on ‘absalom’s tomb’ in jerusalem and nephesh monument iconography

Images of the 'Tomb of Absalom' (1 C. CE Jerusalem) flank an image carved into a burial ossuary.

Images of the 'Tomb of Absalom' (1 C. CE Jerusalem) flank an image carved into an ossuary. Photo credits: Left: Brian796 (http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/brian796/2/1264692913/the-tomb-of-absalom.jpg/tpod.html). Center: MSNBC Cosmic Log (http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/27/10521007-new-find-revives-jesus-tomb-flap) Right: Ariel Horowitz on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Avtomb.JPG).

Here’s a thought:

In response to Simcha Jacobovici’s sensational claims of a “Jonah’s Great Fish” icon on a burial ossuary in Jerusalem, Duke University’s Dr. Eric Meyers states the following:

In fact, the image in the book is so poorly reproduced in my copy that one suspects it has been intentionally altered so that no one could see what the the image really is. Indeed, the image actually seems to resemble a nephesh, or tomb monument, like those found in many places in Jerusalem in the first century CE and depicted on ossuaries of this very period (so for example in fig. 13 or 30 of Rahmani’s A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries, 1994). A nephesh is the above-ground monument of a tomb that marks the tomb below and the one(s) buried there.

Chris Rollston adds:

I must emphasize that I am confident the engraving  is simply a standard “nephesh tower motif,” an ornamental motif that is fairly widely attested on the corpus of ossuaries.  In fact, in Rahmani’s discussion of the ornamental motifs of ossuaries, the first ornamental motif he mentions is that which has the appearance of a tomb façade or nephesh tower. (Rahmani, L. Y., 1994. A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, p. 28).

By the way, the features of  this ossuary’s ornamentation that Jacobovici and Tabor contend are the “fins of a fish,” are actually a standard feature of a roof, namely, the eaves (which, of course, are important for directing the water away from a building).  Note also that eaves are visible in multiple of Rahmani’s drawings of ossuary ornamentation.  In short, this is not a fish.  It is a nephesh tower or tomb façade.

The initial thought that came to my mind was the so-called Tomb of Absalom (that we coincidentally discussed today in my “Jerusalem from the Bronze to Digital Age” class at Iowa). The shape of the figure resembles the shape of the Tomb of Absalom, which is dated to the 1st C. CE in Jerusalem. I suggest that the “round” figure at the top of the ossuary image may be an attempted representation of a lotus flower that Kloner and Zissu state is carved into the top of the Absalom monument. (Kloner A. and Zissu B., 2003. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and The Israel Exploration Society. Jerusalem (in Hebrew), pp. 141-43.) It certainly could be interpreted as an attempt at the petals of a flower.

Likewise the lower panels of the image could be an attempt at a representation of the tomb’s pillars.

Images of the 'Tomb of Absalom' (1 C. CE Jerusalem) flank an image carved into a burial ossuary.

Images of the 'Tomb of Absalom' (1 C. CE Jerusalem) flank an image carved into an ossuary. Photo credits: Left: Brian796. Center: MSNBC Right: Ariel Horowitz on Wikipedia.

Note also that the sections of the “tail” of the “fish” correspond to the attempted representations of the stacked Greek architectural segments on the tomb’s (frieze, architrave, etc.):

'The Tomb of Absalom.' Peter Bergheim, a Jerusalem resident of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, took this photo, which shows how the rock rubble piled up even inside the tomb. The Bergheim family had a bank just inside Jaffa Gate. Photo by Peter Bergheim, courtesy of Joe Zias. (Available at: http://tfba.co/content/index.php/projects/34-tomb-of-absalom/46-the-tomb-of-absalom-reconsidered?start=9)

'The Tomb of Absalom.' Peter Bergheim, a Jerusalem resident of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, took this photo, which shows how the rock rubble piled up even inside the tomb. The Bergheim family had a bank just inside Jaffa Gate. Photo by Peter Bergheim, courtesy of Joe Zias. (Available at: http://tfba.co/content/index.php/projects/34-tomb-of-absalom/46-the-tomb-of-absalom-reconsidered?start=9)

This may not be the inspiration for the image on the ossuary, but it certainly seems more likely than a “fish” spitting out a “human head.”

maximize the money, archaeology be damned: simcha jacobovici claims ‘new’ evidence of jesus

See? Once you have this inscription, we know Jesus was buried here. Simple, no? I shake my head...

