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Scholars Weigh In and Bow Out

Academy Award winner James Cameron and Emmy Award winner Simcha Jacobovici, the producers of the Discovery Channel film “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” saw over 4 million households watch their film. Jacobovici saw his book, based on the film, skyrocket to number 6 on the best seller list. The two posed a challenge at the release of the film, that the scientists and the academics should bring their skills to bear on the issue of this tomb and the claims of the film and book. These after-the-fact challenges came in place of open peer review, which according to some, should have taken place before the film and book were released.
This, then, is the central challenge of the filmmakers: that additional experts, scholars, and scientists, from outside the film and the book, come to the table to (1) study and challenge their own assumptions that they gave to the experts (e.g., that they have substantiated that one of the ossuaries contained the remains of Mary Magdalene) and (2) study and test the statements made by their experts who went on to support, or apparently support, their claims (especially Feuerverger, Matheson, Pellegrino, Bovon and Cross). As we shall see below, in some cases, the support for the filmmakers’ assertions are not expressly stated by the experts themselves. But, rather the assertions are made by the filmmakers by extending the statements of the experts to make claims that they never intended to make.

There have been many who have risen to the challenge and are presently working on papers that will deal with the issues involved in various fields of research. These will be published over the coming months.

There are also views that are shared by certain scholars outside of the film that have typified the work of the film as “archaeoporn” or “pimping the Bible.” These are unscientific typifications of the work that don’t help the scholarly community to move forward in response to the challenge of the filmmakers.

However, a rather telling phenomenon is taking place already that actually may take the wind out of the sails of some of these film producers. With the exception of the actual filmmakers and authors themselves, just about every one of the experts who appeared in the documentary has published an attack on the claims of the film or, even more telling, a disclaimer on what they either said or were purported to have said in the film.

The fact is that any scholars and scientists who have taken time to respond and have raised a challenge to the film’s premises, rather than being dealt with scientifically, have been publicly dismissed out-of-hand by the film’s producers and their core advisors.

It seems that the only participants in the film that are left supporting the premises of the film and the book are the makers of the film “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” (J. Cameron and S. Jacobovici), the authors of the book The Jesus Family Tomb (C. Pellegrino and S. Jacobovici) and their historical advisor James Tabor (author of the recent book The Jesus Dynasty, which the film supports). It is worthwhile to note that the Discovery Channel has cancelled the second airing of the film and has postponed the DVD. The book, although it is still being read, it is no longer on the New York Times bestseller list.

For more details, read the article on our web page, “Cracks in the Foundation

UHL Staff Report

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