James Petitfils

Skull of John the Baptist Found in New York City Pawn Shop

By James Petitfils Nov. 12, 2014 9:00 a.m. Culture, Ministry and Leadership

Whether shock-and-awe biblical archeology, “lost” gospels found just in time for the Easter documentary season, or conclusive proof that the Nephilim of Genesis 6 were actually ancient aliens, the ol’ World Wide Web abounds with juicy rumors. While no one is talking about the big “John the Baptist Skull” story (because I just made that up 10 minutes ago), Facebook has recently been “abuzz” with an article published by the website, World News Daily Report, entitled “Newly-Found Document Holds Eyewitness Account of Jesus Performing Miracle.” This is the same website, incidentally, that broke the story, “Rancher Shoots Down UFO Near Area 51.” Despite the site’s self-identification as a “political satire web publication,” the article was posted and passed around social media hundreds of thousands of times. As a historian focused on the Roman Mediterranean, I’ll comfortably go on the record stating that this story is a pure and fantastic invention. Rather than debunking this particular Jesus rumor, however, I’d like to address a larger question facing many modern followers of Jesus: How should we respond when confronted with such “breaking news”? How might we advise those we disciple on these kinds of intriguing and quick-to-go-viral claims?

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