James Cameron to Christians: It’s over

James Cameron vs. jesus christThe hype machine for James Cameron‘s documentary The Lost Tomb of Christ has hit Anna Nicole Smith levels of ridiculousness.

An allegation that Jesus Christ’s body has been found is an interesting story. The fact that some big-name moviemaker is behind it adds to the spice and makes it a very legitimate story. But the silliness of the headlines, the hypothetical evidence, poor background information (likely fed by Cameron’s PR machine) and the hype factor all add up to give people who take religious issues seriously just another reason to ignore the media. And that’s too bad.

The story at this point is an embarrassment to reporters. It’s why they have a bad name in religious circles. As Amy Welborn said, “It’s nonsense, but you know what … Easter is coming!!!

When did a filmmaker turned amateur historian become a reliable source for questions related to archeology? Well, since his facts were based on “sound statistics,” as he put it. We all know what they teach journalists in training about statistics (“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts — for support rather than illumination” — Andrew Lang).

The documentary is running on The Discovery Channel on March 4. Yes, this is the same channel that airs documentaries that make you want to believe we are visited frequently by UFOs.

One of my favorite quotes comes from an Associated Press piece by Marshall Thompson that draws on interviews the filmmakers did with various television stations:

Cameron told NBC’S “Today” show that statisticians found “in the range of a couple of million to one in favor of it being them.” Simcha Jacobovici, the Toronto filmmaker who directed the documentary, said the implications “are huge.”

“But they’re not necessarily the implications people think they are. For example, some believers are going to say, well this challenges the resurrection. I don’t know why, if Jesus rose from one tomb, he couldn’t have risen from the other tomb,” Jacobovici told “Today.”

The range of a million to one? What kind of statistical basis is that for any serious discussion, and what is Jacobovici trying to tell us with that cryptic statement about the implications? It confuses me. Things like that should be explained.

Another problem with the AP piece is including this comment by Cameron:

Cameron said his critics should withhold comment until they see his film.

“I’m not a theologist [sic]. I’m not an archaeologist. I’m a documentary film maker,” he said.

coffinSo let’s all follow Cameron’s advice and not write about the film until it comes out? Um, no. He’s not a theologian or an archaeologist, but just a documentary filmmaker. Then why are news organizations reporting his words as gospel truth (pardon the pun)? This is a highly scripted media campaign that is relying on all the free publicity provided by eager reporters looking for a story to write. The final paragraph of the AP report, relating to the experts who heavily criticized the documentary, is especially ironic:

None of the experts interviewed by The Associated Press had seen the whole documentary.

Did Thompson see the film?

My favorite press release news article comes from our friends at Newsweek, who were tipped off to the news much earlier than the rest of us, giving them time to put together a 2,100-word piece documenting the controversy.

Reporters Lisa Miller and Joanna Chen cite all the usual naysayers but frame their words as equal to that of the moviemakers, whose credibility in these matters is self-admittedly lower.

Time magazine’s Middle East blog post on the matter is lame:

Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you ‘The Titanic[,]‘ is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he’s sinking is Christianity.

The New York Times is no better:

Raising the Titanic, Sinking Christianity?

The media pack will likely follow this story to its airing in March. We will have gained little from it other than the knowledge that the media can be conned by clever PR tactics into writing a set of dubious stories that do little to sort out established facts from amateurish speculation.

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  • http://pererro.blogspot.com David N. Scott

    Looks like I’m a bit up on the curve on you guys for once.

    The official site for the movie is here:

    http://www.jesusfamilytomb.com/

    There’s a lot there, but a very handsome Christian blogger had some early thoughts on it here:

    http://pererro.blogspot.com/2007/02/james-cameronjesus-thing.html

    Shorter me: If you already believed the Da Vinci Code, this will all make sense to you. Maybe not so much otherwise.

