I saw a report on ABC’s Nightline last night about an archaeologist, Simcha Jacobovski, who claims to have found a 1st Century tomb in Jerusalem that contains ossuaries (burial bone boxes) with early Christian carvings on them. The carvings, he says, are of resurrection imagery and language, including a reference to Jonah and Jesus and an “alpha and omega” reference. He says these were early followers of Jesus who believed he would one day be resurrected. If his conclusions are true, the finding would be a major discovery in biblical archaeology. ABC made a big deal about it (as news networks tend to do). The anchor said it could “rewrite” what millions of people believe about the early Christians. Why?
As the late Paul Harvey used to say, here is “the rest of the story”…
Five years ago Simcha claimed to have found the tomb of the human Jesus and his family near this new tomb location, including the ossuaries of Jesus, Mary Magdalene (Jesus’ wife) and a love child. His claims made big headlines then and may have caused some Christians to have indigestion. For Simcha, it was his “big break.” But rational archaeologists quickly debunked his conclusions. The names on the bone boxes were common Jewish names and there was NO provable connection between the names and the Gospel persons. Basically, they said, Simcha saw a name on a Jewish artifact and drew a conclusion. But because this new tomb lies a hundred feet from the other discovery, Simcha has drawn conclusions that the people buried here believed that the Jesus buried just over there would one day come to life. In other words, they bought a lie.
Simcha has many critics. Most of them are scientists and archaeologists. The rest are biblical scholars. Simcha, a secular Jew, used to host a program on History Channel called “The Naked Archaeologist” in which he traveled around Israel basically looking for controversy in the name of science. His particular focus of late has been to tell “the real story” of Jesus through archaeology. Let’s just say that his agenda is not to support scripture.
It always amazes me: For two thousand years people have been trying to disprove the Gospel and for two thousand years they have failed. What does this say about the Gospel? Does it grow weaker or stronger over time?