Perhaps the only good result of the dissolution of Scienceblogs is that I’m no longer even distantly associated with National Geographic. I say this because, as usual, the magazine is indulging in religious pandering to the old people who still subscribe to it.
They are reporting on the age of “Jesus’ tomb”. That is, they found some mortar in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dates back to Roman times…which is not news. Jerusalem was a Roman city in Roman times, it contains many ancient buildings, and finding Roman structures is not evidence that this particular hole in the ground is the specific tomb of a specific executed criminal in 33AD, nor that a slab of rock is specifically where Jesus was laid out after death. The mortar was dated to 345AD, which compounds the confusion — how is the erection of a temple 300 years after the purported execution evidence that this is Jesus’ hole in the ground?
Also, the identity of this particular spot was generated by a Christian zealot, Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, who went swanning about Jerusalem around 325AD, pointing at rocks and sticks and random plots of ground and declaring them to be sacred Christian treasures. She claimed to have found the True Cross™, the True Ropes™ that bound Jesus to the cross, the True Nails™ that staked him to the cross, the True Tunic™ that Jesus wore, and the True Tomb™ where he was buried, purportedly briefly. It’s all nonsense and not credible, but NatGeo makes it a big feature in their magazine, and it’s also going to be the subject of a documentary on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday.
It’s part of the tradition. Helena and Constantine contrived a set of fake holy sites to fleece the ancient and medieval rubes, and NatGeo regularly contrives phony stories about Jesus to fleece the more modern, but still equally gullible, rubes.