The Article We Didn't Print

Ben Witherington is the poster boy for writer deadlines
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Ben Witherington is a writing animal. Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, Ben wrote "Bones of Contention". But it wasn't the first article he submitted for this issue.

I originally contacted Ben on May 29, asking him to write on the most important recent biblical archaeological finds, paying special attention to the significance of the James bone box. Ben is a fine scholar, the author of many, many books—on Christology, on the historical Jesus, commentaries on Romans, Galatians, and other New Testament books, and most recently (with Hershel Shanks) one on the James bone box. He knows the topic, but he is also a busy man, so I gave him a month and a half to turn something in.

He replied, "I am actually in between legs of the bone box tour (I am thinking of printing up a T-shirt which says, HAVE OSSUARY WILL TRAVEL, or perhaps I PRAYED THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, AND GOD EXPANDED MY TERRITORY WITH A COFFIN!)." As I had guessed, he was booked up, so I was just thankful he had agreed to help, and I prayed that he wouldn't be more than two weeks late with the piece.

He had a 3,000-word article to me the next day.

And it was in great shape. It did what I had asked, taking for granted that scholarly opinion was of more or less one mind on the bone box's authenticity. And Ben had a nice twist at the end—he showed how the ossuary was an indirect proof of the resurrection of Jesus. I was one happy editor—I had my October lead story in hand, and one with a compelling conclusion.

But a funny thing happened on the way to publication. On June 18, headlines across the world screamed that the James bone box had been "proved" a fake by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Naturally, I e-mailed Ben and asked what he ...

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