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Eric & Melanie Barger

Ministry Update - February 26, 2007

Has Hollywood's James Cameron Found
"The Lost Tomb of Jesus?"

Academy Award-winning director James Cameron who won best director several years ago for "Titanic" is the producer of a new 90-minute documentary which alleges that a burial tomb unearthed in Jerusalem is that of Jesus and nine other people.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus” will air on The Discovery Channel on March 4th and on the Vision Channel in Canada on March 6th. Directing the project for Cameron is Emmy winning documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici. Liberal theologians, such as James Tabor, chairman of the religious studies department at the University of North Carolina (who was a part of the film's production team) and John Dominic Crossan ("The Jesus Seminar") are heralding the project's heretical claims as “proof” that Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, that He was married to Mary Magdalene and with her He fathered children. (Much like the unfounded accusations made in The Da Vinci Code, except this time its a son.) The documentary airing is timed to coincide with the release of a companion book, The Jesus Family Tomb, published by Harper-Collins.jesusfamilytomb.jpg (11863 bytes)

So, on what information are James Cameron and his associates basing these allegations?

Cameron asserts that the caskets found in the tomb (which was unearthed in 1980) bare the names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Mary Magdalene and Judah son of Jesus and five others. However, before you start ripping up your baptismal certificates and begin looking for another religion to join, let's carefully examine the "evidence" Cameron, Jacobovici and Tabor are presenting.

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On its website, (www.discovery.com) the television network is claiming: "All archaeologists confirm the nature of the find." This is bluntly untrue. Discovery.com goes on to proclaim, "All leading epigraphers agree about the inscriptions." This again is simply not true. In fact, according to news reports the only way to extrapolate that any of the ossuaries (caskets) in this tomb are even remotely related to Jesus Christ is by reading scrapes and scratches on them as Aramaic lettering!

Even if the name "Jesus" did appear on the stone cases, it was a popular name at that time, appearing in 98 other tombs and on 21 other ossuaries in Jerusalem. Further weakening Cameron's already failing theory, it's extremely unlikely that Joseph, who had died earlier in Galilee, would have been buried in Jerusalem. Also, the fourth-century church historian Eusebius recorded that the body of James, brother of Jesus, was buried alone near the temple mount. So much for this being the "family" burial site.

Amos Kloner, the first archeologist to examine the site, said Cameron's idea that they have found Jesus' tomb fails to hold up by archeological standards but makes for profitable television.

"They just want to get money for it," Kloner said.

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." 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. The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time," he said.

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."

Shimon Gibson, one of three archeologists who first discovered the tomb in 1980, said Monday of the film's claims "I'm skeptical, but that's the way I am."

William Dever, an expert on near eastern archeology and anthropology, who has worked with Israeli archeologists for five decades, said specialists have known about these particular ossuaries for years.

"The fact that it's been ignored tells you something," said Dever, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. "It would be amusing if it didn't mislead so many people."

Besides all this, historians have tracked the facts surrounding Jesus' tomb since the first century. The burial site identified in Cameron's documentary is in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood - nowhere near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City or the lesser accepted Garden Tomb site.

Based on what Cameron contends the inscriptions on the caskets say, Discovery.com is attempting to justify the film using statistical verification. The website states: "It comes down to a matter of statistics. A statistical study commissioned by the broadcasters (Discovery Channel/Vision Canada/C4 UK) concludes that the probability factor is 600 to 1 in favor of this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family."

Sounds conclusive doesn't it? However, let's not lose sight of the fact that when statisticians run numbers they are limited to figure only on the alleged facts as they are presented to them...not necessarily on what the actual truth is. This is why polls can be so tremendously deceptive. Today, supposedly objective "experts" have learned the Clintonesque art of parsing the information so as to veil details that do not align with their desired point of view - all the while claiming of course to be 100% accurate.

Cameron must be feeling the heat of his critics and thought it needful to boost his credibility in the eyes of the uninformed public since he has now changed the statistical probability (which again is only as good as the evidence used to form it). This morning (February 26, 2007) he told NBC's Today Show that statisticians found "in the range of a couple of million to one" in favor of the documentary's conclusions about the ossuaries. It appears that to Cameron 600 to 1 just wasn't convincing enough.

Irregardless of the facts, the opposing experts and history itself, James Cameron, Simcha Jacobovici, James Tabor and The Discovery Channel appear bent on discrediting orthodox Christianity by forwarding a Gnostic, view of Jesus. On a page titled "Theological Considerations", they engage in some pretty poignant double talk suggesting that Christ could have risen from this newly discovered tomb while at the same time claiming to also have His bones! This page concludes by forwarding the heretical idea that Jesus rose spiritually and not physically. (I think I smell Tabor's work here!)

Obviously, Cameron and crew are aware of the power of television and filmmaking to sway opinions and make points. Many will believe what Discovery puts on TV simply because it's on TV! Indeed, it is troubling that untold numbers of spiritual seekers may permanently turn their backs on Christianity because of efforts such as "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." However, one thing is certain; because Jesus Christ indeed rose from the grave and because He lives today and dwells in the hearts of millions across the world, Christianity will survive anything James Cameron or the Discovery Channel or anyone else can dish out. Jesus is incarnate God and has dominion over all that is. With that in mind, it is simply our job as authentic Believers to know the truth and to vigorously proclaim it to whomever we can.

Christianity does indeed make for a nice soft and appealing target for those who hate absolute standards, endorse evolution as fact and want to help construct a world society without God and with little moral constraint. The flesh of man hates righteousness and aided by Satan's demonic persuasions men have, are and will rail against God's truth until the very end.

As I was doing the research for this piece, I ran across what seemed to be a curious statement on the Wikipedia Internet encyclopedia site. It stated that Discovery Communications Inc. presents

This newest attack on the deity and resurrection of Jesus serves as more proof that the claim of the Discovery Channel to be a "non-fiction" outlet are indeed highly exaggerated. We could say much the same for the likes of NBC, (whose Today Show crew threw objective reporting out the window when interviewing Cameron this morning) CNN, ABC and the majority of other media outlets as well.

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