TheStar.com: Toronto - Canada - Nov 12, 2007 04:30 AM
By Stuart Laidlaw - Faith and Ethics Reporter
New film tackles the Jesus tomb controversy
Martin Himel wants to first stress that he and Simcha Jacobovici are friends. In fact, when Jacobovici's controversial film The Lost Tomb of Jesus was released last March, Himel was invited to the premiere. That's when the trouble started. "It was a point-of-view documentary," the Canadian-born filmmaker says in an interview from Tel Aviv, where he is based. "I felt the picture was quite limited." So the maker of such documentaries as End of Days and Confrontation at Concordia, who himself has been accused in the past of taking a strong point of view, set about to take a more balanced look at the tomb around which Jacobovici based his film. Archaeological Minefields airs tonight on Vision TV at 11, following a rebroadcast of Jacobovici's film at 9 p.m. A third film, Unearthed: The Talpiot Tomb, airs at 2 a.m. All three repeat later in the week. The Lost Tomb was released last winter to immediate controversy. Evangelical Christian groups attacked its contention that Jesus may have married Mary Magdalene and had a son, based on a series of bone boxes found in a Jerusalem tomb bearing Holy Family names (...) Himel says extra sensitivity must be shown with such stories, calling archaeology a "flimsy yardstick" on which to base such a contentious theory. Archaeologists also attacked Jacobovici's film, saying he overstated his case. The names found in the tomb – Jesus, Mary, Joseph and others – were very common at the time. In his work, Himel found two ossuaries with the inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph," even though the impression in Jacobovici's film was that the inscription was unique. Perhaps the most damning of Himel's findings is that ossuaries were routinely reused over several generations, and that the 10 ossuaries in the Jesus tomb may have held up to 35 separate sets of bones [sublinhado meu]. In the film, archaeologist Joe Zias calls it "intellectually dishonest" to suggest each box held one set of bones. That means the inscriptions found on the ossuaries do not necessarily represent a nuclear family, as implied in Jacobovici's film. It also indicates that results of DNA tests on bone fragments in the boxes labelled "Jesus" and "Mary Magdalene" are largely meaningless. The results had suggested the people were married, since they weren't related. "This obviously becomes an issue with DNA," says Himel, who says in the film that Jacobovici is criticized by experts for trying to prove a "pre-existing conclusion." Himel says his friend Jacobovici, who is featured in Archaeological Minefields defending his work, may have got caught up in the excitement of "hitting the archaeological jackpot" and the drive to make headlines. Jacobovici should have shown more of the caution and humility typical of archaeological work, which limits how far professionals go with their claims, he says...