Network Discovers ‘Jesus Tomb’ in Special

2/26/2007 9:50 AM Eastern

New York -- Amid a throng of international media at the New York Public Library, Discovery Channel Monday unveiled what some archeologists believe is a bone box that held the remains of Jesus Christ in announcing its March 4 documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

The special, produced by James Cameron (Titanic, The Terminator), provides scientific evidence to support the theory that the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family were placed in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Talpiot, Jerusalem.

Scientific analysis of limestone ossuaries (boxes where bones were kept) found in the tomb -- including those of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, which were on display at the library -- provide credible information that the tomb once may have held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family, according to Discovery officials.

And in what is expected to spur controversy within the Christian community, the special also provides new evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene may have had a son named Judah. Among the 10 small caskets found was one bearing the inscription, "Judah, son of Jesus."

Discovery general manager Jane Root said the special, which was three years in the making, will hopefully spur a “spirited debate” about the life and death of Jesus.

“Our whole aim as a network is to get people thinking about things again, to listen to experts and to make up their own minds,” said Root, who would not reveal performance projections for the special.

The film has already raised the ire of Biblical scholars. Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, who was interviewed in the documentary, told AP the film's hypothesis holds little weight.

"I don't think that Christians are going to buy into this," Pfann said. "But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."

"How possible is it?" he added. "On a scale of one through 10 -- 10 being completely possible -- it's probably a one, maybe a one-and-a-half."

Cameron, who said he expressed some trepidation in getting involved in the project, added that the documentary was not done to undermine Christianity, but rather to celebrate the real-life existence of Jesus and his family.

“What this film and investigation brings to light is for the first time tangible, physical, archeological and, in some cases, forensic evidence that can be analyzed scientifically in the same manner that one would in a criminal investigation, in terms of DNA evidence, mineral and chemical analysis,” he said.

An unedited version of The Lost Tomb of Jesus will air on Discovery Times Channel March 5. The special will also air on Discovery en Español March 18 and on Discovery HD Theater March 28.