Archive for February 26th, 2007

Central Ohio scholars criticize new Jesus documentary

Church of Darwin, Religious, Uncategorized | Posted by Chris Parker
Feb 26 2007

Associated Press Monday, February 26, 2007 

JERUSALEM (AP)—Archaeologists and clergymen in the Holy Land derided claims in a new documentary produced by the Oscar-winning director James Cameron that contradict major Christian tenets.

“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, according to a press release issued by the Discovery Channel.

One of the caskets even bears the title, “Judah, son of Jesus,” hinting that Jesus may have had a son. And the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven.

Most Christians believe Jesus’ body spent three days at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City. The burial site identified in Cameron’s documentary is in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood nowhere near the church.

Two central Ohio religious scholars yesterday greeted Cameron’s claims with skepticism.

“Most obviously, Christians would wonder how to reconcile that with the story of the Resurrection,” said N. Clayton Croy, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Bexley. Croy said he doesn’t dismiss the possibility of fraud, as has happened in similar cases.

The names used in Jesus’ family were common at the time, he said, so even if the ossuaries’ inscriptions were authenticated, the remains might well be of other people.

The Rev. Patrick Manning of the Pontifical College Josephinum dismissed Cameron’s assertions as “ridiculous.” “Such claims capture the imagination of a number of people,” he said. “But certainly the Catholic Church, and I would think most Christians traditions, would absolutely and categorically reject such things.”

Manning, vice rector of the Far North Side Roman Catholic seminary, likened Cameron’s claims to those made by author Dan Brown in The DaVinci Code. He said most scholars don’t take seriously Brown’s contention that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.

“This kind of thing is going to die on its own,” he said of Cameron’s documentary. “It certainly doesn’t fit in with 2,000 years of accumulated wisdom in the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

In 1996, when the BBC aired a short documentary on the same subject, archaeologists challenged the claims.

Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television. “They just want to get money for it,” Kloner said.

The claims have raised the ire of Christian leaders in the Holy Land. “The historical, religious and archaeological evidence show that the place where Christ was buried is the Church of the Resurrection,” said Attallah Hana, a Greek Orthodox clergyman in Jerusalem. The documentary, he said, “contradicts the religious principles and the historic and spiritual principles that we hold tightly to.”

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film’s hypothesis holds little weight.

“I don’t think that Christians are going to buy into this,” 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.”

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.” Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker’s claim that the James Ossuary – the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel – might have originated from the same cave.

In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box. “I don’t think the James Ossuary came from the same cave,” said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University.

“If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus.”

Although the documentary makers claim to have found the tomb of Jesus, the British Broadcasting Corporation beat them to the punch by 11 years. Osnat Goaz, a spokeswoman for the Israeli government agency responsible for archaeology, declined to comment before the documentary was aired.

Point of information: does not refer to anyone as “Reverend”, nor does it recognize a particular location as the official tomb of our Lord, Jesus Christ