A Film Evaluation of James Cameron's film "The Lost Tomb of Jesus."
There are times in one’s academic life when mere words are not enough to describe an educational experience. This is one of those times. The Lost Tomb of Jesus has set a new record for poor archaeology and inaccurate history. It was unscholarly at best and a recreation of The Three Stooges at worst as these pseudo-scientists traipsed around the Holy Land connecting evidence a reasonable person would never conclude should be tied together. Perhaps its most educational value can be found in the simple fact that “science” does not always have to be “scientific” to get attention, press and draw the naïve into further ignorance.
The film, produced by James Cameron opened with an introduction with a spooky, disembodied National Geographic like narration about how Jesus Christ was buried after His crucifixion and His body was moved approximately a year later f to an ossuary which would be buried with the rest of His family’s ossuaries. This tomb full of ossuaries was apparently discovered in 1980 by construction workers building an apartment complex. It gained attention of at least James Cameron because of the ten ossuaries found one had the inscription “Jesus, son of Joseph.”
There were also ossuaries bearing the inscriptions “Mary,” “Mariamne,” “Matthew,” “Judah,” and “Jose.” On the surface these names to seem to feasibly connected to Jesus of Nazareth, but the filmmakers have no problem drawing conclusions to seem to prove that there is only 1 chance in 30,000 that this tomb is not His. Supposedly at the time of their discovery, these ossuaries were found with bones in them, but as illustrated by two actors, the bones were dumped unceremoniously into a seemingly arbitrarily chosen ditch together, so the bones themselves have never actually been studied (a fact that should have disturbed the makers of this film, but apparently went unnoticed).
One of their most convincing pieces of evidence was that Jesus had a brother named “Joseph” and his name was written in the nickname form “Jose.” Supposedly, this was something that only a member of the immediate family would have known as no one at this period in history was named “Jose.” (At least that we now of because most people tend to go by their given name and not a nickname on matters of record.) As the counter documentary “The Tomb of Jesus: Unmasked” points out, there actually have been several other ossuaries with the name “Jose” on them. It is, in all actuality, simply a short version of “Joseph,” and not as uncommon as the filmmakers made it seem.
One fact that I found stunning is that the filmmakers in one sense shot themselves in the foot by stating that the ossuary belonging to James went missing at some point during it’s time at the Israel Antiquities Authority building. If one ossuary could be so easily “misplaced,” the implication in the film being “stolen” as it turned up later in a private collection (an accusation to which the original archaeologists took great offense), why could some archaeologist seeking fame and fortune not put together a collection of ossuaries with convenient names relating to the life of Christ?
Another interesting problem with the film is that none of the people these thrill seeking rogue archaeologists come in contact with seem to take them very seriously. When the archaeologists ask a tenant of the apartment complex for permission to remove a bedroom wall to get to the tomb, he gives them two days. Think of the monetary implications of finding the lost tomb of Jesus under your apartment complex? Huge government grants to pay for the removal of the hotel? Extreme rates for allowing people to stay at such a “holy site?” The income possibilities are endless! Unfortunately, this tomb was not actually the one these trustworthy scientists were looking for, even after spending hours examining maps for the tomb they wanted. That one was twenty meters in the opposite direction. Oops.
Throughout the film, the archaeologists continue to make discoveries at extremely convenient times that only further support their cause. One example of this is the DNA testing they do on only two of the ossuaries: the one believed to contain Jesus and the one that supposedly contained Mary Magdalene (an idea that true scientists in the countering documentary find ridiculous). The DNA was so old that only one test could be done with any hope for accuracy; a test to see if the two samples were maternally related. The result was negative. The filmmakers thus draw the conclusion that because they were not maternally related they must be husband and wife. They ignore all other possibilities such as father and daughter, paternal cousins, sister in law etc. Another problem was that instead of testing the DNA on all the ossuaries in the tomb to get a more accurate picture of the family tree, they only tested the two that they needed to prove a point. This is just one example of the filmmakers only examining evidence that supports their cause. “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7 NASB)
In conclusion, the only proofs they chose to give could be so easily manipulated that it was difficult to take the film seriously. It is poor attempt to undermine Christianity by “scientifically” demonstrating that Christ never rose from the dead. Their “documentary” is not only blasphemous, but unscientific, manipulative and inaccurate to its very core. Bad science, lack of historical/biblical understanding (even if un-orthodox) and sheer senselessness combine to form the “documentary” “The Lost Tomb of Jesus.”