The Latest on the So-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Benefits of Scholars Blogging

So-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Appears to be a forgery, in which the forger accidentally copied a typo from an online PDF translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

Jeremy Hsu at FoxNews has published an article entitled, “Did Jesus have a wife? Scholar calls parchment ‘forgery’“, that highlights the benefit of university professors, trained graduate students, and professional scholars using online resources like blogs and Facebook to share their research and findings regarding archaeological claims to craft together viable theories based in evidence.

This account was impressive:

The smoking gun
All the grammatical anomalies in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife suggest the writer was not a native speaker or even an academic expert in Coptic — the ancient, dead language of early Christians living in Egypt. Instead, Bernhard says that the pattern of errors and suspiciously similar line breaks suggests an amateur might have forged the “patchwork” text using individual words and phrases taken from Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. [Most European Languages Unlikely to Survive Online]

“There’s this general pattern in that everywhere the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could diverge from gospel of Thomas, it doesn’t, and in places where it does [diverge], it appears it’s following Mike’s Interlinear,” Bernhard told TechNewsDaily.

One the most suspicious grammatical errors in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife appeared to be a direct copy of a typo in the PDF file version of the Interlinear translation — a connection that Grondin himself made when he was examining his translation. He shared that knowledge with Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke University, who had been writing up a blog post independently about the possibility of the “Jesus’ Wife fragment” being a forgery.

Goodacre and Bernhard eventually got in touch and agreed to coordinate the online publishing of their respective blog post and paper. Goodacre credits Bernhard with first making the connection between the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

“I would have already put money on this thing being problematic, given the links between the fragment and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas,” Goodacre explained. “But the link with the online Interlinear version of the Gospel of Thomas really makes, for me, the case of authenticity a very difficult one.”

It is amazing how the internet is evolving with scholarship, and how scholars are beginning to harness the power of social media to share preliminary research. Of course, these results must still be subject to academic peer review, but because social media allows many more scholars to provide initial feedback (either making additional contributions by highlighting potentially overlooked evidence, or by encouraging the discard of poorer arguments through scholarly criticism and refutation), the arguments are usually much stronger by the time they reach the publisher’s desk. This is a good thing.

Check out the article. And read the summaries of the scholarly consensus, which appear to be leaning toward declaring the unprovenanced document, acquried from an anonymous antiquities dealer, as some sort of forgery. Of course there are some amateurs and pseudoscientists and pretend scholars who, for reasons of their own financial gain, attention, or conspiracy mongering, really really want this to be authentic. But those scholars who use scholarship to share evidence and debate claims and craft together a working theory based in fact are trending toward forgery.

And kudos to my colleague, Mark Goodacre!!

More:
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/jesus-wife-fragment-further-evidence-of.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/divorcing-mrs-jesus-leo-depuydts-report.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-latest.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/10/jesus-wife-an-egyptologists-perspective.html

in defense of the digital humanities, open courseware, and online publishing

This is one of the best cases I’ve seen for the Digital Humanities, open courseware, and online publishing. It demonstrates the need for universities, and especially tenure-granting committees to consider digital media as equally worthy of consideration during tenure reviews as scholarly articles printed on paper in peer-review journals and monographs published by traditional academic publishers. This transition should be hastened by the present scampering of traditional print publishers to establish digital publishing presences online (as I’ve mentioned here). It is also a clever demonstration of the legitimacy that advances in online education, improvements in Wikipedia contributor rules, blogging, Google scholar projects, harnessing social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, course management systems like Moodle, and new forms of 3D and hypermedia publishing have brought not only to the Digital Humanities, but to scholarship in general. Give it a view and leave comments below.

HT: Amanda Waldo

why i blog (and why other archaeologists and biblical scholars should too)

And now we have a quarter of a million readers. It has become an icon – a main channel through which the public gets its news and information and understanding of biblical archaeology.

