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Lost Tomb Story: Finding missing links and “connecting the dots”

Truth, Facts and Investigative Reporting: Finding missing links and connecting the dots

Our survey of a week ago brought forth a number of opinions, both on and off line.

First of all, let’s look at the opinion of the proponents of this film.

The form and method according to the filmmakers (source: New York Public Library press conference):

James Cameron:

“Now, the missing piece was provided by Simcha, and I just want to say right now, Simcha is the real live Indiana Jones of this project, and he’s, although he will quite humbly, immediately say that he’s not an archaeologist, he happens to know so much about archaeology and, you know, Biblical history that he can compete with them in a conversation without flagging, for hours on end, and as a documentary filmmaker, he has the instincts of an absolute bloodhound. And when he got wind of the fact that there were these ossuaries with these names, he was able through his research group to find the missing piece of information, which is that Mariamne is, according to certain Christian texts, of the early Christian texts such as the Acts of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mariamne is the name of Mary Magdalene. So that’s the missing piece, that’s the Ringo, and that’s what set this whole investigation in motion. Now, every film is a journey, every investigation is a journey, and this journey took us into places we didn’t think it was going to go – and I’ll let Simcha unveil some of the aspects of that.”

Simcha Jacobovici: Investigative Journalist.

“So before I turn it over to the experts – because I have to say, again – I’m not going to say I’m not an expert. I’ve seen a lot of internet buzz on this. I am an expert. My expertise is investigative journalism. This is what I do for a living, and it’s a skill set that many of the people in this room share. And what we do as journalists and as filmmakers is connect dots and go to experts. Experts often are experts on one dot or another. Our job, like detectives, is to connect the dots and see what picture emerges. I’m not an archaeologist; I’m not a DNA expert; I’m not a statistician. I’m a filmmaker; I’m an journalist, and on this dais and in this room are some of the world’s experts in archaeology. The finder of the tomb is here. One of the – there were three people that went into the tomb in 1980. One has passed away. There’s two left: one is in Israel, and one is on this stage: Professor Shimon Gibson. We have Professor Tabor here, who is the chairman of department at North Carolina in New Testament studies. He is an expert. We have Professor Feuerverger, who is professor of mathematics and statistics, and an expert on probability. We have Charles Pellegrino, who – I’ll tell you in a second about the unique fingerprinting – patina fingerprinting – that he devised, really (and I think will really push forward the science) together with Dr. Bob Genna, who is the head of a CSI lab right here in Suffolk County, New York. I’ve been really privileged to be able to follow their science, all these people’s science, and then to turn it over to them for questions.”

Just reporting facts.

“What I’ll do is I’ll lay out the facts of the case, and then you can follow it up with questions.

“The fact is – and it’s a fact, and we are messengers; we’re reporters. The fact is that there was a tomb discovered in Talpiot, Israel – in Jerusalem – in 1980. That’s a fact. And that was discovered by bulldozers in the course of building, but immediately archaeologists came, and they excavated the tomb, and they published the material in ‘96 in the Atiqot in the Israel Antiquities Authority, an academic journal in Israel, and all the ossuaries, including these two that we will unveil shortly, were found, as archaeologists say, in situ. They’re provenanced. They didn’t come up through the antiquities market. We know where they came from because scientists recorded it. The fact is that six of the ten have inscriptions on them that have been recorded and catalogued. One of them says “Jesus, son of Joseph.” Two Marys, a Matthew, a Joseph – or a specific nickname of Joseph: Jose which, as recorded in Mark, the earliest Gospel, is one of the four brothers of Jesus, and a Judah, son of Jesus. Those inscriptions are facts. They’ve been catalogued, they’ve been written by the greatest epigraphers in the world today: Rahmani, Kloner, who was the original archaeologist (who to this day does not believe that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, but he will not argue about the nature of the inscriptions). Just to be sure, we went to Harvard to Professor Frank Moore Cross, the legendary professor – and he again, he’s in our film; he’s in the book – he stands by the decipherment of these inscriptions. Those inscriptions are facts.”

The filmmakers appear to defining this work as:

1) “Investigative journalism”

2) “reporting the facts” based upon the supportive statements of experts (archaeologists, scientists, statisiticians and epigraphers)

But how does one define Investigative Journalism and what are the limits within that discipline?

More to come . . .

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