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on September 9, 2007
Let me start this review with a recap of what we know from the DVD. We found the tomb of a person named Jesus who had a father named Joseph. We have a Maria, a Miriamne, a Jose and a Matthew. So, having stated that, have we found the tomb of the Historical Jesus? We feel we know what happened to the Biblical Jesus based on the Gospels. Based on this, is it possible to find a Jesus tomb? Granted, it does not say "Jesus, son of Joesph, from Nazereth" on the ossuary. As one of the experts comments in the show (paraphrased) "...If we find the bones of Jesus of Nazereth, does that destroy faith in Christianity? It does not destroy MY faith. I leave what happens to bodies after they die to God." That is also my take on this. If we can prove that this is the Historical Jesus' body, it does not ruin my faith. It just offers a little more faith that this person who has numerous texts actually set foot on earth and said all these wonderful things. As far as those who may say, "well if there is a body then he could not have resurrected", why not? We all go under the assumption he physically rose from the dead and went human body and all to heaven. He could have done that, why not? He's the Son of God after all. It could also have been a strictly spiritual resurrection. Again, he's the Son of God, if his spirit body went to heaven and He wanted to show himself to his disciples to prove he "resurrected", he could do that as well and even let the disciples touch him.
Of course it is also possible that Jesus lived and died, said and did most of these wonderful things the Gospels attribute to him, then when they committed story to paper, they embellished it to make him a God-like being.
In the end, I don't know whether this is the tomb of the Historical Jesus or not. And this is not totally set out to prove one way or the other. What Simcha is trying to do, from my opinion, is set the evidence in front of the viewer and let the viewer decide if we found the tomb of Jesus of Nazereth or if we just found the biggest coincidence in recorded history. Either way, it is a great show.
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on May 9, 2007
Critics of this documentary, as to it's observations and conclusions, make essentially the following arguments:

1. That the Jesus family would be buried in Nazareth, not Talpiot;
2. That the Jesus family couldn't have afforded a tomb like the Talpiot tomb;
3. That the "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary is not inscribed "Yeshua" (Jesus) at all;
4. That the "Mariamne" ossuary didn't contain the remains of Mary Magdalene, but of two other women.

I believe the first three of these allegations against the documentary's premise don't carry much water. The fourth argument actually supports the conclusion that this is the real thing. My comments on these points:

1. Talpiot is the right place for Jesus' family tomb- Per Luke, 2:3-4, the family's LEGAL residence was Bethlehem, not Nazareth. The fact that Joseph and the pregnant Mary could not take the census in Nazareth but had to take it in Bethlehem indicates that Bethlehem was their DOMICILIUM under Roman Law. That basically means that they had no intention to reside in Nazareth permanently. Therefore it would have made little sense for them to have a family tomb in Nazareth, that they wouldn't be able to frequently visit at a later stage in their lives. They would have wanted a family tomb close to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, easily accessible also to future generations of the family. The fact is indeed that Mary and her children moved to Jerusalem around 30 AD.

The traditional name of Jesus in Hebrew, as reflected also in the Talmud, is "Yeshu Hanotzri." This appellation stemms from "Netzer" (Shoot or Branch). It alludes clearly to Isaiah 11:1, indicating the Royal birth of Jesus, to substantiate his claim for Jewish messianship. Not to indicate the place he comes from ( to indicate that Jesus supposedly originates from Nazareth, he would have been called "Yeshua Minatzeret." But he wasn't called so.) In any event Jesus was born in Bethlehem, even though he grew up in Nazareth. Even when a person was called by a place in Herbew/Aramaic at that time, that appellation would refer to his place of birth, not to where he happens to live at a certain moment in his life. Thus if Jesus were to be called by a place, he would logically be called "Jesus of Bethlehem."

