher awareness
  5. the worlds of awareness integrate along a continuum
  6. higher and lower realms of consciousness
  7. unification of the finite with the infinite
  8. energy of darkness
  9. cosmic fluctuation
  10. inherent light of consciousness
  11. practicing Kavannah (awareness of the implications of everything we do)
  12. the path to awareness
  13. mystical Academy

These kinds of phrases are unverifiable and subjective and have no inherent meaning apart from assigned philosophical interpretations given to them by Kabbalah literature. Furthermore, the phrases are highly reminiscent of New Age teaching that also exalts humanity to the level of divinity, teaches esoteric knowledge, secrets of the universe, and also tries to unravel the mystical relationship between God, the universe, and ourselves -- all based on subjective interpretations of the Bible.
Both Kabbalah and at the New Age do not rest in historical facts and historical events that can be verified so as to support their interpretations. How do you connect with other realities? In fact, what does that mean? What is "higher awareness"? How does the finite become unified with the infinite? The answers that Kabbalah seeks to give to these kinds of questions are as equally subjective as the phrases that initiate the questions.

Because there is no way to verify the truth of the 10 aspects of God, that Kabbalah was given to the angels for the creation of the world, etc., the Kabbalist is left to either believe or disbelieve based upon his preferences. Instead of believing what the Bible actually says, the Kabbalist is left with following the baby and mystical interpretations of a few ancient Jews.
Unlike the Gospels, Kabbalistic literature is full of philosophical mumbo-jumbo and unverifiable and subjective ideas and words that are strung together in such a way as to appear to be semi coherent. The problem is, Kabbalah contradicts the Bible. Therefore, it is not true.


  1. Leet, Leonora., The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah. Rochester Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1999, p. 2

  2. Cooper, David A., God is a Verb. New York, New York: Riverhead Brooks, 1997, p. 11.

  3. ibid, p. 11 (From is capitalized in the original)

Don't Waste Your Life Video Podcast

from the desiringgod blog:
Starting this week and over the next 12 months we will be releasing short video podcasts designed to be a weekly encouragement and challenge to not waste our lives. As the Lord provides, our plan is to produce at least 100 hundred episodes. Every episode will take a theme from the book, Don't Waste Your Life, and challenge us to think about what we are doing with the lives the Lord has given us. We are encouraging everyone with a website, blog, etc. to use any of these episodes to spread the message around the world. We are praying that many who would never read the book may be impacted in a significant way by watching one of these podcasts.

Subscribe in iTunes
DG podcast feed

God’s Gracious Choice: Election

By John MacArthur @

Having addressed “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” in yesterday’s post, we are now returning to what was originally scheduled for this week’s blog entries. Today and tomorrow, we will consider the doctrine of election.

The Doctrine of ElectionElection is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.

The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin — spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.

The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Acts 16 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Ephesians 2:8 suggests that even our faith is a gift from God.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

QuoteOccasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost — because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chosen them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The "Lost Tomb of Jesus": Are You Prepared???

By Brian Thornton @


but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

Are you prepared to give a defense of your faith in light of the $2 million documentary that will air on the 4th of March produced by James Cameron? Are you ready to give anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you in light of the apparent possibility that Jesus never rose from the grave as asserted by this television film? Will you be able to contribute to the discussion around the watercooler on Monday the 5th when the topic of statistical probabilities comes up? You better be. And if you are not, you better get prepared.

I just watched the Larry King segment with James Cameron, Al Mohler and others, and although this story (and the archaeological find) has been around since 1980 (for centuries, really), this subject is not going to go away without a fight. And you need to be able to give a reasonable defense of your faith. So, I have some suggestions for you, and for me.

First - Familiarize yourself with the topic. Know what is being proposed and presented in this documentary. The best way to do that is to make sure and watch it, or tape it and watch it later (it premiers Sunday, March 4th at 9pm). Here are some video clips to get you started:

The movie trailer for the documentary…

Cluster groups. You will hear this term a lot, especially in light of statistical probabilities. Here is Simcha Jacobovici (who put the film together along with James Cameron) attempting to explain the significance of the cluster group found in this tomb and the resulting statistics of the combination of names on the bone boxes:

This Discovery Channel page also contains video interviews of Simcha and James Cameron.

