Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Jesus Discovery?

The internet is abuzz with speculation over the publication, today, of James Tabor's and Simcha  Jacobovici's The Jesus DiscoveryThis book (an excerpt of which can be found here) is an explicit follow-up to their work which was presented on the Discovery Channel in March 2007, entitled "The Lost Tomb of Jesus."  (Cf. also the related book, The Jesus Dynasty). In that documentary they theorized that the Talpiot Tomb, discovered in Jerusalem in 1980, was actually the "Family Tomb" of Jesus.  Their theory, despite its sensational claims, didn't convince most scholars of its plausibility, let alone probability—after all, it depends on one speculative hypothesis building upon many others (for particularly devastating reviews, cf. those by Ben Witherington and Richard Bauckham).

This new book claims that another tomb (Talpiot Tomb B), located a mere 200 yards from the first and containing two ossuaries with inscriptional remains, supports their previous identification of Talpiot Tomb A as the tomb of Jesus and his family.  As evidence, they cite four lines of text that might refer to belief in resurrection and ornamentation that might be a fish, an early Christian symbol.

I have not seen this "evidence," and, in any case, I am not a palaeographer.  But Christopher Rollston has, and he is.  Professor Rollston has already provided a detailed, devastating critique of the Tabor-Jacobovici thesis here.  My hunch is that even agnostic, skeptical New Testament scholars like Bart Ehrman will be no more impressed by this theory than he was over their previous claims.

This, of course, raises the question of motivation.  No doubt this "discovery" was made public during Lent for the same reason novel or unorthodox views about Jesus are always trotted out this time of year.  But the fact remains that Tabor, a professor at UNC-Charlotte, has unorthodox views of Jesus and Early Christianity that are neither cutting edge nor new: Paul as the founder of "Christianity" as we know it (indeed, he has a book about this topic to be released in November), an irreconcilable conflict between Paul and the Jewish Christianity of James, "Q" (the material Matthew and Luke have in common not found in Mark), and the Didache (an early 2nd-century Christian document), a "resurrection" of Jesus that "might be spiritual," and so on.  Not one of these views is novel, and all have been thoroughly refuted time and time again (for a very helpful, popular refutation, cf. the Christianity Today article by my friend Darrell Bock here).  The long and short of it is that the Christian message, as St. Paul tells us, is "foolishness" to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18), who thus are unable to detect the wisdom and power of God in the message of the cross (1 Cor 2:14).  We can only pray that God would shine in the hearts of such men "to give them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).

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