The Jesus Tomb -- An Example of Wikipedia Form of Scholarship

Newsbusters has an interesting piece about the Jesus Tomb entitled Main Scholar On Jesus Tomb Angry Over Unscientific Claims, MSM Takes a Pass. The thrust of the article is that the people who do actual archaeology have found the Jesus Tomb documentary to be offensive and to misuse their work. A couple of the quotes are worthy of note.

First, the article notes that the program was, shall we say, rather slanted towards supporting the hypothesis of Mr. Jacobovici. There was not much in the way of balance from the large numbers of archaeologists and others interested who have set forth in numerous places their disagreements with what I think are the absurd claims of the documentary.

Even the New York Times gave a semi-honest assessment in their TV review that stated that the film is based on one sided hypothesis. However that doesn't prevent them from injecting some credibility into the documentary with one liners such as the following:

Almost all the scholars interviewed support the filmmakers’ case, though one doubting Thomas is included, David Mevorah, a curator at the Israel Museum. "Suggesting that this tomb was the tomb of the family of Jesus is a far-fetched suggestion," he says. "And we need to be very careful with that."
Doubting Thomas, get it? Quaint. Of course this begs the question about the scholars that weren't interviewed.

Certainly, I don't think that everytime that someone is trying to present their case that they are obligated to present every argument against their position. However, when the theory is strongly opposed, there should be, at minimum, an attempt to counter that evidence. I am not sure that such a thing has been done here. Instead, they have proceeded with this theory as if it were all but settled on its principle points and completely ignored the broad chorus of scholars who have set out very strong reasons for disagreeing.

The article later has a fascinating quote:

Jodi Magness, a professor of archeology and Jewish history of that period at UNC Chapel Hill said the following in the Scientific American report.

Let me tell you what I think. So first of all if you're writing for Scientific American, so it's important to point out that this debate is taking place in a most unscientific of manners.

Archaeology is a scientific and academic discipline and there are proper fora for these discussions--if you're a scholar and you have something you want to present to the larger world, there are proper ways of doing that, specifically publishing papers in peer reviewed journals or at meetings, so your colleageus can respond to it.

If after that you can go ahead and announce that and people can say "Well I've responded to this," then that's fine. But I've been slammed with [interviews for] this now - it was announced in the public media.

I'm reacting to something that has not been published or peer reviewed and I haven't even seen the film - the entire way this has been done has been an injustice to the entire discipline and also to the public.

I think it's a very important point to make - that this is almost a wikipedia form of scholarship. They're presenting it or setting it up as though we have a discovery and you can react and it's all legitimate and valid which it's not.
Wikipedia form of scholarship? What a slam! Wikipedia has become notorious for its inaccuracies. A recent study by Nature found that Wikipedia is very inaccurate even in areas which are not particularly contentious. In the areas where there are disputes, the format of the contributor encyclopedia makes the information less and less accurate because anyone can add anything that supports their pet ideas about the theory without any concern as to whether such a viewpoint is accepted by the majority of scholars. By comparing this "documentary" with Wikipedia, Jodi Magness has hit the nail on the head -- the makers of this documentary are just like the contributors to Wikipedia who want to try to make their pet theory mainstream regardless of the reasons (held by what appears to be an overwhelming majority of scholars) to treat it as not worthy of consideration.


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