Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find by Simcha Jacobovici, James Cameron, Charles Pellegrino, Charles Pellegrino |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find
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Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find

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by Simcha Jacobovici, James Cameron, Charles Pellegrino, Charles Pellegrino

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The Jesus Family Tomb tells the story of what may very well be the greatest archaeological find of all time—the discovery of the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. Following the accidental bulldozing of a tomb during the building of a housing complex in suburban Jerusalem in 1980, archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority were immediately


The Jesus Family Tomb tells the story of what may very well be the greatest archaeological find of all time—the discovery of the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. Following the accidental bulldozing of a tomb during the building of a housing complex in suburban Jerusalem in 1980, archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority were immediately called to the scene. Inside, the archaeologists found ten ossuaries—limestone boxes that served as first-century coffins. Six had inscriptions, including Jesus, son of Joseph; two Marys; and Judah, son of Jesus. The team concluded that the unusual group of names was merely coincidence. After removing and cataloging the ossuaries, they left the tomb to the builders to finish what they had already started.

Twenty-five years later, Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy award-winning journalist, tracked down the ossuaries in the Israeli Antiquities Authority's warehouse and decided to investigate this remarkable collection of names. Simcha mapped and then located the original tomb, which, to his surprise, was still intact. Granted unequaled access, he soon found that the archaeologists were unaware of key evidence that made this the discovery of a lifetime.

This is a story that is destined to grab international headlines and raise fundamental questions about the historical Jesus. Are the "Jesus" and "Mary" referred to in these inscriptions the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the gospels? Readers are taken on a remarkable journey: from telling statistical analysis, to a time-bending trip across two millennia, and an investigation of the patinas and DNA of the tombs that makes an episode of CSI look mundane. The Jesus Family Tomb arrives at an extraordinary answer to an ancient mystery.

A riveting combination of history, archaeo-logy, and theology, this book will change the way we think about God, religion, and everything we have learned about the life and death of Jesus.

Editorial Reviews

John Dominic Crossan
“This discovery is potentially the last nail in the coffin of biblical literalism”
Today Show
“Absolutely fascinating . . . many would argue the biggest story or one of the biggest stories of our lifetime.”
“A slick and suspenseful narrative. . . . Jacobovici is a maverick, a self-made Indiana Jones.”
In 1980, workers at a Jerusalem construction site accidentally uncovered a cache of bone boxes from early Christian times. When reports about the crypt discovery leaked out 16 years later, the London Sunday Times headlined the story as "THE TOMB THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME." Now the full story will be told. In 2005, documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici obtained permission to break through the apartment floor and reenter the tomb. Part archaeological detective story and part early Christian history, The Jesus Family Tomb is a narrative as riveting as any novel.

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Read an Excerpt

The Jesus Family Tomb

The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History
By Simcha Jacobovici

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Simcha Jacobovici
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061192029

Chapter One

Vault of the Ages

The most famous death in history was the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Two millennia ago, in Jerusalem, Jesus was scourged and executed by Roman soldiers. The Gospels tell us that his body was taken down from the cross, shrouded in cloth, and placed in a family tomb belonging to one of his followers, Joseph of Arimathea.

On the third day, Mary Magdalene, Jesus's trusted disciple, found the tomb empty—a moment that marks the origin of the Christian belief in the Resurrection.

Out of all the millions of words and thoughts devoted to this event, how many people have ever asked why Jesus's body was placed in a tomb carved out of stone in the first place, and not simply buried in the ground?

According to ancient Jewish laws still in effect today, bodies had to be interred in the ground before sundown on the day of death. Family tombs, cut into rock, qualified as "in the ground." In most places, the bedrock of Jerusalem lay barely more than a few inches below the ground surface. For this reason, the dead were placed in preexisting tunnels, dug into local hillsides. During much of the first century C.E., mostof Jerusalem's tombs were man-made caves, hewn from solid rock and located just outside the city walls. Usually a tomb consisted of two chambers. In the outer chamber, the body was anointed with perfumes, spices, and oils, then shrouded in cloth. Archaeological evidence from hundreds of first-century tombs excavated in the Jerusalem hills is perfectly consistent with descriptions of Jesus's burial as described in the four Gospels. According to both archaeology and the Gospels, the tomb would have been sealed by rolling a large stone in front of its entrance. Behind the seal stone, lying in state in its white shroud, the body was ordinarily given a full year to decompose. After the flesh had vanished, the shrouded bones were collected from the outer, temporary burial chamber and placed in a small limestone box called an ossuary. Occasionally an occupant's name would be inscribed on one side of the ossuary, which was then placed for permanent burial in a small niche deep within the tomb. Eventually ossuaries representing three or more generations from the same family might be sealed, one after another, in a tomb's innermost niches.

