by Charles Quarles
On the day the news broke that archaeologists had “discovered” the bones of Jesus in an ossuary in East Talpiot, a concerned Christian leader dropped by my office, looked at me across my desk, and asked, “What are we going to do?” My first reaction was, “What do you mean we?” I was already overwhelmed with deadlines on book projects. The last thing that I needed was another project.
Over the next few days I began to feel that maybe we had to do something after all. I encountered one Christian after another who was deeply troubled by the dramatic announcement. I obtained a copy of The Jesus Family Tomb on the day it was released and wrote a twelve-page response that was posted on my college Web site a few days before The Lost Tomb of Jesus documentary aired and then later on Darrell Bock’s blog. I did so for two reasons.
First, as a scholar I was disturbed that the public was being misled by absurd claims. Second, as a follower of Christ, I felt compelled to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3 NASB). A few days later one of my colleagues received an e-mail from a friend who had considered renouncing Christianity due to the claims of The Lost Tomb of Jesus documentary. After reading my article, he had seen the fallacies in the claims of the book, and his faith was renewed. Encouraged by his testimony, I began to think of producing a more extensive response that would be more widely read. When The Jesus Family Tomb book shot up to number 6 on the New York Times best-seller list a few weeks later, I knew that the claims had to be addressed.
I quickly realized that no single scholar possessed the wide range of expertise necessary to address the claims of The Jesus Family Tomb. I am a New Testament scholar who specializes in Gospel study and historical Jesus research, but I am not an archaeologist and certainly not a statistician. I began putting together a dream team of evangelical scholars including an archaeologist, a statistician, an expert on Jewish ossuaries, and New Testament and historical Jesus scholars so that each major claim of the hypothesis could be addressed by a true expert in that respective eld. Richard Bauckham, Darrell Bock, William Dembski, Craig Evans, Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, Robert Marks, and Steven Ortiz committed to the project. The end result is Buried Hope or Risen Savior? The Search for Jesus’ Tomb, the most comprehensive scholarly response to the Talpiot hypothesis to date.
The title of this book reminds Christians of what is at stake with the claims of the Talpiot tomb hypothesis. If the Talpiot tomb is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, then Jesus is not our risen Savior.
Our hope for divine forgiveness through Christ and future resurrection are nothing more than a “buried hope,” a hope that died when Jesus breathed His last breath, a hope that was buried along with His bones in a sloppily inscribed ossuary in East Talpiot.
Our outlook is as grim as that of the Emmaus disciples who had not yet recognized the risen Christ who walked beside them and lamented, “We were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). If Christ has not risen, this hope is now a thing of the past, and, as Paul wrote, “We should be pitied more than anyone” (1 Cor 15:19). For this reason, the subtitle of The Jesus Family Tomb, which claims that the Talpiot discovery, investigation, and evidence “could change history,” is no exaggeration. If true, the claims of Jacobovici and Pellegrino would drastically change history by destroying one of the world’s major religions, the very religion that formed the foundation of Western culture.
If its claims were convincing, The Jesus Family Tomb could constitute the death certificate of Christianity. But it won’t. Jacobovici and Pellegrino are simply not qualified coroners. They are more like little children who scream “Mommy is dead!” because they see her lying down with her eyes closed even though she is really only napping.
The arguments of Jacobovici and Pellegrino are filled with similar leaps in logic that bypass important evidence that a qualified coroner would never overlook. A close examination of all the evidence will lead those concerned by the children’s screams to end the panicked 911 call abruptly: “Sorry. False alarm. The Christian faith is alive and well after all.”
This book presents that necessary examination of the crucial evidence. It responds in detail to the most compelling arguments raised by the makers of the Discovery documentary and the authors of The Jesus Family Tomb. It demonstrates that the evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection is much, much stronger than the evidence for the interment of Jesus’ bones in Talpiot.
I believe that if you read this book with an open mind, you will conclude: Make no bones about it; the bones of Jesus of Nazareth were not interred in an ossuary in East Talpiot. He has risen!
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