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Hey, I Even Suggested This!

   One of the regulars in our channel has a Cafepress shop and designs shirts. On a lark, when I saw her come into channel earlier today I said, “Hey, Carla should design an ‘I Survived the Tomb Story’ t-shirt!” Well, she took me seriously and did a great job with it. So, if you’ve been reading all of my blog entries on the tomb story, and want to make your faith known, here’s a nicely done t-shirt! Here’s the link to a number of items you can order, even a coffee mug, with this graphic on it. No, this isn’t associated with A&O, but that is only because we weren’t fast enough to come up with such a great graphic! Yes, I’ve ordered one for myself. I can’t wait for the first conversation that comes up because someone sees me wearing it who likewise saw the “documentary.”

An Excellent Example of the Scholarship of The Tomb

   To say that The Lost Tomb of Jesus is a biased work is to engage in a tremendous understatement. It is very easy to document the bias of this work, and its incredible level of inaccuracy when presenting historical subjects related to the Christian faith. It lives and breathes in the air of the “Gnostic Academy,” that popular area of religious study focused upon resurrecting the heresies of the early gnostics and investing in their every word authority far beyond anything granted to orthodox Christian writings.
   Here is an excellent example. Watch this video carefully. You have hooded monks in the darkness committing ancient texts to the flames while the narrator speaks of “church fathers” in the “second century.” The intention of the filmmakers is anything but merely presenting “facts.” See for yourself:

   Let’s consider the facts. The second century was a difficult time for Christianity. This was the century of severe persecution in many portions of the Roman empire. The church was racked with the struggles produced by trying to answer the question, “What do you do with those who give in under torture?” This was a movement without political power, and without the ability to be “suppressing” anything at all. While the filmmakers directly assert editing of the gospels by these same men, they do not offer a scintilla of argument in support of their accusations against them. Evidently, Christian martyrs, as long as they are orthodox in their theology, can be slandered and lied about with impugnity in the Discovery Channel universe.
   But most amazing is the assertion that the church “suppressed” two documents in the second century: the Gospel of Mary Magdala, and the Acts of Philip. Just how did this allegedly happen? You see, the Gospel of Mary Magdala was written in the middle of the second century at the earliest. This would mean its distribution, even amongst the minority gnostic community, would take time. What evidence is provided that a book that may not have even been written during the second century was “suppressed” by a persecuted Christian church during the second century? This is even more so the case with The Acts of Philip which Francois Bovon, the Harvard scholar featured in the film itself, identifies as a fourth century work. Were these hooded monks of the second century (monasticism was just developing at this time) prophetic so as to suppress a book that would not be written for more than a century in the future? (Ironically, the narrator, less than a minute later, identifies the Acts of Philip as a fourth century text.) This kind of wide-eyed abuse of history would be humorous, if it was not placed in the context of attacking the very heart of the Christian faith.
   The reality is that the popularity of these ancient gnostic texts, which themselves are unconcerned with history (being written long after the events they portray), derives from the contemporary rise in “women’s studies” in the academy. The pagan foundations of gnosticism included the concept of “the divine feminine,” and hence, in today’s academic climate, those gnostics were cutting edge! The gnostic texts of Nag Hammadi and elsewhere do portray conflicts between male leaders, like the Apostles, and women like Mary Magdalene. But rather than this representing a true historical connection to the events that took place in Judea in the early decades of the first century, it represents the conflict between the very commandments of Christ and His Apostles recorded in the New Testament and those who wished to overthrow their authority in later cults and schisms. They created “myths” to attempt to establish their beliefs, and both The Gospel of Mary Magdala and The Acts of Philip are nothing more than apologetic tracts written by idiosyncratic groups at a later time in the history of the church. They contain no meaningful history and have no meaningful connection to Jesus and the Apostles. To grant them equality with the gospels in authority or relevance is the height of absurdity; but to given them more authority and relevance, as has been done in this film and book, demonstrates either a historical naivete of shocking depth or, more likely, a bias and prejudice that goes well into the realm of simple dishonesty in the name of making money.

