I’m willing to bet that archaeologists will soon find the tomb of Jesus Christ. We’ve already had some close calls; the family tomb that included a Mary and Joseph; the tomb of the ‘brother of Jesus’; and of course the Turin shroud which continues to be used as evidence for the historical Jesus. During the time of Roman occupation of Israel there were many Jewish revolts and an earnest expectation of the Messiah, a rising king from the line of David who would overthrow the Romans and restore Jesus rule. From the gospel story it is clear that Jesus became identified with this figure; but there were almost certainly other rebel leaders, who could have had followers who believed the same things about them, and may have inscribed “king of the Jews” or “Messiah” somewhere in or around their tomb.
This would be more than enough for archaeologists; just today in the news it was announced that China had found the tomb of a famous historical/mythical character, Cao Cao – a third century ruler. The identification was made, not by the name, but because certain tablets had his posthumous title on them: “The stone tablets bearing inscriptions of Cao’s posthumous reference are the strongest evidence,” archaeologist Liu Qingzhu, of the yahoo news)., was quoted as saying. “No one would or could have so many relics inscribed with Cao’s posthumous reference in the tomb unless it was Cao’s.” (
That bit of logic aside, curiously these tablets were not found in the tomb at all! They were seized from people who had apparently stolen them from the tomb; a statement which strikes me as suspicious in the extreme. All things may well be in order, but it reminds me of the early British Egyptologists who (badly) painted a pharaoh’s name on the wall of the great period as proof of their theory that it was a tomb of said pharaoh – no doubt in the process bolstering their reputation and funding.
Of course, Jesus’ tomb should be easy to identify: it will be empty. There will be no body or bones. Jesus was probably buried with no treasure – we are not told of any decoration or furnishings. We are looking for a hole, maybe with a big rock by the door. (Although, if the tomb was donated by a rich convert as tradition tells us, it may actually have been quite nice.)
My faith that the tomb of Jesus will be found is much less due to my faith in the historical Jesus, as it is due to my lack of faith in archaeologists, who are desperate to link a site with a noteworthy historical personage and read into history only what we already know of history. (If this is too strong, I’ll admit that many are probably excellent, and morally and intellectually superior, to this generalization.)