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Comments

Barbara

Read Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus". He's pretty convincing in his argument that much so-called doctrine was added later.

gail

Oh, of course a lot of doctrine was added later. It developed in layers over time. There's no argument about that, but quite a lot of the core beliefs were there (via Paul) within thirty years or so. All religions develop that way -- it's a sociological truism. Christianity is definitely not just a set of quotes from Jesus's teachings, nor is Islam a set of quotes from Mohammed or Buddhism a set of quotes from the Buddha. Interpretation and social consensus have to follow initial inspiration/revelation. Inspiration continues and social consensus evolves over time as human experience is accrued and cultural values change.

View from Here

I would submit that this "ancient tablet" is probably another sensationalist scam, as is clearly suggested by the facts

(1) that no specific information is available on its provenance ("probably found near the Dead Sea" doesn't quite do it for me); and

(2) that no details are provided on carbon dating of the ink or analysis of the stone.

As such, this "news" brings to mind the faked Lost-Tomb-of-Jesus "documentary" designed to financially profit from people's fascination with the "real" Jesus, as well as the larger scandal of the biased and misleading way the Dead Sea scrolls are being presented in museum exhibits around the world, with an antisemitic nuance emerging on a government-run North Carolina museum's website. See, e.g.,

http://robertdworkin.wordpress.com/2008/07/12/the-ethics-of-exhibition-romancing-the-scrolls/ (article critical of exhibits)

and

http://blog.news-record.com/staff/frontpew/archives/2008/06/dead_sea_scroll.shtml (discussion and further links).

As for Bart Ehrman, one must surely question (to put it mildly) his take on the Dead Sea Scrolls controversy. He apparently believes that the old Qumran-Essene theory is "probably" true simply because his personal acquaintances believe in it, even though he's not a scrolls expert himself, and even though the theory has been rejected by an entire series of historians and archaeologists over the past decade. This kind of appeal to the "common opinion" doesn't sound like the type of critical thinking I expect from a serious scholar.

See his angry exchange with some of his critics at

http://biblicalraleigh.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/unc-professor-admits-hes-not-a-scrolls-expert-defends-biased-museum-exhibit/

gail

I'd hold off on speculating that there is a problem with the actual age of the artifact because of provenance problems or because carbon dating results have not been released yet. This could just be the result of publication exigencies. I still think it's an interesting find and assume that the dating has been done correctly or the peer reviewer would not have said that he had no information that it was NOT correctly dated. The careers of all the people involved are on the line where that sort of hard data is concerned. Now how they interpret it or what significance they give it is another matter, but they likely have the provenance and the dating pretty well sewn up and just aren't releasing it to the Times. On the other hand, if actual dating problems arise a number of people are going to be hugely embarrassed. There's no way anyone can keep contrary data from coming out in the end -- it just doesn't make sense for a scholar to risk his or her reputation on a simple matter of fact that's so easily overturned. It's different with TV producers. People have short memories for something they see as entertainment. But scholars -- especially in as fiercely competitive a field as archaeology -- absolutely have to cover their rears before they go public with something like this.

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