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From Toronto to Emmaus: The Empty Tomb and the Journey from Skepticism to Faith Paperback – March 22, 2007
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One very basic error refutes their theory from the beginning: Jesus was Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Jerusalem, so even if he did have a family tomb it would be in Nazareth or perhaps Capernaum, but certainly not in Jerusalem. Further, the authors claim that such tombs were very expensive, so only the elite of the city could have owned one. Jesus was certainly not one of Jerusalem's elite, as the city leadership hated him, and he even spoke of having nowhere to lay his head.
The documentary claims that an inscription on one of the ossuaries found in the tomb is translated as "Mariamne, also known as Master." And by turning to an ancient Gnostic document, "The Acts of Philip", the authors declare that this Mariamne is actually Mary Magdalene. The first problem here is regarding the reading and translation of the inscription. The translation given is actually the least likely of three possibilities, the other two being "Mary and Martha" and "Mary who is also known as Martha". The two more likely translations, which would stop the theory dead in its tracks, are not even mentioned.
The second error is no less egregious. The claim that "The Acts of Philip" identifies the name Mariamne with Mary Magdalene is simply false, for while the name Mariamne is mentioned in the document, Mary Magdalene is not! They have quoted Harvard professor Francois Bovon, who sees a literary identity (not an historical identity) between the Mariamne in the Acts story and the picture of Mary Magdalene found in another Gnostic document "The Gospel of Thomas", and then have made the wholly unwarranted leap to proclaim an historical identity between the two.
Now if this is getting a bit complicated, just remember that the authors have chosen to disregard a first century document (the Gospel of Luke), written by an individual who could well have known the actual Mary Magdalene and who makes no mention of her real name being Mariamne. Instead, the authors have turned to a document written a full three hundred years later.
There is more, such as the DNA evidence from the so-called Jesus and Mary Magdalene ossuaries, which the authors claim supports the idea that the two could well have been married, when in fact all the DNA proves is that they were not maternally related (eg mother/daughter or brother/sister). Nothing more. Yes, they could have been married, but they also could have been father/daughter, cousins, nephews, servants, or any one of a number of things as it is a multi-generational tomb.
Christianity without the physical resurrection of Jesus ceases to be Christianity. Jesus predicted both his own death and his own resurrection, and the Biblical documents record that indeed God raised Christ, bodily, from the dead, signifying that He has accepted the atonement made by Christ on behalf of those who look to Him as their Saviour. If Christ's bones are still in the grave then he was at best mistaken, at worst a liar, and in either case we are still in our sins. No, unless one is willing to become a complete historical agnostic, one must concede that the New Testament documents are by far the best attested documents of antiquity and that they have been accurately transmitted down through time to us.
Jacobovici and the others, their claims to theological neutrality notwithstanding, clearly do have a theological axe to grind, and that is to further an agenda of antisupernatural skepticism. James White calls them on this, and shows clearly how they must employ leaps of reasoning that are more properly described as baseless speculation, in order to make their case.
I read a small portion of Dr. White's book before it was published to find that the author is a polite fair-minded man with a very engaging writing style making me want to read more, and this is what led to me becoming an Amazon.com customer as this book is not available on Amazon.co.uk. I received the book in the first week of May.
Dr. White is a man of faith. But it is a faith he is perfectly open about, part of that faith demanding scrupulous honesty, and to that end sets himself very high standards. These standards are apparent throughout the book and that reason alone means that what he says merits extremely serious consideration, whatever your personal faith, as he genuinely examines the claims from every angle possible. This is something that Jacobovici's book simply does not do in any way whatsoever.
If you truly want to learn what the facts of the matter are concerning a claim, and are serious about getting to the truth of a matter then you must examine the subject from all angles and listen to a wide variety of sources. I've read Jacobovici's book, I've read many accounts of the Discovery Channel programme, had arguments with Pellegrino, I've read various archaeologists, historians, and scientists views as found in Journals, the Internet etc. Now I have read Dr. White's book.
Why Dr. White's Book? On page 25 he states with regard `The Jesus Family Tomb' their book:
"... skips from topic to topic, contains very little in the way of substantive, scholarly documentation, and leaves much to be desired for the person who truly wishes to take up the authors challenge to examine and test their hypothesis."
There is a need, and Dr. White's book meets that need. He isn't after any sensationalism, but just discusses the facts in a very calm, reasoned, and rational way. He exposes what many people suspected, that the arguments put forward in `The Jesus Family Tomb' have gaping holes so wide you could drive a coach and horses through them. His book made me think about what he was saying, debating in my head the various pros and cons, and that is an indication of a good writer. He doesn't force you to his view, but encourages the readers to think for themselves and raise their own questions, throwing large metaphorical spanners in the works of Jacobovici and Pellegrino.
1. Why do the authors admit their lack of knowledge and experience in these fields (and glaringly exposed in Dr. White's book) and then proclaim their conclusions as more authoritative than those who are knowledgeable and experienced? (And let's forget for the moment one of the author's strange allusions to persecution from mysterious dark forces trying to suppress the truth).
2. Why the "...persistent suppression of counter-evidence..." (p.26) as experiences on the Customer Discussion areas for their book are an example? You have to wonder why on earth they are so afraid of alternative explanations, as honest examination should welcome them respectfully, not try to shout them down as happens.
3. Why the strange `misreporting' in the relating of results, such as the DNA evidence submitted and Dr. Matheson's report distorted?
If you want a book that makes you think, question, and look at things from all angles, buy Dr. White's book. In fact, a side by side comparison of each book reveals which one is written fairly, honestly, and intelligently.