Beware the Ides of March, and watch out around the middle of December as well. As Easter and Christmas approach each year, dramatic new discoveries and new theories are touted in books, magazines, and cable television shows.
This Easter season, Bible scholars are raising caution flags in a new organized effort. Their main target has been the highly promoted subject of a Discovery Channel documentary airing Thursday night.
On February 28, archaeologist James Tabor and documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici held a news conference in New York to announce the discovery of a first century tomb in the East Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem—and the publication of a book suggesting a connection between the tomb and the family of Jesus. Reaction was swift.
Andrew Vaughn, the executive director of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), named Eric Meyers, an archaeologist at Duke University, and Christopher Rollston, an epigrapher at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, as guest editors of the ASOR blog for the month of March, to provide a platform for scholars to react to the Talpiot tomb story.
Both posted immediate responses panning Tabor and Jacobovici's conclusions, charging that the Jesus connection was based on conjecture, not evidence. "Nothing in the book 'revolutionizes our understanding of Jesus or early Christianity' as the authors and publisher claim, and we may regard this book as yet another in a long list of presentations that misuse not only the Bible but also archaeology," wrote Meyers.
More than a dozen experts weighed in on the controversy with blog posts, including Tabor, himself an ASOR member. "Whether damned or praised—and so far there has been much more of the former than the latter—it is ...