"James Cameron is a great guru of science fiction, and he's taking it to a new level with Simcha Jacobovici. You take a little bit of science, spin a good yarn out of it and you get another Terminator or Life of Brian"
Stephen Pfann: Department of Ancient Semitic Languages, Hebrew University Jerusalem
On February 27th 2007 I had watched a cable TV report in my small tatami mat room at an inn near the coast of Southern Shikoku. It was the intriguing Discovery channel story about the so called Jesus family tomb which had been aired a month previously in the West and was beginning to make waves on the internet as all heretical stories about Christianity are destined to. The internet after all was basically created in the English language and still is dominated by that tongue, thus strongly linked willy nilly with the religion of the culture which spawned it i.e. Christianity.
The story involved a director not known to me at that time, Simcha Jacobovici, and a producer who everybody knows, James Cameron, winner of the most academy awards in history. That piqued my interest. So a famous director who is fond of strong female characters like the heroine of his epic movie Titanic was involved in the making of a documentary movie for the Discovery channel about a tomb in Jerusalem that was purported to contain not just the man himself but his family, wife and even perhaps one disciple! Very Interesting. Yet I asked myself why would a guy who has won multiple oscars be involved in such a relatively minor production? Or was it going to be something very major? Was his involvement in the making of this documentary simply a very smart career move? Could it be that the impact of this movie for TV was fated to become even more contentious than the Da Vinci Code book and movie? I was soon very intrigued as the thoughts swirled around my brain on the following day's walk.
I returned from the pilgrimage on March 3rd. On March 6th one of my research colleagues, Marshall Masters, who runs an internet radio show from California had called me on video Skype. As I spoke with him, a Jewish American who used to be a science features correspondent for CNN, the subject came around to the Jesus Tomb. He and I had worked together in the production of a documentary for the Japanese satellite/cable TV show Mondo 21. It concerned global warming and the effects of solar radiation on the greenhouse gas phenomenon. But he is always interested in ideas which provoke people to think outside the box.
"Do you want to do an interview on the Jesus Tomb? This could be very big!" he asked me all of a sudden. Because I had been researching Jesus Christ for many years and in particular the gnostic teachings associated with him and the templars, as well as having co-translated a book called ‘Master of Masters’, I am in a position to talk fairly intelligently about the whole issue of this new discovery. And since I am a Scot living in Japan, I am removed from the very fundamentalist Christian environment of Bush's USA. That is really important when you realise that if you become the target of fundamentalists you really could end up fundamentally inactive forever. My previous interviews on his shows had been quite well received and apparently I was a well liked speaker. Maybe it was the Scottish accent...
"Sure let's do it, this could be the final blow to hard line orthodox Christianity" was my reply. In other words it was my belief that we have absolutely no more need of paternalistic religions that attempt to guide us whilst being blind themselves. Though in a different age this is not something you might easily have been able to proclaim with such certainty. In a male chauvinist world a strong male God is essential to progress. But in these times it is a classic situation now of the blind leading the blind and any sane person with a fairly good mind can quickly see how we must evolve beyond male saviour Gods. In an internet era of breathtaking information capacity we do not any longer require celibate Popes, but rather wise people with really good ideas. Especially wise women might I add..
On March 7th, the day I wrote the preface to a book on the subject of the tomb I sat down at the computer and clicked to the Discovery channel to get the full information on this documentary. After seeing it I went downstairs to have lunch with my wife Sonia who has been my faithful collaborator on many book projects and had recently finished translating a new book called the 'Truth about the Photon Belt and the dark star Nemesis'. Though I had another book project just started she suddenly suggested that we focus on this story, the Lost Tomb, and in particular its relevance to a woman we both love and admire from our long research. She had guided us as well to travel to the place where we were sure she had visited: Glastonbury in the South of the UK. In fact just a year earlier we had recorded a video at a small church bearing her name next to the famous Glastonbury Abbey-the oldest church in the UK.
