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[Synoptic-L] Goodacre on the News

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  • David B. Peabody
    Colleagues, Last evening, while watching the NBC evening news in the U. S., the anchorman announced that the next story would deal with a forthcoming
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 2, 2001
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      Colleagues,

      Last evening, while watching the NBC evening news in the U. S.,
      the anchorman announced that the next story would deal with a
      forthcoming documentary on Jesus' real appearance. That was
      interesting, but my ears perked up when I also heard him mention
      the name of "Mark Goodacre" as one of the consultants for the
      film.

      Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was Mark, on the TV
      screen, discussing images of Jewish men roughly contemporary
      with the time of Jesus. They seemed to me to be images drawn
      from catacomb frescos, but that is just my guess.

      Tell us "the inside scoop" on your work on this project, Mark. How
      did you get involved? Who's behind the project? Who's funding it?
      Why are they funding it? Will Cain Hope Felder of Howard
      University, who has also done a lot of work on this range of issues,
      also be involved?

      If you think a reponse to this would better be made off list, then do
      so, but I would suspect that other readers of Synoptic-L would also
      be interested in what you have been doing, related to this project.

      David B. Peabody

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
    • Mark Goodacre
      Dear David Thanks for asking. Fancy my making American news! I ll answer on-list since it may be of interest to others, though I would prefer that this did
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 2, 2001
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        Dear David

        Thanks for asking. Fancy my making American news! I'll answer
        on-list since it may be of interest to others, though I would prefer
        that this did not become a prolonged thread since it falls slightly
        more into the "Xtalk" list's territory (Historical Jesus) and also it's
        eaten away at my time in a massive way over the last 7 days.

        Before I say anything else, I would like to say that the face that
        was reconstructed is not supposed to be the face of Jesus; it's not
        Jesus's skull! I would have thought that it would be blindingly
        obvious to anyone reading past media hype like "Is this the face of
        Jesus?" (Answer: no, of course not) that those involved were
        simply attempting historical approximation of what one first century
        Jew from Israel may have looked like. It impacts on historical
        Jesus work only in so far as it helps one to break free of some of
        the images of Jesus, e.g. Robert Powell, Jeffrey Hunter with which
        we are all too familiar.

        The reconstruction was done for a series jointly produced by BBC
        here in the UK and Discovery in the U.S. It is currently airing in the
        UK as "Son of God", first episode last night and final episode on
        Easter Day. It will be broadcast in a three-hour block on Discovery
        on Easter Day as "Jesus: The Complete Story". The latter is
        essentially the same programme but in slightly different edit and
        with an American commentary. It is also being distributed by BBC
        World Wide and there is a French version produced by France 3.
        I've been involved as a minor consultant and contributor to the
        series. The major consultants were Tom Wright and Jerome
        Murphy O'Connor. The series cost £1.5 million and quite the best
        things in it are the walking-with-dinosaur style computer graphics
        (done by the same people who did Walking With Dinosaurs), e.g.
        one sees living, moving models of Caesarea Maritima, Sepphoris,
        the temple, Capernaum as they may have looked. You can read
        about the BBC version at:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/sog/

        and the Discovery version at:

        http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/jesus/jesus.html

        The reconstruction of "the face" hit the news here last week when
        BBC released it for the first time as a means of advertising their
        Spring/Summer schedule. In brief, my involvement had been to
        advise in the latter stages of the reconstruction, specifically on
        hair, beard etc. By the time I got involved, Dr Richard Neave of the
        University of Manchester had already taken the plaster-cast of a
        skull and done a reconstruction of its face. So by the stage I had
        come in, the naked face, as it were, was already done. I
        understand that Joe Zias was one of the main people involved with
        the choice of the skull, which is that of a 30-50 year old male from
        Jerusalem, allegedly "typical". Of course we do not have a great
        deal to go on when it comes to hair styles etc. but I drew attention,
        among other things, to Paul's interesting remark in 1 Cor. 11 that it
        is disgraceful for a man to have long hair and to the synagogue
        frescoes from Dura Europos, looking at the way they depicted
        characters like Moses, ?Ezra and others.

        No, Cain Hope Felder was not directly involved though I did suggest
        his name to the production team back in December having read
        some of his stuff. Personally, I would have liked him to have been
        involved but time was limited and the stuff they filmed with me on
        the face was as recent as this January, the last major bit of
        shooting on the series they did.

        A week ago I still felt quite up-beat about the project. I've now had
        a bit too much of it -- the kinds of unpleasant emails and
        phonecalls that seem to be an inevitable part of getting involved
        with the media and major misunderstanding even from academics
        who one would have thought would know better. But I have to
        confess to enjoying some of the short-lived celebrity last week, not
        least appearing on "Big Breakfast" over here, which really upped
        my "streetcred" with the students!

