Tag Archives: Discovery Channel

If It’s On The Discovery Channel The Only Thing You’ll Discover is that It’s Fakery

discThe Discovery Channel is drawing fire after airing a documentary that is closer to science fiction than science fact.

On Sunday, the network kicked off Shark Week—their annual (and immensely popular) block of programs showcasing everyone’s favorite aquatic predator—with a program called Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives.

It sounds like a great premise. With a maximum length of 60 feet and teeth the size of butchers’ knives, the megalodon (not pictured at right) is one of history’s most fearsome predators. There’s only one problem: Despite what the show’s title may claim, this “monster shark” has been extinct for more than one million years.

Those watching the “documentary,” however, were not burdened with such inconvenient truths. Instead, Discovery hired actors to play marine biologists on a hunt for the megalodon around the coast of South Africa. Their expedition is mounted following the release of (faked) footage showing a fishing vessel taken down by a massive sea-dwelling predator (nicknamed “submarine”).

More fabricated “evidence” supporting the creature’s existence is presented, including a whale whose tail has been bitten off by an unknown animal, and a Coast Guard video showing a giant, shark-like shape moving through the water.

Looks like Discovery does the same thing to sharks that it does to things biblical.  The Discovery Channel’s new motto should be: We’re Just Like Wikipedia: You Can’t Trust Anything we Say!

J. Hamilton Charlesworth on the ‘Patio Tomb’

Charlesworth opines

All of us scholars are disenchanted when archaeological discoveries are presented too sensationally or are used to “prove” the Bible truthful or fallacious.

Absolutely true. Could not agree more.

By profession, scholars shun sensationalism and do not feel the need to defend biblical truths.

Again, ditto.

We are dedicated to a means of expression in which certainty appears in a spectrum from “conceivable to probable.”

Perfectly correct.

Thus, it is as absurd to claim with absolute certainty that the Patio Tomb preserves the remains of some of Jesus’ first followers

Completely accurate.

as it is unwise to pronounce with equal vigor that such a possibility is unthinkable.

Completely false. Some things really are impossible and in the case of the ‘Patio Tomb’ or the ‘Talpiot Tomb’ or whatever people decide to call it (I prefer the Silwan Cave), there is simply no way, just no way whatsoever, to connect the remains of any part of that tomb with the family of Jesus or of his disciples. Such a determination requires our possession of multiple samples authenticated to stem from the disciples or Jesus’ family. So where’s the evidence besides in the fertile imagination of those selling the tomb via books and Discovery channel specials? Where’s the demonstration? Where’s the ‘here we have a sample of Mary’s DNA with which we can compare the DNA of UNDISTURBED tombs excavated by legitimate archaeologists in controlled digs’?

There is none, so, therefore, it is absurd to claim a familial connection notwithstanding Professor Charlesworth’s hesitancy to say so.

Some things, some claims, simply are absurd and scholars have to say the words. Leave the dilettantes and the conspiracy theorists a tiny hole and they will make it into a giant cavern.  They will turn Charlesworth’s ‘it’s possible’ into ‘James Charlesworth says it’s likely that Jesus’ family tomb has been located’.  And then it will become a ‘truth’ that cannot be dislodged (just as has happened in the case of the Shroud of Turin).

James Charlesworth Wants You to Watch the ‘Jesus Discovery’…

Really James, really?  I’ve seen a lot of self-promotional stuff in my life and am usually quite unaffected by it but this bit of self promotion makes earlier bits of self promotion seem tame and sensible:

On behalf of the Foundation [on Judaism and Christian Origins], I am pleased to announce an important documentary. Please watch: “The Jesus Discovery: Latest research on the Talpiot Tombs”.

Pleased to? Or asked to by the film maker because the project has been trashed by everyone across the entire range of biblical scholars and archaeologists.

This documentary is the first robotic exploration of a tomb in Jerusalem. The door remains sealed as it was in the first century. Bone boxes were found inside. Inside the tomb were found an inscription and some drawings. The inscription seems to refer to a Jewish belief in resurrection. The meaning of the drawings will need to be debated among specialists. Did a Jew draw an amphora or a fish? If so, what did they symbolize?

Good grief. ‘Seems’ and ‘need to be debated’ and ‘or’ and ‘if’… If he were a politician we would say he was equivocating. He’s clearly leaving the door open for a quick escape when the entire project bombs because no one except Tabor and Jacobovici support the findings they’ve come up with. Heck-fire, here Charlesworth himself makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t agree with them and just can’t say so outright.

On Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 10pm EST, Discovery Channel in the U.S.A. and Vision Television in Canada will simulcast the world broadcast premier of these discoveries in the documentary “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery” (US title) and “The Jesus Discovery” (Canadian title).

Watch it if you must. I’ll be watching something more interesting. Probably Jerry Springer (thank heaven for DVR).

I [James Charlesworth] was the one who read the inscription, and am featured in this documentary.

Wow. ‘I’m featured in this documentary!!! Its conclusions are questionable and its thesis unfounded but hey, I’m still it in so it has to be brilliant right?’

How important is the discovery? Will those in media or academia twist what may be informative in our search for understanding early Jews, including some perhaps related to Jesus? Can we have a civil and sensitive discussion about a drawing that is clearly Jewish and pre-70? Is the drawing a sign or a symbol? A sign can mean one and only one thing. A symbol must be interpreted and usually has many meanings. How do we discern the intended, implied, or attributed meaning of an early Jewish drawing. If meaning resides in ambiguity, and all symbols are multivalent, then how can anyone be dogmatic about the intended meaning or perceived meaning in a symbol?

Now there’s a paragraph meant to squelch any disagreement and debate (even though he’s just said the inscription needs to be debated). Note carefully the language he uses: ‘twist’, ‘civil and sensitive’, ‘ambiguity’, ‘multivalent’. All codewords for ‘if you don’t wait to watch the special, even if you’ve read the book already and seen the evidence as presented by Tabor and company, then you’re twisting the evidence and not civil and not sensitive and really not clever enough to know ambiguity’.

The cooperation of Jews, Christians, biblical scholars, archaeologists, and imaging scientists is encouraging in a world too divided and prejudiced. Is not the method of un-intrusively exploring an ancient tomb itself groundbreaking?

Un-intrusively? Really? Because Photoshopping isn’t intrusive? And we all know that’s what has been done to the picture of the ossuary. So who’s he trying to convince? Did he even write this or did Simcha write the press release and he simply signed it.

I was moved when I looked through a camera on the end of a robotic arm into a pre-70 Jewish tomb.

How did he know it was a pre-70 Jewish tomb before it was scientifically examined? Presupposition? Was he told that’s what it was?

There in the darkness below my feet was an ancient tomb with bone boxes (ossuaries) clearly made before the massive revolt against Rome in 66 CE. As the camera turned, I saw a door that sealed the tomb in antiquity. Then the camera moved silently past ossuaries. A shout was heard by colleagues near me as an inscription came into view. Then, not much later the robotic arm moved again, being directed by a scientist. None of us could believe our eyes. We were all riveted to a drawing that ostensibly broke the second commandment. What was it? What was depicted? What did the early Jew intend to symbolize?

What is going on here? That’s the real question. Who is this, and what have they done to James Charlesworth, noble scholar and excellent student of Scripture and the Jewish milieu which saw the birth of the New Testament? Because the writer of the sentences above can’t be him.

Leading archaeologists and biblical specialists first thought the drawing depicted a boat. Was it? They unanimously changed their minds when the full image came into view. You will see it as if you were standing just behind me.

No thanks. I’ve already seen it. It isn’t a boat. It isn’t a fish. It isn’t a goat or a cow or a chicken or a guy with a knit cap or a chap with a beard or anything of the sort. And I don’t want to stand behind you. I don’t even know who you are anymore.

Via Jack Sasson.

Believe Me, Mark Goodacre Didn’t See the Face of Jesus in the Jonah Ossuary…

Mark was speaking tongue in cheek the other day when he mockingly suggested that he saw the face of Jesus in the Jonah ossuary, but that didn’t stop the film company run by Simcha Jacobovici from attempting to make it seem that Goodacre saw the visage of Jesus.  Bob Cargill takes Simcha’s company to task for it.  Justifiably.

Apparently motivated by a blog post penned by Duke University Professor Dr. Mark Goodcare, Mr. McGinley shows footage of the General Electric remote robotic arm (the technology featured in the forthcoming documentary) fixating upon the FACE OF JESUS in the ossuary!

As the robotic arm passes over the FACE OF JESUS, viewers can hear the voice a member of Mr. Jacobovici’s team calling out:

“All right, go back!”

