The Discovery Channel plans to air a TV special claiming to have found ossuaries (burial boxes) that contained the bones of Jesus and his family. In other words, they claim to have evidence that Jesus never rose from the dead.
To bolster this claim, they point out that one of the ossuaries is engraved with "Jesus son of Joseph," and the other family names were Mary, Mariamne (which they claim is Mary Magdalene), Judah son of Jesus, and Matthew (which they claim is the apostle Matthew, although there is no explanation of how the apostle got into the family). They then claim that statistically this is highly unlikely that these same family names are all together.
One would think that such sensational claims would only be made with careful documentation, yet according to The Jerusalem Post, the archaeologist who first did the excavation of these ossuaries in 1980 says that the current claims of the TV show are "impossible" and "nonsense." He points out that the family names found are very common, noting that there have been three or four other ossuaries found that are inscribed "Jesus son of Joseph."
In an article in Baptist Press, professor Darrel Black of Dallas Theological Seminary points out how common the names are on the ossuary. Joseph was the 2nd most common name, Jesus was sixth, and Matthew was ninth. Mary was the most common female name, given to 21% of all females at the time!
Just think about the implications of what The Discovery Channel's show is claiming. They claim that Jesus' body lay decaying in a tomb in Jerusalem while the disciples were boldly telling everybody in Jerusalem that he was alive. The Christians publicly charged the religious authorities with murder, saying "This Jesus whom you crucified is alive" (Acts 2:36). The religious authorities had the apostles jailed several times, and ordered them not to preach about Jesus. So why didn't they search for his decaying body and put an end to Christianity? Yet none of the early opponents of Christianity denied that the tomb was empty. They argued that the disciples stole the body or that Jesus swooned on the cross and woke up in the tomb, but nobody denied the tomb was empty. Isn't it interesting that The Discovery Channel can make a claim that the earliest opponents of Christianity never thought to claim?
UPDATE ON MARCH 3: Scientific American published an interesting article on their website in which they interviewed the same scholars used by The Discovery Channel. When he began asking them questions, he said, "I encountered more than a few angry scholars and archaeologists." He talked to Tal Ilan, the statistical scholar whom The Discovery Channel quoted to claim that the names on the ossuaries must be the family of Jesus. She expressed outrage at how the TV show twisted her words. Carney Matheson, the scholar whose DNA studies of the particles scraped from two of the ossuaries, said that the DNA results mean "absolutely nothing."