I am live blogging a commentary on The Resurrection Tomb Mystery documentary that is airing on Discovery Channel (USA) tonight, 10pm EDT. It is airing at the same time in Canada as The Jesus Discovery (Vision TV).
It's a while since I have done one of these live blogs, but I have been posting so extensively about this tomb over the last six weeks that now seems like a good time to do it. The idea is simply that I tap away on my laptop while I watch. If you want to follow along, you'll have to remember to hit the "refresh" button from time to time.
The way that this tends to work is that I blog the most during the ad breaks. On this occasion, I am particularly excited about actually getting to see some footage of the tomb. Although I have been heavily critical of the claims being made in the published materials so far, I am nevertheless genuinely excited about seeing inside this early Roman period (1st century BCE to 1st century CE tomb). I'm sure that that footage will be the highlight for me.
9.58: tuning in. Discovery are showing a documentary on Jesus to get people in the right mood. Just realized that I need to feed the cats and grab a glass of wine before I settle down.
10.00: Starting. Begins with a note that people will disagree about what they see.
Goes on with a flashback to the previous documentary from 2007.
Note: Bob Cargill is also live-blogging over on XKV8R.
Ok, they are cracking on with it. Good. Already talking about the 1980 excavation of Talpiot Tomb A. Nice black and white style reconstruction as if we are looking at real footage. Now some footage from the 2007 film. Explanations of the cluster of names from the Talpiot Tomb A, Jesus Son of Joseph, etc. And now the first contribution from James Tabor saying that the Talpiot Tomb is Jesus' family tomb.
22.04: They talk about the controversy, but imply that the problem comes from fundamentalists, not scholars who find the claims implausible.
Now they are doing a nice reconstruction, again in black and white, of the 1981 excavation. They show two of the pictures from 1981. Good to see.
22.06: the name of Joseph of Arimathea is brought up for the first time. First worrying sign. And now "Two hills" are linked with "Arimathea" to link the tomb to Joseph of A. This is very weak. Bear in mind that there is absolutely nothing in this tomb that links with Joseph of Arimathea.
22.08: the Haredim manage to shut down the excavation; shots of activists disrupting the excavation.
22.09: explanation of how they are looking for the tomb and using GPR. They do not mention the fact that they already sent cameras down into the tomb in 2007, and that there was footage in the documentary of the ossuaries and the inside of that tomb. Unless I missed it, the implication is that they did *not* go into the tomb at that point, and that they are looking for it here afresh.
22.10. First ad. break. 22.13. Starts again. They don't know how to access the tomb.
James Tabor and Rami Arav now introduced formally. They need to get into the tomb somehow without going in themselves. William Klassen is now being introduced in Toronto -- robotic arm and the camera. This is easily the most interesting and important element, in my opinion, in the documentary. Fantastic new technology and the chance to see an early Roman period tomb.
22.15: "What would an early Christian symbol look like". They go to Rome with Robin Jensen to look at possible Christian images. Catacombs. Simcha asks Jensen, "Jonah is Christian?" "Oh yes". In context here, yes!
Bear in mind that Robin Jensen has made clear that she does not endorse the claims made in this documentary about the "fish" in the Talpiot tomb. But there are further problems -- we should not be going in, expecting to find Christian images. This is predisposition.
22.18: We are back in the attempts to get into the tomb. Finding problems getting in, etc. And now "the moment we have been waiting for".
22.19: Another ad break. Nice to see the Geko with a British accent.
OK, a third of the way through and we are not yet in the tomb. But it's on its way. Audience have been told that if we find Jonah and the fish, then we have an early Christian image of resurrection. So what's the guessing that they are going to find Jonah and the fish?
I've just heard that Tom Verenna is live blogging too. Don't forget to check up Robert Cargill too. If anyone else is live blogging, let me know.
22.24: longish ad break. Starts again. Robotic arm stuff and general recap. Simcha "believes . . . the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea". This is persuasion by repetition. Bear in mind that there is nothing to link this tomb to Joseph of Arimathea. Absolutely nothing.
22.25: The camera is going in. We are getting the shots of the tomb. Simcha and company is thrilled. "Almost there, almost there", they say. Don't get that. Almost where? What are they looking for?
22.27: Fabulous to see shots of ossuary one, and the snaking through. Tabor: "It's really ornate, befitting a wealthy person" So Joseph of Arimathea, then?! They are showing the Nephesh on ossuary 1. Nicely done.
