Friday, January 30, 2004

"TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE." Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University surveys some recent dubious and forged antiquities in "The Jerusalem Syndrome in Archaeology: Jehoash to James" (Bible and Interpretation website) and he suggests that biblical archaeologists and epigraphers have been suffering from a mild form of "Jerusalem Syndrome": "a temporary state of sudden and intense religious delusions brought on while visiting or living in Jerusalem." Excerpt:
�� It is only due to the limits of space that I do not go on and on with similar narratives. A hundred and thirty years after the exposure of the na�ve and crude biblical forgeries of Moses Wilhelm Shapira, it seems that biblical archaeology did not learn the lesson and has completely forgotten its implications. Recently, I had the dubious pleasure of examining a seemingly endless line of fake biblical texts of various kinds. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of such forgeries referring especially to the time of the First Temple. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the disciplines of biblical history and archaeology have been contaminated to such an extent that no unprovenanced written source seems to be reliable anymore. To put it even more bluntly, the sciences of Hebrew epigraphy and philology are nothing but a fool�s paradise. The question arises: are we playing here with science or with science fiction? Is it possible that, as in the popular movie �The Matrix,� we all live in a virtual world that was programmed for us by aliens and operated by a well-organized system of na�ve scientists, media tycoons, and other messengers, who manipulate us so we can live calmly in the virtual reality that they created for us?

��� Is it possible that over a century after Sir William Mathew Flinders-Petrie established the scientific methodology of biblical archaeology, the discipline is still controlled by dilatants and charlatans? As we all still hope that most of the scientists involved in this saga were motivated only by true scientific purposes, we must ask how could some of them be so na�ve, ignore any sense of objectivity and be trapped in the crude pitfalls set by the forgers? Considering the nature of the fakes in question, the answer to this question may lie in the domain of psychology. The forgeries discussed here are not merely fakes of ancient artifacts. They are relics, intended to manipulate the emotions of scientists and the public alike by using the attribution to biblical events.[35] These forgeries were intended to infect collectors, museums, scientists, and scholars with the Jerusalem Syndrome in order to boost their market price and attract public attention.

��� We biblical archaeologists must now decide whether we are ready to remain in a fool�s paradise or fight back in order to bring back science into our discipline. For my grandfather, who was a very orthodox Jew, the question whether there was a temple in Jerusalem or not was completely irrelevant to the depth and sincerity of his faith. He never needed a dubious ostracon, written in dodgy biblical Hebrew and coated by a layer of modern lime and wax, to make his belief stronger. I am confident that the discovery of the James Ossuary has not served to bring more people into the belief in the historicity of the Gospels. Perhaps the opposite is true. But for those of us who care about the future and integrity of biblical archaeology and history, the Jerusalem Syndrome in archaeology is a question of life and death -- either we fight against it, or we lose any trace of scientific dignity.

He also responds to the criticisms by James A. Harrell of the IAA report on the "James Ossuary" and "Jehoash Inscription."

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