Review of “The Lost Gospel” by Jacobovici and Wilson

Except it’s NOT lost, and it’s NOT a gospel.

Since I’ve already been bombarded with questions from students and readers about the latest claims made by Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. Barrie Wilson in their new book, The Lost Gospel, I thought I’d post a quick response to this latest round of absurdity by repeating and re-posting some of the comments I made over a year ago in a post announcing my spring 2014 University of Iowa course in Syriac – a post that dealt (almost prophetically) with many of the claims made in this new book.

You can read most of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson’s book online (and search for the parts that interest you) at Google Books here.

Mr. Jacobovici’s new book essentially claims that the 6th century CE Syriac language version of a Greek pseudepigraphical story entitled  Joseph and Aseneth (which I discuss in my class “Banned from the Bible: Intro to Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha” course at Iowa) is a “gospel”, and should be read allegorically, but only after replacing every mention of Joseph with the name “Jesus”, and every mention of Aseneth with “Mary Magdalene”.

Now, if your first thought is, “WTF? This is just as problematic as the Bible Code dude, who attempts to read every passage in the Bible as an allegory for every modern event, from the Invasion of Iraq, to the Wall Street Crash, to President Obama’s election, etc.”, then you’re right on the money. It is precisely that silly – same interpretative technique, same lack of evidence, same wishful speculation. The same guy who claims to have discovered the route of the Exodus, Atlantis, the nails of the cross, the tomb of Jesus (with Jesus still in it!), and another tomb of people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection (with Jesus still in the other tomb), has now written a book claiming “evidence” that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, by swapping out the names of Joseph and Aseneth and replacing them with the names of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

By that same allegorical logic, you could swap out the names of Samson and Delilah and claim that Mary Magdalene cut Jesus’ hair. Or swap out Adam and Eve and conclude that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were the primordial couple. Or read David and Bathsheba allegorically and end up with Jesus having a son named Solomon, who is guarded by the Priory of Sion, and…well, you get the picture.

There is a reason that the scholars of the world are not paying any attention to this latest so-called “discovery”: there’s nothing there.

First things first: Mr. Jacobovici’s The Lost Gospel is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”. Scholars have known about and have studied the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth, located in the British Museum, for a very long time. Written by an unknown West Syriac writer dating to the late 6th century CE, the author composed an Ecclesiastical History that included a translation of part of a lost Ecclesiastical History by the Greek writer Zacharias Rhetor. The work is commonly referred to as Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor. This Syriac text is of interest because books 1-2 of Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor contain a Syriac translation of the History of Joseph and Aseneth, which was often skipped in English translations because it is already known in the Greek. Keep in mind that the story of Joseph and Aseneth has been well documented over the years, both by my adviser at Pepperdine, Dr. Randy Chesnutt, who wrote his dissertation on Joseph and Aseneth, and by my Duke colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre, who has edited an Aseneth Home Page now for years.

Second: We already know why the story of Joseph and Aseneth was written. The story of Joseph and Aseneth is a well-known, ancient apocryphal expansion of the biblical account of the patriarch Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth, the daughter of the Egyptian Priest of On (Heliopolis). The story of Joseph and Aseneth was composed to solve the later theological problem of Joseph, a Hebrew patriarch, marrying a non-Israelite woman (Aseneth), in direct violation of biblical commands (albeit later commands) that prohibit Hebrews/Jews/Israelites from intermarrying with other peoples, for instance, those found in Deut. 7:3; Josh. 23:12; Ezra 9; and Neh. 13:25. As prohibiting intermarriage became a bigger and bigger deal in the Second Temple period, many Jews began to see the problem with Joseph’s marriage to Aseneth, as Joseph was said to have not only married an Egyptian, but the daughter of an Egyptian priest!

In Gen. 41:45, the Bible says that Pharaoh gave Joseph one of his daughters as a wife:

“Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Aseneth daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife.”

Gen. 41:50-52 further says that Joseph’s wife Aseneth bore him two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim, whence we get the tribal names:

“Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Aseneth daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The second he named Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.'”

As one might imagine, this became a problem for Jews in the Second Temple period. Perhaps many asked, “How can God prohibit us from marrying women of another race when our patriarch Joseph did so?”

Enter Joseph and Aseneth, which was composed like so many pseudepigraphical stories of the Second Temple period and early Christian centuries to “explain away” the problem. We find these same apologetic techniques used in early Rabbinic writings as well as the Aramaic Targums, which clean up the stories of the Jewish Patriarchs by explaining away anything that might be perceived as a misdeed.

The popular ancient love story of Joseph and Aseneth serves an apology explaining why a righteous Israelite patriarch like Joseph would marry the daughter of a pagan priest. And the solution is a simple one: Joseph and Aseneth explains that Joseph’s wife, Aseneth, first converted to monotheism and belief in the Hebrew God before she married Joseph (a detail the Bible obviously “left out”). See? All better.

And that’s basically it. The biblical account says Joseph married an Egyptian woman, so Joseph and Aseneth explains that Aseneth first converted, and therefore was eligible to be married to Joseph.

Third: The Syriac account of Joseph and Aseneth in Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor does not talk about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and simply substituting names does not make it so. However, the Syriac account is still noteworthy because just prior to his retelling of the story, the author writes a letter to a certain Moses of Ingila, asking for a translation and whether there is a deeper allegorical (θεωρία) interpretation of the story beyond the literal narrative. Some have argued that Moses of Ingila’s response attempts to interpret the story of Joseph and Aseneth allegorically, as a gnostic union of the soul (represented by Aseneth) with the divine Logos/Word of God (represented by Joseph). Likewise, there have been many who have argued (largely unsuccessfully) that the text is an allegory, with Joseph symbolizing anything from Jesus to the nation of Israel.

