Archeoporn: The Discovery Channel's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," etc.
... I have just neglected a huge paper for the past three hours, having become engrossed in The Episode. Here is my charitable synopsis: High Drama. On the other hand, I am more inclined to go with the learned critics on point: ...High Drama.
Once we got past the fun, glossy bits of Jesus and Mary Mags, a'la dear Mr. Dan Brown, punctuated by music that would have been more at home in Amityville, and over-edited commentary from experts who are presently irate about being misquoted, we had Ted Koppel's feilding of conversation between the film maker, Simcha Jacobovici, and various theology professors. (Simcha Jacobovici has been described as "the Israeli-Canadian doppleganger of fellow muckraking American filmmaker Michael Moore, down to the girth and silly hats.") The conversations commenced in "A Critical Look" after the episode aired. The panel included James Tabor of UNC (who seems to have bartered his soul at some point), Fr. David O'Connell of Catholic U (who disappointed), Jonathan Reed, and Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, (who thankfully did a great job- and he has a blog).
Frankly, the critiques of the presentation that came up in this conversation with Koppel are what interest me. They are as follows, for better or for worse:
1) Simcha's selective presentation makes archeology look bad, as though it were a fun and value-laden game in which presumptions and contingencies can be weakly linked together to "substantiate" a prior premise. By extension, Simcha also denigrates the "educational" efforts that host him, since his deceptively over-dramatic presentations do not in any way prompt or accomodate critical thought. Simcha has thus shown himself to be a Very Bad Journalist.
2) Among the overly hasty inferences that are drawn, the presentation in every case draws final conclusions from inadequate samplings. Certainly the experts involved were embarrassed by such conclusions- the panel was constantly handing around emails, documents, etc. from various upset forensic investigators and others throughout the session. In several key instances, Simcha arbitraily decides that DNA evidence and name associations are conclusive where only one test was performed among dozens of possible tests. In every instance where Simcha noted a "conclusive match," experts were really saying "similar" or "possibly linked," or, "impossible to say on the evidence." Hello, dramatic and unjustified inferences. Hello, bad bad science.
...So this leaves us with the theologians who were there to defend the faith. God bless them, but tsk-tsk. For the most part, it was whiny. And weak.
I say: this faith in Christ is handed down from eye witnesses who were willing to die in support of their claims that a crucified man had risen bodily from the grave. Therefore, He must be God. EVERYTHING depends on His bodily Resurrection. We would have no Christian faith at all without it. So thus we have the Christian faith. (Thus you have this particular Christian, up blogging at midnight). As St. Paul puts it in I Corinthians 15, if Christ is not risen, we are of all people most miserable. But I, with millions of others who love that wild young man from Galilee, hold that He did rise. Why? Because the Risen Lord was seen. Because the credibility of the witnesses can carry the day.
The show has a major burden of proof to overcome–about 2,000 years of Christian belief, love, experience, and worship of the risen Christ.
Now I have to finish my paper.