Sunday, March 04, 2007


'Found tomb,' lost faith?

It being Lent, Easter is on the entertainment-industrial-complex's radar, which means it's time for the annual supposed assault on some supposed fundamental of the Church.

Seems like it happens every year. Somebody comes up with a discovery, or a hypothesis, or something, that is supposed to "change history" and render all followers of Christ who do not immediately throw their hands up and abandon their faith as simple-minded rubes.

This year it's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which you've surely heard about, but if not, go here to the Discovery Channel and here to the official site to catch up.


If someone indisputably discovered the bodily remains of Jesus Christ, it would wreck my faith. True or false? Discuss.

But first ...

Prayer of Confession today at this church, where the pastor declared that he wished someone *would* discover the bones of Jesus -- the whole skeleton, no less -- so maybe the annual assault on faith, and our senses, might come to an end:

Lord of Life, we often confuse belief with superstition, and faith with certainty. While we have been given the power to reason, and should use it to the fullest, it is arrogant to assume that our minds can fully grasp the mystery of the universe, or plumb the depths of love and creativity. Let us stand back in awe and wonder, and see where "radical amazement" takes us. In Christ's name we pray, who amazes us still. Amen.

Reading from NPR's "This I Believe" -- How is it Possible to Believe in God?, by William F. Buckley Jr. (yes! Buckley! Do not adjust your sets. I love my crazy liberal church!)

Scripture reading: Job 38: 1-7.

If someone indisputably discovered the bodily remains of Jesus Christ, it would wreck my faith. True or false? Discuss.


I'm going to answer this question, even though I'm not a Christian in the same way most of the Christian commenters on your blog are Christians. I'm more with Mr. Jefferson, who created his own Bible 200 years ago by excising all the supernatural content. So I don't believe in a physical resurrection to begin with, but I suspect that a lot of believers don't, either.

So if someone indisputably found the remains of Jesus of Nazareth, I would have to say, it wouldn't change my beliefs...but it also wouldn't validate for me the rightness of believing that there is no God. What I take from the whole story is that you can beat a man to a bloody pulp, but you can't destroy what he stands for, even if it goes underground for a little while--hope, peace, compassion, a vision of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

I think the thing that would be more likely to kill Christianity is the blatherings of people like Falwell and Dobson and Robertson and the antics of people like Ted Haggard. By making being a Christian all about their pet concerns, none of which ever appeared in the Gospels, they end up losing a lot of people.
Meh. I just want to see the DNA test that they would claim is proof.
If there was some way to indisputably, unconditionally prove that any particular remains were those of Jesus of Nazareth, why of course it would cast doubt upon the entire Christian project (as well as Islam, not a minor point).

Unfortunately, such will never be the case, and such issues ignore the fact that, except for the most vocal, strident fundamentalists, doubt is interwoven so deeply with faith as to be inseparable from it. If one would think that some scrap of paper somewhere (the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas) or some bones somewhere else are a source of confusion, then one knows little about the entire idea that we, as Christians, claim something that we must recognize to be absurd on its face. We claim to have an intimate relationship with the Creator of the entire Universe, a relationship instigated from the side of the Creator. Anyone who could make such a claim, and live under it, and not harbor even the slightest doubts is lacking even fundamental self-awareness.

The truth is the tomb find is interesting, but not for the reasons the producers would think. There are so many fundamental questions - scientific questions - that mitigate against this tomb being that of Jesus of Nazareth (documentary evidence contemporaneous with Jesus is all wrong, apparently) that one wonders how such a claim could be made with a straight face.

In the end, I really couldn't care less.
Considering some of the other apostate things you claim to believe, I am quite surprised that you don't believe they found Jesus' body.
it would re-enforce my "faith", as i do believe the man existed, and said, more or less, what he's quoted as saying, but i don't believe in the miracles and all that. finding his tomb (i have no doubt in my mind that the tomb they've "discovered" has absolutely nothing to do with our hero) would, for me, confirm history. not that i need convincing to that extent, but i sometimes wonder....

I don't think this is going to shake anyone's faith. I've seen the entire documentary and they failed to make their case. I'm not a huge skeptic, but there's so much wishful thinking here and not enough complete science to back it up.

1) No explanation of what the symbol at the front of the tomb means and/or its serious connection to ancient Judeo Christian burials. (Just a visual tie-in, big deal.)

2) Big deal. M-DNA matches to two people in the tomb (of the 9 ossuaries their have) that are not related. They got no DNA from the other ossuaries and have no other connections. With bodies over 100 years or more in this tomb these two could have been *anyone* without a maternal link.

3) The inscription science is hinky. A statistical analysis alone doesn't convince me.

4) You can *not* use Biblical text or the Gospels word for word to prove anything. Just as they give huge liberal interpretation to Mary Magdelene's role, you can't turn around in the same documentary and interpret Jesus' words on the cross word for word. Not only are these texts 2000 years old but they've been subjected to 100s of years of political wrangling. *So* not accurate.

5) And the entire thing went off the rails for me when they introduced the James ossuary into evidence. It may originally have come from that site, but that particular box has been roundly denounced as a hoax and Oded (the "collector" who found it) as out for the money. It's been so soundly debunked, I was shocked when they brought it up.

