Well the Tomb has sunk like a lead balloon and leading the charge has been other archaeologists – basically the people involved in the Jesus Tomb have overstated the case for its contents as the mortal remains of JC and kin. Fair enough. Do a Web-search and you’ll find plenty of arguments about the Tomb, which is interesting by itself. I think the most telling argument is the recent revelation that the James Ossuary was photographed in 1976 before the Talpiot Tomb itself was discovered in 1980. So it can’t be the putative missing ossuary, thus knocking one support out from under Jacobovici and Cameron’s case. Another problem is that the name identified as “Yeshua” could equally be “Hanun” as the inscription is hard to read. This kind of militates against their central claim, that it’s Jesus’s family – Marys and Josephs are a dime a dozen in First Century Jewish family plots.
Oh well. It was a nice prospect while it lasted – archaeological proof of a mortal Jesus. Now we’re left with two competing faith claims – that dead people don’t rise, and that God raised Jesus on the Third Day. The latter seems more an act of faith than the former, but it’s hard to refute the claim that JC was reported to have left his tomb empty by his closest friends and followers. All the textual evidence tells us that the tomb discovery was followed by apparitions of the Risen Christ – though the nature, number and location varies from Gospel to Gospel.
I’ve already said that I think the tomb was found emptied, but it took time for the Risen Christ to be believed – Mark and Matthew make this pretty clear, since both locate the apparitions squarely in Galilee. Luke and John are more problematic for my view, but both are rather at odds with the first two Gospels. Why the disparity? And why does John feature a major appearance to Peter, and his old business partners, in the Sea of Galilee when Luke doesn’t if they’re drawing on the same source events?
Yet having said that I have my doubts about the skeptical case for a dead Christ too. Chief amongst my “doubts” is the enigma that is the Shroud of Turin – which recently has been proven somewhat older than the 1988 radiocarbon dating first implied. Apparently the samples for the dating had all been taken from a Medieval patch – the rest of the cloth itself is much older, as measured, albeit roughly, by a biochemical clock related to the aging of the fabric.
The Shroud itself proves that a dead man was in it, but why it became associated with JC is because of the unique wounds the Shroud Man bears – multiple lacerations to the forehead (i.e. Crown of Thorns) and the bleeding wound in his side. Plenty of other people had been crucified and scourged by the Romans – also seen on the Shroud Man – but the extra abuse of the victim is surely unique. But if the Shroud Man is JC then why isn’t the Shroud mentioned as an amazing sign in the Gospels?