Prejudging and Missing the Point

   Mark, an anonymous poster over on TQuid’s blog, has commented about From Toronto to Emmaus:

I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now and appreciate some of the stuff you do. This probably doesn’t go in this comment box, but I’m not sure where else to put. I know that you are associated with Mr. James White, and I just have a quick question about something he is doing. While I completely agree with his position regarding the tomb controversy, what is the deal with his new book. He is supposedly publishing a scholarly, well-research book of 160 pages after writing for a grand total of 15 days. I appreciate a lot of the stuff that he does, but how can anyone take him seriously when his book is written in such a ridiculously short time. Anyone who has written a scholarly book knows that these things take months, if not years to fully research and write. Can you possibly explain why he would do something so silly as write a “scholarly” work in 16 days. This book will only serve to make non-Christians view Christians as even more ridiculous than they already do. It kind of makes me wonder how long he spent researching and writing those other books. Anyway, thanks for what you do and for the input.

   It would be nice to think someone might actually read the book, but that’s the way things go. I was falsely accused by an LDS scholar of pre-judging Peterson’s new book on Muhammad, for example, when I had only indicated I had ordered it (it arrived two days ago) and would be reviewing it when it arrived, and that I would find it interesting to read an LDS take on Islam (let alone one published by Eerdmans).
   In any case, Mark has missed the point. Yes, the book was written in a very brief period of time. However, has he read The Jesus Family Tomb? I did. Does he know what areas of study a response to it would involve? If he has read it, he would know it would involve the following: church history, Second Temple history (first century Palestine), Gnostic literature, Greek, Hebrew, DNA analysis, statistical analysis of names, ossuaries, and general apologetics information. My library already contains a great deal of information relevant to the topic, including the TLG CD-ROM, for example, the early church fathers, all the major Gnostic works, etc. What I did not have, I obtained. A&O spent hundreds of dollars on original resources. Folks were sending me scans from very difficult to obtain sources in major libraries across the country within the first few days of the work.

   If I have any particular skills, they are in analyzing and breaking down arguments. As much as my opponents regret it, I have the ability to think on the fly and respond to arguments by analyzing their foundational presuppositions and errors. I can ask the important questions that get to the heart of the matter. Reading the book, and watching the film, was like being in a debate. It took relatively little effort to determine the central errors and to formulate a list of necessary steps to document the appropriate counter-argument and refutation. I’ve been doing this for twenty five years now. If I can’t respond to an argument quickly by now, I should be in another line of work.
   So, what Mark has missed is that the general areas touched upon in the response were not new areas of research for me: when Jacobovici or Cameron make reference to the Gospel of Thomas, I was not left scrambling to find out what the Gospel of Thomas is. I wrote a review of Thomas for the CRI Journal nearly a decade ago, and pointed out the nature of the work and its dating to Shabir Ally in the cross-examination portion of our debate last May. I regularly write reviews of scholarly works for the CRI Journal, including, just recently, Evan’s Reconstructing Jesus, which has an extended section on the dating of Thomas, its original language, etc., and even wrote the CRI review of Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses during the writing of my book on the Talpiot tomb! Furthermore, the argument breaks down into very discreet portions, and my response is focused upon the fatal flaws in the theory. I did not need to spend a hundred pages arguing about the Knights Templar, for example. The theory is dependent upon the Mariamne/Acts of Philip connection, and the single chapter on that one point is 29 pages long with 31 references, including citations from early church writers, e-mails from Francois Bovon, etc.
   Furthermore, others who have read the book have come to conclusions different than that of Mark, who, of course, has not:

“James White has done a splendid job of answering questions that would have been raised in the minds of thoughtful inquirers by the sensationalistic but dubious documentary ‘The Lost Tomb of Jesus’ by James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici. Readers who think Christians are afraid of hard facts will have to think again after reading this rapidly produced but superbly informed and rigorously reasoned rejoinder.” – Ligon Duncan
“James White has applied his considerable skill as a Bible scholar and apologist to the task of debunking the latest bunk in ‘the historical Jesus vs. the biblical Christ’ false dichotomy so loved by theological liberals. The new bunk in question is the film The Lost Tomb of Jesus and the pseudo-scholarship and wacky-science that precipitated it. In a word, Dr. White readily shows that Christianity is perfectly safe from this lame attempt to stab it under the fifth rib.” – Dr. Robert P. Martin
“The Lost Tomb of Jesus documentary is a direct attack upon the reliability of the Resurrection of Christ and that makes it a direct attack upon the heart of Christianity. James White knows it. Here he cuts through the spin, exposing layers of inconsistencies and frequently turning his readers back to Scripture. But this book’s enduring contribution to the church will be the reaffirmation that history and theology are inseparably bound.” – Tony Reinke
“James White has earned a reputation among evangelicals as a careful biblical scholar and as a skillful defender of the faith. His reasoned response to the alleged burial tomb of Jesus exposes this theory’s numerous unwarranted speculations, errors, and contradictions. This brief book also reminds people of the Gospel message and of the authentic case for the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.” – Kenneth Samples
“How times remain the same; and, our need for valiant warriors stays constant. James White is to be applauded for taking pen in hand to fight against this hoax while directing all to the faith once delivered.” –Mike Renihan