“Insights such as these [about how people in the Golan lived in early New Testament times] take rather longer to glean than the instant sensationalist discovery of the Talpiot tomb, which contained ossuaries bearing those ‘resonant’ names. As Samuel Johnson, the brilliant 18th century literary figure observed: ‘Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labour of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price.’ Or again in Johnson’s words, only more concisely, ‘What is easy is seldom excellent.’”
This expresses well the motivation and underlying modus operandi of the quarterly Vision, which I publish on the web and in print. Pursuing excellence is extremely hard work. We require our writers to check sources thoroughly and not to rely on secondary ones without verification. Over the years our experience has been that there are far too many authors who do not follow this simple route to excellence. We have been unable to use their work without carefully double-checking and have often found them wanting when we have.
The difficulty we have had with the content of the documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus is a good example. Despite the fact that the film was three years in the making, what Ritmeyer terms its “sensationalism” caused many scholars to immediately question its central assumptions.Some of the experts interviewed in the program have distanced themselves from its “findings” in subsequent discussions. It begs the question whether the kind of careful, thoughtful work that Ritmeyer refers to was undertaken during those three years. When we followed up with two experts directly involved with tomb’s 1980 excavation and the examination of its human remains, rather different conclusions emerged.
Dr. Johnson’s comments about excellence have the ring of truth. Achieving it is painstakingly hard work. Conflict, not illumination, was the end result of the approach taken in The Lost Tomb of Jesus.