The Mt Zion Dig- A Video and Live Discussion Today at 2 PM Eastern Time

From Jim Tabor on Facebook-

The first Mt Zion Video Footage! Don’t forget, today at 2pm EST…the live show will begin at the web site linked here and later be posted on Youtube: at 2 p.m. Eastern time(USA), see a 15-minute Webcast on the Mount Zion initiative. The program is viewable anywhere in the world and on all devices. This is the first of our UNC Charlotte productions, this time featuring Professor Tabor and some of the dig participants and lots of footage from the site and from in and around Jerusalem. Other productions are in the works. This first piece will appear on a weekly program called The Live Wire, contained on Inside UNC Charlotte at

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: .
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.

Paul and Jesus, by James Tabor

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.

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

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’…

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.

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.

TV Ratings for Simcha’s Show

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

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…

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

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.

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.

A Quick Question for Simcha Jacobovici and his Cohort

James Tabor remarked in the Washington Post yesterday

“Legally, we could dig a tunnel and excavate, but you would have 100,000 Haredim burning tires.”

Quick question: how long would it have taken you to call any of those of us disagreeing with the conclusions you and your film and book draw about the ‘Jesus Discovery’ anti-semitic had we said something like that?

One of your assistants has called me anti-semitic in a whole flurry of emails without reason or foundation. So I ask again, how long will it take you to call Tabor anti-semitic? Or do you really think Haredim wander in giant herds and riot by burning tires whenever a tomb is opened?

Or, to say it more directly: who’s really anti-semitic here? Someone who supports the rights of the Palestinians to their own land or someone who insults an entire segment of Judaism?

JTA’s Really Idiotic Headline: More Misuse of Archaeology and Deception by the Press

This sort of thing is just sickening and totally deceptive. The JTA’s headline from yesterday on the Fishy Ossuary screams

Jerusalem archeological find is first reference to resurrection

The unpleasant colloquialism BS comes right to mind! Shame on you, Jewish Telegraphic Agency. You should fire whoever edited that piece and whoever chose the headline lie. Even your own report pulls away from your idiotic and sensationalizing headline (or rather, Lie Line).

A new archeological find in a Jerusalem neighborhood is reportedly the first discovery of an ossuary with symbols showing the dead were believers in resurrection. The discovery by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and Professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte was unveiled Wednesday and will be the subject of television program to be broadcast on the Discovery Network later this month. It was the result of more than four years of research and digging using technology and a robotic arm to access an unexplored tomb located deep beneath a Jerusalem apartment complex.

Unfortunately your excessively lame and silly ‘report’ doesn’t bother to note that NO ONE on the planet who isn’t trying to make money from the scheme agrees with Tabor and Jacobovici. NO ONE.

Next time, when you ‘report’ the news, try to do a little research and don’t just swallow the press release put out by financially invested parties.

Answering Your Letters: My Thoughts On James Tabor

Someone emailed today (and asked that I not mention their name) asking

What do you think about James Tabor?

I first encountered his work a long time back- immediately after the David Koresh fiasco in Waco, Tx.  I was doing some research on American religious groups for a class.  This was, as you’ll recall, back in the early 1990’s.  I came across Tabor’s name in one of the news reports and contacted him with a variety of questions.  He was exceedingly gracious and answered quite fully each of my inquiries.

I followed his work from that point and was especially keen to keep up with his investigations concerning the historical Jesus.  Though I didn’t find many of his arguments persuasive, I appreciated his scholarship.

We met – in Philadelphia I think- at SBL and he was very cordial (as he always has been and always is – even in vehement disagreement).  And I continued to follow his work.  His efforts to translate the Bible into modern parlance and his excavations in Jerusalem were intriguing to me and I appreciated (and still do) his work along those lines.

In the last several years, ever since, it seems, he became engaged in supporting the efforts of Simcha Jacobovici his scholarship has taken a turn towards the inexplicable (at least to me).

I’m not sure why and I don’t want to speculate as to the inner motives of how it is another person makes the choices which they make.

So, in answer to the question ‘what do you think of James Tabor’ I answer ‘I admire his biblical scholarship (when it is based in accurate historical research) and I am absolutely dumbfounded that he has adopted positions vis a vis various archaeological discoveries that are indefensible (in my estimation and in the estimation of many in the field).’  He is a mystery to me.  An enigma.  But folk would be very, very wrong to believe, even for a moment, that I dislike him.  If he wanted to have lunch in Chicago at SBL I’d do it happily.  Whether he feels the same is his concern.  I don’t base my view of others on their view of me.

