James Tabor está analisando no post Those Backtracking Scholars o artigo que saiu em The Jerusalem Post no dia 11 de abril de 2007, assinado por Etgar Lefkovits, com o título Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack. Neste artigo se diz que seis especialistas que participaram do documentário O Sepulcro Esquecido de Jesus recuaram de suas posições.
Diz o começo do artigo do Jerusalem Post:
Several prominent scholars who were interviewed in a bitterly contested documentary that suggests that Jesus and his family members were buried in a nondescript ancient Jerusalem burial cave have now revised their conclusions.
The dramatic clarifications, compiled by epigrapher Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem in a paper titled “Cracks in the Foundation: How the Lost Tomb of Jesus story is losing its scholarly support,” come two months after the screening of The Lost Tomb of Christ that attracted widespread public interest, despite the concomitant scholarly ridicule.
But now, even some of the scholars who were interviewed for and appeared in the film are questioning some of its basic claims.
James Tabor, porém, diz:
Of the thousands of stories that have appeared on the subject of the Talpiot “Jesus” tomb since February 28th this one by Lefkovits has to be ranked, from a journalistic standpoint, as one of the worst of the worst, and given the multiple contenders, this ranking is not an easy one to earn.
Lefkovits mentions six scholars who have “backtracked” from their positions in the film – Andrey Feuerverger the statistician, Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist involved in the original excavation, Frank Cross, the renowned Harvard epigrapher, Carney Matheson who did the DNA tests, and Francois Bovon, another Harvard professor who works on Mary Magdalene traditions. Lefkovits ends his story with a naively formulated theological affirmation that seems strangely out of place in a news story: “According to the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, and an ossuary containing Jesus’ bones – the explanations of the movie director notwithstanding – would contradict the core Christian belief that he was resurrected and then ascended into heaven.” The problem is none of these six scholars have backtraced or repudiated what they presented in the film and Lefkovits did not bother to talk to any of them.
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Those Backtracking Scholars
Posted on April 18, 2007 by JDT
While I was in Jerusalem last week a story appeared in the Jerusalem Post headlined “Jesus Tomb Film Scholars Backtrack” by Etgar Lefkovits. Its essential claim was that several prominent scholars interviewed in the controversial film, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” had now revised their conclusions two months after the screening of the film. These “dramatic clarifications” reported by Lefkovits were based on a Web site article by “epigrapher Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land.” Of the thousands of stories that have appeared on the subject of the Talpiot “Jesus” tomb since February 26th this one by Lefkovits has to be ranked, from a journalistic standpoint, as one of the worst of the worst, and given the multiple contenders, this ranking is not an easy one to earn.
Unfortunately, the Lefkovits story (try Google: “Lefkovits tomb backtrack” for a small sample) was flashed around the world, picked up by media that understandably found such a headline irresistible and a host of Christian bloggers eager to feed on any scrap of major media coverage that might cast into doubt the claims of the film–that the Talpiot tomb likely once held the bones of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, once the story is published it is no longer “Lefkovits says that Stephen Pfann says that Prof.X says,” as reported on a Web site that has the word “New” flashing on-and-off over its “Tomb” discussions, but it is now “The Jerusalem Post reports this or that.”
Lefkovits mentions five scholars who have “backtracked” from their positions in the film–Andrey Feuerverger the statistician, Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist involved in the original excavation, Frank Cross, the renowned Harvard epigrapher, Carney Matheson who did the DNA tests, and Francois Bovon, another Harvard professor who works on Mary Magdalene traditions. Lefkovits ends his story with a naively formulated theological affirmation that seems strangely out of place in a news story: “According to the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, and an ossuary containing Jesus’ bones–the explanations of the movie director notwithstanding–would contradict the core Christian belief that he was resurrected and then ascended into heaven.”
The problem is none of these five scholars have backtracked or repudiated what they presented in the film and Lefkovits did not bother to talk to any of them.
As it happens, the day the Jerusalem Post story appeared I was sitting with Shimon Gibson in the lobby of the American Colony hotel and we read the piece through together. He was quite upset at how he had been partially quoted as saying “I’m skeptical that this is the tomb of Jesus” as if this was a new position he was taking reflecting his “backtracking.” His full statement, even as produced on Pfann’s Web site, Lefkovits’s one source for his story, plainly says the filmmakers did a good job, carrying out their work with integrity and vision, and that he was keeping an “open mind” about the possibilities. One of my purposes in being in Jerusalem was to work with Gibson on our ongoing research on the Talpiot tomb which we have carried out for two years now in complete and cooperative harmony.
