no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before easter)

Simcha holds a nail.

Simcha holds a nail. That must prove it.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

Everyone’s least favorite fake tv archaeologist “veteran investigator” presenter of ridiculous, sensationalistic trash σκύβαλα, Simcha Jacobovici, is releasing a documentary entitled, “The Nails Of The Cross,” which “investigates” whether the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been discovered. And completely coincidentally, Simcha’s press release machine is revving up a week before Easter. Shockerrrrr! (said with a high pitched voice and dripping with sarcasm.)

The South African Independent Online reports Mr. Jacobovici’s claims in a Reuters story by Ari Rabinovitch:

“What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,” he said in an interview, wearing his trademark traditional knitted cap.

(I love that they mentioned his “trademark knitted cap!)

Jim West broke this story this morning. And the unwitting press is already sopping it up like vinegar in a sponge. The UK’s Telegraph is even running video. (Thank goodness Dan Bahat is there to talk some sense into folks.)

So let me ask: Why is it that Mr. Jacobovici continues to prey on an oft unwitting public so near to the Christian holy days? Is his greed for cash so great that he’s willing to jump to any conclusion just to get on TV? Has he been so far ostracized from anything resembling legitimacy within professional archaeological circles that he feels he has nothing to lose by using his own production company to create ridiculous documentaries about unsubstantiated claims?

The Israel Antiquities Authority knows Mr. Jacobovici is making this up. It said in a statement:

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the Jerusalem excavation, said in reaction to the film’s release that it had never been proven beyond doubt that the tomb was the burial place of Caiaphas. It also said that nails are commonly found in tombs.

“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre, but the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research,” it said.

Crucifixion nail through the ankle bone

Replica of crucifixion nail through the ankle bone of Yehohanan ben Hagkol. It is the only evidence of a nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem ever discovered.

So once again, we have Simcha Jacobovici making unsubstantiated, fantastic claims a week before Easter with the sole purpose of getting people to watch his nonsensical documentary. Keep in mind, anyone who has dug in a Roman period site in Israel has most likely found nails. I have. But to claim that they are the nails of the Crucifixion is wholly irresponsible, even if you did find your nails in a tomb. There has only been evidence of one nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem, a replica of which is in the Israel Museum. It was discovered by my friend and former excavation director Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis of the IAA, and the nail was in an ankle bone in an ossuary clearly inscribed in Hebrew with the name “Yehohanan ben Hagkol.”

So let’s explore Mr. Jacobovici’s actual claim a bit further. According to Reuters:

The film begins by revisiting the burial place hailed by many at the time as the burial place of Caiaphas, who in the New Testament presides over the trial of Jesus.

The grave, along with a number of ossuaries – or bone boxes – was uncovered during construction work on a hillside a few kilometres south of the Old City.

Caiaphas is a major figure in the Gospels, having sent Jesus to the Romans and on to his death, and one of Jacobovici’s assertions is that the high priest did not deserve such a bad reputation.

Two iron nails were found in the tomb [of Caiaphas!] – one on the ground and one actually inside an ossuary – and, according to the film, disappeared shortly after. [emphasis mine]

Jacobovici says that because Caiaphas is so closely linked to the crucifixion, he believes the nails found in his tomb will be shown to belong to Jesus.

‘What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,’ he said.

‘If you look at the whole story, historical, textual, archaeological, they all seem to point at these two nails being involved in a crucifixion,’ he said.’ And since Caiaphas is only associated with Jesus’s crucifixion, you put two and two together and they seem to imply that these are the nails.’

(all bold, red, and italics mine)

“Two and two together”??? Let me get this straight:

  • Simcha claims to have found the tomb of the High Priest Caiaphas, a claim which is uncertain because archaeologists aren’t even sure that the tomb is Caiaphas’ tomb.
  • The excavation found two nails in the tomb, one in an ossuary, and one on the ground.
  • The nails disappeared (i.e., someone took or misplaced them).
  • The nails “magically reappear” in a lab in Tel Aviv 20 years later.
  • Because Caiaphas is mentioned in the story of Jesus, and the nails “disappeared” for a time, they must be the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion?????

