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An Insight into the Mindset of “Tomb Believers”

   As my readers know, I have been working very hard on the tomb story, doing the kind of background reading and research necessary to provide a sound response. But, despite the energy I have been investing, some think we are merely providing a “knee jerk” reaction. Here is an e-mail that came in last night:

Yea, okay. Let me first start out by saying. I’m no [sic] suprised [sic] at the close-minded repplies [sic] the “Christian” population is spewing from the bowls [sic? probably meant “bowels”] of ignorance. my [sic] reason for saying this? well [sic–broken caps key?] you people are close minded of course. and [sic] any notion that your words and “laws” are wrong is an insult and you point out some strong points just to cast doubt on this find. I have not 1% [sic] shred of doubt this is the tomb of Jesus. becuase [sic and sic] I know Moses started this christianity [sic] c**p [edited] and people picked up on it to be the “out-casts” to oppose the rulers of their time. It would have died out if it wasnt [sic] for the Roman Emperor ( forgot his name ) google it, he proclaimed that jesus [sic] WAS the son of the ONE true god and they all had to follow him or die. On another area of this Tomb business. Is why [sic] is it so hard to accept that its true. [sic] how [sic] incredible are the odds that this is NOT the tomb…. how many families back then would have all the names correct… honestly are you people this thick headed? wake [sic] up and accept that there is no purpose or god. we [sic] evolved and maybe yes something created us. but [sic] why the h**l [edited] would there be millions of stars and one belief? there [sic] isn’t imagine [sic] another world of intelligent people. and [sic] think of their religions. yea [sic]…. was their jesus [sic] green?

   And here I am documenting facts about inscriptions, the encratite community of Asia minor (source of The Acts of Philip), Gelasius’ condemnation thereof, and mitochondrial DNA! Goodness.

The Final Nail in the…Ossuary

   For the serious minded person, this controversy is over. Finished. Dr. Stephen J. Pfann of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem has just posted his paper, “Mary Magdalene is Now Missing: A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701” here. And with this information the case is quite literally closed. Without Mariamne, Jacobovici and his team have nothing whatsoever. Pfann makes a compelling case that the proper reading is “Mariame and Mara (Martha),” and given that Mariame is a normative form, the discussion is truly over, for as I have said repeatedly, the Mariamne identification is the heart of their theory. It was already a done deal in that the Acts of Philip do not, in fact, provide them with what they need in any way, shape, or form, but now that issue is irrelevant as well, in the sense that they can’t even get to the Acts of Philip with a compelling counter-reading of the ossuary staring them in the face.
   I have been focusing upon The Acts of Philip, the DNA evidence, etc., and all of that is, in fact, important. But the one area I knew I would not be able to address to any depth was that of the inscriptions, and the reason is not difficult to see:

Without the ability to use different angles of light, or at least have multiple very high-resolution scans, people remote from the actual inscriptions are at the mercy of those who have actually examined the inscriptions “up close and personal.” Most of the images I have seen have either been moving (in video), or were not high enough resolution scans to allow any kind of close examination, as in the image above. While you can make out the broad strokes, any kind of critique of the reading is difficult to do. I had seen alternative readings. Bauckham had suggested Mariamenou Mara, and this made sense, grammatically, in Greek. There was no question that Mara was a full name, not a title, as suggested by Tabor and the Jacobovici team. But Pfann’s very clear reading helps a great deal. Here is the inscription again:

Pfann points out the differences in orthography between Mariame and the following kai Mara, and he is quite right. But since most do not read Greek, here is his colorized tracing of the text:

This should help you to see the terms in perspective. Now, “kai” doesn’t look a lot like kai, but Pfann goes into detail on other examples of this connetive being written this way. The fact that kai is a connective (the word “and”) means that just as in English, it could be abbreviated or shortened, similar to our own “&.”
   So what we have is a second hand adding “and Mara,” which would indicate that first Mariame’s bones were placed in this ossuary then, at a later time, Mara’s were added. It is not uncommon to find the remains of multiple people in a single ossuary (amazing how small we are when reduced to our skeletal remains), and as I have noted, Kloner’s article averages 1.7 people/ossuary in the Talpiot tomb. So whose remains were tested via mitochondrial DNA analysis? Mariame? Mara? We have no way of knowing, since we don’t even know they were the only people in the ossuary. One thing is for certain, it wasn’t Mary Magdalene.
   Of course, this is not going to slow me down on the book. This information must come out, and, what is more, this entire situation provides us with a glowing example of the kind of apologetic challenge to the faith we can expect in the future. What is more, do you really think those who want to disbelieve will be convinced by this kind of evidence? Did truth stop Dan Brown? Not at all. What is more, do not under estimate the human mind. “Mary…Martha…Mary and Martha! That’s Mary and Martha, so, Lazarus must have been in one of the unmarked ossuaries, so, it is the family tomb of Jesus after all!” Stranger things have happened.
   In any case, it is fascinating to read the response posted on the Discovery website. First, they finally admit that the film and book do, in fact, directly contradict Christianity:

The film and book suggest that a first-century ossuary found in a south Jerusalem cave in 1980 contained the remains of Jesus, contradicting the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven. Ossuaries are stone boxes used at the time to store the bones of the dead.

Then the article reports,

   In Israel on Tuesday for a screening of the film, the Toronto-based Jacobovici welcomed Pfann’s criticism, saying “every inscription should be re-examined.”
   But Jacobovici said scholars who researched the ossuary in the past agreed with the film’s reading. “Anyone who looks at it can see that the script was written by the same hand,” he added.
   Jacobovici has faced criticism much tougher than Pfann’s academic critique. The film has been termed “archaeo-porn,” and Jacobovici has been accused of “pimping the Bible.”
   Jacobovici attributes most of the criticism to scholars’ discomfort with journalists “casting light into their ossuary monopoly.”
   “What we’re doing is democratizing this knowledge, and this is driving some people crazy,” he said.

