The Discovery Channel's Shameless Assault on Faith
by Phil Lawler
The nonsense is starting early this year.
Every year now, as Easter approaches, the media lavish attention on
some sensational new theory, advanced to undermine the claims of
Christian faith. Sometimes these new theories come from writers with
appropriate academic credentials, and sometimes the theorists
themselves claim to be Christians, even while they contradict basic
Not this year. "The Lost Tomb of Christ," a television special to be
aired by the Discovery Channel on March 4, has not a wisp of
credibility. This is a blatant effort to generate publicity and
profits by challenging fundamental Christian beliefs, using a
preposterous argument that no respectable scholar will endorse.
The program (I cannot make myself call it a documentary) thrusts
directly at the heart of Christian faith, questioning the
Resurrection. The Discovery Channel will encourage credulous viewers
to believe that archeologists have discovered a tomb containing the
physical remains of Jesus Christ and members of his family.
If this claim is true-- that Jesus did not rise from the dead-- then
Christianity is a false religion. As St. Paul explained to the
Corinthians (1 Cor 15: 17-19):
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still
in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have
perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all
men most to be pitied.
On what basis does the Discovery Channel ask us to believe that
Christians-- who presumably will compose the greater part of the
audience for this program-- are "of all men most to be pitied?"
Here are the facts:
In a burial vault in Jerusalem, archeologists discovered ossuaries
containing the remains of several people who apparently lived at the
time of Christ. The boxes were marked with names, including Mary,
Judah, and Joseph. On one box the name was illegible, but it might
have read: "Jesus."
When this burial vault was discovered in 1980-- that's right, 27 years
ago-- the discovery drew no particular attention. There was no reason
to believe that this tomb contained the remains of the Lord's family.
Indeed there were several excellent reasons to believe that it did
The names on the ossuaries were extremely common ones; the tomb might
have belonged to any affluent family living in Jerusalem. But Jesus
was born into a poor family from Nazareth, not an affluent family from
Moreover, historians confirm that from the earliest days of the faith,
Christians honored a site near Calvary-- at the spot where the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre now stands-- as the place where Jesus was
interred after the Crucifixion. The tomb that is the focus of the
Discovery special is located in an entirely different part of the
Are self-proclaimed experts of the 21st century more likely to
identify the spot of Christ's tomb accurately than those who witnessed
the burial? That's what we would have to believe, to take this
The Discovery Channel special adorns the bare, unpromising facts about
the tomb in Jerusalem with a complex network of unproven theories.
Thus producers speculate that one ossuary, labeled "Mariamene," could
contain the remains of Mary Magdalene. This ossuary was buried with
the one that might have been labeled "Jesus." Since DNA tests
reportedly showed that the two people were not blood relatives, the
producers draw the conclusion that they were married. Based on this
long series of fanciful assumptions, the program determines that The
Da Vinci Code was right, and Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
Who is responsible for such a stunning leap of logic?
"The Lost Tomb of Christ" is the work of two men: James Cameron and
Simcha Jacobovici. Let's take a glance at their credentials.
Cameron is a successful film director, who gave us Titanic and The
Terminator. He is also a fan of science fiction, a member of the Mars
Society (dedicated to colonization of that planet), and a man who
admits that he cannot properly weigh the claims of his own program.
"I'm not a theologist," Cameron told reporters. The word is
"theologian," but Cameron isn't someone who worries about details. In
making this film, Cameron relied on Jacobovici.
"Simcha has no credibility whatsoever," the curator of Jerusalem's
Rockefeller Museum told Newsweek. Unlike Cameron, Jacobovici is not
entirely new to the business of archeological discovery; he has a
track record. In 2002, he was instrumental in preparing another
Discovery special, about what was alleged to be the tomb of "James,
the brother of Jesus."
Then as now, legitimate archeologists were skeptical about the
discovery that Jacobovici touted. Finally in 2005, Israeli authorities
exposed the "tomb of James" as a fraud, and indicted five people on
charges of forgery.
Somehow these two men-- one with no expertise whatever, the other with
a history of promoting an antiquities scam-- convinced the Discovery
Channel to invest $3.5 million in their program. Do you suppose that
you and I could convince Discovery to invest a similar sum in a
project to undermine public belief in, say, global warming?
It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Discovery Channel knew
what it would be getting: not credibility, but public attention.
Television sheds heat, not light, and in this case producers are
hoping to generate controversy, not to advance the cause of knowledge
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Phil Lawler is the editor of CWNews.com. This article was first printed in CWNews.com
and is reproduced with permission of the author. All rights reserved.