update: jim barfield and the copper scroll project appear on travel channel

Jim Barfield and Michael Arbuthnot on the Travel Channel

Jim Barfield appears on the Travel Channel with Michael Arbuthnot

Jimmy D. Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project are back. After disappearing for nearly a year, Jimmy D. (and yes, he now refers to himself in the third-person now as ‘Jimmy D.’ – see the video) has made an appearance on a Travel Channel show hosted by marine archaeologist Michael Arbuthnot entitled: Secret Worlds with Michael Arbuthnot: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll. While little to no information appears on the Travel Channel’s Website about the show, Barfield’s ideological cohorts over at The JerUSAlem Connection are promoting Barfield’s appearance. (Be sure to read their related article on the same page entitled ‘Islam and the Left: two sides of the same coin.”)

The opening scene is an interview with Indy-branded tour guide Danny “the Digger” Herman, and it closes with an entire segment devoted to Jimmy Barfield and his theories about the Copper Scroll. In between, we learn how to smoke a hookah, go scuba diving in Caesarea Maritima, go mud bathing in the Dead Sea, and ride camels. The show did have a couple of scholars, namely Alison Schofield of the University of Denver and Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, both of whom provided background information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and archaeology.

An organization called Biblical Productions commented extensively on the making of the project:

Morningstar Entertainment, a production company from Los Angeles, sent another crew in July this year to investigate the mysterious Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls for their highly anticipated new show “Secret Worlds”. After having previously shot in Israel and Jordan for the “Knights Templar” and “Dead Sea Scrolls” episodes, their archaeologist and host Michael Arbuthnot now concentrated on solving the riddle of this fascinating inscription.

Biblical Productions was the local production manager for the entire shoot and took the crew to fascinating desert locations and fabulous experts. Why was the scroll written on copper? Is it a real treasure map? Who can help us understand the mysterious inscriptions and who wrote it? These were just a few questions the crew set out to answer in this quest, in which Biblical Productions took them from the impressive Hyrcania Tunnel in a desert military zone, to the Qumran Caves where the scrolls were found; to Acre and finally to Jerusalem. Along the way they interviewed and discussed ideas with several experts such as Shimon Gibson, Danny Herman, Steven Pfann and Jim Barfield; the latter an inspirational fire fighter from Texas who has made it his mission to solve the riddle of the scroll. The crew furthermore filmed one of Dr. Stephen Pfann’s researchers who traced the methods of the inscribing process by inscribing a copper scroll all on her own – with astonishing results.

Copper Scroll Project of Facebook

Copper Scroll Project uses Facebook to try and get people to call or write the Travel Channel and ask them to do more with Jimmy Barfield.

One comment: As I have stated in the past (see this post for a summary of the scholarly critiques against Barfield’s nonsense) listing Jimmy D. Barfield as an ‘expert’ in this show makes a mockery of archaeology, of the show, its producers (Morningstar Entertainment), and of the Travel Channel. I am all for the production of documentaries that discuss archaeology and the Bible (full disclosure: I have appeared in a number of them), but a production company creating documentaries about the Bible and archaeology has an obligation not to pass on nonsensical theories as credible, nor the theories’ peddlers as ‘experts.’ In this regard, Morningstar and the Travel Channel have failed miserably. They gave air time to Barfield, which he will now turn around and use to raise funds and promote his religious agenda. (Barfield is already taking ‘pre-orders’ on a self-published e-book on his Copper Scroll Project website. Likewise, Copper Scroll Project folks are encouraging people to contact the Travel Channel and tell them how much they liked the show on Facebook.) They have done a disservice to the public by equating Barfield’s admittedly amateur musings with real scholarship. And they have done a disservice to scholarship, setting back yet again many concerned scholars’ desire to provide quality, verifiable information to the public.

If you want to see and hear the archaeological ‘expert’ yourself, watch his video.

I do have one final question about the brief reconstruction of Qumran shown during the episode. Specifically, where did the producers get it? It appears to be a mutilated modified version of some otherwise pretty good research, although I can’t quite place where I’ve seen those film clips before. I recognize those camera angles from somewhere… that color palette… the interpretation and building layout… that background… I can’t quite place it.

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6 Responses

  1. why don’t these tv people bother finding someone who knows what they’re talking about? do they treasure misinformation and love ignorance? or do they simply not care if the tripe they peddle is a lie?

  2. What is unfortunate is that either Gibson or Pfann could have easily set them straight, or offered an alternative view based on what most qualified scholars think, but they are brought in only to comment on things that have nothing to do with the bogus thesis, thus giving the show’s thesis an air of credibility.

  3. Please do not confuse TV (entertainment) with a university (scholarship.) A real story of the Copper Scrolls without the treasure hunters would not be nearly as entertaining to those not really interested in the subject matter. Remember the Travel Channel also hosts the Ghost Hunters and Man vs Food programs. They’re just doing their job…trying to bring in the largest audience.

