The Lost Tomb of Jesus?

I just watched The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a film produced by James Cameron (of Titanic fame) which has caused quite a stir among those interested in the historical Jesus. It claims that a tomb discovered in Jerusalem in 1980 is highly likely to be the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. Based on a number of factors, especially the inscriptions on some of the ossuaries found there (ossuaries are limestone boxes that contain the bones of the deceased), the film claims that Jesus, his mother Mary, several other relatives, and Mary Magdalene were entombed there. It speculates that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a son together. (A “Judah, Son of Jesus” was also buried in the tomb.) Needless to say, if all this is true, it has huge ramifications for how we view Jesus.

After watching the film and the panel discussion that followed, I’m skeptical about the claims, but open to what might be uncovered with further research. It got me to thinking, though, about what the author of A Course in Miracles, who claims to be Jesus, said about his entombment and subsequent resurrection. Sometime after the Course was completed, Course scribe Helen Schucman asked Jesus, “Was there a physical resurrection?” This is part of his reply:

My body disappeared because I had no illusion about it. The last one had gone. It was laid in the tomb, but there was nothing left to bury. It did not disintegrate because the unreal cannot die. It merely became what it always was. And that is what “rolling the stone away” means. The body disappears, and no longer hides what lies beyond. It merely ceases to interfere with vision. To roll the stone away is to see beyond the tomb, beyond death, and to understand the body’s nothingness. What is understood as nothing must disappear.

I did assume a human form with human attributes afterwards, to speak to those who were to prove the body’s worthlessness to the world. This has been much misunderstood. I came to tell them that death is illusion, and the mind that made the body can make another since form itself is an illusion. They did not understand. But now I talk to you and give you the same message. The death of an illusion means nothing. It disappears when you awaken and decide to dream no more. And you still do have the power to make this decision as I did. (Absence from Felicity, by Ken Wapnick, 2nd ed., pp. 383-384).

The Course teaching behind this passage is the idea that the body is an illusion, maintained only by our deeply rooted belief that it is real. So, according to this account, what happened at the end of Jesus’ life was this: First, his body was “laid in the tomb.” Then, because Jesus fully relinquished his belief in the reality of his body, it disappeared. This was “rolling the stone away”; this disappearance of his body, rather than its resuscitation, was the resurrection. Then came his post-resurrection appearances to his followers; he assumed “a human form with human attributes afterwards, to speak to those who were to prove the body’s worthlessness to the world.” Finally, though this is not referred to in this passage, Jesus’ body disappeared again, as he “ascended into Heaven, or became completely identified with the Christ, the Son of God as He created Him” (C-6.1:1).

If all this is so, this would mean that the “Jesus” whose ossuary is revealed in The Lost Tomb of Jesus was not Jesus of Nazareth. If his body disappeared, how could his bones have ever been put into an ossuary and sealed in a family tomb? So, it seems we have a conflict between what the Jesus of A Course in Miracles said and archeological evidence. How do we resolve this conflict? I think we need to keep an open mind to all possibilities. On the one hand, it could be that Helen wasn’t really hearing Jesus in this instance (which would be the conclusion of most non-Course students), or was mishearing him. On the other hand, it could be that the archeological conclusions are wrong—certainly the two archeologists on the panel discussion thought so, and a lot of criticism has emerged since the film’s debut. I think we’ll simply have to wait and see what further research on the tomb reveals.

Source of material commented on: New York Times review of the film The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a film appearing on the Discovery Channel ; Book version: The Jesus Family Tomb
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
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