Regarding Witherington’s strident attack on the Jesus/Talpiot tomb, Jim West calls attention to commenter Joe who writes as follows:
“If Witherington can be such a zealot about his own wacky claims about his own phony ossuary, it would only seem sporting that he would cut Simcha Jacobovici (Witherington’s former partner in crime. He was the man who helped Witherington create and hype his documentary on the phony ‘James Ossuary’ about 4 years ago — shown on, you guessed it! The Discovery Channel!) and James Cameron some slack.”
I agree. Precisely because Witherington was hoodwinked about a fake he found so attractive, he is now over-reacting to the new claim which he finds odious in the extreme. In his recent book he also hailed Stephen Carlson’s book as a devastating critique of Secret Mark. He’s right about that, of course, but it’s not hard to see that he’s “evangelically” thrilled about it. All three of these — ossuary, tomb, and secret gospel — are as authentic as the Donation of Constantine. It’s when a scholar is duped by one but over-bashes the others that his credibility and objectivity are called into question.
UPDATE: Mark Goodacre raises the same question as “Joe”, but more tactfully: “One element that puzzles me about the single-minded nature of Ben Witherington’s criticism of the new claims is that they contrast somewhat with his thorough endorsement of the authenticity of the James ossuary and its connection to the James of the New Testament…” In comments Mike Grondin responds as I have above.
Witherington, for all of his many virtues, is quite credulous. Believes still in the authenticity of the James ossuary, lists the Shroud of Turin as one of great archaeological finds of the 20th century, credits stories about visitations by the dead and miraculous cures. >>But then if in our religion God doesn’t give us Signs, doesn’t intrude fairly often into our everyday lives, aren’t we served pretty thin gruel? Isn’t credulity a sine qua non of a religion worthy of the name?>>Notice also today Andrew Sullivan’s forthright response to a secularist leery of Mormon credulity:>I think we leave it in the inside private world. Look: I believe that a man rose from the dead two millennia ago. Why am I not also “a delusional lunatic”? Cultic practices can be anathematized in a liberal democracy. Not religion.>>Of course, the line between cult and religion may well not be as bright as Sullivan seems to think it is.
The latest dispatch (3/7/07) from Witherington, from his meditation on “Bitterness”:>>“It would be easy for me to get bitter about the nonsense propagated in the Jesus tomb theory. To become bitter that the other side of the story has not adequately been told. That there is an unfairness in all of this, especially since I spent years of my life dealing with the James ossuary and the remarkable implications of that, which is still a genuine relic from the family of Jesus.”>>From his own words, it’s even more obvious now that the ONLY dog that BW had in this Jesus Tomb fight was the one that he hoped would free his James ossuary from its association with the ossuaries from the “Family Tomb.” >>He only succeeded in part. Most people agree that his J-o was not one of the ten, but he only dragged his credibility down further since he was forced to rely on the word of Oded Golan to establish a sort-of provenance for his ossuary and almost every mention of the J-o in the press was surrounded by variations on the words “forged” or “fake.”>>RE: “…the other side of the story has not been adequately told” >>I have to agree with him here. Even though there were archaeologists, scientists and even Biblical scholars aplenty to refute the claims of the JFT-crowd, Witherington just had to jump in bearing the ridiculous baggage of his own ossuary claims. The case against the JFT would have been even much more adequate without his input. He was an unneeded distraction.