Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A bone to pick

Lord knows not nearly enough has been written on the blogosphere about the Talpiot Tomb, so I guess I need to pick up the slack and help out. The reaction by some bloggers (mostly conservative brethren) over the tomb puzzles me. It puzzles me in the same way that the massive response to The Da Vinci Code puzzles me. Did we really need to write a bazillion (yes, a bazillion) books on the matter? Was anyone thoroughly convinced by Dan Brown's massive research and amazing detail to historical accuracy? Likewise, do we all need to get our theological undies in a twist over something that's highly speculative? Does the reaction show a level of insecurity amongst those who believe in the gospel accounts being literal historical records (vs. someone who would be willing to accept Jesus' resurrection as metaphysical or even metaphorical)?

Now, I'm certainly not putting Tabor on the level of Dan Brown. But the fact remains that a great deal of the theory is based on speculation. There's nothing wrong with that. Maybe the theory will develop further and new evidence will be found to back up what Dr. Tabor has found. Maybe the theory will die out. I think the prudent thing to do with any new and up-and-coming theory is to sit back, analyze the evidence, and let N.T. Wright tell you what you should think.


Danny Zacharias said...

The reaction by bibliobloggers is what I find great about this whole issue. An open forum for discussion. Some might be over-reaction (like dismissing it out of hand) but great objections, and defenses, have been raised already.

Believe it or not, many were thoroughly convinced by Dan Brown, I've met several. Even some family members who I've had to give a verbal smack to. And NT scholars need to set this straight with reaction because this isn't a novel.

I'm sure Tom Wright will gave something to say soon :-)


Josh McManaway said...


Thanks so much for commenting!

I agree that the opportunity afforded to discuss openly is great. I'm talking more about those who, instead of putting forth a calm and collected argument, give arguments that are slightly reminiscent of Fundamentalist "reasoning".

Matthew Rondeau said...

I agree Josh, but I also think that this is an epistemological issue. Evangelicals have relied too heavily upon empiricism, I for one would question the ability of empiricism to provide knowledge at all, and thus when anyone finds any shred of evidence - be it as it may shrouded in speculation - the empirical evangelical is immediately threatened. For instance, I am not dependent upon manuscript evidence for my faith in the scripture; thus, even though the book of revelation has much fewer manuscripts, I value it just as much as the gospels. When we rely upon a different epistemology, these empirical finds are really not all that important.

Josh McManaway said...


Thanks for commenting. As far as Empiricism being valuable for knowledge, I suppose it depends on with whom you're in bed (Locke, Hume, Kant, etc).

Now, concerning (some) Evangelicals and their use of empiricism...I can see trends in Evangelical circles to sometimes downplay the role of faith in favor of "evidence". However, I certainly wouldn't consider myself a fideist. I'd like to think I manage a balance between having enough evidence to show that claims made by Christianity are historically sound and (as much as is possible when studying the ancient past) verifiable, and having enough faith to "pick up the slack" that my modernist mind supposes is there. One reason that textual criticism peaks my interest is the very issue you discussed: manuscript evidence. I think (and again, this may just be out of ignorance) that we have "an embarassment of riches" (to quote Dr. David Alan Black) concerning manuscripts, and that this wealth of manuscript evidence atleast gives us a text which transmits properly (whether word-for-word or not) the ideology of those who wrote them. So even though you personally may not need that evidence, it's there and it helps some people who perhaps require a bit more evidence.

Dr. Joel Marcus (Duke) and Dr. Gary Habermas (Liberty) had a dialogue on "Two Views of the Resurrection", which basically boiled down to an epistemological issue between the two of them. I believe you can find the audio at:

It's certainly worth listening to.