Saturday, April 02, 2011

Once Again, The Silly Season Is Upon Us

In the UK, journalists refer to August as the "silly season." The reason is that European decision-makers vacation in August--along with all other Europeans except for junior staffers at the newspapers. Desperate for copy when no news is happening and no experienced writers are on duty, editors run anything they can to occupy space amongst the advertisements.

In religious journalism, however, the Easter/Passover season have become silly season. Desperate for stories with an angle on ancient Christianity and Judaism, they'll believe anything that an enterprising and compromising archaeologist will tell them.

Hence, in years past we've had the St. James ossuary, the Gospel of Judas, and the Jesus tomb all announced in this season, to much hoopla followed by deep disappointment. To wit: the ossuary is now widely viewed as a hoax, GJudas is widely viewed as useless for knowing the historical Jesus, and the Jesus tomb is widely viewed as a trick that a group of scholars played on themselves for a brief moment of notoriety.

This year, its the Lead Codex. Supposedly a very early Christian artifact, it was announced recently--even though it's apparently been in some "responsible" person's hands for awhile--though still not released for examination by the academic community. And though someone supposedly affirmed that its age was consistent with a first-century AD provenance, there's also plenty of reason to think it's a hoax.

To the observations noted in the article linked above, we'll add that there's no discernible reason why anyone would have taken the time to create the hodgepodge of stuff that's apparently in this thing--a mixture of sacred images and brief texts. It's not easy to create lead books, we assume, so why would an ancient have done so for no apparent reason except to cobble together some religious stuff for someone to dig up, which is not what an ancient would do but might be what a non-ancient would do.

Even if this sucker is something, it's not much. Near as one can tell from the partial and inflammatory descriptions in the press, all that this thing might indicate is that in the early years of the church, many Jews were followers of Jesus, and followers of Jesus believed that he died and arose in Jerusalem. Revolutionary stuff.

Moral: real scholars don't time their announcements for maximum press exposure or limit access to their materials. Corollary: individual archaeological discoveries don't overturn well established views of history.


Christian said...

I don't understand the "Corollary:" at the very end.

JB in CA said...

It's also April Fools' season.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Christian, the end of the post didn't post. We've reposted.

KevinAK said...

The silly season continues with a story claiming that two of the nails used at the crucifixion have been found.