Foundational presupposition – it’s not a hoax.
Now remember, when we talk of this ossuary, we presuppose that it’s not another hoax. Do remember that there have been archeological mishaps and frauds in the past (everything from fake paleontological finds to Holy artifacts) and some scholars are now saying that the James ossuary we heard of more than a year ago was an authentic ossuary with a later forged inscription of James name on it.
A case so compelling till you hear the counter arguments.
It has been said by wise philosophers that an argument is so compelling till you have heard the counter argument. Remember your economics class where socialism seemed so good till you heard the capitalist critique of it or vise versa? The fact is that many times when we follow the evidence, we have good arguments for both sides and end up having to make a choice of most plausible rather than from absolute proof – since such proof requires measurements and empiricism that we just can’t get sometimes from matters of history. Sometimes however, Science catches up over time and empirical measures can be obtained from new technology, like the sequencing of the Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA has pretty much proven (though debate still exist for a small few) the hypothesis that modern humans arose in Africa before migrating to Europe and replacing the Neanderthal population with little or no interbreeding.
I suspect (with my present ignorance on the matter) that the complexity of the evidence will be compelling both ways and reach a point with no more qualifying experiments to break the stalemate between the arguments for and against. Such stalemates have left some cases in history and archeology unresolved, like the Getty Kuros, but we don’t get so worked up on them because of the low level of vested interest.
So my advice here is that everyone, should hear arguments from both sides, and be left to make up their God given minds – and its our Christian responsibility to make sure that the counter arguments are put out there where people will see them.
Epistemological choice we make on the questions of religion.
You will hear of the use of statistics in this debate (which we must not be too quick to dismiss) and how those inscriptions have to high a probability of the name pool to be talking about anyone else than the Christian Jesus. The thing is, the stats can go both ways, because since it is a probability, it could be that this case is from the minority amount and not the majority. We simply need a lot more test to supplement the use of the statistics. The fact is, you make a choice in subscribing to a theory of what is more plausible from the evidence presented to you – but you have to be very aware of the fact that your making a choice.
Religion is not motivated by rationale alone.
I repeated myself again about the fact that we make a choice of what to believe with the risk of looking like a Postmodern agnostic! But I do so to lay a foundation for this important point, that our decisions on the matters of religion are not motivated by rationale alone. The question of motivation is crucial, as it works to affect our industriousness in examining the evidence, the equality of honest evaluation we give to both sides of the argument and so forth. Motivation can even blind us subconsciously to compelling evidence before our eyes.
I am not saying that this matter will never be resolved; it could be that the evidence is so compelling for one side that any honest person will see it clearly. But no matter how compelling the case will be, there will be some people who would not budge from their position, and when we engage this battle, we have to learn to respect them and let them be.
Also I think its best at some point to resolve this matter for what it is – if it’s a historical issue, let’s leave our emotional baggage and religious zeal aside and engage the arguments and matter with professionalism and with clearly defined historical tools and analysis.
The economics of a controversy.
Lastly, do keep an eye on the economic paradigm of this controversy. Dan Brown has proven the profitability of this genre of media (books, documentaries, movie rights, etc.) and given the cultural climate of the USA, where many feel that the nation has been taken captive by religious zealots (sometimes paranoia, sometimes reality) – there are both monetary and non monetary benefits to shaking up Christianity. One has to wonder if James Cameron has been successful since Titanic, or if the actual motivation for this documentary of theirs was the great money that will follow this great controversy. On the counter side, he could be doing this from a passion of the truth – but the statistics are doubtful I suspect.