First of all, I am not simply going to champion someone who is on my side and find an article or blog that dismisses this in order to save Christendom or to save her or his pet view of the historical Jesus.
Second, I am going to reserve judgment until at least I understand the story itself and get a handle on what is and what is not being claimed. Perhaps you would like to sort it out along with me. What questions do you have? What are your prejudices and presuppostions? We can continue to ask these things as we go along. Let me begin with some of my prejudices and presuppositions. I do not think Jesus rose from the dead in any literal way. I have not thought so for some time. The biblical narratives have for me been metaphorical. Finding the remains of Jesus is not a threat to my faith. However, this find could challenge my views of the historical Jesus. I have generally affirmed that Jesus was a sage and I have even entertained the more radical view that Jesus never even existed and that the Gospels (including the empty tomb narratives) are fictional. This find if authentic would show that Jesus was an historical person with a family and that the Gospels ironically contain more history than I thought.
Third, I am not going to be afraid of having my reputation tarnished because I am seriously considering this possiblity. I don't expect the Church to accept this find. I don't expect historical Jesus scholars to accept this find. It is easy to scoff at this and dismiss it without even checking it out. The harder path (and the more dangerous for one's career) is to take the time to sort out the story.
Here is my working outline for sorting out this story. I want to look at the following topics:
- What were Jewish burial practices in the first century CE. What is the scholarly consensus?
- What is the chronology of this find? What did the archaelogists know and when did they know it? Who are the archaeologists and scholars involved?
- Where is this tomb? Is it an authentic first century tomb? What do we know about it?
- Are the names scratched on the ossuaries authentic? Of what can we be sure? What is in question?
- What do we know about these names from the New Testament, Josephus, and other first or early second-century sources?
Finally, as a minister and pastor, my sermonette to those who might be confused or shaken by all of this is, don't be afraid. Keep an open mind to challenge everything you know or think you know. Be a seeker and enjoy the search!