Biblical Archaeology or the National Enquirer?

It seems that every time an archaeological discovery is made in Israel, it is automatically connected to King David, the Gospels or the Dead Sea Scrolls. Archaeologists and/or journalists want to make the discovery exciting to the public, so they throw out wild baseless theories. In the most recent issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Craig Evans argues that this ultimately harms the field of biblical archaeology. He claims that the public will no longer take these discoveries seriously, having decided that there is no way to know if a discovery is really significant or if it is just being sensationalized.

Jim West, who regularly accuses BAR of sensationalizing archaeology, finds it ironic that this article was published in this particular magazine.  He agrees with Evans’ thesis but thinks he should have published his ideas in a different publication. And he wonders what impression they were trying to make at BAR by publishing this article.

In the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls, all sorts of unsubstantiated and radical theories have been bandied about for years. Scholars who write and lecture for the general public have a difficult job: first, they must dispel the sensational theories and then they must explain what the real significance of the Scrolls is.  Due to the general interest in all things archaeological in Israel, this same pattern repeats itself with practically every artifact dug out of the ground. It will take more than one article to change this.

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