A colleague of mine, James Tabor, recently came under some polemic attacks concerning some of his interpretations. While James and I come from different backgrounds, hold different epistemological beliefs, and have different interpretations of this so-called “Biblical history” in which many still cling (in regards to this, I must say I tend to find Joe Zias’ analysis of the evidence compelling and generally accurate), we nevertheless respect each other and I have always appreciated his sincerity and his caring personality. I find James to be a very competent scholar who deserves to be treated with respect and, it is here especially, this trait of his really shows in his response to Joe Zias:
Joe Zias just posted an article at the Web site Bible and Interpretation in which he puts for his revised interpretation of the human skeletal remains found in the southern caves at the desert fortress of Masada in October, 1963, during the opening season of the archaeological expedition led by Yigal Yadin. Zias has written on this subject before but here offers his latest interpretation, set in the wider context of the ways in which anthropology, and archeology more generally, contribute to controversies over Jewish identity. Along the way, about half the article is devoted a sarcastic and slanderous critique of me and my work, my colleague Kathy Reichs and her novel Cross Bones, and even my department of Religious Studies, of which I am chair–and by extension UNC Charlotte and our former Chancellor.
The Bible says two wise but purposely contradictory things: “Do not answer a fool, according to his folly, lest you be like him”; and “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:4-5). In the case of Joe Zias I have tried my best to live by the former and have declined to respond to, or in any way mention, here in this blog or elsewhere, the many slanderous things he has said and written about me over the past four years.
Joe Zias’ article is here: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/masada357902.shtml
James’ response can be found here: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/resp357902.shtml
I want to thank the editors of Bible and Interpretation for the opportunity to offer a response to Joe Zias’s rather fascinating contribution on Masada. This response does not imply that I find no merit in what Zias presents, in fact I find myself agreeing with several of his more substantive points on Jewish identity and related issues. However, his piece does contain some serious errors, as well as some rather negative comments about me personally. I will divide my comments into two parts, first the substantive and then, very briefly, the personal.
Read on, if you so choose.