The Lost Tomb of Jesus: Really?

The Tomb of Jesus?
Ten ossuaries were discovered in this
family tomb. Could Jesus Christ
have been buried here?

There has been a lot of hype surrounding James Cameron’s Discovery Channel special by filmmaker Simcha Jacobvici The Lost Tomb of Jesus. I hadn’t commented on it because 1) it sounded pretty silly, and 2) I wanted to watch the show before I commented on it. Well I have seen the show and now I can comment.

The resurrection never happened! Jesus died and was buried with his family. We were all misled by a massive conspiracy of the early church! Heh. Naw, I’m just messin’ with ya. I am still pretty confident in the Good News (that is, the bodily resurrection of Jesus) of the Gospel.

Here are the factors that are supposed to lead us to believe that the family tomb discovered in Talpiot in southeastern Jerusalem is the tomb of Jesus Christ: 1) The names discovered on six ossuaries (the other four did not have inscriptions) include Jesus son of Joseph, Joseph, Mariamne (possibly Mary of Magdala), Mary, James the brother of Jesus, and Judah son of Jesus; the odds of all these particular names (and how they were inscribed in various Hebrew and Hellenized forms) being seen together and it NOT being Jesus Christ’s tomb is 1 in 600. 2) Mitochondrial DNA analysis of samples from the ossuaries of Mary (of Magdala) and Jesus says that they are not related; it would be very rare for non family members to be in the same family tomb unless they were married.

Let me start with the second claim. Firstly, Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is different from nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited completely from the mother and generally cannot be used for identification purposes. In the documentary, samples taken from the Jesus and the Mariamne ossuaries were analyzed and it was determined that the two were not brother and sister or mother and son. This is, apparently, important because in the time period the only reason two unrelated people would be placed in the same family tomb would be because they were married. If Jesus and Mary were married, this would give support for the statistics. The problem with this is that there is very little support for a Jesus / Mary marriage, let alone them having a child (which is suggested in the documentary). Numerous other posts address this fact so I won’t really get into it. All the conspiracy theorists and gnostics can go ahead and believe that Mary and Jesus were married and had a child together, but the legitimate scholars along with all of church history will go ahead and disagree. And aside from this, what is not mentioned in the film is that mtDNA is passed from mother to child, so the two samples could have been from a father and daughter. The did a great job of proving the two samples were not related, unfortunately you can’t test for marriage through DNA analysis! So far, I’m not convinced.

Now we have the names and the statistics. Their conclusion is “that the probability factor is 600 to 1 in favor of this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.” Others, once again, have looked at the stats, I point you especially to Magic Statistics: Our bulging “How not to do statistics” file just filled up and burst and a follow up at Back of the Envelope: A little statistics and the tomb of Jesus (which also discusses the issue of Mary Magdalene) as well as Darrell Bock: Fun with Numbers, Key Stats Reconsidered. They aren’t very impressed. Even the statistical consultant to the film Dr. Andrey Feuerverger think the film didn’t lead people to the right conclusions about his statistics. He also noted one thing that I was thinking about:

There are certain additional facts regarding this archeological find which are of interest, but the precise ways in which they may or may not enter into statistical computations are debatable. Examples of these include [Ed. Note: I only include one of his examples]:

The apparent absence of ‘negatives’ in the finding, i.e. of archeological details that would in and of themselves invalidate ‘the hypothesis’ or that would appear to lessen its likelihood.

Seriously. Read it all. Also, the statistics hinge on the James oussary, the validity of which is highly contended (as well as the name and relationship of Mariamne). If it is part of the Talpiot tomb, it brings their stats to the 600 to 1 as stated, if it is not authentic, it severely hurts them. They tested the material makeup of the James ossuary and compared it to the ossuaries of the Talpiot tomb and they seemed to match. But even that is contended. To me, it seems that if they were both from the same tomb they would have had the same spectral makeup and not just a similar one. Also Darrell Bock points out that “the catalogued tomb sizes do not match, being 10 cm off in one of the key dimensions” (the documentary claims they are all the same size). That is a problem for the odds. It is striking that there appears to be the clustering of names, but is “striking” enough to mean anything. It appears not. I am still unconvinced.

Summary: I am unconvinced.

