The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Searching the Living among the Dead

Sinking Ships and Arguments When the real Titanic was constructed, its engineers said “it doesn’t get bigger than this and even God cannot destroy it.” Now, the Titanic movie director James Cameron says “it doesn’t get bigger than this” about his documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Would James Cameron’s voyage meet a similar fate? Jerry Thomas critically evaluates the leaking holes in James Cameron’s arguments.

On March 4, 2007 Discovery Channel will air the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” produced by the titanic movie director James Cameron. The CBS News has reported Cameron to be saying, “I'm not a theologist. I'm not an archaeologist. I'm a documentary film maker.” But in the New York News conference Cameron said: “We’ve done our homework; it doesn’t get bigger than this.” Well, either way, we would like to critically examine the facts and claims.  

The Anchor: The Talpiot Tomb, Ossuaries and Inscriptions 

On March 28, 1980, a construction crew developing an apartment complex in Talpiot, Jerusalem, uncovered a tomb, which archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority excavated shortly thereafter. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson surveyed the site and drew a layout plan. Scholar L.Y. Rahmani later published "A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries" that described 10 ossuaries, or limestone bone boxes, found in the tomb.  Scholars know that from 30 B.C. to 70 A.D., many people in Jerusalem would first wrap bodies in shrouds after death. The bodies were then placed in carved rock tombs, where they decomposed for a year before the bones were placed in an ossuary. 

The first of the ossuaries' inscriptions in the alleged tomb, written in Aramaic, reads, “Yeshua bar Yosef,'' or “Jesus son of Joseph.'' The second, in Hebrew, reads, “Maria.'' The third, in Hebrew, reads, “Matia,'' or “Matthew.'' The fourth inscription, in Hebrew, reads, “Yose,” a nickname for “Yosef,” or “Joseph.'' The fifth, in Greek, reads, “Mariamene e Mara,''. The sixth, in Aramaic, reads, “Yehuda bar Yeshua,'' or “Judah son of Jesus.” 

The following are the reasons stated by James Cameron for his claims. We critically evaluate James Cameron’s reasons.  

James Cameron’s Arguments from the Inscriptions 

The names inscribed in the ossuaries, according to the film makers are very similar to the family members of the Jesus. 

Leaking Holes: Though it was uncommon to call Jesus of the Bible as “Jesus son of Joseph” in the first century, one for the argument's sake may agree that Joseph, Jesus son of Joseph, and Maria look similar to the names of the members in the family of Jesus. But, what about the names like Matthew, Mariamene e Mara, and Judah son of Jesus? If three names matches with the family members of Jesus mentioned in the Bible, the other three does not match with the family members of the Jesus mentioned in the Bible (Mark 6:3).

 James Cameron’s Answer:

The name, “Mariamene e Mara”, according to the filmmakers’ means, “Mary the master” or “Mary the teacher.” This Mary according to the film makers must have been Mary Magdalene. And like Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code, James Cameron also believes that Jesus must have been married to Mary Magdalene and must have had a son named Judah (Remember according to Dan Brown, Mary Magdalene was buried in France and the alleged ‘couple’ had a daughter named Sarah).  

Leaking Holes:

First, Mara in this context, according to the New Testament scholar Ben Witherington does not mean Master. It is an abbreviated form of Martha. Moreover, there is not a single document from the first three centuries, whether Christian, non-Christian or heretical which claims that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. For those who are interested to know about it can read ‘Was Jesus Married?” in of which the excerpts are given in our website The Da Vinci Code and other fictions which claim Jesus to be married are fictions and are of no historical value. If James Cameron wants to argue from the inscription, then it is a classical case of circular argument. Here we again raise the question of mismatch of three names. If three names are mismatching, how can James Cameron conclude that family tomb is of Jesus of the Bible.