Second - Follow the lead of men such as James White and Al Mohler, and sites such as Pulpit Magazine. There is no need to reinvent the wheel on this stuff, and therefore there is nothing wrong with taking cues from those who are studied and learned and are solidly grounded in their faith and in the information they put forth. This is one of those times (and there are many) that I love being on James White’s side! The man knows his stuff. Read what he has to say about all of this, by checking his blog frequently for updates. The same goes for Dr. Mohler’s blog site.

Here is a comment from Dr. White’s latest entry on this:

Like dominos falling, all these arguments [against Christ], spanning hundreds of years have failed. They differ in hypothesis, and many with each other, proving they can’t make sense of the evidence they are evaluating. Now we’re going to get a chance again to tune to the Discovery Channel (home of such notable epics as “The Search for Bigfoot”) to see the same futile efforts. Scholars, philosophers, and historians failed to conquer Jesus and keep Him buried; now filmmakers will be shooting their cap guns at God. At the heart of this new documentary is a worldview positing a denial of sola scriptura.


Quote from Dr. Mohler from the Larry King Show CNN transcript:

KING: We are back. Dr. Mohler, what effect could this have on your church?

MOHLER: Well, Larry, the one true thing that we have to affirm here is that if it ever could be proved that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, if the resurrection was a fraud, then Christianity falls.

The problem with this kind of documentary, which is a commercial product, and as Bill Donohue rightly said, is just perfectly timed for is the season like so often is the case, is, you have to understand, any court of law, you can’t just call anything evidence. It has to be an evidence trail that makes sense. It has to be evidentiary material that fits the context. Nothing could ever prove, there’s no DNA, there’s nothing that could ever prove these bones are the bones of Jesus. It makes no sense.

KING: Haven’t millions of people over the years gone to their death for a belief?

MOHLER: But the point is here, they would have to go to their death for something they know was a lie. If they knew that the bones of Jesus were in this tomb, why would the very people who would be most likely know that be the ones who would give their lives? That’s the big question here.

Finally - Be willing to engage others on this subject. Do not shy away from the controversy, or be embarrassed to talk about this latest attack on the resurrected Christ. To do so may be no less than to admit being ashamed of Jesus and His words, which has dire consequences. Be prepared to fight the good fight.

Archeological Identity Theft : The Lost Tomb of Jesus Fails to Make the Grade

Academy Award winning director James Cameron and Emmy Award winning investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici have joined forces and produced a documentary film claiming to have identified the tomb and physical remains of Jesus of Nazareth. The show is entitled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” and it airs on March 4, 2007 on the Discovery channel.

If true, Christianity as we know it is doomed. In 1 Corinthians 15:14-15 the apostle Paul (who claims to be an eye-witness of Jesus’ resurrection) says, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ.”

In short, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central pillar of proof put forward by the New Testament authors to substantiate Jesus’ claims to deity and the forgiveness of sins offered to humanity through Jesus shed blood on the cross. The Apostle Paul argues that If Jesus didn’t bodily rise from the dead then Christianity is a FALSE religion and should not be followed or observed.

The important question that needs to be answered is “Did Cameron and Simcha find Jesus’ remains, or is their case as ‘unsinkable’ as the Titanic?”

Although the film hasn’t aired, there is enough ‘evidence’ posted on the internet already to begin drawing conclusions.

Here is what we know so far.

In 1980 a tomb was discovered in Talipot inside of modern Jerusalem that contained 10 stone ossuaries (bone boxes). Six of the ossuaries had names carved on them identifying the occupants.

The names are as follows.
1. Jesus son of Joseph
2. Mary - Written in Aramaic
3. Mary - Written in Greek as Mariamne
4. Jose - a ‘rare’ nickname for Joseph
5. Matthew
6. Judah son of Jesus

At first glance these names have a striking similarity to the names of people from the New Testatment. Although critics are already pointing out the fact that these names were very common names for people who lived in and around the holy land during the 1st century, Simcha and Cameron’s documentary uses DNA evidence and statistical analysis in order to draw the conclusion that this is Jesus’ family tomb. They claim that the odds of it not being Jesus' tomb are HIGHLY improbable. Click Here to Watch Simcha’s ‘Football Field’ Analogy.

Taken at face value Simcha and Cameron appear to have built a rock solid case against Christianity. However, if you spend even a little time critically analyzing their claims then you realize that Cameron and Simcha have done nothing more than build a Da Vinci Code like house of cards that crumbles as soon as you blow on it.

