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Dr Wright sceptical about bones

by Rachel Harden

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Discovery: museum staff in Bet Shemesh, Israel, wheel out the ossuaries at the centre of the new controversy AP/EMPICS

Discovery: museum staff in Bet Shemesh, Israel, wheel out the ossuaries at the centre of the new controversy AP/EMPICS

THE BISHOP of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, had dismissed the findings of a new documentary to be screened on Sunday, which claims that Jesus’s tomb has been discovered in a district of Jerusalem.

The film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, is directed by James Cameron, who won an Oscar for Titanic. It claims that ten ancient ossuaries, small caskets used to store bones, may have contained the remains of Jesus and his family.

Israeli construction workers building an apartment complex in 1980 found the ossuaries in a tomb. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, six of the ossuaries were marked with the names Mary, Matthew, Jesua son of Joseph, Mary, Jofa (Joseph, Jesus’s brother) and Judah, son of Jesua.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dr Wright dismissed the claims, saying that every few years someone went through the Israeli ossuary sites and found similar names. “What we have to realise is that it is like looking through a London phone book, and seeing the names John and Mary Smith. There are lots of them, just as in Jewish history these other names were very common.”

Although film-makers said this pointed to the existence of Jesus, no serious historian ever supposed this to be the case, said Dr Wright.

Historians and archaeologists in Jerusalem have joined church leaders in dismissing the claims, saying that the film’s hypothesis holds little weight. Professor L. Michael White of the University of Texas told Reuters that the claims were archaeologically unsound.

The film is to be screened on the Discovery Channel.

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