Saturday, February 24, 2007

Filmmakers Find Jesus' Tomb and Body

I hate these kind of stories, because everyone with any training in archaeology related to the Bible can see it's a fraud from a mile away, but everyone else takes it so seriously.

The first thing to note in this "discovery" is that it was made by a filmmaker and a Hollywood director.  That should make you suspicious.  Why archaeologists and other scholars didn't have any inkling of this until it was revealed by movie-makers should smell more like Indiana Jones than serious scholarship.  Of course, it is altogether possible that these amateurs did make the greatest discovery ever in biblical archaeology.  If so, it will be recognized as authentic by those who are experts in the field.  If not, the filmmakers can pour millions of dollars into creating a "documentary" that ignores the scholars and appeals directly to the (largely ignorant) public.

The previous work of these two filmmakers is not irrelevant to this story; this is not their first foray into biblical archaeology.  Their recent "The Exodus Decoded" reveals their methodology: partial presentation of evidence combined with twisted interpretation and a complete lack of scholarly support.  Add $3 million for amazing special effects and eye candy.  Simply put, no one with any knowledge of the field (secular, religious, liberal, conservative) buys what they were selling.  For a 14-part review, see Chris Heard's blog.

The filmmakers don't want to reveal specifics of their discovery of Jesus' tomb, but they have leaked enough details to get excitement up for their Monday press conference.  So detailed analysis will have to wait (and if anyone else is doing it, I'm going to save time and simply link to them), but for now, here's some that you won't hear at the press conference or in the multi-million-dollar made-for-TV movie, from the the Jerusalem Post.

But Bar-Ilan University Prof. Amos Kloner, the Jerusalem District archeologist who officially oversaw the work at the tomb in 1980 and has published detailed findings on its contents, on Saturday night dismissed the claims. "It makes a great story for a TV film," he told The Jerusalem Post. "But it's impossible. It's nonsense."

Kloner, who said he was interviewed for the new film but has not seen it, said the names found on the ossuaries were common, and the fact that such apparently resonant names had been found together was of no significance. He added that "Jesus son of Joseph" inscriptions had been found on several other ossuaries over the years.

"There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb," Kloner said. "They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the 1st century CE."

This scholar is not a Christian and is not motivated to protect religous beliefs of Christians.  He is an expert on burials from the time of Christ.

In short, this "discovery" has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with financial gain.  You can make a lot of money and gain a lot of notoriety by creating the most sensational of discoveries.  It would all be so much better if journalists would call up a few experts, determine that the story is rubbish, and then publish nothing about it.  Unfortunately, journalists are complicit in perpetuating the fraud, because sensational stories like this are good for their ratings.

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8 Comments:

  • A thriller based on this same archeological find was published months ago, without the publicity circus. "The Bone Box" , available at Amazon.com. In any event, this is an authentic discovery, not a fake.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 25, 12:25:00 AM  

  • This "find," "could shake up the Christian world as one of the most significant archeological finds in history"?
    Oh noooo! I guess I'm now shaken up because two filmakers are claiming they found Jesus Christ's bone box!
    I'm sure the IAA is preparing to indite the two filmakers, the directors, anyone even closely associated with the project, and a guy who talked to James Cameron one time on the street.
    Now, if they can just find that Ark....

    By Blogger psychobob, at Sun Feb 25, 04:11:00 PM  

  • Todd, I've spent the morning reading up on this online, looking at the Discovery Channel's site, and reading from the sites you recommend. I have to say, I'm still pretty disturbed by this discovery. After all, if those really are Jesus' bones, we are of all men to be most pitied and our faith is null.

    The tone of the initial Christian/archaeological responses to this show leave a little something to be desired. I understand that this isn't where one would expect Jesus to be buried, and that it's not a tomb that one would expect his family to have. I also understand that these names were common in the first century.

    Still, all that doesn't necessarily refute the finding. The problem I'm still having is that this "could" be the real thing. I havent' seen anything yet that would seem to deny this claim outright. Most of what I've read this morning is reactionary, scholars and Christians thumbing their noses as these non-elite filmakers.

    I did read that one guy who saw the ossuaries said that the inscription should read "Hunan" not "Yeshua". That to me would be a very positive reason to consider this find bogus.

    The other stuff I've read hasn't put me entirely at ease. Can you explain a bit more why you find this find so illegitimate?

    Thanks,
    c

    By Blogger Christopher, at Mon Feb 26, 02:44:00 PM  

  • Oh, they already know where that is. Under the Temple Mount, of course!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Feb 26, 02:46:00 PM  

  • As a biblical scholar and archaeological enthusiast I am of course interested in reading the book and carefully watching the film.

    By its very theme and assertions it will doubtless arouse deep sentiments on all sides of the fundamental issue of the resurrection of Jesus.

    Until I have had time to digest the materials I think it wise to withhold any emotional knee jerk reactions and ill-advised comments. There is plenty of time to look closely at the materials.

    I do wonder at the timing of the release of the book and film, surely Cameron’s investors will be happy-campers soon enough - by the time a suitable defense is made of the traditional Christian doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus the moneychangers will have already hauled off their cash- perhaps laughing all the way to the bank.

    Dr. Ed Bez
    CEO, The Legacy Center Museum
    Atlanta, Georgia

    By Anonymous Dr. Ed Bez, at Mon Feb 26, 04:23:00 PM  

  • Thanks Todd

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at Mon Feb 26, 10:08:00 PM  

  • One must wonder...if these bones are supposedly of Jesus Christ's family, why didn't anyone know that they were there sooner? Certainly the religious leaders of Jesus' lifetime on earth would know of this supposed burial place. But, how do you explain the accouts of all the people that saw Jesus Christ before he ascended into heaven..."and shall return in like manner..."? Just because you don't believe in the historical record, doesn't mean that you can change it. Jesus Christ isn't merely confined to history...as he said "Before Abraham was, I AM"....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Feb 27, 03:37:00 AM  

  • Christopher - I think your expectations may be too high if you're looking for a "silver bullet" that easily and automatically refutes the theory. If there was one, it is doubtful the filmmakers would have spent millions of dollars on this project. What they have done is apply creativity and spin to make a remote possibility seem like a likely possibility. As for the responses of others, perhaps they are lacking, but remember that they've had all of about one day to respond to this, while the filmmakers have had years to construct their case. Give it some time and I assure you that there will be some intelligent discourse.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Tue Feb 27, 05:23:00 AM  

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