Faulty Assumptions and Alternative Histories

The film’s statistical analysis is its strongest proof for the Talipot Tomb being Jesus' family tomb . HOWEVER, in order for their statistical interpretation of this evidence to be true we must assume five things about the occupants of the tomb. These assumptions in some cases require us rewrite history or subscribe to an 'alternate history'. Here are the five 'alternate history assumptions' that must be true in order for the film's statistical analysis to have any weight or merit.

1. We must assume that the Jesus and Jose of this tomb are brothers.

Why? Because if they are not brothers then the statistical chance of this tomb being THE tomb of Jesus of Nazareth becomes VERY low.

2. We must assume that Mariamne is Mary Magdalene.

The statistical case for this tomb being Jesus' HEAVILY depends on this assumption. The evidence put forth by the filmmakers to support this claim is a 4th Century Gnostic document entitled “The Gospel of Philip”. It claims that Mary Madgalene’s real name was Mariamne. It is important to note that a document written more than 300 years after the life of Mary Magdalene has no chance of being more authoritative than documents written in the 1st Century and/or during Mary’s lifetime. That being said, none of the 4 Biblical Gospels, all of which were written shortly after Jesus death and resurrection refer to Mary Magdalene as Marimne.

3. We must also assume that Jesus of Nazareth was married to Mariamne and together they had a son named Judah.

Again there are no credible 1st Century documents that support this assumption. This assumption is more akin to the Da Vinci Code than sound historical and archaeological scholarship.

4. We must assume that the Matthew found in this tomb was somehow related to Jesus’ mother but is NOT her son.

We have no documentary evidence of a Matthew in Jesus’ family. Therefore, the filmmakers have to find a way to ‘explain him away’. His presence in the Talipot tomb messes up their theory that this is Jesus’ family tomb. So they had to fabricate a theory that would explain his presence. The filmmakers also have to explain why certain people are missing from the tomb. This leads to the next assumption.

5. We have to assume that the James ossuary originated from this tomb even though there is no solid evidence that links it to this site.

This is critical because if this tomb is Jesus’ family tomb, then three of Jesus’ brothers are inexplicably missing from this site. They are James, Judas and Simon. The filmmakers go out of their way to attempt to prove that the James ossuary belongs to this tomb because that reduces the number of missing brothers to only Judas and Simon. Click here for more information on the James ossuary.

>>Adendum: In order for the James ossuary to be part of the Talipot Tomb it cannot have been unearthed prior to March of 1980. That is when the Talipot Tomb was discovered. New evidence and testimony submitted in the Antiquities Fraud Trial of Oded Golan, the owner of the James Ossuary shows that the ossuary was photographed in the 1970s. The Toronto Star reported today...

"Former FBI agent Gerald Richard testified that a photo of the James ossuary, showing it in Golan's home, was taken in the 1970s, based on tests done by the FBI photo lab. The trial resumes tomorrow.

Jacobovici conceded in an interview that if the ossuary was photographed in the 1970s, it could not then have been found in a tomb in 1980."

The end result of all of these assumptions is the family tree/tomb inhabitants chart shown below.


This chart is taken from the films official discovery channel website. Please notice that this chart is still unsure as to how Matthew and Mariamne are related to the other inhabitants of the tomb. The reasons for this uncertainty is twofold. First, the presence of Matthew and Miriamne do not fit the written records of Jesus' family. The second is a direct result of the DNA evidence collected by the filmmakers.

One would expect that since the filmmakers make a point of mentioning DNA evidence that they’d be able to use that evidence to support their assumptions. But they don’t. The official Discovery Channel site says this, “By studying the DNA bone fragments and residue from ossuaries, scientists may be able to determine familial relationships between the various people buried in an ancient tomb. In the case of the Talipot tombs, researchers were able to extract usable tissue samples from only two of the ossuaries - the “Mariamne” and “Yeshua bar Joseph” boxes. Those two samples were sent to the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a facility that specializes in analyzing ancient remains.. The lab was able to recover mitochondrial DNA from the samples and determined that the two individuals were not maternally related. According to the lab’s Dr. Carney Matheson, because the two sets of remains were found in what is suspected to be a familial tomb, the two people “would most likely be husband and wife.”