There's actually no evidence in Jewish sources, such as the Old Testament or the Mishna and Talmud, that a place called "Nazareth" even existed in or before the first century. I'm not disputing the evidence per the NT, that there was indeed a place called Nazareth. But to the best of my knowledge, there's no mention of Nazareth at all in any ancient writings outside the New Testament. So the place existed, but nobody knew about it. Therefore there was no reason to call Jesus "of Nazareth." Either in life or on an ossuary. He was called "Jesus the Branch" (of David) in Hebrew/Aramaic. It sounds almost the same as "Jesus of Nazareth" when pronounced in Hebrew/Aramaic, and therefore would easily confuse any person whose mother tongue isn't Hebrew/Aramaic. But it shouldn't confuse native Hebrew/Aramaic speakers.

The line of argumentation detracting this discovery around the supposed Nazareth origin of Jesus' family may therefore be based on a very shaky foundation.

2. Talpiot is located about 2.5 miles North of Bethlehem. Jesus' family, of Davidic descent according to the New Testament, could have held the burial cave there even before it moved to Nazareth. Davidic birth was absolutely the most exalted in Judaism, always. The suggestion that any person of Davidic descent could be of the lowest social echelon, that couldn't fund or get funding for a burial cave, doesn't make much sense, if any. There's substantial evidence to the contrary, e.g. 1. Jesus had some very wealthy active supporters like Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus (known as Nakdimon ben Gorion in post biblical Jewish sources-one of the richest Jews in Judea); 2. Josephus A.J.,XX, 9:1. Note the prominence of James brother of Jesus.

3. The inscription on the Jesus ossuary does say "Yeshua bar Yehosef" ("Jesus son of Joseph")to my eye. All letters but one are quite clearly there. The only letter which is somewhat more difficult to discern at first blush is the second letter- "Shin". That's because it's written in a somewhat irregular form (in a regular Shin there are three teeth in the fork, pointing upwards. Here there are two teeth, pointing sideways to the right.) But that particular irregularity appears also on other ossuaries- notably numbers 9 (this one has two "Shin"- one with three teeth pointing to the right, and one with TWO teeth pointing to the right. Exactly like the subject inscription) and 121 in the Rahmani catalogue, which both feature also a "Yeshua." All this is NOT difficult for a Hebrew speaking person to identify.

4. Mr. Huston on 3/13/07 made the following comment to my post regarding Jacobovici's book:

"The inscription, Pfann said, is made up of two names inscribed by two different hands: the first, "Mariame,'' was inscribed in a formal Greek script, and later, when the bones of another woman were added to the box, another scribe using a different cursive script added the words "kai Mara,'' meaning "and Mara.'' Mara is a different form of the name Martha.

According to Pfann's reading, the ossuary did not house the bones of "Mary the teacher,'' but rather of two women, "Mary and Martha.'"

Here's my answer to him:

"If the Mariamne ossuary indeed housed the bones of Mary and Martha, these are two sisters of NT fame. Another hit. One of them could have been married to "Jesus son of Joseph." -Whether or not she was Mary Magdalene (Maybe the Mary who ointed Jesus feet and then dried them with her hair- very intimate scene.) The other sister would than also automatically belong in the family. It still fits. Actually it increases the statistical odds that this is the real thing quite substantially."

This is a very intriguing possibility indeed, fitting perfectly with John 12:3. Some posters on an internet group where I participate actually suggested once that similar anointing was part of pre-wedding ritual of a Davidic King, per certain passages in the Song of Songs. Reminds me of the reaction to this find of a BBC reporter in 1996- It seems like all pieces of a puzzle coming together.

Two other matters raised by the documentaray relate to the meaning of the inscription "Mara" on one of the ossuaries, and to a proposition that the "James brother of Jesus" ossuary originated from the same Talpiot tomb. My comments:

5. Any Jew in the first century would probably know instinctively that "Mara" is a very exalted appellation indeed. The Dead Sea Scrolls in at least two places that I saw have the expression "Mara Alma"- the exact equivalent of "Adon Olam" in Hebrew ("Master of the World".) That is one of the most common substitute names for "Yahwe", the ineffable name of God, in Judaism, to this day. Jews repeat this substitute name many times every day, in prayers.

