“The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Critical Look” – Live Blog

Ted Koppel moderating with Simcha Jacobovici, James Tabor, William Dever, and Jonathon Reed.

Koppel begins by asking why they only choose the Mariamne and Jesus ossuaries for the DNA evidence. SJ’s reply is that we just didn’t push the science that far (see also NYTimes in Feb. 27, 2007) and Koppel is pushing him…

Dever is addressed now and states he has “no dog in this fight.” But he has issues with the film because it puts archeology in a bad light. Jonathan Reed has a similar view (calls it archeo-porn!). Both do not like the way it puts forward their conclusions first and (Reed) create a chain of suppositions upon suppositions. Neither believe that it is convincing.

SJ is trying to break in and TK won’t let him. Good TV 🙂

TK is now bringing in a quote from the DNA scientist Matheson who qualified his comments and TK is challenging SJ on his trying to prove a negative and concluding that they were married. Tabor is defending which ossuaries were tested, saying that the others had been “vacuumed out.”

TK: The depictions provided in the film lend a power to their arguments, it is drama not documentation or journalism. This is great for students of journalism. SJ is not addressing that question. I cannot do this justice, but I will say that I find this almost more interesting than the film itself. TK is taking him to task, subtly asking whether SJ is a filmmaker or a journalist.

WD challenges SJ to say that Frank Moore Cross, who is in the film is edited in such a way that, according to WD, he was unable to say that he did not agree with their conclusions.

TK: Moving on to the James ossuary. SJ and TK are arguing over assertions/terms so TK says to roll the tape! Genna, the scientist from the Suffolk Co. crime lab has sent a letter saying that they do NOT conclude that it is a match since they did not have enough data. SJ brings a letter of his own from Genna defining the term “match” and perferring the term “link.”

SJ is asserting again that, like TK, he is a “journalist.” This is a nice theme to be followed up at another time. Is he being a journalist in this film? Peter Klein, a CBS, 60 Minutes producer was our guest at PSU last month. He defined the role of a journalist and documentary film maker as “shedding light” and allowing others to make their own decisions. I don’t think SJ is merely “shedding light” he is

Commercial break.

TK: Is now bringing up Kloner’s testimony that the 10th ossuary is unmarked, etc. But Tabor is offering evidence that only 9 were catalogued. TK pushes back by saying that the important bit is that Kloner says that it was plain, no inscription. Tabor counters that there would have been too much soil on it to be seen. Reed counters that Kloner is too good an archeologist to miss the inscription or the rosette.

TK: Now to statistics. (And they will lose me here, I am afraid.) TK focuses upon the question of whether or not “Mariamne” is Mary Magdalene. Feuerverger wrote to Koppel and told him that if it is just “Maria” than all statistical significance “washes out” completely. Tabor is again taking up the argument. (DVD+R full! Putting in new disk.) Reed and Dever are taking them to task on the names. Again, Tabor is coming in on the defense of the film and he is doing well. Respectful and knowledgable, even while disagreeing with Reed and Dever. Tabor’s argument is that, in the end, it does’t effect the statistics.

SJ does bring a very fair point, which is that this tomb has not received much attention since it was discovered. I think Kloner’s article (write up?) is the only one, but I could be wrong. Does anyone else know of any work on these ossuaries and this tomb prior to SJ’s film?

Commercial break. They will be coming back with three additional professors on religion.

Fr. David O’Connel from President of Catholic U. of America, Darrell Bock from Dallas Theological Seminary, Judy Fentriss-Williams from VTS.

DO: Is not persauded by the movie; it does not rock his faith. TK asked a very prescient question: does your faith preclude the possibility of Jesus having a child OR that if he did it would not matter to your faith.

DB: The resurection is central to the Christian faith. He concludes that he is “schizophrenic” about the program. It is good about showing the problems and questions of archeological work BUT there are so many steps connecting the dots. Hypothesis upon hypothesis.

JF-W: She points out that news and media collide in this. She urges viewers to ask if there are even any archaeologists in the film. Ouch. She comes back to the fact that this is drama, filmmaking, and not scholarship or even news. TK follows by saying that SJ says that “that is what filmmakers do these days” and JF-W responds to this and says that there is a difference between journalism and filmmaking. TK is clearly following his strengths and this is, as I suggested before, an important theme.

TK suggests a multi-step process, the film brings forward questions now it is time for scholars and theologians to discuss it.

TK says that so far to DB is the only one to say that IF it were true, then it would undermine all of Christianity. DB acknowledges that (and JF-W nods as well) and says that the “resurrection” would have to be redefined. Tabor is arguing that the “more sophisticated” way of understanding the resurrection is that the bones etc would be left behind. Tabor argues that Paul is splitting material v. spiritual form. JF-W comes in and says, “this is the conversation that doesn’t come into the film.”

TK asks Fr. O if he would prefer the debate to go on and on, or just pass after a few weeks. Fr. O says he thinks that it will disapate (as do I). He also confirms (contra Tabor) that “most Christians” affirm a bodily resurrection.

{Discussion about faith and if scientific evidence can affirm, counter, challenge, etc. Too difficult to summarize.}

DB comes back to saying that there are too many “ifs” leading to their “then” in the sequence of thought in the film.

TK is now bringing forward the past tendency of religion to try and “eliminate” those from the scientific world who challenge religion, faith. JF-W points out that Christians need to work with science, discovery but that we need to be critical of the interpretive process. TK points out that this is why the dramatization is problematic.

SJ now comes in to say that he is trying to put forward images that are “true,” avoiding “blond hair, blue eyed” Jesus, etc. TK is trying to bring it back to the journalism/argument of the piece. Fr. O speaks to the representation images and quotes Paul, walking by faith and not by sight. It is not the empty tomb, it is that he also appeared to the disciples. DB does not object to the dramatization, but to the things that are left out in the representation. JF-W agrees that what Jesus looks like is important (she is an African-American) and she brings it back to the journalism issue. The piece was put together in order to bring forward a specific conclusion, not allowing the viewers conclude for themselves.

TK has a soliloquy to end with. I will not try and capture it, but instead look for a transcript. We will have to see if Discovery posts it on their site.

All in all the “Critical Look” was very good and a LOT of fun. TK did what I thought was an excellent job. Very fair, albeit an emphasis upon how the media was being used. I am personally very interested in isues of the media and religion so I enjoyed it. The scholars and theologians on the panel were well balanced, imho, and articulate. Tabor presented himself well but SJ seemed always defensive, which I suppose is to be expected. When all is said and done, I think Discovery did a pretty good job in presenting this with the panel following the film. I wonder, however, if when this airs repeatedly over the next many years (or even on DVD) they will also include the “Critical Look.” I hope so, it was arguably the best part. And I already have my answer. the 1 am rebroadcast will NOT have the panel discussion following. Oh well.

(I just noticed that the program that follows this is “Noah’s Ark: The True Story“!)

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