Know Your Bible

VOL. 14                                                                                                                          September 27, 2015                                                                                                                            NO. 29


Another Assault On Christian Faith:



Just as Dan Brown's book and movie, The DaVinci Code, lost steam, Oscar-winning director James Cameron (of Titanic fame) released his new film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. The film alleges the discovery of a tomb containing the remains of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and their supposed son, Judah. If true, this would mean that Jesus didn't die on the cross, wasn't raised in three days, and didn't ascend back to heaven about 40 days thereafter. So, again, the public is left to decide which is a hoax--the Bible and Jesus; or the film, research, and statistics behind it.  

The documentary-style film is based on the 1980 discovery of a Jerusalem tomb that contained ten small caskets (ossuaries) of bones. According to the film, one bears the name Judah, son of Jesus. Another bears the name Mariamene, which the researchers and producers are concluding refers to Mary Magdalene. Others read Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Matthew, and Jofa.  DNA evidence purportedly shows that the bones of Jesua and Mariamene were the bones of unrelated people. Since most such tombs are family sepulchers, the door opens to the assumption that they may have been married and that Judah may have been their child. The inscriptions and ossuaries are said to be from the first-century Herodian period.  

The names discovered in this tomb are very common for the period, with the name Mary believed to have been used by 25 percent or more of women in that day. But the researchers and film producers base their conclusions on statistics, arguing the odds are 600 to 1 in favor of the tomb belonging to Jesus' family. The statistical approach is based on the odds of that many names from the Bible record being found in one tomb.  

The film was released just before Easter, when many around the world were celebrating Jesus' resurrection.  

More of the Same 

Efforts to undermine the resurrection's credibility are as old as the event itself. Opponents of Christianity know the resurrection is the central fact of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:17). Virtually all the early gospel sermons recorded in the Book of Acts speak of it, and the epistles demonstrate that Jesus' victory over death opens the door for believers to do the same. Christian baptism is patterned on the resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).  

Announcements preceding and following His birth proclaimed Jesus to be a coming king (Matthew 2:1-2; Luke 1:31-33). He entered Jerusalem as a triumphal king (Matthew 21) and confessed to Pontius Pilate that He was king of the Jews (Matthew 27:11; Luke 23:3). If He died, was buried, and never rose, He would, at best, be a dead king, not the one the Bible says sits today at God's right hand, ruling and reigning over His kingdom (Acts 7:55; Ephesians 1:20- 22; Hebrews 2:7-8).  

The Bible reports that the chief priests and elders bribed the Roman guards, who weren't able to keep the sealed tomb secure enough to prevent the resurrection, to say Jesus' disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). However, no one has produced any real evidence that His body remains on earth.  

Evidence for the Resurrection 

Evidence for Jesus' resurrection is similar to the evidence that George Washington lived and was the first president of the United States. In both cases, we have eye-witness testimony. History books tell us about George Washington. People who lived contemporary with him recorded what they saw. We weren't there; yet we believe the witnesses.  

The apostle Paul summarized similar evidence for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." 

Did all these witnesses lie? Most of those apostles, and many of the early Christians, died rather than recant their testimony about Christ and His resurrection. Are people usually willing to suffer loss of their property, rights, liberty, and lives to defend a lie? No; they really believed what they declared, and suffered persecution rather than give up their own hope of being resurrected.  

The empty tomb is another issue. No one, including Jesus' enemies, denied the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the broken seal. They sought alternate explanations, but they didn't deny the tomb was empty. Consider the animosity toward Jesus, the knowledge of His own resurrection predictions, and the care taken to seal and guard the tomb. Don’t you think Christianity's first-century opponents would have produced Jesus' body when the disciples began proclaiming His resurrection--if they could?  

Holes in the New Tomb Story

One of the most obvious problems with the latest Jesus-family-tomb theory is the tombs location in Jerusalem. Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not a great distance from Jerusalem, his home town was Nazareth, way up north in Galilee. He was called Jesus of Nazareth. If His family had a family tomb, it would likely have been around Nazareth, not Jerusalem. The Bible account has Jesus buried in the borrowed tomb of a rich Jewish ruler named Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; Luke 23:50-53; Luke 15:42-43; John 19:38-42). Clearly, it wasn't the family tomb of the poor carpenter's son from Nazareth.  

We need to view this new theory and its evidence in juxtaposition to the evidence present at the time of Jesus' death and resurrection. Anti-Christian forces in Judaism and the Roman government would have had as intense an interest in undermining the idea of the resurrection then as atheistic and secular forces do today. And if there had been evidence to contradict the resurrection, those first-century opponents would have produced it. But they couldn't.  

The events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection weren't secret or hidden in the first century. Paul, speaking to King Agrippa and Governor Festus, said that Jesus' death and resurrection was "not done in a corner." In other words, the facts were widely known, not hidden from public view.  

And don't forget that the apostle Paul was actually Saul of Tarsus, who vociferously opposed Jesus, hunted down Christians for trial and death, and tried to stamp out the new faith which was based on the resurrection. But when this enemy of Christian faith himself saw the risen Jesus, he changed and became the great gospel preacher to the Gentiles.  

—Randy Blackaby

— Via The Monthly Messenger, May 2007 

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