6. Oded Golan is on trial in Israel at this time for alleged forgery of the "James brother of Jesus" ossuary. If Mr. Golan believes or knows that the James ossuary is authentic, his defense lawyer should and could get a court order for comparative DNA tests of the James remains with the Jesus remains. The court will most probably grant such an order, because it's material to his defense in a felony case. If this test shows these are siblings, that would constitute sufficient "reasonable doubt" to acquit Golan. (And of course enhance the statistical odds that the Talpiot tomb is the real thing.) If it doesn't show they're siblings, the result would be inadmissible as evidence. Therefore there's only an upside on this for Defense.

Incidentally, I believe that the Documentary's story about the "Jesus" and other bones having supposedly been buried together in a common grave has to be taken with a grain of salt. It appears to contradict certain burial rules under Jewish Law. In a different context, a poster elsewhere on the net pointed out to me a second century ruling regarding common burials. Seems to me that common burials of unrelated adults are prohibited, where the bones are found separately. Therefore the remains in the ossuaries would be buried separately.

BOTTOM LINE- Ask yourself inversely a hypothetical question- If the Talpiot tomb hadn't yet been found, how would Jesus' family tomb have looked , which ossuaries would it have contained, to when would it have been dated and where would it have been located. Even if, like me, you're not formally educated specifically in any field related to this subject, anyone with general education and common sense who's curious enough could educate himself to form a perfectly valid opinion. I would have thought of a tomb just like the tomb we're discussing. It fits perfectly with what I'd have expected Jesus' family tomb to be. Right place, right period, right names. (Even some important evidence supporting the same expectation that this documentary omits.)

That doesn't mean that the Talpiot tomb is the real thing beyond reasonable doubt, only that if you had a jury of completely unbiased people, either way, and that jury were presented with all material evidence, pro and con, it could quite logically have found that this is the real thing by preponderance of the evidence.

Itamar Bernstein
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on April 12, 2008
I consider myself quite open-minded when it comes to these type of religious historical documentaries. In fact, I am usually thrilled at the idea that someone discovered archaeological evidence of a religious person. Thus, it's strange for this documentary to really turn me off.

I'm mainly annoyed by the narration and structure of the documentary. I think if it wasn't for that, I might have liked it more. Two things bothered me in particular: one was the way the documentary presented its arguments and the other was the omnipresence of the director, Simcha Jacobovici.

The documentary does a very misleading thing. Whenever it encounters a potential piece of evidence that doesn't fit into their argument, they find a way of suggesting that it could potentially fit, and then thereafter refer to it as if they've proven their point. For example, they bring up the problem of "Mariamne" - who could she be? Her mention in the Acts of Philip in reference to Mary Magdalene was cited as evidence that this could mean the real Mary Magdalene (never for once questioning the historical validity of the Acts of Philip). Then they show you a dramatic reconstruction of Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus, and from that point on, the documentary acts as if they've proven without a doubt that Mariamne is Mary Magdalene. They continue doing that with all the pieces of evidence that don't quite fit, without nothing that these evidence are all linked, so if even one of them is false, then the rest of their case falls apart.

Consider this line of thinking: You want to find out who stole your bicycle. You see a footprint that belongs to a shoe that maybe Billy wore, and maybe he was in your neighborhood even though he lives an hour away, and maybe his bicycle broke down which is why he needed yours, and maybe he liked your bicycle among all the others in the neighborhood. Well, if any one of these "maybe's" are false, your case falls apart.

I know they try to do the statistical argument, but what does 1 in 60,000 mean? It sounds like a huge possibility but they never to bother elaborating on that.

The other thing, and perhaps the most annoying thing, about the documentary is Simcha Jacobovici, who comes across as biased as Michael Moore (whom, incidentally, I actually like). His bias is so obvious that it puts into question the entire construction of the project, including how the film was edited, who and what did they leave out, and so on.