I don’t hold people’s views against them as people even when I find so many holes in their ideas that the Swiss would wonder that those views weren’t cheese.  I respect him, even while disagreeing with him fundamentally on so many things.

The Third Quest, For the Historical Charlesworth

Robert Cargill writes, in responding to Mark Goodacre’s comparison of Tabor’s claims and Charlesworth’s claims re: the ‘Fishy Ossuary’-

The questions I have are as follows:

  1. Who shouted?
  2. Who sight-read the inscription?
  3. How did Dr. Charlesworth interpret the inscription?
  4. How did Dr. Charlesworth interpret the image?

(I almost want to highlight the discrepancies in different color highlighter as a nod to Burton Throckmorton, but I do have a question for Dr. Goodacre: what parts of the narrative can we attribute to Q? 😉


The question is important because Dr. Charlesworth (rather surprisingly) appeared to endorse Simcha Jacobovici’s last sensational claim about the discovery of the tomb and bones of Jesus at Talpiot – a claim that nearly all credible scholars rejected outright.

There’s more which you’ll both enjoy and find instructive.  Let the Third Quest commence…

Is it Really a ‘Jonah Ossuary’ Or is it a Vampire?

Because no matter how many stakes are driven into the heart of Tabor’s arguments, the matter just won’t die.  On his blog Prof. Tabor continues to insist that the thing is the thing he and Simcha say it is…  but oh my goodness, it just isn’t.

Yet, if you’re still unconvinced (why???), Bob Cargill drives yet another massive nail in the coffin (to mix metaphors) – a nail which joins the dozen nails already driven in by Rollston, Magness, Meyers, and Galbraith to name just a tiny few.

Cargill also provides a helpful chart to assist folk in keeping up with the numerous twists and turns the vampire-esque Taborian Jonah Ossuary theory keeps taking…  and believe me, at this stage we all need a program guide.

Die empty unsubstantiated theory, die!

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.

Christopher Rollston: On the Greek Inscription on the ‘Jonah Ossuary’, Again

Christopher posts on the ASOR Blog

The publication of a four-line Greek inscription from a tomb in East Talpiyot (Jerusalem) has generated substantial interest, especially because of the dramatic claims surrounding it (Tabor and Jacobovici 2012).  James Tabor has argued that this inscription reads as follows: “DIOS IAIO UPSŌ AGB.”  He translates it as “Divine Jehovah Lift up, Lift up.” He believes this to be a Christian tomb (in fact, he states that it is arguably that of Joseph of Arimathea) and that this inscription is to be understood as reflective of an early Christian confession of a belief in the resurrection (and he has also argued that some of the ornamentation on a different ossuary from the same tomb is distinctively Christian).  Richard Bauckham accepts all of Tabor’s readings (i.e., the Greek graphemes Tabor believes are present), but he translates the inscription as follows: “Belonging to Zeus IAIO.  I, Hagab, exalt (him/you).”  It is of some consequence, however, that Bauckham goes on to state “I do not think the inscription has anything to do with Jesus of Early Christianity, but I do think it is one of the most interesting of ossuary inscriptions and that it has a contribution to make to our understanding of early Judaism” (Bauckham 2012).

That’s right- Rollston takes on Tabor and Bauckham.  Nicely.

Robert Cargill Exposes Digital Manipulation and Sins of Commission and Omission in the Case of the ‘Jesus Discovery’

Robert has a massive, masterfully written, majestically illustrated, carefully documented post in which he exposes the digital manipulation that has been done to images of the so called ‘Jonah Ossuary’ in the much discussed ‘Jesus Discovery’ story.

Excerpting it is impossible.  You’ll simply have to go to his blog and read it in its fullness.  It should, and I say should because we all know it won’t, but it should put to rest the claims that have been made by Tabor et al.

And lest you doubt that Robert is the most appropriate person to examine digital evidence I would simply remind you that he is probably (no, he is most certainly) the leading expert in the field of digital materials and biblical scholarship.  If he says something isn’t right with an image, you can take it to the bank.