Dr. Michael S. Heiser made it part of his mission towards the end of Zecharia Sitchin’s life to challenge his linguistic scholarship. In a 2001 open letter, he famously challenged Sitchin (and his followers) to a debate on several specific questions related to Sitchin’s translations of the Sumerian texts.
Heiser even convinced George Noory to arrange for the two to debate on Coast to Coast A.M. Heiser has made a lot of hay over the years that Sitchin never responded to him and implied that this demonstrated Sitchin’s lack of credibility. Later Dr. Heiser founded his website SitchinIsWrong.com. It became a lightening rod and short-hand refutation of Sitchin for academics and religious adherents alike.
Heiser’s claim has been that he offers an unbiased “academic” criticism of Sitchin’s scholarship. He claims to disprove Sitchin’s translations point-by-point. For the purposes of this article, we’ll leave that aside except to say, as I point out in a previous article, they read the text from different perspectives. Sitchin reads the texts from the perspective of a modern thinker taking the Sumerians as eyewitnesses to their events. Heiser, following the mainstream line, dismisses the texts as myth and allegory. This, not linguistics, accounts for most of the differences in their interpretations.
Let’s go back to today’s point. Heiser claims to offer an academic alternative to Sitchin. Yet, he has often engaged in attacks based on logical fallacy. Case in point is his December 20, 2008 blog post: Is Zecharia Sitchin Anti-Semitic? In it, Heiser engages in the most transparent of Ad Hominem/Guilt by Association arguments. I will demonstrate how this is a classic logical fallacy in a moment. First, let’s acknowledge that the number one weapon Sitchin critics seek to employ is to discredit him before someone even considers his side of the debate. An article with this title and this accusation clearly warns Jewish and many Christian seekers this is information you can discount because it’s anti-semitic. This phrase is one of the top discussion closers in our culture. The mere assertion is the end of the discussion for many people.
This logical fallacy is meant to assault the character of the speaker (in this case Sitchin) by associating him and his ideas with something or someone negative (in this case an early 20th Century German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch). Delitzsch was famous for his “Babel and Bible” lecture in the early 1900s. His writings are generally deemed to be anti-semtic and he was an early proponent of German Aryanism that sought to supplant Biblical stories with German myths. Many see this line of thought as a precursor to Hitler.
The specific implied charge? Delitzsch proposed what he called PanBabylonianism. This was the idea that the Book of Genesis and other Semitic writings were originally sourced from Mesopotamian precursors and were not original works of the Semites (for example the Israelites). This, of course, is also an argument Sitchin, me, and many other people who have studied this issue agree with. It’s relatively easy to prove the linkage through the first historic personage in the Bible – Abrahm – back to his Mesopotamian roots in Ur. It’s plain text in Genesis. The pre-Abrahamic parts of Genesis bear many similarities to Genesis and it’s not a huge leap of logic to conclude these stories came from there.
Follow the logic here. First, and this charge is unspoken, claiming the Book of Genesis is sourced from elsewhere is anti-semitic because it seeks to steal a key semitic contribution to history. Never mind that there’s a lot of evidence that this sourcing is true. Secondly, if Sitchin (or you) believe the same thing Delitzsch believes and he is was an anti-semite, then Sitchin and you must be anti-semitic too. That’s the logical fallacy and non-academic argument being made here.
Heiser opens the article with the classic cover someone about to engage in this logical fallacy employes. “I’m not saying A, but…” He answers the title of his article with, “I don’t believe so (Sitchin is Jewish).” This opens the door for him to deny the attack, while simultaneously attacking.
It seems odd to me that a scholar claiming to hold the academic high ground and the evidence in a debate would need to resort to this kind of attack on Sitchin and all of us who support his work and/or have studied these things ourselves.
I’m not anti-semitic, are you? I don’t think pursuing the truth where it leads, based on evidence, makes one anti-semitic. If the evidence says that the pre-Abrahamic accounts in Genesis were drawn from the earlier culture that Abrahm himself came from, I don’t think that makes one an Aryan.
While I appreciate Dr. Heiser warning me about straying into this delicate area, this article doesn’t make me question Sitchin’s scholarship or motives, but rather Heiser’s.
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