After the documentary, Ted Koppell hosted an hour long discussion titled The Tomb of Jesus: A Critical Look. The first half was looking at the archaeological and historical side of the issue. The debate took place between Simcha Jacobvici and James Tabor (Professor of Religious Studies at UNC and a liberal Christian) on one side, with William Dever (Professor Emeritus from the University of Arizona, he is not a Christian and said he has no stake in the implications but takes issue with the scholarly aspects) and Jonathan Reed (Professor from the University of LaVerne) on the other. The second half of the program centered on the religious implications. Opposite to Jacobivici and Tabor were Darrell Bock (Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and a conservative Christian), Rev. David O’Connell (president of the Catholic University if America), and Judy Fentress-Williams (Professor, Virginia Theological Seminary). The debate was very interesting and at some points I almost felt bad for Jacobivici (although he was often fairly rude and would continue talking over others even when asked to stop or move on) as even Koppell seemed against him at points.

The odd thing is that the most tension and arguing came in the first section, not the second (although it was there as well). Dever pointed out that some of the experts were quoted out of context. For instance, apparently the expert that decoded some (all?) of the names on the ossuaries doesn’t agree with the conclusions, but we never saw that. It was also brought up that one of the principle archaeologists (Connor) of the original find in 1980 only noted 9 ossuaries and not 10 (leaving the James one out), this was not in the film. Dever notes that the sample for the stats is not nearly large enough and could be missing numerous names.

I was really impressed by the Christians in the second section (and have been more so by Bock after reading through his blog), they all came across as intelligent and informed people that were not irrational even in their discussion of the importance of faith. Bock pointed out that the large issue here is not that the documentary implies that Jesus was married and had a kid, but that if it were true it would deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Tabor and him argued over the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15 (Tabor being the liberal thinks Paul didn’t mean a physical, bodily resurrection, whereas Bock, the conservative, is all for it). (Here is Tabor’s response to the evening quoted at Bock’s blog.) Fentriss-Williams notes, quite well I think, that there is danger in the presentation and that the reenactments can push things too far: “Entertainment moves the viewer away from being a critical thinker.” Koppell then adds that dramatization “lends artificial credibility to the hypothesis.” Interesting. I can add more about the discussion if anyone is interested.

What does this all come down to? None of the evidence and arguments presented are persuasive. And definitely not persuasive enough to bring harm to my faith. If it was true and the tomb truly was that of Jesus Christ and his family, the early disciples, historians, and the history of the church is wrong. There must have been massive conspiracies to cover up not only the non-resurrection of Jesus, but the marriage of Jesus and the birth of his child. I think Jonathan Reed had it right (paraphrased): it is like having many chains linked together to get from one point to the end and at each chain link there are numerous “ifs” that need to be resolved by peer review and discussion in order for the chain to remain intact. That didn’t happen. The ifs just don’t add up for me.

I hope this doesn’t become a larger issue than it already has. I am assuming that after people have seen the show, they will lose interest because it isn’t as compelling as it was led on to be. I truly hope that the Christians out there will look at this critically and not be shaken by it, because really, there isn’t any reason to fret.

Resources:

  • Aside from the links in the post, the following resources are quite helpful in delving into the discussion (but don’t forget the links in the post!).
  • Jesus Family Tomb official site
  • The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History at Powell’s Books
  • Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot: The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere
  • Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot: More from Tabor on the Jesus/Talpiot Tomb
  • Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot: Jesus/Talpiot Tomb Thursday Roundup
  • James Tabor’s Blog: The Jesus Dynasty Blog
  • Darrell Bock’s Blog (Lots of great information here!)
  • Breitbart: Scholars, Clergy Slam Jesus Documentary
  • Tidbitsand Treasures: Jesus will not be debunked!
  • Ben Witherington: The Jesus Tomb? ‘Titanic’ Talpiot Tomb Theory Sunk From the Start
  • Christian News Wire: Ten Reasons Why The Jesus Tomb Claim is Bogus (definitely read through this one)
  • Parbleman: The Lost Tomb of Jesus
  • Richard Bauckham: The alleged ‘Jesus family tomb’
  • NT Gateway Weblog: The Lost Tomb of Jesus Documentary: Live Blog
  • Wikipedia: Talpiot Tomb
  • Wikipedia: The Lost Tomb of Jesus
  • Extreme Theology: Archeological Identity Theft : The Lost Tomb of Jesus Fails to Make the Grade
  • Pharyngula: Lost Tomb of Jesus – A denouncement by a (self proclaimed) godless liberal. heh.
  • Ron’s Reviews: Talpiyot Tomb – Recommended Sites

  • Categories: Religion, Social Commentary Tags:
    1. Chris Rosebrough
      March 5th, 2007 at 05:58 | #1

      Before you make up your mind about the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” you need to see and hear the rest of the evidence.

