More on the Body of Jesus

I remember one day in college I was in a class where the professor asked this question: “Could there ever be any possible evidence presented to you that would convince you that Christianity is false?” [This was a Christian college, and most of the students and the professor were Christians, so that is why we were discussing this.]

I answered the question: “Yes, there is one kind of evidence, but only one. If anyone ever found the body of Christ, I would abandon the faith.”

Naturally, I was a bit surprised this past Monday to hear reports of someone claiming to have found just that. Well, actually, no one is claiming to have found Jesus’ body or his bones. The claim being made (set to air tonight on the Discovery Channel) is that an ossuary that once contained Jesus’ bones has been discovered, and traces of DNA (from bone fragments, I guess?) have been found in this ossuary.

It is becoming more and more evident as time goes by how silly these claims are. I have already posted links to some of the articles that evaluate this. But I have been thinking about something: if I am willing to give up the faith if someone ever convinces me that Jesus’ body has been found, then what would it take for me to be convinced that Jesus’ body has, in fact, been found? Clearly, this tomb in Talpiot outside of Jerusalem won’t cut it. What would?

I would have to say at this point, probably nothing would. I can’t fathom how I could ever be convinced by archaeological evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead. But I will try to sketch in here at least something of the kind of case that would have to be made in order to be even close to convincing:

1. The body would have to be discovered in a secret place, hidden from the masses. The tomb in Talpiot does not fit this description. Think about it: the entire Christian movement is predicated on the resurrection of Christ from the dead (and when I say “resurrection,” for you liberal scholars out there, I mean bodily resurrection because that is the only kind of resurrection known to Jews in the first century). There is no way that either Jesus’ followers or his family could have buried him in a family tomb known to have belonged to him and his family. The Christian movement as we know it would not exist were that the case. The evident facts of history discredit any attempt claim that Jesus’ burial place was public knowledge in the first century. Christians did not follow him because he was a great teacher (though he was) or because he showed them a wonderful new way to see the world (though he did). They followed him and died for him precisely because they believed he was raised from the dead. This is bound up with the earliest, most fundamental traditions of our faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). If early Christians (or, for that matter, early enemies of the church) knew where Jesus was buried, that would have been the end of Christianity.

2. There would have to be some kind of document or inscription that clearly identifies the body as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Messiah,” or something along those lines. There were tons of Jesuses back then, so not just any Jesus will do. “Jesus, son of Joseph” won’t cut it either. Both names were very common, and in any case, Jesus’ followers never referred to him as “son of Joseph.”

3. There would have to be clear evidence of a conspiracy to hide the body. But here’s the catch: it would have to be a conspiracy of massive proportions and yet only involve a few people. The early church proclaimed Christ as risen, and it takes more faith to believe that such proclamation was knowingly fraudulant across the board (leading to suffering and death for many) than it does to believe that Jesus was actually raised. So, if there was a conspiracy, it had to be pulled off by a small group of evil genuises who duped the world and never got caught. And who could have possibly pulled this kind of thing off, and why? From what we know of the New Testament records, we have no reason to suspect any of Jesus’ disciples of being evil genuises. Judas was pretty sly, but he died before any of this happened. And what would be the motive behind such a fraud? Furthermore, this theory cannot explain the clear evidence for appearances of the risen Lord to many different people at different times and places.

Those who made this documentary are asking us to believe that Jesus married Mary Magdalene (of which we have no record), had a son (of which we have no record; and don’t you think the early church would have made much of this guy if he was indeed Jesus’ son?), and was buried with his family in a middle-class tomb in Talpiot near Jerusalem, a site where such a family burial would have been public knowledge (and why Talpiot? why not Nazareth or Bethlehem, where they actually had family ties?). This simply does not square with what we know of the history of Christianity. To put it plainly: the only way this could be Jesus’ body would be if there were no church today. But there clearly is a church today. Therefore, this cannot be Jesus’ body.

Jesus’ body cannot and will not be found by archaeologists. There is nothing there for them to find.

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2 Responses to “More on the Body of Jesus”

  1. Cogito Says:

    I know I know! Why don’t we take the DNA found in the ossuary and compare it to the DNA contained in De Steeghere in Brugge, Belgium. If they match then we would have definitive proof that Jesus was buried there!

    I’ll admit that I was pretty skeptical from the onset, but I was absolutely amazed at how evident the foredrawn conclusion was, and how every “assumption” lead in that direction.

  2. chriSchaeffer Says:

    Don’t know if you listen to NPR (it is a bit left wing), but the Diane Rehm Show did a great show about the said movie and book.

    There’s a podcast and a streaming link here.

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