When Professional Worlds Collide

Being a history buff, and having a particular fascination with religion, ancient history, and archaeology, I watched the controversial program "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" (last night on the Discovery Channel) with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. It was well told by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, with a mix of science, dramatized vignettes, and unexpected surprises. Though it raises more questions than it answers, I was spellbound and hope to see more attention paid to this mystery.

Immediately after the program, there was a follow-up discussion hosted by TV journalist Ted Koppel. Jacobovici, one of his partners, and two academics were invited to participate. From the get-go, Koppel and the academics went on the offensive, tearing into Jacobovici. I watched it for a while, but after sensing the sour tone of the conversation, I turned it off and went to bed.

It sounded to me as though the academics were ticked off that an outsider (Jacobovici) was mucking around in their sandbox (archaeology). Who does he think he is to open tombs and conduct research without the proper sanctioning?

The other night I went to the movies to see the new crime thriller "Zodiac" which tells the true story of the killing spree that terrified San Francisco back in 1969. Part of the drama is the conflict between the San Francisco police and the San Francisco Chronicle news reporters, both trying to solve the mystery, but each frustrating the other. The newspapermen thought it was their job to investigate and get the story for their readers, but the police found the newsmen to be a nuisance, getting in the way of proper police procedures.

In both of these cases, the lost tomb of Jesus and the Zodiac case, professional worlds collide. Filmmaker vs academic archaeologists. News reporters vs police.

In both cases, there is a search for truth. And in both cases, we are left with unresolved mysteries to wonder about.

Is there a way to mediate? To help bridge these professional worlds, so that instead of conflict, we can reach collaboration? And maybe discover the truth?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 3/5/07

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