thoughts on the sbl’s pay-per-projector policy

SBL Data Projector with Coin Slot

Is the SBL also among the tax collectors?

The Society of Biblical Literature has instituted a new policy at the 2010 annual meeting in Atlanta that charges presenters $25-$75 for the use of a data projector during a presentation. You heard me correctly, that’s $25-75 per presenter, per presentation, depending upon whether or not the presenter pre-paid by September 17.

Please allow me to express my profound displeasure with this decision in my own unique way.

Now, this fee is no surprise. The SBL actually unveiled this new revenue-producing scheme before the call for papers, and it was included in the online proposal form. You may remember this gem on the SBL website:

This year a nominal fee ($25 per item prior to June 15th) will be charged for each piece of Audio/Visual equipment requested. This will assist the SBL in covering a portion of the A/V costs for your session. Please request only the A/V equipment essential to your presentation to help us keep the meeting affordable for all members. Upon your paper’s acceptance, you will receive additional information on how to confirm equipment and pay for your A/V needs.

Most scholars either didn’t pay attention; read it, but didn’t bother to do or say anything about it (as scholars are oft wont to do); ignored it and planned on simply not paying when the bill came; or figured they’d do what faculty always do: complain about a new (albeit ridiculous) policy a week before crunch time rather than proactively write in dissent or objection to the policy in the early stages.

As the chair of the Blogger and Online Publication section (whose presenters, as one might expect, might actually employ the use of technology during their presentations), I was aghast at the notion that I needed to pay extra to give a presentation, when other presenters and attendees, who also benefit from other technologies like electricity, microphones, speakers, podiums, chairs, etc., were required to pay nothing. I chose not to pay the fee, and instead arranged to bring my own digital projector, extension cord, cables, etc., which I do every year. (Jim West has offered to do the same.)

SBL Data Projector Meter

This is what it has come to: the SBL is taxing those who create visually compelling presentations to accompany their papers.

Perhaps the new SBL email confirmation can read as follows:

“Congratulations!
Your paper has been accepted in the Johannine Literature section. Please send us $25 additional if you plan on actually creating a visually compelling presentation to accompany your paper.
If you’re just going to stand there and read a boring paper, well then, that’s free.
Again, congratulations.

P.S. Send money. We’re broke.”

The SBL is attempting to exact a tax on digital projectors. At some level a strategic decision was made to surcharge presenters, perhaps because they knew that most people attending SBL would be receiving some sort of reimbursement from their employer (whether university, bookseller, or non-profit organization), and would simply pass this expense along to their employers. (Airlines get away with charging extra for bags because most major carriers know that the bulk of their business comes from business travelers on expense accounts.) We know SBL has been collecting reimbursement data. (Remember filling out the question during registration that asked if you would be receiving 100%, some, or no reimbursement from an employer?) A decision was made to tax presenters above and beyond the already high conference registration fees, SBL annual membership, hotel costs, and additional skyrocketing hotel taxes (check your hotel bill before you hand it to your office manager for reimbursement)!

However, the SBL may be at fault on more than one level. I am hoping it is not the case that the SBL signed a deal with hotels that it either knew was bad (because it did not include data projectors), but needed to sign quickly for one reason or another. Worse yet, I hope it is not the case that negligence played a role and SBL simply overlooked the fact that data projectors were not included, signed a deal, and then got caught off guard when it realized it would be hit with the surprise charges, and scrambled to recoup some of the additional expense.

Scott Bailey has pointed out the absurdity of the SBL hotel’s claims regarding the costs of data projectors. Most data projectors can be purchased outright for less than $450 these days, (click here for a selection of digital projector options), yet the SBL hotel is charging SBL $450 per day(!!) to rent its data projectors. AND THE SBL AGREED TO THESE TERMS!!! It appears that SBL either signed a bad deal without doing its due diligence regarding the actual cost of data projectors, or simply missed the fact that projectors were not included. Given that the SBL is headquartered in Atlanta, one would think that they would know their local hotels and could negotiate a decent deal.

A $25-75 surcharge for what are usually 25-minute presentations comes to $1-3/minute! For standard technology!

The SBL should immediately rescind its policy of charging presenters $25-75 per presentation for using a data projector.

SBL and Projectors

$450/Day. (Photo by James McGrath)

SBL should not begin charging presenters for projectors. Data projectors have become a staple of all good presentations. I can’t wait to see presenters reading papers without PowerPoints simply to protest the policy. A more likely solution is that given the compact nature of today’s projectors, most scholars will bring their own projectors along with their laptops, as we are doing for the Blogger and Online Publication session. (Thank you James McGrath!)