  • Frank Mc Carthy

    The word of God says it all, but unfortunitally many in this world and even Christians will be gullible enough to adhere to what Mr Camerons claims

    Mark 13 vs 22
    For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

    2 timothy 4 Vs 2 to 4.
    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; : And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables

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  • Chris Bolinger

    I laughed out loud when I read the Time headline: “Is This Jesus’s Tomb?”. My immediate reaction was, “Uhh, is it empty? If not, then it’s the wrong one; if so, then how do you know?” The Web site for which David provided the URL is another guffaw-inducer. And they say that Christians are gullible and easily led!

    You’re right, Daniel — this could be a major setback for the press. People will be shaking their heads and quoting good old William Schneider. I feel bad for (some of) you guys.

    Maybe my company can persuade Cameron to “discover” how my competitors’ products cause horrible diseases and then create a film on the topic. The evidence will be facts that, as Lucy Van Pelt used to say, I just now made up.

  • Stephen A.

    Remember that James ossuary from a few years ago?

    A healthy dose of skepticism is obviously due here. It’s not a surprise that it is not happening, however.

  • Chris Bolinger

    From the NY Times article:
    “If DNA research were to link Jesus and ‘his brother’ Yose with Mary, the newspaper noted, it would undermine the concept of the virgin birth.”

    Come again?

    While it can be argued that (most of) the folks on the religion beat get religion, the rest of the newsroom may need a remedial course or two.

    Finding glaring errors in these “news articles” is like shooting fish in a barrel. I won’t waste anyone’s time with more posts on this.

  • Eric W

    As I’ve said before with reference to “The Da Vinci Code” hypothesis:

    That virginity and celibacy became revered and prominent very early in the Church (see, e.g., Acts 21:8-9) – a culture which came from the family-and-children-revering culture of Judaism – seems to me to scream for an explanation, and that explanation has to be that our Lord was Himself celibate; it was not just because He said things like “some men make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven,” or because of St. Paul’s statement that it was better not to marry.

    Had Jesus married and had a family, celibacy among the early Christians would have been a rejection of Christ’s example, and Christian asceticism with respect to marriage and sex would never have developed the way it did if Christ had married and had children.

    Dan Brown and now James Cameron are promoters of nonsense.

  • Ken

    Thank you for posting this. I first heard of this business on ABC World News this evening, which embarrassed itself (as usual) by a hot hot hot teaser on this great new discovery threatening Christianity. Interesting that the last words were from actual archeologists on what nonsense this was.

    It reminded me of a teaser on ABC in 2002 trumpeting “More allegations of Sex Abuse in One Midwestern City”. It turned out to be a 30 year old complaint against one priest.

    Isn’t anyone at ABC in charge of quality control?

  • Pem Sterling

    I luvvv it! I have zero respect for the
    scholarship or lack thereof involved in this,yet
    another,self assured attack on the person of
    Jesus Christ… nevertheless, I realize it can’t

    hurt the eeneiest itsy bitsy iota of Jesus, little
    pinky finger head to toe. I mean, my God, if the man really was dead
    then I might be offended for him but since he’s definitively only gonna use this incident to reveal the grace and reality of
    his person . . . how can I be anything but tickled?
    Aside from this, however, the premis which the
    documentary uses to back it’s ‘historicity’ with
    is a sad sack application of statistics.If you
    give it the least thought,it will soon occur to
    you that human behavior and statistics donot
    gel with each other very well.Just ask yourself
    why u keep buying those lottery tickets.You know
    regardless of a million to one, someone will get
    the big prize. Also, a lotta someones were gonna be named for the holy family in 1st century
    Jerusalem…
    as the many tombs w/ Jesus son of Joseph attest.
    Statistical study of human beings necessitates
    a birth record,census and death record bare minimum. Archeological excavation based on
    ‘statistical studies’ which donot take cultural
    and religious customs of the time into account
    much less data on individual lives is just a ‘crock’.

  • don

    How odd. Don’t they usually wait until Holy Week to roll out these things?

    About every other year my newspaper seems to have a front page piece from the Jesus Seminar or John Crossan trumpeting “new” information from “the latest” research to show that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead.

    No offense to the real-life journalists here, but even in they don’t “get religion” couldn’t they at least be expected to “get” DNA analysis by now? To prove that this corpse was somehow related to that corpse only proves that this corpse was related to that corpse.