      For a comprehensive and scholarly rebuttal of the film’s evidence please visit ExtremeTheology.com.

      Read and hear the evidence for yourself.

    2. Jay
      March 5th, 2007 at 08:06 | #2

      Good Day.

      You misrepresent the quote by Dr. Andrey Feuerverger. (“The apparent absence of ‘negatives’ in the finding, i.e. of archeological details that would in and of themselves invalidate ‘the hypothesis’ or that would appear to lessen its likelihood.”)

      The quote does not mean, as you imply, that contrary evidence was found but discounted or not presented. Instead, the quote is meant to point out that there literally was no evidence found that contradicts the hypothosis.

      that is not to say that proves anything in itself, but it’s a point that must be made.

    3. March 5th, 2007 at 08:28 | #3

      Christians again prove many are blatant enemies of the truth

      Hello Matt,

      After finally watching the Jesus Tomb documentary and the hour of critical look “debates” following it, I am left with the sad conclusion that a large percentage of Christians will always oppose the truth, regardless of how it is presented. It has been amazing to watch people who regularly oppose critical thought and science hypocritically assert that critical thought and science supports so-called “biblical evidence” in their efforts to debunk this archeological find and associated theories. Though I too have problems with the way this documentary and religion in general have been sold, for profit, I also think this information deserves a much closer examination and consideration than a simple knee jerk defense of New Testament claims. Do Christians really think that the Creator of all knowledge and wisdom wants them to blindly oppose all newly discovered truths?

      When finally confronted with the truth about the Messiah, these people will be completely unable to recognize the true Messiah (me) from long-term lies and will fight tooth and nail to cling to the Roman deceptions and strong delusions of the New Testament. Christianity has always been an enemy of science, truth, and justice and recent events strongly reinforce this observation.

    4. March 5th, 2007 at 12:03 | #4

      Thanks for the link Christ, lots of good stuff going on there it seems!

      The quote does not mean, as you imply, that contrary evidence was found but discounted or not presented. Instead, the quote is meant to point out that there literally was no evidence found that contradicts the hypothosis.

      Jay, I don’t think I implied that there was contrary evidence, I an suggesting there was no other evidence and infer that there is a lack of evidence. I apologize if the way I quoted it sugested that, thanks for pointing it out.

      I am left with the sad conclusion that a large percentage of Christians will always oppose the truth, regardless of how it is presented. It has been amazing to watch people who regularly oppose critical thought and science hypocritically assert that critical thought and science supports so-called “biblical evidence” in their efforts to debunk this archeological find and associated theories.

      No offence, but that is a load of crap, knee-jerk reaction. The reason many Christians have rejected this is because the methods were faulty, the premise was faulty, and the assumptions made throughout are faulty. Unlike the documentary maker, we don’t simply look out for the results we desire, the “science” itself was debunked.

      And now that I just read that you are apparently the Messiah, I am going to stop trying to defend myself…

      Christianity has always been an enemy of science, truth, and justice

      Anyone who makes this statement doesn’t really have any understanding of Christianity and the New Testament.

    5. March 6th, 2007 at 08:08 | #5

      Matt,

      Thanks for posting this. I wasn’t able to watch the documentary (no TV), so I’m glad to get your perspective on it.

    6. March 7th, 2007 at 18:28 | #6

      I didn’t watch the documentary either – I don’t watch TV. The problem with most of these documentaries is that they don’t follow the Scientific Method – that is, analyzing data objectively. Instead, they start with what they WANT to prove and only present evidence towards it, more like what lawyers do than what scientists do.