– hershel shanks on the role of biblical archaeology review (2:24-2:37)

this is why archaeologists and biblical scholars must – must! – blog, publish, and work together to inform the public about legitimate archaeology, its proper, scholarly interpretations, and why we must debunk or at least respond to all sensational and unverifiable claims made in the public arena regarding biblical archaeology. if we don’t tell them, others will.

the academy has a role to play in the public realm. our credibility should not be limited to professional conferences and refereed journals. the public is looking to us for answers – for confirmation or refutation of claims made daily by those claiming to be archaeological and biblical authorities. we must respond in public. for if scholars fail to answer the public’s call for authoritative verdicts regarding archaeological and biblical claims, we only have ourselves to blame for our diminished authority in the public’s eye.

how not to talk about the importance of the dead sea scrolls

i came across this video today from randall niles, a finance and securities lawyer in colorado who now heads up multiple christian companies, including a llc called thinkworks™, whose mission is ‘to get real and encourage others in their life journeys.’ (see for yourself.)

in the video, mr. niles was attempting to explain why the dead sea scrolls are important.

here’s the video:

i’m not going to comment on the video because it’s just not fair and i don’t want to dump on anyone who is not trying to pass himself off as a scholar. mr. niles is not a scholar and not claiming to be one. i shall just dispute his claim that the only difference between the two isaiah scrolls (there are actually 2 from cave 1 and portions of at least 20 other copies of isaiah from qumran) and our modern masoretic texts of isaiah is a single word and some punctuation (3:30). in fact, the fact that the two isaiah scrolls from cave 1 at qumran differ, often significantly, tends to undermine his argument. the point is that there are far more interesting features about the isaiah scroll than the fact that it was written before the time of christ (3:00). but as i said, i’ll refrain from a critique.

and while i’m not a big fan of dilettantes and archaeological and scholarly pretenders, i can’t fault mr. niles, or anyone else for that matter, for attempting to reach out to kids to get them involved in both history and in issues of faith.

however, it is important to get your facts straight. and i shall fault those who sell christianity and judaism for a price. were this a preacher, i’d let it go. but because this is a business with lawyers and marketers and websites and money being made by preying on the ignorance of young kids, whose parents and pastors want to try and reach out to them with hip new media (that happens to be dilettantish and false), then i have a problem. of course, those who sell religion and peddle faith have every right to do so; indeed, it’s a billion dollar business in this country and one of the most profitable (and often tax exempt) business models in the country. but that doesn’t mean that what they’re selling is any good, and certainly doesn’t make the country any smarter or better, whether you are a person of faith or not. because whether you are an atheist, agnostic, or person of faith, bad information and poor apologetic arguments don’t help either side; they make people of faith look dumb and atheists cringe.

this does demonstrate, however, the immediate importance and need for trained scholars to reach out directly to the public, not just to criticize and combat pseudoscience, fake archaeology, and misinformation, but to offer a vetted alternative – real and regular solutions in the form of direct-to-the-public lectures and discourse. we scholars must seek to raise the level of public discussion about matters of faith in an academic manner. doing so will raise the level of critical thinking for both athiests and people of faith.

the problem is we’re missing the boat! the rise of technology and social media now allows scholars to compete with traditional, for-profit media companies that prey on the beliefs of the uneducated public and who peddle sensationalistic ideas to make a buck. we have the same abilities to reach the public directly and educate them, but the academy is by and large not using them. scholars have an opportunity to educate the public directly via the internet, youtube, blogs, podcasts, itunes u, and other free media outlets where the public spends much of their day, and whence they now obtain much of their information. additionally, by communicating to the public from their positions at accredited and reputable universities, scholars can trump these amateur ministries and professional faith peddlers because scholars are still held with somewhat high esteem across the nation. (although, this is changing. look what passes for an ‘expert’ on some documentaries these days. scholars, while still considered esoteric and therefore smart, are losing ground in both terms of credibility and indispensability. don’t believe me? how’s your department’s budget doing?)

thus, as easy as it is to rebuke those who peddle faith online and on tv, the true rebuke is to scholars, who aren’t doing enough to offer better alternatives. the title of this blog, ‘how not to talk about the importance of the dead sea scrolls,’ is a play on the fact that scholars are doing the same thing these amateurs are doing: not talking about scholarly issues to the public effectively. the academy is just as guilty as bible and archaeology pimps in that neither is talking about issues of faith and science effectively to the public.

and we wonder why universities have no money. people are looking elsewhere for information. and unless we want people getting bad information from uninformed or misleading sources, scholars must get involved with social and public media outlets to get their ideas out to the public.

attention bloggers and coders: introducing google’s pubsubhubbub

PubSubHubbub

PubSubHubbub: A simple, open, web-hook-based pubsub protocol & open source reference implementation.

google is introducing pubsubhubbub.

it’s an open protocol for training atom and rss feeds into realtime streams. or, in nontech terms, it’s a subscription model that allows two completely different websites to communicate in realtime through a hub. in even simpler terms, it’s a cross-platform subscription service. for example, if you blog on wordpress, you can publish your content to your wordpress blog and to subscribers on other systems instantly, in realtime.

blogger and online publication section call for papers for the 2010 sbl annual meeting closes march 1

