Biblical Archaeology Review 27:1, January/February 2001

First Person: Ruminations on Scholarly Animosity

It’s one thing our field has no shortage of

What accounts for the intensity of the personal animosity among scholars in our field? The more deeply I become involved with these wonderful people, the more of it I find.

One friend explained it this way: They fight so viciously because so little is at stake.

Another put it like this: They will kill for a footnote.

I find the subject difficult to discuss publicly for at least two reasons: First, I am a fairly aggressive guy myself, so why should I be surprised by other people’s aggression? Second, I don’t want to talk about situations that will only be aggravated by public discussion. Nor do I want to recall old scores that have been settled and perhaps forgotten—a lawsuit among excavators at a major Galilean site, delays in the publication of a leading encyclopedia because of a threatened lawsuit, bitter split-ups of archaeological partnerships, people who don’t talk to one another, and so on.

So I will not comment on instances involving other scholars. As for matters in which I have been involved, I am accustomed to criticism, so I am ready to take it. I’ve had my share of criticism lately. The Supreme Court of Israel recently upheld a decision that found me guilty of violating a scholar’s copyright. Sophie Tucker, the last of the red-hot mamas, famously said, “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” As a former practicing lawyer, I can say that I have won ’em and I have lost ’em. Winning is better.

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