Friday, March 02, 2007

Do bones of Jesus disprove Christianity?

Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers

-- Depeche Mode, "Personal Jesus"

The media and blogosphere is abuzz (is that even a word?) with talk of the bones of Jesus being found by James Cameron, of all people.

Apparently Channel 4's Richard and Judy held a discussion on how this discovery, if true, would affect the Christian faith.

According to my brother [HT: James Roberts] who watched it (I can't find a youtube link):

The debate was actually pretty complicated for teatime viewing, and although hugely hypothetical as how would you prove Jesus' bones were his, it was interesting to see such things being discussed on Richard and Judy including the quoting of scripture and Richard and Judy giving there views - Judy that she would still be Christian regardless and Richard agreeing with the viewpoint that Jesus' rise from the dead was so critical to Christianity that would prove untenable to still be a Christian if you accepted that Jesus' bones had been found.

In my opinion, if Jesus died (and therefore has not been ressurected and bodily ascended), then our faith is based on nothing more than legend, myth, folklore, fable, and feelings. Its value is reduced to nothing more than a personal philosophy, a self-helping post-modern belief which has no real substance and which ignores the solid data of history and reality. We enter the realm of meta-physics, of relativism, where each faith becomes equal. In other words, the historically based faith of Christianity collapses into generic religion or some form of paganism or new-age belief. (What do you think?)

For those that want the detail, this has been covered fairly well elsewhere in the blogosphere, try Scott McKnight, Mark Goodacre and Ben Witherington III for much more detail and analysis.

Again, my question is, if this was true, how would it affect your faith?


Rupert Ward said...

How on earth are they going to prove that these bones are the bones of Jesus? They might be able to get DNA from the bones, but to prove it is Jesus, they would need his DNA, and i am pretty sure that isn't going to happen.

No bones about it: its a dead story :-)

Alastair said...

Of course, it is extremely unlikely that Jesus' DNA does survive to this day, making identification nearly impossible. I believe the identification was done by statistical analysis, i.e. the likelyhood that these names would all appear together given that they are the names of Jesus' family members.

At any rate, the main problem is that this is just re-inforcing the popular-level belief that Christianity is a farce, a cover-up, a stupid brain-dead religion that is well past its sell by date. Why is that? Partly due to the church's mistakes, but partly due to Christians losing touch with the historical reality of their faith. Which was the point of my blog posting. How can any Christian say that even is Jesus died like any other man, this would not affect their faith?

One comment I read elsewhere was a farce, saying that the assertion that Jesus' bones had been found was not contradicting the ressurection belief.

Errr...yes it does. Do we need to teach people logic, or do we need to teach what the ressurection actually is? Lets face it, Joe Bloggs hasn't a clue about the ressurection of Jesus. Perhaps the Church can help by explaining the significance. N T Wright is a great help here (The Ressurection of the Son of God).

Rupert Ward said...

Good points alastair. I pretty much agree with ... so no debate there! It does seem that if you have no resurrection that what you are left with is not really Christian faith as we know it ... and clearly you have some difficulty in interpreting 1 Cor 15!

I still don't think anyone could ever prove it was Jesus' bones or grave. Statistical analysis or not, i still don't buy it, and don't think i ever will.

Alastair said...


James D said...

Since, from what i can gather, much of Cameron's theory seems to rely upon statistics - that a group of people with all those names would be highly unlikely and therefore the tomb found relates to Jesus Christ. But what did they actually calulate this on? The only 3 names of any significance for me is Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. All very common names, and it's not unlikely to have these three names in the same family. It just so happens, that there was a second Mary in the family, and the guy called Jesus who had a son called Judah.

Another statistical point. How many families were there during the 1st Century in Jerusalem? I don't know how big Jerusalem was but i'm guessing tens of thousands as a minimum. What's the chance that this tomb found just happens to be that specific one - that's if one ever existed for this 'family group'. I think you'll find that statistics will show this to be significantly less likely than three random people having the names Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Apologies for not answering your specific question.

Adam said...

Yeah, this story is hilarious! I think someone must have got 1st March confused with 1st April :o)