This policy especially hurts younger scholars and graduate students, the very demographic SBL is attempting to reach and the group SBL must reach to ensure its long-term viability! SBL annual meetings are already very (almost prohibitively) expensive, especially for graduate students, who do not have secured positions at universities to whom they can submit reimbursements, and who are the most likely to use technology to present papers in an effort to procure jobs. Because the “data projector tax” hurts young scholars, the SBL is essentially taxing the poorest of the poor (because after all, we’re all in the humanities), and exacting a tax on those who are least able to afford it.

If SBL is going to fine anyone, it should charge presenters who do not use data projectors. If you wrote your SBL “talk” on the back of a napkin in the bar just before your session, you should have to pay $75 in order to present – money that can be distributed to those of us who have to listen to you drone on about hiphil middle-weak verb forms without any form of visual aid whatsoever. Don’t punish those presenters who have spent the time to write a good paper and create a helpful accompanying presentation.

The SBL should not disincentivize the production of effective, visual presentations at its own annual meeting!

Jesus Cleanses the SBL Registration Booth

An angry Jesus, upset about the fact that SBL is charging presenters to use data projectors, cleanses the SBL registration booth. (Mashup of Carl Heinrich Bloch painting by Robert R. Cargill) More on Bloch here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Heinrich_Bloch

Nickel-and-diming the attendees gives the SBL a real black eye at a time of nation-wide economic cost-cutting at universities, and when the SBL is attempting to market to a new range of scholars. Higher education really can’t afford the additional cost burden right now, especially if the revenues raised from the data projector tax are simply being passed along to hotels.

I’m seriously waiting for Jesus (Christ, not Jones in hotel facilities) to show up and “cleanse” the SBL registration booth. I’d like to see him overturn a table full of data projectors or two.

I can hear it now: as soon as a projector goes dark, someone will say,

“Will you put another quarter in the data projector meter for me?”

Church Collection Plate

Seriously, we should take up an offering for use of the data projectors. A section with 5 papers would cost $125, and that’s if you pre-reserved them back in June! We could pass a plate down the rows.

Solution

The SBL should immediately announce that it is rescinding its data projector fees for this year’s annual meeting.

Itemizing the data projector costs as an additional surcharge only highlights the fiscal trouble of the SBL.

Placing the fiscal burden directly on those scholars who are doing and presenting higher-end research that requires modern forms of technology to communicate their findings disincentivizes innovation.

Nickel-and-diming its own participants for participating makes an otherwise professional organization look cheap and does not send an inspiring message of fiscal viability to SBL members.

It would be better to spread the cost of data-projectors evenly across all participants, whether they use them in presentations, or watch presentations that use projectors. This minimal cost (say, $5) could be added to the already absurd annual meeting registration cost. It would be less burdensome to the presenters, and would not advertise SBL’s financial woes by highlighting the need to exact a surcharge for a service that is now standard in higher education and professional conferences.

Rescinding the decision to impose fees on those using data projectors would buy the SBL a year to debate the role of technology in scholarship, properly assess the real costs of technology, and give SBL a year to communicate the need, if any, for higher fees to subsidize technology costs.

SBL could also agree not to do business with hotels who insist on exacting absurd usury fees on conferences. It’s SBL’s home town for crying aloud! SBL should be able to negotiate a fair deal.

In Sum

In sum, charging presenters a fee to present their papers in a modern format is a very poor decision on the part of SBL. Then again, a digital image is worth a thousand words (and I’ll let you see it for free):

SBL Pay-for-Projector Policy

hilarious: geocities-izer makes any website look like it was created in geocities

this is classic – literally!

remember geocities, that ubiquitous web page hosting solution that gave users a digital box of crayons and animated gifs and allowed them to use them all on the same page? well now you can relive the birth of the internet by going back and transforming your favorite websites into what they would have looked like had they been created in geocities.

just go to wonder tonic’s geocities-izer website and enter the url of the site you want to send back in time to make it look like it was designed by a 13-year old in 1996, complete with midi file music!

here are a few i made:

give it a try and enjoy.

the worst idea ever – smoked salmon flavored vodka

Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodkai like me some occasional vodka. and i am definitely a fan of some raspberry or pear or green apple flavored vodka. in fact, my closest friends think i order ‘chick drinks,’ which they believe fits my personality, complementing my hybrid car, mac laptop, iphone, professor tiggens (my cat), working in west la, opposing prop 8, etc.

