Monday, September 23, 2013

Ken Dark Said That PERHAPS Dalmanutha Has Been Found

Dark mentioned here that his archaeological team may have found the town of Dalmanutha, a town known until now only from a mention in the Gospel of Mark.

Joel L Watts thinks Dark is full of it. In a commentary on Huffington Post, Watts seems to be making some rash assumptions: that Mark's style follows Lucan's. (Lucan's only surviving work, his poem on the Roman Civil War, was left unfinished at his death in AD 65, and Mark's Gospel was written within a dozen years of that. Lucan was popular, but did his influence on other writers extend as far as Judea and Galilee that fast? Hmm.) That Matthew not mentioning Dalmanutha argues against its existence. That Dark is affected by a compulsion to "to locate everything mentioned in Holy Writ." Pardon me, but Watts seems to suffer from a compulsion to dismiss Dalmanutha right away as a fictional literary device. What's wrong with saying that for the moment we don't know whether the newly-excavated site is Dalmanutha or not? I'm perfectly comfortable not knowing for sure yet, just as comfortable as I am not being sure yet whether there was an historical Jesus. Sometimes -- many times -- the only responsible position an historian can take is to say, it could have been like this, or like this, we don't know, so why not try to learn more about the subject, and in the meantime keep an open mind?

I see a widespread compulsion to oversimplify things. For example, in the comments on Watts' Huffington Post article, one reader declares: "The Bible is FICTION!" This simpleminded compulsion to reduce all 2000 pages or so of the Bible to one two-syllable all-caps word is often to be seen these days, and this particular instance wouldn't have been worth mentioning except that it comes from a HuffPost blogger. That's depressing.

Of course, neither Watts nor HP's simpleminded new atheist blogger betrays any particular interest in archaeology per se. Watts is a Christian theologian, still insisting, here and now in the 21st century, that The Answers Are In There (in the Bible that is), and the new Blogger appears to be a professional atheist with no other notable qualifications for employment. Dark is the only one of three with expertise in the field of archaeology -- and the only one of the three who seems to have an open mind about whether the site in question is Dalmanutha or not. The only one of the three who appears to intend to investigate the matter further before coming to a conclusion. The only one of the three whose motives for investigating the matter appear to be actually archaeological and not theological. Regular readers of The Wrong Monkey know that I have a very low opinion of theology. Let me just take the opportunity to point out that my opinion of atheists who have nothing better to do than to endlessly and fruitlessly argue with theologians is about as low. There are much more interesting, much more substantial things in the world, much more rewarding topics of conversation. (Archaeology, for example.)

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