Thursday, January 31, 2008

Talpiot Tomb Controversy Rises Again

Here’s the latest from various sources on the Talpiot Tomb Controversy. In late January a conference was held in Jerusalem regarding the Talpiot Tomb. The conference was called, “Third Princeton Theological Seminary Symposium on Jewish Views of the Afterlife and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism: Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context.”

According to the blog of Mark Goodacre, Associate Professor of New Testament at Duke University, he reports that opinions of archaeological experts, scientists and scholars that contradicted the view taken in the controversial Discovery Channel “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” was not reported by the media.

Goodacre reports, “Instead the media have presented the views of Simcha Jacobovici, who produced the controversial film and book “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” with Hollywood director James Cameron, and who claims that his identification has been vindicated by the conference papers.”

Regardless of what conclusions were drawn from the conference gathering, the opinions of a journalist, Simcha Jacobovici and Hollywood director, James Cameron, who both worked on the documentary, carry more weight.

Ben Witherington chimes in stating, “Let me be clear that no fresh evidence came to light from this conference.” For Simcha Jacobovici to act as though this conference vindicated him makes me wonder about his grasp of reality.

However, one piece of evidence did make an appearance. Read Witherington’s description: “the widow of Joseph Gat, Gat being one of the original archaeologists who dug the Talpiot Tomb, revealed that her husband thought back in the 80s that this might be the tomb of Jesus, but he kept these views to himself, because . . . being a Holocaust survivor he was fearful of an anti-Jewish reprisal had he made his views known. This is sadly understandable.”

Some felt this was the smoking gun of the conference. But Goodcare is not so quick to grab Gat’s widow’s testimony as giving us anything conclusive. To snuff out the curling smoke of the alleged gun, we learn, “Joseph Gat lacked the expertise to read the inscriptions. His supervisor and other members of the Israel Antiquities Authority believe that Gat could not have made such a statement in his lifetime since the inscriptions seem to have been deciphered only after he had passed away.” Yet even in the face of this poor evidence Jacobovici claims Mrs. Gat’s statement has supported his claims about the tomb.

In a written statement signed by the attendees of the noted Jerusalem conference, the following statement is made: “To conclude, we wish to protest the misrepresentation of the conference proceedings in the media, and make it clear that the majority of scholars in attendance – including all of the archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers relating to the tomb - either reject the identification of the Talpiot tomb as belonging to Jesus’ family or find this claim highly speculative.”

After this statement we are given a list of thirteen academics who attended the conference and signed this final conclusion.

The finality of this group of scholars is not enough for Jacobovici. Under the guise of objectivity, this Canadiam journalist is out to prove Jesus’ body once occupied one of the ossuaries found in the Talpiot tomb, first unearthed in the 1980.

Due to the reappearance of this controversy, I feel an imperative to let people know about the booklet I wrote last Spring, right after “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” documentary was shown on the Discovery Channel. This booklet is a guide to the Jesus Family Tomb controversy and makes a great tool to give to others who may have been confused by the Discovery Channel program.

To order my booklet Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy for $6.95 click here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Re-Opening of the Jesus 'Tomb' Controversy

In Spring '07  the Discovery Channel aired a TV documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, made by Hollywood director James Cameron and Canadian investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici.

According to an article in Time magazine, the documentary "re-examines an archaeological find from 1980 in which a crypt [the Talpiot tomb] was found containing what were said to be the ossuaries of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the son of Joseph, Mariamne (possibly Mary Magdalene, say the film-makers) and Judah, son of Jesus."

The controversy whether or not the Talpiot tomb once contained the remains of Jesus and His family stayed on the media circuit for a few months in Spring '07 prior to the airing of the documentary and for a few weeks afterwards. Soon after several TV appearances by the filmmakers and a flurry of Christian articles refuting the claims of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, the controversy fizzled.

Now, says Time magazine the controversy is being opened once again. "Still, even after the furor over the film faded, the questions it raised about the tomb unearthed in 1980 continued to make waves among archaeologists and Biblical scholars," says the Time magazine piece.

Little did I know that when I wrote a booklet entitled Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy that The Lost Tomb of Jesus would make a re-appearance. At the time I composed the booklet, I felt the issues raised by Cameron and Jacobovici were so important that the errors and false conclusions made in the documentary had to be addressed. In fact, the Time magazine article admits the "debate over Jesus' supposed tomb will probably rage for years to come."

From the back cover of my booklet,  I summarize my major concerns with the Jesus Tomb documentary:
The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a documentary recently aired on the Discovery Channel, claims an ancient tomb discovered in Jerusalem may have held the bones of Jesus. Author Louis Lapides argues that the implications of such a find could drastically alter the historic faith of Christianity. What if the bones of Jesus of Nazareth were discovered? How do we respond to the claim that the tomb contained an ossuary (bone box) inscribed with the names of Mary Magdalene and Yehuda the son of Jesus? Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene secretly married and gave birth to a child named Yehuda? Using apologetic tools to support the resurrection of Jesus in Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy Lapides explores the major claims professed by the Discovery Channel documentary and refutes the validity of these arguments. For those concerned about the contemporary attacks on the person and work of Jesus Christ, Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy puts these harmful accusations to rest.

