Don Verdean: A Film telling the Truth about Biblical Archaeology

Don Verdeen movie poster, with Sam Rockwell as Don Verdeen, holding the skull of Goliath he "uncovered".
Don Verdeen movie poster, with Sam Rockwell as Don Verdeen, holding the skull of Goliath he “uncovered”.

New at the Box Office (December 11, 2015) is Don Verdean, a film satirizing the world of biblical archaeology. It’s a hard job trying to satirize the field of biblical archaeology – which regularly makes outrageous statements about finds which allegedly support this or that thing in the Bible which themselves seem to be satirical. And what Yosef Garfinkel pronounces about Gath or what Eilat Mazar says about the City of David is often sidesplittingly hilarious – even if unintentionally so.

Yet Don Verdean looks like an entertaining watch for those who see the funny side of biblical archaeology and evangelical culture:

The problem is, as The Atlantic comments, many of those who will get the main joke in Don Verdean have problems laughing at themselves:

Can American Christians take a joke? The question will be tested by the new film Don Verdean, a satire about a Christian archeologist who tours churches showcasing the “biblical” artifacts he has unearthed—from the shears used to cut Samson’s hair to the Goliath’s skull…

Don Verdean probably never had a chance. It’s a satire set in American church culture, which means it will offend those Christians who don’t find that funny,” writes Alissa Wilkinson, chief film critic at Christianity Today. “And a lot of its humor relies on the audience’s insider knowledge of the obsessions and verbal tics of a subculture to which many of them don’t belong.”

The line between a giggle and a groan is often thin, and much religious comedy is just ridicule offered in bad taste. But when done right, religious humor in film, television, literature, and stand-up can be a gateway to important conversations and even instill listeners with humility. So Christians need to learn to laugh at themselves.

I’ll be keen to see it, anyway. But I do like to laugh at biblical archaeology.

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