Why does the Church think we are all fools?

Well, James Cameron, of all people, has apparently found not only Jesus’, but also Mary Magdalene’s, Mary’s, Joseph’s, and Jesus’ and Mary’s son’s coffins. Now, that would be the archeological find of the millenium, no? I have no idea, at this point, what Mr. Cameron has found, though of course the story of the so-called James ossuary does give one pause. Details, no doubt, to follow.However, what I do find interesting is the reactions of Christian leaders of various denominations, including, apparently, the Archbishop of NY, who continue to conflate Christianity with fundamentalism and the media’s obsession with getting these people on the record.

Much, if not most, of twentieth century biblical and systematic theology was an attempt to reconcile Christian revelation with the realities posed by the natural sciences and the emerging science of history. Bultmann, Kung, Rahner and many others have done paradigm altering work that allows reasonable Christians to make sense of the content of revelation in a world where scientific, archeological and historical discovery is forever progressing. No doubt, evidence of the physical body of Jesus would require quite a bit of theological explaining. However, the basic tools to understand the cosmic validity of Christian revelation even in the face of such an earth shattering archeological discovery has already been done. And yet, there is no attempt made by the Christian churches, perhaps most especially, the Catholic hierarchy, to make that learning and pastoral comfort available to the people in the pews.

They find it easier no doubt, to organize boycotts of the DaVinci Code and to strongly encourage parents to remove all copies of Harry Potter from the house. They strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. In an effort to maintain a simple and pietistic Vatican I spirituality among the laity, which consistently veers into the heresy (and it is a heresy, make no mistake) of fundamentalism they ignore, at their peril, the miraculous modern additions to the vibrant Christian tradition.

I guess good homiletics doesn’t get you a 30 second spot on the six o’clock news….Sigh.

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3 Responses to “Why does the Church think we are all fools?”

  1. Mark Grannis Says:

    Thanks for calling this to our attention, Dave. I had completely missed the news.

    However, I think it’s a little bit of a cop-out for you to do your first blog posting on some trifling “we found the body of Jesus” story. Please try to pick something more controversial next time.

  2. Dr Dre Says:

    Agreed, I think that there are far too many believers that blindly believe what they are told and/or often guarded from the truth. The reality is that there is still room for faith in the world without the confines of a religion. This may seem odd coming from a Christian who is in ministry, however too many times the church has gone into defend without learning what the offense is doing. In this case, the documentary has not aired yet and we need to wait and see what the scholars have to say when the information is out there and then allow people to make their own informed decision.

  3. Mark Grannis Says:

    Someone writing as “saxon” has left a skeptical, non-fundamentalist response to this “news” on The Lede blog. As interesting as it is to think about the ways in which Christian faith could survive the finding of Jesus’ body, the list of 22 thoroughly secular reasons to doubt Cameron’s archeology on this one also makes for interesting reading, particularly for those of us who are extraordinarily unlikely to watch this show. Since I can’t link to individual comments on The Lede, I’m pasting saxon’s 22 reasons in below, with the caveat that of course I don’t know who saxon is or whether this information is true:

    Reasons to Question the Jesus Tomb Theory

    1. These were very common names at the time
    a. Professor Amos Kloner, a prominent Israeli archeologist who deciphered the names, didn’t associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus.
    b. Dr. Tom Wright, renowned church scholar and Dean of Lichfield, also has deep reservations. “These were very common names at the time, and it would be like someone in 2000 years time claiming to have found the tomb of the royal family because it contained the names Charles, son of Philip, Andrew and Diana. This is no more than an interesting coincidence.”
    c. Joseph and Joshua (Jesus) were two of the most common names in all of early Judaism. So was Mary. Indeed both Jesus’ mother and her sister were named Mary.
    d. The Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal. It simply has the name Mary– and that’s about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names.
    e. Out of a total number of 2625 males, these are the figures for the ten most popular male names among Palestinioan Jews. the first figure is the total number of occurrences (from this number, with 2625 as the total for all names, you could calculate percentages), while the second is the number of occurrences specifically on ossuraies.

    1 Simon/Simeon 243 59
    2 Joseph 218 45
    3 Eleazar 166 29
    4 Judah 164 44
    5 John/Yohanan 122 25
    6 Jesus 99 22
    7 Hananiah 82 18
    8 Jonathan 71 14
    9 Matthew 62 17
    10 Manaen/Menahem 42 4
    For women, we have a total of 328 occurrences (women’s names are much less often recorded than men’s), and figures for the 4 most popular names are thus:

    Mary/Mariamne 70 42
    Salome 58 41
    Shelamzion 24 19
    Martha 20 17

    You can see at once that all the names you’re interested were extremely popular. The chances of the people in the ossuaries being the Jesus and Mary Magdalene of the New Testament must be very small indeed.
    2. Biblical scholar Stephen Pfann has suggested that the inscription read as “Jesus” has been misread, suggesting that the name “Hanun” might be a more accurate rendering.Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.
    3. If “Jesus” and “Mariamene” weren’t related matrilineally, why jump to the conclusion that they were husband and wife, rather than being related through their fathers?
    a. There are no known descendants of Mary alive today, so what does DNA have to do with it?” Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, asked in a statement.
    b. the most the DNA evidence can show is that several of these folks are inter-related. Big deal. We would need an independent control sample from some member of Jesus’ family to confirm that these were members of Jesus’ family. We do not have that at all. In addition mitacondrial DNA does not reveal genetic coding or XY chromosome make up anyway
    4. The first use of “Mariamene” for Magdalene dates to a scholar who was born in 185, suggesting that Magdalene wouldn’t have been called that at her death.
    5. Asbury Theological Seminary professor Ben Witherington, a early Christianity expert who was deeply involved with the James Ossuary, says there are physical reasons to believe it couldn’t have originated in the Talpiot plot.
    6. Why would Jesus’s family or followers bury his bones in a family plot and “then turn around and preach that he had been physically raised from the dead?”
    7. Bar Ilan University Professor Amos Kloner, a former IAA archaeologist who oversaw the excavation 27 years ago and has authored detailed reports on the findings,”There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb,” said Kloner. “They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the first century CE [Common Era],” he said.
    a. the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth. The family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone. Why in the world would be be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem? It’s unlikely.
    8. During an interview with the film’s producers, Kloner said that “Jesus, son of Joseph” inscriptions had been found on several other ossuaries in Israel, along with the other names.
    a. This is not, however, the first time a Jesus ossuary has been found. The first was in 1926.
    9. According to Time, Professor Amos Kloner, a prominent Israeli archeologist who deciphered the names, didn’t associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. “His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn’t afford a luxury crypt for his family.
    10. Christians also cite past frauds that have tried to break apart Christian beliefs. “This kind of sensationalism has been tried before,” said Schenck.
    11. Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker’s claim that the James Ossuary — the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel — might have originated from the same cave. In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box. The James ossuary owner, Oded Golan, was charged with forging part of the inscription on the box. Former FBI agent Gerald Richard testified that a photo of the James ossuary, showing it in Golan’s home, was taken in the 1970s, based on tests done by the FBI photo lab. Jacobovici conceded in an interview that if the ossuary was photographed in the 1970s, it could not then have been found in a tomb in 1980.
    a. “I don’t think the James Ossuary came from the same cave,” said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University. “If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus.”
    12. The Israel Antiquity Association voted 15-0 that it was a monumental fraud.
    13. William Dever, an expert on near eastern archeology and anthropology, who has worked with Israeli archeologists for five decades, said specialists have known about the ossuaries for years. “The fact that it’s been ignored tells you something,” said Dever, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. “It would be amusing if it didn’t mislead so many people.”
    14. The earliest followers of Jesus never called Jesus ‘son of Joseph’. It was outsiders who mistakenly called him that! Would the family members such as James who remained in Jerusalem really put that name on Jesus’ tomb when they knew otherwise?
    15. 21% of Jewish women were called Mariamne (Mary).
    16. One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus. We have no historical evidence of such a son of Jesus, indeed we have no historical evidence he was ever married;
    17. We have names like Matthew on another ossuary, which don’t match up with the list of brothers’ names.

    18. By all ancient accounts, the tomb of Jesus was empty– even the Jewish and Roman authorities acknowledged this. Now it takes a year for the flesh to desiccate, and then you put the man’s bones in an ossuary. But Jesus’ body was long gone from Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb well before then. Are we really to believe it was moved to another tomb, decayed, and then was put in an ossuary? Its not likely.
    19. Implicitly you must accuse James, Peter and John (mentioned in Gal. 1-2– in our earliest NT document from 49 A.D.) of fraud and coverup. Are we really to believe that they knew Jesus didn’t rise bodily from the dead but perpetrated a fraudulent religion, for which they and others were prepared to die? Did they really hide the body of Jesus in another tomb? We need to remember that the James in question is Jesus’ brother, who certainly would have known about a family tomb. This frankly is impossible for me to believe.
    20. David Mevorah, curator of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The chances that the film’s contentions are true “are more than remote,” Mevorah said. “They are closer to fantasy.”
    21. Why didn’t the filmmakers conduct DNA testing on the other ossuaries to determine whether the one inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus” was genetically related to either the Jesus or Mary Magdalene boxes? Or whether the Jesus remains were actually the offspring of Mary?
    22. Lawrence E. Stager, the Dorot professor of archaeology of Israel at Harvard, in a telephone interview, said – “This is exploiting the whole trend that caught on with ‘The Da Vinci Code,..one of the problems is there are so many biblically illiterate people around the world that they don’t know what is real judicious assessment and what is what some of us in the field call ‘fantastic archaeology.’ ”


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