See? Once you have this inscription, we *know* Jesus was buried here. Simple, no? I shake my head...

On December 8, 2012, in response to learning that Simcha Jacobovici had sued one of his more vocal critics, Joe Zias, I left the following comment on Jim West’s blog:

How much do you want to bet that this law suit was filed a couple of months before the release of Simcha’s ‘next big thing’? Wouldn’t it be something if this lawsuit was simply part of a media strategy to intimidate critical scholars by suing someone just prior to the release of some crazy new claim. The cherry on top would be another ossuary claim, because the world doesn’t have enough sensational ossuary controversies. Just watch. Let’s see if this is what happens. If so, Simcha will have proved me correct, and the world will know precisely what this is all about.

Well, what do you know? I hate to say it, but…I told you so.

And now, the press is beginning to be polluted with this: ‘Naked Archaeologist’ finds signs Jerusalem cave was used to bury Jesus’ disciples (Haaretz)

And this: New find revives ‘Jesus Tomb’ flap (MSNBC)

And this: Tomb exploration reveals first archaeological evidence of Christianity from the time of Jesus (eurekalert.org)

And this: The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity [Hardcover]

Fascinating how these stories all hit the wires the same day – Feb 28, 2012 – precisely the same day that Jacobovici’s new book gets released?? And, is it coincidence that said media marketing campaign gets kicked off during the Lenten season just before Easter?

This is nothing more than a coordinated press release to sell a book and promote a forthcoming documentary. There is no new discovery here; this has been known for years.

REMEMBER: don’t watch what Simcha says – you know he’s going to try and sell the public on his latest speculation. Rather, watch what the scholars say – or better yet, watch what the scholars don’t say, and you’ll have your answer.

As for the ‘substance’ of the argument? Witherington got it right: “one speculation upon another speculation.”

Am I shocked? Absolutely not. This is the kind of nonsense we’ve come to expect from Simcha Jacobovici: maximize the money, archaeology be damned.

you must buy this book: Portrayals of Economic Exchange in the Book of Kings by Roger Nam

Portrayals of Economic Exchange in the Book of Kings by Roger S. NamThe latest from Brill is “Portrayals of Economic Exchange in the Book of Kings” by my colleague and friend, Dr. Roger S. Nam.

Here’s the blurb:

With the growing proliferation of literature concerning the social world of the Hebrew Bible, scholars continue to face the challenge of a proper understanding of ancient Israel’s economies. Portrayals of Economic Exchange in the Book of Kings is the first monographic study to use an anthropological approach to examine the nature of the economic life behind the biblical text. Through Karl Polanyi’s paradigm of exchange as a methodological control, this book synthesizes Semitic philology with related fields of Levantine archaeology and modern ethnography. With this interdisciplinary frame, Nam articulates a social analysis of economic exchange, and stimulates new understandings of the biblical world.

Few people know this, but people often confuse me with Roger.

Go ye therefore and buy it!

no, no the dead sea scrolls do not ‘confirm’ the discoveries of the hubble telescope

Contrary to the claims of the above author, the Dead Sea Scrolls have nothing to do with the Hubble Telescope.

Dilly Award Nominee!

In what is nothing more than cheap, sensationalistic, and deliberately misleading press designed to promote a ridiculous, pseudoscientific, Intelligent Design theory about the relationship between the Hubble Telescope and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Christian Newswire (“the nation’s leading distributor of religious press releases”) released this tripe.

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 14, 2012 – An amazing passage concerning the universe recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls has been confirmed by the Hubble Telescope, according to a new book being released at New York City’s BookExpo America this summer.

My head is about to explode.

First, amateur wannabe stargazer theologian archaeologist “entrepreneur” J. Paul Hutchins has written a book in which he claims, “Hubble Reveals Creation by an Awe-Inspiring Power.” No, no it doesn’t. The Hubble telescope reveals to us how incredibly old the universe actually is. But that doesn’t stop Hutchins from asking deep, probing questions like, “How did Isaiah know about this unimaginable power without the aid of a space telescope thousands of years before Hubble revealed it?”

