I spent most of the night watching all the reports on the tomb. Christians do not need to get so worked up about this. Several of the responders from the Christian side come across as too nervous about all of this, almost yelling in response to the calm presenters of this Discovery special.
I spent most of the night watching all the reports on the tomb. Christians do not need to get so worked up about this. Several of the responders from the Christian side come across as too nervous about all of this, almost yelling in response to the calm presenters of this Discovery special. Part of this is because they have not yet seen the show and are having to respond to reports, sort of shooting in the dark. I have seen the show and the argument is full of problems that can patiently be set out for others (See Hollywood Hype blog).
For example, it does not take a biology degree to know that if someone tested your DNA it would not match with most other people in the populace, so the DNA argument being appealed to in the special proves nothing, giving us an expected result. Or as a Forensic Anthropologist said tonight on Anderson Cooper 360, it does not prove much at all. One could say the DNA testing proves next to nothing.
Nor does it take a geography degree to know that if Jesus' family came from Galilee, why would they have a family tomb in Jerusalem? Two simple observations that help to show how thin the argument from this special is.
The claim about statistics ASSUMES we have a family tomb. But one thing the non-matching DNA might show is that there is no family tomb present at all. What about a tomb with no family in it, but simply people from the area, some of whom might be family and others not? What about a tomb that is shared between families? All simple, basic historical questions, part of the process of doing historical work. Now the truth of any of these other scenarioes would rule out the "hyped" option.
So let us just ask some basic questions of this special that show the assumptions made to get to the statistical numbers are themselves not givens. Then the numbers mean nothing because they do not measure what they claim to measure. So no need to yell and scream, just ask good questions. Distinguish between fact and interpretation. Fact: we have a first century tomb that has ten first century bone boxes in them. Many of those boxes have names and two of them (one carrying a Jesus and one carrying a Mary are not biologically related). THAT is all we know from what the special presents. The rest is interpretation. Those who made the special say they want more investigation and seek the truth.
Meet the challenge. That is what I say. I think the facts that emerge will show there is nothing here, at least in term sof Jesus' family. What is there is another first century tomb with multiple bone boxes, of value to our understanding names and practices at the time, but that is all. Now let us turn to other issues this raises culturally. Yes, these bashing efforts are becoming all too common to generate hype for networks and fame and fortune for others. It is easy to get frustrated. I tell my students take your flu shot each Easter and Christmas to inoculate yourself from what is becoming a regular practice of Christian bashing during these holiday seasons. Do not be surprised. It is now a pattern to be expected. Now someone should challenge what HarperSanFrancisco is doing publishing so many "bashing books" and ask some tough questions of them. However, above all, what is needed is for some serious Christian funding to come forward to do some first class documentaries with top flight evangelical scholars and others who see all this other stuff as pretty thin on credibility.
Let us take up the challenge of showing the other side. Christian publishing is a multi-billion dollar industry. This would not impact their profits in any significant way (and does that really matter for this discussion?). In fact, 0.2% of the money generated by this industry would allow a quality prime-time special each year to be funded. Maybe showing that the discussion is not about profits but truth would help to balance out the motives question as key companies donate some of their money in order to simply make the case. Maybe we should not be so happy with organizations like the NRB [National Religious Broadcasters] for not stepping forward as an organization to meet the cultural challenge? Maybe they or folks like them should support the faith in a team effort on behalf of the case on the other side with a concerted effort. Why don't executives from these large Christian companies pool some resources together (as the cable networks do for these other efforts) and underwrite some first class media level work for TV consumption?
That is my challenge. Stop yelling and complaining. Produce something of quality reflecting top rank scholarship to show our culture that getting only one side of a story is not getting the entire story. Maybe that kind of effort can produce something of credibility and quality. This is what it will take to be of help to the culture. Think about it.