“Documentary” about the Tomb of Jesus

Apparently, the filmmaker James Cameron, of *Titanic* fame, has been involved in a project which claims that another tomb has been unearthed in Israel that could belong to the “family” of Jesus.

The phrase “family of Jesus” may sound a little familiar to you. It’s one of the claims made in the fictional book and movie *The DaVinci Code.* In that story, the discovery is supposedly made that Mary Magdalene was really the wife of Jesus, and that this was hidden by the efforts of Roman Emperor Constantine around the time of the Council of Nicea (325 AD). This is all purely imagination, and only delights those who wish to paint a black eye on the Christian faith, and cause Christians to doubt what they learned in Sunday School.

The Cameron “documentary” will be aired on the Discovery Channel, and has enjoyed a lot of media hype, like the movie *The DaVinci Code* (which otherwise flopped). It’s called *Jesus’ Family Tomb.* One [page](http://www.jesusfamilytomb.com/movie_overview/disclaimer.html) on their web site contains a proviso, intended to help Christians understand what this “discovery” would mean. It says that finding a tomb where Jesus had been buried in another location doesn’t really pose a threat to the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection. It notes that the Gospel of Matthew mentions a Jewish plot to claim that Jesus’ disciples had secretly removed Jesus’ body. Here’s an excerpt from the proviso web page:

> Theologically speaking, even if Jesus were moved from one tomb to another, this does not negate the possibility that he was resurrected from this second tomb. Our documentary does not address the issue of whether or not the Resurrection took place, and how. Belief in the Resurrection is based not on which tomb Jesus was buried in, but on alleged sightings of Jesus that occurred after his burial as documented in the Gospels.

If you pay close attention to what is written here, you can see the intentions of Cameron and his associates. They say that their report does not contradict the resurrection. But it does, in spite of what they say, and this is intentional.

In the imaginary scenario they describe, Jesus was moved by His disciples from the tomb where He had been placed on Good Friday, to the tomb mentioned in this documentary. They claim that He could have risen from this second tomb, instead of the first one. They say that Christians believe in the Resurrection because Jesus appeared to His disciples afterward, and that’s possible regardless of which tomb He rose from.

The problem is this: we believe in the Resurrection on the basis of God’s Word. Without the testimony of the holy scriptures, there is no reason for us to believe in the Resurrection. To put it another way, the Resurrection is an article of faith. What this “documentary” does is challenge the basis for our faith, the Word of God. It contradicts the accounts of our Lord’s burial and resurrection in the four Gospels. That means we are being asked to choose between the archaeology of Cameron and his associates on the one hand, and the unchanging testimony of the Gospels, on the other hand.

The proviso I quoted from would have us try to take a middle path, believing the Gospels with certain changes to what they say. It’s a deception. If we decide not to trust the Gospels in some little point because of certain claims based on some guesses made by certain archaeologists, then we no longer have any reason to believe *anything* written in the Gospels. In other words, if we take the claims of this “documentary” seriously, then we are turning away from God’s Word, including the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I don’t intend to watch this documentary. But what if you do, and it sounds reasonable? What if it makes you doubt the accuracy of the Gospels? Don’t despair, because God will help you. Make sure you read the Gospels too, and pray continuously that God would guard you against the temptations and snares of the devil. Make use of every opportunity to learn from God’s Word, because this is how He creates and builds our faith.

Finally, remember that the Resurrection and many other such things are articles of faith, because God wants it that way. He wants to save us through faith in His Word. To have room for faith, there must also be the possibility of doubt. So God will not prove the Resurrection to you scientifically, but He has already provided overwhelming evidence, mostly in His Word. The empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection, the inability of the Romans or the Jewish council to produce His dead body or even prove their claim that the disciples had stolen it; together with the change in the disciples, who were transformed from terrified cowards into bold, uncompromising martyrs. Despite what anyone may say, we still have good reasons to believe in the Resurrection, but the most important one is because God says it happened.

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About Jesse Jacobsen

Pastor Jacobsen moved with his family to the Columbia Gorge in January, 2006. He has been a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod since 1998. He resides in The Dalles, serving Bethany Lutheran Church, Concordia Lutheran Church, and Columbia Lutheran School.

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