- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

If nothing else, director James Cameron’s press conference in New York on the Talpiot Tomb is another monument to the man’s ability to attract an audience, and to do it the old-fashioned way: Make an imaginative spectacle and push it with all you’ve got.

The unveiling Monday of what the showmanly Mr. Cameron contends is the very tomb of Jesus Christ himself rides the same cultural currents that propelled the vogue and innuendo of “The DaVinci Code” to the bestseller list and highs at the box office. The measure of success is less “The Ten Commandments” or a George Burns “Oh, God!” than “Terminator” or “Titanic” (and certainly not the forgotten “Piranha Part Two: The Spawning”). Crop circles or Piltdown Man should be so lucky.

Mr. Cameron is doing much more than riding a current, though, as he draws on a much older tradition: The huckster, pushing a curiosity, hocked for a carnival nickel, a spectacle of man or woman or beast from beyond the known. We’ll see whether it works. It certainly does feel familiar. In reality, only the coin of the realm — Christian belief — is different.

At minimum, the first media entreaties worked, spectacularly so. As the doe-eyed Agence France-Presse put it: “The burial site of Jesus has been found and suggests he had a wife and son, according to highly sensitive claims in a documentary by ‘Titanic’ director James Cameron and Israel-born Simcha Jacobovici.”

Then, an AP story in The Washington Post: “The claim that Jesus even had an ossuary contradicts the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven.” No qualifiers here, no “If true,” or “would seem to,” those pesky weasel words (in fairness, other outlets’ versions of this same AP story were less credulous).

Here’s putting it succinctly. “They just want to get money for it,” said Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, unearthed 27 years ago by people presumably no less conscious of Judeo-Christian belief than common folk are today. Swift and to the point.

Fifty cents to see the Cardiff Giant — er, we mean, $9.50 to see “The Jesus Family Tomb.”

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