Those Bogus “Jesus Bones”

By Wayne Jackson

Society has just been treated to the almost-yearly attempt of entertainment exploiters, who seek to line their pockets with “filthy lucre” by hitching a ride on the reputation of Jesus Christ.

It would be a laughable, though stupid enterprise, were it not for the fact that so many gullible souls ingest any trash that purports to have the endorsement of “science.” Never has the reputation of “science” been so low.

There is nothing new that is “scientifically credible” in this story. The knowledge of these “bones” has been around for more than a quarter of a century — scarcely raising an eyebrow.

In 1980 an archeologist by the name of Yosef Gat explored a tomb in the southeastern region of Jerusalem that dated from the time of Herod the Great (the ruler who was king when Jesus was born).

The main room of the tomb had six coffin-shaped chambers that housed ten ossuaries (stone bone boxes). According to the current reports, one box had an inscription, “Jesus, son of Joseph,” another was inscribed with “Mara,” and a third, “Yose” — the latter two, it is said, being “Mary” and “Joseph.”

Reportedly, DNA has been collected, and a few speculators have scientifically concluded that these bones are the remains of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — along with Mary Magdalene and a male named “Judah,” found nearby.

The claim is being made that there is only a 1 in 10 million chance that this is not “the holy family.” This wild speculation is based upon the assumption that these names were uncommon — as compared with the estimated population of Jerusalem at that time. Let us seriously look at some facts.

First of all, how in the name of common sense could a ton of DNA establish scientifically that these are the bones of Jesus Christ? “Jesus,” “Joseph,” and “Mary” were very common first century names.

“Jesus” is the Greek form of the Old Testament, “Joshua,” a Hebrew hero for whom thousands of Jewish lads were named. The name iesous is found frequently in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) of several different people. Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentioned 20 men by this name.

There are no fewer than six references (in addition to Christ) to the name “Jesus” in the New Testament; and the name was widespread throughout the Mediterranean world in the time of Christ (see Foerster, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, G. Kittel, ed., Eerdmans, 1965, III.284ff).

There are eight “Josephs,” apart from Christ’s foster father, listed in the New Testament, and seven “Marys,” besides Jesus’ mother. Countless ossuaries have been found bearing the names of “Joseph” and “Mary,” and several with the common name “Jesus.”

Professor Amos Kloner, one of Israel’s prominent archaeologists, and the scholar who supervised the discovery site 27 years ago, in a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post, declared emphatically that the current theory “is impossible. It’s nonsense.” He added:

There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a [poor] Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the 1st century C.E.

Perceptive folks are able to employ common sense regarding this matter. How is it that modern sensationalists finally have found the “bones” of Jesus in this two-thousand-year-old tomb, when the Jewish and Roman authorities of twenty centuries ago could not locate the body of Jesus three days after his death? What are the mathematical “odds” on that?!

The apostles of Christ preached the concept of the resurrection of their Lord 50 days after his death, and Christianity burst upon the landscape of the ancient world with the most tremendous historical explosion humanity has ever known.

All the Roman and Jewish forces needed to do was produce the corpse of Christ, and the Christian movement would have evaporated instantly. Those “bones” could have been (likely would have been) housed as a monument to the failure of a delusional and disruptive religion.

This is a catastrophically powerful argument that demolishes the “bone” fabrication that James Cameron, who made the movie Titanic, has foisted upon a naive society whose critical skills frequently are seriously lacking these days.

Further, it was the custom of the Jews that any criminal sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin was “not to be buried in the sepulchers of their fathers; but two burying places were appointed by the council, one for those that were slain by the sword and strangled, the other for those that were stoned who also were hanged and burnt” (John Lightfoot, New Testament Commentary from the Talmud and Hebraica, Oxford, 1859, 2.374; emp. original). See our article, The Burial of Christ’s Body.

The real evidence is solidly against the “Jesus bones” theory.

This baseless story doubtless will produce a temporary sensation; such claims always do. And the more radical they are, the more the flurry. Presently, then, the “bones” hoax will sink into the black hole of cerebral density it so justly deserves.

What effect will this have upon Christianity? None at all; gospel truth has weathered greater storms than this nit-picking charade.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.