A Dialogue with the Diggers
Scene: At the tombs, outside Jerusalem:
Professor T: It’s got to be here somewhere. The map the antiquities people gave us says there’s a housing development on the site.
Jacob.: It doesn’t matter. You’ve seen one tomb….
Prof. T: No, we have to get this right. The archaeology has to support my theory….
Jacob: I know, the caliphate. What’s that about?
Prof T: Jesus was married. Maybe had a son. Heirs—but James took over from him when he died.
Jacob: James who? There was a James Christ?
Prof T: If I am right, we are literally standing on top of the tomb of the Jesus family.
Jacob: It is exciting. But there’s nothing left in the tomb, right?
Prof T: Simcha, five bone boxes, inscriptions, boney bits. My God I think I’m going to faint.
Jacob: But there’s nothing down there right?
Prof T: (Inspecting the access point): Looks like a bench. A simple patio. Maybe a well?
Jacob: It’s a lid, Jim, let’s scoot it. Or should we wait for an angel to move it for us. My bad.
Prof T: (descending) Pretty dark. (Seeing antechamber and tunnels). So this is where it all began.
Jacob: It will be when we’re finished. Kind of damp. Let’s get out of here before the police come.
Scene: Wrap Up of Press Announcement, Before Cameras:
Jacob: And we put the probability using the statistics developed by Professor Feuerverger and corroborated by the readings of Frank Moore Cross of Harvard and of course the forensics team of the Fresno crime lab unit at 600 to 1. Ladies and gentlemen, I am so moved I can hardly speak. I present to you the burial boxes of Jesus of Nazareth and his family, Mary, Mary the Master, Joses, Little Yhudah, Matthew, and Jesus the son of Joseph. No, please, do take pictures.
Q: how did you establish that the Jesus ossuary was connected to the Miriamne ossuary?
Jacob: Don’t be ridiculous. Next question.
Q: I don’t see any mention in the gospels of a little Yehudah. How do you know he was little? How do you know he’s related to the people in the Jesus and Miriamne boxes?
Jacob: I am a journalist, not an archaeologist, per se; perhaps the professor would like to comment.
Prof T: I think the real question here is about Christian faith. Some Christians believe that the discovery of these boxes are not a challenge to the resurrection because Jesus rose spiritually and….
Q: No, I asked, how do you relate the bones in the Jesua ossuary to the Juda ossuary, or the bones in the Jesua ossuary to the Miriamne. After all, the Miriamne ossuary is inscribed in Greek and the Jesua isn’t. I didn’t ask about the resurrection.
Prof T : Well, don’t be shy about it. I understand why you didn’t– too sensitive. Earth shattering really, I mean confronted with this incontrovertible proof.
Q: Proof of what? You’ve got some stone boxes here. They have familiar names on them. Some of them overlap with commonest names in first century Jerusalem. They’re empty.
Jacob: We understand how you feel. There must be many Christians out there reeling from this discovery and we sympathize. We want them to know that we sympathize, and not just theologically—spiritually. But remember, faith moves mountains and this just means he left his bones behind…
Prof T: Jesus of Nazareth.
Q: Where are you getting your information?
Prof T: Solid sources—Gnostic gospels, saint’s lives, and contemporary fiction.
Q: It’s a load of crap. Have you read professor Pfann’s claim that the inscription on the Miriamne ossuary says Miriam and Mara and held at least two sets of bones?
Prof T: We have reason to believe otherwise. Our 4th century sources say that Mary Magdalene was known by a special name.
Q: Yeah, but our first century sources says different. And the name she was known by isn’t this one.
Jacob: I’m a journalist; I leave the deciphering to the experts.
Q: But the experts are lining up against you: they say the name isn’t Jesua, and that Matthew has just been thrown in for fun, and that the name on the Joses ossuary isn’t Joses, and that the James ossuary, which may or may not be from this tomb, is a proven forgery and that many of the nine ossuaries contained the bones of multiple family members, and that these nine are only a fraction of the one originally in the Talpiot tombs. All this proves is that people living around first century Jerusalem had Jewish names and scribbled in Aramaic.
Jacob: I’m a journalist. I know what the experts at the Fresno crime lab said.
Prof T.: If I were, you I wouldn’t dwell so much on the resurrection. Gutting, really.
R. Joseph Hoffmann
Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion
Center for Inquiry
Amherst, New York