Moreover, it must be noted that some of the family members mentioned in the Bible are missing in the tomb,

e.g., James the Just, a prominent member of the family and the author of the epistle James in the New Testament, is buried in a single tomb near the Temple mount. If Jesus of Nazareth had a family tomb in Jerusalem, why would they bury a prominent member elsewhere? Again, it is highly improbable that Jesus of Nazareth would have had family tomb in Jerusalem. If there was one, it should have been in Nazareth.  

James Cameron’s Argument from Statistics:

James Cameron, after assuming all the six names to be from the family of Jesus, had Mathematicians calculate the probability of the same cluster of names for any other family. “The numbers range from one in 100 to one in 1,000 that there is some other family,” said Andrey Feuerverger, a professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto. 

Leaking Holes:

This probability can be arrived only if we (a) Assume that all the names belonged to the family of Jesus (b) Taking only these six names and without taking into account of the total number of similar names in the first century. While we have already answered the first assumption, we would like to consider the total number of names and calculate the probability. Ben Witherington blog quotes the calculation done by his friend . Richard Bauckham: Bauckam writes:  

Out of a total number of 2625 males, these are the figures for the ten most popular male names among Palestinioan Jews. the first figure is the total number of occurrences (from this number, with 2625 as the total for all names, you could calculate percentages), while the second is the number of occurrences specifically on ossuraies. (a) Simon/Simeon 243 59 (b) Joseph 218 45 (c) Eleazar 166 29 (d) Judah 164 44 (e) John/Yohanan 122 25 (f) Jesus 99 22 (g) Hananiah 82 18 (h) Jonathan 71 14 (i) Matthew 62 17 (j) Manaen/Menahem 42 4 (k)

For women, we have a total of 328 occurrences (women's names are much less often recorded than men's), and figures for the 4 most popular names are thus: (a) Mary/Mariamne 70 42 (b) Salome 58 41 (c) Shelamzion 24 19 (d) Martha 20 17.  You can see at once that all the names you're interested were extremely popular. 21% of Jewish women were called Mariamne (Mary). The chances of the people in the ossuaries being the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the New Testament must be very small indeed. Thus, we see that if we reject the unfounded assumption or change the methodology, the results change.

 James Cameron’s Argument from DNA:

James Cameron argues that DNA test showed that bones of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Mary’ did not match. Therefore, they must have been husband and wife. 

 Leaking Holes: Well, the DNA test on bones has only shown that these two individuals did not have a blood relation but did not establish a positive legal relation in marriage!!! They could have been even mother-in-law and son-in-law or father-in-law and daughter-in-law. Who knows it could have even been an adopted slave’s and master’s bones. Or still, they could have been bones of different generations. Absence of positive relation between bones in a DNA test was never construed as marriage certificate.  This is a creative true lies. Moreover, even if it was husband and wife, our question is still valid: How do you know that it is Jesus of the Bible? it is laughable to say that DNA test can prove that it is Jesus of the Bible. DNA test on bones can only prove the relation between the bones but cannot establish the identity.  

James Cameron’s Argument from the Absence of Physical Remains of Jesus:  

James Cameron argues there are no other physical bones (archeological remains!!!) of Jesus. So, this must be of Jesus. 

Leaking Holes:  Well, we thought that if a person physically resurrects, he will leave no bones for future documentary makers. Jesus, according to the most reliable of all ancient documents, the New Testament, had physically resurrected and the empty tomb is always there for anyone to check. Critics of resurrection in the first century did not search for a ‘lost tomb’. Having the disadvantage of being the contemporaries of those who buried Jesus, those critics had to accept the correctness of the empty tomb but tried to explain away why the tomb is empty. But James Cameron is in a better position. He can explain away the empty tomb itself and search for another tomb. Our question to all the critics is: Why do you search the living among the dead?  

Captain James Cameron and Other Crew Members: James Cameron, we want to assure you that you are not alone. There are others who searched like you and found the lost tomb of Jesus even in Kashmir ( and Japan (   

When the real Titanic was constructed, its engineers said “it doesn’t get bigger than this”. We wish similar success for the titanic movie director’s new documentary.  


