That was the headline on the front page of The Sunday Times News Review in the UK, 31 March 1996. The story created a little stir, but it was only a little stir. The theme was the discovery of a family tomb in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem which apparently contained ossuaries which featured several names in common with characters from the Gospel story, Jesus son of Joseph and Mary among them, though rather less promisingly also a Judas son of Jesus and a Matthew. Some speculated that the The Sunday Times story was an April Fools joke, but it turned out that it was in fact advance publicity for an Easter day edition of Heart of the Matter on BBC1, presented by Joan Bakewell, and featuring a documentary about the resurrection, with a study of the tomb, and then a debate featuring Gerd Lüdemann, Michael Goulder and Tom Wright. None of those in the studio would give the idea that the tomb had anything to do with Jesus of Nazareth a moment's consideration. The story passed and few thought any more about it.
Now, over a decade later, the story has resurfaced and this time it is coming with a blaze of publicity. Several blogs have already commented and it is clear that we have not heard the last of this. What may make this media event more interesting in the blogosphere is that James Tabor of the Jesus Dynasty Blog is involved in the project but he is keeping mum until the news conference in New York tomorrow. Discovery Channel has a major website on the forthcoming television programme.
Update (Monday, 8.14): Leen Ritmeyer has the most vociferous take on it yet among the bloggers. It is an "archaeologist’s worst nightmare" and "It is possibly the most cynical claim yet to be made in the field of Biblical Archaeology and only serves to give the subject a bad name." Watch out for more of the same. Meanwhile James Tabor of the Jesus Dynasty Blog counsels caution ahead of the News Conference today, "Because of a non-disclosure agreement that protected all of us working on this research I have not written in any detail beyond what I cover in the Introduction to The Jesus Dynasty. Following the press conference tomorrow that all changes." His current post stresses the four years of research on the tomb. I'll be looking out for anything that changes my highly sceptical reaction to the claims made in 1996 (above). I am not optimistic but, as always, will aim to approach the news with an open and critical mind.