Monday, February 26, 2007

True Lies

I find it ironically appropriate that James Cameron, famous as the producer of Titanic, but also holding credits for such well-known documentaries as The Terminator (1&2) and True Lies, is the producer of a new film on some old digs.

The new documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Christ," which the Discovery Channel will run on March 4, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries — small caskets used to store bones — discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of Jesus and his family.

This is not a new discovery, just a new way to make money off of an old discovery. As one archeologist said, "They just want to get money for it." That statement comes from Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, which he discovered more than 20 years ago. He also said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.

An AP article quotes Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land as saying the film's hypothesis holds little weight.
Pfann said, "But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."
"How possible is it?" Pfann said. "On a scale of one through 10 — 10 being completely possible — it's probably a one, maybe a one and a half."
Pfann is even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name "Hanun." Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.
Kloner also said the filmmakers' assertions are false.
"It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave," Kloner said. "The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time."

Pfann's view that there is about a 15% chance of it actually being the bones of Jesus' family contradicts Cameron's claim that a statistician told him it was a million to one in favor of it being them.

One of the clearest statements comes from Simcha Jacobovici, who wrote a companion book, The Jesus Family Tomb. “They are common names, these were archaeologists. They never went to statisticians. We're just reporting the news. We're not statisticians. We're not theologians . . . ." "We're just trying to make some money." The last statement is my paraphrase of Jacobovici's claim.

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