Thursday, January 06, 2005

Forgery Roundup: Oded, Man of Sorrows

Since the indictments, I've been going back and reviewing some of the literature previously published on Oded Golan, and I was struck by some things he said in (where else?) Biblical Archaeology Review:
[When I agreed to allow the James ossuary inscription to be published in BAR] I had no idea that I would have to undergo my own Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.
And at the end of the article:
I cannot say for certain whether the ossuary once bore the bones of James... who received a death sentence by the Sanhedrin and was later stoned... But I do know with certainty that the present government authorities in Jerusalem have proven, through their conduct, or should I say misconduct, that they are truly successors of that government of 2,000 years ago.
Let's see now. If I follow the metaphors here, Golan is casting himself first as the suffering Jesus and then as the martyred James the Just, and the Israeli government as the Sanhedrin. I can't be the only person who finds this not only grotesque, but offensive.

Incidentally, Golan also has the chutzpah to say: "I live modestly." Huh? That doesn't square with glimpses of his apartment seen in Sixty Minutes a few weeks ago, or in the views of it seen in an Israeli documentary, as described by Rochelle Altman:
Mr. Oded Golan enters, seated at his blonde grand piano set in the middle of a spacious room and surrounded with tiers of glass shelves, packed with artifacts, set against the distant walls. Golan's apartment, with its rooms running back the length of the building and spanning roughly 25 meters across the frontage, is an apartment with a price tag of at least $800,000 in US currency. Wait! What happened to Golan's "tiny" apartment in Tel-Aviv where he was visited by the reporters from Time magazine?
That article bears re-reading, especially in view of the indictments.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere: Jim West gives the text of a letter to the ANE list from Israel Finkelstein, the excavator of Megiddo, and why Deutsch was discharged from the Megiddo excavation. By the way, it is easy to infer from Deutsch's website that he is still involved in the Megiddo project!

Mark Goodacre raises a pregnant question. He wonders what the reaction to the indictments is of Ben Witherington, who has always believed in the authenticity of the James ossuary. This raises an interesting issue for me on the attitude to be taken by and towards scholars who write about texts that later turn out to be forged. I hope to blog about this soon.

Seth Sanders has an erudite discussion about biblical archaeology on his blog; read all his posts on this topic. He does say one thing that puzzles me, though:
So another question we could ask is, why is the debate cast in these terms, of maximalism vs. minimalism, history vs. ideology, authenticity vs. forgery?
I'm not sure why "authenticity vs. forgery" is thrown into this pot. An epigraph either is authentic or it is forged, while, say, "maximalism vs. minimalism" are two ideological grids which may admit of many degrees between ideal forms at the poles, and they may not "correspond" to any actual state of affairs. So I'm not sure how this is relevant to the forgery scandal. But read Seth, not me.

UPDATE: Jim Davila gives a convincing construal of Seth's words here. As to the relevance of the James Ossuary, part of which is forged, according to reports: I should have said above "the words of an epigraph are authentic or forged," since, as Jim points out, forged words can be added to authentic ones. My point, in any case, was that the terms "authentic" and "forged" do not admit degrees.

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