  4. It sounds like you are a nonbeliever. Are you afraid that your going to be proven wrong and you will be made a fool of. I think archaeologists are just making educated guesses which hinge on their beliefs. If the agenda is to disprove the existence of God, which is critical to the progressive agenda, then that is what the findings will show. What I find most troubling is the need to mock those who do believe. Where is that tolerance that you are always talking about?

  5. vigdis,

    1) i’m not a non-believer.

    2) i (and other archaeologists) never fear being proved wrong, because scholars don’t fear data. if we’re proved wrong, we’re wrong. it’s nothing personal, and we place no grand religious consequence on archaeological discoveries. i have no personal, vested interest in whether or not the copper scroll is real or a forgery, discusses real or imagined treasure, or whether mr. barfield has successfully interpreted the copper scroll. scholars don’t fear data, and neither do we attempt to fudge or ignore data that does not meet our ideological or religious beliefs. see my article here on this subject.

    3) regarding your comment about scholars making educated guesses, that’s what scholars do: we make educated guesses (called hypotheses) based upon the data, and then attempt to disprove them. that is how the scientific method functions. it has nothing to do with beliefs, only data.

    4) while i’d love to prove or demonstrate the existence of god, it has yet to be done, nor has god been disproved. either way, absent hard evidence, this is not the job of science.

    5) my only ‘agenda’ is to test and critique claims made by those posing as archaeologists and/or biblical scholars and educate the public regarding these claims. there is no blanket agenda; each claim is taken on a case-by-case basis.

    in the case of mr. barfield, i do not dislike him personally, nor do i critique him personally. i do so in my own name (no aliases), and my criticisms are restricted only to the archaeological and biblical claims he makes. he is free to make whatever claims he wishes to make; likewise, i am free to point out the logical fallacies, lack of data, misrepresentations present in his claims. i am also free to ask about the fund raising activities he undertook to raise money for his multiple trips to israel, as they included a public appeal and the establishment of a 501(c)3 non-for-profit organization. again, i am not interested in his religious beliefs, only the archaeological claims he is making. this is what scholars do, and could explain why he has avoided the typical scholarly process.

    that said, mr. barfield concedes he does not know hebrew (which explains why he dates the copper scroll to the time of jeremiah when it is written in mishnaic hebrew (think 2nd century ce). he claimed to have a permit to dig, but did not (which i have confirmed with the iaa, who held the permit). he claimed to be ‘leading a dig,’ but was not (he was merely an observer. no member of his team ‘ever touched a trowel’ according to iaa officials). he claimed to have ‘cracked the code’ of the copper scroll, but has not. (scholars have known what the copper scroll has said for decades. mr. barfield merely claims to know where the places to which the copper scroll’s place names correspond, but the iaa’s probes produced nothing (see here). he has produced no treasure, nor a single archaeological object. he has produced nothing but a map based upon a strong’s concordance and a kindergarten level knowledge of hebrew (his own words). no credible scholar accepts his theories, and he claims his involvement in the copper scroll is ‘divinely inspired’ (see video here and here). he has provided no evidence other than what he ‘thinks’ or claims ‘the father’ has ‘revealed to him,’ and yet is still making claims that have not been proved.

    mr. barfield also established a website and a 501(c)3 (see screen shot here) to raise funds while passing himself off as an excavation leader (which he was not) of the “Copper Scroll Archaeological Dig” (which did/does not exist according to the iaa). he raised funds and asked friends on a facebook marketing campaign to boost his visibility, which culminated in his being interviewed by the host of an archaeological travel show.

    6) my intent is not to mock believers. my intent is ask those who make outrageous claims to provide evidence, which mr. barfield has failed to do. but in the process, he has used technology and social networking marketing strategies to elevate his status (at least online) as a dead sea scrolls/copper scroll scholar to the point that some unwitting individuals may have been misled or duped into believing he actually has something worthwhile to say.

    the burden of proof is upon mr. barfield to show real evidence of his ‘findings,’ and to explain to those that donated to his cause what he did with the money if he was, in fact, only an observer at an iaa excavation.

  6. That’s the TRAVEL CHANNEL for you. Nothing but ghost hunts, poker tournaments and bogus archeology. If you want actual TRAVEL programming, you have to go to the FOOD NETWORK (celebrity chefs only), FINE LIVING (wealthy only) or PBS (backpackers only). But this Copper Scroll show must not be the absolute bottom, or else it would have aired on the HISTORY CHANNEL. You know, that’s the one where, between WWII footage, you can see Nostradamus’ prognostications, atheistic fantasies about the Bible, global-warming propaganda, and a never-ending supply of lies about ancient Egypt.

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