BEIJING, Feb. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- A documentary film produced by Oscar-winning director James Cameron ("Titanic") that questions the basic Christian belief that Jesus Christ died, was resurrected and ascended to heaven has drawn heavy fire from archaeologists and clergymen in the Holy Land.
"The Lost Tomb of Christ," which the Discovery
Channel will run on March 4, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries -- small caskets
used to store bones -- discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have
contained the bones of Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued
by the Discovery Channel.
One of the caskets even bears the title, "Judah, son
of Jesus," raising the possibility Jesus may have had a son. And the very
fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was
Most Christians believe Jesus' body spent three days
at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. The
burial site identified in Cameron's documentary is in a southern Jerusalem
neighborhood nowhere near the church.
In 1996, when the BBC aired a short documentary on
the same subject, archaeologists challenged the claims. Amos Kloner, the first
archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by
archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.
"They just want to get money for it," Kloner said.
The claims have raised the ire of Christian leaders
in the Holy Land.
"The historical, religious and archaeological
evidence show that the place where Christ was buried is the Church of the
Resurrection," said Attallah Hana, a Greek Orthodox clergyman in Jerusalem. The
documentary, he said, "contradicts the religious principles and the historic and
spiritual principles that we hold tightly to."
Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University
of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the
film's hypothesis holds little weight.
"I don't think that Christians are going to buy into
this," Pfann said. "But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that
pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."
"How possible is it?" Pfann asked. "On a scale of one
through 10 -- 10 being completely possible -- it's probably a one, maybe a one
and a half."
Kloner also said the filmmakers' assertions are
"It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial
cave," Kloner said. "The names on the caskets are the most common names found
among Jews at the time."
Archaeologists also doubt the filmmaker's claim that
the James Ossuary -- the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel -- might
have originated from the same cave.
"I don't think the James Ossuary came from the same
cave," said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University. "If it were
found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He
would have taken Jesus."