The Blogging Truth

 

 The Great Intellectual Fraud of our Time 

 

‘Truth?’ said Pilate “What is that?’ (John 18:38)

Just imagine it. Christ is standing before Pilate, an unpleasant man, deep in the heart of a Roman occupation zone. Pilate knows that Judea is the Roman graveyard slot; his political career is all but over. And there, in the midst of the gravest crisis of his short career, Jesus is having a philosophical chat. It is a surprisingly honest interaction. According to the Scriptures it is the people who go on to determine that Jesus should be crucified when Pilate gives them the choice. Christ goes to the cross for the truth. It is history’s greatest irony.

Now go forward two thousand years and where are we?  Yes, you’ve got it, no change. Just when Christ seems to have made an historical reappearance, a sort of Second Coming, on the cover of an ancient lead book, the irony has returned with him. We are, unfortunately no nearer the truth, in fact you’ll be lucky if you’re allowed to get anywhere near the facts.

It was in search of facts about a major discovery a couple of years ago that I went online: a couple of friends announced the finding of some possible (their word not mine) early Christian writings, a series of lead books. Analysis undertaken by various laboratories in the USA, UK and in Jordan had revealed that these books were certainly worthy of further analysis. The couple had been forced into an announcement in order to stop these potentially important books from disappearing into the black market. Since then we have not heard much, or rather, we have heard a lot, but one look at it and you realize that a whopping great hornet’s nest has been stirred. Looking into all of this and trying to sift fact from fiction, one thing strikes the eye: for all of the arts of concealment and bluster, you can’t help but notice that opponents of the find are on the defensive.

It’s an odd coalition of characters ranging from the evangelical to the academic: and yet the fact is that they haven’t once offered the general and interested reader the decency of some proper scientific analysis, no breakdown of the historical period, no offering of why the books might be fakes or forgeries. Let alone any enlightening or spiritually uplifting sparks of their own that these exciting discoveries might inspire in the human imagination, which I like to think is their revolutionary intent.

Looking online you’d think the argument was over. ‘Done and dusted guv, they’re fakes.’  It gives the impression of seeming definite, but scratch beneath the surface to look for the defining evidence and all that can be seen are endless blogs offering their version of the truth, but not a shred of data to back up their assertions, sorry – conclusions. The tone is inquisitorial. The mood – collectively dreary. It reminds me somewhat of my Catholic childhood, sitting in church, gazing up at a statue of Jesus and thinking he looked like the most inspiring and magical man who should be heralding forth heroic holy music and beams of light, with something joyous and exciting happening, only to be trapped in some dull, patriarchal monotone ordeal. As if the church had missed or mis-led the message and the point. And the niggling suspicion, even as a child, that I was being lied to.

We need to be able to make up our own minds – the age of religious enforcement is now behind us.  Our liberty is hard won and yet self-proclaimed experts are saying ‘Take our word for it, trust us’. But times they are a changing, and thanks to the internet each and every one of us can all ask the difficult questions now – and many of us really want to know the facts rather than the opinions of individuals in order to determine the truth for ourselves – isn’t that the nature of truth?  

Just one look at the comments surrounding the discovery reveals that the insidious art of crucifixion is alive and well in modern academe. (I’ve looked them up and the big names are wisely keeping their counsel. One look at some of the institutions on this list says all you need to know)

The air is thick with censorship: the ‘in people’ versus you, the reader, the stupid ignorant bloke down the pub who can’t tell the difference, who’ll swallow anything fed to him, like a goose become foie gras. It is offensive because it is exclusive, because it implies elitism, members of a club where the facts and, to a certain extent the truth, are seen as collateral to be traded on the black market of individual gullibility.

Why should I care you say, why not just ignore it and do something else with my time? Well, it’s because what amazes the eye is the fact that some of these voices are very well-known in their respective fields, they have influence, there are some among them who give advice to policy makers and whose pronouncements are becoming a kind of corporate Pilate for the 21st century. Think of Iraq and Afghanistan, think Middle-East. If they were politicians or corporate bosses then maybe it would be understandable, but these are people with careers, vocations, jobs and callings in theology and the supposed academy of wisdom. So-called Christians. Representatives of God.