    Add all this to the quality of writing I see in the papers and I have to wonder if the press gets anything!

  • Irenaeus

    David Van Biema has a new essay on the time site that is actually decent: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1593893,00.html?cnn=yes

  • Aequeos

    Somewhere Geraldo Rivera is waiting to see if this is as big load of bunko as Al Capone’s Tomb.

    As the saying goes: There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics. A cursory read through the backtracking an prevarications indicates two things: One, they know they’re lying. Two: they don’t care so long as they can turn a few sheckels on the deal.

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  • Larry Rasczak

    Well it has all pretty much been said…

    Many Kudos to dpulliam, well done.

    My only reaction is that I was very sad to see this, I had been a big James Cameron fan. I really liked Terminator (I’ve always been a big fan of Harlan Ellison’s work) and TITANIC was great. The effects alone were fantastic.

    The only thing I might be able to add is that this sort of trash, masquerading as news, is what has killed television news.

    I saw this on Drudge today… Newtork News ratings.
    ABC 9,380,000
    NBC 9,070,000
    CBS 6,910,000

    Total them up and what do you get?

    Not quite 17,000,000 people out of a nation of 300,000,000 pay attention to the network news anymore.

    Stories like this are a big part of the reason why.

  • http://blidiot.blogspot.com/ Raider51

    Of course, Ben Witherington is on top of this.

    http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/02/jesus-tomb-titanic-talpiot-tomb-theory.html

    Not only does he thoroughly destroy the story, but he’s also got some news coverage.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    Interestingly, the first CNN article I saw on this was “Archaeologists, scholars dispute Jesus documentary“, but now they are headlining the Time article.

    It is of course utter bunkum.

  • Scott

    You said, “The range of a million to one? What kind of statistical basis is that for any serious discussion and what is Jacobovici trying to tell us there with that cryptic statement about the implications? It confuses me. Things like that should be followed up on and explained.”

    I think that you’re confusing the word ‘range’ for the word ‘odds’. As in 1:1,000,000 odds.

    Not that I believe in Cameron’s statistics, for which I have not yet seen any sound underpinning.

  • Lucy

    Maybe it isn’t true…but what if it is? :-)

  • mike

    I can understand Christians being upset at this as it pulls the rug out from under them. However no one has accused anyone of this discovery being bogus or conjured up. When you do the statistics as to how probable it would be to have all these names in the same place and Mary Magdalenes name as it was used at the time all in the same place you have to sit up and scratch your head. When challenges are presented at to whether the claims hold water what is more believable, that the tombs of Jesus and his family were found or that Jesus being both man and God actually rose to heaven without any confirmation whatsoever from anyone andwhere outside the bible?

  • Eric W

    “I can understand Christians being upset at this as it pulls the rug out from under them. However no one has accused anyone of this discovery being bogus or conjured up. When you do the statistics as to how probable it would be to have all these names in the same place and Mary Magdalenes name as it was used at the time all in the same place you have to sit up and scratch your head.”

    Read Ben Witherington’s lengthy essay on this (linked in a post above), as well as the comments that follow his essay/blogpost. The “facts” and objectivity of this discovery are apparently not as clean-cut as the promoters of this TV show and book are presenting them.

  • Adam Greenwood

    Oh, brother. The Enlightenment was always anti-Christian but is also used to be sorta enlightened. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  • bob

    People act as though no one ever looked at the actual family of *the* Jesus everyone thinks they’re talking about. In Book 3, ch 20 of Eusebius (which has been around since at least 1980!) there is a sad little tale about Domitian hunting down what descendants could be found of Jesus’s family(Via Joseph, of course). They found two dirt farmers. When grilled about some supposed hidden family wealth, they recited what their ancestor said about His Kingdom being not of this world. Roughly what the Creed says about coming at the end of time to judge the quick and the dead. Domitian is unipressed and tosses them out. See, he expected something showy! When he realized there was nothing to the rumors he’d heard he was angry at being deceived. He supposed there was a conspiracy, found two hicks scraping out a living on 39 acres. His reaction should direct anyone else who is lied to about history.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The way the media regularly rolls out this garbage and gives it big play before Easter and Christmas is getting wearisome. It puts in a spotlight the medias’ regular motivations in such cases (greed and bigotry) and reinforces the conviction that from Hollywood to the newsrooms of the MSM there is nothing but a search for sensationalism and better yet if Christianity can be the victim. The Discovery Channel “experts” are the same ones who brought us the James ossuary fraud and yet the MSM comes running to the same polluted pool to breathlessly concoct some more nutty headlines. From UFOs to Loch Ness monsters–the Discovery Channel is not quite noted for its integrity of research, but that doesn’t seem to bother the media hucksters.

