Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The "Tomb" of Jesus/Arthur

A number of people have asked me to blog on James Cameron's claim to have found the tomb of Jesus (and his ancillary claim that Jesus is in the tomb, and therefore presumably is not resurrected, and therefore presumably is not the Son of God). I've endeavored in recent months, however, to keep the Wordhoard focused on medievalist stuff.

So all I will say on the topic is this: Now you all know the eyerolling exasperation medievalists feel whenever a new documentary airs claiming that we have found the "true historical King Arthur" or the "real Holy Grail" or whatever the flavor of the month is. Here is a fictionalized composite version of a conversation I've had many, many times:

Interlocutor: Did you see that show on the History Channel last night?
Me: No, I didn't.
Int: They found the grave of the real King Arthur!
Me: Oh, really?
Int: You didn't know about this?
Me: No.
Int: (shocked) Shouldn't you know, though? I mean, this is big for your field!
Me: Not really. It isn't true.
Int: How can you say it isn't true? You didn't even see the show.
Me: Because King Arthur isn't a real historical person.
Int: You mean there wasn't really a person named King Arthur?
Me: Well, there may have been someone in history named Arthur, but the person we think of is entirely legendary.
Int: (firmly) No, no, you're wrong. Arthur was real, and they just found his grave!
Me: How can you be so sure?
Int: They used all sorts of scientific evidence, like satillite imaging and carbon dating and stuff.
Me: Uh huh. Listen, all the carbon dating in the world can't make a legendary person real. It's just stuff exaggerated to make a documentary.
Int: (exasperated) Well, it was narrated by Leonard Nimoy, after all. It must be true.

At least James Cameron is making stupid claims about a historically real personage. Just wait until you see the sequel: "James Cameron Presents: The Final Resting Place of the Holy Grail, in the Tomb of Jesus, Found in the Lost City of Atlantis, Right Next Door to the Titanic." Coming to an IMAX theater near you.


  1. What if it's real? It's the nature of our society to go to the media in order to get a message across. A documentary is a great way to start. I've been searching the site and the people involved seem to be genuinely interested in furthering their investigation:

  2. Anonymous11:37 AM

    I, too, believe this "Jesus Tomb" is garbage. And like you said, Doc -- all the carbon dating in the world can't make a legendary person real.

  3. Garbage or not, Doc. Nokes makes a good point about the "conspiracy" stuff on The History Channel. It must also be pointed out that some of their religious programming is also suspect.

  4. Anonymous4:16 PM

    Yes, it's a bit silly, but maybe the documentary will actually be informative (though with James Cameron behind it, probably not). I'm reminded of last year when the "Gospel of Judas" was unveiled. Some of the media coverage seemed to indicate that this was going to irrevocably change Christianity. Obviously it didn't, and anyone who knows anything about the textual history of the Bible could explain why, but the good that came out of it was that many people who DIDN'T know anything about how the Bible came to be assembled got a chance to learn something about it.

    I guess a lot of that depends on the strength of what is being presented. The Gospel of Judas was a real early Christian text, and so there was a real discussion about it that could take place. The Tomb of Jesus is probably bunk, so I wouldn't anticipate any insights into 1st century Hebrew culture or anything.