You’d have thought that with all the recent exposure in the press of bloggers uttering death threats to ordinary people going about their work would have been a good warning, but looking at what follows you have to see that they still don’t get it.

The Cambridge based Historian Mary Beard couldn’t have handled it better when she not only confronted her young persecutor and exposed him, she took him out to lunch and gave him a stern ticking off. However, when it comes to issuing death threats a simple telling off will not do: last week two bloggers were sentenced to eight years imprisonment for threatening a sitting female MP with death. Quite so. And what about suicide? It seems like everyday another suicide is reported in the news of a youngster driven to their deaths by cyber-bullying. However, what is less known to the public is the usage of defamation in the academic arena.

It has to be recognized that some of the content of what follows is distasteful. These comments were published on these individuals’ public blogs and websites and thus it has to be assumed that the originators of the websites were happy that they should be there. Ad hominem attacks, unfair and designed to detract from the main thrust of a point, have long been used by those attempting to discredit discoveries that threaten the status quo: it is an iniquitous but frankly, obvious, tactic.

Take the first of the quotes – it sums up the tactic well: 

‘I believe that you are right and ridicule at each and every opportunity. They (the lead books) are of such poor quality I’m surprised that anyone bought the story. On the other hand it’s always the biblical scholars who fall for this stuff as dirt archaeologists, museum curators, and dealers can usually spot these items as forgeries a mile away. Moreover, look at the names of those involved, at times it’s a dead giveaway.’ 
Joe Zias, former employee of the IAA (Israeli Antiquities Authority) associate, Media Board of ASOR

‘That was fun! But I do hope that the next major “find” turns out to be, you know, real.’
 Prof Jim Davila, University of St Andrews

This is simple opinion and they are entitled to it, but coming from the American School of Oriental Research it would be nice to know what their evidence is to justify such comments. I searched but there was nothing doing. Upon enquiry I was informed that none of the above (or below) have actually submitted a request for samples of the lead material. No samples equals no analysis – or am I missing something?:

‘Hi everyone.  Tom Verenna has put together an excellent video summarizing the case that the Jordan Codices are fakes — see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGw0orL7814.  Enjoy!’  
Prof Mark Goodacre, Associate Professor, Duke University, North Carolina, ASOR

I’ve seen the video; it was nothing to write home about and it has nothing to offer except the minimum of evidence and the maximum of opinion. It hardly goes into detail and yet this is supposed to be a defining point? As above no sample analysis is reviewed. It makes odd watching as you wonder what it’s all about. Now let’s look at the words of a London based classicist – it seems that anyone can join in on the party:

‘Now I’m feeling a bit guilty, as mocking the fakes is as easy as stealing sweeties off a child … but that’s not going to stop me adding this image from a Lead Codex which was for sale on eBay, and which David Meadows kindly pointed us to … (alas, too late to snap it up for a bargain $13,000)…. LOL – amazing how many are amusing ourselves by posting in the Fake Jordan Codices Group, to see how long posts last
Dorothy Lobel King, King’s College London, PhDiva blogspot

‘Bloggers rule.’ 
Prof Jim Davila

It is remarkable that here we have a contradiction in terms, a codex is admitted to being worth a lot of money, no small change, but, and here I have a real problem, is there no one out there willing to report the illegal sale of antiquities? It is breath-taking to realize that the Antiquities and Biblical scholarship business is so very low-down, sexist and racist even:

‘I can only hope for two things:  That Elkington and his ignorant cohort (Jennifer Elkington) will just disappear into silence so that the whole subject rightly dies off as it so richly deserves’
 Dr. Jim West,  ‘The Blogging Pastor’, Media Director ASOR, Prof at Quartz Hill School of Theology

So biblical scholars refer to a female writer as an ‘ignorant cohort.’ Doing their duty, keeping eons of sexism and misogyny alive in 2013. But do let’s crack on with some patronising racism:

 ‘Chill, dude.  Take a breath.  OK, I know that you need to puff public interest in support of your efforts to obtain possession of these items (which he alleges were illegally taken out of Jordan into Israel), and I know that you also want to get as much publicity out of this as possible for your institution, but these comments only make you look silly.’
Prof Larry Hurtado, Edinburgh University on Prof Ziad Al Saad, Former Director General of the Department of Antiquities, Amman, Jordan

‘Mr. Saad is getting way ahead of himself by invoking international law here. He has spent the last month setting himself up to be embarrassed.’
Prof Jim Davila

The gloves are off at this point – no image of gentle dignity and ivory towers. Calling the Jordanian professor ‘dude’ is belittling. Is the Argentinean Pope referred to as ‘dude’ by these academics? I expect not.

