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Though Easter is well out of the way till next year, the celebrant is still stirring up controversy. Archaeologists working in Jerusalem, claim to have found a discovery inside a burial tomb, dating back to the time of Jesus Christ that could shed more light on the origins of Christianity.
The team of Archaeologists which comprised of controversial filmmaker Jacobovici with three Emmys for outstanding Investigative Journalism and his archaeology team and Biblical historian Professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina are convinced that several pieces of evidence found in the tomb, including a 2,000- year –old engraving on the side of the burial site, human bone boxes, the close proximity to the burial site in the 1980s containing the remains of Jesus family all points to the authenticity of their claim.
The find is 200ft away from an earlier discovery known as the Jesus Family Tomb, which caused a lot of controversy after it was uncovered in the 1980s. Archaeologists then claimed it contained ossuaries inscribed with names associated with Jesus's family. This discovery ignited the theory that Mary Magdalene was buried alongside Jesus and he had married and raised a family with her. However many leading theologians were quick to quash such claims.
The Jesus Family Tomb could not be properly examined due to protest by Orthodox Jews. The site was sealed up and a tower block built over it. Determined to continue the research, Professor Tabor teamed up with film maker Jacobovici. The pair obtained permission from the Israeli government to explore the area. The researchers, who believe the tombs are located in a land that was owned by Joseph of Arimathea at the time, claims this site is unique because they found a limestone box known as an ossuarie with an inscription and another box carrying a drawing of a fish with a stick figure in its mouth which Professor Tabor believes to refer to the story of Jonah and the Whale. The limestone carries a Greek inscription and is open to interpretation as meanings of words could be lost during translation.
The interpretation so far are; "O Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up" or "The Divine Jehovah raises up to the Holy Place" or "The Divine Jehovah raises up from." Professor Tabor said 'this inscription has something to do with resurrection of the dead, either of the deceased in the ossuary, or perhaps, given the Jonah image nearby, an expression of faith in Jesus' resurrection.
The ossuary with the image that Tabor and his team understand to be representing Jonah also has other interesting engravings. These also may be connected to resurrection, Tabor notes. On one side is the tail of a fish disappearing off the edge of the box, as if it is diving into the water.
There are small fish images around its border on the front facing, and on the other side is the image of a cross-like gate or entrance—which Tabor interprets as the notion of entering the 'bars' of death, which are mentioned in the Jonah story in the Bible. The high tech excavation was done using a camera mounted on a robotic arm, so as to explore the ancient burial site without disturbing anything.
Speaking about his feelings during the excavation, Professor Tabor said "It's almost like a moonscape feeling of something eerie, something kind of silent- a reverent feeling really," Because these people died 2,000 years ago and now we are investigating their last memories, how they bury their dead, what they left behind, so that was there and then the excitement of, 'Well will there be something we'll find or will we find just another Jewish tomb'?"
Though Professor Tabor and his team are certain they have discovered Jesus final resting place and his remains, however, other scholars are extremely sceptical. Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of religious studies at Duke University, who specialises in the New Testament, told ABC News that the fish engraving is actually no such thing.
He said: 'When is a fish not a fish? When it has handles, matching handles. It's a vessel. It's a vase. It's a vase that looks like many of the ones that you'll find in the early Roman period.' He added that there is no firm evidence relating to Jesus in either tomb.
He also thinks that Tabor and his team heads are "full of DaVinci Code," referring to the 2003 mystery novel written by Dan Brown about the descendants of Jesus Concurring is University of Iowa assistant professor of classics and religious studies Robert Cargill who thinks the story is bogus, saying that there are "clearly handles on the top of the so-called ‘Jonah fish' image. No credible scholar except those that work with or for Simcha on this or some other project believe his conclusions… The evidence does not support their sensational claims. But that doesn't stop them from wanting it to be true, so in their minds, it's true."