The M.O. Of Hershel Shanks

First, a bit of background information.  I along with 4 others moderate a biblical studies discussion list called, I think quite cleverly, the Biblical Studies Discussion List.  It’s a ‘closed list’ which means only members have access to posts and only members can post both questions and responses.  And even at that most members are moderated.  Such a procedure keeps the list focused and makes it impossible for the lunatics to make it into a forum of dilettantism.

Each participant receives, when membership is requested a list of the ‘rules’ by which all must abide.  These rules are designed to keep things running smoothly.  Were they not in place, given the ‘wild west’ nature of the internet, chaos would ensue.  One of these rules states – in no uncertain terms-

9. If you want to forward to the list a message that was sent to you privately, please first obtain permission from the original sender. And no posting by any list member may be posted or shared anywhere for any reason without the express written permission of the author. There are no exceptions to this rule. Persons who repost or quote without permission will be removed from the list and banned.

We, the other moderators and I, firmly believe in the near-sanctity of intellectual property and consequently we insist that only those who write posts may grant permission for their being quoted outside the confines of the list.  Further, since it is a discussion list, it is easy enough to quote out of context (given the nature of discussion something said in its course and taken out of context may not mean what it’s made to mean in a new context).   Therefore, to make sure that such misquotings and thus misprisions of the views of others is not permitted, the rule stands.

That brings me to the M.O. of Mr Shanks.  I’ve learned today that Shanks quotes, out of context, Niels Peter Lemche.  And the quote he uses came directly from a discussion held on the Biblical Studies list without either appropriate attribution to the list (he calls it a blog) or, and most importantly, without Lemche’s explicit permission.

Section: In Their Own Words: ”To ordinary archaeologists, Biblical archaeologists are lowlife.” Posted on Biblical Studies Blog by Niels Peter Lemche, professor of biblical studies at the university of Copenhagen and renowned biblical minimalist.1 Lemche was reacting to a BAR column about the funding of archaeological excavations in Israel.2

1. See Josef Garfinkel, … BAR May/June 2011
2. Rachel S. Hallote, Archaeological Views. Who pays for Excavations? BAR March/April 2008

Since Mr Shanks isn’t a list member (unless he is so under a false name), I can only presume that someone on the list has ‘passed along’ a quote either intentionally misrepresenting what Lemche said or – failing to understand the context – wrongly.   Either way, someone broke the rules and Mr Shanks received, and used, material without permission.

This is, to me, excessively inappropriate.  Scholarship is an enterprise which cannot best be undertaken when people are not straightforward or when they use the work of others (well or poorly) without following the ‘rules of the road’.  That Shanks evidently has, and used, a ‘mole’ is distressing and, if I’m being frank, annoying.  That’s an M.O. I can’t respect.

4 thoughts on “The M.O. Of Hershel Shanks

  1. Breakiing the rules sounds like a problem for your closed group but isn’t the existence of rules that inhibit the free flow of information an even bigger problem? To modify what you said, scholarship is an enterprise which cannot be best undertaken when rules inhibit the flow of information


    • Sometimes discussions are private for a reason. And even then if you agree to discussion parameters you are ethically bound to abide by them and if you don’t you lack morals.


  2. I don’t know the internal workings of your group nor its size nor why the discussions in a group (as opposed to example a conversation between 2 people) need to be private, but I wonder if the choice faced by the rule breaker was between keeping their word in keeping a bad rule or breaking their word in breaking a bad rule? Does the rule help or hinder the flow of information?


    • again- and the only point at issue here- is the fact that a person who agreed to a set of standards by joining the list of their own accord, acted dishonestly and unethically.

      if you have no problem with unethical behavior that’s your issue.


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