Perhaps he should have taken his own advice:

Paradoxical Ground rule no. 5 for blogging on Larry Hurtado’s website [sic]:
5) Avoid insults and slurs, and focus on engagement with the issues and data.  Refutation, declaring an error, all welcome and appropriate, but keep it polite and fair.
Prof Larry Hurtado, Edinburgh University

However, all dignity is lost when we read the following:

‘I just threw up in my mouth: on David Elkington and the lead codices. Seriously, I have to go brush my teeth now.’ 
Dr. Robert Cargill, The University of Iowa, Media Chair ASOR

‘The Codices are modern trinkets and everyone but those with a financial interest in pimping them realizes this.  Nevertheless, since they, like a continuously returning bad penny, have arisen again, like a piece of excrement that just won’t flush.’  
Dr. Jim West, Zwinglius Redivivus blog site

This is remarkable stuff coming as it does from highly placed academics in positions of responsibility. From this point on it can only get slanderous, no holes barred:

‘Let us not forget that these are the metallurgical tests that Elkington himself altered in order to obscure doubts expressed therein… I for one am disappointed that Barker has thrown her lot in with Elkington and his manipulative methods.’
Daniel O. McClellan, Brigham Young University, FLDS

‘The BBC has known for a long time that the codices are fake. It looks to me as though they are trying to squeeze the last dregs out of the story, while laying the groundwork for eventually correcting it with the truth. They should have done that months ago and their conduct has been reprehensible.’
Prof Jim Davila

‘Philip Davies should know better… Margaret Barker should get her head out of the clouds…and David Elkington, whoever you are, should never try to pull a stunt like this again.’  
Prof Jim Davila

‘David Elkington knew they were fakes when he started all this hoopla a month ago. Want to take any bets on whether he showed Thonemann’s letter to Davies and Barker?’
Prof Jim Davila

‘Excellent damning analysis by my friend/former student Dan McClellan on the fraudulent Jordan Codices’  
Timothy Michael Law, Wolfson College, Oxford

The same McClellan goes on to utter the following words following an interview by one of the scholars, a very eminent figure, on a US Radio show:

‘The claim is not that we {Bibliobloggers) cannot understand it, the claim is that the codices are demonstrably modern in origin. Sure, we assert that the script itself is nonsensical, but to twist that into “bits we don’t understand” is ludicrous. Not a word of it can be understood, and that is because it is pure nonsense. The “I will walk in uprightness” has been shown to be nothing more than wishful thinking combined with heavy squinting.’
On Dr. Margaret Barker’s interview on Coast to Coast radio

‘Most pastors are dreadfully boring human beings.  I know I’m supposed to like them, and I do like some.  But most are just tiresome souls who care more about themselves and their reputations than they do the Gospel or the truth.  If more pastors blogged, more misinformation would be spread…God willing this will be the last time anyone, anywhere, mentions these feckless codices.’ 
Dr. Jim West

This last comment finally confirms the view that there is a motive behind the attacks; that they are seeking to suppress the truth of the matter – it is chilling.

‘Please feel free to send me a list enumerating the incidents of slander, misrepresentation, and plagiarism on the ASOR blogsites — evidence required, not just allegations. I would be happy to inquire of the ASOR media officers about such instances in an attempt to rectify them if they are substantiated. … I do not approve of any instances of slander, misrepresentation, or plagiarism –‘
Dr. Christopher A. Tuttle, Associate Director, ACOR (American School of Oriental Research), Amman, Jordan

This last response was sent to the Elkingtons when they complained about the above comments. Needless to say that nothing was done about the uncommon behaviour demonstrated as ‘academic’ debate. What is scary is that these ‘Bibliobloggers’ are now a recognized entity within one of the most powerful organizations in academe – the Society of Biblical Literature. The Elkingtons’ role is to bring the codices to the attention of the world, which they see as their duty, torturous as this has been throughout. Their aim is to return the hoard to Jordan, where it belongs under international law. I would also like to add that the quotes above only represent a section of the persecution and personal abuse the Elkingtons have endured.

