Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Well, something has finally knocked the death of Anna Nicole Smith off the nauseating stuff on TV that passes as news. And who could do such a thing? Jesus Christ. But not really anything less sordid than the Anna Nicole Smith thing. This one is about the supposed proof that Jesus's bones have been found. Now, you'd think that such information would make the heart of one like me, a holder of a BA in Religious Studies with a concentration in Christian History, beat rapidly with adrenaline. You'd think I'd be drooling right about now and watching the news all the time to find out more. But I watched a bit, just enough to see what they are talking about and see that the holes in their theories are big enough to stroll through.

Let's start with the names on the ossuaries (where the bones were held): "Jesus, son of Joseph"; "Mary"; and "Judah, son of Jesus". Gasp! Why, that's like, like...like finding children in a school today whose names are Matthew, Emma and Sarah. These names were very popular back then so this means nothing. Even less so, since no one knows if Jesus had a son and if he was named Judah.

The documentary people used DNA to prove that two of the sets of remains in the tomb were unrelated, namely Jesus and Mary Magdalene. So, they presume, they must be married. Okey dokey, so they're not related. Now this is where it gets good right? This is where they test Judah's bones to prove that he is the son of Jesus and Mary, right? Oh, no they didn't do that, at least they don't reveal that they did. And wouldn't you think that would be the big revelation these documentary producers would lay on us if they had it--Perfect DNA proof that a Judah was the child of a Mary and a Jesus. And even if they did, is that proof that Jesus Christ married and had a child? Proof?

Then there are the "experts". One "expert", a statistician, said that the odds of all six names (Jesus, Mary, Joseph. Mary Magdalene, Matthew and Judah) being in the one tomb are 1 in 600 to one in a million. Okay, but first you have to get more "experts" to say that the names inscribed on the individual ossuaries are, in fact, these names. For instance, in order to say that one was inscribed with the name Mary Magdalene, it involved getting "experts" to say that the Greek inscriptions (the only Greek inscription in the tomb) “Mariamene e Mara” can be translated as “Mary, known as the master”. Then you need another "expert", namely Harvard professor Francois Bovon to interpret a fourth or fifth century text, the "Acts of Phillip", which apparently reveals that Mariamene is Mary Magdalene’s real name.

I mean I can find "experts" who will swear that almost every product in every infomercial will help you lose weight or look twenty years younger; will tell you that global warming is a hoax and that the Holocaust never happened. Experts sell these days and for every one that says this latest James Cameron film reveals the truth, there will be one or two more who says the opposite. And even more who'll say the only thing I can respect: "We're not sure. Could be, might not be. Not enough evidence right now."

I'm not a skeptic at heart. I believe in things that lots of other people don't believe in and doubt some that many people are certain of. I see connections where others may not. But this latest publicity stunt of James Cameron and his crowd, this latest attempt to create a buzz a la The Da Vince Code, is pathetic. At least Dan Brown just revealed it as a fictional theory, not as a documentary. The bottom line is that none of this is provable anyway. But even to make me think it might be, even to make me sit up and look on with rapt interest, the evidence would have to be a lot more persuasive than what I've seen so far.

And if it is, I'll let you know. I will be watching PBS on Sunday night when the film airs.


At 8:56 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I agree. This type of programing is more about the spectacle and capturing the imagination than the substance... but I'll be tuning in too.

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

Tina, Robert? You'll be watching the documentary? Well then. The publicity stunt worked.

I'll be sure to have lots of popcorn and a diaper. I don't want to miss a second of it!

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Tina Chaulk said...

Steve, I think I should watch it now that I have said that the evidence they put forth in their press conference wasn't very inspiring. I think it only fair to watch it all now and say I was wrong if something suddenly intrigues or impresses me.

And since it is being aired on PBS, I think the publicity is to buy the DVD which I won't. (The truth is that if I saw anything coming to PBS with Jesus and archeology stuff in it, I'd watch it. I'm a sucka for that stuff.)

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Robert said...

The stunt totally worked...
and I'm not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it... though, I expect, I'm supposed to be.

Tina, did you watch the Noah's Arc in the ice stuff from a decade ago?

That was great fun too...
I love to argue with the TV
as much as let my imagination get captured. It's good entertainment.

At 9:08 PM, Blogger TrudyJ said...

I'm as avid about the quest for the historical Jesus as the next person (that is, if I'm standing in line between Dan Brown and John Dominic Crossan) but this sounds so farfetched, it doesn't even interest me. Well, not that I have a choice about watching it since I don't have cable, but I doubt I would anyway.

On the Ship of Fools discussion forum we booted talk of this film from the "serious discussion" board up to the "frivolous discussion" area because there wasn't even enough serious material there to engender discussion -- people just kept cracking jokes.

I particularly love the bit about the statistician. The only THREE names involved that are verifiably connected to the Jesus story are Jesus, Mary and Joseph -- the "Judah" is pure speculation so there's no reason it would figure into any assessment of probability -- and as you say, these names were common-as-dirt in 1st century Israel ... so, yeah. Pretty sad attempt to jump on the Da Vinci bandwagon.


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