Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Reason for Concern
03/10/2007 - James WhiteI must confess, I am concerned. Over the past few days as I have been writing, gathering primary resources, and in general immersed in this project, I have taken the time to listen to the responses being offered by others. I am desirous of learning as much as I can from others, and I am truly hopeful that others will provide strong replies for the benefit of God's people as well. But to be honest, I have been disappointed by what I have heard.
Today while riding I listened to a two hour response from a national program aired the Sunday night the film aired on the Discovery Channel in the US. Now, granted, the book had only been out for four days at that point, and while I had obtained it that day and had it read by the evening of the next, I am focused upon this topic. Others might have other projects "in the way," so it was not too surprising that the scholar being interviewed showed no familiarity with the book. As a result, some of the responses were far less "full" than they could have been, and some were just not accurate. That is understandable: all of us "pre-book" and "pre-movie" were going only on what was currently available. But we are now "post-book" and we should be hearing focused, clear, compelling refutations.
Then, on Friday of this week, I listened to an hour long discussion of the tomb issue on a much more widely heard program. Now we are talking about a program that, unless it was not live at all, took place a full ten days after the book came out, and almost a week after the film aired. And once again, the scholar being interviewed gave not the slightest sign of having read the book, watched the film, watched the Today Show segment, the Larry King program---nothing. He could not even pronounce "Jacobovici" correctly. He knew nothing about mitochondrial DNA or the limitations of its ability to speak to familial relationships; he never mentioned (in what I heard) the true nature of the Acts of Philip, Francois Bovon, etc. Instead of providing in-depth refutation of the film and book based upon actual research and simply doing your homework, the premise was mocked and ridiculed. A wonderful opportunity for education was completely missed.
I am very concerned that many in the post-evangelical church are taking the "mock it, dismiss it" route in response to the film. We have an opportunity here, and I, for one, do not wish to see it wasted. You see, we all know that this will not be the last time this kind of attack is launched. Someone will undoubtedly take this story and re-work it, remove some of the more obvious errors that come from Jacobovici and Pellegrino lacking any and all theological knowledge, repackage it, add in a few twists, and another book will come out. What is accomplished if all you did last time was mock the argument? But if we take this time to expose the roots of this kind of abuse of history, educate serious believers about how to do their own digging, their own thinking, their own de-mythologizing of supposed scholarship, you have equipped them to handle the next attack before it even comes, while rooting and grounding them in the faith. It is like the old saying: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Give a surface-level, "easy" response to the tomb story now, and you might keep people happy. Teach them to think through these things and learn about the groups that existed outside the church and whose writings are the darlings of the current crop of unbelieving anti-Christians and you equip them to deal with the next dozen attacks upon the faith that will come out.
That is why just this evening I corresponded again with Dr. Carney Matheson about the DNA evidence. I realized earlier today that I had not seen the slightest bit of discussion about how they would handle multiple people's bones being placed in the same ossuary. He was kind enough to respond and clarify. Yesterday I was corresponding with Francois Bovon of Harvard, and I was gathering original text materials in Greek and French for the chapter on the very heart of the Jacobovici/Pellegrino/Cameron argument: that Mariamne is Mary Magdalene. I will be providing information on the Acts of Philip regarding its textual history and character, and the world-view from which it arises. I have found that it is not technically "gnostic" as in virtually identical to the Nag Hammadi texts, the Gospel of Thomas, etc. Same general genre, but this comes from an encratite group, a group of vegetarian acetics who eschewed sex and marriage (a really good way to make sure your movement does not last very long). Is it not obvious that a text that presents Mariamne as a virtuous icon would not fit in with the idea of her being the wife of Jesus and the mother of a son? That is why Bovon says his identification of Mariamne as Mary Magdalene is not an identification relevant to history but solely a literary parallel. For that matter, in his article on the subject he draws a number of parallels between the Mariamne of this fourth century fictional literature and the Virgin Mary. Hardly the kind of thing you will find in the tomb movie.
In any case, it is my intention to once again take the offensive and use this attack upon our faith as a means of presenting its truth. But to do this properly we must do our homework and engage the topic without giving in to the temptation to simply "mock" it. So I ask for your continued prayer and support while I seek to put all this information into a readable, usable form.