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Director defends Jesus tomb findings

Oscar-winning director James Cameron's controversial new documentary, which claims that Jesus may not have only been buried with a wife, but a son as well, adds an intriguing new piece but certainly doesn't solve the 2,000-year-old puzzle of the life and death of Christ, the filmmaker said in an exclusive interview on TODAY.

“I'm not an archaeologist. I'm a filmmaker,” said Cameron, who won the Academy Award for Best Director in 1998 for Titanic. “I looked at the evidence initially, and as a layman I found it to be compelling .... I haven't seen anything that contradicts the initial hypothesis.”

“The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which premieres March 4 on the Discovery Channel, chronicles recent efforts to apply modern science and new understanding of Jesus and his followers to the 1980 discovery of a set of ossuaries, or “bone boxes,” under what is now an apartment complex near Jerusalem.

Cameron and investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici, who wrote a companion book, “The Jesus Family Tomb,” are defending their work against criticism that they are riding the coattails of Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code” and are trying to profit from promoting theories discredited by archaeologists when the limestone boxes were discovered 27 years ago.

Appearing on TODAY on Monday, Cameron and Jacobovici said statisticians who have looked at markings on the bone boxes estimate that the probability that the remains uncovered in 1980 are not those of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, a son of Jesus and other relatives are more than 100 to 1.

“I think people have their specific agendas and their specific kind of knee-jerk reactions, but I think when they see the film and they see how the evidence is presented, then they should comment,” said Cameron.

TODAY host Meredith Vieira, who read the book and watched the documentary, said the implications are astounding given that billions of people have been taught that Jesus was resurrected both in spirit and body, ascended to heaven, never married and had no offspring. The film and book, if accepted, could shake the church that Jesus founded to its core.

“If this is correct, what are the implications? They're huge,” Vieira said.

“They are huge, but they are not necessarily the implications that people think they are,” Jacobovici said. “For example, some people are going to say, ‘This challenges the Resurrection.’ I don't know why. If Jesus rose from one tomb, he could have risen from the other tomb.”

According to Cameron and Jacobovici, the bones discovered in the limestone boxes in 1980 were quickly reburied, following the Jewish traditions. Archaeologists quickly discounted the theory that the boxes contained the bones of Jesus and his family because the names inscribed on the boxes were quite common in the region during the 1st Century.

Jacobovici said that the archaeologists who were so quick to dismiss the find never asked statisticians for an opinion about the likelihood that boxes inscribed with names like Joseph, Mary and Jesus would all be found in the same place and be dated back to the time that Jesus lived and taught.

“They are common names, these were archaeologists. They never went to statisticians,” Jacobovici said. “We're just reporting the news. We're not statisticians. We're not theologians .... Now the debate is going to begin because statisticians say it is significant. DNA experts say it is significant.”

“The Lost Tomb of Jesus” airs March 4 on the Discovery Channel at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT.

John Springer, TODAY contributor

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