the problem with their theory about my lifestyle (other than my wife and daughter) is the fact that i don’t eat sushi. methinks i’m one of only three people in california that doesn’t eat sushi. but there’s a reason for this: i hate fish. can’t stand it. i never eat it if i can help it. same goes for shellfish. it’s not a kosher thing, i just prefer never to eat fish. and while i’ll eat what’s served to me as a guest at a friend’s home or a function, given the option, i’ll never order or eat fish.

so, i was intrigued when my colleague, dr. peter lanfer, recently told me he’d found a solution to my dilemma. he brought my attention this new delicacy: smoked salmon flavored vodka. i am guessing he figured that this would be one way to get me to try fish.

he was wrong.

this is perhaps the most disgusting idea since the hamburger-filled twinkie. seriously. this looks disgusting. the last thing i want is anything to smell like fish when i’m drinking – especially my drink! seriously, what kind of utter depravity is this? (ht: jim west) think about it: fish vodka. mmm… it just rolls right off the tongue… and into the toilet. (ht: peter lanfer)

the best part is the quote from the makers of this vomit vodka:

the current formula took 48 tries, and some of the first 47 attempts were downright disgusting. “Definitely the first few times we had our heave bucket close by,” MacDonald said. “It was pretty bad, and you know, greasy.

methinks i shall stick to my guns. my vodka will remain tasting like chick drinks, and i shall continue to refrain from eating fish. this just reinforces by prior convictions. but, this would make a great gift for that one colleague you really ought to buy a gift for, but really don’t want to. maybe bundle it with a bottle of ipecac to help the process.

does this look like styrofoam to you?

Styrofoam Ark

The 'snow' on the 'ark' appears to be decorative styrofoam packing beads.

the noah’s ark ministries international folks have released a video and are standing by their claim of their so-called ‘discovery’ of noah’s ark. [ht: jim west]. i have documented the problems with their dubious claim here and here and here.

let me ask you, and be honest: does this ‘snow’ in the ‘ark’ look like styrofoam to you?

bigcitylib thinks so, and has a post to explain why.

see for yourself. watch the video about the 1:40 mark and tell me.

and what’s with all the knocking on wood?? are you wishing for luck that no one finds out that while you’re video taping your ‘exploration,’ that no one notices you can’t see your breath in the snowy altitude at the 0:50 mark or that the ‘snow’ you sweep away at the 1:50 mark is perfectly round and not wet? and where is the water dripping on the floor? it was wet at the beginning when you filmed the ‘entrance.’ and what’s with the hazmat suits? i didn’t see those guys come in…

no, no you didn’t find noah’s ark

A member of the Noah's Ark Ministries International claims to be examining Noah's Ark in Turkey.

A member of the Noah's Ark Ministries International claims to be examining Noah's Ark in Turkey.

about this time every year, something sensational happens…literally. every spring, as dig season approaches, we are treated to a little hoax disguised as hope. every spring, faith is once again used to sell something, and every year, science pays the price in the form of a reduced credibility at the hands of pseudo-scientists, who peddle their claims and cheapen the name of science.

i am speaking, of course, about the annual, sensational claims by some group that purports to have discovered the ark of the covenant, noah’s ark, the true cross of christ, or some other biblical relic that is supposed to prove once and for all that the narratives recorded in the bible are true. this year is no exception, but this time it appears that something far more sinister may be at work. late-breaking news indicates that the whole thing may be a hoax.

an evangelical group out of hong kong calling itself noah’s ark ministries international, and its partner organization, the media evangelism limited are claiming to all who will listen (except scholars) that they have discovered noah’s ark. their claim is based upon their ‘discovery’ of wooden ‘rooms’ or compartments atop turkey’s mt. ararat. they claim that it must be the ark because no one would possibly build a building at that altitude. they claim to have carbon-14 samples, but won’t reveal who performed them. and of course, they can’t tell us where the secret location of the site is, because, well…it’s a secret. still, according to the sun, group member yeung wing-cheung says:

It’s not 100 per cent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 per cent that this is it.

well, allow me to explore that .1%. in fact, let me just come right out and say it:
no, no you didn’t find noah’s ark.

richard bartholomew and jim west have already commented upon this nonsense, but let me add my simple comments:

this group was put together to do one thing and one thing only: make money and spread ideology by pimping both archaeology and religion. let me explain:

the media evangelism limited is a media company which states on its website that its background, vision and mission are:

Background

  • In 1987, a group of young Christians in Hong Kong envisioned a society where multi-media businesses would proliferate, and they saw the chance to capitalize on the advance technologies to serve the society. Their vision gave birth to an organization, known as “The Media Evangelism” (TME). The Media Evangelism Limited was officially incorporated in Hong Kong in 1991.

