Oklahoma pseudo-archeologist causes headaches for real scientists

Posted: March 11, 2020 in Uncategorized

Oklahoma has its share of interesting religious figures and icons, but few so worthy of Odd Oklahoma attention as Jim Barfield of Lawton. He is part crank Biblical archeologist, part treasure hunter, and all pain in the neck to real archelogists.

Barfield’s particular obsession is with a copper scroll found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in 1952. According to Barfield, this copper scroll is a treasure map that only he can read. He is convinced that the scroll points out around 60 “locations of vast amounts of gold, silver and gems from the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon.”

Barfield is a retired fire investigator, with no background in archeology. What he does have is a lot of hutzpa. By his own admission, he has no qualifications.

From Barfield’s bio:

It is clear that Jim Barfield possesses none of the training or degrees commonly associated with archeology or studies of the ancient Middle East.  However, his personal study of the Biblical scriptures, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the history of Israel and his skills as an award winning criminal investigator has made it possible for him to discover the key to understanding the mysterious Copper Scroll.

Actual scholars don’t agree with Barfield at all. For example, UCLA archeologist Robert Cargill wrote a piece for Bible and Interpretation taking down Barfield. After a point-by-point discussion, complete with footnotes, taking down Barfield’s pseudo-science, he concludes:

No, Mr. Barfield, you have not “figured out the Copper Scroll.” What you have done is claim to have done so, raised thousands of dollars in contributions and support, done numerous interviews and press releases in support of your claims, and sparked the imaginations of countless faithful individuals hoping to see evidence of something—anything—that confirms their faith. However, you have given them something false and misleading; you have made claims you cannot back up based upon theories you cannot support. Your son produces excellent videos and you have a slick website, but underlying it all is circular reasoning and pseudo-science. I suggest you read Dr. Eric Cline’s book From Eden To Exile,58 which discusses pseudo-scientific efforts by those who desire to prove claims made in the Bible by (mis)using archaeology. No, one does not need a Ph.D. to be an archaeologist, but one should have some basic training in archaeology, palaeography, philology, and perhaps a basic understanding of the Hebrew language before one claims to have “cracked the code” on any Hebrew manuscript. Let the archaeologists be the archaeologists, and we’ll let the fire investigators be the fire investigators.

Cargill called for fellow archeologists to take on pseudo-archeologists online, because they are harming the public understanding of history.

Members of the academy must take individual responsibility and make conscious efforts to rebut examples of obvious disinformation whenever and wherever they arise. Likewise, archaeologists must band together and coordinate their efforts to meet these misleading claims as strongly and consistently as possible. For in a world where Wikipedia allows anyone to say just about anything, scholars must move beyond their comfortable arenas of peer-review and professional conferences, where they talk only to one another, and redouble our efforts to reach out to the public directly. We must counter irresponsible claims with measured responses, debunk and discredit them, and offer alternative theories from a spectrum of reliable scholars who, while they may at times disagree, can support their various claims with scientific facts, tangible data, and sound reason.

Barfield is no different than any physics crank claiming he’s created a zero-point energy or perpetual motion machine. Unfortunately, so-called educational cable channels like History and National Geographic keep letting these people go on television.

Richard Bartholomew, PhD., has a post on Barfield claiming to have had meetings with Oklahoma legislators. Apparently, he was hoping to get them to help him lobby the Israeli government to let him dig in highly sensitive archeological sites, after he pissed off the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Since the backlash by Biblical archelogists, Barfield has fallen off the public radar somewhat, but he is apparently still making the rounds on the Creationist circuit. Don’t be surprised if he pops up again. I’ll be setting up a Google Alert for him.

Comments
  1. […] Odd Oklahoma draws attention to a video posted in November 2012 by “Rabbi” Ralph Messer, showing Messer in conversation with Jim Barfield (misspelt “Jim Berfield in the accompanying blurb). The two men have a lot of common: both are known for their eccentric appropriations of Jewish tradition, which they have fashioned into weird idiosyncratic forms of religion that depart from both Judaism and Christianity and which go under the name of “Hebrew Roots”. […]

  2. […] Odd Oklahoma draws attention to a video posted in November 2012 by “Rabbi” Ralph Messer, showing Messer in conversation with Jim Barfield (misspelt “Jim Berfield in the accompanying blurb). The two men have a lot of common: both are known for their eccentric appropriations of Jewish tradition, which they have fashioned into weird idiosyncratic forms of religion that depart from both Judaism and Christianity and which go under the name of “Hebrew Roots”. […]

  3. Terry M Gresham says:

    Reblogged this on okieprogressive.

  4. counseltown says:

    “Members of the academy,” be they ever so humble, really should spend less time talking about themselves and more time educating the public about their findings. Bar field may be a laughable crank, but this pompous prof says more than he realizes about his own kind.

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