In the aftermath of the Jesus tomb story, it looks like most Christians still believe in what the Bible says about Jesus Christ and few are the worse for the controversy. GetReligion reader Stephen A. urged us yesterday to comment on the actual showing of The Lost Tomb of Jesus Saturday night, and I regret to say that I missed the show. Fortunately, others did see it, but overall I was generally disappointed in the lack of media attention to the film's premiere. So be it. The news focused on what the film allegedly revealed and the media felt it was worth the attention. I want to highlight one of the better mainstream pieces on the film by Time's David Van Biema. Rather than writing about the controversy, Van Biema writes about why this is happening more and more often. And you'd never guess it, but it's largely due to Dan Brown:
Then there is what Publishers Weekly senior religion editor Lynn Garrett calls the Da Vinci Code effect. "Speculative histories were out there before Dan Brown wrote," says Garrett. "But they didn't make the best-seller lists and their authors didn't go on The Daily Show." Or receive a million-dollar paycheck, as was rumored in a recent case.
But Garrett cautions that "it's not simply following the dollar. Writing popularly, I think, they feel freer." Scholars are not working more speculatively because Dan Brown made money. His success allows them to write profitably from their adventurous hearts. Mark Tauber, vice president of HarperSanFrancisco, which publishes many of them (HSF did Family Tomb), notes that these academics came of age during the translation of the Nag Hammadi "library" and the Dead Sea Scrolls, troves that opened a window to unorthodox faith during and after Jesus' life that the Bible and church fathers only hinted at or condemned. The authors can now transmit that vision to a Da Vinci-primed public. Says HSF editorial director Michael Maudlin: "Maybe we have enough evidence to say that our understanding of what happened back then was too simple. Dan Brown didn't invent it, but he made it sexy." Says Tauber: "I think it's wonderful."
Well, perhaps so. But like many wonderful (and not so wonderful) things, it's moving forward to a herky, sometimes unintelligible beat. The kind that makes one nostalgic for the deliberate, footnoted revolutionism of Father Brown.
For a review of the film, check out The Journal News (of White Plains, N.Y.) religion reporter Gary Stern's On Religion. He writes that the film was "very compelling for an hour or so. Increasingly hard to follow (and believe) through the second hour."
During the last 40 minutes or so, the show takes on a "Da Vinci Code" feel, contending that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were quite possibly married and had a child. The show also argues that the early church fathers covered up Mary Magdalene's role as the founder of the Christian faith.
One of several dramatizations showed Mary Magdalene and her son holding one another and weeping during the crucifixion.
I was pretty burned out by the time the whole thing ended, but I stuck around for a very interesting and sometimes tense post-show analysis hosted by Ted Koppel. He really tried to put Jacobovici on the spot, questioning his methods and reasoning. He also let two academics take some real shots at the film.
Jonathan Reed, professor of religion at the University of La Verne and the co-author of "Excavating Jesus," called the show "archeo-porn." Ouch. Jacobovici did not like it.
Well, there you have it. I won't be lining up to purchase the film on DVD, but maybe others should because the whole episode is a nice reminder for religious reporters the next time dramatic revelations are made about religious archaeology.