As the Passover season approaches every year, there is always someone ‘discovering’ an amazing new ‘proof’ that Jesus didn’t die and rise again. This year it’s the story of the empty ossuary. An ossuary is a stone box used to store the bones of the dead. In 1980 someone discovered a family tomb in Jerusalem containing ossuaries inscribed with names of Judah son of Jesus, Joshua son of Joseph, and Mary. At the time, scholars dismissed the find as of no particular religious significance and released the bones for interment. Now, 27 years later, the story has risen from the tomb once again. A spurious DNA test that proves nothing, a bit of statistical analysis, and the promoters draw a startling conclusion – Jesus didn’t die on the cross but instead lived on to marry Mary Magdalene and produced a son by her. It’s a fantastic story in the full sense of the word (bazaar, incredible, unlikely, and imaginary) and it is as devoid of substance as the ossuaries are of bones.
The whole thing is perhaps just an attempt to make money, but the motivation could be more sinister. Paul wrote ‘…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (1 Corinthians 15:14). So, from the very first, the Holy Spirit laid down the challenge – prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead and you prove Christianity to be false. Why should this be the ultimate test of the truth of the Christian message? Firstly, because Jesus said that he would rise again (John 2:19) and if he did not then he is a liar and not the truth he claimed to be (john 14:6). Secondly, whilst his death settled the penalty for the violated covenant between God and man, his resurrection provided the basis for new and eternal spiritual life. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we would be pardoned sinners but we would still be spiritually dead!
The truth is that the ossuaries are empty, and so is the tomb of Jesus described in the Gospels! The ossuaries originally contained the bones of some well-to-do residents of pre-modern Jerusalem. The tomb described in the scriptures contained the body of Jesus for just a few days. After he rose from the dead, the tomb contained only his burial linen as evidence that he had risen.
I can understand why unscrupulous business people try to make money from ‘discoveries’ such as the one I have described. I find it harder to understand why any sensible people, let alone Christians, find anything credible in their bazaar tales. A few years ago, it was the story that Jesus had married and produced a daughter. Last year a fiction writer picked up on this and made millions. Today it’s the tale of the empty ossuaries. Next year it will be something else.
Isaiah lamented that ‘truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’. (59:15) This is especially true in our day. Yet, there has always been one who is, in himself, the truth – his name is Jesus. I have just completed a book entitled ‘Truth is the Word’. It deals with how we establish truth, the truth claims of the Bible, and how we interpret biblical truth. In it, I make the assertion that Jesus is the source of truth. You can order the book from www.chrispy.co.za.
The ossuraies are empty, the tomb is empty, but the Truth lives on!