Zwinglius Redivivus

Avrahaum Segol: Some Facts About ‘The Jesus Family Tomb’ Which The Public Hasn’t Heard

Posted in Archaeology by Jim on April 18, 2013

Avrahaum Segol writes

On January 29, 2013 ce. [...], “A Feud Between Biblical Archaeologists Goes To Court,” was published online by TIME [World] MAGAZINE at: .
In the article, very serious assertions were made by Simcha Jacobovici regarding reasons for his choice to single out & sue Joe Zias for libel;  as well as cause for questions raised by Eric Meyers, as a sitting expert/adviser for Nat’l Geographic, regarding lack of integrity to Simcha’s work.
I quote:
“The contentiousness between Zias and Jacobovici came to a head in 2011. That year, National Geographic pulled out of a Jacobovici project on another early Christian relic that Zias and others were criticizing — comments that the filmmaker cites as part of the reason for his lawsuit. Reached by e-mail, Jacobovici said he is suing Zias — and not his academically affiliated critics — because Zias “crossed the line from fair comment to outright libel. Specifically, he has accused me repeatedly — verbally and in writing — of ‘forging archaeology’ … a criminal activity, and no free society allows you to accuse people of such activities, unless you can prove that what you are saying is correct. Furthermore, he has accused me of ‘planting archaeology.’ Again, free discourse does not include libelous statements such as this one.”
The other critics, however, have not exactly been soft in their commentary about Jacobovici’s work. A panel of academic experts had also assailed the basis for the film about the so-called Jonah ossuary. The film, The Jesus Discovery, which eventually aired on the Discovery Channel in 2012 and also was published as a book, contends that the ossuary, found in a tomb underneath a Jerusalem apartment building, is the earliest known example of an object bearing a Christian symbol referring to the resurrection. The chairman of Duke University’s Religion Center for Jewish Studies, Eric M. Meyers, said of Jacobovici’s claims about the National Geographic pullback: “I was on the advisory panel of experts assessing the integrity of the claims, the appropriateness of the report and the controversial claims about the tomb in which the Jonah ossuary was found, and the panel unanimously agreed not to recommend that the project and film go forward.”
I write [...] about a physical fact concealed by Religious Studies Professor James D. Tabor & Docu-Entertainer Simcha Jacobovici — which ethically, if not lawfully — both co-authors, and their publishers, as well as producers, should have made public as early as May of last year. 
The factual concealment has to do with etchings I personally found and reported to be present on the disputed “JONAH OSSUARY.” 
In April of last year Simcha provided me with raw photographs taken by the GE Robot of the subject Ossuary.  During my study I observed etchings, not previously observed by Simcha and/or any of the research team. Zig-Zag lines creating a full series of triangular shapes at the base-line under their alleged [...] CROSS presented on [the] Ossuary.  
Accordingly, I informed Simcha and his team — including James Tabor — of my discoveries.
During our follow-up discussions, I properly presented [a] set of comparatives which physically established [the] fact that the image alleged to be a Christian CROSS, was wrongly identified.  The totality of context to the alleged CROSS image had not been realized until my original observations.  In [the] full context of the carved etchings, the mistaken and wrongfully identified CROSS was obviously a door; and a clear reference to the Beit HaMikdosh constructed by Herod.  Not a Christian Cross by any stretch of the imagination!! 
I begged Simcha and his associates to make a public disclosure of my observations in their soft-cover edition of the The Jesus Discovery released by Simon & Schuster.  They elected not to do so.  To do so would be to destroy their tortured birth of Christianity  thesis attached to their highly disputed “JONAH OSSUARY.”
If their alleged CHRISTIAN CROSS were set in the light of honest context, any reasonable observer would immediately make reference to Bar Kohkba Revolt Coin and other rare 1st Century Common Era Ossuaries bearing a similar image.  That is exactly what I did. That is exactly what Simcha Jacobovici, James Tabor, their various associates, publishers and producers chose to conceal. It is a pity.
In light of a recent New York Festivals #1 Gold Award 2013 presented on or about April 10th of this year, a public disclosure of their concealment of fact seems only proper.   [see: and ].  [...] In preparing this memo, I reviewed a Discovery Channel video clip of:  “THE RESURRECTION TOMB MYSTERY: A REMARKABLE DISCOVERY” at:  
Introduct[ory] to the 3 minute:46 second clip, in printed format, is the following disclaimer:
“The following program presents evidence of a recent archaeological discovery.  Leading scientists and theologians have not reached full agreement on its exact nature or implications and questions remain. We invite viewers to apply their own judgments and interpretive skills.”
The film title and video sequence to follow thereafter [one] hears the narrator refer to the display of a misidentified “Cross” — enhanced — out of context to the fully carved etching, stating:
“In the last of the niches they continued to explore the ossuary with the Cross on it, and its neighbor.” [emphasis added].
The film [& book co-authors] failed to inform the public viewers of known fact upon which they, the viewers, were invited to formulate conclusions and “apply their own judgments and interpretive skills.” 
To ask the very least, are false and misleading documentary presentations unethical??  Do false and misleading presentations become criminal when a public response is also invited, in terms of seeking applied viewer “judgments and interpretive skills?”   Is it not true, that the viewer cannot possibly make an informed judgment or construct an interpretation when Known To Exist Physical Fact Is Concealed?  Since I made it clear, and the co-authors confirmed, beyond any doubt that known to exist physical evidence was present — yet NOT released to the public — was failure to disclose not an intentional concealment of fact?? 
I reiterate the questions:  Is Not Fact Concealed unethical at best, if not plainly criminal?   Does concealment create a fraud in preventing any “viewer” scientists, and theologians or simply reasonable individuals from reaching a studied conclusion of facts; upon which: “… to apply their own judgments and interpretive skills???”  
Can concealment of physical fact be deemed unethical and/or criminal conduct; if so, then may we consider misuse of technical means to enhance photgraphs via CGI [Computer Graphic Imaging] to be a form of wrongful tampering or even an outright forgery? 
Attorney Jonathon Tsevi was also quoted in, “A Feud Between Biblical Archaeologists Goes To Court” wherein an obvious challenge was made to Simcha.  I quote the fully written exchange, because it begs the question now that enhanced & edited CGI has created a misidentified “Christian Cross” to be wrongly placed upon the Ossuary of one [...] Jewish soul.   
“Zias’ Israeli lawyer Jonathan Tsevi told TIME that Zias never accused Jacobovici of criminal acts. “Joe never used the terms forging archaeology or planting archaeology, although in essence this is the method Simcha is repeatedly using,” Tsevi said in an e-mail. Zias has also taken Jacobovici to task for using CGI to enhance images of an amphora in the Jerusalem tomb he believes is engraved with the first image of the Christian fish symbol. Jacobovici makes no apology for that. “I don’t think any judge is going to accept that using CGI to enhance a photograph is tantamount to ‘forging archaeology,’” he wrote.” [emphasis added].
Avrahaum Segol
I have to say, he raises some VERY interesting questions doesn’t he.

