It looks as if James Cameron's announcement that he found Jesus' crypt has landed with a resounding thud. Perhaps the case of the purported James ossuary, now widely believed to be a hoax, has made scholars and reporters more wary of such claims.
Even some of the archaeologists involved in the dig have failed to endorse Cameron's sensationalistic interpretation of the results, according to a Reuters story.
Dr. Shimon Gibson, one of the archeologists who discovered the tomb, told Reuters at the news conference he had a "healthy skepticism" the tomb may have belonged to the family of Jesus, but the claims deserved to be investigated.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli archeologist who also carried out excavations at the tomb on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, disputed the documentary's conclusions.
The archeologist, Amos Kloner, said the 2,000-year-old cave contained coffins belonging to a Jewish family whose names were similar to those of Jesus and his relatives.
"I can say positively that I don't accept the identification (as) ... belonging to the family of Jesus in Jerusalem," Kloner told Reuters. "I don't accept that the family of Miriam and Yosef (Mary and Joseph), the parents of Jesus, had a family tomb in Jerusalem."
"They were a very poor family. They resided in Nazareth, they came to Bethlehem in order to have the birth done there -- so I don't accept it, not historically, not archeologically," said Kloner, a professor in the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archeology at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
From a message board (HT: The Anomalist) comes an interesting comment about the statistical analysis used in this case. The writer first quotes the argument used to establish the ossuaries as belonging to Jesus and his relatives. (The source of this quotation isn't cited.)
Another estimate, commissioned by Dr. James Tabor, chair of the department of religion studies at the University of North Carolina, puts the odds at one in 42 million. "If you took the entire population of Jerusalem at the time," says Dr. Taber, "and put it in a stadium, and asked everyone named Jesus to stand up, you'd have about 2,700 men. Then you'd ask only those with a father named Joseph and a mother named Mary to remain standing. And then those with a brother named Yose and a brother named James. Statistically, you end up with one person."
Then the poster shows the fallacy in this line of reasoning.
Since they don't actually know the family relationships of the people whose ossuaries were apparently found together, that should read more like this. "If you took the entire population of Jerusalem at the time and put it in a stadium, and asked everyone named Jesus to stand up, you'd have about 2,700 men. Then you'd ask only those with a father named Joseph and relatives or close associates named Mary and Yose to remain standing." My guess is that only about half of those men would have sat down.
The same writer observes some oddities in the inscriptions on the ossuaries.
What I think throws the thing completely is the total lack of ambiguity in the names themselves, reminiscent of the James ossuary forgery. The 'Mary' ossuary is inscribed in the Latin MARIA as if deliberately targeting modern Catholics. The 'Mary Magdalene' ossuary is written in Greek, and is 'Mariamne e mara' (Miriam the master), which directly plays to the specific theology of modern Da Vinci/Holy blood followers, as well as classical gnostics. And Matia (Matthew) is inscribed in Hebrew, the one disciple known in early Christianity for his Hebraic fluency. Its just all a bit too perfectly matched to the kinds of things archeologists would be interested in.
To me, the most amusing thing in all this is a line from an item on a Web site called This Is London:
Apparently surprised at the hostility over his 'discovery', [Cameron] insisted it was not a publicity stunt and said his critics should wait and see the film.
"Apparently surprised at the hostility"?
Does this guy live in a plastic bubble? Did he think that claiming to have found Jesus' bones and disproved the Resurrection would not be controversial?
Even the "king of the world" should know better than that.