      For example, I found the statement “the chances that it’s another group of the same names and NOT ‘the’ group is 1/600″ to be fishy as it presupposes that ‘the’ group exists historically, which is not something that should be taken lightly when doing a scientific study.

    7. March 8th, 2007 at 13:34 | #7

      I completely agree zandperl. That is exactly what William Dever was trying to point out in the discussion after the program. He couldn’t care less about the implications or the argument about the validity, but he did care about the science and how the documentary made archeology look.

      I think the program was dishonest because it make people believe (even if they never said it outright) that they did follow the scientific method and that their research and results have been verified or peer reviewed… which of course they haven’t been.

      It was a sad piece of “science” that I hope does not persuade people because of its production style.

    8. March 10th, 2007 at 14:52 | #8

      Greetings; just wanted to inform you of my own comments on “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” — for a review of the problems in its basic ideas:
      http://www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombOne.html and http://www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombTwo.html .

      For a Nit-picker’s Guide — pointing out big errors, small errors, half-truths, deliberate obscuring of pertinent data, and so on: http://www.curtisvillechristian.org/LostTomb.html .

      Feel free to share these sites with others.

    9. Anonymous
      October 16th, 2007 at 08:10 | #9

      So you found the lost tombof jesus?

    10. andrew
      December 11th, 2008 at 18:19 | #10

      wait so….. do you guys believe the scientific beliefs or the religious beliefs?

    11. December 11th, 2008 at 21:34 | #11

      Science and religion are not inherently mutually exclusive. Some religious beliefs do not align with science and that can cause problems. The “science” here is not science though.

    12. Koilon
      January 1st, 2009 at 20:28 | #12

      The clincher for me was something not even mentioned in the documentary. In the normal course of things, if this were just a tomb of a family other than that of the Jesus of the gospels, the ossuary of James would have been have been inscribed with the words “James the son of Joseph” the same way that the ossuary of this Jesus was inscribed with the words “Jesus the son of Joseph.” It is evident from the inscriptions that the Jesus in this tomb was somebody more noteworthy than his father. You don’t need statistics to see that the probability is high that this is indeed to lost tomb of Jesus, regardless of petty squabbles over procedures used in bringing the finding to light.

    13. January 5th, 2009 at 17:10 | #13

      What is your basis for “You don’t need statistics to see that the probability is high that this is indeed to lost tomb of Jesus”? It doesn’t really follow.

    14. January 24th, 2009 at 15:46 | #14

      I’ve been studying this find for years, long before it became public knowledge following the mass media exposure. I believe that it’s a serious find, which warrants further study.

      The critics of this find’s magnitude basically argue:

      1. That the Jesus family would be buried in Nazareth, not Talpiot;
      2. That the ‘Jesus’ ossuary would have been inscribed ‘of Nazareth';
      3. That the Jesus family couldn’t have afforded a tomb like the Talpiot tomb;
      4. That the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary is not inscribed “Yeshua” (Jesus) at all;
      5. That the names inscribed on these ossuaries were supposedly common;
      6. That the “Mariamne” ossuary didn’t contain the remains of Mary Magdalene, but of two other women;

      I believe the first five of these allegations against the book’s premise don’t carry much water. The sixth argument actually supports the conclusion that this is the real thing. My comments:

      1. Talpiot is the right place for Jesus’ family tomb- Per Luke, 2:3-4, the family’s LEGAL residence was Bethlehem, not Nazareth. The fact that Joseph and the pregnant Mary could not take the census in Nazareth but had to take it in Bethlehem indicates that Bethlehem was their DOMICILIUM under Roman Law. That basically means that they had no intention to reside in Nazareth permanently. Therefore it would have made little sense for them to have a family tomb in Nazareth, that they wouldn’t be able to frequently visit at a later stage in their lives. They would have wanted a family tomb close to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, easily accessible also to future generations of the family. The fact is indeed that Mary and her children moved to Jerusalem around 30 AD.

      2. The traditional name of Jesus in Hebrew, as reflected also in the Talmud, is “Yeshu Hanotzri.” This appellation stems from “Netzer” (Shoot or Branch). It alludes clearly to Isaiah 11:1, indicating the Royal birth of Jesus, to substantiate his claim for Jewish messiahship. Not to indicate the place he comes from.

