On the cover of the latest edition of Biblical Archaeology Review, 38:04, July/Aug 2012, the BAR Crowd declares the inscription on the James son of Joseph Brother of Jesus ossuary is authentic! Shanks’ claim reappears on page one and again on page 26 in the article’s title . However, tucked away in the 4th paragraph Shanks concedes , “The court held only that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the inscription was a forgery.” Is there no “consumer protection law” in the world of biblical archaeology? Much like the tabloids, readers will purchase the article on newsstands not because of a sentence on page 26, 4th paragraph down, but because of the large, attention-grabbing marketing caption on the cover– thus, caveat emptor.
And more. Classic Zias. You’ll either be outraged and informed or amused and informed when you read it. Joe’s one of those guys you either love or hate but you can’t ignore.
Lest we forget, scholars have been duped a number of times – falling for clever forgeries foisted off on them through ‘anonymous’ donors and ‘antiquities dealers’. Remember the ‘Ivory Pomegranate’? The ‘James Ossuary Inscription’? The ‘Jehoash Inscription’? The ‘Lead Codices’? The ‘Secret Gospel of Mark’?
It’s past time, again, I would insist, for us to accept as legitimate anything, anything at all, that doesn’t come from a controlled dig. I think, further, that ASOR is right, as a matter of policy, to refuse to publish such things. Harvard should refuse to as well. As should the Biblical Archaeology Review (but of course that won’t happen).
Every time an unprovenanced artifact is published, an angel loses its wings and becomes a homeless beggar on the streets of Calcutta. If the present trend continues, heaven will be emptied of those poor benighted creatures due to the human quest for novelty and notoriety.
Now if Dr. King has an artifact from a controlled dig, cool. If not, then why has it become public?
I wasn’t at the trial so I don’t know what Joe Zias said on the stand. I do know two things, though and they’re brief observations:
1- BAR hasn’t gone to such lengths to crucify someone (or at least destroy their reputation) since the 90′s when Hershel Shanks showed utter contempt for Keith Whitelam, Niels Peter Lemche, and Thomas Thompson.
2- I don’t really believe BAR is reporting all the facts or all the facts fairly. I don’t trust BAR to do so as it has shown itself more than willing in the past to skew the evidence to its own advantage.
What this hatchet job shows, though, in my estimation, is that BAR and its editorial staff are a mean-spirited, vicious gang of thugs. But I already knew that. I’ve known that since the 90′s.
If, however, BAR has offered the facts as they really are two more things are worth saying:
1- I have been and will remain Joe’s friend. I’m loyal to my friends and if they happen to fall beneath the weight of human frailty I don’t care- I remain loyal to them.
2- I still have absolutely NO respect for BAR, for Hershel Shanks, for his editorial staff, or for those who support their money-driven archaeology, and that won’t change either unless Shanks is fired and the magazine takes on a wholly new character by adopting a more scholarly and less greedy direction (which means ending advertisements for antiquities).
In an email (which I’m sure most of you received)- BAS writes
A new analysis and new evidence proves that the controversial “Brother of Jesus” inscription on an ancient bone box, or ossuary, is authentic, according to the July/August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), the world’s largest circulation magazine devoted to Biblical archaeology.
And, after breaking its own arm patting itself on the back, the email continues
In a post-verdict analysis, former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer and BAR editor Hershel Shanks explains why it can be said beyond reasonable doubt that the inscription is authentic, and he presents new evidence not available at the trial to support this conclusion.
Three things. 1) The fact that BAR has a giant circulation has nothing to do with the accuracy or reliability of its reports. The National Enquirer has a larger circulation and both publications share one purpose: money-making from questionable stories. 2), Shanks is a lawyer, not a scholar. So ’nuff said on that score. He’s not competent nor equipped to render judgment on an ancient inscription. Others, better and wiser and more informed than himself, have made contrary claims and when it comes to deciding on the word of a dilettante and the word of a scholar (like Yuval Goren) I’ll take what the scholar says as truth. And, finally, 3) his ‘new evidence’ can’t be used to prove anything. ‘New evidence’? After all this time? And we’re supposed to accept it at his word when he clearly has more than a financial interest in the whole sordid affair? Not a chance.
