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Earliest Christian Tomb? This year’s hoo-ha

March 1, 2012

Well, Easter is approaching and so it’s time for someone to declare this year’s fantastic new discovery that will radically re-orient our understanding of early Christianity, Jesus, whatever.  And, this year’s contestant is:  “The Earliest Christian Tomb,” courtesy of Mssrs James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici.

The popular press love such stories and duly rush them into print, largely because they know that it will garner readers, whatever the validity of the claims.  Here’s an example:

For a sober analysis of these claims, go to the lengthy discussion on the web site of the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR):

And here’s a response from Prof. Steven Fine to the claim that the tomb has images of fish and Jonah:

Gee, this is all soooo predictable.

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  1. Two things stand out to me each year when I go to the grocery store around Easter and see stories such as the one mentioned in this post:

    (1) The long and poorly accounted for process of the information being brought from the excavation to the supermarket magazine rack is a disservice those interested. The “sober analysis” provided helps to contextualize a discovery like this in a way that Newsweek seems to be utterly uninterested in.

    (2) The typical forms of media that show the most excitement for publishing these types of stories tend to be magazines that people read for entertainment value, and therefore are immediately suspect in my mind. According the Eurekalert article, the excavation had significant funding from the Discovery Channel; a channel which seems more interested in reality tv more than anything else lately.

    And I agree, if it isn’t revisionist, it doesn’t matter (at least according to the media outlets that publish stuff like this).

  2. ‘The popular press love such stories and duly rush them into print, largely because they know that it will garner readers, whatever the validity of the claims.;

    Not always.

    Not even Fox News seems to want to touch the story of a first century fragment of Mark being found.

    • Hmm. Interesting. Part of the problem might be that (1) the news came out before the annual Lent/Easter craze for crazy stories about Jesus/Christianity, and (2) a fragment of Mark isn’t sensational enough. Compare that, e.g., with the “Lead Codices” story last year, or the Gospel of Judas sensation from a few years earlier (and boy did that one get it wrong!), or the one a couple of years ago about discovering Jesus’ tomb, or the current one. If it doesn’t seem highly revisionist in effect the news media aren’t so interested.
      But, hey, they gotta sell papers or commercial time, right?

  3. HAHAHA, I love it. I cannot stand the pop theories that float around and gain social currency in the media.

    Your sarcasm made me smile because it is oh so true and I have bumped against it many, many times before.

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