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10 Responses

  1. Well researched and well written. You revealed a leaking and stinking plain lie. Keep it up. May God bless.

    P V Ariel, Secunderabad

  2. Dear Bro,

    Since 2000 years many raised with such pathetic and malodorous statements to tarnish Christianity. But alas all are gone or sinked with their statements. Where are they now? Nobody knows. Where is Christianity now? Cameron is no exception. Let Cameron note that nothing can rock the foundation of Christianity; instead it grows faster ever before with such statements or deeds. The Bible says ‘At the End time such people arise with such statements’ The Bible prophecy is coming true, people should be more alert.

    Your article revealed the leaking holes and the stinking statements. It is well researched and well written. Keep it up. May God continue to give more wisdom to reveal such follies of such publicity mongers.

    Philip Verghese ‘Ariel’ Secunderabad

    28th Feb. 2007


    P V A

  4. I just searched in “The works of Josephus Flavius,” an electronic edition and found that many Jews have the name “Jesus,” here are some:

    1. Jesus the son of Sapphias (Life of Josephus 1:66)

    2. Jesus the son of Gamala (Ibid 1:193)

    3. Jesus, their then governor, had written them (Ibid 1: 271)

    4. Now Jesus was the brother of John (Antiquities 11: 298)

    5. and deprived Jesus, and made his brother Onias high priest (Ant 15:41)

    6. Jesus the son of Phabet of the high priesthood (Ant 15:332

    7. Jesus, the son of Sie (Ant 17:341)

    8. Jesus, a wise man (Ant 18:63 _ Jesus Christ the statement continues to say that he appeared alive unto them on the third day which according to the footnote April 5th)

    9. brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James (Ant 20:200)

    10.And of the high priest [Jesus], (Ant 20:205)

    11. and now Jesus, the son of Gamaliel (Ant. 20:213)

    12. Jesus, the son of Josadek, took the high priesthood (Ant 20:234)

    13. Jesus the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Wars of Jews 2:566)

    14. Jesus, the son of Shaphat, (Wars 3:450)

    15. Jesus, the eldest of the high priests next to Ananus (Wars 4:270)

    16. SLAUGHTER OF ANANUS, AND JESUS, (Wars 4:304)

    17. Jesus, the son of Ananus (Wars 6:300)

    I have seen only three Jewish history books that write about the events in and Jerusalem in the first century. I found at least twelve different persons who had considerable influence (Remember we are looking at the names of those who are holding influential positions)

    This is clear evidence that the name of Jesus is very common in those days.

    Josephus writes that the disciples of saw Jesus alive on the third day – because of which the tribe called Christianity exists.

    Well according to James Camaroon if Jesus was buried publicly then how can people be deceived in the first century?

    Edward W Kuntam

  5. Sanely argument against an insanely documentary. Anoop

  6. james Cameroon got the idea that he can create a hit like the film, Titanic. But he is gone far beyond the truth and mixed up lies. His basis for the story holds no water. Dr. Parvathy V Das

  7. Well wtitten and well researched.

    James Cameron, film maker might create blockbuster Titanic, which has tragedy in climax but God, man maker can blast him in climax tragedy with terror. Ganesh

  8. In those days, dead bodies were wrapped with blankets rather than Boxes -John 19:40. No box technology was there. But this Blockbuster wants to create a box. He doesn’t know God can blast his Box. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

    – Hebrews 10:31 Ganesh

  9. James Cameroon, may mesmerize the “entertainment world” and bags millions of money, with the lame, and false proofs. But it is very dangerous to fall into the Hands of “Living God” –Hebrews 10:31. Vijay

  10. I don’t know what made James Cameron do such a research and get publicity.In these last coming days this shows His coming soon and we as Christians should take it to the world community that He is the only way and Light of the world

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