A Reason for Concern

   I must confess, I am concerned. Over the past few days as I have been writing, gathering primary resources, and in general immersed in this project, I have taken the time to listen to the responses being offered by others. I am desirous of learning as much as I can from others, and I am truly hopeful that others will provide strong replies for the benefit of God’s people as well. But to be honest, I have been disappointed by what I have heard.
   Today while riding I listened to a two hour response from a national program aired the Sunday night the film aired on the Discovery Channel in the US. Now, granted, the book had only been out for four days at that point, and while I had obtained it that day and had it read by the evening of the next, I am focused upon this topic. Others might have other projects “in the way,” so it was not too surprising that the scholar being interviewed showed no familiarity with the book. As a result, some of the responses were far less “full” than they could have been, and some were just not accurate. That is understandable: all of us “pre-book” and “pre-movie” were going only on what was currently available. But we are now “post-book” and we should be hearing focused, clear, compelling refutations.
   Then, on Friday of this week, I listened to an hour long discussion of the tomb issue on a much more widely heard program. Now we are talking about a program that, unless it was not live at all, took place a full ten days after the book came out, and almost a week after the film aired. And once again, the scholar being interviewed gave not the slightest sign of having read the book, watched the film, watched the Today Show segment, the Larry King program—nothing. He could not even pronounce “Jacobovici” correctly. He knew nothing about mitochondrial DNA or the limitations of its ability to speak to familial relationships; he never mentioned (in what I heard) the true nature of the Acts of Philip, Francois Bovon, etc. Instead of providing in-depth refutation of the film and book based upon actual research and simply doing your homework, the premise was mocked and ridiculed. A wonderful opportunity for education was completely missed.
   I am very concerned that many in the post-evangelical church are taking the “mock it, dismiss it” route in response to the film. We have an opportunity here, and I, for one, do not wish to see it wasted. You see, we all know that this will not be the last time this kind of attack is launched. Someone will undoubtedly take this story and re-work it, remove some of the more obvious errors that come from Jacobovici and Pellegrino lacking any and all theological knowledge, repackage it, add in a few twists, and another book will come out. What is accomplished if all you did last time was mock the argument? But if we take this time to expose the roots of this kind of abuse of history, educate serious believers about how to do their own digging, their own thinking, their own de-mythologizing of supposed scholarship, you have equipped them to handle the next attack before it even comes, while rooting and grounding them in the faith. It is like the old saying: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Give a surface-level, “easy” response to the tomb story now, and you might keep people happy. Teach them to think through these things and learn about the groups that existed outside the church and whose writings are the darlings of the current crop of unbelieving anti-Christians and you equip them to deal with the next dozen attacks upon the faith that will come out.
   That is why just this evening I corresponded again with Dr. Carney Matheson about the DNA evidence. I realized earlier today that I had not seen the slightest bit of discussion about how they would handle multiple people’s bones being placed in the same ossuary. He was kind enough to respond and clarify. Yesterday I was corresponding with Francois Bovon of Harvard, and I was gathering original text materials in Greek and French for the chapter on the very heart of the Jacobovici/Pellegrino/Cameron argument: that Mariamne is Mary Magdalene. I will be providing information on the Acts of Philip regarding its textual history and character, and the world-view from which it arises. I have found that it is not technically “gnostic” as in virtually identical to the Nag Hammadi texts, the Gospel of Thomas, etc. Same general genre, but this comes from an encratite group, a group of vegetarian acetics who eschewed sex and marriage (a really good way to make sure your movement does not last very long). Is it not obvious that a text that presents Mariamne as a virtuous icon would not fit in with the idea of her being the wife of Jesus and the mother of a son? That is why Bovon says his identification of Mariamne as Mary Magdalene is not an identification relevant to history but solely a literary parallel. For that matter, in his article on the subject he draws a number of parallels between the Mariamne of this fourth century fictional literature and the Virgin Mary. Hardly the kind of thing you will find in the tomb movie.
   In any case, it is my intention to once again take the offensive and use this attack upon our faith as a means of presenting its truth. But to do this properly we must do our homework and engage the topic without giving in to the temptation to simply “mock” it. So I ask for your continued prayer and support while I seek to put all this information into a readable, usable form.