No one knows why the practice of using ossuaries began just prior to the birth of Jesus. Some archaeologists and theologians suspect that the Jewish belief in a bodily Resurrection led to the gathering of bones, to be preserved for the Day of Judgment.

Regardless of the reason, the Gospels attest to great concern among Jesus's followers about shrouding his body and placing it in a tomb. Because he died late on a Friday afternoon, they needed to bring him to a tomb quickly, before the arrival of sunset and the holy Sabbath. Joseph of Arimathea's newly hewn family tomb was nearby, and it would serve Jesus's family until the body could be moved to a permanent resting place.

The Gospels also say that on Sunday, before he could be moved, Jesus conquered death, left the tomb empty, and later, on several separate occasions and in several forms, appeared before his disciples.

But the Gospels also hint at an alternative explanation for Jesus's empty tomb. Matthew says there was another story circulating in Jerusalem after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Although Matthew calls it a lie, according to the rumor, Jesus's disciples secretly came by night and stole away with their Master's body. As Matthew tells it, the story persisted among Jews for a very long time (Matthew 28:11–15).

If the disciples took the body, there is only one thing they could have done with it. They would have reburied it.

If Jesus was reburied, his family would have waited for his flesh to disappear and then stored his bones in an ossuary, sealed away forever deep in the recesses of his family tomb.

Spring 1980

About eleven o'clock on the morning of March 28, 1980, with the Christian season of Lent already a month old and almost over, first light entered a tomb, beneath the treads of a bulldozer. On this exceptionally beautiful Friday, the entire south face of the tomb's antechamber fell away to reveal what looked for all the world like a doorway; carved above it was a symbol that none of the construction crew had ever seen before.

No one really understood what an array of dynamite detonations and a bulldozer mishap had revealed until the next day, after the Sabbath had arrived, the dust had settled, and a little army of diabolical schoolboys had discovered a collection of strange, new playthings in the ground.

That is how it began.

And that is how it almost ended.

If not for Rivka Maoz and a couple of engineers who revered the past, the damage might have known no end until the losses became epic, without anyone's ever suspecting what had been lost.

Rivka's family lived within a few meters of the construction site. She happened to be studying archaeology as part of her certification to become a tour guide in Jerusalem. Rivka was a newcomer to Israel and to Judaism. She had emigrated from France. And so it happened that every night her eleven-year-old son, Ouriel, who quickly became fluent in Hebrew, read Rivka books about the Old City, its Temple, and its tombs.

On that Friday the boy had come running home after lunch, begging his mother to come see what he was certain could be nothing other than an ancient tomb, newly exposed. But when Rivka called the Department of Antiquities (later the Israel Antiquities Authority, or IAA), she was told that the afternoon was already half over and that, in preparation for the Sabbath, all the offices were closing down.

Rivka tried to make the IAA understand that she had seen the tomb entrance. There was no doubt in her mind that an important discovery had been revealed. She urged them to send someone to guard the tomb lest antiquities dealers, or their henchmen, come by night and steal away with the entire contents of the cave; the best that anyone could promise, however, was to issue a command to halt all dynamiting near the tomb and to send archaeologists to the site early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath was over.


Excerpted from The Jesus Family Tomb by Simcha Jacobovici Copyright © 2007 by Simcha Jacobovici. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

John Dominic Crossan
“This discovery is potentially the last nail in the coffin of biblical literalism”

Meet the Author

Simcha Jacobovici is an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer and a widely published writer and lecturer. His articles have appeared around the globe in publications such as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Currently the host of The Naked Archaeologist on the History Channel, Simcha Jacobovici lives in Toronto.

Charles Pellegrino is the author of numerous internationally bestselling books. Her Name, Titanic sold over a million copies and was one of the nonfiction sources for James Cameron's movie Titanic. Several of Pellegrino's books have been adapted for Time Life and National Geographic specials, including Unearthing Atlantis. He has a Ph.D. in paleobiology and is one of a small number of scientists who brought forensic science methods into the field of archaeology. As a forensic archaeologist, he has worked on the Titanic, in Pompeii and its sister cities, and at New York's Ground Zero.

