In the mailbox today, an eight page tabloid promotional from "Discovery News" trumpeting a series of free presentations down the road in the town hall - all about the Bible.
And it's big news brethren! The real Mount Sinai has been found. Not only that, those sulphurous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been identified!
But wait, there's more. Careful analysis has revealed the remains of a Roman seal on the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea.
But the really big story is that Pharaohs' chariots have been found encased in coral at the bottom of the Red Sea.
Are we all excited yet?
Nowhere on the advertising material does it say just who is sponsoring this nonsense, but it does name the presenters. Ross Patterson "has been involved in freelance Middle Eastern research... since 1999." And Greg Timmins is "an international speaker" from our area (the Franklin district in Auckland's south).
Hoo boy, talk about qualified!
Now it took no longer than a split second to deduce that the Seventh-day Adventists were behind this, given the kitschy artwork and articles titled "Bible Prophecy: Evidence that God Knows the Future", and "Decoding the Apocalypse."
There's a lot to like about the SDAs. Weetbix for example. And anti-smoking programmes (do they still run those?) But when it comes to insightful understanding of the Bible, well, this is a denomination that still seems firmly stuck back in the nineteenth century, caught in a loop with issues that have long since faded into well-deserved obscurity.
Just to be sure I had the measure of the junk mail, I checked out the web address on the masthead. Yup, SDA. And guess whose work they're using to aid and abet them in their dramatic claims.
Pseudoarchaeologist and fellow SDA Ron Wyatt.
I had a GP once who graduated from Loma Linda (it said so on the framed certificate on the wall of his consulting room), and he seemed both personable and competent. But medical qualifications are one thing and biblical scholarship is another.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Ross Patterson is an enthusiastic apologetics buff, an amateur hobbyist and not in any sense a qualified archaeologist. He is, I suspect, a nice guy, totally sincere, who stands in the venerable "Bible in one hand, spade in the other" tradition. And Greg is probably a local SDA pastor.
And that's nice. But it hardly adds credibility to these outrageous claims. Credibility comes when you cite sources, something the tabloid fails utterly to do. Credibility comes with peer reviewed research. A couple of glib but gloriously underqualified motivational speakers trawling for credulous converts hardly counts.
Especially when the name Ron Wyatt crops up on their website.
Sorry lads, epic fail.