Saturday, February 19, 2005

Altman and Crowder in the Toronto Star

On the ANE and Megillot (not yet archived) lists, Stephen Goranson notes that Neil Altman, assisted by reporter David Crowder, has an article on the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Toronto Star. Altman is "a Philadelphia-based writer who has specialized in writing about the Dead Sea Scrolls" (note that it doesn't say he specialized in the Scrolls themselves). For quite a few years he and Crowder have been promoting the daft idea that the Scrolls are medieval, a notion that has long since been shown on multiple converging grounds to be preposterous.

This piece ("Who wrote Dead Sea scrolls?") mixes their notion with a discussion of legitimate debates among archaeologists and Qumran scholars over the nature of the Qumran site and possible connections with the Essenes. I discussed another of Altman and Crowder's articles over at PaleoJudaica here and here and don't have much to add. I will say that this is yet another demonstration of the willful and harmful ignorance of the mainstream media about Qumran studies, biblical studies, and pretty much every scientific and academic discipline. The Toronto Star could easily have gotten a real archaeologist or specialist in the Scrolls to discuss the recent excavations and their implications. But they would rather get people like Altman and Crowder to promote their views, which - despite their misrepresentation of Jim VanderKam (see the second PaleoJudaica post) - no specialist takes seriously. This is a pity, because the media has been steadily eroding its own credibility for a long time, and the advent of blogs has accelerated this process since now people who are experts on subjects treated in bad articles like this one can respond in public.