Sonia has herself been researching Goddess related themes for more than 20 years and her intuition is usually very sharp when it comes to new projects. "Let's do it then!" I replied quite spontaneously. Funnily enough the preparation had been done the year before as we had purchased several books in Glastonbury all devoted to Mary Magdalene. And the book that I had taken with me on the pilgrimage in February was entitled 'The secret teachings of Mary Magdalene'. It was a very well researched book written by two women. Another coincidence was that it was the two Mary's names engraved on the tomb of Jesus discovered in Jerusalem more than 27 years ago, which pointed the way to a Discovery channel special documentary being made.
You see although Mary was a very popular name 2000 years ago in Judea in Greek the name Mariamne can only have one meaning according to the documentary. The Greeks had chosen this name specifically because it pointed to a very important woman, a woman who if she lived today would be as famous as Diana or Mother Theresa or Hillary Clinton. There could be no doubt at all the story claimed, that the name inscribed on the limestone coffin found under an apartment complex in Jerusalem, the name that was used in ancient Greek speaking middle East countries like Judea, meant Mary Magdalene. But even more revealing was the inscription next to her name ‘mara’ which means, ‘ master’ and that refers to the fact that she was a leading apostle, perhaps the chief disciple therefore of the man whose name was inscribed on the other stone coffin displayed at a Discovery press conference. His name was Jesus, son of Joseph.
By the time the interview happened with Marshall there had been strong reaction to the documentary from die hard Christians. Not surprising in the least I might add. If your entire belief system revolves around very specific historical events which culminate in a resurrection from the dead, then finding a grave that purports to contain the body of a saviour who ascended to heaven is pure heresy. It is like reporting today on CNN that the big bang and the expansion of the universe is completely wrong and that evidence has just come in, solid evidence, that the universe was never created at all. Every scientist invested in the big bang theory would foam at the mouth metaphorically and do everything in his power to stamp out the idea that the universe has always been here and always will. All established scientific institutions would organize major campaigns to stifle such nonsense, since it is obvious to all right thinking scientists that the case is closed and that we know for sure how the universe was born. But do we? And do we really know about the truth of Jesus?
Now the situation began to get really spooky. I had on my desk at least ten books written by very well reasearched people concerning Mary Magdalene. I was ready to quote from them during the two hour interview that we both knew would spark outrage in the fundamentalist community. This would especially happen in the US where many still believe the universe was created six thousand years ago as per the Bible. But the documentary and its related book which had shot to #6 on the New York Times best sellers list could not simply be yayed or nayed, it demanded to be discussed rationally and unemotionally, something we are all supposed to be able to do in a democratic society.
If it had just been once we could have passed it off as a coincidence. Happening twice was a sure sign that something very peculiar was going on. But when it started up again during the third re-recording of our interview Marshall threw in the towel. "We better not do this! This is a sign from spirit!"
Now here is a guy with a strong science background who is also a member of a group called Mensa. Mensa International is the largest, oldest, and best-known high-IQ society in the world. The organization restricts its membership to people with high testable IQs. Specifically, potential members must score within the top 2% (at or above the 98th percentile) of any approved standardized intelligence test. Mensa is formally composed of national groups and the umbrella organization, Mensa International. And so here was one of its members using the word 'spirit' and obviously at a loss to understand why on all three tapings, and on no other tapings of his many interviewees it had happened.
A weird clicking sound like background static had polluted all the interviews. They were unusable as the sound quality had deteriorated so much. Yet on each occasion he had checked his equipment religiously, being the professional he was. After each he was so excited that an even better interview than the previous one had been executed. And then an hour or so later I would get a message telling me it had happened again. This was definitely Ghostbusters territory we were in and only much later was I to realise that this event had not only saved both of us from incredibly bad press but that it had propelled me on a journey to Israel and a whole new pilgrimage altogether. There I had met real experts in the fields of paleography and archaeology as well as in early Christian theology. I also met Simcha...