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THE LOST TOMB OF JESUS

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Simcha Jacobovici
Director:  Simcha Jacobovici
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Color Widescreen 1.77:1
Length: 105 Minutes
Studio:  Koch Vision
Release Date:  April 24, 2007

Film *

In the interest of full disclosure, I will reveal here and now that I am a Roman Catholic who loves his church and is open to frank discussions about my faith and Biblical archaeology, assuming that I am presented with reason and logic and not unfounded assumptions that I must accept as “fact” while my own faith is supposed to be pushed aside.  My faith colors everything I see and do and I make no apologies for it.  Everyone has doubts about their faith and should ask questions about it. 

It was with some trepidation that I viewed this film, and I must say that other than its production, I have little positive to say about it.  It is difficult to say what makes something a “documentary” anymore.  It seems that anyone can say anything, without any fact checking or quoting of truly knowledgeable people, use above-average production, and slap it into theatres or onto a disc and say it is factual.  Even when other points of view are presented, we have filmmakers who talk like a weatherman saying it will not rain today because it did not rain yesterday, and therefore he is always right.  At least a weatherman has to go to school to learn the trade and might actually know something. 

I assumed that James Cameron had some credibility as a documentary maker since he did such a nice job with Titanic.  But I should have known better, because anyone can go underwater with cameras and look at a sunken ship, then re-create a real thing in a separate film.  Hearing Cameron and other filmmakers in this joke of a documentary is hard to handle, not because I am a Catholic, but because it is so plainly obvious that none of the filmmakers are Christians or scholars of anything at all, or if they are Christians, they chose to ignore the central tenets of their faith.  We hear from them more than from any archeologists. 

Jacobovici is not only the director, but we see him in many scenes talking about things of which he knows very little, which is the mark of an amateur filmmaker if there ever was one.  In the extras, he brags about the detail in the reenactments, which is all very well, but…why do we see more of him than of that detail in the film itself?  Several credible scholars are interviewed, but only now and then.  Who would know more about Christ than Christians?  Granted, some Christians express their opinion, but no intellectual or scientific debate is allowed.  For all I know, the Titanic landed at Greenland with its passengers alive and well, if the same filmmakers are involved. 

The documentary is also clearly is not told from a Christian point of view because it accepts the briefly mentioned legend in Matthew’s gospel that the apostles had moved the body of Jesus, but ignores the central message of Matthew’s and the other gospels:  that Jesus was buried but then rose, so there would be no bones in any tomb, right?  Oh, but Cameron does not mention this inconsistency, he takes the most insignificant passage of a book, which the evangelist said was an incorrect allegation, and ignores the main thesis.   They also reveal their lack of respect because a cross is used as the icon which we move around to choose which DVD feature we want next.  You can imagine the outcry if the Star of David was used in a film about Moses. 

I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code because even though it presented characters whose opinions conflicted with my faith, Dan Brown never claimed it was factual except for a few specific details which he even lists a the beginning of the book.  I have tried reading books like Holy Faith, Holy Grail but I usually stop because eventually there are too few facts and too much speculation.

In only one of the many absurd and baseless statements made in the film, we are told that according to Christian tradition Jesus had two sisters.  Which tradition is that?  What book, what source?  We are not told.  We are told that Joseph was buried in Nazareth, and his mother Mary died in Jerusalem.  Why in the world would husband and wife be buried in different places?  What evidence is there of this?  And since Jesus was poor, where did he get the funds for such a huge tomb?  Why was he not buried in Nazareth, where he grew up, or Bethlehem, where he was born?  These obvious problems are never discussed, even if only to be dismissed. 

Further, the never-ending claim that Jesus had brothers keeps getting brought up.  Any one of Mediterranean descent will tell you that cousins and “kin” in general are very close and are often spoken of as siblings.  But this is used to support the other names in the tomb, only some of whom are in the family tomb.  We are not told why scripture names some but not all of his kin and some but not all of them are in the tomb.  Such discrepancies are overlooked. So on the one hand we are told that the names in the tomb are too coincidental to be anyone but Jesus Christ, and then on the other hand the fact that only some of these other family members are mentioned in some gospels and others not at all is not important.  The circumstances fit the facts after we fish for them. 

I find all of this hard to believe, but if some text somewhere was quoted, some credible source at all, or ANY source of ANY kind was cited…maybe we could have an intellectual discussion about it.

I am no Biblical Scholar or archeologist.  But I find it very hard to believe that the scribbles on the box containing what are allegedly the bones of Christ say anything at all.  A Harvard expert explains what they are, and surely he is probably closer to being right than me.  But really now, why would Jesus be designated “Son of Joseph” anyway, if Joseph was buried far away, and the followers of Jesus knew he was not the son of Joseph anyway.  The names in the tomb are the most common from that era.  Also, we are told that these kinds of tombs were only popular for a while.  Because?…according to?….One expert says that “Maria” was an unusual name, then another one says it was the way “Mary” was commonly stated back then.  It can’t be both!  We are told that one had to have a family tomb back then.  Really?  Why?  How could a poor carpenter who was killed afford one?…oh, my head hurts….

And how do we have fairly reliable traditional locations from that era concerning where Jesus was tried, convicted, crucified, even the place in which he may have been born, but no one knew until now where he was buried? 

This whole film should be subtitled “the dog that did not bark” or the Savior who died and stayed that way. The most obvious blow to any creditability is that the first thing that plays when you insert the DVD is a preview of “Secrets of Mary Magdalene.”  Oh, here we go.  Never has there been any historical figure of the Christian era about whom we know less that more has been written.  And even in the preview, skeptics of Christianity tell us that they know everything.  The agenda has been set.  Now all we need are unsuspecting viewers. 

Video ***1/2

The video presentation is nearly on par with features films and documentaries of our era so don’t think I will slam this just because there is barely one credible word in the whole film.  It was shot and edited well.

Audio **

It appears to be Dolby 5.1 but I heard nothing from the rear speakers.  The mix of music, narration, and interviews is very good but it all comes from the front. 

Features *1/2

I recommend watching the trailer first because it consists mainly of the moviemakers saying how great they are (which they are not) and how they have stumbled on such a great find, (which they did not) so you see what you are getting into.  But it is well-produced.

The “Interviews” and “Epilogue” are mostly just continuations of the interviews in the film.  See, features are supposed to be interesting or different just by definition.  These features are merely continuations or outtakes from the film.

“The Recreations:  Behind the scenes” makes me give the moviemakers credit for the mostly believable recreations, and in the features they mention how painstaking every detail is, but again this is just self-congratulatory.  They are in Palestine, are they not?  This film was not made in Italy, or Africa, as were Jesus of Nazareth and The Passion, so it is not as if they had to search for materials.  They whine about how little money they had, much like the commentary for Dirty Dancing.  They also speak of Jesus and his times as if it was in the times of the dinosaurs.   Why didn’t the director actually direct the recreations more and stop talking, saving his explanations for the features?

Summary:

If you want to watch a film that speculates endlessly and bases all of its conclusions on unnamed sources, here it is.  What can I say about a film which takes insignificant passages in scripture to support its allegations but ignores the central message of the same Gospels?  It dumbfounds me that the same people who are so skeptical about scripture that is accepted by the Christian Church are anxious to accept so many other sources without skepticism.  Isn’t that called…faith? 

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