Biblical Archaeology Review 34:6, November/December 2008

Queries & Comments

Scholars Aren’t Seeded Like Tennis Stars

I may not be able to respond to the editor’s despairing plea for help (“Help Me! I’m Desperate!” First Person, BAR 34:04), but I think I know why he finds it difficult to come up with scholars who will meet him “on the grounds of reason” on the subject of the James Ossuary inscription. In the editorial he claims to be a good judge of scholarly expertise; in which case he should know that scholars do not grade or seed their colleagues like tennis or soccer players, tend not to talk about “the world’s greatest” palaeographers, Aramaicists or whatever, and are not stunned into silence by appeal to those Shanks places “at the top of their field.”

The editor begins his plea with the admission that almost all scholars, presumably including palaeographers, doubt the authenticity of the inscription, but then names only one skeptic, dismissively referred to as “a woman named Rochelle Altman,” whose book was reviewed unfavorably, a matter of frequent occurrence. The whole thing is a good example of the kind of intrusive editorial policy criticized by Professor Lester Grabbe of the University of Hull in the same issue (“In Their Own Words”). We need look no further for an explanation why “60 Minutes” refused to share its information with the editor.

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