Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Prolific Ben Witherington III

Christianity Today has now posted a second article by Ben Witherington III:

Top Ten New Testament Archaeological Finds of the Past 150 Years

Witherington concludes his list, not surprisingly in view of his other article in the current Christianity Today, to say nothing of his book on the subject, with the James Ossuary. Yet the most controversial element in his "Top Ten" will undoubtedly be the Shroud of Turin. I must admit that this one surprised me -- I didn't realise any serious NT scholars defended the authenticity of the shroud since the carbon dating; perhaps that just shows how ignorant I am. But also it's surely not an "archaeological find", is it? No-one dug this up, unlike the 2,000 year old Jerusalem shroud unearthed by Shimon Gibson in 2000.

Even more startling to a sceptic like me are Witherington's hopes for DNA testing on the bone box and the shroud:

So, I like to say, James is in the box, and Jesus is on the box, because of the resurrection. And perhaps, if we are able to test the bone fragments of the box soon, and compare the DNA evidence to the evidence produced in the '80s about the gene string and DNA derived from the blood samples on the Shroud, we may just have a double confirmation of the artifacts I have discussed at the beginning and end of this essay. Stay tuned.

I wonder how many share Witherington's optimism? Certainly not me, I'm afraid. I'm also a bit surprised about a major omission from Witherington's list, the Nag Hammadi codices and especially the Gospel of Thomas. Perhaps I spend too much time with Thomas, especially these days, but I can't imagine that P52, which is in Witherington's Top Ten, can be a more important discovery than the massive find of the Nag Hammadi codices, can it?

Witherington remains extraordinarily prolific -- there's an interesting little piece also just posted called Inside CT: The Article We Didn't Print, which showers praise on Witherington and reveals that apparently he wrote the above mentioned article in just one day.

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