when is a nun not a nun?

My friend and colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre made a keen observation last evening that is worthy of repeating. It relates to recent claims made by Dr. James Tabor that Dr. James Charlesworth has found the letters of the name of Jonah in the image inscribed on the front of Ossuary 6 from the so-called “Patio Tomb” from Talpiot, Jerusalem. The specific issue has to do with the fact that Dr. Tabor wants to interpret a pair of lines on the image as a single line, so that he can interpret them as the Hebrew letter nun, and thereby produce a necessary element of the name of Jonah. The problem (as Dr. Goodacre has pointed out) is that the supposed letter nun is drawn as two separate lines in their own reproduced images!

Indeed, one can test for the clarity of the lines here by returning to the CGI composite image of what is depicted on ossuary 6.  This image aims to represent what the authors of the project used to regard as clear and self-evident and yet it is quite clear that before this new “Jonah” reading had been proposed, they too saw a break in the line that is now held to be a nun.  In other words, before the “Jonah” inscription interpretation, they too could not see the continuous line of a letter “nun”.

That is, Jacobovici and Tabor’s own Photoshopped composite CGI image clearly treats the lines of the desired nun as two separate lines! I’ve dealt with this before, but see below how Dr. Goodacre has refuted Dr. Tabor’s claim with Dr. Tabor’s own published rendering of the image!

Lines from the CGI composite image from Ossuary 6 are depicted as TWO lines, not ONE.

Lines from the CGI composite image from Ossuary 6 are depicted as TWO lines, not ONE.

Once Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor found something they felt would make a better argument, they jettisoned the ‘stick man Jonah’ argument (or at least rearranged / eliminated his arms and legs), and are now resorting to redrawing (or at least reinterpreting) the image in a more favorable light and angle in order to produce an ‘inscription’ that doesn’t exist. As I stated in my live CNN interview with Carol Costello, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor (and reportedly Dr. Charlesworth) have resorted to “Rorschach Test archeology” to salvage something – anything – that relates to Jonah.

So, my friend and colleague, Dr. James Tabor, has recently announced that Dr. James Charlesworth has discovered the name of Jonah at the bottom of an image inscribed on the face of an ossuary that was re-discovered in the so-called “Patio Tomb” in Talpiot, Jerusalem.

While Dr. Charlesworth has yet to publish anything on the matter (the only report we have is from Toronto’s finest news source, The Globe and Mail), Dr. Tabor has released a new image on his post from yesterday, which he has captioned: “Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera.” The image is below:

Image of "Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera" of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem, supposedly containing letters forming the name of "Jonah."   (Original image available at: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/19/inscription-on-the-jonah-image-says-yonah/)

Image of "Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera" of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem, supposedly containing letters forming the name of "Jonah." (Original image available at: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/19/inscription-on-the-jonah-image-says-yonah/)

First of all, I am quite curious to know what has caused the blurred out areas on each side of this ‘untouched’ image. The blurred out and shadowed area to the right may be caused by Ossuary 5. However, I know of no known obstructions on the left of the image, unless the blurred area is caused by a part of the camera itself.

Second, notice how FLAT “Jonah’s seaweed-wrapped head” suddenly appears in HiDef. From this straight-on angle it appears to be a nearly symmetrical attempt at representing a half-spherical (or hemispherical, or echinus – HT: compsciphi ;-) base of a vessel. Note the difference in shape between the CGI composite representation above and the “Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera” immediately above. Note how distorted the base of the vessel is in the CGI composite, while the actual image is nearly symmetrical, as Steve Caruso has pointed out here and here. Again, Dr. Tabor’s own new images refute his previous claims.

Finally, while this one photo that Dr. Tabor has produced above appears to show lighting and an angle favorable to Dr. Tabor’s argument, other images on their own thejesusdiscovery.org website clearly show that from multiple different angles with different lighting, the lines that form the supposed nun are, in fact, two separate strokes. Additionally, the would-be vertical stroke of the supposed nun clearly extends well beneath the angled, would-be bottom stroke of the supposed nun, clearly indicating that the nun is little more than wishful thinking.

An image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website showing the bottom of the image inscribed on the face of Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Note that the lines which Dr. Tabor explicitly (and Dr. Charlesworth reportedly) claim to form the Hebrew letter nun are clearly two separate lines, with the vertical down stroke extending well beyond the angled bottom stroke. The traced strokes are highlighted in an inset. (Original image available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/50.jpg)

An image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website showing the bottom of the image inscribed on the face of Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Note that the lines which Dr. Tabor explicitly (and Dr. Charlesworth reportedly) claim to form the Hebrew letter nun are clearly two separate lines, with the vertical down stroke extending well beyond the angled bottom stroke. The traced strokes are highlighted in an inset. (Original image available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/50.jpg)

See also this close-up from a previous post:

An over-under comparison of the original image (above, available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1) and the same image with the contrast and levels increased for clarity. The red arrow points to a space between the lines that make up the supposed 'nun'. Thus, this is not likely a 'nun'.

