I can surmise a few things about movie icon James Cameron. Most notably, he must be a very rich man having produced and directed two little box office booms: Titanic and Avatar! The other day, I learned something much more telling of him in his follow-up documentary: Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron. Having made his money, Mr. Cameron was still seeking answers about what really happened on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. To that I give him great credit in being a truth seeker. To assist him in forming a final analysis, he pulled together a dozen qualified “Titanic-obsessed” friends. Let’s just call them “The Fellowship of the Ship!”
It appears from this follow-up piece that Cameron was not satisfied with all the earlier findings that guided the movie’s depictions. Though they did get much of it right, some mysteries remained unsolved. So this group gathered in the quest for truth. I am sure you would like to know precisely all the places where the movie went adrift, but I want to focus on one part that stuck out with me, which happened to stir my passion for the Christian faith.
A significant fact that the movie makers nailed was that the great ship split apart. This viewpoint, however, was not the widely disseminated popular position. The so-called experts, who heard of the ship’s tear, did not believe such a thing could have happened. Even when one of the elderly survivors (Ruth Blanchard, who was 12 years old at the time), spoke at a convention about watching the ship rip in two and how they were all talking about it in their lifeboat), Titanic Society experts grabbed her microphone, qualifying that, “This was just her perception because the funnel had fallen.” The experts successfully dismissed this seemingly unreasonable position until 1978, when Bob Ballard explored the wreck for the first time and proved once and all—that they were right after all! The Titanic had torn in two, when the front compartments of the ship filled with water, lifting the back, and creating stresses beyond the ship’s ability to bear. Unlike the movie, which shows the backend going vertical, the rear only lifted twenty-three degrees.
Yet this is where the dialogue got even more interesting. This “Fellowship of the Ship” emphatically spoke out against false romanticized interpretations of history. One of the researches said, “I wish she (Blanchard) would have taken the microphone back and said, “Were you there?” From their passion to discover what really happened, this elite gathering highlighted the significance of eyewitness testimony, questioning why we ignored their voices, and concluding, “They can’t all be having hallucinations.” On another detail, the eyewitnesses had described colored flares shot into the night sky. Although the movie producers speculated that this, in fact, might have been accurate, because they didn’t believe viewers would accept it, they too dismissed what the witnesses said, making the warning flares white in the film. Oddly, recent footage of the wreck found a flare bundle that was unused. By looking closely, you can see colors from the tips of the canisters. When it came to detail accuracy, no one else got it right but the eyewitnesses!
As a modern day Christian, I live in a world where cultures, philosophies and religions dismiss the eyewitness testimony about the most significant person of all history. Jesus’ life, death, and rising make the Titanic story immaterial and meaningless in comparison. Yet so little attention is given to four Gospels coming from multiple, intimate, corroborative accounts. This is tragically sad, but it also shows how the church must sharpen itself and its message.
A final twist to his final take comes from my knowledge of James Cameron and another documentary that he co-produced for The Discovery Channel called, The Lost Tomb of Jesus. In this documentary, Cameron with several other parties involved proceeds to make the case that they found the actual tomb where Jesus and his family were laid to rest. The big-time implication was that the resurrection did not occur, at least in the physical sense. The basis for this assertion stems directly from a number of ossuaries (a container or burial chamber for human bones) with etched-in-stone inscriptions that apparently included many names of Jesus’ kin.
With their claim being so controversial and unsound, archeologists quickly discredited the notion based on numerous observations. First, this tomb was not a new discovery, and no one had made the same conclusion. The etched names noted are actually very common, like finding Smith and Jones today in the Yellow Pages. Also, this grave was not even located in his clan’s hometown, which was a contradiction to the burial practices of poor Judaean families. Finally, the biggest irony was how easy it was for Cameron and his colleagues to ignore all the eyewitness content regarding the risen Christ.
If only he had the foresight to apply the same rationale for the resurrection that he used for the Titanic. Just as he would never have been so cavalier to disregard the voices of the great ship’s survivors, he would not have ignored these firsthand first century accounts? Could they all be having hallucinations? Hypocritical to his later words, wasn’t he, the non-archeologist, giving a romanticized history, instead of the one that really happened? Perhaps, like the Titanic Society experts, what the biblical eyewitnesses described was just too unbelievable.
His “Lost Tomb” documentary should not have aired, and was quickly challenged and pulled. Yet it has done its dark deed of filling minds with some rather damaging fiction. Alongside Cameron’s obsession over a sinking ship, he, and all other truth seekers, would be wise to give credence to what people saw of a rising man! After all, they were the ones who were there!
Safe to say, many dying on the Titanic did believe in the resurrection that fateful night. If they got it right, they live!
PS: Though it is not always easy to dig through with its academic style, Richard Bauckham’s recent book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses will enrich your knowledge and faith! Pick it up, if you want to draw closer to the first hand accounts of those closest to Jesus!