Sinking Credibility

colson2Director James Cameron’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Titanic was a documentary about the wreckage of the doomed ship. The film contained so many shots of Cameron in a deep-sea submersible that one critic named him “Captain Nemo.” Well, Captain Nemo has surfaced again. In an upcoming Discovery Channel special, Cameron claims to have found an ossuary containing the bones of Jesus. How does he know? Through a combination of Sesame Street and The Da Vinci Code. The ossuary is inscribed “Joshua, son of Joseph”—names that are not exactly rare among first-century Jewish males. So Cameron also points out the nearby ossuaries bearing names of people associated with Jesus—most importantly, “Mary,” as in “Magdalene.” Actually, it doesn’t say “Mary” but “Mariamne,” which—according to some people—was what other people called the Magdalene. This is good enough for Cameron, who considers it natural that Jesus would be buried alongside his so-called “wife.” See what I mean about The Da Vinci Code? If you do, you are not alone. Archaeologist Amos Kloner, who “did extensive work and research on this very tomb and its ossuaries” ten years ago, said “it’s a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever . . . ” Lawrence Steigler of Harvard told National Public Radio that Cameron’s claim “sounds rather preposterous.” When even Harvard and NPR call your bit of revisionism “preposterous,” you know that you are way out on a limb. Then again, Cameron is far from the first person to dash his credibility to pieces against the stone that was rolled away that first Easter. Like others, his ultimate explanation for what happened that Sunday morning is a cover-up. Like others, he has no explanation for why the Apostles would be willing to die for what they presumably knew to be a lie. I know a thing or two about cover-ups and conspiracies: No conspirator willingly dies for what he knows to be untrue—or, in the case of Watergate, even go to jail. The closest men around the president of the United States testified against him to save their own skins. You’re going to tell me the Apostles maintained their story at the cost of their lives? Impossible. What’s worse than Cameron’s “preposterous” claims is the credulous reaction of the media. At the website Get Religion (which analyzes the media’s coverage of religion), Daniel Pulliam put it this way: Many “news organizations [are] reporting [Cameron’s] words as gospel truth.” He’s right. A headline in the New York Times’s blog read “Raising the Titanic, Sinking Christianity?” Time followed, proclaiming that “this time, the ship [Cameron’s] sinking is Christianity.” While Newsweek magazine did manage to quote Cameron’s critics, as Pulliam pointed out, “their words [were treated] as equal to that” of the moviemaker—who, by the way, admits he’s not a “theologist or an archaeologist,” just a filmmaker. Pulliam is right when he says that “at this point” the coverage of this story “is an embarrassment to reporters.” And they wonder why they are held in low esteem among believers? Stories like this and the fuss over the “Gospel of Judas” are slickly packaged revisionism. After the revisionism has been shredded, the only thing sinking beneath the waves is the media’s credibility.
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For Further Reading and Information
Regis Nicoll, “The Remains of Jesus Uncovered!” The Point, 23 February 2007. Regis Nicoll, “Is James Cameron Fulfilling Prophecy?” The Point, 28 February 2007. Roberto Rivera, “For Your Convenience,” The Point, 28 February 2007. Daniel Pulliam, “James Cameron to Christians: It’s Over,” Get Religion, 26 February 2007. Tom Zeller Jr., “Raising the Titanic, Sinking Christianity?” The Lede at the New York Times, 26 February 2007. “'Lost Tomb of Jesus' Claim Called a Stunt,” Washington Post, 28 February 2007. Ben Witherington III, “The Jesus Tomb?: ‘Titanic’ Talpiot Tomb Theory Sunk from the Start,” Ben Witherington’s blog, 26 February 2007. Ben Witherington III, “An Empty Tomb Theory and an Empty Tomb,” Beliefnet, 28 February 2007. Stuart Laidlaw, “Jesus Tomb Claim Sparks Furor,” Toronto Star, 26 February 2007. Tabby Yang, “Remains of the Day,” Christianity Today, 28 February 2007. Ted Olsen, “An Exclusive Interview with James Cameron” (satire), Christianity Today, 28 February 2007. BreakPoint Commentary No. 060412, “The So-Called ‘Gospel’ of Judas: Unmasking an Ancient Heresy.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 060414, “Secrets, Lies, and the Resurrection: Demonstrating the Truth of Easter.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 020329, “An Unholy Hoax?: The Authenticity of Christ.” Allan Dobras, “Doubts Resurrected,” BreakPoint Online, 13 April 2006. Michael J. McClymond, Familiar Stranger (Eerdmans, 2005).


Chuck Colson


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