In other words, the ONLY THING the DNA evidence proves is that the Jesus and Mariamne found in this tomb are not maternally related. The film's producers argue that this proves that Mariamne was married to Jesus. But, it is entirely possible that she could have been the wife of Jose, Judah or even Matthew.

The Cards Come Crumbling Down

One of the linch pins in Cameron’s and Simcha’s statistical analysis is the assumption that Jose is the brother of Jesus. If the Jose of the Talipot Tomb is Jesus' brother then the statistical case for this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is much stronger. If Jose is not Jesus' brother then their statistical case case begins to crumble.

This leads us to ask an important question... Why should we believe that the Jose found in this tomb is the brother of Jesus?

Answer: We shouldn’t!

The principle of Occam’s Razor compels us to look for the simplest interpretation of the evidence that this site presents us. That being the case let’s look for a simple interpretation that fits ALL the evidence that doesn’t require us to subscribe to Templar conspiracy theories or to rewrite history.

Simcha readily admits that Jose is a rare nickname for Joseph. Therefore, it would make far more sense to identify Jose (Joseph) as the father of the Jesus in this tomb instead of his brother. When we do that the family tree begins to look A LOT different than the family tree of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is what it now looks like.


Not only is this a more plausible reconstruction of the family tree for the inhabitants of the Talipot Tomb, it PERFECTLY fits the evidence that the tomb itself presents us. Jose, which is a nickname of Joseph is present along with his wife, two of his sons, Jesus and Matthew, his daughter-in-law Mariamne and his grandson Judah.

In this reconstruction we do not have to account for missing brothers, stolen ossuaries, marriages that were not supposed to have taken place, throw out eye-witness documentary evidence, believe in the Easter Bunny or find a way to explain away people like Matthew who ‘aren’t even supposed to be in that tomb.”

When the family tree is reconstructed in the most simple way that fits the evidence it becomes clear that this is NOT the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead it is most likely the tomb of a middle-class or wealthy 1st Century family from Jerusalem.

In short, Simcha and Cameron are engaging in the archaeological equivalent of ‘identity theft’ by trying to force the evidence into proving that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.

Although Jesus of Nazareth had a father named Joseph, he did not have a brother named Matthew, nor was he married, nor did he have a son. If we had found Jesus’ family tomb we would have found his brothers James, Jose, Simon and Judas along with his father Joseph and his mother Mary. The reason James, Simon and Judas are missing is quite simple, they are not buried there because this is not their family’s tomb.

The Statical Analysis Falls Apart

The film's statistical underpinnings also collapse as soon as you properly consider the tomb’s evidence.

The film claims that the probability of the Talipot Tomb being Jesus’ family tomb is 600 to 1 or 599 times out of 600 it would be Jesus’ Family tomb.

The way they came up with that figure is by determining a probability for each of the names mentioned in the tomb then multiplying those probabilites by each other then adjusting the figure for unintentional biases and all possible first century tombs.

Since neither Matthew nor Judah were ‘explicatively’ mentioned in the Gospels they did not use their probabilities in the statistical analysis.

Here are the probabilities that the filmmakeres came up with for each person found in the tomb.

1. Jesus Son of Joseph - 1 in 190
2. Maria - 1 in 4
3. Mariamne - 1 in 160
4. Jose - 1 in 20

The combined 'raw' probability of all of these people appearing in the same tomb is 1 in 2,400,000.

They then divided 2,400,000 by 4 to adjust for unintentional historical biases and were left with 1 in 600,000.

They then divided 600,000 by 1,000 to adjust for all possible first Century Jerusalem Tombs.

Their final figure was 600 to 1 in favor of it being Jesus Tomb.

Sounds convincing doesn't it?

Yet, notice that they removed Matthew and Judah because they were not ‘explicatively’ mentioned in the gospels. Yet, they are keeping Mariamne in their formula despite the fact that she is also NOT ‘explicatively’ mentioned in the gospels. Their reason for keeping her in the formula is based on “evidence” from a 4th Century ‘Gnostic’ gospel.

This is the equivalent of ‘cooking the books’ with bogus data. As previously mentioned, no 4th Century gnostic text is capable of 'trumping' the eye-witness testimony provided by the 4 New Testament Gospels. Sadly for Simcha and Cameron, the first century gospels DO NOT mention a Mariamne and trying to equate Mary Magdalene with Mariamne is intellectually dishonest. Therefore, Mariamne goes.