I am also in very close touch with Prof. Feuerverger, the renowned statistician at the University of Toronto. Over the past few weeks we have spoken at length on the phone and exchanged dozens of e-mail. I am thoroughly familiar with his work and his conclusions and he told me this week that his major academic paper on the statistics related to the Talpiot Tomb is very close to final completion. According to the Lefkovits story Feuerverger’s is the “most startling change of opinion” of all the “backtracking” experts, but he then goes on to quote his “new” position which is identical to the one he expressed at the initial New York press conference on February 26th, and one he has held all along–namely that his 600 to 1 figure refers to the rarity of the cluster of names found in the Talpiot tomb. I have offered an extensive discussion of this in earlier blog posts so I won’t repeat it all again here, but even better are Dr. Feuerverger’s own words on the subject that I just received today: “I would like to make it clear that I stand by the statements I had made in my probability calculations. I have retracted nothing. My website makes clear the assumptions of my calculations. Subject to these assumptions, my estimates have not changed.”
Prof. Frank Cross of Harvard, a renowned epigrapher of Hebrew and Aramaic of this period, provided readings for the ossuary inscriptions including “Jesus son of Joseph.” He has not in the slightest way changed his views on these readings so to cast him as one of a group of scholars who have revised their views as stated in the film is totally irresponsible. Cross said in the film that the names were common, indicating his own view that connecting this particular “Jesus son of Joseph” to the one in the New Testament is not a self-evident task. I have discussed this with him and he is rightly skeptical of statistical claims in any field, but he would be the first to admit that he is not a statistician and anyone who knows Frank Cross knows that he keeps an open mind. His official position is that he stands by the readings and what he says in the film and that his business is not to draw conclusions about whether this is or is not a tomb connected to Jesus of Nazareth.
Dr. Carney Matheson, who supervised the DNA tests on the bone fragments in the Yeshua and Mariamene ossuaries, has not backed off in the least from the results achieved by his laboratory. I have been involved in the whole thing from start to finish and I was present when his results were presented. I have also since been in touch with Dr. Matheson, to be sure he is okay with what I write here. When Dr. Carney Matheson first broke the news of the DNA test results live on camera in his laboratory he offered the passing observation that given the small grouping in that tomb, with only two women named, it was possible the two were “husband and wife.” He did not intend to be understood to say that was the only possibility, and he would be the first to make clear that DNA tests often eliminate relationships as well as establish them. Some times, in that sense “no match” can be as informative as a “match.” The DNA results did not tell us what the relationship between the two was, but what it was not—the female sample was neither the mother nor the maternal sister of the male. At that time I am not sure if he even knew anything about the possible identity of the samples. Had the two turned out to be related then we would have been able to add another “relationship” to our statistics. As it stands two relations were eliminated making the husband and wife one of the possibilities, but certainly not the only possibility. However, as I have often pointed out, since Jesus had three “intimate” Marys in his life, his mother, his sister, and Mary Magdalene, in this case, getting “absolutely nothing” in terms of a maternal match between Yeshua and Mariamene does indeed turn out to be quite significant for overall possibilities of interpretation.
Finally, Professor Francois Bovon has not in any way backed off from what he said in the film regarding the use of the name Mariamne as an appropriate name for Mary Magdalene in later Christian sources. His article is on the SBL Web site for anyone to read. What Bovon has clarified is that he is dealing with literary sources and traditions, and in his work in that regard he does not intend to claim that the historical Mary Magdalene was called by this name in her own lifetime. But he has reiterated his view that Mariamne, besides Maria or Mariam, is a Greek equivalent, attested by Josephus, Origen, and the Acts of Philip, for the Semitic Myriam, and that the portrayal of Mariamne in the Acts of Philip fits very well with the portrayal of Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and Pistis Sophia. Professor Bovon does not accept the overall thesis of the film, either that Jesus was reburied in a second tomb or that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child with her.
There is no doubt that Jacobovici’s film has a point of view and that it seeks to present a case, namely that the Yeshua of the Talpiot tomb is indeed Jesus of Nazareth, and that based on evidence in this tomb he had a child, most likely with the one we know as Mary Magdalene in the N.T. gospels. How well he makes that case is subject to debate and discussion. However, it is ludicrous to fault Jacobovici, who is neither archaeologist, epigrapher, statistician, DNA expert, nor historian for consulting with those experts considered among the best in each of these areas, presenting the results of their work, and then making use of that data in formulating his own presentation. In the same way, if I consult a lexicon or translation of an ancient work from a language in which I am not trained, even as a scholar and a historian, by using such a source, I am not implying the editors of these works somehow agree with some historically reconstructed model that I might construct, based on such linguistic evidence.
Jerusalem Post Update on “Backtracking Scholars”
Posted on April 25, 2007 by JDT
Last week I offered my own response to the April 11th story in the Jerusalem Post claiming that most of the scholars appearing in “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” Discovery TV special had now “backtracked” on their statements and positions as portrayed in the film. Here is an update on that story from the Post.
‘ No Scholars Backtracked on Jesus Film’
Jerusalem Post staff, THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 24, 2007
The director of the Lost Tomb of Jesus documentary, which claims that Jesus of Nazareth and his family were laid to rest in a burial tomb in what is today the Jerusalem neighborhood of East Talpiot, has rejected claims that scholars who were interviewed in the film have now backtracked and revised their conclusions.
“Not a single scholar that appears in the film has backtracked on any statement made in the film,” the Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici stated in an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post. “Not a single scholar has retracted a single word.”
