A team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago, working with the Israeli Museum of Aniquities, has disovered a burial site three kilometers outside Jerusalem with remains of three to five bodies believed to date from the 1st century AD. "It was the custom to bury executed criminals in common graves," said Dr. Erma Terstoff of the Chicago team. "Burying someone as insignificant as Jesus of Nazareth in a rich man's tomb always struck me as a bit odd. Now there's proof." Asked why he felt certain that one of the bodies was that of Jesus, Dr Herman Goldschmidt of the Israeli team replied, "Why not? Maybe you've got a better answer?"
Members of the team announced that fragments of wood were found among the remains as well as a number of
"clavi" or iron nails, used in crucifixion. Also found was a substantial but badly effaced "plaque" with the name IESOUS and the first letters of the place-name NAZareth still discernible. "The gospels say that a plaque like this was fastened to the top of the cross by order of Pontius Pilate and that it read "Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews," in three languages. You can imagine how surprised we were to find this."
The teams acknowledged that it would be next to impossible, given the condition of the skeletal remains, to determine which one was the body of Jesus of Nazareth. "It's the one with God DNA," chuckled Dr Goldshmidt, "But seriously, the important thing is we've got him, not so much which one he is." Dr Terstoof added, 'He was about five feet tall, maybe taller but we can't find the fibulas."
Vatican officials told of the discovery registered surprise and skepticism. "Of course the church has always believed in miracles, but we had hoped for a slightly different one," said Cardinal Johann Malinger of Austria, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Doctrine. "It may be him, it may not. If it is, we will just have to learn to live with it. If it is not, of course, we're in a considerably better position to talk about the resurrection."
The president of the National Association of Evangelicals in the USA did not respond to calls, but the group posted a headline on its webpage that read "Atheists Claim to have Found the Body of Jesus Christ!," asking prayer warriors to unite in a world day of spiritual assault against "Satanic science."
Liberal protestant theologians were considerably more receptive to the find. "Of course, we value the idea of resurrection as an axial theological premise of the most enormous consequence for faith," said Dr Hans Kung of Tuebingen University in Germany. "But as matter of historical as opposed to historic faciticity we should not be led astray by the distended assumptions of our age into believing that, as it were, he actually 'rose' from the grave."
Professor Gerd Luedemann of Marburg was more direct
after learning of the discovery. "You mean he really existed? This is most interesting and really in keeping with a possibility I have entertained off and on for some years now."
By permission of the Israeli Department of Antiquities, 2 1/2 bodies will be retained in Israel for display and the remaining 2 1/2 prepared for display at the Museum of Near Eastern Studies in Chicago.