How in the name of anything that makes sense does that make any sense? Why weren’t the nails discovered in the Tomb of Jesus that Simcha claimed to have discovered in 2007 as part of a press campaign touting his last laughable documentary, The Jesus Family Tomb, just before Easter of 2007 (which was so heavily criticized by scholars for its inaccuracies and sensational jumps to conclusions that Discovery pulled its subsequent airings)? Or, did Mr. Jacobovici think that the world would forget his last unsubstantiated claim?

Perhaps the words of the principal from the Adam Sandler cult classic, Billy Madison, would serve as an appropriate response:

“Mr. Madison Jacobovici, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

The fact that the Mail Online provides lots of pretty pictures, and Mr. Jacobovici makes a speculative documentary, doesn’t mean the above lack of logic makes any sense.

Finding a nail in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem does not mean you’ve discovered the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s irresponsible, and Simcha should know better by now. This is nothing more than a press campaign designed to stir up controversy to get people to watch a bad documentary.  And Mr. Jacobovici’s latest TV offering is nothing more than a train wreck of reality television. Simcha should probably just break down and get his own fake reality show. (Oh wait, he already does.)

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46 Responses

  1. The idiocy… the dilettantism… it’s EVERYWHERE!

  2. nicely done.

  3. Is this “Simcha” the guy from Naked Archaeologist?

    Now I can see the same Christians (TM) who finance all those Ark-ological Expeditions to Ararat making an announcement like this — they’re often obsessed with finding Some Absolute PROOF of Biblical Literal TRUTH they can rub in everyone else’s faces. But this guy?

  4. [...] Easter, Jesus Christ, Nails, News, Pseudo-archaeology … a week before Easter? No! Writes Dr Robert Cargill: Tell me if you’ve heard this one [...]

  5. The work of a man with no creditability nor integrity. Remember this is the film maker who invented the holocaust story in order to save himself over the Talpiot tomb, family of Jesus 4 million dollar, so called, doc. Most colleagues here have been boycotting him for yrs however there are those, like the BAR crowd, who will do anything to be seen on TV. His work for yrs has no academic nor historical value, trash TV, nothing more.

  6. agreed. and thanx, joe, for your work keeping tabs on this in israel!

  7. I’ve lost respect for you. i no longer feel that you are a “truth seeker”. Your attacks are vicious and personal and you haven’t even seen the film! You base everything on a Reuters story. Since when has Reuters become Holy Scripture? The film is airing on April 20th on the History Channel and I for one am going to watch before I draw conclusions.

  8. ms. austin,

    by ‘truth seeker’ do you mean an ‘i want to believe so badly that i’ll ignore evidence and all forms of logic and critical thinking and submit to sheer speculation that is conveniently released a week before easter to maximize profitability of a network and a production company’-er?

    find me one – ONE – legitimate archaeologist who thinks these are the nails used to crucify jesus and i’ll send you a dollar.

    there’s a reason he releases clips of the movie (to reuters and anyone else who will print his nonsense) before the movie airs – to build buzz and controversy so that xns will watch. this is the same guy claimed to find the buried bones of jesus a few years back. i’m trying to save you the trouble.

    watch the show, get him paid, and then you are welcome to come back here and tell me what you think.

    (and, who knows, maybe if you watch history on april 20, you can see me debunk ancient aliens as well… ;-)

    -bc

  9. I know that serious scholars hate when people hype things like this guy does, but these shows are good for kids to get them interested in history and archaeology, etc. They are not going to watch boring scholarly shows just like they are not going to read the mind-numbingly technical incomprehensible scholarly books and articles that you can read.

