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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
(4:42 PM) | Stephen:
Them Bones

Jesus' bones have been found. Huh. I suppose my education would make a transition to Judaism somewhat easier than other religions, assuming they'd have me.

Here's what we have so far. Several burial boxes were found with the following inscriptions:
So we've got Joshua, Joseph, two named Mary, Judah and Joses (Greek). Common names, but it is interesting that all of them are names associated with Jesus, none being name such as Rueben, Benjamin or other Hebrew names.

Apparently the bones they contained are gone, buried back in 1980 in unmarked graves elsewhere in Israel. However, there was some recoverable DNA and testing showed that Yeshua and Marianme were not maternally related, making them likely to have been married. I haven't seen anything about the relationships between any of the other individuals.

It's highly unlikely that Mary the mother of Jesus would have been buried in Jerusalem. Church tradition places her in Ephesus under the care of John the Beloved, where it is said she died. Polycarp, John's foremost student, lived well into the middle of the 2nd century CE, with his student Irenaeus living into the 3rd. Writings from both of them survive; indeed as we get into the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE many writings survive and traditions such as those regarding Mary and John certainly date from them. That we can go from John the Beloved to the beginning of the 3rd century CE with only one intermediate step gives some of our traditional beliefs a bit of weight, even though there has certainly been some embellishment, whether innocent or intentional.

But the idea that Jesus' bones were buried in Jerusalem is weird. The followers of Jesus did make a nuisance of themselves. If the Jewish religious leaders had proof that contradicted their claims, why would they have kept silent about it? If the Apostles and such had the embarassment of the bones of Jesus, why would they keep them? Before most of the Gospels were written, some of Paul's letters were being circulated, in which he claimed that "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Cor 15:14)."

There is mention that these bones say nothing about the Christian doctrine of the resurrection, rather calling into question the ascension into heaven. The idea is that Jesus could have been raised from the dead, only to have died again later. This shows a misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus' resurrection. He was raised to new, incorruptible life. Jesus is the firstborn of this new life, and all who believe are given the same promise of bodies that do not fail, do not die, do not decay. For Jesus to have died on this earth and been buried would mean the destruction of the Christian faith, just as Paul said.

I'll be watching the Discovery Channel special. It's a fascinating subject. But something tells me to not be too worried about needing to actually switch religions anytime soon.

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