Re: [Synoptic-L] Goodacre on the News
- 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:
> 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
The New Testament Gateway
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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
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
It seemed to me that there was an effort to be non-offensive to fundamental
Christians by "protecting" them from scholarly viewpoints that challenge
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
writing koine rather than english letters on his parchment but how many
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
cephalic index to lean toward the dolichocephalic rather than brachycephalic
and still had the inadvertant feeling of a palaeoanthropologist describing a
a cro-magnon whan I heard words like "gracile" and "fine" (non-Jewish skull)
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
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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