EAST TALPIOT, Jerusalem, Friday April 10, 2015 – Israeli geoarcheologist Arye Shimron believes he has found the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem together with the tombs of his supposed wife and son.
After more than 35 years and 150 chemical tests, Shimron and Canadian-Israeli filmmaker-journalist Simha Jacobovici claim they’ve reached a scientific breakthrough with theological implications.
According to the researchers, the discovery proves that Jesus was buried in Jerusalem along with nine other people, one being “Judah, son of Jesus,” another his supposed wife “Mary” – a major contradiction of New Testament theology.
The story, as reported by The Jerusalem Post, began with the 1980 discovery of the Talpiot tomb, otherwise known as the “Jesus Family Tomb.”
At that time, the construction boom in Jerusalem saw more than 800 tombs unearthed, most dating back to the Second Temple period and the time of Jesus.
The bones in the tomb were in boxes known as ossuaries, with multiple ossuaries in one tomb. Three thousand ossuaries from the Second Temple period have been found to date. Of these, 2,000 are in the possession of the Antiquities Authority, while the rest are in private ownership.
Around 20 percent of the ossuaries have inscriptions on them. In the tomb found in East Talpiot that came to be known as the “Jesus Family Tomb,” there were numerous inscriptions that fit the story of Jesus. One ossuary was a box with the inscription “Jesus, son of Joseph.” Next to it there were “Maria,” “Joseph,” another “Mary,” “Yose” (a name associated in the New Testament with the brother of Jesus), “Matthew” and, most controversially of all, “Judah, son of Jesus.”
For 16 years the relics lay with the Antiquities Authority, unreported and disregarded, due to the lack of proof backing its possible significance.
Jacobovici was producing a documentary on the artefact, and went to a statistician from the University of Toronto, who told him those names each separately composed approximately eight percent of the population.
But of that population who had the common names, a very small percentage had a mother named Mary and a brother named Yose. Jacobovici was sure there was something more, so he had the patinas of the tombs scraped and analysed, searching for links proving or discounting the New Testament connection.
Work on the findings came to a halt in 2007 when archaeologists deemed the chances too slim for the story to be real. Jacobovici’s documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” produced by James Cameron (Titanic) went on to be broadcast on the Discovery Channel that year.
A second key to the mystery emerged in 2002, with the discovery of a bone box in the private collection of Oded Golan, the largest collector of biblical ossuaries in the world.
While examining Golan’s collection, an academic from the Sorbonne found an ossuary with the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This became known as the “James Ossuary.” At the time it made headlines as the first archaeological evidence that Jesus existed.
The hype grew around the discovery, until the story was shot down in flames when Golan was accused of forging the inscription.
Shimron and Jacobovici linked up on the project and began their search for more evidence. If the James Ossuary originated from the “Jesus Family Tomb,” it was possible that the ossuary held the bones of Jesus’s brother. They knew the chances were near statistically impossible, but pressed on.
Meanwhile, Golan spent seven years on trial on charges of forging the inscription on the ossuary. He was found innocent by a Jerusalem court in 2012.
Last month, Shimron received access to the James Ossuary, enabling him to cross-reference findings between the two tombs.
He scraped underneath the patinas of the box to get into the ossuary itself. He also ran approximately 200 tests on the chemistry of the samples from 25 different ossuaries. His findings revealed that the Talpiot tomb had a unique chemical signature and that the random samples did not match that signature, but that the James Ossuary did.
He also found that the soil that had seeped inside it perfectly matched the soil that seeped inside the Talpiot ossuaries, including the “Jesus Family tomb,” indicating that the James Ossuary had spent most of its existence in the East Talpiot location.
“This find illustrates that the James Ossuary is authentic and the Jesus Family tomb indeed belongs to the family of Jesus of Nazareth,” Jacobovici was quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post.
Today the Talpiot tomb is sealed underground between apartment buildings in East Talpiot, and its ossuaries are back with the Antiquities Authority. The James Ossuary is with its owner, Golan, who according to The New York Times, keeps the box in a secret location.
Shimron and Jacobovici do not expect the Christian community to take well to the findings, but they argue that their research is purely scientific and not theological in nature.
If true, not only do the findings prove Jesus’s existence and burial in Jerusalem, but they also lead scientists to believe he was buried with his supposed son, Judah. The case has already aroused international interest after The Times devoted an Easter Sunday feature to the claims.