Saturday, March 3, 2007

Thomas time

The engraving known as The Holy Face was produced in 1649 by Claude Mellan [1598-1688]. This masterpiece is composed of a single spiraling line of varying thickness and density. In other words, if the line were to be transformed magically into a long roughly-spun woolen thread, you could pick up the end of the strand at the tip of Jesus's nose and unravel him. After that, if you felt like it, you could wrap him into a ball or even tie knots in him.

Something like that might be about to happen in Christendom.

For the moment, I'm surprised by the mediocre intellectual quality of most reactions to the forthcoming film announced a few days ago by its Israeli-born director, Simcha Jacobovici, seen here in a Discovery Channel presentation:

Any honest appraisal of the subject should at least mention the fact (maybe unknown to illiterate Christians) that the traditional burial site of Jesus inside the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem has been seriously contested for ages. You only have to set foot there (as I myself have, dozens of times) to realize that there's surely something basically wrong with this indoor kitsch setting, which simply doesn't look like the sort of place in which the alleged Son of God might have been laid in a tomb. The 4th-century emperor Constantine dismantled a pagan temple here, in the heart of Jerusalem (an unlikely location for an execution and a burial), before announcing, for no known reasons, that it was the place where Jesus had been crucified. Pilgrims who imagine that Jesus was put to death on a stark skull-shaped tumulus called Golgotha can make neither head nor tail of this official but uninspiring gaudy Greek site.

Now that the work of Simcha Jacobovici has made it known to the world at large that there's a good chance that the bones of Jesus were stored in a limestone box in Talpiot, it will be difficult to ignore this possibility... whose veracity would, of course, shatter the foundations of Christianity. If one doubts the bodily resurrection of Jesus, one has to doubt everything. We are probably entering an epoch of eternal doubt: Thomas time.

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