As we go to press, a group of us from the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) are preparing for a trip to Atlanta. Four scholarly associations will be assembling there for their annual meetings at the end of November and your Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) will be holding its Sixth Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest (taking advantage of the powerhouse of scholars already assembled).
The four scholarly associations holding annual meetings are the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL), the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS). Together, more than 8,000 scholars from all over the world will attend and deliver hundreds of papers.
I am happy to report that my initial impression of the call for papers for the ASOR meeting, as reported in this space in the July/August issue, (“First Person: Off the Map” BAR 29:04) turned out to be wrong. Israeli archaeology has not been slighted in the ASOR program. Indeed, the coverage of current archaeology in Israel will be extensive, and many Israeli archaeologists have been included in the program. (We even gave one of them a travel scholarship to enable him to attend.)
There is still one thing missing, however. There is a session on “Hebrew Bible, History and Archaeology.” But there is no parallel session on the New Testament. Several papers report on the excavation of churches and monasteries and on a dig in Nazareth, but in the entire program the New Testament itself is never mentioned, nor any book of the New Testament. Does archaeology have nothing to say to the scholar whose special interest is the New Testament text? Several of the papers are scheduled to be delivered by scholars who teach at Christian seminaries. I would have thought that they would have concerned themselves with this omission. Maybe next year.
We have also submitted to ASOR a proposed amendment to its policy on looted objects. Read “Proposal to Amend ASOR’s Policy on Preservation and Protection of Archaeological Resources.” . If you are a member of ASOR and plan to attend the meeting, we would appreciate your support.
BAS has organized a panel at the SBL meeting on the James ossuary inscription (“James, the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus”) and the Jehoash inscription, featuring scholars André Lemaire of the Sorbonne, Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University, Chaim Cohen of Ben-Gurion University and Ed Greenstein from Tel Aviv University (for details on this session, see “The Debate Continues”). Less well-known to the community of Bible scholars are two scientists who will discuss the report of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) committee that declared both of these inscriptions to be forgeries. These independent scientists are Richard Newman of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a leader of the museum conservation community; and James Harrell, an officer of ASMOSIA (Association for the Study of Marble and 008Other Stones in Antiquity) and a professor of Geology at the University of Toledo. The final speaker will be the owner of the ossuary—and alleged forger—Oded Golan.
Unfortunately, several people connected with the IAA or the IAA committee declined to join the panel. Professor Yuval Goren, who provided the scientific analysis to the committee, declined our invitation even though he will be in Atlanta at the time. Amir Ganor, the IAA’s chief fraud investigator, is also going to be in Atlanta at the time. Ganor was willing to appear on the panel, but Shuka Dorfman, the director of the IAA, refused to allow this.
Uzi Dahari, the IAA deputy director and chairman of the IAA committee that pronounced the inscriptions to be forgeries, has told several people that the forging of the inscriptions involved a conspiracy of several people, including an “honored Israeli archaeologist.” Unfortunately, Dr. Dahari also declined our invitation to join the panel. So has Dr. Avner Ayalon, the Israel Geological Survey scientist who performed the isotope experiments showing that the coating (patina) on the inscriptions could not have been formed in a natural way by resting in a cave for 2,000 years.
In addition to the panel at the SBL meeting, I have agreed to speak on the James ossuary at the Near East Archaeological Society, my first appearance there. I’ll be speaking on The James Ossuary Inscription—Where Matters Stand; the talk will be at 4 o’clock on Wednesday, November 19, 2003, at the Atlanta Hilton Hotel.
The BAS Fest, open to all BAR readers, promises to be the best ever. The three-day program (November 21–23) includes 25 different talks on topics ranging from “The Oldest Fragments of the New Testament” to “The Qumran Cemetery” and “Was There a Babylonian Exile?” A plenary session will feature the co-directors of the excavation at the New Testament site of Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee. At our Saturday night banquet, Jodi Magness and Kyle McCarter will join me to answer any and all questions (about the Bible and archaeology) that participants care to ask. This has always been a lively, no-holds-barred session and is likely to be so again. If you’re interested, there’s still time to sign up (call 1–800-221–4644).
The Biblical Archaeology Society will also have a booth on the exhibit floor of the SBL meeting. Among our many products, we will be featuring several new items: our revised and updated CD called “The Biblical World in Pictures,” containing over 1,300 stunning Biblical photographs from the vast BAS archive; and a CD archive of all of our issues of BAR (27 years), plus additional materials such as Bibles, all fully searchable. For educational institutions, churches and synagogues, we offer a free, one-year subscription to the limited-access area of our Web site that contains all back issues of BAR, plus Bibles and other resources (see www.bib-arch.org for details) so that students can access this material in their rooms.
Finally, at our SBL booth we will be showing for the first time our new 4-hour documentary (available on videocassette and DVD), An Archaeological Search for Jesus, starring such luminaries as Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, John Dominic Crossan, Joseph Fitzmyer, James VanderKam, James Strange, Gabriel Barkay, Dan Bahat, Stephen Pfann, Richard Freund, Rami Arav, Hanan Eshel and many others.
We look forward to an exciting time in Atlanta and to seeing many of our readers and contributors. Be sure to say hello to us.
As we go to press, a group of us from the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) are preparing for a trip to Atlanta. Four scholarly associations will be assembling there for their annual meetings at the end of November and your Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) will be holding its Sixth Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest (taking advantage of the powerhouse of scholars already assembled). The four scholarly associations holding annual meetings are the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL), the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS). Together, more […]