        Mark

        On 3 Apr 2001, at 1:21, David B. Peabody wrote:

        > Colleagues,
        >
        > Last evening, while watching the NBC evening news in the U. S.,
        > the anchorman announced that the next story would deal with a
        > forthcoming documentary on Jesus' real appearance. That was
        > interesting, but my ears perked up when I also heard him mention the
        > name of "Mark Goodacre" as one of the consultants for the film.
        >
        > Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was Mark, on the TV
        > screen, discussing images of Jewish men roughly contemporary
        > with the time of Jesus. They seemed to me to be images drawn
        > from catacomb frescos, but that is just my guess.
        >
        > Tell us "the inside scoop" on your work on this project, Mark. How did
        > you get involved? Who's behind the project? Who's funding it? Why are
        > they funding it? Will Cain Hope Felder of Howard University, who has
        > also done a lot of work on this range of issues, also be involved?
        >
        > If you think a reponse to this would better be made off list, then do
        > so, but I would suspect that other readers of Synoptic-L would also be
        > interested in what you have been doing, related to this project.
        >
        > David B. Peabody
        >
        > Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        > List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...


        -----------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
        Birmingham B15 2TT
        United Kingdom

        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
        Homepage
        http://NTGateway.com
        The New Testament Gateway

        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • Jack Kilmon
        Well, the documentary just ended and I feel like impressions will be discussed so here I go. First of all, let me say that Mark, you are a fine looking young
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 15, 2001
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          Well, the documentary just ended and I feel like impressions will be
          discussed
          so here I go. First of all, let me say that Mark, you are a fine looking
          young man.

          I was impressed with the effort to familiarize the audience with a genuine
          1st
          century Judean context. I was impressed with the NT scholars, Mark, Jim
          Charlesworth and Helen Bond (what a fantastically beautiful woman).

          I liked the focus on Jesus' motives regarding his tension with the temple
          cult
          and the way the Judas account was presented. Generally I liked the NT
          scholarship
          part but when it comes to the scientific "evidences" I cringed. On the
          astrological/
          astronomical side I am positive the triple conjunction of 6 BCE involving
          Jupiter and Saturn occurred in Pisces and not Aries...but the "scientific
          possibility"
          of a human "virgin birth" as a possible "anomaly" rather than an
          impossibility
          had my scientist's dander standing on edge. A "woman" born with an XY
          sexual karyotype is not a woman...but a man. It also would have helped if
          they
          would have explained how a genetically gender-ambiguous human can undergo
          parthenogenetic reproduction. Were they insinuating Miryam was a
          hermaphrodite
          and self-impregnated?

          It seemed to me that there was an effort to be non-offensive to fundamental
          Christians by "protecting" them from scholarly viewpoints that challenge
          traditional dogma
          and offering sort of skewed "new scientific evidence suggests..." The same
          for the attempt
          to salvage the tradional "nails through the hands" imagery.

          I kind of wish that "matthew-like" scribe in the intermission leaders would
          have been
          writing koine rather than english letters on his parchment but how many
          people would
          notice that <g> At least he was using a first century inkwell and a reed
          pen.

          On the forensic skull reconstruction of what a 1st century Judean looked
          like, I still
          had some of my scientist's red flags go "boing." I have always understood
          the semitic
          cephalic index to lean toward the dolichocephalic rather than brachycephalic
          range
          and still had the inadvertant feeling of a palaeoanthropologist describing a
          neandertal versus
          a cro-magnon whan I heard words like "gracile" and "fine" (non-Jewish skull)
          and "brows"
          and "robust" (Jewish skull). The end reconstruction looking like "kreb" in
          "Clan of the
          Cave Bear" didn't help me lose that imagery <g>.

          On the hair, beard and complexion, I'll repaste an earlier comment from
          Xtalk and maybe
          we can discuss those parameters:

          *****
          There are a few hints in Josephus that may suggest Galileans wore
          long hair such as Ant. 8.7.3:

          Their riders also were a further ornament to them, being, in the first
          place,
          young men in the most delightful flower of their age, and being eminent for
          their largeness, and far taller than other men. They had also very long
          heads
          of hair hanging down, and were clothed in garments of Tyrian purple.

          and the Galileans who seem to have gone bonkers, dressed like women
          and decked their hair (War 4.10.10)

          There was also the "fine heads of hair" of Aristobulus' witnesses (Ant 14.3.
          2)
          and, of course, references to the long hait of Nazarites. I also remember a
          reference
          somewhere to a Galilean style consisting of a pig-tail down the back...I'll
          have
          to work on that one. I attribute Paul's little snit about men with long
          hair to
          his Roman/Hellenistic background. It appears that prophets were expected
          to have long hair (Ant 5.8.4).

          I don't know how valid anthropologist Carlton Coon's "Noble Semitic"
          characteristics are, but from an anthropological standpoint, I would expect
          a
          wide variation in skin color in the Eastern Mediterranean not much different
          than it is today in native populations from the Levant south. This ranges
          from
          veins showing through pale to dusky and swarthy. Speculation concerning
          Jesus' complexion has much to do with what we believe about his
          socio-economic
          class. One of those stereotypes I challenge is Jesus as a dirt-poor peasant
          growing up working in the sun-baked fields to earn a few prutahs when not
          working as a "carpenter." This guy was educated and in the 1st century,
          educated men did not take a scythe to the barley fields. There are hints
          in the gospels and church histories that his family has a few shekels to rub
          together.

          Frankly, I don't see much to challenge the "traditional" image other than
          the
          GQ, movie star, almost "pretty" look with the light bulb behind his
          head.....
          no Jeffrey Hunter...but maybe a Max Sydow.
          *********

          I give this show a TOP rating on the NT scholarship side and on Mark's,
          Jim's and Helen's commentaries.

          I give it a HALF star rating (out of 4 stars) for its scientific
          presentations.

          Jack




          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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