Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Resources for Evaluation of the Claims of Charles Pellegrino Regarding Stephen Pfann/Tomb Issues, With Comments
05/11/2007 - James WhiteIn the materials I posted earlier Charles Pellegrino make some pretty harsh accusations against Stephen Pfann. I found the rhetoric used by Dr. Pellegrino most regrettable, and more so, rather misleading. It was certainly far more personal than appropriate. I posted a link to Dr. Pfann's blog, "The View from Jerusalem," but I wanted to provide some specific links to the material that replies to or refutes Dr. Pellegrino's accusations. Specifically:
Dr. Pellegrino says Dr. Pfann's reading of the ossuary (which I included in my book, along with Dr. Robinson's suggestion, both of which have more probability than the reading adopted by the Talpiot Theorists) "simply flies 180 degrees in the opposite direction of all forensic archaeological evidence." I would call upon Dr. Pellegrino to abandon the use of this kind of argument. It is invalid on its face. "All"? Surely anyone who has read Pfann's paper is well aware that it is well argued and documented, so, the very statement is impossible on its face (see also here). Steven Cox has likewise examined the inscription using a number of modern scientific tools, and as noted by Dr. Pfann on his blog, the results have been submitted to the IAA (and I note, again the regular dismissal of the IAA by the Talpiot Theorists). The truth of these matters is not helped by this kind of rhetorical claim on Dr. Pellegrino's part.
Next, Pellegrino claims the strokes that appear before "MARA" and the "first stroke of the second "M" following the "eta" were "cut with the same stroke style and direction, with the same amount of hand pressure." Here is Pfann's response.
Next, I have examined the images used by Pfann in his paper and compared them against the images found in Pellegrino's book, and I find nothing of substance to the allegation of someone "brushing out" "vital punctuation." Dr. Pellegrino will have to be more specific as to exactly what his claims are at this point, how the alleged "punctuation" is relevant to the reading of the inscription, etc. At this point, we only have bald assertion.
I always get nervous when generic, and exaggerated, terminology is used in contexts like this. Pellegrino attempts to make it look like it is Pfann vs. "some of the best epigraphers in the world." I assume Pellegrino is not including himself in this group, so, to whom does he refer? Rahmani and Di Segni? Surely Pellegrino recognizes that Rahmani's work is not meant to be definitive, but, more of a cataloguing effort so that the data would not be lost. Pfann notes in his blog that Profs. Emile Puech and Tal Ilan have come to the same conclusions as he has regarding the reading, and that others, upon reading his paper, have agreed with his conclusions. Now, of course, just as with the Acts of Philip material, we are touching the very heart of the Talpiot Theory. If any other reading were to be allowed, Pellegrino's entire work would have to be dismissed. So, I would suggest there might well be some "vested interest" here. At the very least, what Pellegrino offers here is not counter-argumentation on the level Pfann offered (why not provide refutation of his citation of other contemporary documents and sources that have similar forms of the word "kai" for example?) but mockery. Dr. Pfann's article was scholarly in tone and demeanor. Why stoop to using language like, "were unable to read simple Greek" or "were according to Pfann too stupid to figure out"? This is inflammatory rhetoric unworthy of sound scholarship.
I noted earlier problems with the DNA claims. I included Carney Matheson's e-mails in my book, and would note that given the nature of mitochondrial DNA, the incomplete examination of the ossuaries, the nature of the "human debris" (i.e., extracting materials from one portion of the ossuary would not necessarily give you a complete picture of how many people had been placed in the bone box), coming to the firm and indisputable conclusion that only one person was in each of the tested ossuaries is not only unwarranted, but might indicate yet more bias in reference to the examination of the data. Remember, the documentation indicates a much higher estimation for the number of persons/ossuary than 1:1, but the Talpiot Theorists need 80/500 and 80/503 to have just one person in them.
It is just here that I must again request of Dr. Pellegrino that he consider well the value of such statements as, "but according to Pfann, the top paleo-DNA experts on the planet are not as bright as he, either." I am, sadly, quite accustomed to this kind of invalid argumentation in my own work, and it is normally a sign of a less-than-sound argument that someone would utilize it.
Likewise, the entire second to last paragraph struck me as little more than rank ad-hominem. I am accustomed myself to the "scholarship is not something you do, it is something you buy" mentality of so many today, so I am particularly sensitive to seeing it being used against others. I would invite Pellegrino to provide me with URL's or other forms of documentation regarding this "press conference" to which he refers, and, again, scholarly documentation regarding punctuation, "special effects," and "redrawing." How, specifically, is the reading of the inscription impacted by these things? How is the reading one sees in the pictures in Pellegrino's book different from the same material found in Pfann's paper? To accuse Pfann of "fraudulently manipulating the evidence" is serious indeed, but the bare accusation is not itself evidence. When the Lost Tomb of Jesus film told us that "the church" destroyed manuscripts of the Acts of Philip in the second century, two hundred years before it was written, or when it told us that the Acts of Philip tell us Mary Magdalene would die in Jerusalem (when it actually says Mariamne would die in the Jordan River, which does not flow through Jerusalem), are these errors constituent of "fraudulent manipulation of the evidence" I wonder?
I am fully confused by Pellegrino's commentary regarding University of the Holy Land. First, when did size become determinative of quality in education? Secondly, did Dr. Pellegrino actually take the time to look through the website itself? Just a moment or two's examination revealed far more in the way of course offerings, etc., than Pellegrino indicates. So, why use this approach?
It is surely my hope that Dr. Pellegrino will adopt a different approach in future discussions, for this kind of ad-hominem laced discussion adds nothing to these very important inquiries.