In June of 2010, The Patio tomb in Jerusalem was investigated. It had been exposed during a construction project in the 1980s but its excavation had never been completed before an apartment house was built over it.
When the tomb's location had been identified, permission was acquired and a camera was inserted down into the tomb. Many ossuaries were viewed and inscriptions and drawings observed. One inscription read something like “divine” or “wonderous Jehovah,” “he raised up” or “he will raise up.” One drawing was identified as that of Jonah and the fish.
The authors suggest that the new find at the Patio Tomb offers evidence that the Talpiot Garden Tomb is more likely the burial tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The authors explore the possibility that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered a child. They reach for “hidden” or “secret” or “cryptic” meanings in words and texts. They freely consult texts evangelical Christians have evaluated as fraudulent.
For Christians, this book contains positive and negative information. On the negative side are the investigations into Jesus' supposed marriage and child. This includes lots of “ifs” and “supposes” on the part of the authors. Their conclusions are all conjecture, with no evidence for support.
On the positive side, the authors write, “The two major new discoveries in the Patio tomb – the epitaph and the Jonah image – provide for the first time in history tangible archaeological evidence related to the resurrection faith of Jesus' first followers.” (181) This is the earliest pictorial evidence (by 150 years) so far that Christians followed Jesus and believed in his resurrection (the “sign of Jonah”). Historians call this primary evidence, unaffected by later traditions, teachings, etc.
Another positive discussion in this book is that on the meaning of “resurrection.” Paul is clear, the authors remind us, that in Christian resurrection, the body is left behind and the spirit is “reclothed” in a new spiritual body. (193) So the presence of bones, thought to be Jesus', does not contradict faith in Jesus' resurrection. (They refute as legendary the accounts by Luke and John that Jesus appeared in the same body that had been placed in the tomb. (195)) They claim the disciples took Jesus' body and buried it.
It is encouraging to have revealed that Christians, within a generation of Jesus life, there is archaeological evidence for belief in Jesus' resurrection!
James D. Tabor is chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of several books. See more at www.jamestabor.com.
Simcha Jacobovici is a filmmaker, author and a television host. He has won several awards for journalism.See more at www.apltd.ca and www.jesusfamilytomb.com.
Simon & Schuster, 254 pages.