Then, as the camera focuses upon the FACE OF JESUS, you hear a member of Mr. Jacobovici’s team cry out:

“You can see on your monitor where you are!”

The leaked Discovery Channel footage then freezes and spotlights the image that the Associated Producers, Ltd. production team apparently believes to be the unmistakable FACE OF JESUS!

Poor Simcha- his employee has really proven himself to be quite willing to do anything to promote his project and demonize anyone who questions it.  That’s what happens, I suppose, when tv people actually believe they’re even remotely qualified to have an opinion on matters archaeological.

Snyder Sees a Stroke

Responding to Chris Rollston’s reading of the Talpiot inscription, H.G. Snyder opines

In spite of Rollstons’ obvious expertise and in spite of his assurances as to what is possible or not possible where letter forms are concerned I cannot help but see a stroke on the bottom of the “tau” (or “iota”) in this picture (this photo and those that follow are from Associate Producers, Ltd.). There are indeed scuff marks of various kinds on the box. It is true that the top bar is incised more deeply than the stroke on the bottom, but it just seems to me there’s a stroke there, not just a scuff. Others may disagree.

Snyder confesses that he has been privy to the project for quite a while, but remains unconvinced that Tabor has the issue correct:

For the record, Bauckham and I were not given the so-called Jonah image until later, when the people at the Discovery Channel forwarded an advance copy of the film for our scholarly comment. At that time, I expressed the opinion that the figure on that ossuary represents an amphora or a vessel of some kind, however non-standard, and cannot be taken as an image of Jonah, and nothing has occurred to dissuade me from that judgment. I say this to make it clear that in nearly all matters of consequence, I do not share the conclusions presented in the book or the film.

He concludes, after presenting his reading of several questionable letters-

I wish to make two main points, with which I conclude

1) Our chances of getting the reading correct increase as we take more photos from different angles into consideration, and

2) Pace Rollston’s position, I would argue that the initial iota in line two, however anomalous in its form, is not ruled out, nor is the “epsilon” in that same line, to be regarded as firmly established.

So what we have isn’t a disagreement over substance (both Rollston and Snyder don’t believe Tabor is correct), but over a minor discrepancy in readings.

Tabor Tries Again to Sell the ‘Jesus Family Tomb’ Tale…

And he’s added a big fish and the story of Jonah to the mix just to spice it up:

Using a remote-controlled camera on the end of a robotic arm, investigators have found what could be the earliest evidence of a Christian iconography in Jerusalem, engraved on a set of “bone boxes” inside a nearly intact 1st-century tomb.  One of the limestone boxes, known more formally as an ossuary, carries a Greek inscription calling on God to “rise up” or “raise up” someone. Another box shows the carved image of a fish, perhaps with the prophet Jonah in its mouth. Allusions to fish and the “sign of Jonah” came to be widely used among early Christians, but not among Jerusalem’s Jews.

Those discoveries alone would be enough to get biblical scholars excited. But the investigators in this case are the same people who claimed five years ago that ossuaries from a nearby tomb were engraved with the names of the biblical Jesus and his family. They’re putting forth this new find as supporting evidence for their earlier claims, and resurrecting the topic in a newly published book (“The Jesus Discovery”) as well as a Discovery Channel documentary that’s due to air this spring.

And then the report says

This does reopen the whole question about the ‘Jesus Tomb,’” James Tabor, a scriptural scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, told me.

No it doesn’t.  It only opens up the wallets of the silly and the gullible who fall for all manner of unsubstantiated hype around Easter.  Timing is everything and so is marketing, since ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’ and to get the suckers to buy there has to be shiny packaging and huge claims.

“We now have the new archaeological evidence, literally written in stone, that can guide us in properly understanding what Jesus’ earliest followers meant by their faith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead — with his earthly remains, and those of his family, peacefully interred just yards away,” Tabor and Jacobovici wrote.

No we don’t.  We have a purported find made under questionable circumstances.   And even Crossan, who seems to be open to the possibility that the thing is important, dismisses the supposed connection- and so does Witherington, who apparently learned his lesson after the whole James Ossuary fiasco and his own attempts to make money with a book on it:

Crossan said that was too much of a leap. “There’s nothing that associates [the Patio Tomb] with Joseph of Arimathea,” he said.  He said the two tombs may well have no relationship to each other: “This whole area is riddled with tombs, as far as we can tell.”  Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary, voiced a similar view. “The attempt to connect [the Patio Tomb] to the other tombs is sheer conjecture, unless the tombs were connected,” he told me.

