The recent controversy about the documentary on the tomb of Jesus reveals less about an archeological breakthrough than about the growth of speculative biblical scholarship and the attraction of alternative readings of Christianity, reports Time magazine (March 12).
The Jesus Family Tomb, aired on the Discovery Channel in early March, which claimed to uncover the bones of Jesus and his alleged wife and child, was only one of a series of projects and books by recognized scholars on alternative biblical narratives. Such a book as The Jesus Dynasty, by University of North Carolina professor James Tabor, “enmeshes a plausible story of early church strife in speculative material suggesting that Jesus had a human father and hoped for an earthly kingdom,“ writes David Van Biema.
Other authors, such as Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, have books out claiming to derive new insights from the rediscovered Gnostic Gospels of Judas. Ehrman says that the “generation that trained us would spend many hours honing their discipline until they felt they could write their seminal work, maybe in their 50s. This generation is different.
You publish as quickly as possible, create a sensation and get known [academically] that way.” Lynn Garrett of Publisher’s Weekly argues that the Da Vinci Code served merely to prime the pump of scholars who were already tuned into alternative and unorthodox versions of Christianity since the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and translation of the Nag Hammadi “library.”