Let’s see how that affects the statistical results.

The raw statistical computation is now 1 in 15,200

After adjusting for unintentional biases and all possible First Century Jerusalem Tombs the probability of the Talipot Tomb being Jesus’ family tomb is falls to 3.8 to 1.

When you consider that Jose is probably Jesus father and that his birth name is Joseph and you adjust the probability accordingly to 1 in 8, the statistical chance that the Talipot Tomb is the THE tomb of Jesus of Nazareth falls to 1.5 to 1.

But wait, it gets worse for the film’s producers.

The Statistical Probability that All Five of Film’s "Alternate History Assumptions" are True

Since Simcha and Cameron are defending the film’s conclusions based upon its statistical ‘soundness’, It is only fair to test their assumptions using the same statistical methods. Here are the results of that analysis.

Assumption 1 - That the Jesus and Jose of the Talipot Tomb are brothers. 1 in 3 chance they are brothers.

Assumption 2 - That Mariamne in the Talipot Tomb is the Mary Magdalene of the New Testament Gospels. 1 in 1000 chance she is.

Assumption 3 - That Jesus of Nazareth was married to the Mariamne of the Talipot Tomb. 1 in 1000 chance that he was.

Assumption 4 - The Matthew found in the Talipot Tomb is related to Mary but is NOT her son. 1 in 10 chance that he is.

Assumption 5 - The James Ossuary is originally from the Talipot Tomb. 1 in 2 chance that it is.

When we calculate the statistical probability that all five of these "alternate history assumptions" are true the raw score is a 1 in 60,000,000 chance that all five are true.

When we adjust the probability for unintentional historical biases and all possible first century Jerusalem tombs we are still left with a 1 in 15,000 chance that all five of the films assumptions are true. In other words, 14999 times out of 15,000 Simcha’s and Cameron’s assumptions regarding the alternate history that is necessary to conclude that the Talipot Tomb is that of Jesus Christ will be false.

The statistical probability that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is so slim as to be thoroughly unconvincing. There is a better chance of the ‘magic bullet theory of JFK's assination’ being true than this tomb being the tomb of Jesus Christ.

Quite simply, the evidence for Jesus' resurrection from the dead as laid out by the eye-witness testimony found in the New Testament documents still stands. Simcha and Cameron’s efforts, although they make for provocative television do not supply the evidence necessary to overturn the Biblical record.

The Jesus Tomb


As you’ve heard, James Cameron, director of the blockbuster movie “Titanic,” is out to sink an even bigger ship—Christianity. He claims that Jesus’ bones and those of his mother, brothers, wife, and child named Jude, were found in ossuaries (bone boxes) in a Jerusalem tomb.

On Larry King Live last night, Cameron and his collaborator Simcha Jacobovici claimed that they produced a TV documentary (to air on March 4 on the Discovery Channel) simply in an effort to “report the news” so that people can draw their own conclusion. Yet according to Ben Witherington, Simcha is a practicing, orthodox Jew. Are we really to believe that the “revelation” that Jesus’ bones have been found—hence no resurrection—are of no religious concern to this man? To me, at least, this one has the almighty dollar sign written all over it.

Let me list just some of the most egregious problems with the way in which this find (in the 1980s!) is being interpreted by Cameron and Simcha:

  • the claim that Mary Magdalene’s bones were found in one of the ossuaries on the basis that the name “Mariamne” (Mary) is inscribed on it is bogus; the connection drawn here is pulled completely out of thin air
  • the highly suspect use of statistics and DNA “evidence” to support their case; Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were among the most popular names in first-century Palestine, and, of course, people buried in the same family tomb would for the most part be related; as Witherington rightly points out, we “would need an independent control sample from some member of Jesus’ family to confirm that these were members of Jesus’ family”—but, of course, we have no such thing
  • all the earliest accounts of Jesus’ death and burial indicate that Jesus’ body could not be found and had not been moved; there is no ancient evidence at all for a Jesus’ family tomb whatsoever
  • why would this family tomb have been in Jerusalem? Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth
  • there is no historical evidence for Jesus having a son named Jude; there is no credible historical evidence that Jesus was married, to Mary Magdalene or anyone else (plus see the first point above)
  • if Jesus died and a year later his bones were transferred to an ossuary, and this ossuary was placed in a Jerusalem family tomb, this would mean that all the early Christian martyrs, including the apostles, knowingly died for a fraudulent religion; this is highly implausible

It is hard to know whether one should dignify this kind of warmed-up sensationalist commercial ploy with a serious rebuttal. Why would an orthodox Jew and an unbelieving Hollywood producer time the release of a television documentary denying Jesus’ resurrection just prior to Easter? Because of serious scholarship or maximum personal profit?