      There’s actually no evidence in Jewish sources, such as the Old Testament or the Mishna and Talmud, that a place called “Nazareth” even existed in or before the first century. I’m not disputing the evidence per the NT, that there was indeed a place called Nazareth. But to the best of my knowledge, there’s no mention of Nazareth at all in any ancient writings outside the New Testament. So the place existed, but nobody knew about it. And those in close proximity in Galilee who did know about it, obviously thought derogatorily of it , cf. “can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46.) Therefore there was no reason to call Jesus “of Nazareth.” Either in life or on an ossuary. He was called “Jesus the Branch” (of David) in Hebrew/Aramaic.

      The line of argumentation detracting this discovery around the supposed Nazareth origin of Jesus’ family may therefore be based on a very shaky foundation.

      3. Talpiot is located about 2.5 miles North of Bethlehem. Jesus’ family, of Davidic descent according to the New Testament, could have held the burial cave there even before it moved to Nazareth. Davidic birth was absolutely the most exalted in Judaism, always. The suggestion that any person of Davidic descent could be of the lowest social echelon, that couldn’t fund or get funding for a burial cave, doesn’t make much sense, if any. There’s substantial evidence to the contrary, e.g. 1. Jesus had some very wealthy active supporters like Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus (known as Nakdimon ben Gorion in post biblical Jewish sources-one of the richest Jews in Judea;) 2. Josephus, A.J. XX, 9:1. Note the prominence of James, brother of Jesus.

      4. The inscription on the Jesus ossuary does say “Yeshua bar Yehosef” (“Jesus son of Joseph”)to my eye. All letters but one are quite clearly there. The only letter which is somewhat more difficult to discern at first blush is the second letter- “Shin”. That’s because it’s written in a somewhat irregular form (in a regular Shin there are three teeth in the fork, pointing upwards. Here there are two teeth, pointing sideways to the right.) But that particular irregularity appears also on other ossuaries- notably numbers 9 (this one has two “Shin”- one with three teeth pointing to the right, and one with TWO teeth pointing to the right. Exactly like the subject inscription) and 121 in the Rahmani catalogue, which both feature also a “Yeshua.”

      Still, the name “Yeshua” on this ossuary is among the most, if not the most, difficult to read names of all ossuaries listed in Rahmani’s catalogue of Jewish ossuaries. It is almost written as a person’s complex signature on a check. Contrast that with the patronymic following the first name. This is written in a simple straightforward fashion, which is very easy to read. There’s no other example in Rahmani’s catalogue of a first name that has to be deciphered, and a patronymic that’s so plain and clear. Is this merely a coincidence?

      5. Some critics make the following comment to my post:

      “The inscription, Pfann said, is made up of two names inscribed by two different hands: the first, “Mariame,” was inscribed in a formal Greek script, and later, when the bones of another woman were added to the box, another scribe using a different cursive script added the words “kai Mara,” meaning “and Mara.” Mara is a different form of the name Martha.

      According to Pfann’s reading, the ossuary did not house the bones of “Mary the teacher,” but rather of two women, “Mary and Martha.'”

      Here’s my thought about that:
      If the Mariamne ossuary indeed housed the bones of Mary and Martha, these are two sisters of NT fame. One of them could have been married to “Jesus son of Joseph.” -Whether or not she was Mary Magdalene (Maybe the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet and then dried them with her hair- very intimate scene.) The other sister would than also automatically belong in the family. It still fits. Actually it increases the statistical odds that this is the real thing quite substantially.
      This is a very intriguing possibility indeed, fitting perfectly with John 12:3. Intimate contact with a man, as described in this NT passage, was allowed only to a woman who was an immediate blood relative of that man, his wife (…or a working woman.) That’s all. Therefore Mary of Bethany was quite possibly by elimination Jesus’ wife or in the process of becoming his wife. In that context, Margaret Starbird already theorized that similar anointing with spikenard oil was part of pre marriage ritual of a Davidic king, per certain passages in the Song of Songs. Note also that intercourse by itself was sufficient under Jewish Law in certain circumstances to constitute valid marriage. That practice, termed Bi’ah marriage, was abolished in the 6th century, but it was lawful in Jesus’ time.

