Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lost Tomb of Jesus

So he's found Jesus' tomb, he says. And he is none other than the august archaeologist and New Testament scholar, and by the way film director, James Cameron, who also brought us Terminator and the Titanic.

Now he's going to make our day by sinking Christianity. And he's going to put it on the Discovery Channel, so it must be true. Pshaw on those who would dare accuse Mr. Cameron of a Hollywood stunt, especially just before Easter like this!

Unfortunately there were not any bones from which to extract holy DNA but only 'residue' from the boxes. Since routinely bone boxes were recycled with bones from several people through the years, it was possibly used more than once and had DNA of other family members as well. Boy, now that surely narrows things down, doesn't it.

Last night at the SCV meeting I attended, Mr. Newell of Gentry, Newell, and Vaughan Funeral Home of Oxford, NC, said that investigators cannot use DNA testing to determine if John Wilkes Booth is actually buried in the grave with his name because his pre-deceased children were re-interred with him at the time. (Now my comment begins) Thus, we cannot determine the resident of a 142 year old burial. How in the world can we make wild claims about 'residue' from a 2000 year old bone box which might have even been created for sale on the black market by bedouins in the late twentieth century?

To thicken the plot, Mary Magdelene was supposed to have had a bone box too. (Pictured: Supposedly Mary Magdelene's ossuary. How nice. She got the one with the feminine rosettes.) Her residue and that of the 'Yesua bar Yosef' were unrelated to the mother (how do they know who the mother was anyway?)

Well, here's how it goes.

Dr. Francois Bovon at Harvard
(Harvard? Oh yes, now it's definitely true.) deduced from reading a Gnostic heretical document, (The Acts of Phillip, written 300-400+ years after Christ and found in Mount Athos, Greece), that the two residual individuals therefore must be a couple who sired a son named 'Yudah,' who also conveniently has a bone box, too. Huh?

Did anyone check DNA to see if "Yesua" was "Mariam"'s son? No.

Did anyone check DNA connections of "Yudah," supposedly Jesus and Mary Magdelene's son with his supposed parents? No.

Did anyone check the other three ossuaries? Could it be that their inscriptions or DNA could mitigate or complicate (or even confirm) the conjugal conclusion? No.

Did anyone do any DNA testing that would make common sense? No.

Didn't have time. Had to get the documentary done. Deadlines. We have deadlines, don't you see?

Cameron's film director, Simcha Jacobovici, directed a documentary in 2003 on what turned out to be the fake "James, brother of Jesus" ossuary but which Jacobovici still believes is real. Of no coincidence I'm sure is the little tidbit that the James bone box supposedly came from the same Talpiyot cemetery unearthed in 1980 that these other nine boxes came from. The Israel Antiquities Authority is now prosecuting the James box's owner, Oded Gonan, for forgery and fraud. (Pictured: a 1980 picture of the East Talpiyot tomb in Jerusalem.

Does it strike you as quite interesting that in 1980 at Talpiyot, archaeologists found ten boxes which went to the Israel Antiquities Authority? Only nine were found when they went to get them for this docuhoax. And who in the IAA got paid off to "loan" these boxes for a press conference in the New York Public Library anyway, and not, as is proper, in a peer-reviewed article?

But even the 1980 Talpiyot origin of the boxes is now in question. Last week in the forgery trial a retired FBI agent testified that a photograph of the James box was taken in the 1970's. If a picture of it was taken then, and it was supposedly not unearthed with the other nine boxes until 1980, then Cameron and Jacobovici have another problem.

And how did Jesus' poverty-stricken family afford expensive ossuaries and an expensive tomb in the big city anyway? These boxes were for Judean middle class families, not Galilean lower class folks like Jesus. By the logic here, we could just as easily surmise that the boxes are of Joseph of Arimathea who named all his family after his Lord's family. Has anybody checked J of A's DNA?

And is it just me, or do you find it a little sketchy that it took twenty-seven years for the IAA to decide the names on the boxes were compelling enough to loan them to pseudo-historians who would tout them as the Holy Family? Is it important at all that the archaeologist in charge of the 1980 dig has gone on record that this whole issue is completely ridiculous?

And is it just me, or is it a little strange that what Cameron calls a "mind boggling, altered reality" comes out during Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, from a movie-maker just after the financial success of the DaVinci Code and the documentary Gospel of Judas? It seems that pseudo-history is raking in the bucks these days from people whose Biblical literacy and critical thinking skills are less than illusory.

And how exactly did they figure out that this was Jesus' own DNA in the ossuary? To do DNA testing, there must be control material to compare the sample. That's easy. They just had to take samples from a eucharist after transubstantiation occurred. . . . So Jesus has the same DNA double helix as a Saltine cracker . . . Seems like quite a marketing boon for Saltines.

So when will these bone boxes be for sale on ebay, anyway? I have an original basket owned by the Easter bunny. We took DNA samples from the yolk of my fried egg this morning and proved it. I have an official certificate of authenticity accompanying the basket that I printed out myself. At least my Easter basket's DNA is based on more control evidence than some kind of holy 'residue' with no standard to match.

Since the James ossuary owner is now being prosecuted for fraud, have Cameron and Jacobovici thought about doing a docudrama-reality show on prison life in Israel?

Has Mr. Cameron thought about doing a movie-track -- I mean, docu-track with Randy Travis' Country song, "Diggin up bones, I'm diggin up bones, exhuming things that's better left alone"? He could package it in an authentic reproduction of the Mary Magdalene box with the DVD of the docuhoax -- Oh, did I write that? I meant documentary.

The whole melee is, as Shakespeare sighs, much ado about nothing. And the preacher in Ecclesiastes would add, "I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV).

Finally, Joe Zias, former curator of archaeology at the Israel Antiquities Authority, described the documentary in an e-mail to The Washington Post as a "hyped up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest." Now that pretty much shells down the corn.

'Jesus tomb' documentary ignores evidence, logic, experts say.

'Lost Tomb' special is purely sensational, Mohler says

Has the family tomb of Jesus been found?

Dr. Andreas Kostenberger has a good article on the Jesus Family Tomb.