Tuesday, February 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Supposedly James Cameron has found it (via the BBC): Jesus tomb found, says film-maker:

Jesus had a son named Judah and was buried alongside Mary Magdalene, according to a new documentary by Hollywood film director James Cameron.

The film examines a tomb found near Jerusalem in 1980 which producers say belonged to Jesus and his family.

Speaking in New York, the Oscar-winning Titanic director said statistical tests and DNA analysis backed this view.

Setting aside any theological questions here, this is ridiculous.  First, the only way DNA analysis would be of use is if we had a confirmed sample of Jesus’ DNA to use in a test.  That a DNA test proved that the people in the tomb were related is hardly a shocker.

A confluence of names is hardly sufficient to make these kinds of claims, yet Cameron thinks it does, demonstrating that Cameron’s critical thinking skills are wanting:

Archaeologists said that the burial cave was probably that of a Jewish family with similar names to that of Jesus.

But Mr Cameron said the combination of names found on the tombs convinced him of their heritage.


According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, six of those coffins were marked with the names Mary; Matthew; Jesua son of Joseph; Mary; Jofa (Joseph, Jesus’ brother); and Judah son of Jesua.[...]

“Mariamene is Mary Magdalene – that’s the Ringo, that’s what sets this whole film in motion,” he said.

What? There has ever been only one woman in all of history named “Mariamene”?

And back to the DNA thing, that strikes me as some techno-speak to make this all sound more scientific and to distract from the fact that whole argument is predicated on one woman’s name:

The documentary asserts that tests on samples from two of the coffins show Jesus and Mary Magdalene were likely to have been buried in them and were a couple.

How does a DNA test prove that two corpses were a couple?  Unless they were intimate just prior to their simultaneous death, I am unclear on how genetic material might have been transferred, and I am guessing that this many years later such an issue would be difficult to discover.  Now, DNA tests could have proven that the two corpses were the parents of the Judah corpse, but again:  a family tomb is hardly a shocking discovery, but doesn’t prove the identity of anybody.

I mean really, this doesn’t even rise to the level of freshman-level essay argumentation here.
Update:: The AFP version of the stories has a few more details (Tomb could be of Jesus, wife and son: directors):

Jacobovici, director, producer and writer of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” and his team obtained two sets of samples from the ossuaries for DNA and chemical analysis. The first set consisted of bits of matter taken from the “Jesus Son of Joseph” and “Mariamene e Mara” ossuaries. The second set consisted of patina, a chemical film encrustation on one of the limestone boxes.

The human remains were analyzed by Carney Matheson, a scientist at the Paleo-DNA Laboratory at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. Mitochondrial DNA examination determined the individual in the Jesus ossuary and the person in the ossuary linked to Mary Magdalene were not related.

So, really, all they have proven is that the “Jesus” and “Mary” weren’t related. Even the notion that they were a “couple” is a leap. They haven’t, it would seem, tested “Judah.”

More on the names:

Israeli archaeologist and professor Amos Kloner, who documented the tomb as the Jewish burial cave of a well-off family more than 10 years ago, is adamant there is no evidence to support claims that it was the burial site of Jesus.

“I’m a scholar. I do scholarly work which has nothing to do with documentary film-making. There’s no way to take a religious story and to turn it into something scientific,” he told AFP in a telephone interview.

“I still insist that it is a regular burial chamber from the 1st century BC,” Kloner said, adding that the names were a coincidence.

“Who says that ‘Maria’ is Magdalena and ‘Judah’ is the son of Jesus? It cannot be proved. These are very popular and common names from the 1st century BC,” said the academic at Israel’s Bar Ilan University.

Indeed, the basis of the theory would appear to be the Da Vinci Code, and pretty much nothing else.

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11 Responses to “Jesus’ DNA?”

