Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cameron's Fraudumentary

Discovery Channel is going to run a show on March 4 purporting to be the lost tomb of Jesus. They ask us, the readers, to make our own judgement on the authenticity of the find.

I would say their assertion this is the tomb of Jesus, of his mother Mary, Mary Magdelene, Matthew, and Judah is very slim. So slim as to be almost transparent.

Lets look at the inscriptions. If these were truly ossuaries for a Jewish family, then why is Mary's name, in Aramaic Miriam, Latinized to Maria? And another is in Greek? It does not make sense at first glance.

Next they compared the patina on the ossuaries to the James ossuary. Patina is akin to a film the limestone builds up over time on the exposed surfaces, it bonds with the limestone. They found the patinas to match and that there is a space in the Talpiot Tomb where the oddly shaped James ossuary could have fitted.

There was much excitement when the James ossuary first surfaced because it purported to have had the remains of Jesus' brother James. At first the ossuary was deemed authentic until it was shipped back from being displayed in Canada and was damaged during this exhibition. It turns out the collector who had the ossuary, a Mr. Oded Golan, had, for twenty years, been running an antiquities forgery ring with the ossuary being the latest scam.

Here is Dr. Rochelle I. Altman's conclusions on the inscription found on the James ossuary:

If the entire inscription on the ossuary is genuine, then somebody has to explain why there are two hands, two different scripts, two different social strata, two different levels of execution, two different levels of literacy, and two different carvers. They could also explain where the frame has gone.
The ossuary itself is undoubtedly genuine; the well-executed and formal first part of the inscription is a holographic original by a literate (and wealthy) survivor of Jacob bar Yosef, probably sometime during the Herodian period. The second part of the inscription bears the hallmarks of a fraudulent later addition, probably around the 3rd or 4th centuries, and is questionable to say the least.

Now lets go back to the Talpiot Tomb, it was found in 1980, looked over, and generated no excitement. As Dr. Altman says the patina on the James ossuary is genuine so combined with the Cameron program's findings, it does place the ossuary in the Talpiot Tomb where probably some of Mr. Golan's associates snuck in and swiped the oddly shaped ossuary because this ossuary's inscription read 'Jacob son of Joseph.' And just a little while later the world is treated to a media sensation, the James ossuary where the patina surrounding the inscription was missing.

Now we have an answer as to what kind of family we find in the Talpiot Tomb, not the family of a carpenter. But as Dr. Altman says in his study of the James ossuary, a wealthy mercantile family from the Herodian Period. That would easily explain the Latin and Greek names found in a family tomb, better business opportunities via marriage. After all Jerusalem was the crossroads of the Roman Empire where one could meet Jews, Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, and many others.

Post Script. This is what I get for writing too fast, overlooking something vital. From Haaretz comes this lovely tid-bit. Mr Oded Golan entered into evidence for his defense photographs of the ossuary sitting on a shelf in his home. Ready for the other shoe? The pictures reportedly date to 1976, four years before the discovery of the Talpiot Tomb. Or as ABC says the tenth ossuary Gath cataloged, IAA 80.509, and that is now missing, is the James ossuary? This is the true crime of Oded Golan and his accomplices, they muddied up history in order to make money. And with this murkiness, the foundations of Cameron's show becomes even shakier.

Or perhaps the Lost Tomb of Jesus is a last gasp by Simcha Jacobovici to claim legitamacy? Simcha was involved in the media blitz surrounding the James ossuary with his 2003 documentary James, Brother of Jesus and has featured the Talpiot Tomb in his Naked Archeologist TV series without breathing a word of the links to the James ossuary or as the family burial tomb of Jesus. Now he is involved in, guess what, Cameron's Lost Tomb of Jesus. Jacobovici's academic vitae is a BA with Honours in Philosophy and Political Science with an MA in International Relations, he is not an archeologist.

The more I look around, the more dirty the water is and more suspect the assertion that this tomb belongs to the New Testament Jesus and family. A rich mercantile family still fits the few known facts better than what Cameron and Jacobovici are saying.

Update March 3 2007
If anyone wants a different but throrough take on how weak Cameron and Jacobovic's arguments are, then please click on Extreme Theology. Also check out the comments.

To cast further doubt on things, Dr. Tabor, who wrote the ABC article I quoted saying an ossuary was missing from Talpiot Tomb, might be in extreme error. But why should I be surprised since Dr. Tabor is invovled in the making of Cameron's film so has a vested interest in pushing this idea.

Again thanks to Extreme Theology comes this article from the Jerusalem Post. Dr. Amos Kloner, who excavated Talpiot in 1980, on if this could be the tomb of Jesus.

It makes a great story for a TV film. But it's completely impossible. It's nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle class family from the 1st century CE.


Chris Rosebrough said...

I've written a comprehensive rebuttal to claims and evidence of this film. Please read it and decide for yourself.

You will find it at extremetheology.com

Mike's America said...

This is nothing more than the sequel to the DaVinci Codes.

J_G said...

The secpros do this at Easter fairly often because they have nothing else to talk about. Pretty much the same old same old but it sells to a crowd anxious to discredit Christianity and those that are questioning their faith. This film or the people that produce it man little or nothing to me.

They should go back and talk about the Hollywood communist witch hunts from the fities, they were actually quite effective in identifying them.

Anna said...

When it comes to archeology and Jerusalem, there is no such thing as a simple dig. As the walkway repair outrage proves. Or the trashing of Solomon's Stables to make a mosque. Or the destruction of the Tomb of the Patriarch by Arabs.

Arabs want to deny Jewish occupancy. Then there are the Minimalists who seek to deny or decrease how much of the Bible can be verified by archeological evidence. There are also rabid Biblical archeologists who are on the other extreme from the Minimalists. Now add in an idustry selling antiquities, legit and not legit. And one gets a recipe for murder, disaster, and sensationalism. And it seems Cameron is the latest willing to cash in.

James Snapp, Jr. said...

For detailed analysis of the flaws in the claims made in the "Lost Tomb of Jesus," I welcome you to read my two-part essay at www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombOne.html and www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombTwo.html . Both were written before the movie was broadcast, based on its promotional materials.

For a thorough description of errors, half-truths, misrepresentations of evidence, and so forth, in the movie, including a detailed look at the "Acts of Philip" which was presented as if it is a straightforward historical account of some missionary journeys, see
www.curtisvillechristian.org/LostTomb/html .

Btw, the "patina-fingerprinting" stuff did not look a bit impressive to me when I examined it in slow motion and freeze-frames. The trace-element profiles that I saw were *not* the same.

Anna said...

James, thanks for the links.

It is amazing how they hid behind the apochryphal book called the Acts of Philip to buttress their claims that that ossuary with the Greek name was Mary Magdelene.

The non-match of the James Ossuary against the Talpiot ossuaries is not a great surprise while further weakening their claims.