Religion Today Summaries - March 1, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 1, 2007

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Jerusalem Experts Trash Jesus' Bones Claim
  • Discovery Channel Accused of Attacking Christianity
  • Persecution against Christians on Rise as China Prepares to Host Olympics
  • Church Started in Iraq’s Ancient City of Nineveh

Jerusalem Experts Trash Jesus' Bones Claim

Claims in a new documentary that an ancient tomb discovered decades ago outside of Jerusalem contained the bones of Jesus and his family may be a great money-making gimmick - but scientifically, it is nonsense, according to leading archeologists and scholars in Jerusalem, reports. "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," due to air on the Discovery Channel on March 4, claims that a 2,000-year-old tomb containing 10 boxes of bones belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth. The documentary claims that inscriptions on six of 10 ossuaries found in a single tomb indicate that there is a one in 600 chance that bones in the tomb were those of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and a son, along with other family members. What is in question is the interpretation of the facts and conclusions drawn by the documentary filmmakers. The Israel Antiquities Authority loaned the ossuaries to Cameron and his colleague for their press conference in the interest of "artistic freedom," said IAA representative Osnat Goaz. Unlike previous "discoveries," there is no doubt about the authenticity of the ossuaries, Goaz said. That does not mean that the IAA backs the film's assertions, she added, although the IAA has chosen not to comment on the film.

Discovery Channel Accused of Attacking Christianity

As archeologists question filmmaker James Cameron's claim that he has discovered the tomb of Jesus Christ and his family, Christian groups are criticizing the Discovery Channel for what they call another attack on Christianity, reports. The cable channel, which bills itself as "the number-one nonfiction media company," will air "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" on Sunday, March 4. According to Discovery Channel promotional material, the documentary produced by Academy Award winner Cameron and directed by Simcha Jacobovici presents "new evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene ... may have had a son named Judah." The filmmakers suggest that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they produced a child named Judah, because an inscription on one of the boxes says, "Judah, son of Jesus." As scientists criticize Cameron's "attempt to sell" his documentary, Christian groups are criticizing Discovery Channel for airing the claims. "Unfortunately, this is a story full of holes, conjectures and problems," Asbury Theological Seminary professor Ben Witherington said. "It will make good TV and involves bad critical reading of history." Some Christian leaders see the airing of the widely criticized claims as a direct attack on Christianity. "Not a Lenten season goes by without some author or TV program seeking to cast doubt on the divinity of Jesus and/or the Resurrection," Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said.

Persecution against Christians on Rise as China Prepares to Host Olympics

A spokesman with Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a ministry to the persecuted Church around the world, says Communist China's government is ramping up persecution against Christians as the 2008 Olympic games approach, AgapePress reports. VOM's Todd Nettleton says he expects the Chinese government to crack down on Christians who are outspoken about their faith. The 2008 Summer Olympics take place in Beijing next year from August 8-24. Nettleton says the Chinese government will try and put a stop to all public protests by Christians leading up to the event. According to some sources, the Beijing municipal authority has announced its intention to enact more than 70 local laws and decrees before the start of the Games, including a ban on protests and the institution of penalties for any dissemination of materials deemed "not beneficial to the state." China currently ranks 12th on Open Doors' "2007 World Watch List" of the 50 worst religious persecutors.

Church Started in Iraq’s Ancient City of Nineveh

According to Missions Insider, a Christian Aid-supported ministry in Iraq started a church in the city of Nineveh, a particularly difficult region for believers to spread the gospel. Three pastors were killed there in 2006. Church meetings will be held secretly until the situation improves. The first meeting was announced to a select group of people on New Year’s Eve. The ministry has been the victim of persecution in other regions of Iraq, as well. The pastor of their church in Baghdad received a death threat, and has fled to Damascus to serve the Lord there until the situation becomes safer for him. But despite the dangers, ministry workers continue their outreach. With help from Christian Aid, the ministry purchased 20,000 copies of the New Testament to distribute in towns and villages throughout the country.