James Cameron is best known for movie blockbusters like Terminator and Titanic. But lately he’s been putting his influence behind taking pot shots at the Bible. He first went after the Exodus miracles. The 90-minute documentary “The Exodus Decoded” that was shown on the History Channel sank without a trace. While the TV special actually supports much of the biblical record regarding the Exodus events, the “miracles” are presented in such a way that they are given naturalistic explanations. Even so, the viewer comes away with a new-found appreciation of the biblical record. Cameron and his archeological experts can’t avoid the unspoken fact that even if the events were not the miracles that we suppose, the events were incredible miracles of timing.
Because the media ignored “The Exodus Decoded,” I believe Cameron decided to take on a more controversial subject: the crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. It seems that every newspaper is carrying the story that the ossuaries (burial boxes) of Jesus, his mother, father, wife, and children have been found. The documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” will air on Sunday, March 4th on the Discovery Channel. Cameron and his cadre of archeological experts contend that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a son named Judah.
The ossuaries were first discovered in 1980. Archeological experts did not see anything unusual about them even though they carried the names Mary, Joseph, Matthew, Mary, and some say Jesus. Amos Kloner, an archeologist from Bar Ilan University, was one of the first to analyze the limestone burial boxes. He concluded that the inscription on the alleged Jesus’ ossuary is not clear enough to determine if it actually says “Jesus.” This in itself should have put the story to rest. But Cameron has an ideological ax to grind, so he is pursuing the project without reservations.
It is curious that the burial boxes contain names associated with Jesus and His family until one realizes that “in the first century, the names were as common as Tom, Dick and Harry,” 25 percent of women in Jerusalem were called Miriam or some derivative, and ossuaries “bear names familiar to us from the New Testament, suggesting that the names of Jesus, his relatives, and his disciples were popular among the inhabitants of the land during this period.”
Consider how common the following names are just from reading the Bible:
1. Jesus (the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Joshua: “Yahweh is salvation”)
Jesus son of Mary
Jesus Justus, co-worker with Paul (Col. 4:11)
An ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:29)
Some ancient manuscripts give Barabbas a first name: Jesus (Matt. 27:16–17).
A Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus) (Acts 13:6)
Mary the mother of Jesus
Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus) (John 11)
Mary the mother of James and Joseph (probably the same Mary who is designated as the “wife of Clopas”) (Matt. 27:56; 28:1; John 19:25)
Mary of Magdalene (Matt. 27:56)
Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12)
Mary of Rome (Rom. 16:6)
Joseph the husband of Mary (Matt. 1:18–19)
Joseph the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3)
Joseph the brother of James (Mark 15:40, 47)
Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38)
Joseph Barsabbas (who was also called Justus) (Acts 1:33)
The original name of Barnabas (Acts 4:36)
Then there are the multiple eye-witness accounts that are dismissed because skeptics don’t like the implications of their testimony. I’ll put Luke’s investigative reporting up against James Cameron’s any day (Luke 1:1–4):
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
2] Dion Nissenbaum, “TV film of Christ’s ‘tomb’ isn’t gospel, experts say,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (February 27, 2007), A6.**
** “In the Days of Jesus” (2000 exhibit): www.imj.org.il/eng/exhibitions/2000/christianity/jesusdays/index.html. This site is interesting because it shows one of the ossuary’s that will appear in Cameron’s documentary. It lists a number of common New Testament names: Martha, Marry, Matthew, Judah, and Jesus Son of Alot.**
** According to the United Bible Societies’ textual apparatus, Matthew 27:17 reads: “…whom will ye that I release unto you? Jesus Barabbas [Greek: Iesoun ton Barabban] or Jesus who is called Christ [Greek: Iesoun ton legomenon Christon]”? Some early Syriac manuscripts of Matthew present Barabbas’ name twice as Jesus bar Abbas: manuscripts in the Caesarean group of texts, the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the Syriac lectionaries and some of the manuscripts used by Origen in the third century, all support the belief that Barabbas’ name was originally Jesus Barabbas. Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971) states: “A majority of the Committee was of the opinion that the original text of Matthew had the double name in both verses and that the Iesoun [Jesus] was deliberately suppressed in most witnesses for reverential considerations. In view of the relatively slender external support for Iesoun [Jesus], however, it was deemed fitting to enclose the word within square brackets”(68).