I have spent over a decade reading gnostic gospels, dead sea scrolls, apocryphal gospels, and scholarly books (particularly Elaine Pagels' books) on the topic of the alternative Jesus history.
That being the case, I take seriously the criticism of the James Cameron documentary on Jesus' tomb. But one thing I have noticed is that most of the academic-level critics leave themselves an out; in other words, they don't categorically deny the possibility that this could be Jesus' tomb.
Personally, I think my argument (see subtitle link or click here), still in its infancy, that Jesus and his contemporaries were anti-temple, anti-organized religion, pro-spirituality revolutionaries who believed in reincarnation and more Buddhist concepts is a more powerful and provable concept than this tomb theory however I do see the tomb evidence as provocative.
So, below the fold, I try to posit a survey of the articles on the documentary which airs this Sunday on Discovery and I show evidence of the detractors leaving themselves an out from their criticism.
Here is the statement of the catholic church in New York in response to the documentary's claims:
"I think this is more fanciful and absurd theorizing. Every Christian knows that Jesus, the son of God and man, died and rose again on Easter Sunday," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesperson for the Catholic church in New York, where details of the discovery will be unveiled this morning.Link.
"No alleged DNA test or Hollywood film is going to change that," he told the New York Post.
That is the evidential proof that the largest christian organization in the world is going to put forward? "Every christian knows" is your proof???!!!
And the Eastern Orthodox christians? Same thinking except they even go so far as to posit evidence, claiming that the archaeological proof shows that Jesus "was buried is the Church of the Resurrection [also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre]"... Where is the outrage at this unsubstantiated claim?
Attallah Hana, a Greek Orthodox clergyman in Jerusalem, is one of the many Christian leaders decrying the movie's theories.Link.
"The historical, religious, and archaeological evidence show that the place where Christ was buried is the Church of the Resurrection [also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre]," Hana told the Associated Press.
"The documentary contradicts the religious principles and the historic and spiritual principles that we hold tightly to."
My point in saying that is: all the people out there denouncing the documentary, mostly basing their claim on the fact that those names are so common, are THEMSELVES putting their reputations on the line by knee-jerk denouncing the claims.
In other words, by denouncing the names as coincidence, they are going out on a limb as much as the documentary writers.
That's why almost all of these experts who have been criticizing the documentary leave themselves an out to their denunciations by leaving open the possibility that the claims are true.
Here in North Carolina, we have several experts on the early christians, among them James Tabor from UNC Charlotte and Bart Ehrman from UNC.
Professor Tabor's book "The Jesus Dynasty" heavily explores the alternative history evidence of Jesus, including this tomb: he goes ont he record as claiming that the tomb really is the tomb of Jesus.
Professor Tabor puts his academic bonifides on the line and that means a lot more to me than a spokesman for the Catholic church disproving this by saying "every christian knows." Professor Tabor has also commented to the press on the tomb since this story broke:
James Tabor, chair of religious studies at the University of North Carolina and an expert featured extensively in The Lost Tomb, said the discovery of the tomb could even strengthen the belief of anyone who doubted that Jesus even existed.Link.
"To have a material link to Jesus ... is wonderful," he says. "It's an archeological dream."
Tabor, an experienced archeologist, says that as an academic he has seen enough to convince him of the evidence, but admits to some trepidation about claiming that the tomb of Jesus has been found.
"There's a part of you that says, it's too amazing. How can it be right?" Tabor told the Star.
While Professor Tabor goes on the record as a believer of the evidence, he also similarly leaves himself an out that the tomb could be inaccurate after more study is done: just as the detractors do but Professor Tabor's out is in contrast to his contemporaries who denounce the evidence and then leave themselves an out that it could indeed be Jesus' tomb.
In other words, all the experts aren't putting their reputations on the line either way; they don't outright discredit the evidence either way.
THAT IS JUST HUGE TO ME.
Stephen Pfann, president of Jerusalem's University of the Holy Land, goes on the record as against the claims but he leaves himself an out in case the claims are valid; Mr. Pfann heavily argues against the evidence in this national geographic article, citing the crudeness of the inscription of Jesus' alleged ossuary (while Mary Magdalene the Master's (HINT!) is ornate), citing the similarity of the names of the period (the most common complaint against the tomb), and claiming that the translation of Jesus' name might be off....
But in the end he says:
Even if the film's claims are proven to be true, Pfann said, the finds shouldn't significantly affect religious beliefs.Link.
"[The film] doesn't disprove that Jesus rose from the dead from another tomb," he said. "This tomb doesn't disprove the resurrection.
Even the archaeologist who originally excavated the tomb, one of the harshest critics of the documentary, leaves himself an out:
His boss, Prof Amos Kloner said that while the names together had "a certain power" they are standard.Link.
While there is nothing definitive, the documentary deserves a fair hearing of their ideas. I think this gentleman has it right:
Sinai Abet, manager of Israel’s Channel 8 and a partner in the film, said that he would not discuss the conflicting claims until after a press conference in New York on Monday, in which the film will be shown.Link.
“As of this moment, no one other that the production crew and experts has seen the film in its entirety, not even Professor Amos Kloner. The film will present different and interesting findings, and claims can be made after it is aired,” Abet said.
And this type of attempted discreditation makes me furious ...
Although skeptics such as professor Amos Kloner are included in the show, they're not given much time or credence. So the viewer is left to wonder why, for instance, the Bible never mentions any union between Jesus and Mary, let alone a child. Or why so many respected scholars have dismissed the idea that this ossuary was Jesus' final resting place.....because the "orthodox" christians (Princeton's Elaine Pagels' label for post-Nicene christians, i.e. modern christians) edited out the gnostic gospels which do in fact mention Jesus and Mary Magdalene:
And the companion of [the saviour was] Mary Magdalene. [Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples, [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth? face? cheek? head?]. The rest of [the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Saviour answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness." - Gospel of PhillipLink.