22.28. Moving to kokh 2. They are calling them "niches". Looking at ossuaries 2, 3 and 4. Looking at ossuary 4, MARA spelt out. They are linking it with Mariamene Mara from Talpiot Tomb A. Now linking with Mary Magdalene. Here we go.
I just want to look at the ossuaries; I don't want all this stuff.
They are pressing on after making progress. But the cable has snapped and they've hit a problem, a problem of the kind that in documentaries requires an . . .
. . . . ad break!
Half way through the documentary now. For me, a highlight is seeing the footage of the ossuaries. I am not enjoying hearing repeated, unfounded references to Joseph of Arimathea.
Just checked up on how Robert Cargill is doing in his blog and he also spots the repeated references to Joseph of Arimathea. Ad break is going on a bit, so checked on Tom Verenna's too. He notes that they had already seen these ossuaries before in 2007, so there is an element of staging here.
10.34: we are off again. Broken robotic arm. This will last a short while and then we will overcome it and carry on. Documentaries have to have a few crises. "The exploration appears to be over before it really begins." Repaired and back. Good. Now let's see some more ossuaries!
10.36: looking at kokh 3, plain ossuary and no inscriptions. They are running out of options. No Joseph of Arimathea, they say.
10.37: now they are approaching ossuaries 5 and 6 and we are about to have whoops of delight, I am sure, when they see the vessel on one of the ossuaries. They talk about looking at "number 4", which can't be right. They see "the cross". Here we go.
10.39: "earliest Christian related cross ever found". And that requires an ad break!
Two thirds of the way through and we have not yet got to the "fish" business, and the inscription. It'll be coming shortly.
10.42: resumes. Summary. Haha, there's the Jesus face that that "Duke professor" found. "We have a cross which I think is a Christian cross". But Tabor says, we don't have anything that links it to the tomb next door.
10.43: they have found the image. Close ups of the image of the "fish". Rami Arav thinks it is a nephesh. Simcha thinks it's a nephesh. The others disagree. "Those could be the handles". They saw the vase first.
"That's Jonah's head . . . it's spitting Jonah out" And here's the composite cgi version emerging.
The stick figure, the fish; and the fish inked in -- even more strongly than in the pics. This whole section is pretty depressing to those of us who have spent time studying the image.
10.47: the earliest Jesus symbol ever found. They are all thrilled with it. The documentary repeatedly shows the "fish" in the CGI reconstructed version, and sideways, not in the orientation it has on the ossuary.
10.48: they talk about the handled half-fish, and go to the Kloner 1981 photograph, highlighting a part of the vessel, but not the handles on the sides.
Ad break. They are saving the inscription until the end. This was, as I expected, the most disappointing section of the documentary so far -- the entire way that the image was shown was front-loaded with its interpretation as a fish, oriented to one side, using the CGI reconstruction with the tapered tail, with the inked-in "fish" in the margins, and the handled half-fish.
Using the ad break to check in on Robert Cargill's blog. As I expected, he was not too pleased with that section!
10.52: we are off again, probably for the last section. The CGI reconstruction is used again. They've found the inscription now. Trying to read it. "The inscription is in Greek, the dominant language of the wealthy in Jerusalem". What?!
10.53: they've called in James Charlesworth. He's looking at the inscription. He's doing the interpreting. God or Zeus or YHWH / raise up / spelling it out. "I am lifted up, says Jesus, I am lifted up". Now they are reading "God Jehovah Raise Up! Raise Up!" etc.
10.55: My wife has fallen asleep.
10.56: They are trying to use the use of the divine name to link the ossuary to Jesus. I wish they'd just show me some more of the ossuaries.
10.57: Tabor explains that he is now up to 95% linking it with Jesus.
10.58: Charlesworth explains that this links to Jesus -- Jonah and the fish and Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified.
Tabor explains that it is about Jesus' resurrection, but it's not physical resurrection of bones and flesh but a spiritual exaltation.
10.59: summing up. "Talpiot, Jerusalem is the resting place of Jesus and his family, his disciples . . ." etc.
"Debate is just beginning" Well, it's been going on for six weeks or so and I'm afraid we are not persuaded. Sorry, Simcha. Sorry, James.
11.00: the documentary is over. No real surprises. One big disappointment for me was not seeing more of the ossuaries and the tomb itself. I was surprised to see just how often they mentioned Joseph of Arimathea and just how weak the attempts to link the tomb to Jesus appeared.
End of live blog. Beginning of reflections!