Update: Here are the portions of the transcript from Mohler’s appearance on Larry King Live in which he speaks. You can find the whole transcript here:
KING: As we come back, we show you that scene in eastern Jerusalem. The scene purported to be of the tomb of Jesus Christ and family members. James Cameron, the Oscar-winning filmmaker, is the executive producer. Simcha Jacobovici is the Emmy award-winning documentarian and the director, producer and writer of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” that airs Sunday night on Discovery Channel. We are joined now in Louisville, Kentucky, by Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Since so much of your faith is belief, no one has all of the facts in front of them, Dr. Mohler, what do you make of this startling discovery, if it is what it is?
ALBERT MOHLER JR., PRES., SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, it is only startling in terms of the sensationalism, I think, of public relations here. You are talking about a tomb that was discovered, as you said, well over two decades ago. The archaeologists there in Israel, who are the closest to this, have the greatest expertise, are not only looking at this with skepticism, but basically dismissing its claims.
You are talking about frankly trying to dress up an old documentary, the BBC did something like this over a decade ago, with this kind of supposed statistical research and DNA testing. The DNA testing is to me the most laughable aspect of all of this. I mean, frankly, there could be a thousand, thousand different explanations for whatever DNA pattern they could find.
No one has the DNA of Mary. You know, trying to bring this into a modern crime investigation is like trying to go back and figure out who exactly put the first dagger into Julius Caesar. It’s impossible.
KING: Dr. Mohler, aren’t you, as an intelligent person, open to the possibility of new things? We have modern technology. Things can be discovered now we never knew about. DNA was not known 25 years ago.
MOHLER: Well, that’s true. But, again, you have to have a basis of a DNA sample that would make any sense. I mean, here you’re talking about some people in a tomb who are related, and some, at least one, who was not. That can be explained by, frankly, by any kind of marriage, you would expect that to be the case.
When it comes down to new discoveries and new technology, there is no technology. There is no time machine here that is going to take us back to the First Century and actually tell us what happened there.
I’m going to base my beliefs on the scriptures which hold together far better than the kind of farcical documentary we are talking about here, throwing in a little bit of statistics. I mean, you’re talking about the most common names, especially the most common male names, also frankly, female with the name Mary, you’re talking about anything that could be found just about anywhere.
And then there are some rather really far-fetched claims. I mean, after all, you’re talking about a poor, peasant family from Nazareth with an ancestral heritage in Bethlehem. There’s no logical reason why their bones should end up in a middle class tomb in Jerusalem.
KING: This documentary will air on March 4th, Sunday. Dr. Mohler, Dr. Tabor is certainly a renowned theologian and student of all of this, been studying it all of his life, why not be open to at least think about it, talk about it, look at it? Don’t you want to inquire or just not accept anything that is introduced?
MOHLER: Well, you have to accept the first part of any question. What kind of evidence could possibly be adduced that would make any sense in this? And the DNA evidence, even the statistical evidence given the preponderance of the names that are found in the ancient Near East, especially in the area we now call Israel, I mean, this kind of thing would be laughed out of court.
And frankly, I’m a bit surprised by Dr. Tabor’s, at least, qualified endorsement of this, given the fact that this appears to me to be at least very inconsistent what he’s arguing in his own book about Jesus not being the son of Joseph, which, by the way, we Christians don’t hold either. But he’s never known as the son of Joseph in terms of early Christian witness, he is never mentioned that way.
TABOR: No, he is. He’s actually known as the son of Joseph in the New Testament, that certainly was his legal title.
MOHLER: It is not a name by which he was known in early Christian references at all. And you, if I’m not mistaken, Dr. Tabor…
TABOR: Well, he is called Jesus, son of Joseph, five times in the New Testament. So I don’t know…
MOHLER: You argue that he’s not the son of Joseph in your book, you also argue that if there is a tomb, it was likely to be in Galilee. So, I mean, you talk about…
TABOR: Well, that would be another show. But let’s stay with this…
MOHLER: Well, we are talking about moving all of the pieces here to make for sensational television. And frankly, that’s why I think most Christians are going to take this without any seriousness at all.
TABOR: We are talking about a tomb in Talpiot that is in my book that has these six names, and whether they are common or not. The names are relatively common. But James, for example, is 2 percent. I would not call that very common. Jesus is 9 percent. That’s not very common.
MOHLER: That is almost one 1 of 10 of every male.
TABOR: You know, I will tell you, Dr. Mohler, if you had a football stadium with 50,000 people and you had all of the Jesuses stand up, it would be 3,000. So that’s somewhat common. If you said, how many of you had a another named Mary? It would go down to 397. If you said, how many have a father named Joseph? It would go down again. And then if you say, a brother named James or Simon, it gets down to one person with just four questions.
So statistics are not intuitive. I’m not a statistician. I take it you aren’t either.
TABOR: But I have been told by statisticians, don’t judge by the fact that you — it’s not, Bill, Peter, John and Sam here.
MOHLER: If we were back in Jerusalem in that hypothetical football stadium, and you could do that exercise, that would be far more interesting. But giving credence to something like DNA testing with no basis…
TABOR: But do you think there would more than one Jesus left standing after four questions would be the question. I don’t think there would be, because from what I have been told by the stats, that’s the math. A father, mother and a brother is going to take you down to a single person.
KING: We are back. Dr. Mohler, what effect could this have on your church?
MOHLER: Well, Larry, the one true thing that we have to affirm here is that if it ever could be proved that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, if the resurrection was a fraud, then Christianity falls.
The problem with this kind of documentary, which is a commercial product, and as Bill Donohue rightly said, is just perfectly timed for is the season like so often is the case, is, you have to understand, any court of law, you can’t just call anything evidence. It has to be an evidence trail that makes sense. It has to be evidentiary material that fits the context. Nothing could ever prove, there’s no DNA, there’s nothing that could ever prove these bones are the bones of Jesus. It makes no sense.
KING: Haven’t millions of people over the years gone to their death for a belief?
MOHLER: But the point is here, they would have to go to their death for something they know was a lie. If they knew that the bones of Jesus were in this tomb, why would the very people who would be most likely know that be the ones who would give their lives? That’s the big question here.
According to a Southern Seminary news release:
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is scheduled to appear tonight on CNN’s Larry King Live. Mohler will discuss the alleged discovery of the “tomb” of Jesus and his family by archaeologists and genetic scientists. A documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which is said to present the evidence, is scheduled to air next week on the Discovery Channel. Scheduled to appear with Mohler are James Cameron, executive producer of the documentary; Simcha Jacobovici, the director; and James Tabor, chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Larry King Live airs at 9:00 Eastern Time on CNN. The segment on the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” is scheduled to air tonight following an interview with First Lady Laura Bush.