Every Easter there’s something. A skeptical sideshow of some sort to excite the excitable. This year it’s “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” Discovery Channel is putting on a production by James Cameron (producer of Titanic) claiming that the Tomb of Jesus has been found, along with his remains, and the remains of His family, which includes his wife Mary Magdalene and their son.
OK, it’s a familiar type of claim, but this time it’s on Discovery Channel. Not that Discovery Channel is the place where finds like this, if they are defensible, are first aired, but the point is, for some people the fact that it’s on TV will validate it. But in case anyone is interested in an informed response to what has been released thus far, check out Ben Witherington, a scholar on the historical Jesus. He has offered some revealing replies here.
For example, the movie makers made much of the fact that the tomb contained an ossuary of “Jesus, son of Jospeph.” For those who don’t know, “Jesus” is the same as “Joshuah” in Hebrew or Aramaic. But notice the frequency of these names, according to Richard Bauckham:
Out of a total number of 2625 males, these are the figures for the ten most popular male names among Palestinioan Jews. the first figure is the total number of occurrences (from this number, with 2625 as the total for all names, you could calculate percentages), while the second is the number of occurrences specifically on ossuraies.
1 Simon/Simeon 243 59
2 Joseph 218 45
3 Eleazar 166 29
4 Judah 164 44
5 John/Yohanan 122 25
6 Jesus 99 22
7 Hananiah 82 18
8 Jonathan 71 14
9 Matthew 62 17
10 Manaen/Menahem 42 4
Check out more interesting replies at Witherington’s blog.