'Jesus Tomb' Filmmakers Should Be Ashamed, Archeologist Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT


Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The makers of a new documentary detailing the supposed discovery of Jesus' tomb should be ashamed of the inconsistencies and unscientific evidence they are reporting in the film, said the archeologist who oversaw the initial dig.

Nevertheless, said Prof. Amos Kloner, the film should be shown to the public in the interest of freedom of expression.

"The Lost Tomb of Jesus," scheduled to air on the Discovery Channel on March 4, has come under harsh criticism from archeologists, scholars and religious figures -- both here and abroad -- for claiming to show the final resting place of Jesus, his son, and Mary Magdalene.

The assertions in the documentary fly in the face of Christianity and the Bible, which says that Jesus was crucified and buried but rose again from the dead after three days and later ascended into heaven. According to the Bible, Jesus never married or had children.

The tomb was first discovered in 1980 when construction workers were digging in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot to clear the way for new apartments there. The tomb -- one of hundreds discovered in Jerusalem -- contained 10 ossuaries (bone boxes), six of them with inscriptions on them.

The names on the boxes were all names found in the Gospels. Experts here said earlier that it was merely a coincidence, since those names were common at the time.

Prof. Amos Kloner oversaw the excavation of the site in the 1980s as the district archeologist of Jerusalem. He later published his findings in a professional archeological publication.

Kloner, currently an archeologist at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, said he did not want to speak about the documentary but he did mention that it is so full of inconsistencies that it will leave viewers with the wrong impression.

"It is not scholarly and not scientific, he said. "It's very amateur," Kloner told Cybercast News Service on Thursday.

Kloner noted that the documentary spends about 10 minutes talking about "the missing ossuary," suggesting it could be the same ossuary that turned up several years ago in the hands of an antique dealer who claimed that it was the burial box of James (Jacob), the brother of Jesus.

Experts later discredited the ossuary (which bore the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus") as a forgery and fraud.

Due to a lack of storage space, only nine of the 10 ossuaries found in the tomb in 1980 were held by the Israel Antiquities Authority after they were examined and documented, said Kloner. But the tenth one that was discarded did not have any inscription, he said.

In an interview at his home on Wednesday, Kloner said the documentary's director Simcha Jacobovici has mixed up the burial cave featured in the documentary with another one that was located some 60 feet away.

Jacobovici shows pictures taken by a camera that was sent down a pipe into the tomb. The majority of the viewers won't understand that this is not the same cave, said Kloner.

The tomb that is now being promoted as Jesus' family tomb is a ganezia -- a repository or a burial site for religious texts that can no longer be used due to their physical condition, Kloner said. (According to Jewish tradition, any scripture or religious text that has the name of God in it cannot be simply discarded but must be buried.)

Kloner also is bothered by the fact that information in the documentary was taken from scholarly works published in the mid-1990s, but those works are never credited in the film.

Much of the movie was filmed on sets recreated from the drawings and photographs taken from those works, he said. In one scene, the ossuaries are shown covered with dust that is being brushed away to reveal the inscriptions, he said.

But that's not the way they were found, he said.

Watching the documentary, viewers could get the impression that the filmmakers themselves revealed something that was not previously known, he said.

The documentary was made according to the "imagination of people," he said. "I don't accept the claim that this tomb was the burial place for the family of Jesus," he said.

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