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Jesus Family Tomb 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read a lot of criticism about this book and it's sister documentary that aired on the Discovery Channel last week. I have watched the documentary and have just finished the book. A lot of what people are saying about the book just isn't true and it's obvious that most people who review it haven't actually read it. The authors have really done their homework and are the first to say that its a theory they can't prove, but they provide you with very compelling evidence and ask you to judge for yourself. They are careful to be very conservative with their approach and asked the the experts they consulted to try and disprove this theory. They wanted them to look at it with a very critical eye and genuinely attempt to make an unbiased judgment. You will see in the documentary and also in the book that they include the comments of people who agreed with them as well as people who disagreed. I have followed the works of Simcha Jacobovici for a while now and have always been very pleased with his investigations. He always approaches ideas with an open mind and a desire to learn the truth, whatever that may be. This is a very controversial issue, and it's getting a lot of negativity from the media and a lot of religious people unwilling to think outside of the box. I am a christian and Simcha's theories do not undermine my faith in the least. I believe God could do anything he wanted to, and if you read this book I think you will be very intrigued and impressed. Think for yourself...look into it and don't jump to conclusions based on what the popular concensus is at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it in one sitting I think you will too. Well done Simcha, keep up the good work!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Jesus Family Tomb The Jesus Family Tomb by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino reads like a murder mystery or a cheap spy thriller. It is interesting and holds the reader¿s attention despite a glaring misrepresentation of accepted investigative procedures. Jacobovici and Pellegrino have an agenda and the facts are made to fit. There are several misleading and non-factual theories presented. The alleged ¿Jesus, son of Joseph¿ ossuary may actually be inscribed ¿Hanan¿ according to Dr. Stephen J Pfann, a noted expert in Semitic languages who agrees with ancient phonetic writing scholar, Dr. Rochelle Altmann, about the inscription on the alleged Jesus bone box. There are also experts in disagreement with the so-called Mary Magdalene ossuary inscription. Both Richard Bauckman of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and Ben Witherington, a professor at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, believe the inscription speaks of two people placed in the same bone box, a common practice in first century Judea. The authors state that by statistical analysis the chances are 600 to 1 in favor of this being the Jesus Family tomb. However, the reliability of the assumptions made prior to the analysis, along with the way they are stated in words, is critical to the acceptability of the results of the analysis. Any statistical analysis that accepts disputed data and rhetorical debris-¿In¿- will produce garbage-¿Out.¿- What are the numerous assumptions accepted as fact concerning the ossuaries? This is the relevant analysis question to be addressed before the statistics are reviewed. The use of DNA analysis in The Jesus Family Tomb provides a popular appeal in addition to a scientific aura. The subsequent DNA analysis of two ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb showed that they were not linked by DNA. However, there had been looters in the tomb and in the ossuaries. Dr. Ian Barnes of the University of London says that there is a good chance that ¿the DNA belongs to someone who excavated the tomb.¿ It is totally absurd to do a mitochondrial DNA analysis on two ossuaries that have disputed inscriptions, (out of the ten ossuaries present in the Talpiot Tomb), then theorize that Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene were married and had a son, Judah. ¿Patina¿ testing is a method of analyzing mineral deposits, which build up on artifacts over years to determine the archaeological origin of those artifacts. The James ossuary, displayed in 2002, is linked by Jacobovici and Pellegrino to the Jesus tomb by patina testing. The James bone box has a forged inscription which says ¿James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.¿ Dr. Ronny Reich of Haifa University in Israel says that the inscription patina of James ossuary is fraudulent. The most disturbing inconsistency in The Jesus Family Tomb is the selective reliance on New Testament scriptures. The genealogy of Mary is cited (Luke 3:23-38) as an example of numerous ¿Matthews¿ in Jesus¿ family. It is an attempt to rationalize the Matthew bone box and its auspicious presence in the Talpiot tomb (p.78). Jacobovici also cites Acts 1:23-26 as though it carries historical authority (p.78). He also quotes Mark 6:3 which names Joseph as one of Jesus¿ brothers. Jocobovici and Pellegrino use this canonical scripture to reference Joseph as historical fact (p.77). The authors quote the New Testament as authoritative in saying Philip was the apostle to the Greek-speaking Jews (p.206). Jocobovici quotes Mark 15:26 saying the Romans referred to Jesus as King of the Jews (p.90). The authors quote John 2:19 about Jesus claim to rebuild the temple in three days (p.28). The aforementioned citing are a sampling of Jocabovici and Pellegrino¿s selective splicing of their tale with New Testament scriptures which are, historically, the only support for their background information. No justification is presented for trusting certain texts over others. As illustrat