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Paul and Jesus, by James Tabor

Posted in Bible, Books by Jim on November 16, 2012

James was nice enough to have his publisher send along a review copy, for which I thank him very much.

Using the oldest Christian documents that we have—the letters of Paul—as well as other early Christian sources, historian and scholar James Tabor reconstructs the origins of Christianity. Tabor reveals that the familiar figures of James, Peter, and Paul sometimes disagreed fiercely over everything from the meaning of Jesus’ message to the question of whether converts must first become Jews. Tabor shows how Paul separated himself from Peter and James to introduce his own version of Christianity, which would continue to develop independently of the message that Jesus, James, and Peter preached.

My review is here.

Another Pretty Good Week

Posted in biblioblogs, Modern Culture by Jim on October 19, 2012

Week commencing Oct 11 and concluding Oct 18-

others may have their ‘hundreds’ or even – as some say – ‘thousands’ of readers, but weekly there are 10’s of thousands here…


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‘Famous Archaeologists’? Really? Because That’s not Eric Cline in that Photo!

Posted in pseudo-archaeology, pseudo-scholarship by Jim on August 24, 2012

Joe Zias told me about this strange little website – called ‘Great Archaeology‘.  Hmmm….  So I thought I’d look around.  You know, see what I could see.  So I thumbed through and first off noticed that they list archaeologists alphabetically by first name, not by last.  Then I noticed that they listed James Tabor as a ‘famous archaeologist’.  But of course he isn’t an archaeologist at all.  Then I noticed that they didn’t list Oded Lipschits!  What?  No list of archaeologists is complete if he is absent.  But see for yourself, look at the “O’s”-

And then, best of all, they have Eric Cline listed… but I’ve met Eric, and unless he has had sexual reassignment surgery in the last year, that isn’t Eric!

