Sunday, March 04, 2007

"The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Critical Look" programme.

After The Lost Tomb of Jesus, Ted Koppel hosted an hour's discussion called The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Critical Look. The first half of the programme was a debate between Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor on the one side and Jonathan Reed and William Dever on the other. Jacobovici was fairly defensive throughout, perhaps not surprisingly in view of some hostile questions from Koppel, who suggested on several occasions that he had quoted people out of context, and some barbed comments from Jonathan Reed, who called the programme "Archaeoporn". The second half of the programme was devoted to "Religious responses" and featured Darrell Bock and a couple of others I didn't know as well as Jacobovici and Tabor. It was a useful discussion, on the whole, with some good and some not so good contributions.

The next major bit of media discussion on the programme will be the Diane Rehm show today (Monday) at 11.00am, ET, in which Jacobovici will be in debate with my colleague Eric Meyers (HT: Jim West). I doubt that Eric will mince his words, so it may be an interesting piece.


Michael Barber said...
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Michael Barber said...

I thought Bock did a great job. His retort to James Tabor on 1 Corinthians 15 was great.

However, I thought Fr. David O'Connell was a very poor choice. You were kind not to come right out and say it--but I'm Catholic so I can. He just was out of his league. He's not a biblical scholar and he clearly has not done much work in the area of the relationship between faith and reason, theology and history.

A better Catholic representative would have been Scott Hahn, William Kurz, Mary Healy, Robert Wilken or my good friend, Brant Pitre. In fact, the Saint Paul Center's list of associates is filled with people who would have been better qualified.

Mike L. said...

I enjoyed the film the lost tomb of jesus. It was well made and fair. However, the Koppel analysis after the film was horrible. Why does he have problems with adding dramatization to the film? Isn't this a common practice in any history/discovery channel documentary? I've seen hundreds of "docudrama" type shows supporting Christian doctrine on this same network.

Anonymous said...


My early comments on the misuse of data in "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" remain appropriate, at and . I would add that now Tabor is complaining that people are dismissing the show "out of hand." Maybe some folks are, but others are dismissing it because it is essentially propaganda for its thesis, and because huge flaws in its basic claims are easy to find.

Dever and Reed didn't do much more than express their opinions about the show, and provide statements for Jacobovici to interrupt. Reed's best point was that nobody is saying that Mary Magdalene was called Mariamne in the first century, but he didn't get an opportunity to press that point.

Bock was a little better in the second part, but he seemed rather benign. For instance, when Tabor claimed that "Mariamne" was used to refer to Mary Magdalene in a "second-century source," where was the call for proof?

Jacobovici said something to the effect that his grandfather's name didn't change 100 years after he died, so why should we expect Mariamne's name to change? But he's making a point AGAINST his own claims: without the assumption that Mary Magdalene's name was changed 100 years (or 150 or 200 years) after her death, his proposed link between Mary Magdalene and "Mariamne" evaporates.

(I think the references in Origen, Hippolytus, and "Acts of Philip" associate "Mariamne" more with Mary of Bethany than with anyone else, and if "Acts of Philip" is to be taken seriously when it comes to Mariamne being a sister of Philip (which is a leap), well, Philip was from Bethsaida, not Magdala.

Plus, the main show's bizarre dramatization of John 19:26 (ignoring John 19:27 which effectively makes Jacobovici's interpretation impossible) was not specifically commented upon!

It's easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback, I suppose, but I think there were some lost opportunities to make insightful criticisms in the Koppel show. It was supposed to be "A Critical Look," not a casual chit-chat.

Anonymous said...

After viewing this program last night, I stayed up all night to decipher the mysterious words written on the walls of this tomb displayed at the end of the show:

Elvis was here!

Anonymous said...

In Canada, "The Lost Tomb" will be aired tomorrow (Tuesday, March 6, 8:00 PM) and repeated twice in prime time (Saturday, March 10, 8:00 PM; Thursday, March 15, 9:00 PM).

Also in Canada, Simcha Jacobovici will debate Craig A. Evans on the Michael Coren Show (Tuesday, March 6).

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

"I thought Bock did a great job. His retort to James Tabor on 1 Corinthians 15 was great."

I thought it was weak. (1) Tabor seemed to have a better handle on the 1 Cor 15 passage than Bock. (2) I don't think the issue of our "heavenly bodies" is anywhere close to the most significant implication of Jesus' bones being discovered. Read the first part of Paul's comments in the same passage: If Jesus' bones are still in a tomb somewhere then it is all over except the weepin'. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. "Heavenly bodies" is a matter for theological speculation and isn't an issue. They will be appropriate. The real issue is the implications for the resurrection of Christ. Somehow Bock managed to get bogged down on the general resurrection of the dead in Christ and failed to represent what is really at issue here.

In my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I thought Bock dropped the ball. How about a reference to Luke 24:39, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Or a mention of the invitation to Thomas to stick his hands in the holes? Also, I really didn't expect a protestant seminary professor to have to drop back to Maccabees to find evidence of a physical resurrection.

I also would have appreciated one of them clarifying that the bible describes the story of the disciples taking Jesus's body as a deliberate falsehood that was the result of bribery to cover up the His rising from the dead. The show sort of passed that off as a plausible theory with a biblical foundation.

I was surprised that none of the three theologians stressed what the true implications of this piece were. If the gospel accounts of the resurrection are false, than the disciples were martyred for a lie, and none of the other parts of the gospel are reliable, either.

Anonymous said...

Ted Koppel's "Critical Look" was a failure, for one important reason. He needed to solicit an evaluation of the film's central statistical calculation, from an outside mathematics expert, and he didn't. No one involved with "Critical Look" had any math skills at all, except the statistician who was paid by Cameron and Jacobovici.

The calculation was littered with egregious mathematical errors, some of which were so obvious that most high school math teachers could find them. Ask your own high school math teacher, and you'll see what I mean. Erroneous calculations produce erroneous results. The result of this erroneous calculation was the central theme of the entire film!

Anonymous said...

P.S. I didn't mean to imply that Koppel should have commissioned a FORMAL evaluation of the film's statistical calculation. A very informal review, which any statistician could have done mentally while watching the film, would have been enough.