National Geographic News
A tomb that once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth—and those of his wife and son—has been found in a suburb of Jerusalem, said the makers of a controversial film in a press conference today.
The filmmakers base their claims on the study of ten ossuaries—stone boxes used to hold the bones of the dead—that were unearthed at an Israeli construction site in 1980.
Inscriptions on the boxes, in addition to DNA tests of tiny bits of tissue found inside, suggest that the cave was the final resting place of Jesus, his disciple Mary Magdalene, and their son, the filmmakers said.
The claims, if verified, could threaten key tenets of the Christian faith, most notably that Jesus never married or had children and that he was resurrected three days after his death.
"The evidence is compelling," said Jane Root, president of Discovery Channel, which will air the film on Sunday. "The consequences are enormous."
The 90-minute film, called The Lost Tomb of Jesus, was directed by journalist Simcha Jacobovici and produced by James Cameron, director of such Hollywood hits as Titanic.
The movie has already sparked criticism from archaeologists and clergy alike.
In a statement issued today, the Reverend Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, denounced the film's findings as "nothing more than a modern day circus sideshow."
"At worst, it is pure chicanery," he added.
Inscriptions and DNA
Thousands of ossuaries have been found in Jerusalem over the years. Hundreds were uncovered during the building boom the city experienced in the 1980s.
Like many such ceremonial boxes, the ones uncovered in 1980 in the suburb of Talpiot have been dated to 2,000 years ago. (See a time line of early Christian history.)
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