Simcha says we Christians should be open to the evidence he presents. I agree; if Jesus’ bones are in that box, Christianity is based on a false premise—the resurrection of Jesus (see the Gospel resurrection narratives; the apostles’ preaching in the Book of Acts; and Paul’s summary of the gospel in 1 Cor. 15:3–4). The problem with Simcha’s “evidence,” however, is that he is connecting the dots far too quickly to arrive at his desired conclusion. Surely it will take better evidence to overturn the well-attested fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

See also Ben Witherington’s excellent response to Cameron’s newest work. The New York Times has also released a story on the documentary.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus?

William Hole's depiction of the empty tombFor those who have heard about the upcoming Discovery Channel special (asserting that Jesus’ remains have been found in a Jerusalem tomb), here are a few resources you may wish to read:

Darrell Bock’s response

James White’s response

Ben Witherington’s response

Paul Meier’s response

Josh McDowell’s “Evidence for the Resurrection”

Gary Habermas’s “Experiences of the Risen Jesus”

Ravi Zacharias’s series on the Resurrection

Numerous other articles at

We will do our best to pass on additional articles and resources as we become aware of them.

Don’t Lose Any Sleep Over Jesus’ Lost Tomb

By Nathan Busenitz @

Jesus' Lost TombAccording to what I’ve been able to gather so far, the primary (really, the only) argument that the promoters of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” have produced is a statistical one.

According to their website, the show’s producers found a tomb in Jerusalem containing ten ossuaries (stone boxes in which the bones of the deceased were kept), which they believe date back to either the first century BC or the first century AD. Six of the ossuaries have names inscribed on the outside (five in Hebrew, and one in Greek).

The show’s creators assert that the six names (when translated into English) are Joseph, Mary, Jesus Son of Joseph, Mary [Magdelene], Judah Son of Jesus, and Matthew. These names, they contend, correspond to the names of Jesus Christ and His family. Based on the probability of first four of these names occuring together in the same tomb, they calculate a 600-to-1 statistical probability that this is Jesus’ family tomb (and the tomb of Jesus Himself).

But how impressive is their case, really?

Not very… their statistical case quickly falls apart when one considers the massive assumptions (and major difficulties) that undergird their conclusions. (To be honest, the whole thing reminds me of this book.)

First, the producers assume that they have rightly interpreted the names inscribed on the ossuaries. But this is unlikely. For instance, “Jesus, son of Joseph” is hardly legible. And “Mary Magdelene” (from “Mariamene e Mara”) is almost certainly an incorrect interpretation — since “Mara” is probably a contraction of Martha, and thus a second name (maybe even referring to a second person). Even the downloadable article on “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” website (by L.Y. Rahmani) acknowledges that this was probably a double name and that “the second name [is] a contraction of Martha.”

Second, their conclusion assumes that the relationships between each of the individuals in the tomb has been correctly identified. Was the individual whose remains are marked “Yose” (Joseph) married to the individual named “Maria”? Or (as the show’s producers assert) was the individual marked “Jesus Son of Joseph” married to the individual named “Mariamene e Mara”? There is no real way to know, beyond mere speculation.

Third, (as noted above) the show assumes that Jesus Christ was married (to Mary Magdalene) and that together they had a son (in this case, named Judah). Thanks to The Da Vinci Code, this is a popular notion nowadays. And, also thanks to The Da Vinci Code it is an idea that has been soundly refuted by evangelical scholars (see here and here, for example). If it can be demonstrated that Jesus was not married to Mary Magdalene, and that He did not produce a line of offspring, the entire “lost tomb” hypothesis collapses.

Fourth, the show’s premise essentially ignores the commonness of the names cited on the ossuaries. According to the show’s own research, “Joseph” was the second-most-common male name in first-century Israel, “Mary” was the most-common female name, and “Jesus” was the sixth-most-common male name.