Oh boy.  I mean oh girl…  Oh my.  If you’re going to have an archaeology page, you really should get the facts right.

The ‘Jesus Discovery’ is ‘Tendentious and Incompetently Edited’…

Posted in Books by Jim on May 20, 2012

And that’s just one of the unpleasant things Raphael Magarik has to say about Tabor and Jacobovici’s ‘Jesus Discovery’ in Forward Magazine.  Here’s Magarik’s concluding paragraphs:

In 1835, rewriting the Gospels was the work of grave scholars, the finest minds of the Enlightenment. Today, it is an enterprise at once more democratic and more susceptible to wealth. Any tenured professor can sloppily reconfigure the Gospels, and any blogger with the will can imagine his own Jesus. But to get a book deal with Simon & Schuster, it helps to know James Cameron.

“The Jesus Discovery” has all the faults of amateurism: It is poorly organized, tendentious and incompetently edited. Paradoxically, it also has the flaws of mass-market television. Its version of Christianity — in which Jesus was a family man, and his resurrection an uplifting metaphor — is a matter of bloodless controversy. The theory is supposed to be sensationalist, and yet the Jesus of Tabor and Jacobovici led a life no stranger than Norman Vincent Peale’s.

In the place of history as Hegelian drama, Tabor and Jacobovici give us a thoroughly middlebrow replacement. “We have never failed to enter a tomb,” they report in one of many sententious asides, “without a sobering and moving sense of the shared humanity that the tomb so tangibly represents.” This is a past drained of difference or strangeness, an assembly of theme music and cheap sentiment without any real historical perspective. Since Strauss, historical criticism has become a principal way of retelling and reinterpreting the Jesus story: Scholarship has given us Jesus the social revolutionary, the apocalyptic Jew and the laconic sage. Compared with these reconstructions, Tabor and Jacobovici’s family man Jesus is not only poorly evidenced, but also tawdry and unexciting.

An amateur book.  That’s the finest summary statement I’ve yet seen.

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It Seems That The Canadians Saw a Different Version of the ‘Jesus Discovery’ Than We Did

Posted in pseudo-archaeology, pseudo-scholarship by Jim on April 26, 2012

And the version they saw included reference to the ‘Arimathea family’, which James Tabor said the film and the book never referenced.

Let me refresh your memory:  back here Tabor said

“… we made nothing of it other than it was interesting–it is not in the film, or the book.”  (Emphasis mine).

And I suppose you could say he was right- it wasn’t in the American version but it clearly was in the Canadian version.  Here’s the screen grab from the Canadian edition:

Click to enlarge.  What you’ll see is the screen shot as well as a photo I was sent of the name plate and which I’ve also referenced before.

So what’s this all mean?   In the movie, right after all the pointing to the Hill of Evil Counsel scene, Simcha and Tabor walk into the apartment building and the narration says something close to:  “In one of those ironies of history today, there is [zoom in on the label] an Arimathea family living in the building over the tomb. Simcha sees this as an omen …”

 They pulled the scene from the American 60-min version, BUT LEFT IT IN THE CANADIAN 90-MINUTE VERSION!!  Maybe they did so because the Canadians aren’t as interested in archaeological facts as we Americans and our Israeli and British friends.  Or maybe they just thought no one up there would notice the sleight of hand.

Furthermore, they enlarged the white name by the buzzer.  This serves to emphasize it, doesn’t it.  Tabor wasn’t exactly accurate in the comments he made on the previously cited blog entry.  They did use the “Arimathea” mailbox claim in the film. And the comparison between the two images  shows they even propped it up for the cameras.  Interesting, isn’t it, how stories shift and change according to the audience.

TV Ratings for Simcha’s Show

Posted in media by Jim on April 13, 2012

Just on the off chance that any of you (besides Goodacre and Cargill who live blogged the thing) watched the Simcha Special and want to know how it stacked up against other programs airing at the same time, you might be able to find out sometime today when the overnight rankings are posted.