Vision & Mission

  • The Media Evangelism Limited is a charitable Christian organization committed to building a Christian media presence by using every modern means of communication to promote the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our missions are:

  • To take the message of our Lord Jesus Christ to all by means of high quality audio and visual products and services.
  • To foster biblical standard and Christian values in Chinese communities worldwide.
  • To enhance the moral and spiritual fabric of our society through creative media.
  • To pull together the collective wisdom of Evangelical Christians who are talented and gifted in media arts, and to collaborate with other Christian groups for the advance of the Kingdom of God.
Lost in the Noah's Ark

Lost in the Noah's Ark

as one might expect, the group filmed the expedition and now has a documentary movie to sell (note the director’s name: yeung wing-cheung). it is also interesting that noah’s ark ministries international runs a noah’s ark theme park and needs to sell tickets. of course, you could make even more money if you host an exhibition entitled, ‘lost in the noah’s ark’ and advertised it with bizarre posters. and, of course, the whole marketing must be kicked off in a coordinated manner. according to their web site:

March, 2010
The “We Touched Noah’s Ark: The Search for A Carpenter’s Heart” Evangelistic Campaign was launched. Worldwide press conferences, exhibitions and sharing are carried out to spread the Gospel through the Noah’s Ark discovery.

follow the money and follow the ideology. every ark expedition is about the same thing: raising funds and spreading a fundamentalist christian ideology. this may all be well and good if you’re a ministry, but for a group feigning to be archaeologists, it’s a dead giveaway.

my colleague and co-chair of asor‘s media relations committee, dr. eric cline of george washington university, appeared on good morning america wednesday, april 28, 2010 and later on fox news on thursday, april 29, and discussed the group’s claims. dr. cline mocked the ‘99.9%’ claim, incurring the wrath and claims of bias and unfairness over at cbn (which means he’s got it right).

rather than ridicule or bash them, dr. cline addressed the fundamental archaeological methods that are lacking with noah’s ark ministries international (the name still cracks me up). they are keeping the location of the find secret, haven’t invited any scientists to provide outside verification, and haven’t revealed the source of the carbon-14 data they claim they have. as i said in an interview with rich buhler on 740 am kbrt this afternoon, any credible excavation knows that it must do the following:

  1. reveal the location. all credible excavations publish when and where they will be digging. in fact, they are usually begging for volunteers. but, this group has not yet even revealed the location of their find. here’s a rule of thumb to live by: any time someone promises you, ‘i have evidence that will prove that the bible is true, but i can’t show it to you,’ be suspicious.
  2. publish your data and get outside verification and corroboration. all credible excavations publish their data and make it available for peer-review and cross-examination. this is usually done at a professional conference. this is how scholarship works. this group has not done this.
  3. announce to scholars first. it is not enough to make a press release direct to the public. those who publicize their finds with direct-to-the-media marketing campaigns and bypass scholars do so because they rely on the buzz of the media and know that the scholars will end their 15 minutes of fame before it starts. they prey on the curiosity of the public, and hope that no one pays attention to scholars’ rebuttal on the back pages of the same newspapers and websites that ran the initial story in the headlines. (see: foxnews, msnbc, nat geo, abc, etc.)

this is how the academy works. and this is how it should work. there should be a system of checks and balances between the academy and institutions of faith. it keeps both groups honest.

archaeologists look at these untrained, amateur, evangelical groups doing archaeology and making claims about noah’s ark with well-deserved suspicion. it is the exact same suspicion that evangelicals would show towards a group of untrained, amateur hindu explorers claiming to have found a mace, a chakra and a conch shell in kurukshetra that prove the existence of the hindu god vishnu. just because you find reindeer bones at the north pole does not mean you have proved the existence of santa claus. and, just because you find a boat doesn’t mean you’ve proved the flood. and in this case, noah’s ark ministries international hasn’t even demonstrated that they’ve found a boat! they’ve found wood. finding a wooden structure on a mountain in turkey does not mean you’ve discovered noah’s ark. it means you’ve found a wooden building. it could be a barn. it could be a small cottage. it could be a tool shed.

however, this story may be even more sinister than a simple sensationalist claim. there is evidence that it may have all been a hoax. an article by stephen kurczy in the christian science monitor is now claiming that fellow ark hunter, dr. randall price of liberty university, who once worked with the noah’s ark ministries international group and was the archaeologist on the chinese-led team in 2008 when this alleged discovery was first made, may have been participants in an elaborate hoax. according to the article:

“If the world wants to think this is a wonderful discovery, that’s fine. My problem is that, in the end, proper analysis may show this to be a hoax and negatively reflect how gullible Christians can be,” he says. He says he has “difficulties with a number of issues related to the evidence at hand.”

