Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The 10-Point Script of Popularly Driven Archaeology

Broadman & Holman just released a new book which looks excellent: Buried Hope or Risen Savior? The Search for the Jesus Tomb, edited by Charles L. Quarles.

Here's the publisher's description:
Buried Hope or Risen Savior? argues for the credibility of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, engaging the issue in relation to the recent “Jesus Family Tomb” claims that continue making headlines around the world.

Among the contributors, Steve Ortiz (professor of Biblical Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) discusses the general background of this type of tomb and the archaeology of the Talpiot tomb site. Craig Evans (New Testament professor at Acadia Divinity College) writes about ossuaries and tomb inscriptions. Richard Bauckham (New Testament professor at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews) gives the history of Jewish names, extrabiblical writings, and Mary Magdalene. William Dembski (SWBTS research professor in Philosophy) discusses the statistical evidence for the names found on the Talpiot tomb to have been “Jesus.” Mike Licona (North American Mission Board director of Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism) responds to claims that finding the bones of Jesus would not disprove Christ’s resurrection. Gary Habermas (Apologetics & Philosophy chair at Liberty University) summarizes the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And Darrell Bock (New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary) addresses the importance of the resurrection and how Christians should respond to challenges upon their faith.
Now, to be frank, I have to say that the so-called "discovery" of Jesus' bones in an ossuary in East Talpiot has turned out to be a major yawn. I'm aware of no scholar (Christian, Jewish, secular) who thinks these are the bones of Jesus of Nazareth.

But the value in a book like this is to show careful reasoning on how to think through an issue like this. The Talpiot ossuary "discovery" is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. So I think the book still holds significant value.

For example, Professor Ortiz has a very helpful chapter on "The Use and Abuse of Archaeological Interpretation." He writes (pp. 29-30), "The scripts for all of these amateur portrayals are similar and follow the same basic 10 points:
  1. The prevailing hypothesis affirmed by the consensus of the scholarly community is wrong.
  2. The "discoverer" is not a trained archaeologist but is self-taught, and he knows the "true story" that all others have overlooked.
  3. An expedition is planned for one season, and (lo and behold) at the first attempt they find exactly what they are looking for.
  4. This is all documented while a camera crew happens to be filming the discovery.
  5. The process is "detective work" that has been missed by the academic community, and they (amateur archaeologists) are the ones who are able to unravel the mystery or solve the problem that has perplexed the experts.
  6. No new date is presented, only a reworking of previously published data. A corollary is that not all the data is consulted.
  7. Upon the presentation of the discovery, the scholarly community scoffs at the find, and it is claimed that there is a secret monopoly by those in power to suppress the information.
  8. The amateurs sensationalize the "discovery" by claiming that it is so revolutionary that it will change our way or thinking and our lifestyle.
  9. The old "discovery" is presented to the media as a "brand-new" discovery.
  10. Usually a book or movie comes out within a week of the "new" discovery.

The presentation of The Lost Tomb of Jesus follows the above script."