If their Facebook ‘Jesus Discovery’ page is any indication, they probably only had 40 or so watchers.  But there may be more…  However, I doubt it will be a very impressive number.  The vampire is well and truly dead.  Give thanks to God.

Mark Goodacre’s Comments on the Nightline Special

Posted in media, misery, Modern Culture by Jim on April 11, 2012

On the ‘Jonah Ossuary’.  Mark writes, among other things,

Two features in the report surprised me. I have read everything available on the tomb and have looked at all the materials that they have made available but haven’t yet seen the documentary that airs on Thursday, so I was surprised to see a clip from the documentary in which James Charlesworth says “I am lifted up, says Jesus, I am lifted up! . . . apo tou thanou [?], from the dead!”, surprised because the ossuary says nothing about “Jesus” at all. It will be disappointing if the documentary gives the impression that the inscription on the ossuary mentions Jesus because it does not.

Charlesworth has, apparently, jumped the shark.  There’s no other way to say it.  He has either been completely bamboozled by the publicity machine that is public appearance on TV or he really believes the ossuary is what Tabor suggests it is (although, with Goodacre, I have to wonder why he would drag in his ‘Jesus rose’ comment).  Either way, it’s saddening to observe, he’s lost touch with scholarship.

The other thing was Simcha Jacbovici’s suggestion that those who disagree with him are reacting because of “theological trauma”. I knew there was something wrong with me. Now we know why I saw the face of Jesus in the side of one of the ossuaries!

There’s nothing to say about Simcha’s genuinely absurd remark.  It’s just that- absurdity.  Theological trauma indeed.  The real theological trauma lies in the minds of those who think that the Lord Yahweh has appointed them to be the revealers of new truths which God intends to use to undermine historic Christianity and turn people to the true authentic faith of the Apostles: the belief that Jesus and Mary were married and had kids.

[NB- oh yes- and in anticipation of the inevitable 'you can't talk about a senior scholar like that' rubbish let me just quickly add- being a senior scholar doesn't give one a license to peddle absurdities. Scholarship is self authenticating- ex opera operato. It isn't based on the reputation of the person behind it. Good scholars can say stupid things and bad scholars can say smart things. Hero worship has no place in academia.]

Dr Tabor wishes Dr Cargill Would Find Something Else to Do…

Posted in Archaeology by Jim on April 11, 2012

In a fun exchange on facebook Tabor tells Cargill that he needs to take a break from writing and spend time with his family watching tv.  It’s easy to understand why Tabor would feel that way – every time Cargill posts something on the ‘Jonah Ossuary’ it demolishes yet another of Tabor’s suggestions.  I’d want him to be quiet too if my views were utterly unsupported…

Fortunately Cargill is of too independent a mind to be told to shush.  So most recently-

This YouTube video shows clearly that there are handles of the same size, shape, and location on both sides of the top of the graffito inscribed Greek vessel on Ossuary 6 from the so-called “Patio Tomb” in Talpiyot, Jerusalem.  The video also examines Dr. James Tabor’s claims that the lines comprising the handles are merely “imagined,” “made by mistake,” “unconnected,” “randomly scratched,” “stray lines,” “random mark,” “random scratch,” and “not there.”

And yet once again I want to say, in no uncertain terms as bluntly as I can… Die Vampire (Jonah Ossuary theory), JUST DIE!

[And has anyone else noticed that there just isn't anyone coming out and saying 'Tabor and Jacobovici are right'?]

They Want it to be True, So In Their Minds, It’s True

Posted in pseudo-archaeology by Jim on April 11, 2012

Robert R. Cargill

Cargill and Goodacre appeared on Nightline last night discussing the so called ‘Jonah Ossuary’-

Robert Cargill, an assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, told “Nightline” that the original image of the engraving that Tabor sent him is “clearly displaying the handles” but that the handles do not appear in the image that was distributed to the press.

“There are clearly handles on the top of the so-called ‘Jonah fish’ image, but Tabor and Jacobovici don’t include them in their museum replicas or the CGI image,” Cargill said. “No credible scholar except those that work with or for Simcha on this or some other project believe his conclusions… The evidence does not support their sensational claims. But that doesn’t stop them from wanting it to be true, so in their minds, it’s true.”

True.  Goodacre made some good observations as well of course.  Give the piece a gander.  And while you’re gandering take a look as well at Cargill and Goodacre’s take on the Nightline piece.

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