Funding for the research came from a new film production that Jacobovici is working on. The Israel Antiquities Authority, which in 2003 had called the inscription on the James ossuary a forgery, granted Shimron access to most of the other ossuaries.
The findings, says Shimron, clearly place the James ossuary in the same geochemical group as theossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb, which is underneath a now-developed area southeast of Jerusalem.
Oded Golan, the collector, gave Shimron access to his James ossuary for testing but said he was skeptical about the results.
Even if the chemistry is correct, the James ossuary could have come from another tomb in East Talpiot, Mr. Golan posited, adding that such research required samples from a much broader test base.
“It is very interesting but not enough to determine anything conclusively,” Mr. Golan said of Dr. Shimron’s work. “You would need samples from at least 200 to 300 caves.”
The new report was greeted with skepticism by a number of prominent Scripture scholars, including Ben Witherington, Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He wrote on his Patheos blog:
We are not talking about a scientific sampling of enough ossuaries to draw such a conclusion. The earthquake that struck Jerusalem presumably did not just affect the small region of Talpiot. It presumably affected quite a few areas around Jerusalem, and this news just in— the limestone soil in Jerusalem doesn’t seem to vary all that much from place to place. It’s perfectly possible that the same sort of subsidence or fill affect a wide variety of tombs in and around Jerusalem. Shimron at least admits that the James ossuary could at least have come from other tombs in east Jerusalem. I see no reason to limit the discussion to east Jerusalem if we are talking about a significant earthquake, which apparently we are.
Witherington also cautioned that Shimron has not yet published his results, nor has there been peer review of them by other scholars.
"But nonetheless, another Jacobvici movie is already in the works," he bantered. "This is not how proper and objective scholarship is done, either in terms of the financing, nor in terms of the announcements of results. You don’t sort of make a bombshell announcement of conclusions to the press on Easter weekend before other peers have had a chance to weigh in on the evidence, unless of course you are trying to make an impression of a certain sort. And there is little doubt that a certain agenda is being pursued here, as has been clear before with previous films, and in all likelihood with the forthcoming one. Disinterested pure science this is not."
"It’s interesting how this story keeps coming back, especially at Easter time," said Mark Goodacre, professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke University, in an email to Aleteia. "I don’t think there is any merit in the identification of the Talpiot Tomb with Jesus and his family. All along, Jacobovici has not taken seriously contradictory evidence, like the presence of ‘Judah son of Jesus’ in the tomb."
Contradictory, he said, because there is no ancient evidence of Jesus having a son, let alone a son called Judah.
"He has also overplayed the idea that Mary Magdalene is found in the tomb, and that she was married to Jesus," Goodacre added.
"Certainly the particular combination of certain (albeit common) names in the Talpiot tomb is striking," admitted Ian Boxall, associate professor of New Testament at the Catholic University of America. "Joseh (the New Testament Joses, Mark 6:3); Jesus son of Joseph (though the reading Yeshua/Jesus is disputed); Maria. It is precisely this correspondence of names in the Talpiot tomb to names of Jesus’ family members which is held to be significant."