As I said, I would really like to believe the arguments in this documentary, and some of it is quite convincing, but the flawed line of thinking and the bias of the director makes it very suspect. There was some good production values, but other than that, it was a poorly conceived project on a potentially fascinating find.
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THE LOST TOMB OF JESUS (for the Discovery Channel, prod. James Cameron, dir./hosted Simcha Jacobovici, April 2007) already has a Christian 'debunking response team' on this issue (with the pathetic documentary The Jesus Tomb Unmasked). Wait until they see the 2012 documentary and the book (The Jesus Discovery: The Resurrection Tomb that Reveals the Birth of Christianity) that is the follow-up on this!

In a funny and otherwise nondescript neighborhood in Talpiot - a "borough" of Jerusalem close to Bethlehem - was discovered a cave. It turns out this was not a cave, but a rather beautiful family mausoleum, or a tomb if you like. It contained neatly arranged ossuaries and obviously belonged to a family. An ossuary is a box in which bones of long-dead relatives are placed in order that they may be reburied in a tomb like this. Saves time and space in the long run, in ancient Jewish tradition. They do something like this in certain Asian countries.

You probably know of the ossuary that was sold out onto the market and everyone went nuts because it was allegedly the ossuary of one James - you know, James the Just, a/k/a James the brother of Jesus. Well this family tomb contained ossuaries exactly like his. In fact, the scientists found evidence that a box was totally missing from here: probably the James' ossuary, and measurements made by Professor James Tabor bear that out.

Whose "bone boxes" did they find here? Look at this: Jesus son of Joseph. Mary Magdalen bearing a title along with her name, "Mara", like a female rabbi. A son, a teen boy named Judah-son-of-Jesus, in his ossuary next to his parents. In another "room", that is to say, a separate vault, they found another family. This time the husband, Joseph (Yehosep). His wife, Maria (spelt in Hebrew, the exact name, "Maria"). Finally they identified one Matia, which is Greek for Matthew. No one is sure about him, but it is an Asmonean [Hasmonean] name.

What do you suppose happened to the brains of the scientists who first examined these findings in 1980? It's only a very slim chance [1 in 200, I have heard] that this family vault did not belong to someone other than the famous, the one-and-only, Jesus and Company.

This documentary covers Jacobovici's epic quest to find the tomb. It is fantastic and detailed - I am a huge fan of Simcha Jacobovici and his documentary work (see my review Quest For The Lost Tribes, one of Simcha's best, and see my review of Secrets of Christianity in which Simcha addresses 'the rest of the story'). Here Simcha makes no bones about who he thinks is entombed in this place.

Well I say get this. Simcha's works are among my most prized DVDs. You may not know this, but the Jewish government moved fast to seal up, and concrete over, this discovery. Yet Jacobovici, on the trip of a lifetime, managed to get into the place, film, take samples. He managed to get James Cameron onboard as well. The folks entombed in that place are THE Family, the proof is there and it is powerful. It shatters the pagan-inspired myth of Christianity.

Jacobovici and company make a good argument in accordance with the findings that it is "Jesus Christ" and his family entombed in this tomb. The Jewish government panicking and sealing up the place - that's another story and I do not know much of the workings of that. I can only encourage you to get this documentary, study it, listen, look, watch.

Then decide for yourself if a Jewish rabbi tried to start a religion, or tried passing himself off as contender for Mesiah, was crucified by the Romans and then came back to life - or was he a prominent rabbi who got married, had some squirrely kids, died like everyone else and had his bones land in an ossuary (which means he likely had descendants to do that for him). The latter fact places his death within a precise century because the Jews only got to practice this kind of burial for about a century.

