December 3rd, 2002

NYT: Experts Question Authenticity of Bone Box for `Brother of Jesus’

Skeptics in growing number are weighing in with doubts about the authenticity of the inscription on a burial box that may have contained the bones of James, a brother of Jesus, and so could be the earliest surviving archaeological link to Jesus Christ.

When the existence of the limestone bone box, or ossuary, was announced five weeks ago, a French scholar asserted that the inscription ? “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” ? most probably referred to the Jesus of the New Testament. The script, he said, was in the style of the Aramaic language of the first century A.D.

Now that more experts have studied photographs of the inscription or seen it on display at a Toronto museum, they generally accept the antiquity of the ossuary itself, but some of them suspect that all or part of the script is a forgery. Apparent differences in the handwriting, they said, suggested that the Jesus phrase in particular could have been added by a forger, either in ancient or modern times.

Too bad. That would’ve been interesting…..

Then there’s Holy Blood, Holy Grail:

First published in 1982 to immediate international acclaim and controversy, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln’s seminal book ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ has spawned an international media industry and entirely new academic disciplines. Many of its themes have become part of conspiriology’s substrate, including political secret societies, the Knights Templar and the search for fragments of an Alternative Christianity.

‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ is a powerful example of investigative journalism meme-spliced with religious conspiracy theory, a ‘fictive arcanum’ whose provocative thesis continues to undermine the Catholic Church’s institutional reading of Judeo-Christian history. Its trash literature veneer has introduced memes that have led readers to subsequently study the scholarly work of Robert Eisenman, Barbara Thiering and the Dead Sea Scrolls researchers that reveal the suppression of early schisms within Christianity. The book’s central hypothesis – that Jesus survived the Crucifixion and together with Mary Magdalene founded a bloodline that later became the Merovingians in France (protected by the Knights Templar and later by the Freemasons) amounts to a stunning re-write of Western history. Banned in Catholic-dominated countries including the Phillipines, the book remains an incendiary example of why culture-jamming official ‘grand-narratives’ is the frontline of new information wars.

TONS of links on th’ page.

And there’s one of my favorites, the conceit that Leonardo DaVinci created the Shroud of Turin–as not just the world’s first photograph, but the world’s first self-portrait. Of his head, at any rate. “The Turin Shroud: In Whose Image?” goes here and there and probably involved lots of specious argumentation–it’s “scientific proof” is certainly funny enough! Secret societies, alchemical mysteries–the whole nine yards.
Here’s a nice (er, not favorable) review of the book.

When South African scholar Dr. Nicholas Allen, Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Port Elizabeth, published his Shroud-as-photograph theory in 1993 that, consonant with the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, his hypothetical photo was made before 1356, he overcame some of the palpable weaknesses of the Leonardo theory. Today we know the ingredients and requirements for making a photo. We can read a children’s handbook and make rudimentary home-made pictures. Dr. Allen notes that all the ingredients were available in the 14th c., and all one had to do was suspend the corpse for three to four days in sunlight, at the proper focusing distance from the fourteen-foot cloth that has been treated with silver nitrate or silver sulphate, outside a large camera obscura whose aperture contains a double convex quartz crystal lens fifteen centimeters in diameter and seven milimeters thick, then fix the negative image with ammonia or with urine.

Both of the photography theories found it important to insist that the necessary materials were known much earlier and essentially were “in place” for the right genius. This does not explain why those same ingredients were not exploited in the following centuries of great scientific curiosity that followed: the Renaissance could only come up with a hand-made grid or mirror through which an artist might achieve relative size and perspective in his landscape; a master of photography would not have kept his secret to himself in this age of proto-capitalism and profits. No genius of the 16th century Scientific Revolution could get to photography, nor of the 17th and 18th centuries, ages of photographic realism in painting. The Shroud-as-UNIQUE-photograph theories seem to be founded upon the unlikeliest scenarios, throwing back to a single genius what is common knowledge today, the results of centuries of gradual, groping, painstaking approach to the precisely correct combinations of ingredients and materials for the making of photographs.

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