The Discovery Channel recently stepped into the realm of the fantastic, claiming through its recent broadcast, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, that the graves of Jesus Christ and his family have been uncovered.
The program was watched by over four million viewers, the highest ratings for the network since September 2005. The New York Times stated in a review entitled, Leaning on Theory, Colliding with Faith:
“The documentary, which carries the seal of approval from its executive producer James Cameron (‘Titanic’), has already caused some ado, however, with bold assertions that clash with conventional Christian doctrine. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a son, Judah, according to the filmmakers. And all three were laid to rest in a family tomb that is now buried deep beneath a Jerusalem apartment complex. And, of course, the filmmakers’ claim that they identified the burial remains of Jesus of Nazareth — including traces of DNA — suggests that he was not bodily resurrected, after all.”
In recent days the propositions of these claims have been met with skepticism and opposition from scholars of all stripes. Historians and archeologists, Christian and non-Christian, have called into question everything surrounding the fanciful assertions of the producers.
Dr. Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA), expressed irritation that the claims were made at a news conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific article. By going directly to the media, she said, the filmmakers "have set it up as if it's a legitimate academic debate, when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in archaeology of this period have flatly rejected this," she said.
This reminds me of F. W. Boreham’s essay, “A Total Eclipse” in his book Dreams at Sunset. He relates a fictional story about a man caught in a web of financial bondage who treks off to the Middle East, purportedly discovering a tomb containing the words of Joseph of Arimathea which relate that he took Jesus' body and hid it in the tomb. In a matter of weeks, the resurrection of Christ is soon pronounced a hoax. The indebted man has created this hoax to pay off his debt to a powerful man who wanted to destroy Christianity. As the news spread around the world, Boreham wrote, "Those whose religion is of the formal, superficial kind abandon it; the bubble has burst; they feel ashamed of their gullibility.”
Similar sentiments have been echoed in recent days as many read about the find of the ossuary supposedly containing the bones of Christ. Someone once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” As we face yet another heresy storming the gates of Faith, Boreham’s essay reminds us that the Scriptural account of Christ’s’ resurrection is an anvil that has worn our yet another hammer.
A Total Eclipse by F. W. Boreham
AMONG the minor sensations of the nineteenth century were the thrillers of Guy Thorne. His most dynamic and explosive production, When It Was Dark, was proclaimed as the most daring and original novel of the period, and enjoyed the distinction of being glowingly commended by the Bishop of London from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey.
It tells how Constantine Schuabe, a millionaire, loathing Christianity with a venomous hatred, resolves, at any cost, to destroy it. Discovering that Professor Sir Robert Llwellyn, the most brilliant antiquarian and archaeologist of his day, is leading a double life and is up to his ears in debt, Schuabe cultivates his acquaintance, lends him fourteen thousand pounds, and, shortly afterwards, demands repayment under penalty of having the whole vile story of Llwellyn's private life exposed.
Whilst Llwellyn is grovelling at the feet of the plutocrat, begging for time, Schuabe startles him by remarking that it would be easy for him to wipe out the debt and become a wealthy man. How? Schuabe tells Llwellyn that he must, on the excuse of ill-health, get a year's leave from the British Museum; he must then go to Palestine and discover that the record of the Resurrection is just a pious fraud.
Backed by his unimpeachable reputation, his verdict will be readily accepted, and Christianity will be an exploded myth. What could be more simple?
A few months later the world learns with speechless amazement that a new cave has been unearthed in the Holy Land. It contains a slab inscribed, 'I, Joseph of Arimathea, took the body of Jesus from the tomb and hid it in this place.' On a ledge nearby a slight mould is spread, probably all that remains of a decomposed body.
The announcement creates a sensation such as the nation has never previously known. Llwellyn's name carries weight. Press, Parliament and people are alike dumbfounded. Stocks and shares collapse. With the decline of public confidence, commerce is reduced to stagnation and industry is paralysed. Bankruptcy and unemployment become the order of the day. Depression reigns everywhere.
When Cyril Hands, whom Llwellyn had employed to do the spadework of the expedition, returns to England, he is overwhelmed by remorse. A servant finds his body on the hearth rug: a newspaper, with its terrifying columns of wretchedness, desolation and ruin, is clutched in his dead hand.
Those whose religion is of the formal, superficial kind, abandon it: the bubble has burst: they feel ashamed of their own gullibility. But there are others. In churches, chapels and mission—halls up and down the country, there are thousands of simple souls whose personal experience of the Saviour's transforming grace has been so vivid, so profound and so convincing that the wave of unbelief fails to affect them.
Among these immovable optimists is Gertrude Hunt, the pretty dancing-girl with whom Sir Robert Llwellyn had become involved. Just before Llwellyn's departure for Palestine, she was taken ill. To Sir Robert Llwellyn's ineffable disgust, Basil Gortre, a young curate visited her, leading her to repentance and faith.
Later on, her sickness having taken a more serious turn, she confronts the bombshell in the newspaper. But it makes no difference. How, with a life as radically changed as hers had been, can she possibly doubt?
Later still, strange thoughts occur to her. Llwellyn was given leave to go to Palestine on the grounds of failing health; yet she, who knew him so intimately, saw no signs of weakness. Why, too, did he brag, before going, that he would startle the world by his discoveries? And why, instead of worrying about his debts, as he used to do, was he now so affluent and reckless of expense?
Moved by a sudden inspiration, she goes to him, pretends that she is tired of being good, and wants everything to be as it once was.
In the surprise of this unexpected denouement, he flings to the winds the forebodings that have increasingly oppressed him, and, in a burst of half-drunken confidence, tells her everything.
As soon as Gertrude leaves him, Llwellyn realizes the enormity of his indiscretion. To relieve his own mind of the intolerable agony, he rushes to Schuabe, the millionaire, and confesses his incredible folly. The two men stare aghast at one another. What is to be done? Nothing can be done: for Gertrude has gone straight to Basil Gortre, the curate who had been the instrument of her regeneration, and put it in his power to hurl into the world a second bombshell.
The general relief is indescribable. Humanity is emancipated. But in the universal rejoicing the principal actors in the drama have no share. Gertrude dies of the malady that has so long afflicted her. Llwellyn, wretched beyond words, completely collapses and passes away whilst confessing to his wife his sordid infidelity. And Schuabe, his immense fortune wrecked by the depression that he has himself created, loses his reason and vanishes from sight. But the world at large is once more bathed in the brightness of the Easter triumph.
F. W. Boreham, ‘A Total Eclipse,’ Dreams at Sunset (London: The Epworth Press, 1954), 27-30.