Stephen Crittenden:: Eric, let’s talk about some of these so-called discoveries. I suppose the James Ossuary is the one that got the biggest headlines in recent years, and also there’s the Lost Tomb of Jesus more recently. To what extent were these discoveries driven by an ideological desire to debunk Christian belief?
Eric Cline: Yes, it may well be. You never know what people’s ulterior motives are, mostly because they usually remain unstated, but in the case of the James Ossuary, it’s a rather interesting situation. In fact the ossuary itself is real, it’s a real Roman ossuary from the 1st century, and at least part of the inscription is real; the big debate is whether the whole inscription is real, or whether part of it, the part that talks about Jesus, whether that’s been added on and is in fact a forgery. And that’s the debate right now.
Stephen Crittenden: Presumably you can say the same about the so-called Lost Tomb of Jesus. It’s presumably a real tomb with real bodies.
Eric Cline: Absolutely, and in fact that’s the one that has gotten the ire of most of the archaeologists, because it is a real tomb with real people, and it was discovered by archaeologists, but it was discovered 27 years ago in 1980, and to say that the archaeologists didn’t recognise it was Jesus’ tomb when they found it is a little off-putting. And to have an investigative journalist say, ‘Hey, you guys messed up, and look it’s really Jesus.’ Well if it were Jesus we would have known that, give us a little credit. You can poke holes in the TV documentary about Lost Tombs of Jesus wide enough to drive a truck through as they say. It’s not the right place for him to be buried, he wouldn’t have been buried in Jerusalem, it’s too wealthy of a tomb for him to have been buried there, and there’s all kinds of arguments. Jodi Magness at the University of North Carolina has put it quite succinctly and just shown where the film maker went wrong, and that’s where in some of my recent writings like for The Boston Globe when I talk about irresponsible documentary film makers, I was thinking of that film. I mean many film makers are very good, and they do a very good job, but to put out a film like that, and I don’t even know what the ulterior motive is, whether it was financial, whether it was religious; you know, to interview archaeologists and then to have them say that their words were taken out of context …
Stephen Crittenden: Some of these recent findings do seem to play to a popular obsession with disproving Christianity’s religious claims.
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