    People are not stupid. You don’t need a PhD to see there is no connection between the nails and what he claims. Unless he has more secret evidence that is not in the press release, it sounds like silly stuff that anyone can see through, even gullible religious people. I think you should relax and appreciate what he does which is turn young people on to a scholarly subject just like Star Trek has encourage many people to become engineers, physicists, and astronauts. Maybe some little kid will see this and become a serious scholar like you some day because of it. I have seen some of his work and I felt silly watching it, but I understand what he is doing. I wish I could contact him. I also have some ideas for a documentary to hype my own amateur research.

    Kenneth Greifer

  10. Yup, any old lying rubbish is good enough to “get kids interested in archaeology and history,” eh?

  11. if we want to get kids and the public interested, why not do legit archaeology with legit archaeologists and scholars? that was our thinking behind ‘writing the dead sea scrolls

    and ‘indiana jones and the ultimate quest.’

    why can’t legit archaeology be entertaining? it’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that mr. jacobovici own his own production company, and can make more money speculating than dealing in fact.

  12. thanx, jim. good scoop this morning!

  13. that’s the guy.

  14. So I guess Jacobovici didn’t give up fraud for Lent?

  15. I am still waiting for Simcha’s next project of finding evidence for the Ascension based on “Grilled Cheesus” appearances on Toritillas in Mexico. Same “solid” logic…Look for that TV special in about 40 days or so.

  16. This isn’t the first time this program has been aired. I saw it this past December as 1 of 7 or so episodes of “Secrets of Christianity”. I thought Simcha’s line of reasoning was absurd for exactly the same reasons described in this blog entry. While I’m an engineer rather than a scholar I can still smell BS a mile away. It is rare to find an episode of Naked Archaeologist where Simcha’s penchant for fantasy doesn’t irritate me. That said, I still find his programs amusing and interesting, although the conclusions I draw based on each episode are normally far different from his. I’d love to find a TV series (as opposed to the occasional NGC special) similar to his where more accepted explanations are presented rather than baseless speculation, but alas said series does not seem to exist.

  17. i’m working on it…. :)

  18. Greg, even the NG specials smell of fraud, last months special on finding Atlantis in Spain, who did it, Simcha and his wanna be archaeologist Richard Freund. Neither are archaeologists and as for Freund, his archaeological adviser, he presented the Pope with the key to St. Peters house a few yrs ago. Said it was from Bethsaida, which few if any agree with it.

  19. [...] “logic” and I would recommend that if you simply can’t ignore this story altogether.  He sums things up this way: Because Caiaphas is mentioned in the story of Jesus, and the nails “disappeared” for a time, [...]

  20. [...] Robert Cargill (a real archeologist) breaks down Simcha’s argument. from → Uncategorized ← Bible Translations and Gender LikeBe the first to like this post. No comments yet [...]

  21. [...] Besides the failure to turn water into something desirable to drink, there are other problems. Not only are ancient nails a dime a dozen, theses nails in particular were found in a priest’s tomb (not substantiated as to who), lost, re-found 20 years later, only then to be hailed as Jesus’s crucifixian nails. Simcha has made similar: he found the Family Tomb of Jesus in 2007. And right before Easter, too. See Dr Robert Cargill’s blog for more details. [...]

  22. [...] Bob Cargill, Jim Davila, Mark Goodacre, David Meadows, John Byron, Helek Tov, Michael Heiser and even Jim West have commented on this topic. [...]

  23. @Joe, yes I saw that NGC special and as soon as a saw Simcha’s name in the credits I rolled my eyes. I had to Google Freund as I had not heard of him. I was not impressed by what I was able to find on him, especially after I saw several items linking him to Simcha (not just that program). Like I said earlier though, I like watching these shows, but I do hold everything at arms length and take everything said with a extra double-sized teaspoon of salt. I’ve always found it funny how some of the archaeologists that Simcha has on his NA show seem very, very careful with what they say and then he just runs off on his own tangent. This seems especially true with Gaby Barkay. He seems grounded in reality. How is he accepted in the scholarly community? I’d like to know who to trust on these programs and who to dismiss!

