Dem bones 

So apparently some archeologists found a bunch of ossuaries (boxes used to store dead people's bones) sitting in a tomb. They recently concluded that the inscriptions on the boxes mark them as belonging to Joseph, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and, uh, Jesus and Jesus's son.

The possibility that Jesus may have wed Mary Magdalene and fathered a son doesn't particularly trouble me, but the resurrection of Jesus is a central tenet of Christianity as I understand it. The apostle Paul claims in 1 Corinthians 15 that 500 people saw him at once. That letter was written around 50-60 AD, within the lifetime of Jesus's contemporaries, so one would think that this claim was falsifiable at the time of Jesus's resurrection and at the time the letter was written. Jesus's followers weren't exactly in a position powerful enough to be able to whitewash history at the time.

Modern theologians have for a while now made the claim that the gospel message is valid even if all of the miraculous elements (including the resurrection) are removed. Paul doesn't buy it, as he wrote later in 1 Corinthians 15:

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

Assume henceforth that these boxes aren't some sort of cruel hoax, or belong to some other family with the same names, etc. (which of course is a possibility).

It is entirely possible, of course, that the box never actually contained Jesus's decomposed body parts, just a shroud or some other small pieces of tissue.

If the box did once contain Jesus's parts, it is also possible that Jesus's resurrected body was distinct from his crucified one; in the gospels it seems that Jesus's followers didn't quite recognize his resurrected person immediately, and Paul also seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians 15 that a person's resurrected body is distinct from his former body, fully redeemed and heavenly. There would have to be some explanation for why Jesus's tomb appeared to be empty after the resurrection though -- perhaps his old body shriveled away as his new body was resurrected or something like that.

And yes, from a skeptic's point of view this is kind of weaselly. But given all the other miraculous claims in the New Testament, this assumption is hardly in a different league.

Finally, if Jesus never was raised, the most logical thing for Christians to do is probably to hedge their bets by practicing Judaism. Giving up pepperoni and cotton-poly boxers is kind of a drag, but at least I already went under the knife when I was a baby.

EDIT: Paul Maier of the Western Michigan University history department (who I would guess is a Christian, as he has published works with Zondervan and Tyndale) offers a rebuttal, as do some other folks who were interviewed for the film in this TIME article.

EDIT: Here are longer ripostes from Ben Witherington and Darrell Bock, who criticize the findings in the TIME article. In the Witherington entry, read especially the comment by "Jay", who has a few bones to pick with the statistical analysis. Specifically, he notes that the event that a tomb contains a "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary and the event that it contains a "Joseph" ossuary are likely not independent, and that the presence of boxes marked "Matthew" and "Mariamne" can be interpreted as a strike against the hypothesis that it is Jesus's tomb.


my backup plan is falun gong.

Interesting. I figured you were more the Movementarian type.

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