To put that in today’s American society (according to a 1990 census), “Joseph” would be equivalent to the name “John” (as the second-most-popular name), “Mary” equivalent to the name “Mary” (which is still the most-popular woman’s name), and “Jesus” would be equivalent to the name “David” (as the sixth-most-popular name).

If we found a gravesite today in which there was a tombstone for “John,” and another for “David, John’s son” – Would we be able to assert with any degree of certainty which “David” we were talking about? I wonder how many “Johns” there are (or have been in the last two centuries) in the United States who have had a wife named “Mary” and a son named “Dave.” Certainly many more than just one.

Then, if we knew that the “David” we were looking for was unmarried and from Los Angeles, but the grave we found was for a “David” who was married and was buried in New York, what would we conclude?

Fifth, the show’s conclusion fails to account for the name Matthew (”Matia”). Despite the fact that there is no record of anyone physically related to Jesus Christ named Matthew, the producers simply assume that there must have been (since, after all, this has to be Jesus’ family tomb). In the end, since Matthew does not fit nicely into the show’s hypothesis, he is left out of the final statistical calculations.

Sixth, the producers fail to account for a host of other problems – such as

- the fact that Jesus’ family was from Nazareth, not Jerusalem; thus their family burial spot would have been in Galilee, not Jerusalem

- the fact that Jesus’ half-brothers James and Jude would die as Christian martyrs (despite knowing about Jesus’ remains and the family burial ground)

- the notion that Jesus’ family was able to conceal this family burial site from the entire early church (especially since putting the bones in an ossuary was a year-long process)

- the assumption that Jesus’ family could afford a wealthy burial place such as this; that the religious authorities (who hated Jesus) would have allowed them to hold on to it; and that those same authorities would have said nothing about the burial location of Jesus (and His family) in spite of their desire to debunk the resurrection

- the fact that Jesus’ family did a very ship-shod job of inscribing Jesus’ name into His ossuary, making it hardly legible (even though they deeply respected and venerated Him)

- the fact that neither Jesus nor His followers referred to Him as “Son of Joseph,” yet that is how the name is inscribed on this ossuary

If all of these “problem factors” were given proper statistical weight (and more could be added to this list), the 600-to-1 ratio would not only drastically decrease, it would totally reverse.

Much more could be said about all this (and indeed has been, per the sites we listed yesterday). As we noted then, we will try to keep you updated as more information is made available. In the meantime, don’t lose any sleep over “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” It is simply not a serious challenge to the central doctrines of the Christian faith (despite the hype its producers are trying to create).

Speaking of sleep, it’s getting late. Perhaps I should follow my own advice, and go to bed.




I also wanted to highlight a couple other points:

(1) The show’s creators are trying to tie in the alleged ossuary of James (Jesus’ half-brother) to bolster their case — claiming that it was originally part of this same tombsite. The greatest problem with this (if it really is James’ ossuary) is that the James’ ossuary was discovered in the 1970s, while the “Yeshua” ossuaries were not discovered until the 1980s. Thus, James’ ossuary could not have been in the “Jesus family” tomb.

Also, the evidence of church history (from Eusebius) indicates that the place of James’ grave was well-known in ancient times, and that he was buried alone in a different part of Jerusalem.

(2) It has been pointed out by others that these ossuaries have been known about by scholars since the early 1980s. The reason the premise of this show has not been put forward before is that no serious scholars believe it to be credible. According to Joel Rosenberg’s website, the Israeli archeologist who originally discovered the tomb believes this new film is nonsense.

C'est La Meme Chose

By Tim Challies @

I typically only tune in to Larry King when Al Mohler or John MacArthur are featured guests. Since Mohler was a guest yesterday (transcript here) I thought I would watch and was glad that I did. He always does a great job of representing Christians before the show's audience. He does so far better than the vast majority of Christians (and "so-called Christians") that appear. Last night's topic of discussion was, of course, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," a documentary that will appear on the Discovery Channel this weekend. It has become a hot topic of discussion for two reasons. First, the Executive Producer is James Cameron of Titanic fame. He lends credence to the project in many people's eyes simply by being involved in it. Second, the documentary claims that archaeologists have found uncovered a tomb containing ossuaries labeled with the names of Jesus son of Joseph, two Marys, a Joseph, a Matthew and a Judah. And so they concluded that this represents the family of Jesus Christ. Jesus married Mary Magdalene and together they had a son named Judah. The entire family was laid to rest in this tomb which was subsequently discovered in 1980.

