Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Calling the Oscar

James Cameron's film "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" is a shoo-in for next year's Academy Award for "Best Documentary".

Just as Al Gore's global warming boogieman fiction and Michael Moore's mockumentary were sure things long before the envelopes were opened, you can take this one to the bank.

Some people think that making a good historical documentary is about presenting solid fact supported by undisputable physical evidence, consistent with the consensus of historians, archeologists, sociologists, and forensic scientists, as well as with other records from the period.

Those people are old fashioned and naive.

All indications are that qualities such as the truth of the claims are no longer relevant. What matters now is the political agenda behind the film.

It constantly amazes me that people are willing to buy into wild claims like this. These are the same people who talk about how reading The Da Vinci Code opened their eyes to what is really going on in the world and breathlessly listen to Art Bell to find out if earth is passing through the photon belt yet.

Scholars, both Christian and secular, are already lining up to dispute the central claims in Cameron’s film. They point out many obvious flaws: the names on the caskets were common. You would expect to find those names on many caskets from that time period. Jesus came from a poor family in Galilee. You would not expect the family to have an expensive burial plot near Jerusalem. It is not at all clear that the boxes were found together. The authenticity of the inscriptions has been questioned, as has the claim of exactly what the inscriptions say. Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said that the inscription claimed to say “Jesus” is more likely to say “Hanun”, another common name. He points on that ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.

Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the film’s claims fail to hold up by archaeological standards but make for profitable television.

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

But there are more convincing proofs that Jesus’ body was not buried in that box next to his “wife” and “son”.

History would not have unfolded as it did if that was the case.

In the days following Jesus’ crucifixion, a great deal of commotion revolved around the claims that Jesus had raised from the dead. These claims and the growing movement of Jesus’ followers undermined the authority of Rome and Pilate, the Roman governor. If Jesus body had still been in the tomb, Pilate would have certainly produced the body to lay the issue to rest. The Christian movement would have been extinguished. But Pilate could not produce the body of the man who he had sentenced to die, so it was no longer in the tomb where it had been buried.

Some people will claim that Jesus disciples stole the body and hid it to support their claim that he had risen. This story doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and sealed with Pilate’s seal. A Roman soldier who fell asleep at his post or failed to protect what he was guarding would be executed. Jesus disciples, comprised of a few fishermen, a tax collector, and other tradesmen and farmers, were no match against Roman soldiers. Jesus followers had neither the money nor the motive to bribe the guards. The Jewish leaders had both the financial resources and a pressing reason – to put to rest the growing Christian movement which threatened their authority.

Any way you look at it, stealing Jesus body to back their claims that he had resurrected would require a grand conspiracy involving many people, and such undertakings seldom hold up for long. And if the disciples had gone to such lengths to steal the body, they would certainly not bury the body in Jesus’ family tomb with his name engraved on the box. They would have to dispose of the body to ensure that it would never be found or identified.

Finally, if the disciples had conspired to steal the body to support what they knew to be a lie, what would possibly lead eleven of the twelve to face violent deaths still professing the truth of the resurrection? Andrew, Bartholomew, Philip, and Simon were all crucified, James bar Alphaeus, Judas, and Matthias were stoned to death, James son of Zebedee was beheaded, Matthew and Thomas were both speared to death, and Peter was crucified upside down. Only John died of natural causes, exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith in Jesus. Not a single one of them, facing horrific deaths, recanted their testimony that they had seen the resurrected Jesus. As first-hand witnesses, they were convinced beyond a doubt that Jesus had risen from the dead, proving that he was who he claimed to be – the Son of God.

Real scholars and historians recognize James Cameron’s film for the hogwash that it is, and Christians know that Jesus is not buried in a tomb. We know that he lives because he is actively transforming our lives every day. He lives in our hearts, not figuratively or metaphorically, but literally.

Since “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” is based on obvious falsehoods, why am I so convinced that it will win the Academy Award in the “Documentary” category? The historical precedence is clear: Al Gore won in spite of the fact that the central assertions of the film are demonstrably false. And Michael Moore won with a film which used an assortment of fabrications to support a highly questionable thesis, leading me to question why it is eligible for the Documentary category. Inaccuracies do not seem to be a roadblock to success with the Academy. In fact, they seem to be a requirement. These Oscar winners along with other nominated films such as “Jesus Camp” and “Iraq in Fragments” have one thing in common: a political agenda. Bashing conservatives or Christians scores big points, but debunking Jesus is the ultimate, even if the facts don’t really line up.

So Mr. Cameron should start writing his acceptance speech. Unless, of course, Michael Moore makes a film claiming that President Bush is Osama Bin Laden’s long-lost brother, citing Daily Kos as “evidence”.

1 comment:

todd said...

James Cameron is a blasphemer and must die! Join me in protest here!