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Re: [Synoptic-L] Goodacre on the News

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  • 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 1 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:


      and the Discovery version at:


      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!


      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

      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 2 of 3 , Apr 15, 2001
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        Well, the documentary just ended and I feel like impressions will be
        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
        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
        and the way the Judas account was presented. Generally I liked the NT
        part but when it comes to the scientific "evidences" I cringed. On the
        astronomical side I am positive the triple conjunction of 6 BCE involving
        Jupiter and Saturn occurred in Pisces and not Aries...but the "scientific
        of a human "virgin birth" as a possible "anomaly" rather than an
        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
        would have explained how a genetically gender-ambiguous human can undergo
        parthenogenetic reproduction. Were they insinuating Miryam was a
        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

        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
        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
        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
        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.
        and, of course, references to the long hait of Nazarites. I also remember a
        somewhere to a Galilean style consisting of a pig-tail down the back...I'll
        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
        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
        veins showing through pale to dusky and swarthy. Speculation concerning
        Jesus' complexion has much to do with what we believe about his
        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

        Frankly, I don't see much to challenge the "traditional" image other than
        GQ, movie star, almost "pretty" look with the light bulb behind his
        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


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