What, you say you didnâ€™t hear about this archaeological find on CNN, with Hollywood sponsors and best-selling authors claiming that it changes everything about human existence? Right. Thatâ€™s the point. An academically reputable, serious excavation with warranted claims relative to historically-plausible finds doesnâ€™t need hype; and hype doesnâ€™t make a dodgy find with tenuous claims on historical probability into a world-changing watershed moment.
What probably disturbed me most about the Jesus/Talpiot tomb discovery wasn’t the actual discovery and the hypotheses surrounding it, but how the whole thing was treated like a blockbuster movie release. There was the media hype, slick documentary (which was admittedly well done), related sensational book — all it needed was a merchandising tie-in with McDonald’s (perhaps a Jesus tomb toy where you can still see Jesus’s shrouded body?). I know that James Tabor has been trying valiantly over at The Jesus Dynasty blog to raise the level of discussion about the Jesus/Talpiot tomb, but I wish the whole affair could have been handled more professionally (or perhaps at least more academically).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that biblical scholars/archaeologists/etc. need to popularize our findings. It’s the commodification of archaeological finds and biblical scholarship that I find distasteful. On the other hand, we all probably don’t mind when publishers make a fuss over our books!
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