Price declined to elaborate. However, a leaked email from Price – which he confirms that he wrote – shows that he has reason to believe that a group of local Kurdish men trucked wood up to the mountain and staged an elaborate hoax for the Chinese team.

A group of Kurdish workers “are said to have planted large wood beams taken from an old structure in the Black Sea area (where the photos were originally taken) at the Mt. Ararat site. … During the summer of 2009 more wood was planted inside a cave at the site. The Chinese team went in the late summer of 2009 (I was there at the time and knew about the hoax) and was shown the cave with the wood and made their film,” Price writes in the email.

michael heiser at paleobabble.com offers even more details. he writes:

I also got an email today from one of Randall Price’s students. The email contains a message from Dr. Price about this expedition. (Dr. Price, as some of you may recall, has been doing a lot of searching for the ark lately.) Here is an excerpt from his message:

I was the archaeologist with the Chinese expedition in the summer of 2008 and was given photos of what they now are reporting to be the inside of the Ark. I and my partners invested $100,000 in this expedition (described below) which they have retained, despite their promise and our requests to return it, since it was not used for the expedition. The information given below is my opinion based on what I have seen and heard (from others who claim to have been eyewitnesses or know the exact details).

To make a long story short: this is all reported to be a fake. The photos were reputed to have been taken off site near the Black Sea, but the film footage the Chinese now have was shot on location on Mt. Ararat. In the late summer of 2008 ten Kurdish workers hired by Parasut, the guide used by the Chinese, are said to have planted large wood beams taken from an old structure in the Black Sea area (where the photos were originally taken) at the Mt. Ararat site. In the winter of 2008 a Chinese climber taken by Parasut’s men to the site saw the wood, but couldn’t get inside because of the severe weather conditions. During the summer of 2009 more wood was planted inside a cave at the site. The Chinese team went in the late summer of 2009 (I was there at the time and knew about the hoax) and was shown the cave with the wood and made their film. As I said, I have the photos of the inside of the so-called Ark (that show cobwebs in the corners of rafters – something just not possible in these conditions) and our Kurdish partner in Dogubabyazit (the village at the foot of Mt. Ararat) has all of the facts about the location, the men who planted the wood, and even the truck that transported it.

so it appears that the whole thing may have been rigged. an ark-eologist got duped by other ark-eologists. this is simply sad.

the problem with this is that both religion and science lose. people of faith look like a bunch of liars that will do or say anything to prove their faith, including lie, cheat, steal, and rig an elaborate hoax to raise money and spread their faith. but because they use science to make their claim, religious fundamentalists will claim that scientists are elaborate tricksters that manipulate data in an attempt to prove the bible is false. and somewhere in between these two extremes are honest people of faith and honest scientists trying to have an honest debate about the feasibility and historicity of a flood and an ark, questioning why different numbers of animals on the ark are given in the bible, (gen 6:19 vs. gen 7:2), and how wood could have survived and not decomposed over time. these arguments are lost because both extremes-the religious fundamentalists and the militant agnostics-retreat to their extreme positions, and the media loves extreme anything.

science and faith both lose. both can co-exist, but episodes like this one don’t help.

this unfortunate episode also reveals that there are two levels of ‘sensational’. the first is the sensationalism that we find when someone makes an unsubstantiated archaeological claim. whenever someone finds a piece of wood on top of a mountain in turkey, someone is always sure to claim they’ve found noah’s ark. there is no evidence, but this speculation is sure to raise eyebrows, and so someone always irresponsibly makes that claim. but, there is a far more egregious form of sensationalism: the hoax. this is when evidence is planted so that said sensational claim can be made. this hoax should be met with outrage, and both noah’s ark ministries international, their sponsors, and the local turkish government officials should be sanctioned for their participation in the charade.

