Thursday, January 17, 2008

A SEMINAR ON THE TALPIOT TOMB has been going on at Princeton:
Archaeologist hid 'Jesus tomb' for fear of anti-Semitism, widow says
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Jesus, Israel, Jerusalem

The widow of the archaeologist who discovered the tomb in Talpiot that some believe to be that of Jesus of Nazareth, explained Wednesday in Jerusalem to a gathering of senior archaeologists and other scholars why her husband kept his discovery a secret.

In an emotional voice, Ruth Gat said that Yosef Gat, a Holocaust survivor, was afraid a wave of anti-Semitism would ensue if he did so. Speaking at the three-day Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins at Mishkenot She'ananim in the capital, Gat also said, "I thank God his fears did not come true in light of the discovery of the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth."


The cave was uncovered in 1980, but was not made public until the mid-1990s. Last year, the story became widely known with the release of the documentary film >"The Lost Tomb of Jesus"

The film presents a cave uncovered in 1980 during construction work on an apartment building in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot. The tomb contained 10 ossuaries. Hebrew letters were inscribed on some, including those Jacobovici says should be read: Yehuda bar Yehoshua, Matya, Yose, Maria, and Yeshua bar Yehosef. The bones of 35 individuals were also uncovered, interred over three to four generations.

"I fell off the chair," Jacobovici said Wednesday following Gat's presentation. "She said the leading archaeologist, who I thought had claimed it was nothing, actually thought he had discovered the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, and as a Holocaust survivor was afraid it might lead to anti-Semitism."

Although most of those who spoke at Wednesday's seminar said it was possible the tomb was that of Jesus, Jacobovici's film was taken with a grain of salt.

"What Simcha did was good work, as long as it stays in the right perspective," said archaeologist Professor Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina. "We, the archaeologists and the historians, spend our lives trying to evaluate the information collected over time. The journalist, however, makes one film and moves on."

Professor Israel Knohl of Hebrew University said Wednesday that he saw no reason not to evaluate the tomb as Jesus' family tomb, although there was no unambiguous proof. He said surrounding caves should be excavated in order to obtain more proof, and explanations for various contradictions in existing evidence should be sought.

I have too many past posts on the Talpiot tomb to list them all here, but if you're interested in background, run the search term "talpiot" through the Google search facility at the top left.

For more on Simcha Jacobovici see the update to this post.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has an article on the Princeton seminar too.

UPDATE (18 January): Time Magazine takes up the story. This is amusing:
Charlesworth, who is also a Methodist minister, says that the possible discovery of Christ's tomb will illicit mixed reactions among Christians.
I think the writer means "elicit."