I just got how much they *wanted* this to be true, but for me, they failed to make their case.
I kept thinking: Which would people prefer, a mere resuscitated Jesus or a glorious resurrected Christ? They are *not* the same.

Anon: I am absolutely an apostate fundamentalist. So there. I am more solidly a Christian than ever.

SW makes excellent points about current blatherings.

Geoffrey, I think it would cast dount only on mainstream Christianity and the historical Christian-Industrial-Bureaucratic-Complex. It would do nothing to detract from what Jesus seems to have said about God, only what people have said about Jesus, which are profoundly different things. IMHO.

Braingirl: Yep, I kept thinking about Geraldo.
Oh, Geoff, re: "doubt is interwoven so deeply with faith as to be inseparable from it."

Absolutely. I encountered the term "Christian agnostic" just the other day. I'm trying it on for size. Maybe even KEvron could try it on.

I doubt a lot of what the Church has said about Jesus, although I'm ambivalent about the miracles. I just don't need them, but those who do are OK by me.

I adhere to what Jesus seems to have said about God and man, and how we're all to get along. I try to be a disciple that way, and trust God through Christ to keep showing me.
Well it is 11:02P.M. CDT when I begin this entry. The documentry and the discussion after it has just finished. Does that mean what everybody has blogged prior to this is based on something other than the program itself?

If they found the bones of Jesus would it wreck my faith.
No, not at all.
I don't believe that he had a "physical" resurection. By that I mean that all of the physical remains of the man were taken into heaven.
That would require that the several tons of sloughed off skin cells, nose droppings, and exhaled body cells and deficated and urinated body cells incidentally drop out with the feces and urine would have gone with him as well. In a life time we acquire use and discard a lot of body. If you put them pieces all back together...what a body that would make. A silly thought that it all goes to heaven with us, no? I think here is one time I would agree with Paul. I want that heavenly body that I was promised. This one, I will leave here. Don't resurrect it please. Worms, bacteria, archeologist, welcome to it.
On second thought maybe all those parts are resurrected, that could account for the 900 foot Jesus that visited Oral Roberts in Tulsa that time.
I'm on the east coast and also had seen portions of the documentary through a few media sources. My post was after I'd seen the doc, but I was gratified to see that the commentary really nailed them on the main issues I had with the documentary. You don't start with what you *want* to be true. You look at what the archeological facts say..
Brain girls says:
"You don't start with what you *want* to be true. You look at what the archeological facts say.."

Oh how I wished that archeologist actually did anything more than collect "facts". Because archeology grew out of the effort of rich "amateurs", who "went too far" in their speculations, it has swung the other way so far as to be a useless activity devoid of interpretation. Actually even for any archeologist now to seriously comment on this subject, except to debunk it, would endanger their jobs and proffesional standing.

It would have been one thing if the "archeologist" had examined the tomb and its contents and then dismissed it, but they didn't. They dismissed it as not worthy of being examined. In the comentary after the program it was noted that it was 16 years between the time of the tomb being excavated by one archeologist(now dead), and the report on it written up by another archeologist(1980 vs. 1996). Meanwhile the bones are long gone, haven been give to Rabbis for reburial, one of the ossuaries was lost between the site inventory and the museum check in, and 7 of the nine remaining ossuaries "cleaned" for "display"?

Therefore I agree with Braingirl "You don't start with what you *want* to be true. You look at what the archeological facts say.."
Would that the archeologist had done so. Maybe there would be nothing to make a movie out of.

By the way ER, I was especially intrigued by the President of The Catholic University, who basically said his belief was based on others belief that was based on others belief for the past 2000 years. His belief is in the faith of the Church.
Well, I think the faith of the Church is something to believe in. It's part of it. Hard to explain. But the witness of the Church to the Holy *Somethingness* of Christ helps sustain the whole thing. The devil, so to speak, is in the details,
First of all, I watched as much of that show as i cared. It was fiction at best, and not even good fiction at that. Some one as dumb as me could destroy the arguments they presented. For example, they claim that Jesus' brother's nickname, Jose, was inscribed on one assuary, and a "Latinized" version of His mother, Mary's name on another.

My Grandfatrher's name was William E. M____. His nickname was Simon. The name Simon is not on his tombstone. My Grandmother's name was Vinita, known to her husband and her friends as simply, "Nete", Maybe "Neat". The nickname, Nete" cannot be seen on her tombstone.

Nicknames are simply not inscribed on tombstones except as part of the full name ie, Roscoe W, "Hap" Chandler.

Additionally, there are fantastic leaps of logic the likes of which a gazelle or one of Santa's reindeer would envy. That, plus conjecture, and the idea that just because two samples of DNA prove that those two particular remains were not related and then stating that it could be proof that the two were married, is tantamount to saying that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality just because it isn't recored in the Bible. Nevermind the fact that John wrote Jesus said and did many more things than were recorded. So many, in fact that John states he supposes all the volumes in the world could not contain everything Jesus did and/or said.

