An Empty Theory and an Empty Tomb
Why should we be skeptical of 'The Lost Tomb of Jesus'? Let us count the ways.
Ben Witherington III
It's nice to see that Ben does something I do too and make earlier, rawer blog posts the basis for more polished, final versions elsewhere. I think it's a great use of blogging. This one is all the more interesting for referring readers of the polished version back to the blog version because the latter is much fuller. Nevertheless, there is one change for the better in the newer version, perhaps in the light of James Tabor's response on The Jesus Dynasty blog, viz from:
the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would be be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem? It’s unlikely.to:
The ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was dead and gone. Why in the world would any member of Jesus' family be buried in Jerusalem other than James and Jesus?The problem with the original formulation was that there is no claim by the film-makers that Joseph was buried in this tomb. I must admit to being unconvinced also by the reformulation of the point, though. There is nothing intrinsically unlikely about members of Jesus' family being buried near Jerusalem since our sources all place them there the last time that we hear of them, Mary and the brothers in Acts 1, James in Acts 21. We have no evidence of a return to Nazareth. In fact, we don't have much evidence at all for the family's movements. This is not a major point, but as one who is critical of the claims of the film-makers, I think it important that the grounds for one's criticisms are solid.
One element that puzzles me about the single-minded nature of Ben Witherington's criticism of the new claims is that they contrast somewhat with his thorough endorsement of the authenticity of the James ossuary and its connection to the James of the New Testament. In that case, regardless of the authenticity issue, the identification of this James depends entirely on the cluster of three popular names in one place, James, Joseph, Jesus. Given that the film-makers' case for the identification of the Talpiot Tomb is also based on clusters of popular names, I am curious about how Ben discriminates between the two cases. Just to make clear, I do not hold myself to the authenticity of the James ossuary, and I do not think that the Talpiot tomb belonged to the family of Jesus we know from the New Testament, but I am interested in what I see as a possible contradiction between Ben's case for the one and against the other.
Update (9.47): Jim West links to a comment asking a similar question, though in rather stronger language.