Jacobovici was responding to an article that appeared in the Post of April 11, which stated that several scholars who had [sic “been”] featured in the film had backtracked and were now stepping away from the filmmakers’ “Jesus and family were buried here” theory. The article cited a paper entitled “Cracks in the Foundation: How the Lost Tomb of Jesus is losing its scholarly support” compiled by epigrapher Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem.
Jacobovici, who could not be reached for comment in the original April 11 article, rejected the assertion that the University of Toronto statistician Prof. Andrey Feuerverger, who claims in the film that the odds are 600:1 in favor of the tomb being the family burial cave of Jesus of Nazareth, has now undergone a “startling change of opinion.” “What is ‘startling’ about this statement,” said Jacobovici, “is that it’s completely false.”
Feuerverger is not giving interviews, but Jacobovici quoted from an e-mail he received from Feuerverger in response to the article, in which the statistician states: “I would like to make it clear that I stand by the statements I had made in my probability calculations. I have retracted nothing.” Jacobovici added that Feuerverger was continuing “to refine his calculations in preparation of a scholarly paper destined for publication in a scholarly journal.”
Changes cited in the April 11 article that have been made on the Web site of the Discovery Channel, which broadcast the documentary, relating to Feuerverger’s conclusions, said Jacobovici, reflect those refinements. “As he refines his language, Discovery Channel refines its Web site language on the statistics. So what? The bottom line is that Feuerverger does not ‘backtrack’ on any statement made in the film, nor on the 600 to one probability presented in the film,” insisted Jacobovici.
Relating to the critique that Israeli archeologists have called the similarity between the names in the Talpiot tomb and the Jesus family “coincidental,” Jacobovici noted that several prominent experts were given the opportunity to level precisely this objection in the film itself and did so. But “the fact is that the cluster of names found in the Talpiot tomb is not only rare, it is unique,” said the filmmaker. “The fact is that in 100 years of Jerusalem archeology, only one ‘Jesus, son of Joseph’ ossuary has ever been found in situ. Only one other [such ossuary] emerged unprovenanced in a warehouse.” Similarly, there is only one ossuary inscribed “Yose,” said by the filmmakers to relate to one of Jesus’s brothers, and “even the so-called Mary ossuaries are extremely rare,” said Jacobovici.
Jacobovici also stated that reservations raised by other experts in the Pfann paper and the subsequent Post article relate to matters outside their field of expertise. For instance, epigrapher Prof. Frank Moore Cross has said that he is not persuaded by the statistics. But, noted Jacobovici, “Cross is not a statistician. I respect him as a scholar but I would never turn to him for an opinion on statistics. I went to him to confirm the reading of the inscriptions.”
In similar vein, the dismissal of aspects of the Jesus family theory by DNA scientist Dr. Carney Matheson, who supervised DNA testing carried out for the film from the supposed Jesus and Mary Magdalene ossuaries, is “nonsense,” according to Jacobovici, who noted that “Matheson, in my film, makes statements that are limited to his expertise in DNA.” And in that specific area, “he hasn’t retracted a single word.”
Jacobovici also countered the assertion that Prof. Francois Bovon – who is quoted in the film as saying that “Mariamene” is the name given in the Acts of Philip to Mary Magdalene, and that she is differentiated from the mother of Jesus who is called “Maria” – has changed his mind. “All that has happened is that Prof. Bovon now states that his references to Mary Magdalene’s name being ‘Mariamene’ have to do with a literary tradition, not a historical one,” said Jacobovici. “But that’s all we asked him.”
Jacobovici also noted that Pfann challenges the reading of the “Mariamene” inscription, and stated that “It’s good for scholars to give various opinions. That’s what scholarly debate is all about… But the fact is that Pfann is not an expert on Greek inscriptions. The inscription in question has been categorically identified as ‘Mariamene’ by Dr. Rahmani in the IAA official catalogue of ossuaries.”
One scholar who has been skeptical all along about the “Jesus family tomb” claims is Dr. Shimon Gibson, who was one of the original team that worked at the tomb when it was first discovered in 1980, appears in the film and sat on Jacobovici’s panel when the documentary was launched at a New York press conference in February.
In a recent e-mail to Jacobovici, Gibson states that: “My professional assessment of the facts available about this tomb, based on having dug there, and on some 30 years of experience studying Second Temple tombs around Jerusalem, is that the Talpiot Tomb is not the Jesus family tomb.” Gibson adds that, “At the moment, I think the facts stack up against the Talpiot tomb being the family tomb of Jesus. But the filmmakers do have a right to do their investigative journalism, and we, as scholars, must now check out their claims and make balanced arguments for or against the ideas, as the case may be.”
Jacobovici said that this does not represent backtracking, since “Gibson never says it is the tomb of Jesus in the film. I never quote Gibson saying anything about the probability that this is the tomb of Jesus.”
Meanwhile, Jacobovici added, an attempt by certain “religious groups” to block a screening of the film in Chile next week on Discovery Latin America has been thrown out by the local courts.