Society of Biblical Literaturethere’s still time. if you plan on submitting a paper for the inaugural ‘blogger and online publication’ section at the society of biblical literature 2010 annual meeting in atlanta, make sure you do so before march 1, 2010.

description of the section:

Originally organized under the aegis of the ‘biblioblogging’ community, this unit has been renamed. ‘Biblioblogging’ refers to a diverse community of nearly every point of view that communicates new ideas or insights, debates, and discusses exegetical and historical subjects. The Blogger and Online Publication Section supports the publication of articles, commentary, and items of interest relating to the Bible and biblical studies online using blogs, social media sites, online journals, and other Internet or web-related vehicles, and promotes communication between bloggers and the SBL.

the call for papers:

The 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature will be held November 20-23, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. Members wishing to present papers should submit proposals on the SBL website at http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/AnnualMeeting.aspx by March 1, 2010. First-time presenters and graduate students are encouraged to submit completed papers. Papers from established scholars are particularly encouraged.

The SBL Blogger and Online Publication section invites proposals for papers in two sections for the 2010 annual meeting. Session 1 will be an invited session exploring the history of blogging, the rise of the Internet and its use by biblical scholars, and the future of blogging. Session 2 will be an open session calling for papers focusing on any area of biblical studies, theology, archaeology of the Levant, and the use of blogging in these fields. The second session also invites 60-second profiles of individual blogs, which will be included in a highlight of blog sites. Contributors are welcome to present papers for presentation or 60-second summaries of their blogs for inclusion in a single, 20-minute survey of the top biblical studies related blogs in the web.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact Dr. Robert R. Cargill, Center for Digital Humanities, UCLA, 1020 Public Affairs Building, Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1499, or email cargill@humnet.ucla.edu.

la times article examines cyber bullying in south korea

apparently, i’m not the only one having to confront issues of cyber harassment.

internet crime continues to be a growing problem worldwide. in addition to hacking, internet scams, and online theft, issues of cyber libel, defamation, and online harassment are also a growing concern. as many know, i suffered from online harassment for nearly two years. fortunately (or unfortunately), raphael golb, son of university of chicago oriental institute historian norman golb, crossed the line and expanded his smear campaign from the civil to the criminal to include acts of forgery, identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment – crimes for which he has been arrested and is being prosecuted by the new york district attorney’s office. (details are available at who-is-charles-gadda.com.)

john m. glionna wrote a jan 2, 2010 article for the los angeles times entitled, ‘Cyber bullies reign in South Korea.’ in the story, he speaks to the growing concern of cyber bullies, noting that because

99% of citizens between the ages of 10 and 39 use the Internet, cyber thugs carry inordinate social weight.

In recent years, celebrities, authors and ordinary South Koreans have been subjected to relentless online assaults — at times with disastrous, or even lethal, effects.

the article focuses mostly upon legislative efforts to quell online ‘insults’ made anonymously, but these efforts rightly raise questions of free speech. but make no mistake: the practice of cyber bullying, online intimidation, libel, de facto accusations in the form of baseless hypothetical questions, and outright defamation (or whatever you want to call it) against individuals from beneath the presumed cloak of anonymity is growing. and while everyone wants to preserve the right to free speech, repeated, targeted attacks on individuals (anonymous or not) with the intent of harming their professional development or otherwise causing them fiscal damage is still illegal.

cowards that hide in the shadowy recesses of the internet for fear of being sued for saying things they would otherwise never say in their own name is growing to absurd proportions, and defamation, libel, and cyber bullying laws are just now beginning to catch up with the various technologies like blogging, message boards, distribution lists, and discussion groups that are used to commit these crimes on the internet. and, much like at the outset of the internet, when many claimed that pesky, traditional laws like sales tax and copyright were no longer valid, new defamation rulings are beginning to make their way into the legal system.

however, in the end, cyber libel is still libel, and is remedied in civil court, whether it is done under an attempted internet anonymity or not. indeed, the very purpose of using aliases is to duck libel and defamation accusations in the first place. if you can’t get caught, you can’t get sued (or so the thinking goes). how much more are one’s motives laid bare when one opts for using an alias to make criticisms of another?

of course, for raphael golb, civil suits concerning defamation, harassment, and libel are merely secondary at this point. for when defamation and libel cross from the civil realm into the criminal, and smear campaigns evolve from repeated targeted criticism and harassment to identity theft, impersonation, aggravated harassment, and forgery, then one has committed serious crime, for these are still very illegal, whether they take place online or not.

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