  24. Greg, from time to time one will see experts on his show however he never tells them his true agenda as he did on the masada doc in which he ended up talking about Jesus being buried there. The experts were kept in the dark and then when he ran the pgrm they were incensed, thats the norm for SJ, a man of little integrity. Just turn him off as its trash TV.

  25. The sad thing is the number of people who will eat up everything he says on the show and think it is fact. These are the same sort of people who watch the shows starring “alternative historians” and “independent archaeologists” searching for Atlantis and by the end jump on “Archaeologists and Historians are wrong and afraid for their jobs bandwagons.” I wouldn’t be surprised if when this documentary airs, Simcha will claim that the real experts he refers to as “skeptics” are afraid of his new theories and all.

    It is sad that many people think this rubbish is actual archaeology (or even science). It’s even more sad that frauds like this clown and van Daniken are not cast as the loons they really are by the History Channel and Discovery, but are instead rewarded with their own TV shows where they are presented the world as having the new theories that are busting into the mainstream (and the only thing holding them back are those darn entrenched expert archaeologists with their special interests).

    I hope one day this disgraceful con artist sees the error of his ways, donates the money he has sleezed from these channels to the IAA or Israel Museum and leaves the archaeology and history to people with PhDs in those fields. Philosophers (he has a PhD in Philosophy from UToronto) should not play archaeologists. As Simcha shows, it causes way too much damage.

    And that is the end of my rant on this subject.

  26. I see the old charlatan is at it again.

    All that needs to be said about SJ is:

    http://people.delphiforums.com/AULUS/facepalm_implied.jpg

  27. Henry from New York,

    You said that scholars aren’t afraid to lose their jobs if they disagree with other scholars. I have read a few blogs by scholars that said “Now that I am retired, I am finally free to say what I really think about…” I was very surprised to read these kinds of comments by retired scholars because I thought they were supposed to be the people who tell the truth that other people might not want to hear.

    Kenneth Greifer

  28. [...] Prof. Robert Cargill of UCLA writes, “no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before east… [...]

  29. Nope, I said that the conspiracy nuts think they are afraid. What I mean is people who come up with theories like ancient aliens and Atlantis in Bahamas (now that expedition was hilarious) that make perfect sense to them, but is dismissed by experts. They wonder “how can it be that my perfectly logical theory is rejected by this guy? He must be afraid of my ideas! Yeah that’s it! He’s afraid that if his theories are put to rest by my new ideas he will lose his job or look like a fool! He is afraid of me.” That sort of thing. Watch “The Search for Atlantis,” you will see that as the undercurrent of the whole thing (just one example we studied in our “Frauds, Myths and Mysteries” course under the good Susan A. Johnston). So I am talking about the guys who are real fringe, not someone making a new, more down to Earth, theory.

    It is true that some scholars are afraid of speaking their minds on certain things. Like before Israel Finkelstein came along with his “Low Chronology” no one would have questioned the pottery dating of Yigael Yadin (who had used his thinking that various gatehouses were from the time of Solomon to date the pottery he found on the level of the gatehouses) for fear of contradicting his conclusions (and they also figured it was a closed case). When Finkelstein came along he used carbon dating to redate the pottery and then redate the gatehouses and came to the conclusion they were from the time of King Omri of Israel. Hell, Finkelstein still gets a ton of flak for it even though his theory is more widely accepted. It really depends on where the archaeologist is and what the atmosphere is like at the time (people are more open-minded these days, but not so much they let their brains fall out).

    You know a great example of someone who had a controversial theory that was finally accepted was this fellow who discovered Mesa Verde which was the earliest human site in Chile (in southernmost Chile) . At first people said he was making it up and didn’t believe him, but he did the research properly and invited colleagues down there to the site to see it and after a while his theory was accepted. See he did things properly and was rewarded when his theory was finally accepted. These other nutty fellows make silly press conferences and base their theories on a single piece of evidence or no evidence at all (when asked about their evidence it is usually shoddy or non-existant).

