Family Tomb of Jesus story

"A limestone ossuary found more than 25 years ago in a 2,000 year-old tomb in Jerusalem, that may have held the remains of Mary Magdalene, is displayed to the media during a news conference in New York, Monday, Feb. 26, 2007." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) The Family Tomb of Jesus story concerns the controversal claim of Simcha Jacobovici and Charles R. Pellegrino that the Talpiot Tomb is the tomb of Jesus Christ and his family.


Issues, Etc.

What are the basic history problems?

"The historical problems with all this are too numerous to list here: A) the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would be be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem? It’s unlikely. B) One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married; C) the Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary-- and that's about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names. D) we have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don't match up with the list of brothers' names. E) By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty-- even the Jewish and Roman authorities acknowledged this. Now it takes a year for the flesh to desiccate, and then you put the man's bones in an ossuary. But Jesus' body was long gone from Joseph of Arimathea's tomb well before then. Are we really to believe it was moved to another tomb, decayed, and then was put in an ossuary? Its not likely. F) Implicitly you must accuse James, Peter and John (mentioned in Gal. 1-2-- in our earliest NT document from 49 A.D.) of fraud and coverup. Are we really to believe that they knew Jesus didn't rise bodily from the dead but perpetrated a fraudulent religion, for which they and others were prepared to die? Did they really hide the body of Jesus in another tomb? We need to remember that the James in question is Jesus' brother, who certainly would have known about a family tomb. This frankly is impossible for me to believe."^[1]^

Is "Mariamne" Mary Magdalene?

"[S]ince the identification of 'Mariamne' as Mary Magdalene is central to the entire theory, don't you find it rather odd that Jacobovici and his team overlooked the prevalence of the name and the source of it (Mariamne was the favorite wife of Herod--how many baby girls were named "Jackie" back in the 1960s?) in the contemporary records while running to a document written 1) at least three centuries later, probably four, 2) known in full only from a 14th century translation, 3) in a different language than that relevant to the ossuaries, 4) from a geographical location far removed from Jerusalem, 5) that itself never identifies Mariamne as Mary Magdalene (that is pure speculation on the part of Francois Bovon) and 6) that is utterly a-historical and mythical? Is this really how you do serious 'investigation' and scholarship?"^[2]^

What about the statistics?

James White writes:

"At least 20 men would, using the same statistics, have lived in Jerusalem during that time period that had a father named Joseph and a brother named James. And guess what? All twenty or more of them died. And were buried. How many had ossuaries? Hard to say. We have found multiple attestations of the name Jesus in ossuaries from the time. The Talpiot tomb is nothing new. But Jesus wasn't from Jerusalem. He did not live there, nor would there be any reason to think that a multi-generational tomb would be owned there by someone from Nazareth which is far to the north of Jerusalem. But beyond the fact that it is truly stretching it to assert that a poor man from Nazareth would have a rich tomb in Jerusalem...where he was crucified...and where his followers were persecuted by the Jewish leaders...who would have made the tomb the main-stay of their apologetic arguments against the growing Christian faith (nothing like showing off Jesus' tomb to end rumors of resurrection!), the fact is that the odds are high against any particular combination of names appearing in a single tomb in any one place."^[3]^

What does the DNA show?

"The mitochondrial DNA evidence... conclusively proves that the tiny bone fragments recovered from ossuaries 80-500 and 80-503 came from people who were not related to one another maternally. Nothing more. They could have been related paternally, i.e., 80-503 could have been the father of 80-500 but the DNA evidence currently available cannot say much more than that. Finding people in a family tomb who are not maternally related is, of course, not unusual. In fact, it is normal. The assumption that Yeshua ben Yosef, if that inscription is being read correctly at all, was married to at least one of those whose bones were placed in ossuary 80-500 (there could have been more than one), is fanciful at best. Tell me, why do you think the authors of the book forgot to tell their readers about the paternal possibilities of relationship between these two ossuaries? Is it because that reality is fatal to the case they are trying to construct?"^[4]^

Does John 19 describe a conversation between Jesus and his wife?

"The unique theory presented in the show is that John 19 presents a conversation between Jesus on the cross and his wife Mary Magdalene, with their son being the Beloved Disciple! The problem of course with this is that Jesus is addressing his own mother, Mary. John 19.26 is quite clear--- Jesus saw his mother standing there, and spoke to her about the Beloved Disciple, who is certainly not his son. In John 13 and following the Beloved Disciple is portrayed as one of the adult disciples in the upper room. Not as a child. Here is but one more example of how normal interpretations of the Biblical evidence are ignored and rejected in favor of rewriting the text to support the theory, and much later non-eyewitness Gnostic evidence from the Acts of Philip is made crucial to the case, even when that evidence itself does not likely support the case at all!"^[5]^

Was the Gospel of Thomas written by "Jesus' son Judah"?

"[T]he Gospel of Thomas was written far, far from Jerusalem, in a different language, and it comes from a completely different worldview. Those who are not invested in selling books promoting the Gospel of Thomas recognize that it was written no earlier than about AD 165. So, if Judah was buried around AD 65, it was quite the trick for him to write a book a hundred years after he was buried, in a land far away, in a language he would have no reason to speak!"^[6]^

Tenth ossuary missing?

"[T]he makers of this film and book were told that the tenth ossuary found in the Talpiot tomb was not missing. It was a blank, having neither ornamentation nor inscription, and so it was not catalogued with the other nine. However, on the show, mystery is concocted when the list of the nine catalogued ossuaries is presented and it is concluded one is missing, which is false." - Ben Witherington^[7]^


  7. Ben Witherington, "Biblical Archaeologists Reject Discovery Channel Show's Claims". URL:


See also

Mainstream media

  • The Stone Box (CBS News - 60 Minutes) - "Did A Stone Box Once Contain The Bones Of Jesus' Brother?"