It’s just more marketing by the Discovery Channel team of ‘biblical archaeologists’ and here, most pertinently, we all need to remember- neither Tabor nor Jacobovici are archaeologists.  They’re marketers and promoters of their own ideas.  That’s all.

If you want to buy the book (that’s the aim of all the publicity- to get you to buy the book), go ahead.  But I recommend you wait a few weeks.  It’ll end up in the dollar bin soon enough, along with its predecessor.

A Presbyterian Who Doesn’t Like Tabor’s Work

So he’s posted a piece subtly titled ‘The Jesus Discovery’: the latest claptrap from pseudo-archaeologist James Tabor about to soil bookstore shelves.

And that’s not all. He continues

When he’s not eulogising fellow cranks such as the notorious crackpot Vendyl ”Arkhunter” Jones, James Tabor is busy thinking up his next great archaeological discovery. Here’s what he’s about to serve us this Easter:  The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity.

Written/conceived in conjunction with his buddy, the non-Naked non-archaeologist but expert self-promoter Simcha Jacobovici, in this latest book Tabor is still beating the dead horse called the ‘Jesus Family tomb’ — and making his usual enormous speculatory leaps of historical faith. Truly, his preferred form of archaeology is carried out with a trowel in one hand and a documentary contract from Discovery Channel in the other.

Seems fair to say that he’s not a Tabor fan. But he is British.  And readers certainly know where he stands.  Unless they’re excessively dense.

Why is Simcha Jacobovici Suing Joe Zias?

I’ve heard from sources that Joe Zias has been sued by Simcha Jacobovici.  The reason, so far as I can discern it, is because Simcha is suggesting that a Discovery Channel (or NatGeo) special Simcha produced was pulled and Joe is somehow responsible for the loss of income that decision by Discovery caused Simcha.

I contacted Joe and he did indeed confirm that he was being sued by Simcha for 3,500,000 NIS (about $1,000,000).

I find that passing bizarre.  First, if the Discovery Channel pulled a program, that’s their decision so why not sue them?  If Zias complained to Discovery about the inaccuracies of the program (which, knowing Joe, I’m sure he did), so what?  People have been complaining about the exaggerations and inaccuracies of Simcha’s ‘biblical archaeology’ for years.

Indeed, Aren Maeir, upon meeting Simcha who introduced himself as ‘the naked archaeologist’ retorted ‘you’re not naked or an archaeologist’.  And he isn’t.  He’s a film producer.  So when scholars object to his nonsense, why sue them?  Why not defend one’s ‘documentaries’ in the court of academic opinion?  So why isn’t Simcha suing Aren?

And, even more pointedly, Jonathan Reed famously called Simcha’s work ‘Archaeoporn’!   If that isn’t a slap in the face at Simcha’s supposed contributions to ‘biblical archaeology’ what is?  So why isn’t Simcha suing Reed?

And there are loads of others.  Most archaeologists will have nothing to do with Jacobovici’s projects.  He’s more derided in the halls of academic archaeology than anyone else known to me by reputation or in person.  With good reason: his work doesn’t measure up.

His projects with James Tabor on the family tomb of Jesus have been absolutely excoriated by everyone (except for a very few uninformed dilettantes).  Mark Goodacre went to great lengths to point out the inaccuracies and infelicities of Simcha’s ‘family tomb of Jesus’ rubbish and Simcha never responded to that smacking.

In short- there are a lot of people who have pointed out Simcha’s many failings.  So why is he only taking aim at Zias?  Is he trying to silence Zias because he’s very vocal and willing to make the effort to contact broadcasters in order to tell them that Simcha’s work doesn’t measure up?  I know that Joe can be fiery and opinionated but when it comes to the facts concerning the subject matter which concerns us all, he’s usually right.

I understand quite well that Jacobovici makes a living from his sensationalizing of ‘biblical archaeology’.  But if a show of his was pulled, one really has to wonder why the television station which made the decision isn’t the object of Simcha’s wrath and an outspoken critic, who had and who has absolutely no power to pull anything from any airwave, is to blame.

Simcha, for all intents and purposes, looks to be on a vendetta.  And scholars can’t stand by silently while one of their own is muzzled.  If it ever comes to the point that film makers with financial clout (or magazine publishers for that matter) can hush the mouths of honest academics simply striving to inform the public of the facts, the only ones to blame will be the silent scholars.