  • Kevin P. Edgecomb

    One interesting reaction I’m seeing is that a number of people are saying things like “Of course, Christians will be up in arms over this.” The main offense isn’t a religious one, however, but that it’s a pile of farcical pseudo-scholarship. If someone were attempting to create a charicature of the Dan Brown thing, it couldn’t have been done better. But, some find it instead legitimate to ignore the lack of qualified study involved in this whole Jesus Tomb thing and rather pin the opposition on those with religious sensibilities. It’s outrageous.

  • Patti Kerchner

    So, I view this as another new form of entertainment. It’s better than the call in opinion page or the funnies in my local newspaper. The lost are so totally clueless it is really sad. Does not scripture say “I will use the simnple to confound the wise” or something like that? Well these wiseguys have nailed it again at out humor and their expense, and as someone else said, comming up on HOLY week & all.

  • Henry Cue

    We should pray for Mr. Cameroon for he is under the power of the evil one.

    Jesus Christ on the Cross already asked God, The Father, to forgive all of man’s transgressions. For without that mercy no one can be saved. This include Mr. Cameroon.

    May Mr. Cameroon be given the Truth of Jesus Christ who is alive today and to forever! Amen. We will let our Lord Jesus turn Mr. Cameroon around and whoa! we might just see another great disciple of Jesus in the works in these 21st century! hmmm…I believe this event is already actually being turned into an evangelism for Jesus Christ Glory!

    God is able! We are all blessed! All Glory to God Almighty! Hallelujah! Praise The Lord!

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  • Ryan

    Its amazing that Christians are so anxious to scrutinize like scientists, every little detail of a secular finding, yet would never treat there own claims with as much scrutiny. How convenient!

  • Gene Mattingly

    One thing is for sure, you can’t fool Christians, not Biblical Christians. Maybe, Cultural Christians, but not Biblical Christians. Read your Bible, study it for all it is worth. Pray God reveals Himself to you in a truly changed heart. God bless you as you find the one true God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and seek to serve Him, not your wallet. “Narrow is the path and narrow the gate that leads to Him.” Stay away from those “wide paths, and wide gates!”

    2 Peter 2:3
    3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

    Mark 13:22
    22For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible.

    2 Timothy 2:2-4
    2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

  • padraighh

    Note that statistics are not odds (a million to one are odds). Statistics give results in percentages within some margin of error and are never conclusive.

  • Vlad Protopopescu

    Robert Eisenman, who cannot be credited with a burning sympathy for Christianity, aptly called the hype about the “Jesus tomb” Primeval Stupidity . And indeed it is. Only stupidity can prevent you to see the Light where it is and look in other places. Every year at Easter (the Orthodox Easter) the Holy Light shines over the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and only there, lighting the lamps and the candles of the participants. Thousand of eyewitnesses see it every year, and did so for hundreds of years, every year without fail. There are millions of eywitnesses! But this is not “news”. It is denied against all evidences. The media report the event only if there were some scuffles between the Greeks and the Armenians! They block their ears not to hear the sound doctrine and their eyes not to see the true light, instead they listen to “jewish fables”. Their hatred of Christianity blinds them and they want to blind and the ones who could see.

  • fiona

    Can someone please tell me where they got the DNA sample from to match with the alleged remains of Jesus anyway? I don’t know of anyone who even knows a living relative of Jesus, let alone a sample that can be said to be that of Jesus Christ without any doubt.

