• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Friday, March 02, 2007

    The Lost Tomb of Jesus

    I've been slightly reticent to post about this film here as firstly, it's been covered in so many other places elsewhere, by people who are far more expert than I, and secondly because I won't get the opportunity to see the film for some time anyway, and by then I imagine that this will all have died down. (My guess is that it will appear at Easter over here, with Channel 4 being odds on favourites to screen it - they did after all show the heavily Tabor influenced The Secret Family of Jesus on Christmas Day this year). I have however posted on it at rejesus where I've tried to restrict my comments to the area of statistics.

    But as I've thought about my approach a bit more over the last couple of days, it's occurred to me that this is a film, and it is about the bible, at least in some sense, and whilst it's not an dramatised / narrative film (although it will undoubtedly contain a great deal of both) but a documentary, it is undoubtedly of relevance to this blog. By contrast there are a number of well known theologians who waded into this early on but have since been big enough to admit they were a bit too overzealous in places (namely Richard Bauckham and Ben Witherington)

    So I'm going to write about the actual film here, which has tended to be buried amongst the discussion about the subject matter, and I might craft another post at a later stage which looks at some of the arguments.

    One thing that is clear is that whilst the filmmakers have not given much thought ot peer reviewing their findings, they have certainly spent a lot of effort into putting together a substantial official website. In addition to all the usual stuff, there's a wealth of clearly and simply laid out pages with attractive design. Likewise The Discovery Channel also has a fair bit of information on the film, as well as some more "news" type pages. The film is first due to air on Sunday, March 4th, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. I would guess it would be repeated several times by Discovery.

    The team that has made the film has been fairly well publicised. James Cameron's (Titanic) name has been all over the news regarding this film, but he's actually only involved as an executive producer, rather than as director. The directing honours go to Simcha Jacobovici (Exodus Decoded) who was also involved with producing and writing. Interestingly he also made James, Brother of Jesus, although I've not been able to find out the conclusions of that documentary.

    A number of theologians and archaeologists are also involved, although it seems that the degree to which they have been involved, as well as the extent to which they agree with the filmmakers conclusions. So James Tabor agrees enough to have reversed some of his previous positions from The Jesus Dynasty, whereas Amos Kloner is standing by his original claim from 1980 that there was not an ossuary in this particular tomb inscribed "James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus". Darrel Bock claims to have seen the script at an early date, but not to really have been involved, and L.Y. Rahmani’s ossuary catalogue seems to have been a key source. John Dominic Crossan's name also appears on the official website, but it's far from clear how closely he has been involved.

    Finally there are a number of other experts involved. François Bovon and Shimon Gibson are also named on the discovery site. In terms of experts from other disciplines, one key "witness" is Dr. Andrey Feuerverger - Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Toronto. He is the statistician, although it's difficult to know what kind of information he was given to work with. Did it really justify a professor, or did they just need someone with good reputation to lend the project some credibility? Two other credits; Felix Golubev is one of the other producers, and Charlie R. Pellegrino is the other writer.

    Anyone who is desperate to see this and doesn't have access to The Discovery Channel will be pleased to know that the DVD is available for sale already. The programme is also accompanied by a book which is also for sale. Summaries of the deabte are being posted at two of my favourite blogs - Codex and NT Gateway. James Tabor is also advancing the arguments in favour at his Jesus Dynasty blog.

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    • At 12:19 am, March 05, 2007, Blogger Unknown said…

      I wonder what they're gonna "find" next . . . Jesus' toothbrush?

      Nobody takes these Jesus conspiracy theories seriously anymore. Whatever agenda the people behind this latest documentary have, one thing is certain: the name of Jesus will still be worshiped and revered -- long after the bones of us all have rotted.

      Anyway, this being the season of Purim . . . have you found a copy of "The Thirteenth Day: The Story of Esther" yet, Matt? I didn’t quite enjoy the latest Esther film.

    • At 5:54 pm, March 06, 2007, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks for your comments guys.

      Chris - that sure is comprehensive!

      Edmund, I'm afraid I've not managed to track down "The Thirteenth Day: The Story of Esther" yet. Sorry.


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