antonio lombatti presents evidence that the ‘fish’ on tabor and jacobovici’s ‘jonah ossuary’ is actually an amphora

Forget what I said about ‘Absalom’s Tomb’ here and here. It was a nice observation, but it’s probably not correct. In fact, it’s probably wrong.

If the photo that Tabor and Jacobovici are releasing is properly oriented, the nephesh monument would be upside down. It would have been nice to have had the proper orientation of the original, undoctored (or ‘computer enhanced’) photo, but if the photo is correct and the ossuary is right side up, the nephesh monument would be upside down, and therefore my ‘Absalom’s Tomb’ monument interpretation would be unlikely.

(BTW, this can serve as a quick lesson to students both in the sciences and in the humanities (and especially you in religious studies): the beauty of science and the scientific method is that scholars are free to admit they were wrong when better evidence and arguments come along. In fact, we are encouraged to do so. Rather than dig in our heels and argue until our dying breath for interpretations that have long been disproved by new evidence, critical scholars celebrate peer-review and the discussion of ideas among learned individuals, who offer new proposals and bring knowledge and familiarity with evidence from their respective specialized fields to the discussion. Through the process, a consensus is often reached that is based upon a consideration of all of the latest evidence, and not just the claims of those who made them first or the loudest, or worse yet, who bypassed the scholarly process altogether to take their sensational claim directly to the public for the purposes of selling a popular book. As a scholar, I am humbled, and yet pleased when I can admit when my interpretation was wrong, because it means I am still learning from my colleagues and peers, who have taken the time to engage me in academic debate.)

With that said, another interpretation has come to the forefront, and this one may just be right: amphora.

Antonio Lombatti has posted images of ossuaries with amphorae on them that closely resemble the image that Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor are telling the world is “Jonah’s Great Fish.”

As you can tell from the actual published photo of the image on the ossuary in its proper context and orientation (below), and even from the museum replica of the ossuary (below), a crude attempt at an amphora may be the best interpretation.

1. The top of the image is wide and flat like an amphora. (Tabor and Jacobovici claim this is a ‘tail’.)

2. The body tapers down through a nice curve like other amphorae. (Tabor and Jacobovici claim this the ‘fish’s body’.)

3. Handles appear on the sides of the amphora. (Tabor and Jacobovici claim these are ‘fins’.)

4. The base is decorated with grooves like other amphorae. (Tabor and Jacobovici claim this is a ‘fish head’.)

5. There is even a small foot (base) of the amphora. (Tabor and Jacobovici claim this is ‘a human head wrapped in seaweed’ – I kid you not).

Fig. 20 from page 41 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, Feb 28, 2012.

Fig. 20 from page 41 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, Feb 28, 2012.

A 'museum quality replica' of the so-called 'Jonah Ossuary' from the "Jesus Discovery" website: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/intro/img_7422/

A 'museum quality replica' of the so-called 'Jonah Ossuary' from the "Jesus Discovery" website: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/intro/img_7422/

I believe Antonio Lombatti’s proposal is the best proposal so far. What say you?

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10 Responses

  1. I think that I may be wrong and that the image might really be a Second Temple judeo-christian whale… ;)

  2. lol.

    i would like to explore, in all seriousness, the idea that a fish icon is, in fact, related to the name yeshua, not because of jesus, but because of joshua, son of nun. as you know, nun is ‘fish’ in aramaic, and it could have become a symbol for anyone named yeshua.

    that said, the icon on the tomb is not a fish. but it would explain perhaps the origin of the symbol of the fish coming to represent xnty.

  3. Note the second link I posted takes you to a website with several amphoras. The one I’m referring to is 6th row down titled “Hellenistic Sand-Core Glass Amphora”

  4. [...] of Jonah” is a late development reflected in Matthew’s redaction of that tradition.Bob Cargill follows Antonio Lambotti’s interpretation of the “fish” on the ossuary….Steven Fine commented on the matter at the ASOR blog.Fox News and Channel 4 in the UK have [...]

  5. I think the vase suggestion is on the right track. I would hesitate to call this an “amphora” though. The low handles and wide top suggest a “krater” which is for mixing and drinking wine at a banquet, where an amphora (which tends to have a more bulbous shape and looped handles higher up, for carrying) is for storage. The other examples depicted above are better described as “kantharos” types, which like the krater are more for serving and drinking wine than for storage. To draw a long bow, this would make the significance of the engraving evocation of a happy afterlife.

  6. [...] m.i. tegen deze interpretatie pleit). Na de aanvankelijke interpretatie als grafmonument stelt Bob Cargill (n.a.v. Antonio Lombatti) voor om de afbeelding te interpreteren als amphora. Hij zou wel eens [...]

  7. [...] it may also be interpreted as a representation of an amphora as suggested by Italian scholar Antonio Lombatti, or some other kind of vessel like a krater as recently suggested by Warden and President of [...]

  8. [...] in fact some sort or another of inscribed vessel, be it an amphora as suggested by Italian scholar Antonio Lombatti, a krater as recently suggested by Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of [...]

  9. [...] anything, we can’t be sure they based their initial analyses upon Photoshopped imagery (as I conceded I had [...]

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