Titanic ego, titanic project. Of which I’m very skeptical.
In a new documentary, Producer [James] Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn’t resurrected –the cornerstone of Christian faith– and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.
No, it’s not a re-make of “The Da Vinci Codes’. It’s supposed to be true.
Well, Da Vinci author Dan Brown has made truth (or truthy) claims about his 2000-year-old conspiracy theory too. And it’s a pile of bunk.
Let’s go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.
Israel’s prominent archeologist Professor Amos Kloner didn’t associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn’t afford a luxury crypt for his family. And all were common Jewish names.
There was also this little inconvenience that a few miles away, in the old city of Jerusalem, Christians for centuries had been worshipping the empty tomb of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christ’s resurrection, after all, is the main foundation of the faith, proof that a boy born to a carpenter’s wife in a manger is the Son of God.
I’ll quibble with the part about Christians “worshipping” the empty tomb. Anyone doing that is running off the rails into idolatry. Nevertheless, for Cameron there’s another inconvenient truth: The Romans tried their best to quash Christianity in its early days. Being able to produce a body that was indisputably that of the man they had crucified, and using his own followers or even his own mother to make a positive ID, would surely have done the job, if the body was available. Dontcha think the Romans would have latched on to this tomb of Cameron’s back then, if it was so easily proven to be the tomb that contained the corpse of Christ? Christ was famous in his day; that fame earned him the ire of the authorities who had him tried and executed. All of the apostles but Judas, eyewitnesses to the crucifixion and/or events that followed, went to their deaths as martyrs claiming the resurrection as truth. It makes very little sense that the Romans would have just allowed the resurrection to go unchallenged if they had a ready way to challenge it.
And it’s not as though the apostles were expecting a resurrection that they would have to defend. They weren’t. The crucifixion crushed their spirits, and most of them went into hiding as Christ hung alone on the cross. The Gospels record that the apostles were as mystified as everyone else was as to what had become of Christ’s body. It took them a while to get it. Once they did, they took their fight all the way to bitter (earthly) ends. Why would they do that if, in reality, Jesus had simply been buried along with the rest of his family and stayed put in the grave and they all knew this to be the case? To believe in Cameron’s version of events, you have to believe that everything, and I do mean everything, that we know about the early church years is completely false. But the evidence says that that’s not the case, and you don’t have to be a Christian to accept that the apostles were real people who actually believed what they said about Christ, to the point of brutal deaths as criminals. In short, you can believe Cameron if you want, but believing in his version of events seems at this point to be more a leap of faith than reason.
Then there’s this, which on its face makes no sense.
But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.
DNA? To whom is the DNA from these long dead bones being compared? To each other? Fine, they’re a family. That makes sense, given that they’re buried in the same tomb. That doesn’t make them The Family, though, even with the names since they were common names at the time. For that matter, in certain parts of the world they’re common enough names now. If they’re comparing the DNA to what appears to be blood extracted from the Shroud of Turin, well, that would be…interesting. The Shroud’s authenticity isn’t exactly an established fact, though, making such a DNA comparison a bit specious, to say the least (yes, I know about the carbon-dating 14th century business. That’s not ironclad either. Very little about the Shroud has been established as fact, other than that the cloth originates in the Middle East, and that’s based on pollen samples. Anyway.). I suppose they could claim to have used the image of Edessa, but that’s even more specious than using the Shroud. Using either the image or the Shroud, which may in fact be one and the same, amounts to taking a leap of faith in their authenticity to disprove the resurrection, belief in which is itself an act of faith. Faith in this case would be the evidence of things seen but highly disputed, on the word of a Hollywood showman against 2000 years of scholarship and research and over a century of Shroud research that hasn’t settled its identity one way or the other. It would be ironic, to say the least, if the Shroud pops up as Cameron’s DNA ace in the hole. The phrase “house of cards” comes to mind.
So it’s hard without seeing the show to understand how DNA is relevant at all. It’s not as though you’ll get a reading that says “Jesus of Nazareth, d. 33 AD.” DNA is useful for comparisons and matches, not as a stand-alone method of identification. It almost seems as though Cameron’s just throwing it out there to make his documentary sound much more solid than it could possibly be. It’s part of the hype machine, in other words.
Cameron’s project looks like pseudoscience dressed up to swing away at the foundation of Christianity. Let’s see him try anything similar with the religion of peace. And then we might see just how fast he sinks into hiding.
Update: Oh come on. They’re dragging the so-called James ossuary into this too, even though it blows up their timeline.