What lies at the heart of all of these comments is the remarkable change of attitude towards the truths presented by the very institutions as represented by these bloggers. Many of them, as I said above, religious institutes where one might expect a more “Christian” reception. These comments are a sign of desperation: the last throw of the dice. Right wing evangelical policies are perceived to have created the mess in the Middle East: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria you name it, the list goes on.

This change is reflected in a recent demographic in the Washington Post. Over the last twenty years an alarming, though understandable, fall has taken place in the numbers of people who still admit to be regular church goers: for the first time in American history the figure has fallen below the 50% threshold – to 39% – it is a remarkable change. The essence of the argument is this: as the once great waters of conditioned church-going diminish to a mere puddle, all that is left is the toxic element that was always present but too dilute to be overly influential, now the toxins are having their last hurrah – only to see the attendance rate plummet even further: and they wonder why!

I can tell them why. Two thousand years (and more) of patriarchal oppression and control are starting to crack under the momentous, unstoppable truth movement currently gaining rapid pace on this planet. The deceit, lies and veils of disinformation are starting to fall and reveal real truth and wisdom which they have tried, with the most destructive and deceptive forces possible, be it bombs or blogs, to suppress.

Whatever your opinion of the Jesus story, the fount of wisdom that still flows down through the centuries from a source at that time is indisputable, no matter how it has been warped and twisted for the agendas of an hierarchical elite and various elements of orthodox religion. How different, more idyllic, happier and healthier, how more fair and balanced our world may be today if Mary Magdalene’s gospel had been treated with the same reverence and respect as the male gospels, instead of being silenced and maligned for centuries. But the truth will have it’s day.

Words and Picture: Claire Palmer

 


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9 Responses to The Blogging Truth

  1. I object vehemently to my characterization here as a slanderous and libelous academic oppressor (also, I am neither FLDS nor employed by or a student at Brigham Young University). Anyone reading is free to visit my blog or any others mentioned in the is article and decide for themselves who is doing sober academic analysis and who is hiding facts and suppressing information. All the Elkingtons have provided are promises that there really are secret scholars out there that will one day release all the facts, as well as a soon-to-be-released book that may or may not provide more information. Just fork over $50 and you can find out!

  2. Pingback: Daniel O. McClellan

  3. Claire says:

    Hi Daniel. The article was written as a result of two or three years haranguing of the Elkingtons by several people and organisations and it’s still continuing. Just doing my duty stepping in and helping to protect fellow truthseekers. It’s not an attempt to ignite issues further with yourself and others, more a plea for calm discussion, investigation and mutual respect over what basically is the discovery of a hoard of lead books which experts (not secret!) consider to be around 2,000 years old, judging by the rare Paleo-Aramaic language therein, and metallurgy analysis of the objects themselves. Something which potentially could bring peace to the world, especially in the Middle East. Those calling them fake have provided no evidence to the contrary after being asked several times to provide it. This has been the most exasperating element to all this, the Elkingtons and their team are as neutral, un-biased and curious as anyone else as to the codices’ authenticity and have never acted otherwise. Yes the Elkingtons have written an exciting, page-turning book of the story but thats not a crime is it? The level of interest in the story is as powerful as the efforts of those trying to stop it coming out. All Im saying is don’t shoot the messenger. Yours, in Christian fellowship.

    • Thanks for responding Claire. I have to point out a few things, though. First, Mr. Elkington is the only one of whom I’m aware that has actually threatened lawsuits and has involved the police in his harassment of completely innocent people. If our negative assessment of his claims on a small number of blogs constitutes “haranguing,” what does Mr. Elkington’s sustained attempts to misappropriate the police and the courts in an attempt to threaten and harass those who would use their professional academic training to inform the public constitute?

