Saturday, August 02, 2014
"Eyewitness to Jesus" presents evidence that some of the Gospel text was told by people who actually met and saw him (1998 TLC film)
“Eyewitness to Jesus”, an older documentary from The Learning Channel (TLC) back in 1998, directed by Ricardo Pollack, presents the research into a papyrus fragment that tends to suggest that many of the Gospels, especially Matthew and Mark, might well have been written down directly from people who had witnessed Jesus while he was alive, rather than two hundred years later.
A British historian from Oxford, Matthew D’Ancona, retraced the steps of a Victorian era pastor Charles Bousfield Huleatt, to took a long journey to Luxor Egypt, where he purchased a fragment called the Magdalen Papyrus in 1901 (Wiki ). The documentary gives an interesting presentation of low-tech papyrus making in ancient times. What an effort writing and copying (and “getting published”) was in those days compared to now! D’Ancona did much of the detective work in the old Luxor Hotel run by the Cook shipping line on the Nile.
Huleatt and his family would be killed in a huge earthquake on Messina Italy in 1908. Huleatt would not have the opportunity to know how important his discover had been. Such is the “collective risk” of natural disaster.
Then German historian Carsten Peter Thiede took the evidence, and made road trips throughout the Holy Lands, to the Cave of Horrors, Massada, Qumram, and spots around the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee, up to Lebanon, examining other documents, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, matching cursive handwriting styles to try to date the Magdalen document during the “eyewitness period”, as close as possible to around 30 AD. There are some questions as to how credible or important the handwriting theory is. It was interesting to hear how little scrolls were copied manually by scholars to make books.
The use of modern science to investigate old documents is an idea that comes up in fiction, especially in the novels of Irving Wallace, like “The Plot” (1968) as well as Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” (and 2007 film from Columbia). The documentary mentions the Valley of the Kings, itself an important subject of a 1954 archeological thriller film from MGM.
The film is available on Netflix instant play.
The Veritas Forum has a similar video, above.
It strikes me as interesting that Jesus has usually been presented as a tall, lean, fit white male, someone who would be viewed as “attractive” by most people in our culture today, especially the gay male world.