Panel Discussion to Follow 'Jesus Tomb' Documentary

A panel discussion on Sunday moderated by Ted Koppel, former anchor of ABC's Nightline, will discuss the ”tomb of Jesus” allegations that have been widely debated this past week.

The program will broadcast on the Discovery Channel directly after the new and highly controversial documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, airs on the same channel.

The dialogue, titled The Lost Tomb of Jesus: What Does It Mean?, will explore whether the archeological find of a supposed Jesus family tomb has any merit, and will discuss beliefs and opinions related to the film’s content.

The documentary has been criticized by many Christians and non-Christians as only being sensationalism without much evidence, having many holes theologically and scientifically. The goal of the panel is to allow fair dialogue from both sides of the issue, which many Christians have felt is missing from the film.

“Due to the current spirited debate on the preliminary findings, we strongly believe that this three-hour presentation (The Lost Tomb of Jesus) only should be viewed in the context of a critical analysis and discussion of the science, history, and theology involved in the ongoing investigation,” explained Jane Root, president and general manager of Discovery Channel, in a statement. “We believe that this is simply not the kind of subject matter that can be properly understood or evaluated if only fragments are viewed out of context. Simply put, Discovery Channel believes that this particular documentary deserves both responsible exhibition and responsible viewing.”

Koppel was brought in to lead Sunday’s talks as a non-biased voice since he has had no connection to the documentary and has an independent journalistic perspective.

"Inevitably, on a subject as important as this, there will be many unanswered questions,” said the once prominent anchor in a statement. “I expect to raise as many of those as possible.”

The documentary by Oscar-winning James Cameron and Jewish archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici details the supposed discovery of Jesus’ family tomb. The two have claimed to have found not only Jesus’ bones, but also the remains of his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene, and an assumed son named Judah.

Since its unveiling at a recent press conference, Christians have criticized the film for many of its overwhelming holes - including the commonness of the names found in the tomb, incomplete DNA analysis, location of the tomb - and numerous assumptions.

“In a word, the argument that we have ‘found’ the family tomb of Jesus is an argument interested more in media attention than serious scholarship,” concluded Dr. Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College to The Christian Post. “When the professional archaeologists of Jerusalem independently validate such a finding, then we should take note.”

Sunday’s featured panelists will include James Tabor, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina; Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and past president of the Evangelical Theological Society; the Rev. David O'Connell, President of the Catholic University; and William Dever, professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona.

The documentary will air at 9 p.m. EST immediately followed by the panel discussion at 11 p.m. EST.

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