An over-under comparison of the original image (above, available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1) and the same image with the contrast and levels increased for clarity. The red arrow points to a space between the lines that make up the supposed 'nun'. Thus, this is not likely a 'nun'.

I believe I speak for many when I say that I am certainly awaiting Dr. Charlesworth’s treatment of this inscribed area. I have stated earlier that one must do some rather strenuous mental gymnastics to arrive at the letters for the name of Jonah in this image, including ignoring lines that are clearly present but do not fit the desired inscription, joining together lines that are clearly not conjoined, reshaping letters, and eliminating any semblance of linear alignment. Again, if these are the epigraphical rules we are following, then my ‘discovery‘ of the name of ‘Yo Yo Ma‘ is not as comical as it is intended to be…

Then again, if Antonio Lombatti’s recent post listing various scholars and their readings of the supposed inscription is any hint, it appears that, yet again, the scholarly consensus (of at least those not working with Simcha on this or another of his film projects) is leaning away from reading “Jonah” the base of the vessel.

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10 Responses

  1. I see a small inscribed indentation where the line would meet the vertical line. There appears to be some obstruction on top that has the shape of a comma. Clearly, the horizontal line would meet the vertical if the obstruction (patina?) were removed.

  2. susan, thanx for your comments, but not sure how clear it is.
    it was that clear, why didn’t they represent that in their cgi composite? it wasn’t clear to them at that time? now it seems that they want to change what they see after the fact.

    cheers, bc

  3. Why are you using a CGI composite image to illustrate your claim the lines are not connected. When Tabor et Jacobovici showed the CGI composite you called it inaccurate, and now you use it to “debunk” the original HD photos?!

    Also, I’m sure you are aware that “Nun” means “Fish” in Aramaic.

  4. The horizontal line of the nun forms an obtuse angle with the vertical line of the nun. There is an obstruction that prevents the connection of these two lines from being seen clearly. This obstruction is shaped like a candy cane (I compared it in previous post to a comma) and extends past the bottom of the vertical nun line. Perhaps what you are seeing is the shadow of this obstruction? The reason I suggested it may be patina is because it is in rounded relief above the flat surface of the ossuary. I see the outside corner of the obtuse angle of the nun but am not sure to what “extended” line your red arrow is pointing. Hopefully this is a better explanation than previous post.

    I looked again at the image on Tabor’s site but did not see any changes.

  5. it’s completely Photoshopped! BUT, it’s supposed to be Photoshopped to ASSIST them in their claims. and YET, even their own Photoshopped CGI composite refuted their claims.

    and re: the nun/aramaic, claim, i’ve written on that in the past (but very keen observation!!)

  6. […] on an ossuary in the Talpiot patio tomb. He also discusses the transformation of a vase into a fish.Bob Cargill took Mark’s point further and added additional images analyzing the marks on the o….Jim Davila also blogged about the subject, as did Edward Cook, and Antonio Lombatti gathered names […]

  7. Bob, you and Mark are seeing things. The Nun is connected in ALL the photos, just clearer in the one I posted today that you have “doubted” for some reason as altered–totally untrue, as I wrote you today. Even in the CGI image it is connected. What you are seeing is a splotch on the photos, just under the line, but it not a continuation of the line. As with the fish, you have to take all the photos together, different angles, different lighting. Can’t wait to sit at a bar in Chicago with you, with nice glossy photos printed out, and let you show me with your finger, before even a single beer, where your handles are, where this nun is broken, etc. It simply is not there. Methinks thou protesteth too much. Imagine what would be at stake for you to see the Nun here…surely you can see the Heh?

  8. Um, weren’t the lines now making the basis of the claim for the word “Yonah” originally the basis of the claim for the stick figure of “Yonah”?

    It just seems too much like a digital palimpsest… but then I’m a gross amateur when it comes to these low-res images.

    I do hope the hebrew words for “… was here” aren’t found nearby…

  9. […] at the bottom of the vessel fish at the center of the discussion of the Talpiot Tomb B ossuaries. Bob Cargill and Mark Goodacre have persuasively shown that the lines of the supposed “nun” do not […]

  10. […] now, the professor maintains with a guarded edge a reading of Jonah, but I suspect when he sees the evidence, he will […]

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