Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Tomb of Jesus

Monday night, I fought off a bout of insomnia by watching television late into the night. Following the evening news, I watched ABC's Prime Time and a significant segment of the program was devoted to James Cameron's upcoming documentary on the supposed tomb of Jesus.

Apparently, a tomb was unearthed by archaeologists some 27 years ago with an inscription of "Jesus" on the ossuary. Cameron is claiming this to be the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, along with his wife and son.

From ABC Prime Time's website comes this significant statement often overlooked or under-emphasized in mainstream reporting:

Two years earlier, Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner was the first to find the tomb. He found the tomb and the ossuaries — the urns or vaults used to hold the bones of the dead — interesting but of no particular archaeological importance. He said there are more than 900 buried tombs just like the "Jesus" tomb within a 2-mile radius of Talpiyot. Of them, 71 bear the name Jesus and two Jesus, son of Joseph. The tomb in Talpiyot is one of them. But the inscription, he said, was barely decipherable and therefore questionable.

At the time, Jesus was a very common name, as was Mary...Simply because the tomb is labeled a tomb that "belonged to a Jesus, doesn't make it the tomb of Jesus Christ," Kloner told ABC News.

The reality of our world today is claims such as Cameron's, while shocking, should not be surprising. For some reason, the last couple of years has seen an incredible rise in the proliferation of books written about the supposed "lost books of the Bible", such as the Gospel of Thomas, or the irascible claims of skeptics against the authenticity of Scripture, such as the DaVinci Code and Cameron's new-found claim.

I realize it is popular within society at-large these days to be fascinated with the new while discrediting the old. The tried and true that has withstood the test of time and the passing of history is viewed by many as archaic in the modern information era. Those who stake their faith on centuries old claims revealed in Scripture are often dismissed as simpletons.

But as for me, I'll take the old, old story of Jesus and his love...and his empty tomb...any day!

To believe Cameron's lie is to dismiss the testimony of the eyewitnesses, such as Peter, James, John, the other apostles, including Paul, and the faithful women who were instructed to relay the reality of the resurrection to the apostles (see Mark 16.1-7). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul goes so far as to say that over 500 people saw Jesus alive, following his death and burial, at the same time.

The claims of Christianity are staked to the truth that Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose on the third day. That is the essence of the gospel story (see 1 Corinthians 15.3-8 in the link above). To buy Cameron's lie is to dismiss the entire foundation of history; the old story that has withstood the test of time claiming that the purposes of God were realized in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I'll take my stand on the truth of the Word of Scripture; the reality that on Sunday following his crucifixion, the stone was rolled away and eyewitnesses were given a peek inside the tomb of Jesus to declare to the world that Jesus had risen. They gave their very lives, not for a James Cameron-esque lie, but for the truth, spoken by God's angel: "He is not here, He is risen!"

He is risen indeed!