Someone emailed today (and asked that I not mention their name) asking
What do you think about James Tabor?
I first encountered his work a long time back- immediately after the David Koresh fiasco in Waco, Tx. I was doing some research on American religious groups for a class. This was, as you’ll recall, back in the early 1990’s. I came across Tabor’s name in one of the news reports and contacted him with a variety of questions. He was exceedingly gracious and answered quite fully each of my inquiries.
I followed his work from that point and was especially keen to keep up with his investigations concerning the historical Jesus. Though I didn’t find many of his arguments persuasive, I appreciated his scholarship.
We met – in Philadelphia I think- at SBL and he was very cordial (as he always has been and always is – even in vehement disagreement). And I continued to follow his work. His efforts to translate the Bible into modern parlance and his excavations in Jerusalem were intriguing to me and I appreciated (and still do) his work along those lines.
In the last several years, ever since, it seems, he became engaged in supporting the efforts of Simcha Jacobovici his scholarship has taken a turn towards the inexplicable (at least to me).
I’m not sure why and I don’t want to speculate as to the inner motives of how it is another person makes the choices which they make.
So, in answer to the question ‘what do you think of James Tabor’ I answer ‘I admire his biblical scholarship (when it is based in accurate historical research) and I am absolutely dumbfounded that he has adopted positions vis a vis various archaeological discoveries that are indefensible (in my estimation and in the estimation of many in the field).’ He is a mystery to me. An enigma. But folk would be very, very wrong to believe, even for a moment, that I dislike him. If he wanted to have lunch in Chicago at SBL I’d do it happily. Whether he feels the same is his concern. I don’t base my view of others on their view of me.
I don’t hold people’s views against them as people even when I find so many holes in their ideas that the Swiss would wonder that those views weren’t cheese. I respect him, even while disagreeing with him fundamentally on so many things.