   Democtratizing this knowledge? Or pandering falsehoods for money? That’s the question.

For Use on Today’s DL: More Tomb Errors

   Here is more evidence of the errors of the tomb film, this time in spinning such a wild web of conspiracy theories that they can’t keep time frames and simple logic together. They throw John the Baptist’s death (pre-Christian, politically driven, not due to his relationship to Jesus) in with James’ (post-cross) and then a tradition about Simon’s death. Then they graphically present the great danger to Jesus’ “son,” Judah. Mary hides Judah when a Roman soldier just happens to walk past. But then the producers seem to blow a logic fuse. How? They spin a wild tale from John 19:

John 19:25-27 25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.

   Now, of course a first-century document that does not support their fanciful theories cannot be trusted, so they run off to wild speculations that lack even a foundation in something as wonderfully trustworthy on a historical level of the Acts of Philip! Though John tells us Mary Magdalene is there along with Mary, the mother of Jesus, the film decides to throw out the idea that Jesus is talking to Mary Magdalene about Judah, who are both at the foot of the cross! Here is the recreation:
   Excuse me, but there are Roman soldiers standing around guarding those being crucified (if they left, the families would remove the prisoners from the crosses and try to save their lives). So we are supposed to believe that while Mary will hide Judah from a passing Roman soldier in a marketplace for fear of exposure, Jesus will address her as his wife, and make reference to his son, right there in front of Roman soldiers at the crucifixion? I’m sorry, but the utter inanity of such wild-eyed speculation leaves one breathless, especially when it is placed in the context of a bold, well-funded, yet groundless attack upon the very heart of the Christian faith.

Making It Up Out of Whole Cloth

   Work on the book progresses (those of you waiting for e-mail replies from me, please be patient! There are only so many hours in a day). My biggest problem is choosing which errors of logic, fact, and argumentation, to leave out simply due to a lack of time. Here’s one that would be a real hoot if not for the fact that gullible folks will be repeating this stuff for years to come. Here is one reading (the text of the Acts of Philip is very corrupt) of verses 137 and 138:

137 And the Lord said: Since you have been unforgiving and wrathful, you shall indeed die in glory and be taken by angels to paradise, but shall remain outside it forty days, in fear of the flaming sword, and then I will send Michael and he shall let you in. And Bartholomew shall go to Lycaonia and be crucified there, and Mariamne’s body shall be laid up in the river Jordan. And I shall bring back those who have been swallowed up. 138 And he drew a cross in the air, reaching down into the abyss, and it was filled with light, and the cross was like a ladder. And Jesus called the people, and they all came up, save the proconsul and the Viper And seeing the apostles they mourned and repented.

   Now, notice, Mariamne is prophecied to be “laid up in the river Jordan.” This is in the context of the deaths of Philip, Bartholomew, and Mariamne. Now remember, this book is fiction. It is not history. Jacobovici and Pellegrino call this an “account” of Mary Magdalene’s travels! It is a fictional work about Mariamne, a gnostic-inspired fictional character! But even with all of this, listen to what this film claims:
   When you can turn Mariamne into Mary Magdalene and Jerusalem into the Jordan River (a day’s journey away in the ancient world), there is no end to the theories you can spin.

More on the Abuse of Truth in The Lost Tomb of Jesus

   We all know James Cameron knows how to use a camera to create an emotional impact. Sadly, when his starting information is grossly flawed, the results can be downright deceptive. Let’s take the Mariamne inscription. Fourth century encratite text–a group of ascetics condemned by the orthodox followers of Jesus, and that quite rightly; that is, the author(s) of The Acts of Philip were vegetarians who disallowed marriage and procreation, and as such, were rightly condemned, given the plain teaching of New Testament texts on the propriety of marriage, and the fact that meats are given to men to be used for his life and health, see Hebrews 13:4, Col 2:16. They are not even remotely connected to the first century; they are not carrying some “tradition” that goes back in history. They are creating fictional stories to promote their movement, nothing more. Francois Bovon, the leading scholar on the Acts of Philip, has written to me just recently, indicating that his identification of Mary Magdalene with Mariamne of The Acts of Philip is “on the level of literary traditions and not on the level of history” (e-mail from Francois Bovon to James White, March 8, 2007). Bovon is talking about literary connections between texts like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdala, etc., all texts far removed from the first century and the events of Jesus’ life. The Mary Magdalene they fabricate shares only one thing with the Mary Magdalene of history: her name. The gnostics loved latching onto names in the New Testament about whom we know little; they would then fill the name with fanciful stories, all designed to give a “spin” that would support their own theology. They could not make their case from the original followers of Jesus, so, they had to fictionalize stories to gain followers. The Acts of Philip draws upon preceding texts that have already fictionalized Mary Magdalene, and, in the opinion of Bovon, fills its own woman, Mariamne, with the characteristics of the previously created gnostic version of Mary Magdalene. But Bovon recognizes this is a literary connection, not a historical one, and further, he admits that “the name Magdala does not appear in the Acts of Philip.”
   So are the viewers of the tomb film given a fair, balanced, accurate picture of the sources being used to make wild historical connections in the theory of the filmmakers? Judge for yourself:

   By the way, the book and film loves to talk about how many names have been found on ossuaries. What you need to keep in mind is that only around 250 incriptions have been found, mostly of men (ie., 1000 ossuaries, 20-25% with inscriptions = 250 inscriptions). The database is therefore quite small, so to find an “unusual” inscription is only relevant—if you already have the conclusion you are wanting to find in the “evidence.”