Jesus and Journalists

jesus%20tiny.jpgThis morning I noticed that on top of my blog there’s an ad for an upcoming show on the Discovery Channel that claims to reveal the tomb of Jesus and his family. I haven’t seen a preview of the show, and from an article in this morning’s NY Times, I have very little interest in doing so:

The filmmakers commissioned DNA testing on the residue in the boxes said to have held Jesus and Mary Magdalene. There are no bones left, because the religious custom in Israel is to bury archeological remains in a cemetery.

However, the documentary’s director and its driving force, Simcha Jacobovici, an Israeli-born Canadian, said there was enough mitochondrial DNA for a laboratory in Ontario to conclude that the bodies in the “Jesus” and “Mary Magdalene” ossuaries were not related on their mothers’ side. From this, Mr. Jacobovici deduced that they were a couple, because otherwise they would not have been buried together in a family tomb.

In an interview, Mr. Jacobovici was asked why the filmmakers did not conduct DNA testing on the other ossuaries to determine whether the one inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus” was genetically related to either the Jesus or Mary Magdalene boxes; or whether the Jesus remains were actually the offspring of Mary.

“We’re not scientists. At the end of the day we can’t wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA,” he said. “We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, ‘I’ve done my job as a journalist.’ ” (emphasis mine)

Now it seems to me, as a journalist, that Jacobovici’s job as a journalist would be to report on peer-reviewed research published in a scientific journal by a team of experts who had no financial stake in the success of a show. Once he starts commissioning DNA tests of his own, he’s taking on an entirely different set of responsibilities. For example, it’s up to him to make sure that the DNA has not been contaminated by archaeologists (see my post on the diet of Europeans 8,000 years ago). It’s up to him to pass the judgment of scientific experts in the field. And at the very least, it’s up to him to test all the remains–including the ones that supposedly belonged to the son of Jesus. To step back suddenly and say, “I’ve done my job as a journalist” is utterly absurd.

10 thoughts on “Jesus and Journalists

  1. Jesus H Christ! I just wanted to write that.

    This story should probably be filed under “junk science”, and will proabably do more harm than good, forcing religious Xtians of all denominations to dig in their stupid little heels even more. Too bad really. IMO this is not about science, or even religion, it’s just all about the marketing.

  2. I almost commented when I saw the ad for the show on your blog yesterday as it seemed so horribly out of place. Thanks for taking the time to follow up on it yourself.

  3. The ossuaries are a great find as usual, but the real story happened in Meggido Israel, also known as Armageddon. A mosaic floor was found in Meggido with the name of Jesus Christ on it. A real shocker for an observant orthodox I’d bet. What I find as strange is Armageddon is suppose to be the last battle between good and evil. Seems like Jesus name has showed up for the battle first. Hmmmmmmmm?

  4. Excellent article. This is worse than bad science, it barely passes for science. This is an outrage to the field of Archaeology, a destruction probably of evidence that had been in the hands of real scientists, and adding insult to injury it comes to no conclusions. We gain nothing from this other than a desire that Cameron would have stuck to Terminator films. There’s no point to it! Nothing! This team did a flashy show for “Discovery” before which I am embarrassed to say I sat through. I forget the particulars now, but it was also a twisting of possible evidence to back up Jacobovici’s theories all neatly packaged by Cameron. It was laughable.

  5. Check out this guy’s shows further. He plays on “The Naked Archaeologist” on the History Channel.

    The shows are entertaining, but his sense of history is really skewed and sensationalist.

  6. I have long called the Discovery Channel, “The Scary-Things Channel”. Sensationalistic and shallow, that’s their motto. They just love sharks and bears and poisonous spiders and earthquakes and volcanos and such. This movie will fit right in.

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