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't listen to the scared religious people. This is not a money making scheme at all. He (Simcha) even said himself in the documentary that he didn't believe it at first that it was the tomb of Jesus, and he said he tried to disprove it every step of the way. Simcha is a great reporter and doing his duty as a reporter and as a human, although it was not him who found the tomb, he uncovered it after 16 years and made the story. I don't want to ruin the twists and turns in the book, so I'll leave you with saying that they came to a conclusion that there is a 1/600 chance that the tomb does not belong to Jesus. This may ruin the Christian faith or reshape the bible drasticly, give it a try
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I read this book, I thought it was going to be factual. But what I found was pure speculation based on very minute facts. This is where I was disappointed. What I found interesting was about the ossuary practice and the highlight of Jewish customs, but aside from that, this book brings barely a foot note to anything -- no wonder it wasn't endorsed by scholars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think we need to look into this case more seriouly, and see the truth for what it is. Jesus was a man, he lived, he died, and all we hear about him today are the legends that arose after his death. I believe in GOD, but I can't believe in Jesus without proof. Maybe this is the proof that he was just another man. That he lived, married, had children, and died. His followers would have had him barried with great honor. The founder of modern Chritianity, Paul, never knew Jesus, never meet him, and never saw him resurrected. He and his followers wrote almost all the New Testament. That says alot. We may someday know the truth, and I feel that reading books like this, with an open mind, can bring us closer to that truth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What an incredible find. For the naysayers, read the book before you form an opinion. If Mary and Joseph were from the line of David they were anything but poor as one reader has stated. And remember, Jesus had many well-to-do followers. Read the book, the findings can't be ignored. It takes nothing away from Jesus and does everything to strengthen it though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is ridiculous In the wake of the team's assemblage, Jacobovici and crew begin the wild speculation. Speculation upon speculation, in fact. Four, first-century canonical gospels (the gospels of the Bible) are tossed aside in favor of a fourth/fifth century fantasy, the Acts of Philip in order to force fit Mary Magdalene's name on the most critical ossuary to the author's case. Why is using the Acts of Philip an issue? Well, imagine a novelist today (2007) writing fiction about America's founders with ridiculous conversations and details in them that are not backed up by eye-witness accounts (that we have had for over 200 years) and then imagine 1,700 years from now that people start writing about the novel as a reliable witness of the ideology and events of this era. And lets say Betsy Ross is called `Old Bet' in the fictional account today and then 1700 years from now `Old Bet' is considered a legitimate 18th century name that was used for her then. That is essentially the reasoning we are talking about here and this kind of thing happens over and over again in the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is, quite frankly, the most obscure and contradicting book I have ever read. If anything, it's stupidity will lead others to lose all faith in science. Good job guys...another useless attempt to tear down a faith that no one is forcing you to believe in...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author makes an obvious attempt create' a controversy. It reads as if there is a movie in mind, not as a genuine academic journal. It has holes in the conclusions it draws that are ridiculous. A sincere was of time !!!
Suzie_BookAuthor More than 1 year ago
All things concerning the Talpiot tomb and the ossuaries intrigue me. I look for areas where such information relates to my own research. In "The Jesus Family Tomb", I had no difficulty whatever making a connection with my own research and conclusions. One must first understand the concept of an ossuary or burial box. Jewish tradition includes the concept of a Genizah to hold sacred relics until proper burial. This could include bone relics, worn out copies of scripture, et cetera. However, it was not just a Jewish innovation. In India, Hindus and Buddhists cremate their dead. Just as in modern times, ashes and small bone fragments were/are saved and distributed as relics to priests and temples, or as personal family property. When Gautama Siddharta, Buddha, was cremated, about a dozen bone and tooth fragments were distributed to watts, shrines, and temples. To hold these relics, stupas were built. Some were small and simple, others huge and very elaborate. Stupas can hold other relics, not just bones. There are bone relics of Magdalene and of the apostle Thomas thousands of miles away from where they allegedly died. Thomas was killed in India in 72 AD. Several of his bone relics are intact today in India, and as far away as Hungary and Cyprus. Recently the DNA of the apostle Luke was recovered from a small bone fragment in Italy. The results are published at several Internet sites. Thus, we see that the concept of distributing bones among ossuaries would account for remains of Jesus to turn up in France, in Kashmir, and back in Jerusalem. One tomb could hold a few bones of relatives who died far away and long ago, rather like a final family gathering place. As families migrated, it would not be unreasonable to carry a few bone relics of each beloved dead ancestor. The Chinese follow similar traditions. The names on the Talpiot are equally valid claims. Each may indeed represent a member of Jesus family, even though only one tooth or bone fragment from each person was included in that ossuary and