OK, I got off on a tangent, but the point is: Just because the two are not related, doesn't make them husband and wife.

The whole show was a collection of wild supposition and conjecture mixed with fairy tales made of leaps of logic. I bet I could make a better case to deny the diety of Christ.

As to whether it would wreck my faith if it turned out to be incontrovertible proof that Jesus died and was buried never to be resurrected:

Yes. Christianity is based on the risen Christ. If it were proven that Jesus actually died, there would no longer be a hope for the promised ressurection.

Lastly, remember that eyewitness testimony is the most reliable testimony in a court of law...well, maybe since the discovery for uses of DNA, it is second most....anyway, remember that there were more than 500 eyewitnesses to the ascension of Christ. 500! Hard to prove that 500 people were mistaken about what they saw with their own eyes!
OH, and for those commenters here who have long stated they don't believe in Jesus as Christ....Of course your faith wouldn't be shattered. You have to have faith in the first place for that to happen.
Okie dokie, Mark. Thanks fer sharin' yer reaction.
If Jesus body was found would it wreck my faith? Potentially. But it would be almost impossible to prove to me that his body remains had been found.

Prayers are with you and your family in your loss.

God bless
What was or was not written on the nine surviving bone boxes is not in any serious dispute by anyone. Only what it means. Remember that the names were there simply to identify which box it was, not as a "tombstone type memorial". Sort of like labling a box with a magic marker to remember what's in it.

"... remember that there were more than 500 eyewitnesses to the ascension of Christ." Perhaps, but only one testimony that there were 500 witnesses. Without the affidavits from the 500 available, that would be hearsay evidence.

"Lastly, remember that eyewitness testimony is the most reliable testimony in a court of law..."
On the contrary, although compelling, eye witness testimony is among the weakest and most changeable of evidence. That is why there are so many rules about how it may be used in courts.
Oh, now done it! You went and done it! You went and engagted Mark in the merits of his points!

I'll play.

Re, ' "... remember that there were more than 500 eyewitnesses to the ascension of Christ." Perhaps, but only one testimony that there were 500 witnesses.'

But, since, like, God Almighty, you know, WROTE the Bible, it is one unimpeachable testimony.

Come on. It's in the Bible. It must be true. And unassailable. And inerrant. And infallible.
Hey ER, that’s a rather theoretical question, isn’t it? If I heard that there was indisputable evidence that Christ’s mortal remains had been located, I would be highly skeptical – not because I believe Christ was divine but because of the odds against being able to find sufficient hard evidence today to identify a specific set of remains as those of the Jesus Christ. There simply isn’t enough surviving, verifiable evidence to ever make it indisputable.

I didn’t see the broadcast that prompted this post, although I think I either saw the programme, or a precursor of it, over here last year and I remember thinking at the time how totally unsupported, circumstantial and wishful were their claims. Call it sensationalism and move on!

With regard to the question though, as an atheist to begin with I have no faith to be wrecked. If such proof ever were to be found I would likely just shrug and say, “yeah, so what?” …and then probably revel in the schadenfreude of watching the dogmatics trying to rationalise it all away. Not a noble sentiment, I know, but inevitable, I fear! ;o)
Oh, and you may be interested (amused?) by what some of the serious scientific community have to say about that TV show:
"You have to have faith in the first place for that to happen."

i do.

Neither shaken nor stirred.....

Whether it was a "Heavenly Body" a "Higher form" or the actual corporal embodiment that arose; arise it did!

That is enough for me.

I mean just how far does someone have to go to impress folks? Regardless of the means, post mortem ambulation, interaction and how about a lil levitating are good enough for me.

Especially when you consider that Industrial Light and Magic Inc. hadn't even leased office space yet.
Just for the record,
the Bible doesn't say that 500 people saw Jesus "ascend", it says that 500 people saw him after he rose from the dead and before he ascended.
The above anon post was by me

Holio the impulsive mouse clicker
Re, 'Whether it was a "Heavenly Body" a "Higher form" or the actual corporal embodiment that arose; arise it did! That is enough for me.'

That's right.

Every Easter when we dye eggs, I do one Redneck Egg. On it I write, "He has done rose!" I leave the details to those who would argue the number of angels that can dance on a pin.
ER, "I leave the details to those who would argue the number of angels that can dance on a pin."

If you distain the discussions why posite the questions? Why flee to the Yin when the Yang becomes uncomfortable. Is your position of the paradoxical "erudite" versus "redneck", a form of dual platforms on which to expound opposing views or dual caves within which you may retreat from the opposite side when needed?
Tut tut!

The question posed:

If someone indisputably discovered the bodily remains of Jesus Christ, it would wreck my faith. True or false? Discuss.

After much discussion, I give my answer: No.

And I elaborate: Because it doesn't matter to me whether Jesus's body was part of the Resurrection; I do not doubt the fact of the Resurrection; the exact details and precise nature of it are unimportant to me -- and it's arguing those details that I leave to others -- see above -- which was the whole dang point behind the invitation Discuss.

So, pbththt.

Plus, I'm afevered. But now I have scrips.
Bah, Humbug! Take six Tylenol and get some sleep.
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