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

Avrahaum Segol writes

On January 29, 2013 ce. [...], “A Feud Between Biblical Archaeologists Goes To Court,” was published online by TIME [World] MAGAZINE at: http://world.time.com/2013/01/29/a-feud-between-biblical-archaeologists-goes-to-court/ .
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: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/winners/2013/pieces.php?iid=444343&pid=1 and http://jamestabor.com/2013/04/11/jesus-discovery-film-wins-gold-at-new-york-festivals/ ].  [...] In preparing this memo, I reviewed a Discovery Channel video clip of:  “THE RESURRECTION TOMB MYSTERY: A REMARKABLE DISCOVERY” at: http://dsc.discovery.com/video-topics/other/a-remarkable-discovery.htm  
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.

The Simcha Suit of Zias Hits Gawker

In a nicely organized piece.  Which, I know, you’ll enjoy.  It includes this

Most Outrageous Behavior

Simcha Jacobovici: Claimed to have found Atlantis in an interview with Hadassah Magazine
Joe Zias: “Routinely writes Jacobovici’s first name with a dollar sign in place of the S”

Legal Claims

Simcha Jacobovici: That Joe Zias’ public criticism of his archaeological discoveries (including claims that he has discovered the final resting place of Jesus and his family) amounts to libel, causing him to lose money
Joe Zias: That Simcha Jacobovici’s documentary about the so-called James Ossuary is a fraud “hyped upon the unsuspecting public”

And this…


Simcha Jacobovici: Charles Pellegrino (author of The Ghosts of AtlantisJames Cameron
Joe Zias: Anthropologist Carl Feagans, Dr. Jim West (see his post about Simcha’s support for the authenticity of the “Jesus Papyrus” for an excellent Alexa ranking burn)

The Discovery Channel aired Jacobovici’s James, Brother of Jesus but a few years later included “the James ossuary “on its list of the top 10 scientific hoaxes of all time.”

Jim West writes in his analysis of Burleigh’s article that “my hope remains that Zias and Jacobovici will settle this (preferably by the suit being dropped and the two of them having a nice Diet Coke- on me if they wish it).”

Aren is Dissatisfied (or Disgruntled)

Aren’s reaction to Burleigh’s aforementioned essay is soundly negative.  It seems to me on the basis of her using the term ‘archaeologist’ of Jacobovici and Zias.

He’s entitled to his reaction and I do understand it.  Truly.  But it raises questions for me which I’ve posed to Aren and which I reiterate here in hopes that actual dirt archaeologists will answer them:

So, to Aren and all:

Don’t you think that to the extent that Jacobovici portrays himself as an archaeologist (albeit naked), in the view of the larger public he is perceived as such?  And, consequently, worth refuting on the basis of his claims to such knowledge?

I’m not trying to start a feud, just interested in how arcaheologists think Simcha and other non experts ought to be dealt with- or do they think they should just be ignored?  And if so, then isn’t the public just left with a false impression and misinformation?   And isn’t it the job of actual archaeologists to say something to disabuse the public of falsehood?

What i’m really interested- genuinely interested in knowing is – what is their view concerning archaeology’s obligations to the public which funds it?

Eric Meyers has already offered his reasoned viewpoint in Nina’s piece.  Anyone else?

The Battle In the Courts: Zias v. Jacobovici

Nina Burleigh, on the suit of Joe Zias by Simcha Jacobovici writes (in Time), among many other insightful things

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.”

My hope remains that Zias and Jacobovici will settle this  (preferably by the suit being dropped and the two of them having a nice diet Coke- on me if they wish it).

The last paragraph of the report echoes my own sentiments:

What kind of evidence will be presented in court? Jesus and his disciples are unlikely to be coming forward to explain whether they had anything at all to do with all those nails, tombs, ossuaries and other bits of ancient history underneath Jerusalem. American biblical scholar James West, who also blogs on biblical archaeology, said of the lawsuit: “Disagreements are fine, but vendettas (which is what this seems to one outside the proceedings) are improper. Perhaps Zias and Jacobovici should settle their differences the old-fashioned way — in a public debate. Scholars disagree all the time, and they can get quite nasty at it. But I have never once heard of a scholar suing another scholar because their work was eviscerated.”

Oh wait, that’s not an echo at all, it’s a reporting.  Anyway, read the whole piece.  Nina has captured the essence of the dispute.  And Eric Meyers’ comments are quite on point.

Simcha’s Lawsuit Against Joe Zias Hits Ha’Aretz

Journalist and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici is suing anthropologist Joe Zias, who in recent years has been doing his utmost to disprove his provocative theories on early Christianity.

Further on

Jacobovici’s suit states that following Zias’ accusations, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic canceled the broadcast of his films, which cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also says Zias is not an expert in archaeology as he presents himself, and never formally studied the subject.

“Let him say what he wants, I’m not arguing with him. Let him find 100 professors who say I’m talking foolishness. He said I am a forger, that I planted discoveries, that I invent Holocaust stories. I am a son of Holocaust survivors! So I’m invoking my right to defend myself. Let him prove that I am a forger or let him pay,” Jacobovici told Haaretz.