  • Dave

    Its amazing that Christians are so anxious to scrutinize like scientists, every little detail of a secular finding, yet would never treat there own claims with as much scrutiny. How convenient!

    Christians (and non-christians) have been scrutinizing the claims of the New Testament for 1900+ years. It has stood up to scrutiny very well, which is why so many believe.

  • christian

    Has there been any carbon dating of the objects? Of the site?
    Remember the Ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus a few years back? It made a huge splash in the archeological world with many claiming its authenticity. However, it was proved to be a fake. The owners were revealed to be shady dealers allegedly linked to stolen artifacts.
    Also, how are the scientists testing for DNA? Human descendants are needed and/or the remains of identifed family members. Are there any scions walking around? Hello?
    Last, coming at this from a faith point of view- Christ & His believers have been persecuted since Christ came forth and will be until the end of days. I thought of Acts 9 when I read Mr. Cameron’s name. Saul was the biggest critic and prosecutor of Christ. Then he met Christ and became Paul, the biggest advocate of the Christ.

  • Paul Gauntt

    If one believes scripture, which I do, then one knows with all certainty that Jesus borrowed the tomb of Joseph of Arametha. He only spent 3 days in it — totally physically dead. Then, when he arose, the tomb was empty. Since it was Joseph of Arametha’s tomb, it’s very easy to understand how Cameron stumbled across his remains.

  • Bill M

    It’s not the first time religion has been challenged and it won’t be the last. If this documentary sways some folks away from Christianity then they had doubts in the first place. I’m sure Mel Gibson’s movie swayed some people in the other direction. There will alway be people out there with different opinions than your own, don’t make such a big deal about it.

  • Dave O. McCarthy

    “..Surely I come quickly.Amen.Even so,come,Lord Jesus.” Rev.22:20
    Another indication to me that we are truly in the last days.I agree with the previous poster that we should pray for the scoffers.

  • rf strait

    I wonder how many noticed that patina was misspelled as ‘petina’. Let’s get it right folks if you are debating from a professional position!

  • abby

    All you Christians – all ye christians be strong and take courage.. do not fear or be dismayed – let God arise and the enemy be scattered … there is no point fighting for God, he is able to do everything and anything – lets pray rather that when Cameron and his team tread the verge of Jordan, God will bid their anxious fears subside, death of death and hell’s destruction and land them safe on Canaans side – lets pray for his salvation.

  • james

    bless are those who do not see yet believe. Goodess and evil are the real parts of our daily lives as one exist so does the other. We all have our daily accounts of it.believe in him and he believe in you thousands fold. GOD BLESS

  • Thomas Huffmaster

    Well, I am glad that Mr. Cameron finally found Jesus! Most people searce all their lives and some never find Him. Now we don’t have to spend all our money and time on such trivial things as Easter and Christmas! My at the money that will be saved. There will be, of course, “Billions” of people out of work and won’t have the money to buy your “farce”, so that will solve the documentary problem. I find it ironic that you would boast! The builder of the “Titanic” claimed that “EVEN GOD HIMSELF, couldn’t sink his SHIP! Ha. Ha. From such a “Prideful” statement, many lost their lives. Your a fool, Mr. Cameron and the financial community is really proud of you.

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  • Rob

    As preposterous as this story is, The one think I realized is just how important for us to read and know the scriptures. Paul states in the new testament many will be lead astray. It is because they have not read and understood the bible that they will be lead astray. For many Christians, I fear the only knowledge they have of the bible is what they hear from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, that will not be enough in the days ahead, when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. At the time of the resurrection the chief priests devised a plan to discredit the resurrection: “The Guards’ Report 11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” The deception continues.

  • Rose

    I believe this is a material “Hoax” of some sort. Jesus was not any “Human” but was Son of God, made in Man’s Image, that we understand God’s perfect Will and Truth. We are trying to analyze and make a Worldly conclusion who “Jesus” is, when It is impossible to really get “Natural” about Christ. There is no ultimate answer about this tomb, but it is a real fraudulant claim to say it is “that of Christ”.

    My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into Practice

    Luke 8:21