I had no idea on the morning of February 26th that NBC’s Today Show had an exclusive story that they believed might rock my Christian faith. I had no idea because I join millions and millions of fellow Americans every morning by not watching the Today Show. The “exclusive” story, interestingly enough, was first reported in 1980. I guess the time-frame on exclusive is pretty wide. You would have thought that this was a startling new discovery based on the proclamations of Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. Here are some samples.
A somber Lauer introduced the twenty-seven year old breaking story…
“A shocking new claim that an ancient burial place may have housed the bones of Christ and a son. This morning a Today exclusive that could rock Christianity to its core.”
He looked so sad. I guess he was concerned that he was going to mess up Easter for all of us believers. It reminded me of an episode of the cartoon Super Chicken recalled from deep inside the memory banks of a wasted youth. The intrepid crime fighter Super Chicken is on the trail of the Easter Bunny who has been robbing banks across the city. Alongside his lion sidekick Fred, Super Chicken moves in to capture the beloved Easter Bunny. Fred reacts with a deep and very personal concern about busting the Easter Bunny.
“But we may not get any Marshmallow Chickies on Easter Morning.” Super Chicken does not dodge the consequences of this development.
“Fred,” he says gently. “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.”
It seemed that Matt Lauer felt the same weight as he announced the news but, like Fred, he knew the job was dangerous when he took it. Meredith Vieira, however, was almost giddy in her segment. Vieira led off her interview of documentary director James Cameron with this hyperbole.
“There are so few ‘wow’ stories out there, this is one of them.”
To be honest Meredith, you have more ‘wow’ stories on your Millionaire show every week than with this discovery. I generally try to stay away from stories like this one because it seems almost pointless to weigh in. The skeptics demean the “predictable” response of Christians to this find. Of course they will deny this research because it will upset the industry created around the Christian religion. I will be completely honest here. I have not sold enough books to generate a decent second job, let alone an industry. So I examine every claim carefully. I am not interested in living my life based on something that I no longer believe to be true.
I spent a fair amount of time reading all sides of The Jesus Tomb claims. So has the book rocked my faith?
This is reminiscent of Geraldo Rivera’s exhumation of Al Capone’s vault. If it were only Christians defending the sloppy research and startling conclusions drawn in the book and documentary then it would be harder to defend. But scholars of all bents are debunking the scholarship of this project. For example, The Israel Antiquities Authority said in 1996 that the probability of the ossuraries belonging to the family of Jesus were “next to zero”. Archaeologist Amos Kloner, a professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, documented the tomb as the Jewish burial cave of a well-off family more than 10 years ago. Respected Christian sources weighed in as well. Probe Ministries has a good overview of the story and Crosswalk blogger Regis Nicoll addresses the claims as well. Ben Witherington offers a more detailed examination of the book’s claims at his blog.
What is predictable is the call from many organizations to boycott or cancel the show. I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness but I am suggesting just the opposite. Educate yourself with the facts about this discovery. Be prepared to offer why you believe this account to be false. Whenever Jesus is “watercooler” talk it is an opportunity to discuss why you believe that Easter is still on for this year. I view these moments as opportunities, not attacks on my faith.
Vieira concluded the segment by saying to James Cameron that the claim is “absolutely fascinating, potentially, I mean, many would argue the biggest story or one of the biggest stories of our lifetime if you are correct.”
James Cameron was the director of the wildly successful movie Titanic. When accepting his Oscar he famously proclaimed, “I am the king of the world”. I believe that Mr.Cameron overstated his role on this planet a bit. There is a ruler of this world. That ruler will be eternally downsized when the King of this world returns. The biggest story of our lifetime will not be an exclusive to morning TV. That story involves a tomb but it was empty. Nothing has changed my mind about that story.