Hong Kong people are recognized as Honorable Citizens in Agri Province of Turkey for the first time

Hong Kong people are recognized as Honorable Citizens in Agri Province of Turkey for the first time

so no, you didn’t find noah’s ark. but you did get to be honorable citizens for the day. and you got your name in the paper. and you got you picture taken. and you’ve become the latest chapter in the seemingly never ending story of the quest for things that we’ll never find, if they ever existed at all.

and one more thing: my hat is off to all of the scholars and the cadre of bloggers that came forward to research this story and expose this charade. hats off to the news organizations that quickly posted responses to the initial story like time and the christian science monitor. and hats off to randall price, whom i previously ripped in this very space, for admitting his mistake and exposing this nonsense. you did the right thing and i respect that.

why you should participate in advent conspiracy

reposting this post (just for jim west)


this holiday season you should participate in advent conspiracy.

The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love.
So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists.

And when it’s all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling of missed purpose. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?

Welcome to Advent Conspiracy.

instead of buying gifts you feel are obligatory for people you marginally know, or buying your kids one more present just so they really know how much you really love them, how about taking them to volunteer at a soup kitchen so they can see how the other 90% of the world lives. nothing causes a children to appreciate how much you really love them than seeing what it’s like not to have loving parents, a home, a car, a wii, a nintendo ds, a mobile phone… you get the point. they don’t need one more silly gift to know that you love them. they need to see what it means to reach out to others in need.

advent conspiracy assists in bringing this about. giving to charity is the least you should do, if at all. instead of throwing money at a charity, go be the charity you want to see in the world. the single most effective way to make sure that 100% of your donation goes to help those in need is to go and help those in need personally.

so what are you waiting for?? put down your credit card, fill thy horn with oil, and go!!

8 months later: bar finally ‘reports’ on the golb scandal

Raphael Golb

Raphael Golb, son of Norman Golb

Norman Golb

University of Chicago historian Norman Golb

Hershel Shanks, Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review

Biblical Archaeology Review Editor Hershel Shanks


biblical archaeology review has finally ‘reported‘ the march 5, 2009 arrest of raphael golb. while they did mention it in a byline news blurb a few months ago, the magazine that has arguably made its name reporting the original dead sea scrolls ‘scandal’ and other scandals from the world of biblical archaeology (remember the ‘fleas‘ issue 16/2 of mar/apr 1990) has finally acknowledged the existence of the dead sea scrolls scandal of this decade: the identity theft and smear campaign of raphael golb on behalf of his father, university of chicago history professor norman golb and his largely unaccepted views on the origin of the dead sea scrolls and the nature of qumran. (be sure to read the interesting comments following the chicago maroon article by sara jerome.)

Biblical Archaeology Review Cover of March/April 1990 issue (Vol. 16, No.2)

according to the very short, unsigned report in the strata section, bar states:

According to an indictment handed down last summer by a Manhattan grand jury, son Raphael adopted some unorthodox methods to support his father’s views. The indictment charges Raphael Golb with assuming the identity of prominent Dead Sea Scroll scholar Lawrence Schiffman of New York University; the indictment charges Raphael Golb with creating more than 50 e-mail accounts and dozens of internet blogs, in which Raphael Golb (posing as Schiffman) espoused the views of Norman Golb and (again, as Schiffman) confessed to plagiarizing from Norman Golb.

Raphael Golb also allegedly opened other e-mail accounts in the names of Dead Sea Scroll scholars Jonathan Seidel and Stephen Goranson.

that’s it. other than a brief introduction that can be read for free on the website, the two remaining paragraphs are little more than information gleaned from the manhattan da’s press release from march 2009.

for a magazine (bar) and an editor (shanks) that appear to crave controversy and love the dead sea scrolls, this story seems like a no-brainer. in fact, it has been somewhat of a mystery why bar has not already run a feature length exposé or two on this story. it hasn’t been on the cover. it has received no in depth investigation. it hasn’t even attracted from bar a simple investigative inquiry that bar readers have come to expect on issues relating to biblical archaeology. the intriguing story of a man using the cloak of the anonymous internet to weave together a network of aliases to write blogs, send emails, leave comments, send letters, dupe media outlets, harass in a most aggravated manner, and in the end, steal the identity of and impersonate another scholar, all in an effort to promote norman golb and criticize his perceived opponents has been largely ignored, save for this late acknowledgment and the initial byline news item.

some have speculated why shanks may have held his tongue on this scandal. when hershel shanks published a facsimile of the dead sea scrolls manuscript mmt, prompting elisha qimron later to sue shanks and win in court, norman golb testified in shanks’ defense. some speculate that shanks has held his tongue as a form of repayment – a kind of ‘thank you’ to norman golb for earlier testifying on his behalf. of course, this is merely speculation, but it does give one pause because it appears to be completely out of character (and certainly not at all profitable) for shanks not to report this story (especially when there is so much evidence are so many details of the campaign catalogued on the internet and readily available to the public).

