In 1980 while digging to lay the foundations for an apartment complex in Talpiot in Jerusalem, Israeli construction workers stumbled upon what looked like a family grave. In the grave were 10 ossuaries. Six of these had inscriptions on them – Jesus son of Joseph, Maria known as Master, Maria, Joseph, James son of Joseph brother of Jesus, Matthew and Judah son of Jesus. Nobody paid much attention to the discovery because none of the names are very rare in ancient Israel. However, it was not until 2002 when Simcha Jacobvici connected the names and floated the theory that this could the family grave of Jesus, the founder of Christianity.
As expected, it drew many reactions from around the world. To find the tomb of Jesus who supposedly rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion would shake the very foundations on which the church is built. Or would it?
Why is it so important that Jesus should have risen from the dead? Isn’t his message to the world important enough?
While it might make him less a God and more a man, it will, in no way diminish his message. If it does, that would be a sad thing.
What the grave has the possibility to do however is to shake the foundations of the church, which I think is a good thing.
We are told that Mariamne is the only Greek inscription on the ossuaries. We are told that it means Maria from Magdalene. Or it could mean Maria the master. DNA testing on the bones from the Jesus ossuary and the Mariamne ossuary show that they are unrelated; this leads us to infer that they could only be married.
If that were true, it would mean that Mary Magdalene was indeed married to Jesus. Furthermore, they had a child. It would also indicate that Mary was an active member of the early church.
However, before making such inferences we need to be sure that this really is the grave of Jesus. The makers of the documentary claim that although the names are common, the probability of this set of names in two families is 1:600. That said, it would be nice if someone would do the DNA analysis on all the bones found. The results we are looking for is as follows:
Mary and Matthew are related.
Mary, Jesus, James, Joseph and Judah are related.
Mariamne should not be related to any of the others.
If these prove out, then we can be reasonably sure that this is the one grave the Pope doesn’t want to find.
Christianity can then set about repairing centuries of damage and misinformation.