Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Tomb of (a) Jesus(Yeshua)

I owe this one to Huw Raphael.(also Globe article.) Apparently (and I seem to remember having read something about this before in more academic settings, I think about the time the ossuary with the inscription of "James" upon it, that may have been a forgery) in 1980 a tomb was discovered during the construction of an apartment building in Jerusalem, there were ten ossuaries discovered in the tomb, and six of them had inscriptions, with names that fit with Jesus and his family, including "Yeshua bar Yosef"(Jesus son of Joseph). Of course Yeshua was a common name at the time as was Mary, and Joseph. As stated in both the Globe and Star articles, there is perhaps something to this collection of these common names. From the above articles it is hard to evaluate from a scholarly and archaeological perspective.

However, I do have a several thoughts and comments. First the documentarian Simchat Jacobovici's claim that this claim to have discovered Jesus Christ's tomb should not be troubling to devout Christians either is a joke or shows the greatest ignorance of the Christian faith I have seen exhibited in quite awhile. If there are remains of Jesus of Nazareth, then pretty much what is believed by Christians about Jesus is not true. Though there seems to be the suggestion that perhaps Jesus was crucified raised and then lived a normal life afterwards. Which seems a strange claim if it is in fact being made. But as I see it one would have to conclude that if there is a family tomb with Jesus of Nazareth's remains in it all of stories of Jesus that were passed on including "Gnostic" texts, have no basis in the actual person of Jesus.

There are several problems I see with those involved with this interpretation of the archaeological evidence of these ossuaries. First, what is pretty much agreed is that Jesus Christ, is Jesus of Nazareth, one would expect to find the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth in Nazareth and not Jerusalem. Jesus being buried in Jerusalem has everything to do with him being crucified in Jerusalem.

There is also issues surrounding the early development of Christianity, the writing of the Gospels and most importantly the conversion and letters of the Apostle Paul. One has to wonder if there people who know this Jesus who married and lived a normal life how the Gospels could have emerged, especially if they are written within 40 years of Jesus' itinerant ministry in Galilee and Judea. Of course that is the early dating, if one pushes back the writing of most of the Gospels into the second century (which few if any current scholars do) I suppose there would be no one who would know to object or even know if the claims about Jesus were of this particular Jesus. But even if the Gospels are written 70 to 100 years after the time Jesus' crucifixion there is still Paul, and his writings.

Paul is key here because he isn't a follower of Jesus and we have his writings and certainly if his claims about Jesus were false he'd have run into people with an alternative claim, also, it makes little sense for Paul to have visions about a Jesus who is still walking about Jerusalem, while Paul is supposedly persecuting the followers of this Jesus. I don't know what this documentary is seeking to say, but I am having trouble figuring out what they think this discovery means. Is Jesus supposed to have been crucified but survived? Actually died but resurrected and then stuck around and eventually after marrying Mary Magdalen and having a son died of natural causes and old age? What would seem most likely an interpretation of these ossuaries if one were to take them to be of Jesus of Nazareth and his family is that somehow a quite ordinary citizen of Jerusalem somehow (in ways that are now lost to us) became the center of a mythology of about this itinerant teacher (though the actually Jesus wasn't an itinerant teacher from Nazareth) who ended up getting all the Religious and Roman leaders in Jerusalem pissed enough to have him crucified (which did not happen to the actual Jesus). Somehow this actual Jesus was never able to dissuade Peter James, John, Paul etc. that nothing like that ever happened to him. In short we have stories about a guy that have no relation to his life, except the names. The names have been kept the same but the events have all been changed to protect the innocent. If this is so could one actually say that the tomb was of Jesus Christ? If this Reconstruction and interpretation was true could one actually say Jesus of Nazareth actually existed?

What I find interesting about this is that the interpretation that seems to be given of these 6 ossuaries is dependent on the orthodox interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth and the stories of 4 canonical Gospels. Yet, this interpretation undermines that version of events, and possibly even the existence of the person who is supposed to be Jesus Christ, that is an itinerant preacher from Nazareth in the 1st century CE who was crucified. These osuaries may bear names that match that story but everything else contradicts that story. In that sense there would be no Mary Magdalen, no Jesus of Nazareth. Rather we have a Jesus of Jerusalem whose father is Josef and who married a Marriamne. I would say that this collection of ossuaries in fact suggests circumstances of the Jesus and Marriamne so dissimilar to the Gospels account of Jesus of Nazareth that one could hardly say that Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus son of Joseph of this tomb could be the same person.

There is a sense in which this discovery is no discovery unless there is something true about the Gospel account but these ossuaries contradict that story.

What one would have to ultimately explain even if one could prove Jesus of Nazareth and the Jesus of this discovery were the same one would still have to explain how the story of Jesus of Nazareth ever emerged from the life of a man Jesus whose family was from Jerusalem, and who must have lived a quite normal life at the time that the early strata of the stories of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ. Especially since it is hard for me to see how such a Jesus could have ever been crucified.