whatever the reason, biblical archaeology review has finally reported on the golb scandal. but this ‘report’ obviously lacks the expected vigor, insight, and detailed attention that mr. shanks regularly shows to other disputes, like the james ossuary, the talpiot tomb, the hazon gabriel, his ongoing rift with with shuka dorfman and the iaa, and other past dss-related issues. i know of one person who was recommended to mr. shanks by a respected qumran archaeologist as one who could knowledgeably write about this for bar, but as of the writing of this post, bar still has not contacted him. i’m beginning to wonder if this particular dead sea scrolls scandal is simply being given a ‘minimalist’ amount of attention for reasons other than a lack of a public interest. it seems the last time someone was arrested for a biblical archaeology related crime, bar paid a little more attention. in fact, they even held their own trial. (see also here and here and here and here.)

sometimes, the deafening silence says more than words ever can.

professor tiggens makes it big time

thats professor tiggens starring on icanhascheezburger.com/

that's professor tiggens starring on icanhascheezburger.com/

professor tiggens cargill has made the big screen. well, he’s actually made the small screen. actually, he’s had a pic of him watching the small screen on http://icanhascheezburger.com/. we’re all very proud of him.

here’s a cat that both jim west and jim linville can both agree is cool.

response to comments about my recent bce/ce vs. bc/ad essay

Calendar_ad_ce

many blogger/scholars have responded with some quite pertinent comments about my recent essay entitled, ‘why christians should adopt the bce/ce dating system‘ i have listed comments and objections from others below. in the comments that follow, i wish to respond briefly to some of these comments.

i appreciate the many thoughtful, sometimes humorous responses to my essay. you bring up many good points to which i should like to briefly respond.

first, it is important to remember that my audience was quite specific: ‘christians.’ the point of my essay was to convince christians (namely, evangelicals and conservatives) that utilizing the bce/ce system in scholarship, the classroom, or in daily usage does not make them any less of a christian. the point of my essay was not to convince muslims or jews that they should adopt the bce/ce labeling system; they will accept or reject this system as they already do (some use bc/ad, some use bce/ce, some use the jewish date, the islamic date, and many post both side by side). my essay was a call to christians to accept the scientific and scholarly norm (bce/ce) and stop rejecting science as something that is contrary to religion (a polarity dawkins attempts to force upon the world).

second, i wrote the essay as an opinion piece, and not as an exhaustive article. you are correct that there are many additional internal discrepancies within the gospels, specifically within the gospel of luke. the fact that many scholars favor matthew’s chronology because of luke’s internal chronological problems (luke tends to favor a geographic arrangement of items throughout his gospel as opposed to the less problematic chronology of mark and matthew) is not new. there is also the ‘not even 50 years old’ reference in john 8:57 that some have used in an attempt to date jesus’ birth.

third, as i said in comments to chris heard, dawkins persists in using bc/ad because it fuels his argument that the world is saturated with (read: corrupted by) religious motifs and thoughts. he utilizes the bc/ad system so that he can point and say, ‘see, even our calendar labels are infected with religion.’ it’s a rhetorical device.

fourth, i understand that the concept of ‘zero’ was not developed until much later (~9th c. ce) during the islamic period (another relative dating label). but the absence of a well-developed concept of zero does not fix the math. while we may not blame the ‘skipping’ of the year zero on those who knew not of it as a numerical concept, the fact remains that the year zero is absent in dionysius’ calculations. as i tell my freshmen, just because you didn’t know an important fact doesn’t make your subsequent misinformed result true.

fifth, my conclusion is one of simplicity. the fact remains we still do not possess a calendar that accurately reflects the movements of the sun, earth, and moon in accurate relation to one another. we must still make corrections, have months with odd numbers of days, have leap years, etc.

we still use an antiquated calendar for the same reason we still all are still not on the metric system or do not drive fuel efficient, non-fossil fuel vehicles. truth be told, it would indeed cause a great deal of cornfusion and difficulty to recalculate all of the dates throughout history. it is simpler to eliminate the reference to one specific religion’s principle figure (jesus), and retain our existing dating system, and acknowledge that it was an inaccurate attempt to make the dating of history relative to the birth of jesus, and an obvious result of western/european colonialism. but will those who oppose the use of bce/ce because of its de facto reliance on the albeit miscalculated birth of christ argue that we should continue the use of the bc/ad system simply because it is unapologetically religious? since when is honest sectarianism and insistence on a particular religion’s understanding of time better than an attempt to bring the world together, especially on issues that should not be tied to religion (like a calendar)?

