Jesus had a son named Judah and was buried alongside Mary Magdalene, according to a new documentary by Hollywood film director James Cameron. The film examines a tomb found near Jerusalem in 1980 which producers say belonged to Jesus and his family.
Speaking in New York, the Oscar-winning Titanic director said statistical tests and DNA analysis backed this view.
But Mr Cameron's claim has been attacked by archaeologists and theologians as unfounded.
Archaeologists said that the burial cave was probably that of a Jewish family with similar names to that of Jesus.
But Mr Cameron said the combination of names found on the tombs convinced him of their heritage.
Israeli construction workers building an apartment complex in Jerusalem's East Talpiot district first uncovered 10 of the 2,000-year-old ossuaries - or limestone coffins - in a tomb in March 1980.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, six of those coffins were marked with the names Mary; Matthew; Jesua son of Joseph; Mary; Jofa (Joseph, Jesus' brother); and Judah son of Jesua.
Another grave said by producers to be of Mary Magdalene convinced researchers of the truth of their find, Mr Cameron said at a New York news conference.
Unveiling his documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus, Mr Cameron said the chances of finding that combination of names together was like finding a grave marked Ringo next to others marked John, Paul and George.
"Mariamene is Mary Magdalene - that's the Ringo, that's what sets this whole film in motion," he said.
The documentary asserts that tests on samples from two of the coffins show Jesus and Mary Magdalene were likely to have been buried in them and were a couple.
The film-makers used this finding to claim that the coffin marked "Judah son of Jesua" contains the son of Jesus and Mary.
But they said the discovery of the tomb does not undermine the key Christian belief that Jesus was resurrected three days after his death.
Academic Stephen Pfann, a scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said he did not expect Christians to accept the film's findings.
"I don't think that Christians are going to buy into this," said Mr Pfann, who was interviewed by the film-makers.
"But sceptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."
Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner, who was among the first to examine the tomb when it was first discovered, said the names marked on the coffins were very common at the time.
"I don't accept the news that it was used by Jesus or his family," he told the BBC News website.
"The documentary filmmakers are using it to sell their film."
Mr Cameron showed two of the coffins at the news conference.
"It doesn't get bigger than this," he said in an earlier press release.
"We've done our homework; we've made the case; and now it's time for the debate to begin."
Local residents told the BBC News website they were pleased with the attention the tomb has drawn.
"It will mean our house prices will go up because Christians will want to live here," one woman said.
jesus tomb, ex-christian, exchristian, history, atheism