You see how this works? Hubble must confirm Isaiah because Hutchins asked the question! Case closed.

Of course, this kind of ‘discovery’ cannot remain unannounced to the world, for there is money to be made. Thus, Hutchins makes statements like:

After researching the images and data from the Hubble and Spritzer space telescopes, collected since their launch, Hutchins was compelled to write about the universe as a product of intelligent design, fueled by superior imagination.

And what are his theological, archaeological, palaeographical, or astronomy credentials you might ask?

A patented inventor and amateur astronomer, he began to notice the role imagination played in every major discovery in man’s history…Hutchins has been a businessman and entrepreneur for more than three decades, and has owned five companies. He is a recipient of the Lee County Community Development Award and has been a disaster relief volunteer. The parents of three adult daughters, Hutchins and his wife currently reside in Orlando, FL.

Then, to compound the stupidity and add to the ‘scientific credibility’ of his ‘discovery,’ Hutchins invokes the Dead Sea Scrolls. How does he do this you ask? Here‘s how:

An amazing passage concerning the universe recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls has been confirmed by the Hubble Telescope.

And the verse is question?

“To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” – Isaiah 40:25, 26

That’s right. Why simply claim that the Hubble telescope ‘confirms’ a biblical verse of prophecy in Isaiah when you can invoke that same text of Isaiah 40:25-26 found in 1QIsaa and 4Q56 f26:4 (4QIsab) among the Dead Sea Scrolls? See, now it’s not the Bible that ‘confirms’ Hutchins’ theory, it’s the Scrolls.

This is how to abuse science for the sake of selling a pseudoscientific book. (And it reminds me of someone. I can’t quite place it, but it reminds me of someone…)

This is nothing more than yet another example of a guy with a stupid idea, who writes it on paper in an attempt to sell it to someone, and surrounds it with talk about unrelated scientific discoveries (the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hubble Telescope) in the desperate hope that people will not realize the non sequitur and think that his idea has been ‘confirmed’ by science.

I shake my head…

ARRRGGGHHH: the ramblings of an idiot

Rick Santorum said words yesterday, which means there’s a good chance he threw logic and facts to the wind and simply made stuff up.

Really? 4000 years of human history? That’s ‘traditional marriage’? Rosemary Joyce at Psychology Today has some pesky facts that speak to this claim. (HT: Morag Kersel)

And 4000 years? That’s as long as humans have been on the earth? Even fundies think the earth is older than that! Or is that how long humans have been getting ‘married’? And marriage between one man and one woman is ‘biblical’ marriage? Really? I’ve dealt with this fantasy before.

Likewise, hasn’t slavery also been around for most of those 4000 years? Is that his argument: because we’ve done it all throughout human history, we should continue to do so?

Where on earth is he getting his facts? Actually…don’t answer that. It may smell like…well…Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum needs to learn the difference between the loss of a previously exclusive privilege and persecution. Asking people of faith to treat others as they would be treated themselves is not persecution. Demanding that a large group not suppress the civil rights of a smaller group is not ‘intolerance,’ just like a police officer arresting an assailant is not ‘intolerance’ against the ‘right’ to assault people.

When the U.S. decided that it was wrong to, oh…let’s say, own other people, implementing the law emancipating slaves is not intolerant of the southern, slave-holding way of life. Rather, it is the loss of a previously exclusive (and unethical) privilege of southern slave holders. Southern plantation owners were not being ‘discriminated against’ when they were told that owning people was no longer legal, they were simply being told that what they had been doing for generations prior to that is highly discriminatory and flat-out wrong, and the state finally recognized this and remedied it, despite the fact that the Bible clearly endorsed slavery (Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22; Tit. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18), and despite the fact that slavery had been around for ‘4000 years of human history.’

This is pandering to religious conservatives at its best. For the Christian argument that demonstrates why it’s OK for Christians to support the legalization of same-sex marriage, and if you’re really looking for a Biblical basis for at least allowing the state to pass laws legalizing same-sex marriage, read here. (Warning: it’s long, rooted in the biblical text, and full of pesky facts and reason, so be prepared to think.) And if you still can’t get over it, try this.

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