      Mary of Bethany could have become pregnant by Jesus while he stayed at her house, shortly before his crucifixion. In that case it’s quite possible that she bore Jesus’ son posthumously and named him “Judah.” And in that case both she and her sister Martha would have become part of Jesus’ family, which earned them a place in the Talpiot family tomb..

      Reminds me of the reaction to this find of a BBC reporter in 1996- It seems like all balls in the national lottery coming one by one.

      I have no knowledge of Greek, so I can only discuss the two propositions. Assuming that the ossuary does say “Mary and Martha”, here’s what I think the names are:
      * 1.”Jesus son of Joseph”(“Yeshua bar Yehosef” in Hebrew/Aramaic script;)
      * 2. “Mary” (“Marya” in Hebrew/Aramaic script);
      * 3. “Joseph” (“Yose” in Hebrew/Aramaic script. Precise nickname of Jesus’ second brother- cf. Mark 6:3);
      * 4. “Mary and Martha” (“Mariame kai Mara” in Greek)-they must have been sisters because Jewish law didn’t allow burial together of two unrelated women;
      * 5. “Matthew” (“Matya” in Hebrew/Aramaic script)- Name of Jesus’ first cousin, son of his father’s brother Alphaeus/Clophas. As James Tabor suggests in a different context, Matya could also well have been Jesus’ half brother, considering a certain specific rule of the Torah (Deuteronomy 25:5-10.) This rule was applied in Jesus time- see Matthew 22:24-28;
      * 6. “Judah son of Jesus”(“Yehuda bar Yeshua” in Hebrew/Aramaic script.)
      * Therefore out of eight names actually inscribed on these ossuaries (including the “Joseph” father of Jesus on the first ossuary) four names undoubtedly relate to Jesus’ immediate family, and three other names relate to the same with a somewhat lower probability. In any event, they all relate to Jesus’ extended family. Note that first century Jewish family tombs were usually a clan thing.
      * The eighth name is “Yehuda bar Yeshua”- must have been the son of Jesus and one of the sisters Mary or Martha. More likely Mary, as explained above.

      6. While the full versions of all these names were indeed common in Jesus’ time, the derivatives, nicknames and contractions were not. Thus “Yeshua” for Jesus was less common than “YeHOshua;” ditto “YeHOsef” instead of “Yosef” for Joseph; “Marya” for Mary was extremely rare in Hebrew/Aramaic script; “Yose” for Joseph is unique. Therefore out of these eight names, two are irregularities, one is a particularity, and one a singularity.

      BOTTOM LINE- Ask yourself inversely a hypothetical question- If the Talpiot tomb hadn’t yet been found, how would Jesus’ family tomb have looked , which ossuaries would it have contained, to when would it have been dated and where would it have been located.

      I would have thought of a tomb just like the tomb we’re discussing. It fits perfectly with what I’d have expected Jesus’ family tomb to be. Right place, right period, right names. I therefore believe that this matter, delicate as it obviously is, warrants further investigation. This could include opening and examination of the adjacent tomb, and forensic examination of the skeletal remains found in the Talpiot ossuaries, and apparently reburied back in 1980. These could hopefully be relocated by comparison to the mithochondrial DNA samples already taken from two of these ossuaries.

    15. February 6th, 2009 at 17:37 | #15

      Thanks for the additions there Itamar. I really do appreciate the research you have done into this. That being said, I am still not at all convinced by the “statistics” of this “scientific” endeavor at all. That is great if you are convinced, those reasons are that persuasive to me.

    16. Mike (Princeton, NJ)
      April 17th, 2009 at 21:30 | #16

      To the discerning observer, criticism of the documentary `The Lost Tomb of Jesus’ has proven one thing if nothing else about its critics – a profound and immutable absence of intellectual honesty and objective thought, underscored by a near pathologic aversion to empirically based scientific inquiry, opting instead to shamelessly peddle as documentable historical fact, long held personal beliefs, institutional biases, religious and political agendas.

      The fact that an `expert’ may have and eloquently articulate an opinion and find their way to the front of a functioning camera renders, neither them objective, nor their opinions authoritatively accurate.

      Fraud is revealed in what the perpetrator seeks to obscure from the intended target in order to achieve a net gain at the expense of their victims. Render impermeable the mind of those who seek and are otherwise inclined to accept and be guided by truth and a victim you shall find. Ted’s eclectic assortment of high brow, self anointed biblical scholars who rose in opposition to the substance of what had been revealed proved sensationally feckless and inarticulate in their rhetoric as they sought to return the Genie to its bottle.

      Tactics employed by Israeli authorities involving the confiscation and destruction of ancient ruins and `reburial’ of non-Jewish remains under the auspices of adhering to `strict traditional Orthodox Jewish Law’ revealed a level of arrogance more closely associated with its well documented human rights record.

      A significant subtext to the program – a naive public is lead to believe that the burial customs of those, both Jewish and early Christian who passed 2,000 years ago were somehow `inherently deficient’ and so inconsistent with `strict traditional Orthodox Jewish Law’ unique to the period in which they were practiced, that their disturbance, mass exhumations, removal, confiscation, and mass disposal in anonymous unmarked graves and pits 2,000 years later were motivated exclusively by some imperative religious duty. As for confiscation, stacking and warehousing of ossuaries (analogous to modern day caskets) in which their loved ones had buried them, in government controlled warehouses, confiscation and leveling of land within which they were entombed, encouragement of private contractors to construct residential high rises and commercial establishments, both above and adjacent to them, amounts to common grave robbing, plunder for profit and by any other definition, an irreparable crime against history. What civilized society on the planet would permit such activities, let alone engages in it as an official government sanctioned enterprise? Collectively, it was these revelations which proved the source of Koppel pronounced discomfort. It should also be noted that Ted is Jewish and a staunch supporter of Israel, warranting heightened scrutiny for the presence of bias in his assessment of, both the documentary and its producers.

      For Christian archeologists and theologians, the documentary presents a profound dilemma. The universally recognized eleventh commandment – possession being 9/10ths of the law, applies to and is aggressively observed in Israel in the context of Palestinians land, personal property, and its unfortunate human rights record toward them. Criticism of official Israeli government policy, particularly regarding the exhumations, reburial, and destruction of ancient human remains, confiscation, warehousing and sale of ossuaries, destruction of ancient tombs and significant Christian archaeology sites, confiscation of land directly above and adjacent to them for profit, are understandably awkward issues, subject to extraordinarily aggressive government censorship as memorialized in the program. Criticism limits access to the country, prohibition from access to certain sites, denial and revocation of licenses for engaging in archaeological activities, accelerated government confiscations, plundering and destruction of site contents by private contractors with the acquiescence and encouragement of Israeli authorities. Construction on these sites is intended to obscure, if not actually prevent access to them, averting subsequent claims, both to the land and their archaeological content, both by Christians, and Muslims.

      In the end, it was not merely the reputation of Israel which lay in ruin. Koppel, heretofore recognized and embraced for decades as the consummate, objective, unbiased, honest, fact finding inquisitor (Walter Cronkite of his time), revealed several unflattering things about himself in the post-script debate which he moderated – what was clearly a religious and politically motivated bias and hostility, both toward the documentary resultant from what it revealed and, by extension its producers for what they failed to edit out regarding the Israeli Government’s disturbance and destruction of significant Christian artifacts and archaeological sites, his extraordinary ineptitude in the selection of rebuttal `experts,’ and the fact that there remains something to be said for timely retirement.

      By the time ABC pulled the plug on him, and/or he exited the building of his own free will for the last time, he had accrued more than ample empirical evidence regarding sequels – always compared against, more often diminish, seldom an enhancement of the original, destined to be dismissed as a second act in what was essentially a one act play. This documentary proved one too many sequels for Ted who became the story within the story. The corrosive effect of this performance invited an overwhelmingly negative public impression of his work, not merely for the future, but through this misstep, the past.

    1. March 21st, 2007 at 22:10 | #1
    2. March 7th, 2007 at 03:53 | #2
    3. March 5th, 2007 at 12:54 | #3
    4. March 5th, 2007 at 21:50 | #4
    5. March 6th, 2007 at 08:04 | #5
    6. March 7th, 2007 at 11:50 | #6
    7. April 5th, 2007 at 15:54 | #7
    8. April 27th, 2007 at 00:19 | #8
    9. January 16th, 2010 at 15:45 | #9