Archpastoral Statement Regarding the Lost Tomb of Jesus

Metropolitan Nicholas of Johnstown

March 1, 2007 

On March 9, the Discovery Channel will air a program entitled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” The program was produced by Simcha Jacobovici and “Titanic” director James Cameron.

Mr. Cameron, you might remember, was the one who shouted “I’m the King of the World” when he received an Academy Award for his production about the sinking of the White Star liner.

He has produced a movie about a set of artifacts discovered in 1980 near Jerusalem. Archeologist Shimon Gibson, along with Professor Amos Kloner from bar Ilan University, unearthed ten limestone boxes, dating from the First Century, in a cave now known as the Talpiot Tomb. Five of the ten boxes were inscribed with the names of “Jesus son of Joseph,” “Maria,” “Matia,” “Mariamne” and “Judah son of Jesus.”

Mr. Cameron’s show will go on to suggest that another limestone box is missing. This missing box, the program will say, is probably the famous “James ossuary,” which in turn might contain the remains of the saint who we know as St. James, the step-brother of Our Lord, and the first Bishop of Jerusalem. A DNA analysis was performed on the remains from all these limestone boxes. Some scientists have interpreted this analysis and have concluded that the “Mariamne” relics are not related to any others. On this basis, they have further concluded that “Mariamne” must have been married to “Jesus son of Joseph,” and that the “James” relics are related to the rest of the family housed in the limestone boxes.

Furthermore, a statistical study was performed on the chances that the Talpiot Tomb is actually the Jesus Family Tomb. Somehow, a computer has reported that the five names, if renamed “Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Matthew and Jude,” have a 599 out of 600 chance of being the same group of people in the New Testament.

You will hear all this. And you will also hear Mr. Cameron and Dr. Gibson will breathlessly report that Jesus Christ was actually married to Mary Magdalene. You will hear them further report that “Jude” was a little boy who was sleeping on the lap of Jesus during the Last Supper. And seated beside him was his wife Mary Magdalene. It appears that they are benefiting from some advance work done for them by Dan Brown, of Da Vinci Code infamy.

There are many problems with this argument, and it is embarrassing that an enterprise devoted to science education like the Discovery Channel should stoop to such charlatan yellow journalism. It is one thing for them to keep harping on such a non-factual theme as trans-species evolution, which we have come to expect from academia in general.

But it is another thing entirely to put up with this latest slander on Christ, issued once again during the season of the Great Fast. This year it is the fantasia of the “Jesus Family Tomb.” Last year it was the “Gospel of Judas.” The year before it was the comic book epic, “The Da Vinci Code.” We should come to expect, by now, an annual harangue during Lent from the spirit of Antichrist.

It matters little to Mr. Cameron, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Gibson that the names of “Jesus,” “Mary” and “Judah” were some of the most common in the First Century world of Palestine. It matters little that “Mariamne” is a far cry, linguistically, from “Mary Magdalene.” It matters little that DNA analysis of any human remains from the same area and in the same generation is going to normally generate familial relationship. It matters little to them that no apostle or disciple ever called Jesus the “Son of Joseph.”

It matters little to them that Professor Kloner, who oversaw the original archaeological site at Talpiot, has disavowed Cameron’s production: “There is no likelihood that Jesus and His relatives ever had a family tomb,” he told the Jerusalem Post, after he reported his conclusion that there are no links between the tomb at Talpiot and the Jesus of the Gospels.

What does matter to these men, and to the Discovery Channel perhaps, is that there is money to be made from attacking the testimony of the Church. The Da Vinci Code circus netted millions of dollars for the author, the publisher and the movie producer. The profit skyrocketed mainly because “itching ears” wanted to corrode the authority of the Church, the chief witness to the glory of God. You can appreciate the thinking: if one can demote the authority of the Church and her witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then one does not need to feel guilt for his sin.

The same “profit” motives lie behind the production of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.” Watch it if you want to see the modern rhetoric of the Prince of the Airwaves. But don’t watch it if you want to see anything intelligent, even of an atheistic variety. Even agnostic scientists hold their nose at this wretched offering.

But do not watch it if you already wish to doubt the claims of Christ and His Church. If you do, then your disbelief, not the facts, will make this fantasy of Cameron’s sound true.


Metropolitan Nicholas is the Bishop of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown, PA