The recent find of a first century Christian ossuary in Jerusalem had the archaeology world chattering recently, with what was called "the earliest Christian iconography ever documented." The striking fish-shaped image carved into the stone burial box sparked speculation that an orb accompanying the image represented the prophet Jonah. Much was also made of apparent inscriptions about "resurrection," prompting some scholars to speculate about the possibility of the tomb belonging to members of Christ's own 12 disciples! Accompanied by bold claims that this was evidence for a nearby tomb being Christ's own, the story made headlines. It was picked up by international media before lighting up the blogosphere-before being laid to rest, that is.
Eventually, some sharp-eyed observer realized that the image in question was most likely of either a "nephesh tower," (a Jewish burial image), or of an ancient amphora. Both motifs are common to this type of burial box. When rotated, the image resembles a carved fish. Overnight, the find deflated-from groundbreaking discovery to mildly interesting archaeological embarrassment. Many enthusiastic scholars and news agencies were upset about the gaffe … and the speed with which it had gained worldwide traction.
This is a reminder of the importance of checking facts, especially on the Internet. Misinforming yourself has never been easier and shoddy research can damage your credibility.
Keep your reputation above ground with these three tips:
- Always track down original sources for unusual anecdotes.
- Check rumors at sites like snopes.com.
- Don't sacrifice intellectual honesty for the sake of a good story. If in doubt, say so, and pull out the principles your listeners need.
Remember-check twice, preach once!