Bones of Contention
Feb. 26, 2007 — -- In late 1982, Tova Bracha's family moved into a modest apartment in a cluster of cookie-cutter housing units in Talpiyot, a Jerusalem neighborhood. It's a place better known for its body shops and illicit casinos than earth-shattering archaeological finds.
A few days after moving in, her children were playing in the construction debris downstairs and came across what James Cameron's new documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Christ," maintains is the tomb of Jesus and his family.
The kids wiggled into the tomb and found burned Torah scrolls and 10 small caskets bearing the 2000-year-old bones of an ancient Jewish family. Six of them had inscriptions bearing the names Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Greek version of Mary Magdalene.
Bracha immediately phoned the archaeologists from Israel's Antiquities Authority. They sealed the tomb and studied the bones. For years, it was just another of the many tombs of ancient middle-class families who lived roughly in the time of Jesus.
Two years earlier, Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner was the first to find the tomb. He found the tomb and the ossuaries -- the urns or vaults used to hold the bones of the dead -- interesting but of no particular archaeological importance. He said there are more than 900 buried tombs just like the "Jesus" tomb within a 2-mile radius of Talpiyot. Of them, 71 bear the name Jesus and two Jesus, son of Joseph. The tomb in Talpiyot is one of them. But the inscription, he said, was barely decipherable and therefore questionable.
At the time, Jesus was a very common name, as was Mary. But the cluster of all those names together, Jesus, Joseph Mary, not to mention what the filmmakers claim is Jesus' son, Judah, son of Jesus, is indeed unusual. Simply because the tomb is labeled a tomb that "belonged to a Jesus, doesn't make it the tomb of Jesus Christ," Kloner told ABC News.
Jerusalem-based biblical anthropologist Joe Zias goes a step further to discredit Cameron's documentary. "What they've done here," Zias said, "is they've simply tried in a very, very dishonest way to try to con the public into believing that this is the tomb of Jesus or Jesus' family. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus."