Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Did they find Jesus H. Christ's bones?

This is the dark side of science fiction; it's the lure of pseudoscience that sucks in some of science fictions most popular players. Remember Leonard Nimoy hosting a program called "In Search of," the supposed "investigations" into various mysteries like Atlantis, the Amityville horror, Bigfoot, ghosts and UFO Cover-Ups? Remember Jonathan Frakes narrating Alien Autopsy: (Fact or Fiction?) in 1995?

The science fiction magazines of the 1940s, especially Amazing Stories, were instrumental in creating today's UFO cults. Some writers and editors claimed that they had personal experience with UFOs. Look up Ray Palmer and "The Shaver Mystery." Find out what L. Ron Hubbard, creator of Scientology did for a living before he came up with Scientology. Learn where he first published his ideas, in a science fiction magazine that became "Analog." Remember the Nazis on the Moon in Robert Heinlein's "Rocket Ship Galileo?" That too was once a tawdry pseudoscience fad.

Now, Aliens and Terminator director James Cameron and "investigative journalist" Simcha Jacobovichi claim to have found the bones of the New Testament Jesus. If true it indicates that Jesus never was resurrected from the grave and ascended into Heaven, thereby debunking a core dogma of standard Christianity. Problem is that Cameron and Jacobovichi have already shot their credibility by making a documentary that claimed to have "proved" the Exodus. Here's a rottentomatoes.com review.

The evidence for the Exodus offered in their 90-minute History channel documentary, "The Exodus Decoded," was pretty wild and completely speculative. It was a CGI-spectacular in which they claimed that the Exodus took place in 1500 BC under the reign of the Pharaoh Ahmose, (no one knows when the Exodus took place, and many doubt if it ever did, and the Bible doesn't give us much to date the event with). That date allowed them to link the ten plagues of Egypt with the Santorini volcanic eruption which triggered a chain of natural catastrophes that vaguely resemble the 10 plagues that God supposedly visited upon Egypt and also made the "Reed Sea," not "Red Sea," part and then caused an enormous ‘backsplash’ of water seven miles inland to engulf the Egyptian army at just the right moment.

It's that link that was pretty wild and speculative but not completely outside the realm of possibility but still utterly far fetched. The waters were turned red by chemicals released by tremors and also heavier than air poison gas kills the first born because they slept closer to the floor. Weather conditions spawned by the eruption might have caused hailstorms and darkness. Frogs were driven from their natural habitat and producing the biblical plague of frogs. The frogs then died and were eaten by insects that would have bred and lead to plagues of locusts, fleas and lice etc. etc.. All that Biblical weirdness connected to a somewhat plausible chain of natural events.

Still, none of it has any backing by academic archeological or Biblical scholars. Most Biblical scholars say there isn’t any archeological evidence backing up the biblical story of the Exodus at all. Even many Jewish scholars would reluctantly agree that an episode central to their faith, and commemorated at Passover, may never have happened. If it did take place they date it three hundred years later than Cameron and Jacobovichi do.

It’s fun to listen to as alternative history, a kind of science fiction, and I'll probably review the new show here, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." The new show will air March 4 on the Discovery Channel in the United States and it will argue that 10 small limestone caskets, or ossuaries, discovered in 1980 in a Jerusalem suburb may have held the bones of Jesus and his family. Cameron and Jacobovichi claim that two of the ancient stone burial boxes contained the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. One box even bears the title, "Judah, son of Jesus," suggesting that Jesus had a son.

However, people involved in the actual archeology, like Shimon Gibson, one of three archaeologists who first discovered the tomb in 1980, are skeptical. Christians are obviously not going to buy into the kind of wild speculation that "The Exodus Decoded" was rooted in when it's turned against them. Unless Cameron and Jacobovichi have a solid connection to the Jesus of the New Testament the bones could be from another Jesus not related to the biblical story at all. Jesus and Mary are common names after ancient Semitic script gets translated into Greek. So, unless they've got something like a Semitic copy of the gospels in that tomb there's nothing solid.

The fact that these ossuaries have been ignored by archaeologists since the 1980s, 27 years ago, should tell us something. The Antiquities Authority who let them haul around the antiques don't agree with the filmmakers either.

It's a bit like pro wrestling, everybody knows its fake and they just play along except for the real suckers.


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