  • el
  • pt
    1. B. Minich Says:

      That’s my main question: why don’t they talk about any genetic links between Jesus, “Mariamene”, and Judah? If they are claiming Judah is Jesus’ son, isn’t that what needs to be done? What about proving that “Maria” is Jesus’ mother? In essence, how are all these people related? Can we say who in the tomb were brothers, who were mothers, etc?

      It just makes no sense as presented. I suspect that they either don’t know, or that the only DNA test that proves what they want for their documentary is the one where Jesus and his supposed wife aren’t related.

    2. MSS Says:

      At this point, the DNA test simply suggests that there are remains of two people in the tomb, a man and a woman, who are not blood relatives, while all the others are genetically related to one another (and thus to Jesua). Therfore, because, as Steven noted, people who whose bones are in a common tomb must be “realted” somehow, that means “Maria” and “Jesua” must be related by marriage.

      At least this is how I understood the BBC Radio report this morning. What am I missing here?

      In the end, does it even matter? Archaeology and religion are rather separate disciplines. It is interesting when the science confirms the religion. But it’s not as our family is suspending the seder because there’s as yet no evidence that the Exodus really happened as told.

    3. Kingdaddy Says:

      No, no, no. It’s not Mary Magdalene’s DNA, it’s Sarah Connor’s. If you’re going to send a Terminator into the past, you might as well go for the gusto.

    4. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

      Now, see, that would be an intriguing documentary.

    5. Jan Says:

      Well, first of all, it would be difficult to prove that the “Jesus” character in this story is related to the “Jonah” character, because they only had mitochondrial DNA which is only transmitted from the mother to the child.

      Second, they only proved that “Jesus” and “Mariamene” were not related through a common mother. They could easily have had the same father and mitochondrial DNA would have no way of showing it. It is not uncommon, even in old societies for men to have children by more than one woman (due to death in child birth, etc).

      So really, their one little shred of DNA evidence really proves nothing.

    6. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

      I am shocked!

    7. B. Minich Says:

      Thanks Jan. I wondered about that, but I’m not a DNA expert – I just watch crime dramas. I definately thought it would be iffy to attempt to establish sibling-hood for similar reasons – what if a different mother was involved? (If so, then that’d contradict the story that they were blood relatives, which even I, as a proponent of the virgin birth, say would be established. Since its the mother’s DNA you track, Jesus would share DNA with any brothers he would have.)

      Again, hardly a surprise, and we all know this is being done for ratings anyway.

    8. PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More on the Bones Says:

      [...] Among the various things that Bauckham had to say, I found the discussion of names to be especially interesting, given my earlier post: We have much more evidence about this than was used by the programme makers. We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew was borne 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme). [...]

    9. Eric B. Says:

      If this information is correct then in my opinion the answer is clear.

      Joseph 8.3% = 218 named per 2,625 births.
      Judah 6.2% = 164 named per 2,625 births.
      Jesus 3.4% = 99 named per 2,625 births.
      Matthew 2.4% = 62 named per 2,625 births.
      = = = =
      4 = 20.3% = 543 named per 10,500 births.
      4 / 10,500 = 3.8% chance

      Now we drop the top statistic to the bottom and add to the female.

      Males 4 = 20.3% = 543 named per 10,500 births.
      Female 1 = 21.0% = 70 named per 328 births.
      = = = =
      5 = 41.3% = 613 named per 10,828 births.
      5 / 10,828 = 4.6% chance

      Keep in mind that if you figure in the possibility of the female being the mother of Judah, and the grave which is believed to be Jesus is the father then you get an almost 100% possibility of this being legit.

      If anyone finds any of these numbers to be wrong, please help to correct it.

    10. Karen Finley Says:

      Go to & click on BUMPER STICKERS.

    11. Chuck Y Says:

      The ossuaries were recovered and kept for 27 years with no thought at all of preventing DNA contamination. Who knows how many people handled them over the years? One touch of a hand would leave more DNA molecules than would have remained in a whole skeleton, much less in tiny bits of matter in the ossuary. It’s overwhelmingly likely that the DNA found was modern DNA from contamination.

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