This is true and beautiful scientific discovery at its best. That is why no one really believes it. The only complaint I have is Jacobovici's desperation to tie these findings with "the first Christians". These people were JEWS, Simcha, not "Christians". A 'Christian' is a pagan who came along 100 years later with corroded, perverted ideas. However, is Simcha pushing that? Or is he saying "christianos" originally meant something else? Simcha implies that Jesus was a vital part of a political movement and its adherents named themselves "christianos" which is the neo-Greek term for "Messianists".

I want you to read an official report, The Discovery Channel News, dateline 25 February, 2007: "New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

"The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts -- originally excavated in 1980 -- open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history. A documentary presenting the evidence, 'The Lost Tomb of Jesus', will premiere on the Discovery Channel on March 4 [2007] at 9 p.m. [Eastern time]. The documentary comes from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici."

What do you think of all that?

Get this documentary and LEARN. If you want the deep and fascinating backstory, get Jacobovici's 2007 book The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery That Will Change History Forever. Simcha Jacobovici & Charles Pellegrino or the other edition, The Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find (and bear in mind there is a 2008 edition I'm not sure I even listed because Amazon might not have it). Read those cover-to-cover. See my reviews.

You will be inspired to learn for yourself, to study, and if you are a believer, you'll see it as God's gift. If you believe not, you'll STILL see it as God's gift! Hooray for Simcha Jacobovici and his fearless spirit of exploration into TRUTH.
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on September 19, 2015
This very well done feature-length Director’s Cut of the Discovery Channel Special is a visual spin-off of the book “The Jesus Tomb” by Professor Tabor of Chapel Hill at University of North Carolina, who is interviewed extensively during the film.
For those that have read and comprehended his revealing book all this material is reviewed but it is very nice to actually view the places especially the Talpiot site between Jerusalem and Bethlehem where this tomb was uncovered during residential building in 1980. This story presented maybe the most controversial archaeological find of all time and dangerous to the film creators.
The film attempts to avoid any religious revelations and plays down the fact the discovered ossuary box in the tomb with the name in Hebrew, “Jesus bar Joseph” is Jesus the Nazarene’s remains and bends the New Testament scriptures that his spirit must have left his earthy body and transcended to heaven. Most modern day Christians may have difficulty with this Catharian position, seeing the Church murdered over 30,000 individuals during 1209-1243 who possessed this similar idea.
The film does provide a “treasure hunt aura” which many may appreciate, but it provides a look into the 1st Century Hebrew burials and how the tombs were constructed. Furthermore the process of burial used during that time period is also revealed. I found the material very interesting and insightful.
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on July 2, 2014
Fascinating look at what may be real evidence of the family tree of Jesus. Christians want to "white wash" the life of Jesus to the point of him being a Ken doll in many respects. Growing up in a Jewish family, we are much more apt to see the actual history and the reality of what it meant to be a Jew during "biblical times." Jesus was a Jew, after all, and you have to look at his life through that filter of that place and time in history. If you are closed minded to the point that anything that does not conform to your limited POV is beyond the pale and nothing but the rantings of heretics, you won't like this. If you are curious and open minded about the real history - whatever religion you believe - I think you'll find this interesting.
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on March 15, 2015
Archaeology can hardly get more exciting and controversial than this.

Unfortunately, when some people react to new ideas as if they were a personal attack on their deepest faith, their response is only ad hominem, not a quest for deeper and broader data. That type of critic does not see or experience the thrills and excitements of direct debate, but locks his or her mind in a dark room where one-sided proclamations make only noise, not advancements of any kind.

Simcha Jacobovici's great gift and future legacy is forcing people to think, whether they want to or not, because for those folk, "thinking" is unsettling.
For people with an open mind, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" keeps you on the edge of your seat and prevents channel-changing until the very end. THEN argue Simcha's speculations, theories and conclusions. Additional information is bound to develop.

I'm eagerly awaiting the second coming video biopic Simcha must be pondering as the heat he generated with this first production converts to light.

