Schaub Resigns as Essay Judge
Cites BAR’s slander of Jordan
Professor R. Thomas Schaub of Indiana University of Pennsylvania has resigned as a judge in BAR’s Biblical Archaeology Essay Contest. Schaub’s resignation arrived in August, less than a month before the entry deadline.
The contest will be judged by the remaining two judges, Professor Menahem Mansoor of the University of Wisconsin and Professor Kenneth G. Holum of the University of Maryland.
Over 80 entries in the essay contest were received at the BAR office by the September 1 deadline.
Schaub’s resignation was triggered by an article in the May/June BAR describing a false claim that the Ark of the Covenant had been found on Mt. Nebo in Jordan (“Tom Crotser Has Found the Ark of the Covenant—Or Has He?” BAR 09:03). Schaub digs in Jordan, where he is co-director with Walter Rast of the excavations at Bab edh-Dhra (see “Have Sodom and Gomorrah Been Found?” BAR 06:05).
Schaub called parts of the BAR article “reprehensible” and “border[ing] on slander” in their treatment of the Jordanian authorities, who abruptly canceled an important American excavation because of the incident involving the alleged Ark of the Covenant.
Schaub said he would continue to recommend “responsible articles in BAR” to his students, but his conscience would not allow him to continue to serve as a judge in BAR’s Biblical Archaeology Essay Contest.
Professor Schaub’s resignation letter follows:
The unsigned article, “Tom Crotser Has Found the Ark of the Covenant—Or Has He?” BAR 09:03, certainly favors the cause of those who argue for the elimination of the term Biblical Archaeology. Even though romantic adventures “in search of … ” are neither Biblical nor archaeological in any sense of the words, it is not surprising that many serious students of the Bible or of archaeology cringe when they hear or read the term Biblical Archaeology.
Other aspects of the article, however, are more reprehensible. Although the writer does not approve the “search”—it is described as “illegal” and the results are rejected—somehow it is the Jordanian authorities who turn out to be the bad guys. They showed no “interest” in the “finds” and “do not want any Biblical discoveries made in Jordan.” In responsibly rejecting illegal searches and romantic claims to Biblical discoveries, they should be praised not blamed. The inference that Jordanian authorities have a policy to prevent or obscure serious archaeological results that may legitimately shed light on ancient history is nonsense and borders on slander. Your unsigned author, presumably an editor, may be protected by the generalities “it is well-known” and “Jordanians,” but such comments are totally irresponsible and unworthy of a journal which has published some fine articles on archaeology and Biblical history.
Although I will continue to recommend the responsible articles in BAR to undergraduate students, I find it difficult, in conscience, to continue to accept the role of a judge in the Biblical Archaeology Essay Contest sponsored by BAR. Please accept my resignation as a judge in this contest.
R. Thomas Schaub
BAR editor Hershel Shanks responded as follows:
I deeply regret your decision to resign as a judge in BAR’s Biblical Archaeology Essay Contest. This will greatly increase the burden on Menahem and Ken, but that is the least of it.
I also disagree with some of the things you said in your letter. But first let me “fess up”: I am the author of the article you found so offensive. If you will look at the small print in our masthead, it says that unsigned articles are written by the editor. I don’t usually sign pieces of reportage, in contrast to opinion pieces.
Before getting to the article’s treatment of the Jordanian authorities, I would like to talk a little about “cringing.” That’s a strong, vivid verb, the kind I try to encourage our writers to use. My dictionary says cringe means to shrink, to wince, to crouch in fear. I suspect you mean crouch in embarrassment, rather than fear.
In any event, you say, quite accurately, that some scholars “cringe when they hear or read the term Biblical Archaeology.” You don’t say so explicitly, but you seem to include yourself among the cringers. I assume you are also one of those who therefore urge us to abandon the term Biblical Archaeology (see “Should the Term Biblical Archaeology Be Abandoned?” BAR 07:03).
I really don’t understand all this cringing, especially over Tom Crotser’s activities as described in my article. Not to put too fine a point on it, Tom Crotser is what many people may call a kook. He did some illegal digging on Mt. Nebo, falsely claimed he found the Ark of the Covenant and got a big story out of it over the main UPI news wire. Why should this make anyone cringe when he hears the term Biblical Archaeology? Crotser is not an archaeologist or a Biblical scholar. He doesn’t even claim to be one. Why all the cringing? Perhaps you and the other scholars who cringe have other reasons to do so at hearing the term Biblical Archaeology, but Tom Crotser and his antics should hardly be one.
Suppose a backyard chemist claimed to have invented an elixir of youth that would continuously and forever turn old men into kids. Can you imagine any professional chemist cringing as a result of this claim whenever he heard the term chemist?
In all candor, I cannot understand why you and those who agree with you do all this cringing whenever you hear the term Biblical Archaeology. You must have some extreme sensitivity that eludes me. There must be other reasons I don’t comprehend.
But enough about cringing; let’s get to the substance of your criticism of my article.
You correctly say that the article disapproves of Crotser’s activities, but you object to the fact that “somehow it is the Jordanian authorities who turn out to be the bad guys.” Somehow? It’s not somehow. The article was very explicit about how—and your letter, Tom, makes no mention of how. The Jordanian authorities were criticized because in response to Crotser’s false claim of funding the Ark of the Covenant, they abruptly canceled an important, legitimate American archaeological expedition that was ready to go into the field. As a result, the expedition to Jalul lost $35,000 in unrecoverable expenses. That’s how.
Although your letter does not even allude to this fact, the article on Tom Crotser could not have been more explicit:
“Unfortunately, Crotser’s false claim that he had found the Ark of the Covenant played a major part in the Jordanian decision to cancel the 1982 season of a major [American] archaeological expedition.”
Certainly the Crotser story could not have been written without stating this unfortunate fact.
You contend the Jordanians should be praised. Should they be praised for canceling the Jalul dig? Was the cancellation justified? Do you think the Jordanians were right?
The paragraph in the story—really the only one—that you find offensive is the one relating to the Jordanian reasons for canceling the Jalul dig. That paragraph reads in full as follows:
“It is difficult for Americans to understand the Jordanian Government’s decision. There seems to be little relationship between the crime and the punishment. It is well-known, however, that the Jordanians do not want any Biblical discoveries made in Jordan. This policy became even firmer in the summer of 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.”
Obviously, as the first sentence of this paragraph reflects, I found it hard to explain the Jordanian decision to cancel the Jalul dig. There seemed to be no relation between Crotser’s false claim and the cancellation of Jalul. You don’t like my explanation, but do you have a better explanation, Tom? How do you explain the Jordanian decision to cancel Jalul? What does Jalul have to do with Crotser? I would surely like to know.
Professor R. Thomas Schaub of Indiana University of Pennsylvania has resigned as a judge in BAR’s Biblical Archaeology Essay Contest. Schaub’s resignation arrived in August, less than a month before the entry deadline. The contest will be judged by the remaining two judges, Professor Menahem Mansoor of the University of Wisconsin and Professor Kenneth G. Holum of the University of Maryland. Over 80 entries in the essay contest were received at the BAR office by the September 1 deadline. Schaub’s resignation was triggered by an article in the May/June BAR describing a false claim that the Ark of the Covenant […]