There is, allegedly, a genetic connection to Jesus. No, not from the Da Vinci Code, that book by Dan Brown, and movie directed by Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks, but, the Shroud of Turin, which is a 14 foot long and 3.5 feet wide woven cloth with a negative image of the crucified Christ, with blood, kept in the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Well, actually, one conspiracy theory does have Leonardo Da Vinci, in fact, being responsible for this purported Middle Ages hoax. But, the latest thinking seems to show that the impressions on the fabric reveal the kind of chemical decomposition consistent with that which would occur over a millennium or two. Then, we learn that a 1998 carbon 14 dating showing the age to be during the Medieval Period (1356) was in 2005 proved inaccurate, in that a re-woven strand from this age (thirteen hundreds) was actually measured earlier, and, the latest evidence from a dating indicates that the cloth could well be 2000 years old. But, the face of Jesus Christ? How can such interpretations, almost surely hoaxes, continue to bear credence and sacredly revered? Sort of reminds you of religion itself.
Speaking of Da Vinci, his painting of The Last Supper was poorly researched. The utensils, clothes, whatever are representative of his (Leonardo’s) day (1500 AD). It is like an artist today painting the Passover meal using the setting of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Yet, religious analysts use every glance, people placement, or symbol as indicative of hidden truths. Leonardo was not there!
Finally, be prepared for annual holy breakthroughs gaining attention just before Easter. There was that bone box in 2003 and in April of 2006, the papers of Judas—thirteen papyrus sheets bound in leather found in an Egyptian cave—were announced, absolving him of betrayal.79 National Geographic carried an hourly feature on “The Gospel of Judas.” As yet another “great” archeological find, James Cameron, of Titanic and Avatar film fame, was executive producer of a documentary and book in 2007 on the “Lost Tomb of Jesus.” Well, maybe not, as the definitive archeological world denounced the discovery as a publicity stunt. The Greatest Story Ever Told is certainly still being written. You can expect a third millennium version of the 1965, 199 minute film, featuring Max Von Sydow as Christ, to have more stars and in three dimensions.
There have been numerous attempts, of course, to critically assess the reality of Jesus. This a mouthful, but nevertheless necessary: in 1982, the Religion and Biblical Criticism Project was founded by the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER, pronounced Caesar), a group formed by the Council for Secular Humanism, associated with Free Inquiry, the magazine. In 1985, the Project convened a conference entitled “Jesus in History and Myth,” chaired by R. Joseph Hoffmann, a young associate professor of religion from the University of Michigan, where the gathering was held. After participating in the discussions, Robert Funk, a noted biblical scholar, that year, with John Dominic Crossan, brought together 200 or so biblical scholars to vote—more specifically select red, pink, grey and black beads—in a series of seminars for what was probably real about Jesus. Several publications resulted, and you can go to Wikipedia for the details. The Jesus Seminar said that this itinerant mystic preached a sapiential eschatology, and it really doesn’t matter what this means, for it failed to determine if there really was a Jesus. The effort did serve to popularize the authenticity of Jesus, although there was a swarm of critics, including one complaining that this was a tool of Satan. Funk was, after all, a skeptic on orthodox Christian belief. A young audio-visual volunteer for the conference, Tom Flynn, in 2007 published, as mentioned earlier, The New Encyclopedia of UNBELIEF.
Well, R. Joseph Hoffmann is back. After assignments at Oxford, Beirut, Africa and New Zealand, he now directs CSER out of the Center for Inquiry at Amherst, New York. CSER convened another conference in 2007 where the Jesus Project was announced. This time, 50 interdisciplinary scholars will supposedly answer the question: did Jesus exist? Hoffmann says that “The Jesus Project is the first methodologically agnostic approach to the question of Jesus’ historical existence.” The Project will publish its final report in 2012, which is certainly becoming a particularly symbolic year.
You must understand the psyche of religion to appreciate why so many have expended so much time on something so abstruse. Let me leave this with that. But, wait, a Spielberg-Crichton thriller about the genetic Second Coming of Christ!