Stated before, believe his speculations, theories and conclusions or not, Simcha Jacobovici's persona, personality and achievements over the decades have compelled people worldwide who love archaeology's science and intrigues -- academics, professionals and amateurs -- to THINK new and exciting possibilities about ancient peoples and how they influenced the development of modern societies. Learning from Simcha never challenges any faith; it always stimulates the intellect.
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on September 2, 2015
I loved this documentary. I watched it twice in 24 hours. As a Christian minister, this discovery has done nothing to diminish my Christian faith; in fact it has made it stronger and makes Christianity even more exciting to me. To be able to be excited by it, however, one needs to be willing to let go of theology for a moment and look at history instead. There is every rational reason to believe that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family -- to me, that could not be more exciting. It also shows that there were plenty of followers of early Christianity who were likely involved directly with Jesus' family after his crucifixion. To me, this enforces that what Jesus was teaching was very powerful and that whatever happened after his death was transforming enough to make many thousands of people believers in him and his teachings. I believe we are very blessed to have this discovery happen in our lifetimes.
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on March 26, 2016
I agree with another comment that said, "The filmmakers intention was to produce a hoax. Please see "The Jesus Tomb Unmasked" on youtube, where the same scholars of this film testify to the distortion of the truth portrayed in this film." As for my personal thoughts, I found this film to be so one sided... especially when they are doing dna testing and since they can rule out mother\son relation and father\child they jump to the conclusion that it has to be husband and wife, I am just curious if they didn't test the "child" of Jesus and Mary. That would have at least showed that the child was a connection between the two..... The thing I find funny is all the atheists on here rejoicing in "proof" that their much hated Jesus was somehow proven to be a fraud. It takes a lot of FAITH to jump to that conclusion based on the information in this film :)...I noticed under many of the negative reviews there are atheists who can not help for commenting, I'm sure you will do the same to my review, have fun but you wont convince me anymore than I would be able to convince you....
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on March 30, 2007
I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to watch an advance copy of this film, and finding it to be nothing short of fantastic, I had to post this review...

This Directors Cut version of the Discovery Channel Special is one of the finest documentaries I have ever had the chance to watch. Not only does it perform as a content-laden doc, but from a production stand-point, in my opinion, it is a spectacular watch from start to finish, for it feels like a feature film during the viewing, a mystery of the highest caliber as the story develops and unfolds. I sat riveted during the entire experience.

At the root of the story-line is the 1980 uncovering of an underground tomb, found during a construction project in Jerusalem following the bulldozing of an area by developers planning the building of an apartment complex. Two children entered through an entrance-way emblazoned with a ancient chevron and found the extensive, built-out site that contained 10 limestone ossuaries (coffins). Of the ten, 6 had hand-written inscriptions.

The discovery of the tomb in and of itself was not that uncommon. Others had been discovered, so the Israeli authorities were contacted as would be expected. The contents of the tomb were cataloged and brought to a storage facility.

What took place 25 years later lays the groundwork for the film, for upon further inspection of the inscriptions, it came to light that the 6 readable names all related to members of Jesus' family, something that originally was not put together.

As the Director lets the story unfold, the claims themselves are presented as a mystery. Recreations are mixed with expert interviews and scientific corroboration i.e. DNA testing of scrapings from the ossuaries. The filmmaking itself makes use of current technology on numerous fronts including the use of robotic cameras to first enter the tombs (which had been resealed after the contents had been removed).

Adding to all of this is Director Simcha Jocabovici's persona, one that can be compared to an archaeologist on a phenomenal hunt and journey. His personal excitement really adds an incredible dimension to the production. I am not convinced that another Director could have pulled this off with such verve.

Forgetting for a moment the religious ramifications that this film poses, the viewing experience alone is of incredible value on a human-interest level. Adding in the film's claims that have not only a religious bend to them, but also a major historical discovery angle for all people, the film becomes one that certainly leads to, if nothing else, a debate of the highest order. Jocabovici, an expert filmmaker for sure, has produced a program that is riveting to watch, enlightening to experience and historical to digest.

I recommend this film for all to see.
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