    Many of those scholars are partly just under the impression that some new ideas will cost them their jobs. In reality you can usually just put forward a new theory in a peer-reviewed journal (or Biblical Archaeological Review), and it will be critiqued by your peers anonymously (or openly in BAR) and they will tell you what they think and maybe what can be improved. Like when my Professor, Cline (who I sincerely hope isn’t reading this), submitted his theory on the origin of the Israelites for peer review, he didn’t have any fear about doing so and merely considered it to be something of an editorial process. So I think some of these guys might just have the idea in their heads that they will be cast out for a new idea. It’s really only radical, offensive theories that would get someone tossed out.

    Sorry if this post is a bit disjointed, it is rather late here. If you want an actual genuine example of when scholars were afraid for their jobs and reputations, the Moses Shapira Scrolls are a prime example (upon doing extensive research on the subject from every source that wrote about them and coming to the conclusion that the scholars at the time (late 1800s) were relying upon the assement of the scrolls by a single person who personally hated Shapira).

  30. Great post! The quote from Billy Madison was an especially nice touch.

  31. Hi,

    I’ve been reading the responses to my post and I’m amazed how none of you get it. Most of you sound like frustrated wannabes, who delight in your own “scholarship” and just heap personal scorn on any individual who makes a difference, without actually addressing a single substantive point. Bob asks for one archaeologist who backs Simcha. The fact is that Professor Gabriel Barkay was at the press conference and he was quoted as being “critical” of Greenhut and company, calling the nails “common” and “forgettable”. He said that nothing in archaeology is “forgettable”. And he was very critical of these “experts losing the nails”!

    As for Joe Zias, when Simcha does link up with an archaeologist – the head of a department at Hartford University – Prof. Richard Freund, he goes personally after him as well. I don’t know where you guys studied science but you should start reading some mathematical journals or physics journals, and you will see that it’s OK to create a hypothesis and build a module on it. But it’s not OK to personally attack.

    Nicole

  32. i’ll let someone else handle the response to this one.

  33. Nicole, Freund, the one who found John the Baptist at Qumran (with his head) and Atlantis, is not an archaeologist; he poses as one but has no credentials and little creditability. This is why he advises Simcha, few today will work with either; in time there are looking like Three Cups of Tea….

  34. Watched it last night. Pretty convincing case. At the end of the day, I don’t see how the guys who lost the nails can be the good guys and the guy who found the nails such a bad guy.

  35. lol. ok. if that convinced you, i’ve know a nigerian business man who wants to send you 10,000,000 u.s. dollars…

  36. [...] of an InstitutionOn the CADRobert Cargill @ XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargillno, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before east…ScienceThe LeadEvolution for MuslimsJerry Coyne @ Why Evolution Is TrueWhere on Earth did language [...]

  37. Haven’t experienced this much televised suspense since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s Vault! It was amazing to watch the investigative prowess it took to rediscover a tomb that hadn’t been located for TWENTY years! But the real moment of truth was the shocking revelation that the nails from the tomb had “rounded” heads (…or maybe triangular). Surely, these must be the nails of the crucifixion!

  38. Brilliant work again exposing this man and his work. It appears that he is untrustworthy for other articles to. I did one blog on the Lost Tomb (alledged) of Christ [http://www.everydaychristian.com/blogs/post/9935/] but what was really lost were the facts. Nicely done.

  39. [...] find is bunk, of course, and XKV8R does a fairly good job explaining why. But isn’t it interesting that the scams Chaucer [...]

  40. [...] documentary deal to capitalize on their latest “discovery” as so many pseudoscientists, archaeological hucksters, amateur ark hunters, and relic seeking religious zealots do before scholars can critique and [...]

  41. Please notice that Nicole Austin is Jacobovici’s assistant. Not much real controversy for her.

  42. [...] find is bunk, of course, and XKV8R does a fairly good job explaining why. But isn’t it interesting that the scams Chaucer [...]

  43. This is freakin HILARIOUS!!!!….

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