I hope the Israeli court tosses the suit out on its ear.

Hawass Resigns and then Tells Tourists to Stay Out of Egypt

Zahi Hawass – Egypt’s larger-than-life minister for antiquities and self-styled ‘Indian Jones of the East’ – appears to have finally fallen on his sword, following months of pressure over his strong praise for Hosni Mubarak during the uprising and his persistent implication in corruption scandals.

Hawass is one of the best known Egyptians outside the country. The archaeologist has dominated Egypt’s antiquities scene for many years, maintaining total control over who gets to dig and where, and transforming himself into a global superstar through his National Geographic and Discovery channel television ventures.

With his trademark hat, pompous swagger and unbounded sense of self-worth, Hawass has been credited with boosting national tourism revenue and opening up the mysteries of pharaonic Egypt to the world.

But he’s also been a consistent hate figure for many working within the archaeological community, and his emphatic support for Mubarak – made in a BBC TV interview just five days before the dictator was toppled – seemed to be the last straw for his career. But, as seen in a recent interview with the Guardian, Hawass tried to improbably style himself as an enthusiastic revolutionary in recent months and somehow clung onto his position – until today.

We haven’t had any official confirmation of the departure yet, but Hawass has posted a typically bombastic resignation letter on his own blog. In it he condemns the ministry of interior for not providing good enough security for ancient sites, and in a complete volte-face, explicitly warns foreign tourists against visiting Egypt at the moment.

Sure Zahi, sure.  Now that you’re not making money from it, it makes perfect sense that you want the tourists to stay away.  If Simcha resigns I’ sure we’ll tell tourists to stay out of Caiphas’s family tomb and Jesus’ family tomb, and the rest.

The Sad Thing About Idiotic Archaeological Claims…

Is that – because Simcha Jacobovici and others have so often presented unsubstantiated and unfounded claims about stirring and important ‘discoveries’  – if anything real is ever discovered very few people will believe it.

Jacobovici and his ilk have cried ‘wolf’ so often that honest archaeologists run the danger of being intimately linked with them.

It’s tragic that certain persons are willing to destroy real archaeology for the sake of fame, publicity, and profit.  Shame on Simcha and the others and shame on the companies like Discovery Channel and NatGeo for airing the rubbish and furthering the cause of misrepresentation and fraud.

Just Exactly How Messed Up is the Discovery Channel?

Michael Jackson performing The Way You Make Me...

And if they did air a re-enactment of the autopsy of Michael Jackson, who would watch it and why?

The Discovery television network on Friday said it canceled plans to air a reenactment of the autopsy on Michael Jackson’s body, citing an upcoming court hearing and concern by the late pop star’s estate. The show, “Michael Jackson’s Autopsy: What Really Killed Michael Jackson,” had been set to air in several countries of western Europe and in the United Kingdom on January 13.

No wonder Discovery can’t manage to produce anything worth watching on the Bible or archaeology (and no wonder Simcha has a home on Discovery). They’re absolute loons over there, pandering to the lowest sorts of people.

An Amazing Depth of Contempt

The Discovery Channel terrorist wanted to kill people there because he didn’t like the programming… I wonder if it ever occurred to him to change the channel? I don’t watch TV or VH1 because the ‘music’ they play is garbage. I’d never even consider going to their headquarters and acting out my dislike of that ‘music’. That would just be depraved.

A gunman police shot to death after he took hostages at Discovery Channel’s headquarters said he hated the company’s shows such as “Kate Plus 8” because they promote population growth and its environmental programming because it did little to save the planet.

What a nut.

A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said authorities had identified James J. Lee as the suspect, but police had not released the gunman’s identity. It wasn’t the first time Lee, a homeless former Californian, had targeted Discovery’s headquarters. In February 2008, he was charged with disorderly conduct for staging a “Save the Planet Protest.” In court and online, he had demanded an end to Discovery Communications LLC’s shows such as TLC’s “Kate Plus 8” and “19 Kids and Counting.” Instead, he said, the network should air “programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility.”

Maybe Mr Lee’s mother should have been sterilized. It certainly would have made a lot of people’s lives better. Such a person is controlled by an amazing depth of contempt- for human life.

[I have to confess that when I heard about a crazed gunman storming Discovery, I thought Simcha had finally snapped].