I am unlikely ever to see the documentary on “Jesus’s Tomb” that is getting so much media attention over the last few days. We don’t get Discovery Channel here. So I don’t necessarily know of all the evidence the documentary will produce.
But the media angle seems already to have fixed on the “crackpot theory” category for this babe.
And rightly so. As I understand it, the essence of the claim is that the documentary’s producer is pointing to a tomb discovered in 1980 that has ossuaries bearing the names “Jesus, son of Joseph,” “Maria,” "Mariamene,” and “Judah, son of Jesus.” And it is from about the time of Jesus.
All (except for Mariamene) were common names of that place and time. Nevertheless, Cameron, the producer, has gotten a statistician to estimate that the likelihood of these names appearing together is about 600 to one against.
Of course, to be impressed by this, you must first accept Cameron’s claim that “Mariamene” is another name for Mary Magdalene; otherwise the odds are meaningless. You have to accept his contention that the name on the relevant ossuary really is “Jesus” (i.e., Yeshua), as this reading is disputed by archaeologists. You also have to discount the argument that the presence of a “son of Jesus” ought perhaps to deduct from the likelihood that this is the ben Yusef family tomb, given that there is no historical record of Jesus having a son.
Let’s leave aside all that. Even so, is that 600-to-one figure impressive? Well, that means that, if you looked at 600 tombs of the time and place, you would have a better than even chance of finding one with these names.
And how many tombs have been excavated from that time and place?
And, of course, this one was not selected at random.
You could say I'm not impressed.