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'Lost Tomb of Christ' raises many questions about Jesus' burial site
"The Last Tomb of Christ" documentary by James Cameron (right) delves into
ancient ossuaries. At left is James Tabor, chairman of the University of
North Carolina's religious studies department.
JERUSALEM -- Archaeologists and clergymen in the Holy Land have derided
claims in a new documentary produced by James Cameron that contradict major
Christian tenets, but the Oscar-winning director said the evidence was based
on sound statistics.
"The Lost Tomb of Christ," which the Discovery Channel will run March 4,
argues that 10 ancient ossuaries -- caskets used to store bones --
discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of
Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued by the Discovery
One of the caskets even bears the title, "Judah, son of Jesus," hinting that
Jesus may have had a son. And the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would
contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to
Cameron told NBC'S "Today" show that statisticians found "in the range of a
couple of million to one in favor of it being them." Simcha Jacobovici, the
Toronto filmmaker who directed the documentary, said the implications "are
Most Christians believe Jesus' body spent three days at the site of the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. The burial site
identified in Cameron's documentary is in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood
nowhere near the church.
In 1996, when the British Broadcasting Corp. aired a short documentary on
the same subject, archaeologists challenged the claims. Amos Kloner, the
first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by
archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.
Cameron said his critics should withhold comment until they see his film.
The film's claims, however, have raised the ire of Christian leaders in the
"The historical, religious and archaeological evidence show that the place
where Christ was buried is the Church of the Resurrection," said Attallah
Hana, a Greek Orthodox clergyman in Jerusalem.
Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in
Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film's hypothesis
holds little weight.
"On a scale of one through 10 -- 10 being completely possible -- it's
probably a one, maybe a one and a half," Pfann said.
Pfann is even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read
correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name "Hanun." Ancient Semitic
script is difficult to decipher.
Saadia Khan, Norway