Lost Tomb of Jesus Story: Science, Fact or Fiction? Part 2

Earlier this summer we asked you, “Exactly what form of reporting or story telling is the film The Lost Tomb of Jesus and the book The Jesus Family Tomb to be classified with?”

The filmmakers say investigative journalism and fact. Your suggestions include pseudo-science, scientific fiction, and just plain fiction. Others chose hoax and science fiction from our list of possibilities.

If you’re having a debate, it’s important to define your terms. If you’re out bird watching, you sometimes need to turn to a bird book in order to discern between similar species. And if you’re labeling genres of book or film, it’s a good idea to study up on the history of those disciplines.

So, after more research, we’ve come up with short definitions for each the original choices. What do you think? Does this change your opinion?

a) Investigative Journalism: Historically, reportorial research into social ills with an eye to exposing corruption and stimulating reform.

b) Truth: “A judgment, proposition, statement, or idea that accords with fact or reality, is logically or intuitively necessary, or follows by sound reasoning from established or necessary truths”

c) Documentary: A film genre with close ties to journalism and an emphasis on documenting social, historical, and scientific truths.

d) Docudrama: A sub-genre of the documentary that permits much freer use of dramatic techniques and extrapolation, ideally while refusing to violate any known portions of a story.

e) Creative Nonfiction: A genre of writing, generally found in magazines and full-length books, which uses narrative techniques to report true stories.

f) Historical Fiction: A genre of writing in which fictional characters appear in an authentic historical setting.

g) Science Fiction: A diverse genre of writing: some examples have close ties with fantasy and may hold very loosely to established scientific fact; others (called hard science fiction) generally adhere closely to all known science and present only fictional speculation that is scientifically plausible.

h) Legend: “A story coming down from the past, esp: one handed down from early times by tradition and popularly regarded as historical although not entirely verifiable/ A popular myth, usually of current or recent origin”

Folklore: “Traditional customs, beliefs, dances, songs, tales, or sayings preserved orally and unreflectively among a group of people/ A widely held unsupported specious notion or body of notions”

i) Spoof: “A light, amiable, humorous, but usually telling takeoff (as on human nature, customs, or manners): parody”

j) Hoax: “Something accepted or believed in through trickery: something established by fraud or fabrication”

Selected Bibliography

Investigative Journalism

CBC Radio-Canada, Center for Investigative Reporting, The Center for Public Integrity


Academy Awards, Emmy Award

Bill Nichols, Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1991.


The Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Howard J. Blumenthal and Oliver R. Goodenough. This Business of Television. Billboard Books (Watson-Guptill), NY, 1998.

Creative nonfiction

Hersey, John. “The Legend on the License.” The Yale Review, 70, 1980. As quoted in Poynter Online.

Clark, Roy Peter. β€œThe Line Between Fact and Fiction.”Creative Nonfiction.

Historical fiction

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University, Oregon State University

Science fiction

Gary Westfahl. The Mechanics of Wonder: the Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction University Press, 1998.

“Definitions of Science Fiction”

Truth, Folk legend, Spoof, Hoax

Quoted from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, G. and C. Merriam Company, Springfield, 1971.

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