Don't insult one's religion - unless it's Christianity

Well, it’s Lent, when Jesus-debunking news stories rise from the dead. This time it’s a tomb with the whole family gathered, including his wife and kid. Unless it’s just the dusty bones of decency and good sense in those boxes. In a way it’s a backhanded tribute that, to the modern mind, Christianity is like a train wreck: gruesome, but they can’t look away. Newspapers don’t greet major Buddhist festivals with claims that Siddhartha Gautama was a cokehead, or open Ramadan by saying Mohammed was — (do NOT fill in this blank). As we said while not reprinting the infamous Danish cartoons, never would we insult someone’s beliefs or faith tradition — and by the way did you know that Jesus wasn’t resurrected, plus he had sex with Magdalene.

This latest Christ-married-and-founded-the-Merovingians-or-some-other-“potential-dynasty” fantasy is a brain wreck.

The Globe and Mail story (online in their “Science” section, no less) said, “If their evidence is verified, the film, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, and a companion book, would raise profound questions for Christians and their faith.” It also called the evidence “compelling” and said “if further DNA testing were to link Jesus and ‘ his brother’ Yose with Mary, it would call into question the entire doctrine of the virgin birth …”

Who writes this stuff? If science is the issue, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth prevents Jesus sharing Joseph’s DNA, not Mary’s. And how could the evidence be “verified”? Even if someone had written “Jesus of Nazareth” on one of the boxes, which he didn’t, you can’t compare the DNA in the tomb with known samples of Christ’s DNA unless, say, you plan to swab a communion wafer. Preferably Roman Catholic because you want transubstantiation not consubstantiation let alone commemoration, which … oh, never mind.

This is not a theological issue. It’s a journalistic one. Kate Heartfield recently wrote in these pages that “journalists tend to be — in their professional lives — cynical, contrary and mistrustful.” Right. We may no longer carry the hip flask and pork-pie hat with press card in it, but if our mothers say they love us, we still check it out. The bones of Jesus’s kid, however, we print without even proofreading. Didn’t we ask why they’d put Mary Magdelene’s name cryptically in Greek?

Real skeptics would also ask how Joseph, a poor artisan from backward Nazareth notorious for believing his fiancée’s claim that God got her pregnant, could afford a fancy tomb in Jerusalem where his family would later quietly join him after causing a vast upheaval. Or did the outcast family buy it after the crucifixion, bring Joseph’s bones, and get quietly buried there over decades? As Michael Coren noted in the National Post on Wednesday, Roman and Jewish authorities ransacked Jerusalem to find Jesus’s body in order to prove he wasn’t resurrected and put an end to this troubling new religion. They failed. But James Cameron? He just brilliantly stumbled over it.

Of course, scripture explains a fancy tomb for Jesus. It says Joseph of Arimathea bought it. Scripture also explains that the body vanished because Christ was resurrected. But never mind that silly old Bible. We’re talking about Jesus.

The Citizen’s initial front-page story spoke of “a tomb that may have once held holy bones.” But if Jesus was not the Messiah, what’s holy about his bones? As C. S. Lewis rightly says, Christ presents just three choices: Liar, lunatic or Lord. Each is problematic. But the search for a fourth option is silly. Normally it’s theologically feeble-mined. This one skipped theological. (As Coren also noted Wednesday, Mr. Cameron said, “I’m not a theologist.” That we believe.) And you can’t get Jesus off the hook, or cross, by saying the Gospels misrepresent him. As our only source for Christ’s specific words and deeds, they too must be dismissed as fraud or frenzy or else taken with terrifying seriousness. If Matthew made up the Sermon on the Mount, why did he do it? And how? And why was he believed?

If you’re looking for fraud or folly among the evangelists in this tomb question, you’re digging in the wrong place. Say, maybe I can write a bestseller claiming the missing ossuary of “James” contained Jimmy Hoffa. By the way, I’m a space alien. And king of France.

Still, I’m pleased that the Raiders of the Lost Credibility plan to open another tomb, just 20 metres away, with three ossuaries. It’s probably the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in there.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson