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A Tale of Two Tombs

11th May 2007

AKM Adams had an interesting random thought about the recent discovery of King Herod’s tomb. He links to the press release by the Hebrew University and then makes the following comment:

What, you say you didn’t hear about this archaeological find on CNN, with Hollywood sponsors and best-selling authors claiming that it changes everything about human existence? Right. That’s the point. An academically reputable, serious excavation with warranted claims relative to historically-plausible finds doesn’t need hype; and hype doesn’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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