Zias and his attorney, Yehonatan Zvi, want the dispute moved to the academic arena. In the defense brief submitted to the court, Zvi compares the current suit to the 1925 “monkey trial” in which a teacher, John Scopes, was tried in Tennessee for teaching evolution. According to Zvi, his client, like Scopes, is fighting to protect scientific research.

And further

Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University, one of the two senior archaeologists who submitted their opinions, compared Jacobovici’s films to the “Indiana Jones” movies – “although this image does great injustice to the latter,” Goren noted. “Steven Spielberg never tried to claim that the discoveries of Dr. ‘Indy’ Jones were scientific truth or had any factual basis” Goren wrote. He added that he felt the suit was intended to “silence legitimate scientific criticism.”

Prof. Amos Kloner, a former Jerusalem district archaeologist for the antiquities authority who took part in some of the excavations that appear in Jacobovici’s films, attacked the latter’s methods in the opinion he submitted to the court. “These films do not present all the findings or the whole story with the accepted detail required and essential in critical research.”

I’ve said all along, and I will continue to say, that suing someone for an academic opinion is unacceptable.  Many, many have criticized Simcha’s work with good reason.  And though Simcha asserts that he’s suing Zias because Zias suggested he planted things and forged stuff, I’m not buying it.  If all the stuff Simcha has filmed is the real deal, scholars would have supported him and his findings.  That those findings were weighed in the academic balances and found wanting isn’t Zias’ fault.  He doesn’t have that much influence.  Nor does he have, in my opinion, sufficient influence to get tv channels to pull Simcha’s work.  Simcha’s work was pulled for reasons known only to the networks he’s worked with and if he sues anyone it should be them.

I sincerely believe (though I don’t know it for a fact because I can’t read minds) that Simcha is suing Zias out of spite.

Exodux TV, A.K.A., Simcha Jacobovici TV

First, the advert-

I just started a new online initiative called SimchaJTV, which will be my internet platform, and TV station, for people who think outside the box.  I would like to personally invite you to sign up for my new newsletter to receive updates on new things I’m working on, new articles I have written, my new web video blog and other movies and programs I produced.  Please click here to sign up for my newsletter and receive the weekly updates.  We are contacting you because we have you in our records as signing up for our Exodus Decoded email list.  If you decide not to sign up for my newsletter I will not contact you at this email address again.

All the best,
Simcha Jacobovici

And now the screenshot which shows the sign-up page for ‘Exodux Decoded’ [sic!]


No word yet on what kind of dux will be decoded.  But if you sign up, do give us a yell.  I’m sure you will be an outside-the-box-thinker indeed.

Tweetings From SBL

This afternoon Bob Cargill and Simcha Jacobovici were in the same session on the media and archaeology and by all accounts Cargill had the better presentation (naturally, since he is an actual academic and Jacobovici is a film-maker/journalist) and the superior argument.  Here are a pair of tweetings that seem to sum up the affair:

The moral?  Never bring a journalist to an academic conference and expect him to out reason or out perform someone who lectures for a living.

What Non-Academics Think About the Coptic Fragment Just Doesn’t Matter

So it just doesn’t matter what Simcha Jacobovici thinks about the ‘Jesus Wife’ fragment.  It simply just doesn’t.  It matters what King thinks (and she has been very measured even though she hasn’t sufficiently addressed the provenance question) and what Francis Watson thinks really matters (because he’s proven the thing a fake).  But Simcha?  What can he bring to the table?  He’s not expert enough in the field of study to even know the right questions to ask much less possessing the requisite skills to evaluate the evidence.

No, it can’t matter at all what he thinks.  And it doesn’t.

Simcha Must Be Planning Another ‘Special’- This One About the ‘Jesus Wife’ Nonsense

Which means that Professor Tabor can’t be far behind.  Joel writes

….Now all that has changed. From the most conservative academic quarters, Professor Karen King and the Harvard Divinity School (unofficially identified with the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Church), comes the admission that there is an early Coptic gospel (late 2nd century!) that has Jesus referring to Mary Magdalene as his “wife”.

via Jesus Was Married. Something Has Changed! | Simcha Jacobovici TV [editorial note- you'll have to go to Joel for the link- I refuse to send traffic to pseudo-scholarship- there's already too much of it as it is].  Um… First, the provenance has not been settled… it may be the late second century… or the late fourth century, or sometime else. Such a late source does not in fact have any real connection to the Historical Jesus.  Second… Karen King… a Conservative? The United Church of Christ… conservative? Sure, there are is a string of UCC churches in the Evansville and other German-immigrant areas of southern Indiana that are conservative, but as a whole the UCC is far, far from conservative. And the UU church?

Only in the land of the deluded or ill-informed would a Unitarian be considered ‘conservative’.  And, again, if Simcha is planning a project (and it sure sounds like it) then Prof. Tabor will eventually be involved.  His comments on the ‘Jesus Wife’ thing show that he and Simcha are in lock-step.

Sigh.  How the mighty have fallen.

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

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.