Have we heard this before? It seems to me we have. Last year we saw the publication of The Gospel of Judas. Before that it was The God Who Wasn't There, Misquoting Jesus, The Jesus Papers, The Da Vinci Code, The Jesus Seminar and on and on and on. The French have a great little phrase that goes "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" (though they put neat little accents on some of those characters). The phrase translates to "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Here we find yet another attack on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is only barely different from the ones that have come along in the past.

Sure the producers of this documentary claim to have uncovered some DNA evidence, but all this evidence shows is that the man in the coffin labeled "Jesus" is not a blood relative of the person in the coffin of the supposed Mary Magdalene. This is hardly startling. I suspect they did DNA testing on the other boxes and likely came up with either no evidence or evidence that contradicted the conclusion they wanted to make in the film. Their story would have been far more compelling had they been able to link "Jesus" to his mother "Mary" and then "Judah" to his mother, father and/or grandparents. We have to assume that they attempted to do this but failed. Beyond this fragmentary evidence, this documentary offers nothing new and nothing that hasn't been discussed and refuted countless times in the past.

Here are a few winning quotes by Dr. Mohler:

Well, it is only startling in terms of the sensationalism, I think, of public relations here. You are talking about a tomb that was discovered, as you said, well over two decades ago. The archaeologists there in Israel, who are the closest to this, have the greatest expertise, are not only looking at this with skepticism, but basically dismissing its claims.

You are talking about frankly trying to dress up an old documentary, the BBC did something like this over a decade ago, with this kind of supposed statistical research and DNA testing. The DNA testing is to me the most laughable aspect of all of this. I mean, frankly, there could be a thousand, thousand different explanations for whatever DNA pattern they could find.

No one has the DNA of Mary. You know, trying to bring this into a modern crime investigation is like trying to go back and figure out who exactly put the first dagger into Julius Caesar. It's impossible.


I'm going to base my beliefs on the scriptures which hold together far better than the kind of farcical documentary we are talking about here, throwing in a little bit of statistics. I mean, you're talking about the most common names, especially the most common male names, also frankly, female with the name Mary, you're talking about anything that could be found just about anywhere.

And this next one, a personal favorite, came after Dr. James Tabor, Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies and the University of North Carolina expressed great interest in this story saying "But from what I know of the historical records, both in the New Testament and other early Christian records, do these names fit what we know of the family of Jesus?" Mohler replied:

And frankly, I'm a bit surprised by Dr. Tabor's, at least, qualified endorsement of this, given the fact that this appears to me to be at least very inconsistent what he's arguing in his own book about Jesus not being the son of Joseph, which, by the way, we Christians don't hold either. But he's never known as the son of Joseph in terms of early Christian witness, he is never mentioned that way.

Mohler pointed out this man's hypocrisy and elicited from me a joyous "Booyah!" And to me, this hypocrisy was the real story. Dr. Tabor is an intelligent man and must know that this is just utter nonsense. To waive about DNA (and to even refer to the show "CSI" while doing so) is just farcical. The people who produced this show must know that they have no case. As Mohler pointed out, this would never stand up in any court. But it does make an interesting story and did elicit worldwide headlines. To quote Mohler, "Well, we are talking about moving all of the pieces here to make for sensational television. And frankly, that's why I think most Christians are going to take this without any seriousness at all." I couldn't agree more. Christians are growing tired of this. We have defended the resurrection of Jesus countless times. We have affirmed that if Jesus did not rise, our faith is in vain and Christianity is simply a fabrication and a waste of time. But the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is simply too strong and too compelling to discount or ignore. Of all the evidence that has been offered to contradict it, none has come even close to being rational and convicting. There is no question that Jesus rose from the dead. The only question remaining is what you intend to do with this news.

For other responses to this story, read Ben Witherington (who does a thorough analysis and concludes "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.) or James White (who looks at the history of these challenges to Scripture and says "Like dominos falling, all these arguments, spanning hundreds of years have failed. They differ in hypothesis, and many with each other, proving they can't make sense of the evidence they are evaluating."). You could also pick up a book defending against The Da Vinci Code. You ought to be able to choose from a wide variety in the bargain bin of your local Christian bookstore. That challenge came and went and so will this one. Meanwhile, Jesus lives on and we eagerly await His return.