You are, of course, free to believe everything that spews from the pages of BAR, but as far as I’m concerned its a toxic dumping ground and the society which supports it a society driven by concerns other than archaeological.
Biblical Archeology Review may be widely read by the public but that same public needs to know that BAR doesn’t play fair. And that’s a #Fail.
Yet another example shows up in their email today where they boast Scholar Disputes Reading of New Jerusalem Seal Inscription.
A Hebrew University scholar has put forward a new interpretation of a tiny, inscribed clay object recovered from the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem, only a week after the discovery was first announced. “I was sitting with my son and looking at the photograph [of the object], and in a moment of intuition, I realized what it could be,” said Shlomo Naeh, professor of Talmudic studies and head of the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies.
Straight from Ha’aretz, which they then link to a bit further on.
What they ignore is the fact that Robert Deutsch had already suggested a variant understanding along the same lines much sooner. Deutsch’s suggestion was widely distributed (here and on ANE-2 and the Biblical Studies List along with Joseph Lauer’s mail distribution list and Jack Sasson’s Agade- all of which are monitored by BAR staffers).
Academics play fair and note properly their sources and those who have discussed the subject when that discussion is well known. That BAR ignores Deutsch says a great deal about their interest in scholarly discourse (or rather should I say, their disinterest in such discourse) as well as their unfamiliarity with how scholarship is done, by scholars. It is akin to discussing the Synoptic Problem and ignoring Bultmann or discussing the Reformation and ignoring Calvin.
Read BAR if you must; but understand that they are skewing the discussion.
Wow … Bible History Daily is turning very much into a ‘promote Hershel Shanks’ unconventional views’ daily … BAR is becoming more and more ‘fringe’ material … – David Meadows
First, look at the email which I just received from Biblical Archaeology Review:
Notice how scholarship is in scare quotes, implying that Professor Goren is either sloppy or untrustworthy. I find such an accusation aimed at one of Tel Aviv’s finest academics utterly despicable and completely intolerable. Goren’s work is above reproach and BAR’s interest in peddling more books on the so called James Ossuary or Miriam Ossuary or whatever it is that they’re presently pushing isn’t a legitimate reason to smear him.
Shanks, et al, are merely angry at Goren because his findings don’t support their claims to the authenticity of bogus finds. Shanks and his crew may well accuse me of crimes against humanity (like not being a field archaeologist or specialist in ancient epigraphy) but I can spot scholarly nonsense at 1000 yards and that’s what out of proportion claims for these fraudulent artifacts is.
In short, I would take Goren’s word before I would take Shanks’ on just about anything except how to publish sensationalistic rubbish.
BAR has a history of smear-’scholar’-ship and I just cannot conceive as to why anyone in academia would have anything to do with it. It’s quite befuddling.
[And no, I didn't read the entire Shanks article which the email advertised and no I won't link to it because I'm not willing to promote it or help him sell copies; nor am I willing to pay a cent to see what he has to say].
The Biblical Archaeology Review never so much as mentioned, did it, the DSS special hosted by Bob Cargill. But today they’ve fallen all over themselves foisting off the not naked not archaeologist’s dvd on the subject on an unsuspecting public.
So not only has BAR ignored (save for one mention on the 16th of September at the beginning) the trial of Raphael Golb, they’ve also managed to overlook a DSS special hosted by and produced by someone other than themselves and their corporate partners and someone who is actually a Scrolls scholar and not merely a journalist who has no formal training in any biblical/archaeological/scrolls field.
This raises, for me, a serious and important question: Is BAR really interested in the field of biblical archaeology and scrolls scholarship, or is it only interested in self promotion? All evidence points in the direction of the latter. For if the former were true, it would cast its net more widely than it obviously does.
I’ll say it again- ASOR’s Near Eastern Archaeology is far superior. It’s authentic, balanced scholarship devoid of the profit interest which drives other archaeological publications.