Trending: Jesus Discovery

I took this picture on 2/29/12 at 4:45pm
I was surprised yesterday when I opened my web browser to find "Jesus discovery" located at the top of Yahoo's Trending list.

It's been awhile since I heard someone say that Jesus is totally irrelevant today, but this is obvious evidence that Jesus is very close to the thoughts, lips, and typing fingers of a good many people still.

What is this "Jesus discovery?"

It all starts with a filmmaker and journalist named Simcha Jacobovici. He's reportedly (supposedly) found "The Nails of the Cross" and "The Jesus Family Tomb."

For this round of sensationalistic journalism, Jacobovici has teamed up with historian, amateur archaeologist, and professor James D. Tabor. Together they have come out with a book called The Jesus Discovery, which seeks to answer, "Who was Joseph of Arimathea and how did he enter the historical picture?" [1]. In a nutshell, Jacobovici claims to have found the ossuary (bone box) of Jesus.

In response, I turn to N.T. Wright to give a general explanation of Jewish burial practices at the time of Jesus, and then to Craig Evans for a more thorough explanation.

Wright says, "Most Jews in Palestine at that time were buried in caves, sometimes underneath houses where they had lived. The bodies weren't put in coffins, or burnt to ashes, but wrapped in a cloth along with perfumes and spices. The body would then be put on a shelf or ledge inside the cave. Then, when all the flesh had decomposed, friends or relatives would collect the bones, fold them up neatly, and put them in a bone-box (known as an 'ossuary')" [2].

Craig Evans writes that "burial took place the day of death, or, if death occurred at the end of the end or during the night, on the following day. ...Following death, the body is washed and wrapped. ...The day of the burial was the first of seven days of mourning. ...One year after death it was customary to gather the bones and place them in a bone niche or in an ossuary. This practice, sometimes called secondary burial, is readily observed in the archaeological excavations of Jewish tombs in the time of Jesus" [3].

I think that Jacobovici did, in fact, find the bone box of Jesus. But it isn't the bone box of Jesus of Nazareth whom Christians believe has resurrected and ascended to the right hand of God. Jesus (Yeshua) was, after all, a popular name at the time. In my opinion, the title of Daniel Distant's article for the Christian Post says it all: "'Jesus Discovery' Has 'Zero Percent Chance' of Being True, Say Experts."

[1] see
[2] N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part Two, 195.
[3] Craig A. Evans and N.T. Wright, Jesus, The Final Days: What Really Happened, 43-44. See also the academic article Evans wrote in 2003, "Jesus and the Ossuaries."

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