      Additionally, it is entirely dishonest to pretend the cadre of scholars ostensibly studying and translating the codices are not secret (or not imaginary). Margaret Barker and Philip Davies are demonstrably not a part of this “team” that Mr. Elkington has been insisting is making all kinds of progress interpreting and translating the texts (Davies himself warns that he cannot support the “I will walk in uprightness” reading). Mr. Elkington has directly refused to reveal their identities on the grounds that it might compromise the integrity of their research and also step on the toes of the Jordanian government (which obviously no longer cares). He has numerous, numerous photos of the codices that he flatly refuses to share (the notion that their release somehow compromises his team’s progress or safety (!) almost three years down the road is utterly laughable), and the only ones that are at all useful for analysis have leaked through other sources, much to Mr. Elkington’s chagrin. He has repeatedly attempted to suppress and hide photos so that their contents cannot be made available for public consumption and analysis. I don’t think those activities constitute anything approximating concern academic or intellectual integrity.

      • Claire says:

        Having been informed of this story every step of the way I have to refute your claims of Mr Elkington harrassing innocent people. As far as I am aware he has acted professionally and in good faith with people only to be let down many times, in some cases suffering abuse aimed at himself, his personal life and family, leaving him no option but to take legal action. I can safely say that he and Jennifer are strong people: what they have endured would have crushed most. Targetting them personally can only be seen, rationally, as an attempt to stop their book coming out, which would be the opposite of what you are asking for, surely. It would appear you and other bloggers/parties are allowed to write what you like about him and his wife in a belittling manner but see it as unfair to have their perspective of the situation defended. Ofcourse its rife on the internet and you are entitled to your opinion, but shouldnt we expect more gallant behaviour from learned academics?

        The subject of these artefacts is politically and religiously volatile with some powerful agendas at work, so an element of confidentiality and sensitivity is vital for ensuring the story’s safe passage to the public domain, where people can make their own minds up about the codices. The whole point of the book – be it facts or photos – is revelation, not concealement.

        • Claire says:

          Email sent to me from Dr Margaret Barker on 19th January 2014

          —–

          It is a fact that I have several times hosted this fictional team for lunch at my home. The first was, I think, in the late summer of 2009.

          I do not like the term team, preferring ‘group’, but this group, including Philip Davies, does exist and has done for a long time. A group does not have to agree about everything.

          I have published a short account of my thoughts about these artefacts, based on the very many pictures I have seen that David showed me, along with the opinions of professional metallurgists.

          My opinions are based on over forty years of studying and nearly forty of publishing [since 1977] in the field of ‘Temple Theology’ – a discipline I inaugurated and a term I coined. These codices seem to me to fit well into that field.

          So many people voicing opinions of the codices do not appear to know enough about the temple roots of Christianity to be able to recognise what they might be.

          Either we have very sophisticated forgeries from a hitherto unknown expert in the field of temple theology and Christian origins [which is always possible], or we have something very interesting indeed.

          Most of the images on the codices do make sense in this particular context.

          The case is open.

          • Claire-

            This still only means you’ve got Dr. Barker and some metallurgists. Dr. Davies can hardly be counted among David’s supporters at this point, and Dr. Barker mentions no one else. Additionally, Dr. Barker is hardly an epigrapher or historical linguist. So who was it that translated the little ID card codex? Who was it who told David it was “a square script,” and so it wasn’t Aramaic, but paleo-Hebrew (a laughable misrepresentation of the script categories)? Who was it who read “I will walk in uprightness”? David said he was working on one of the four or five people on the planet who was familiar with paleo-Hebrew—which is a bold-faced lie—and said “he” (not “she,” but “he”) was close to a breakthrough. It wasn’t Dr. Davies, so who was it? What happened to this breakthrough? Who are these secret people that must never be named, but still come over to Dr. Barker’s house for lunch?

            If Dr. Barker would like to address my concerns directly, rather than obliquely through these comments, she is invited to do so on my blog, where I originally registered them:

            http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/margaret-barker-on-the-jordan-codices/

  4. Robert Deutsch says:

    This is the symptom of the lead poisoning.

  5. wonderful put up, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector don’t realize this.

    You should continue your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a huge readers’
    base already!

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