If you have been paying attention to the news within the last week or so you may have seen National Geographic’s coverage of an archeological team’s work in the supposed tomb of Jesus Christ below the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
First, a little history: Eusebius of Caesarea was a bishop in the 4th century. He wrote several works that became very influential within Christianity. He is the one who supposedly identified the tomb that now lies below the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as being the tomb where Jesus Christ was buried. He was in Jerusalem leading Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, on an expedition where she just happened to discover pieces of the “True Cross”. And while many Christians over the last 1,700 years have believed that the tomb there was where Jesus was buried, not only has that never been proven, but several other tombs have also been identified as being the “true” tomb of Jesus. Worse, Eusebius does not exactly have a good record when it comes to telling the truth.
For example, Eusebius’ work, Praeparatio evengelica, which consists of 15 books, was written to show that Christianity is superior to the pagan religions. He begins one section by saying, “That it will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.” (Book 12, Chapter 31) In other words, people need to be Christian, and if you fail to convince them the honest way, then lying is OK as long as it converts them. Well, that is pretty bad, but maybe that is an isolated incident?
Think again. Another example: the ancient Jewish writer, Flavius Josephus, wrote Antiquities of the Jews at the end of the 1st century CE. Surviving copies today contain a brief paragraph discussing Jesus which has come to be referred to as the Testimonium Flavianum. While some historians do argue for this passage to be considered at least partially authentic, there are several problems with it being authentic. For one, despite the book being written in the 1st century, this passage does not show up until the 4th century when it was “discovered” by Eusebius and referenced in his work. What makes that especially troubling is that the early Christian writer Origen, who referred to Josephus extensively, never referenced this passage in his writing. Origen was writing specifically to counter Celsus, an early critic of Christianity, and would have most definitely cited the Testimonium Flavianum if it had existed in his copy of the Antiquities of the Jews. And where did Eusebius get his copy of Antiquities? He inherited Origen’s copy.
So Eusebius’ claim that he discovered the tomb where Jesus was buried is, in my opinion, extraordinarily dubious. But that has not stopped Christians from believing it, even as other Christians are just as sure that other tombs are the “true” burial site for Jesus (the Talpiot Tomb, for example).
Christians have a history of declaring that all you need is faith, and yet that has not kept them from fabricating lots of bogus evidence over the years. Funny how that works.