Article- Tomb Saga Part III

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Tomb Saga Part III

Forensics Expert Says Gathering and Interpretation of Data Were Flawed


There are two things I want to add to the “tomb saga.”


1. In the original article, I mentioned that the filmmakers had said they believed the odds were 600 to 1 that the tomb they found contained the bone-boxes of Jesus plus other people in his family. Those figures were apparently from a Dr. Andrey Feuerverger, whom the filmmakers asked to do their calculations. If they are right, of course, it looks a little scary to Christians, since 600 to 1 would make it seem fairly “probable” that it was the Jesus family tomb.


Now, however, another scholar has suggested that the calculations need to be done differently. I won’t bore you with all the figures, some of which I myself don’t fully understand. A Dr. Randy Ingermanson has done some re-figuring. Basing his calculations on various factors, such as the frequency of the names Joseph, Jesus, etc., and also on the number of men who probably lived in Jerusalem during the time period in question (roughly 20 BC to AD 70) who might have had female relatives named “Mary,” plus other factors, Ingermanson figures that the odds are at least 10,000 to 1 against Jesus of Nazareth being the man found in the ossuary. If you are interested in reading his article, go to his website:


That’s his conclusion, and it’s just a figure I have to respect because he is an expert in his field. I can’t verify it myself. But it does sound a lot better—and much more reasonable—than the statistics given to us by the filmmakers!


2. A second article by a forensics expert who works with the University of the Holy Land zeroes in on the “James ossuary” and concludes that it could not have come from the Talpiot tomb. The so-called “James ossuary” has been around for two or three years, and has occasioned much controversy. The Israel Antiquities Authority believes it to be a forgery and has put Oded Golan on trial for doing the forgery. (You may remember that the James ossuary supposedly bears the inscription: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”)


Jacobovici and colleagues thought that if the James box could be proven to also come from the Talpiot tomb (it would be the 10th box, the one that was missing), then this would be a key piece of evidence, practically proving that the Talpiot tomb was the tomb of Jesus’ family. However, Steven J. Cox, a forensics expert who has worked on criminal cases, and has even worked for the U.S. Government, has studied the evidence and comes to a completely different conclusion.


The filmmakers thought that the patina (a kind of incrustation or buildup that accumulates on a stone box, or any kind of stone, due to weathering, etc., over the years), plus dirt samples, etc., found in and on the James box matched the “environment” of the Talpiot cave. Again, the whole thing is a little complicated for the layman. The filmmakers tried to prove that the patina on the James box was the same as the patina on the Jesus box.


However, Steven Cox shows that the filmmakers did not do their homework correctly, concentrating merely on hastily gathered evidence that seemed to prove their point, rather than going at the whole thing scientifically. He says both the gathering of the data (dirt, rock, patina samples) and the later interpretation of the data were flawed and incorrect. Briefly, some of the rock samples were “contaminated” by gathering them with the bare hand, rather than using gloves, and the patina on the James box had certainly been altered or contaminated, because it had been cleaned, at least once, with chemicals (!!).


A Dr. Krumbein, an authority on this type of thing, after studying the James ossuary, has the following to say:


            Based on a comparison of the ossuary surface to many other ossuaries, it


            appears that the cave in which the James Ossuary was placed, either collapsed


            centuries earlier, or alluvial deposits penetrated the chamber together with


            water and buried the ossuary, either completely or partially. Further, the root


            or climbing plant marks as well as the severe bio-pitting on the top and


            bottom parts of the ossuary indicate that the ossuary was exposed to direct


            sunlight and atmospheric weathering and other conditions that are not typical


            of a cave environment, for a period of at least 200 years.


Cox concludes, “This evidence proves that the ‘James Ossuary’ existed in an environment totally different than the known conditions of the Talpiot tomb.” Thus the James ossuary could not have come from the Talpiot tomb. It is not the missing 10th box, as the filmmakers claimed. This destroys a key piece of evidence emphasized by the filmmakers.


It has already been pointed out that “Mariamne” was not in the tomb (the name on the box was simply Mariame, or Mary), and certainly the word “Magdalene” was not there. The word “Jesus” is hard to make out and may not be “Jesus” at all. Furthermore, a non-family member, Matthew, was in the tomb, and since the only two boxes tested for DNA showed that the two purporting to be “Jesus” and “Mary” were not related—and they were the only two boxes tested—there is no reason to think that this was the family tomb of Jesus, or that it was a family tomb at all. The filmmakers’ conclusion, with regard to the “Jesus” and “Mary” boxes, was that not-related-by-blood = married. This is a leap of reasoning that is totally unfounded. (I’m not related to my sister-in-law. Does this mean I’m married to her?)


I have little doubt that the controversy will go on for a while. Those interested in perpetrating attacks on Christianity do not give up easily. Personally, I am satisfied that this is not the Jesus-family tomb. There are a number of reasons for that conclusion, mostly dealt with in my original article. Even if Jesus hadn’t arisen and ascended bodily to heaven (which he did), there would still be little reason to think that the Talpiot tomb is the “Jesus family” tomb.


I trust that everyone who reads this understands that I personally am not trying to figure out whether Jesus is the divine Son of God who rose from the dead. Of course I believe it! What I’m trying to do is defend our faith for the benefit of those who might be swayed by these attacks on Christianity. We don’t believe against reason (that is, fairy tales). We believe because our minds and hearts tell us there is good reason to do so. So far, reasons not to do so have not been found.


I just read a good article in Newsweek magazine, consisting of a debate between Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) and Sam Harris, a well-known atheist. I will be writing an article on the subject of atheism a little later. The atheist made at least one fatal statement (that is, fatal to his position) in the debate; I will include that in my article.



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