Saturday, February 24, 2007

Finding Jesus, Hollywood Style

The director of some movie about a boat makes a titanic claim:
JERUSALEM: The makers of a new documentary, to be aired for the first time at a news conference in New York on Monday, claim that a tomb found in a Jerusalem cave 36 years ago belongs to Jesus Christ.

The claim presented in the documentary is based on years of research by archaeologists, statisticians, experts in ancient scripts and in DNA, the Israeli Yediot Ahronot daily yesterday quoted the makers as saying.

The documentary, titled The Burial Cave of Jesus, is a joint production by Israeli-born Canadian documentary maker Simcha Jacobovici and three-time-Oscar-winning Canadian film director James Cameron.

The 2000-year-old cave had already been discovered in 1980 in Jerusalem's Talpiyot neighbourhood.

In it were 10 coffins, six of which bore inscriptions, which - translated into English – included the names “Jesus son of Joseph,” twice “Maria,” and “Judah son of Jesus.”

The second Maria is hypothesised to be Maria Magdalene, while the tomb bearing the name Judah could indicate Jesus had a son.

If true, the find could be one of the most significant in the history of archaeology and shake the Christian world.
I'm always a sucker for a good Jesus theory. I'm not saying I believe them, but I do so enjoy them - I mean, come on, Holy Blood Holy Grail is still one of my favorite books. It seems that the month before Easter every year is the time for releasing the latest Big Idea that will overturn this meddlesome Christianity once and for all. This year's attempt comes with a $4m budget.

Whether or not the movie is any good, the reaction will be depressingly predictable. Those who hold to the DaVinci School of Theology will find plenty to support their presuppositions and the more orthodox will find plenty to rage about. Science Duly Constituted™ will doubtless follow the lead of the Israeli professor who found the tomb and write the whole thing off as "a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever*."

There are a lot of questions being raised, odds being laid, taunts being flung. But my first thoughts, which I have not seen reflected anywhere**, hearken back to another famous search, that for the Ark of the Covenant. Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the coin got burned into the frog-looking guy's hand? And the Nazis calculated the ark's location based on that?*** As soon as Han Solo figured out what they had done, he did that crooked grin thing and said, "They're looking in the wrong place."

I think the same applies here. Jesus was not "Jesus of Jerusalem" but "Jesus of Nazareth." Why would his tomb be found in Jerusalem? "Well, ya dumma" you might quickly answer, "if he was killed in Jerusalem, then it makes sense for him to be buried there." And perhaps you would be correct.

But why are his mother's bones there? And his brothers' bones? And his son's and wife's bones? Jesus hailed from Nazareth of Galilee (though his ancestral home was Bethlehem) and if one is going to look for a multi-generational Jesus family tomb, it makes a lot more sense to look where his family actually lived. Jesus was killed in a place where he didn't live, where his family didn't live, and where he visited only on ceremonial occasions like any other observant Jew. He probably did not spend a month there over the course of his entire life, and I doubt his family decided to hang around the city out of respect until they all died. One might as well seek the bones of Anna Nicole's grandparents in the Bahamas.

I'll be most interested, however, in how they use the DNA evidence. If it should match up with Pierre Plantard's, we might just have a story on our hands.

* When it comes to faith and anti-faith proof is never a prerequesite.

** Like I really expect my personal eccentricities to be followed by anyone else. If they were, where would that leave me?

*** That was AWESOME!!

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