In light of the resurgence of this controversy, a Jerusalem conference to discuss whether or the the crypt of Christ has been found, was organized last week by New Testament expert Prof. James Charlesworth. After three days of heated debate the conference attendees voted unanimously that the Talpiot tomb, now sealed over with concrete in the garden of a suburban apartment complex, should be re-opened and scrutinized more carefully.

Journalist Simcha Jacobovici, one of the documentary's creators, told Time, "I feel vindicated. It's move from 'it can't be Jesus' family tomb'' to 'it could be.'"

Due to the reappearance of this controversy, the issues I raised in my booklet are essential to examine and understand. This booklet is a guide to the Jesus Family Tomb controversy and makes a great tool to give to others who may have been confused by the Discovery Channel program.

To order my booklet Burying the Jesus Family Tomb Controversy for $2.50 go to Amazon or the ScriptureSolutions Store


Monday, January 14, 2008

In Tribute to My Son. . . and Dave Grohl

I met my son Jonathan and his fiance for lunch this afternoon.  They were returning to Denver after spending five days with us in light of the passing away of his grandfather.  It was our "farewell" meal until our next meeting.  

We met at Stanley's Restaurant in Sherman Oaks . . . an LA faux-faux eatery.  A place where you might find celebrities or a lettuce bug in your salad. 

When I arrived, my family was already seated.  My son Jonathan quickly told me to turn to my right to see who's sitting there. At first I saw some fifty something "dude" chomping on a bean sprout sandwich, and I asked Jon, "Who's that?"  He told me to look again further down the table.  

I looked . . .  and there was Dave Grohl, drummer for the Foo Fighters but even more importantly, the drummer for Nirvana. 

Already Jonathan was scheming with his fiance' Chandra how they were going to get his signature.  Jon knows my track record for getting autographs especially musicians and baseball players. I'm usually very successful.  My influence is at work in his mind. 

Number one rule, I suggest, don't bother him while he's eating. That's so uncool. Wait until he's done or hit him up on his way back from the restroom.  
Suddenly, one of the people seated at Grohl's table gets up and heads for the men's room. Jonathan follows in hot pursuit.  He needs advice and this guy's got the goods.  

My son the autograph seeker returns with the coveted advice, "Wait until Dave's finished eating."
Meanwhile, during this entire transaction, Jonathan and Chandra are speaking on their cell to their best friend Zack, who's a Foo Fighter fanatic.  They're on the cell phone tormenting Zack because his favorite drummer is  8 feet away from us.  Since Zack is a drummer, we're talking about his drumming hero.

Zack loves the Foo Fighters so much that he's going to play one of their songs, Everlong, at his wedding to Kylie.  

Then my son says to Zack over the cell, "If I get his autograph, I'll give to you."  Suddenly Jonathan remembers he's got a Foo Fighter CD-Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace- in the car.  He bolts out of Stanley's to  grab the CD. He's already figured it out to ask Grohl to sign the liner notes and address it to Zack.  How cool is that?

Jon returns to his seat with the liner notes in his hand. Grohl surprisingly bolts out of his seat and heads to the front door.  I tell Jon, "this is your chance. He's leaving." Little did I know he was out for a smoke break.

Jonathan heads out of the restaurant with the liner notes in his hand and finds Dave outside enjoying his smoke.  Jonathan tells him he did not want to bother him while he was eating, and the Foo Fighter star tells him that he appreciated his gesture of respect.  

Jonathan tells Grohl about Zack's admiration of the band and that he's playing Everlong at wedding.   Grohl is impressed, takes the liner notes and writes: Zack–Cheers! Dave Grohl.

I was very proud of my son for thinking of someone one before himself.  To me, as his Dad, that was better than the autograph.

I can go on and on about my own autograph escapades . . . Jerry Seinfeld and the entire Seinfeld cast, Mickey Mantle, Jason Giambi, Willie Mays and so many others.  And I kept them all . . . . and never even entertained the thought of given them to anyone else. 

 I've got some things to learn from my son or maybe he learned some things from me. 

Well, there was one time when he was nuts over this Disney show, Kids Incorporated and I drove him to Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, Ca so he could meet them and get their signatures. Jonathan was about 6 years old and presently has no recollection of the experience. 

I ran with him in my arms, sweating, heart beating through the summer heat  through the Knotts Theme  Park to make it to the show so Jonathan could meet them. 

Ok . . . then he did learn something from me.  After all, I never wanted the autographs of Kids Incorporated. 

Thank you Dave Grohl for making my day. And we didn't even hand you a demo!