Tomb CSI experts caution against playing with “matches”

With regard to the suggested “match” between the James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus ossuary and that of Jesus, son of Joseph, film participants Steven Cox and Robert Genna provide a word of caution.

STEVEN COX (Forensic Scientist, University of the Holy Land), appeared in the film explaining the importance of the materials that still remain within the ossuaries. He notes that since patina is a film that forms on the outside of an object, the ossuary samples ought to have been carefully collected from the outside of the ossuaries and placed in the testing instruments with the outer surface uppermost. Since this was not the case, the most the forensic portion of the documentary could possibly say is that the ossuaries might have come from the same quarry.

In a paper on the UHL web site, Steven Cox has cited a number of systematic errors and misinterpretations of results exhibited in the film.


Underlying logical errors

• A conclusion was formed first through speculation and conjecture, then facts were sought to support the preconceived notion.

• Speculation and conjecture are converted into FACTS without supporting logic or confirmed scientific methodology.

• Sample collection errors

• Sample contamination errors

• Sample preparation errors

• Sample orientation errors

“It should be very evident at this point that the The Lost Tomb of Jesus (TLTJ) team’s statement is, at best, an overstatement of opinion based on limited fact, poor scientific protocol, unresolved sources of error and shrouded in poor research.”

“In my opinion, one of the greatest tools a forensic scientist learns is not how to operate an instrument. Rather, it is how to logically assess the weight of the result derived from examining evidence or artifacts. In forensic work, someone’s life hangs in the scales of justice. Be it a suspect or a victim of crime, the result and the following testimony will affect that persons’ life forever. So, a forensic scientist has to take making conclusions and opinions very, very seriously.”

“If this type of conservative and cautious reporting were applied to the TLTJ documentary, the program probably wouldn’t have gotten much notice or, at best, it would have produced more responsible journalism.”

Click here to obtain a pdf of the entire paper.

ROBERT GENNA, Director of the Suffolk County, New York State Forensic Lab, was active in the film in conversation with Charles Pellegrino over the results obtained in the lab from certain of the ossuaries using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in conjuction with Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS)

Although he had earlier pointed out the consistencies between the readings from two of the ossuaries (i.e., “Jesus son of Joseph” and “James son of Joseph and brother of Jesus”, from an unknown tomb) he later had to clarify his statement due to certain misunderstandings that had been broadcast.

“The elemental composition of some of the samples we tested from the ossuaries are consistent with each other. But I would never say they’re a match… No scientist would ever say definitively that one ossuary came from the same tomb as another…We didn’t do enough sampling to see if in fact there were other tombs that had similar elemental compositions…The only samples we can positively say are a ‘match’ from a single source are fingerprints and DNA.”

The preceding is an excerpt from Ted Koppel interview with Dr. Genna and other experts that was televised following the film’s broadcast.

For an overall word of caution and disclaimers from the film’s experts click here.

UHL Staff Report

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