Monday, March 05, 2007

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

Well, it was a documentary worthy of Erik Von Daniken himself.

I have to express my respect for the attempt of the producers of The Lost Tomb of Jesus to exercise my credulity. It must be really hard to have a crystalline-clear, Technicolor mental image of an entire alternate reality and then be forced to attempt -in the course of two hours of cable television time and for lack of adequate visual evidence - to connect the dots.

Especially when the dots aren't numbered. And you can't be sure whether some of them are dots, or dust motes, or patina on an ossuary.

But the attempt was as noble as any such attempt can be. Using classic von Daniken-esque logic and research method, the hypotheses presented in the opening minutes were meticulously explored with whatever science could be conveniently applied, and by the middle of the program were expressed as established facts upon which further hypotheses were so explored that they might be treated as concrete facts by the closing moments of the program. Even when some of the hypotheses were labeled speculative and even likely, their promotion continued throughout the documentary.

No attempt was made to address some obvious problems with the mega-theory.

Such as, why friends of the family of Jesus who loved them and respected their beliefs would refer to Him on the marking of an ossuary as the "son of Joseph" without the phrase "as was supposed" added parenthetically afterward.

Or why the family would be buried in Jerusalem in the first place, since they all lived in Nazareth of Galilee.

Or why a 16th Century, complete version of the apocryphal Acts of Phillip (a non-canonical work) would be a preferable reference to the earlier-but-incomplete 4th Century versions - other than the fact that it is the one which conveniently refers to Mary Magdalene by the name on one of the ossuaries: Mariamne. Generally, older works are viewed as more authoritative. And apocryphal works are generally not viewed as authoritative at all.

Or what might be the possible motivations for someone - either now, when poking at Christendom is politically correct; or then, when outright persecution was the rage - to stage a fraudulent tomb setting, including all these names on ossuaries and what they could be construed to imply.

But you have to admire the documentary's suspense-filled, ongoing backstory of the rediscovery of the lost tomb - from the disappointing exploration of the wrong tomb via extra-long laparoscope to the culmination: the exploration of the right tomb cut short by a minor Israeli bureaucrat in a scene reminiscent of the U2 video Where the Streets Have No Name.

Part of the reason that we have documentaries like this - and I hope you'll forgive my soapbox moment here - is that modern education contains no required courses in logic or analytical thinking, apart from mathematical applications. The transfer skills to non-mathematical subjects are not easy to acquire because we are opinionated creatures about matters where we do not immediately perceive absolute truth. Math is an absolute science. If you add two and two, you will always get four. (Generally speaking. Don't introduce chaos theory or some other exception just to be argumentative here, please.)

In the rest of the world, adding two political theories to two religious philosophies will yield thousands of results.

We have not been trained to think analytically about non-mathematical matters.

We do not know a syllogism from a sorites, deductive logic from inductive logic, an assumption from a fact, truth from fiction. We don't know science from pseudo-science. We cannot identify which logical fallacy is at play when we do recognize them. We often do not know logical fallacies when we see them, and we do not know about them in order to be able see them.

So we have half-baked mockumentaries passing for documentaries that should leave the thinking mind hooting and rolling on the floor. The Tomb of Jesus is just the latest in a long line of such so-called efforts that had their heydey when von Daniken was releasing The Chariots of the Gods? - and at least had the molecule of integrity to add a question mark to the end of the title.

Now I stand down from the soapbox. The floor is open.

1 comment:

RKK said...

For info on "chevron and circle" and a history of sensational claims with regard to Talpiot and ossuaries:

http://confirmedword.blogspot.com/