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Early Christian Tombs Discussion–Continued

March 7, 2012

Scholarly debate/discussion of recent claims to have discovered early (1st cent) Christian tombs made by James Tabor and associates continue on the ASOR site.

For Tabor’s original paper on the archaeological work involved and his proposals about the writing and symbols on the boneboxes go here:

For further ASOR-site discussion, go here:
and here:
and here:

And we’ll see where it goes from here. There will, apparently, be some papers presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (Chicago, November). But the reason money was put behind the archaeological work was to get out a Discovery Channel programme!

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  1. It seems to me that Tabor, et. al., did not even go through the usual scholarly routes for popularizing a new find. I.e., instead of submitting careful analysis to peers for review, they called a press conference and inked a TV deal. In what sort of world is scholarship best done when important voices are clammed up due to confidentiality agreements? Even as a graduate student, I fear that it’s likely not a good one.

    • This is not exacty true. They did consult scholars (including me on the four-line inscription) but I don’t think that any of the scholars consulted endorsed the argument or the conclusions of the film. None of us thought the tomb had anything to do with Jesus or early Christianity.

  2. A lot of mudslinging going on there. Frustrating for an outsider to the field because the image looks like a fish to me, but I also read what it was “supposed” to be prior to making a judgement. Also archeology is not my field, so the validity of the claims for a fish, or nefish are not for me to decide. Tabor says that Richard Bauckham was one of his advisors, I’m interested in his comments (although some of the issue is outside of his direct field as well). I guess with this, as well as the Mark fragment, patience is required.

    • Yes, patient scholarly analysis by more than one competent figure. But when we have confidentiality agreements signed with TV production companies, and TV programmes planned that will present the point of view of its producer, it all seems regrettably other than the patient, open inquiry and honest pursuit of truth that scholarship ought to be. Sigh!

    • In the autumn James Tabor, Jim Charlesworth, Greg Snyder and I had a lengthy and detailed email correspondence about the four-line inscription. Greg and I did not see the ‘fish’ image or discuss any other aspects of the tomb at that time. It was a useful correspondence, and Tabor’s article reports the main options for reading and translating the inscription that came out of that correspondence. I saw no reason to connect the inscription with early Christianity. My article posted yesterday on the ASOR blog sets out my interpretation of the inscription, which I do think is an exceptionally interesting one, but not for the reasons the book and the film suppose. Greg and I also had an advance view of the film a few weeks ago and saw the ‘fish’ image for the first time then. That was when I took the view that it is actually an amphora.
      Here’s the link to the ASOR site:

      • interesting article. I look forward to the response regarding James’ comments on the abreviations.

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