Another Commentator on the Tomb Story

I would like to comment on your Jesus family tomb article. You can always find arguments to support your belief system and disregard other arguments that do not fit in with your beliefs. This is only natural. Because you only chose to choose quotes from people that would like to discredit the documentary it is clear where you stand. I found the film to have a very compelling argument. The filmmakers truly believed they ‘may have’ found something profound. They are not saying it is definitive proof but encourage discussions and further scientific study. It amazes me how many had their minds made up before it even aired…. I’ll continue to view this issue with an open mind and the question.. what if? John

   Well, John, I suppose I could pull a Simcha here and say, “Hey, you haven’t read my book, so you really can’t say anything,” but I’ll avoid that.
   Most of my commentary on the topic has been done on radio programs and web casts, actually, and in those programs I have played every bit of audio recording I could find, allowing Jacobovici and Pellegrino and Cameron and Tabor to define their own terms and make their own claims. So it is simply false to say I have only quoted those who “agree” with me. The fact is, John, I was writing about this before there were others to agree with me in the first place! The problem is that Jacobovici et al are making wild claims that even secular scholars identify as far-fetched, and part of their M.O. has been to play fast and loose with the data they have at hand (such as the mitochondrial DNA evidence). Further, I have quoted from men like Carney Matheson, from correspondence I have had with him, and he was the DNA expert used in the film! So how can you possibly make the assertion you have?
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Some E-Mail, More Links

   This is one of the reasons I am working on a book: there are so many little tidbits of important information floating about on the net, in this book, that article, this old journal entry, that trying to keep it all straight is pretty difficult. That is part and parcel of the problem with the Jacobovici/Cameron/Tabor/Pellegrino project: it merrily skipped right on past the necessary academic examination to its publicly presented conclusions. In any case, these links are important: Joe Zias and a statistical examination.
   Meanwhile, I got the following e-mail from “Lawrence”:

This is about your so called conclusion about the lost tomb of jesus. It is funny to me how many of you control freaks will dismiss the facts when faced with them. Not that the tomb has rendered facts yet,but that you stand ready to dismiss them before they can be proven. Because it may hurt your beliefs,or your control over others beliefs. There is no other documentation that proves Jesus exsited. The bible is not proof,because it was written centuries after the so called life of christ. God only exsists in your head. You will not respond to me because I challenge your faith. I accept that. You people are weak when it comes to serious debate,you will only continue to deliberatly lie to people about real truth. Believe in ghosts if you wish,but stop telling people it is truth unless you have the facts.

   Hello, Lawrence. Don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from you before.
   Dismiss facts? Exactly which facts have I dismissed? I’ve documented that Jacobovici et al. have dismissed the proper limitations of mitochondrial DNA analysis with reference to familial relationships; I’ve documented that they have dismissed centuries of sound biblical scholarship relating to the NT, gnostic writings, etc.; I’ve documented their gross double-standards in their use of sources, their selective use of biblical material, etc. So just what “facts” have I dismissed, I wonder?
   You say I dismissed them “before they can be proven.” Isn’t that the point? They skipped the entire “proving” stage called scholarship, chose their “experts” so that they would all have an agenda (or were not given the whole story), all to accomplish their own ends. I would love to see you attempt to establish your accusations here.
   You say the Bible is not proof because it was written centuries after the so-called life of Christ. Really? The Dead Sea Scrolls were written prior to the life of Christ, Lawrence. Did you forget that the DSS contain many biblical manuscripts? Or are you very confused, thinking the New Testament is all of the Bible? If you are referring only to the New Testament, if it was written “centuries” after the time of Christ, why do we have manuscripts like P46, P66, and P75, all from around AD 200, and fragments like the one to the right, P52, from the Gospel of John, dating to as early as AD 125? I have this sneaking suspicion your knowledge of biblical history is somewhat lacking, perhaps?
   Why did you think I would not respond to you? The problem is, Lawrence, you haven’t actually challenged me. You have to have some kind of meaningful argument to comprise a real challenge. Merely blowing steam is not the same thing as a challenge. It is easy to make the accusations you do, but far more difficult to back them up.
   Now, I do a live webcast every Tuesday and Thursday. The toll-free number is 877-753-3341. Details are over there on the left under “Webcast.” If you have the courage of your atheistic convictions, try calling and backing up your accusations of dismissing facts, lying to people, etc. Since I am so “weak in debate,” I’m sure you would do a wonderful service to all of my listeners to point these things out, don’t you? I look forward to hearing from you.