Certain aspects of the conspiracy theory laden movie/book by Jacobovici and Pellegrino have not yet been given much attention in the media or in the Christian responses thereto. As our regular readers know, I will be launching into a book-length rebuttal and examination when I return home Monday. But till then, a few items should be noted:
1) Jacobovici was central in the production of the Discovery Channel’s special on the ‘James, brother of Jesus” ossuary special a few years ago. Clearly, there isn’t a thimble-full of objectivity on his part in the analysis of sources used in his work, and he was the prime mover in “connecting the dots” through the use of a-historical gnostic sources from centuries later to “read back” Mary Magdalene into the Mariamne ossuary.
2) So central to this entire web of speculation and theorizing (maddeningly littered with “obviously” and “probably” and “it is most likely” phrases attached to historical absurdities) are the a-historical gnostic writings removed far from the original context in geography (one can’t even connect the authors to the original locations), time (they were writing hundreds of years later), language (a consideration in and of itself fatal to the tenuous attempts to do linguistic gymnastics) and religion (gnosticism has always been, and always will be, fundamentally antagonistic to foundational pillars of Judaism and Christianity) that this project should be called the “Gnostic Fantasy of the Jesus Family Tomb.”
3) Jacobovici is so wedded to this gnostic spin that he spends a good portion of his conclusion to the book arguing that the author of the Gospel of Thomas was, in fact, “Judah son of Jesus” from the Talpiot tomb (ignoring, of course, the original language of Thomas, the fact that it would have been written nearly a century after the destruction of Jerusalem and after the Judah ossuary was placed in the tomb–was there a fax in that ossuary I wonder?). The result of his over-riding theory on his part, especially when it comes to his use of biblical materials, is startling. I will post some of his arguments from Scripture as soon as time allows.
4) It is so very sad to see these men obscure solid scientific data. One of the main “tests” I had in mind for this book when I picked it up was this: Will the book honestly discuss the limitations of mitochondrial DNA? Will they admit that such analysis can only speak to maternal relations, not to paternal relations? Will they tell us what Dr. Carney Matheson has confirmed that such a test cannot rule out that Yeshua ben Yosef was the father of Mariamne? Or will they spin the results? The answer was: spin, spin, spin. Look at this direct quote from the conclusion, page 207: “However, they were able to extract mitochondrial DNA from both the Jesus and Mariamne ossuaries. This allowed them to confirm that these were indeed Middle Eastern people of antiquity and that they were not related.” This is simply false. In an e-mail dated 2/26/07 Dr. Matheson frankly stated, “This can only identify maternal relationship of which the two remains do not share. However we cannot exclude paternal relationship using the mtDNA.” And shortly after, “However the DNA results only show they are not maternally related the rest is the conclusions of the producer and the other researchers.” Surely Matheson informed Jacobovici of this. Jacobovici somehow forgot. Or did he? This cavalier handling of vital information should reflect upon the entire project.
For purposes of complete disclosure I wanted to note that in the brief chapter on the DNA analysis Matheson is quoted as properly indicating the limitations of mitochondrial DNA analysis in reference to familial relationships. However, never once in the book is the factual reality that a father/daughter relationship could exist between Yeshua ben Yosef (ossuary 80-503) and Mariamne (80-500) noted, let alone considered, expanded upon, or discussed. Instead, on page 172, Dr. Matheson is quoted as follows, and then the story moves quickly on.
“That this man and woman do not share the same mother,” Matheson said quickly and conclusively. “They cannot be mother and child. They cannot, maternally, be brother and sister. And so, for these particular samples, because they come from the same tomb–and we suspect it to be a familial tomb–these two individuals, if they were unrelated, would most likely have been husband and wife.”
I have inquired of Dr. Matheson concerning his recollection as to whether Jacobovici was clearly informed of the limitations of the analysis, and will appraise my readers upon his reply.