Unfinished draft from 10.33pm, May 8, 2007
Stumbled on this forgotten lore by accident yesterday. Publishing it for the novelty value rather than any astounding insights it may contain :-)
Simcha Jacobovici's "The Lost Tomb Of Jesus" is an intriguing and compelling documentary that's also frustrating and unconvincing...
In 1980, in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighbourhood, builders blasting away at a hillside uncovered a 2000-year-old tomb. Keen to continue work, they allowed a team of archaeologists only three days to excavate it.
The burial chamber was mapped and found to contain 10 ossuaries (limestone coffins), six of which were inscribed. The discovery wasn't widely publicised and the relics were stored away by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The tomb was reburied and an apartment compex built on top.
What seems to have attracted Jacobovici's interest years later is that one of the ossuaries is inscribed "Jesus son of Joseph".
He reasons that - following Jewish custom - the corpse of Jesus might have been secretly transferred to a family tomb, where it would have been left to decompose for a year before his bones were placed in an ossuary, his name carved on the outside and the vessel sealed in a niche. (He notes the rumour mentioned in the Gospel Of Matthew that the disciples moved the body of Jesus.)
The burden of proof thus falls on Jacobovici to connect the other ossuaries to Jesus.
Ossuary number two is promising - it is inscribed "Maria". Simcha argues that as Mary carried on her son's teachings after his death, her name may have become Latinised by her Roman converts.
The third, which reads "Matthew", is problematic. Here, the film-maker points to Mary's lineage, which contains five or six similar names. The implication is that one more wouldn't be surprising.
Right general time period - ossuaries were only popular for about a century.
There are eyewitnesses to tomb's discovery and photographs were taken.
Talpiot is halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The inscriptions are very informal - almost like graffiti.
All of the names on the ossuaries were common at the time.