i’d love to see efforts to remedy many of the ills of european colonialism. however, until such a time that we decide to undo all european colonialist efforts, such as adopting the gall-peters projection map (whose adoption and european reaction is captured in this classic west wing clip), using a timekeeping system based upon some system other than greenwich mean time, based in london, england, adopting the metric system, and acknowledging that europe really isn’t a continent (as defined by: ‘large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water’) but is only a separate continent because europeans named the continents and wanted to distinguish itself from asia, and when south america stops speaking spanish and portuguese (languages of european expansion), when africa stops speaking english and french (other languages of european expansion), and when they stop serving 4:00pm tea at the albright institute in east jerusalem, then we can and should address the practice of calendar reform and re-dating of history to a truly global ‘common’ event, such as the impending meltdown of the earth. then, and only then can we, like amos, date items relative to ‘two years before the polar meltdown’ (or earthquake, whichever comes first ;-)

until such a time as this, i suggest we leave the post-colonial excuses for failing to act aside, focus upon the internal chronological problems within the bible, and as scholars and scientists, encourage all who will listen to adopt the bce/ce system, gently reminding them that using the bce/ce calender labels makes them no less of christians than does using a calendar that praises the moon (‘monday’/’moon day,’ cf. spanish ‘lunes’ from ‘luna’), praises the roman emperor augustus (‘august’) and perhaps the roman goddess juno (‘june’), and the nordic god thor (‘thursday’/‘thor’s day’).

switching to bce/ce is the simplest way to carry on, honor our neighbors, and cause the least amount of chaos.

on sbl affiliation with bibliobloggers

SBL Biblioblog Badge

SBL Biblioblog Badge

this post began as a response to chris heard and doug magnum‘s skepticism about the new affiliation between the sbl and the previously loosely-affiliated group of scholars that blog about religion and the bible called the ‘bibliobloggers.’ there have been many responses, both positive and negative (and funny). my response began as a few comments on some postings, but grew and grew until i figured i should make it into a blog post of its own.

blogging is continuing to gain legitimacy as a means of scholarly communication. at first, it was considered a novelty. then, like the internet itself, it gained legitimacy as more and more legitimate entities adopted the technology. remember when brick-and-mortar companies finally caught up with online startups and adopted internet presences? first corporations said it was a fad for teenagers. then, as those teenagers began to purchase those corporations with their newly-found millions, established corporations began not only to take notice, but began to develop (or acquire) internet presences of their own.

the same is true for scholarship. the self-publishing format of blogging was suspect at first because there was no peer-review and because the power structures of the establishment could not control it. but now that nearly every university and department has some sort of web presence or blog, and that several well-established scholars have adopted blogging and message groups as ways of disseminating preliminary information (and have some fun doing so), the technology is finally gaining some favor with the academy.

as usual, the academy is behind the times when it comes to adopting new technologies. but as it catches up, its members will buoy the credibility of the vehicle. likewise, the adoption of blogging by the academy will buoy those pioneers that blazed the trail for scholars on the internet. many of those pioneers who have been blogging about scholarship since the beginning have made names for themselves as pioneers (like grand master flash was to rap and south carolina governor mark sanford was to ‘hiking the appalachian trail.’) these scholar/bloggers have the experience and the marketing know-how to teach the intricacies of blogging (and yes, there are many) to other scholars.

this new sbl affiliation lends further legitimacy to scholarly blogging, and allows the bibliobloggers to do physically at an annual meeting what they cannot do virtually throughout the rest of the year: sit together, meet each other, welcome new voices, catch up on personal matters, and share ideas – just like every other section at sbl.

like every other sbl group, some will jump in head first, some will participate, some will watch, some will complain, and some will even object because they feel that they were not consulted in the planning stages of the new association. some bloggers turned to blogging in the first place because they could not find their place in the existing academic structure. and now that bibliobloggers are becoming a legitimate entity within the eyes of the academy, some bloggers will object for the same reason they turned to blogging in the first place: they reject authority, structure, affiliation, and organization in any form. and yet, affiliation withe the sbl will help all bibliobloggers, whether one participates or not, because affiliation lends legitimacy to the vehicle of blogging, which is good for all bloggers.

whether one chooses to participate or not, formal affiliation with the sbl will benefit all bibliobloggers. so, regardless of how one feels about the affiliation, we should be grateful for the efforts of those that pioneered this new field, and we should be thankful that some have taken strides towards helping to raise the level of legitimacy of this new, technologically-driven field of study in which we are all involved, affiliated or not.

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