that tomb. I was very intrigued by the symbol above the tomb entrance. I had been studying tamgas in India and Kashmir and immediately recognized this symbol as a tamga. Entire families can be traced for thousands of years migrations because they retained their family tamga. As soon as the first photos were released I contacted Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. James Tabor regarding investigation of this tamga, but nothing further was done. This remains an important area of research into this tomb. I think the critics of this book need to take a broader historical view and acknowledge that many of the premise and assumptions of this book are valid. (I am avoiding any religious connotations. I leave that for religious scholars). I recommend this book for reading, and advise that readers wait....I think more information about this is yet to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Somewhat disappointed. They assume that these ossuaries are immediately related but the only DNA tests done show they're not related. The practice of ossuaries started from 1st century BC to 2nd century AD (not 70 AD!). They assume they are all immediately related to make the statistics, the truth is, this Jesus could have been a Jesus from the 1st century BC, or a Mary from 70 AD, or a Matthew from 10 AD. Big hole on this Titanic of a book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have also seen the documentary and if indeed this is the tomb that holds the family of Jesus,his earthly father Joseph, Holy Mother Mary, Mary Magdaline and James. This would make sense, because they would have had to have been burried somewhere right. I do not believe that Jesus is there, because I beleive in the Ascension. But because his family was held in precious regard who is to say that this may indeed be the final resting place of his family and it could have been done in secret. Joseph of Arimathea (he was a rich man) offered his tomb for Jesus,s burial before he ascended, so who is to say this is not the resting place of Mary Magdalana and Joseph, James and Our Blessed Mother. Before I pass judgement, I want to know more about the tomb itself, who else maybe in there? Why did the IAA stop them from going in to the tomb any further. I do not fear the tomb or the answers, Jesus for me sits at the right hand of the Father. This book is best read with and open mind. For those who believe, it will not cause them to loose there faith and history has been replete with naysayers and Christianity is still here and will stay. Simcha has a keen mind and asks questions. It is up to the reader to see the the bigger picture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A noted archaeologist said of this new and latest alleged find: 'Jesus was the son of a poor mother and poor carpenter these graves are the kind the wealthy were buried in' Save your money on yet another attempt to criticize Christianity. It always amazes me why people fear Christianity, hence their trying in vain to discredit it. Could it be because there is lots and lots of money behind their attempts? What on earth does one have to fear? Unless of course, one is an unbeliever. Think about it. The previous tripe, the DaVinci Code, bombed in the theaters, and was proven to be nothing more than a money seeking HOAX. Here's another. Save your money.
Mistress_Nyte More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating book! Regardless of your religious beliefs, it's fascinating! I've read this book more than once, and each time I've read it, I become more fascinated by what the authors have to say.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Remember Galileo and Copernicus, etc.? The 'church' used riducule and persecution to counter their findings, until full acceptance of their discoveries became undeniable. 'The Jesus Family Tomb' project is receiving the same treatment by scared Christians now. Anyone who reads the book or watches the DVD for themselves, and has any objectivity, will be more than intrigued as the research is not dismissible. This is not hoax material. If the information in the 'Tomb' project is finally completely verified (and it could very well be) only blind fundamentalists will cling to the old traditions. Truly spiritual people should take heed of this potential world sea-change. The world will be better off thanks to the committed documentarians who produced this book and film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone interested in first century biblical archaelogy will find this interesting!
GreatHistory More than 1 year ago
great story telling, history, and evidence make for a great book....i wish he would write more
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a difficult read due to the interweaving of scientific details 'photos and spectrum analyses' with the 'commercial religious speculations and implications' of the tombs. The archeological significance is almost obscured by dialogue revealing obsequious coat-tailing of '$$ Dan' 'a modern money tree' by the Discovery and History Channel actors and interests. The major archeological 'and perhaps religious' value of the tomb is in the apparent discovery of the James ossuary's provenance. It is unclear whether the forensic potential of chemical analysis of tomb dust/debris has been demonstrated.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Why is it so disturbing to do research into all archeological finds... Jesus was a man, once a baby and child, raised by parents...wouldn't it be amazing to know more of his life on earth as all great historical figures. It seems religious folk fear scientific finds that may only shed light on Jesus' early life and human life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will crush your phony religous beliefs and tell the true story of 'Jesus'. A must read for all who want more than the drivel of the phony believers of the greatest fraud ever laid upon the masses. Great work and a great read. Bravo!