For her part, some scholars have understood Aseneth’s description as the “Bride of God” in 4:2 as representative of a redeemed Israel, or of the matriarchs of the Bible, or perhaps even the practice of voluntary virginity, which was increasingly popular in Christian circles in the late first and early second centuries. The simplest answer is that one who is now a “bride of God” is one who is a “daughter of God”, i.e., “a Hebrew” (and no longer an Egyptian, at least for religious purposes), in much the same way that a “son of God” represents any “child of God” in the Hebrew text. Keep in mind that there are many “sons of God” mentioned in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament that appear to be referring to heavenly beings, from Job 1:6: וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים לְהִתְיַצֵּב עַל-יְהוָה (“Now it fell upon a day, that the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD”), to Job 38:7: וַיָּרִיעוּ כָּל-בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים (“and all the sons of God shouted”), to Gen 6:2: וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי-הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת-בְּנוֹת הָאָדָם כִּי טֹבֹת הֵנָּה (“and the sons of God saw the daughters of men, because they were fair”), as well as in the New Testament, when human peacemakers come to be called “sons of God”: μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται (“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God“).

The use of the phrase “son(s) of God” in the Old and New Testaments does not automatically mean “INSERT JESUS’ NAME HERE”.

Fourth: Simply employing symbolism does not an allegory make. So while some scholars have argued that the text is a distinctly Christian text, most scholars conclude that the text is distinctly Jewish, while allowing that the text may possess some evidence of later Christian tampering and reworking, especially those parts of the text involving Eucharistic interpretations of the meal of bread and wine found within the story. However, the attempts by multiple scholars (cf. Chap 1 of Chesnutt) to interpret the story allegorically ultimately fall short, as any allegorical interpretation must be highly selective of particular details, and therefore necessarily ignores many other details within the story that simply do not fit the supposed allegory, relegating claims of allegory to the realm of wishful thinking. The story must ultimately be read as what it is: a Jewish narrative apology for the patriarch Joseph’s mixed marriage, with possible, occasional Christian reworking.

Keep in mind that there are all kinds of allegorical interpretations of biblical texts in the first centuries BCE and CE. Chapter 15 of the pseudepigraphical Epistle of Barnabas offers an allegorical interpretation of the Creation account from Gen. 1. The first century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria also offered allegorical interpretations of biblical events and figures (including Joseph). The difference here is that Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson are claiming an allegorical interpretation of a pseudepigraphical text, as if the text of Joseph and Aseneth were itself canonical.

When all is said and done, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Wilson offer an allegorical interpretation of a Syriac translation of a (likely originally Greek) pseudepigraphical text, written to “clean up” the fact that the Hebrew patriarch Joseph married a non-Hebrew.

Fifth: The text used as “proof” of Jesus’ marriage dates to the 6th century CE, and only hopeful speculation pushes the Syriac version of this text back to earlier centuries. The fact that the Syriac version is composed long after an established minority tradition that depicts Jesus as Mary Magdalene’s κοινωνός, or “companion” in the Gospel of Philip, or the Gospel of Mary, which states that Jesus “loved [Mary] more than the rest of woman” – a tradition that some modern interpreters and fiction writers have argued is evidence that the Mary mentioned is Mary Magdalene, and that the two were married – does not provide “evidence” that Jesus and Mary were married. It simply means that some later author was making a contribution to this tradition. BUT, because it is written after the others, it CANNOT be used as “evidence” of ANYTHING but a continuation of the already late tradition that Jesus was married.

It would be like citing a favorable book review written by followers of Simcha Jacobovici three centuries after the publication of The Lost Gospel, and citing it as evidence that Simcha knows what he’s talking about. Such a review would contribute nothing to Simcha’s credibility, but would only serve as evidence that someone much later liked the book. Similarly, the Syriac version is a translation of a pseudepigraphical apology, upon which is forced Mr. Jacobovici’s allegorical translation. This is evidence of nothing.

Sixth: (And please remember I originally wrote the following over a year ago.) Anyone attempting an allegorical interpretation of Joseph and Aseneth, and arguing for anything other than an apology for why Joseph married a non-Israelite (and the daughter of a pagan priest at that), is grasping at speculative straws, and attempting (like the author of the Syriac text) to stretch the text into something it was never designed to do. Whether it be a gnostic interpretation of the text, or an attempt to argue something truly ridiculous and sensational, for example, that the story somehow represents Jesus and Mary Magdalene (as “Bride of God”, requiring an appeal to separate Gnostic texts like Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip), and that this allegorical representation from six centuries after the life of Jesus, relying on the weaving together of multiple Gnostic texts composed a full century after the life of Jesus, somehow provides “evidence” of aspects of Jesus’ actual, historical lifesuch allegorical interpretations are the height of unsubstantiated speculation.

My teacher, Randall Chesnutt, said it best in his conclusion:

“While no one doubts the presence of symbolic and allegorical elements, the trend now is toward a method which recognizes those elements of symbolism and allegory which are straightforward and explicit in the narrative of Aseneth’s conversion rather than those supposed to be encoded deep within it.” (Chesnutt, From Death to Life, p. 45).

Finally: The book’s methodology is highly problematic. Scholars won’t reject Mr. Jacobovici’s findings because of some “theological trauma” or a confessional, apologetic desire to preserve the Jesus described in the Bible. I’m an agnostic. I have no dog in the fight of whether Jesus was married or not. He could be married and have 4 kids like me and I wouldn’t care. The problem is not a theological one, it is one of scholarship, methodology, and the (mis)use of evidence. Scholars won’t reject Mr. Jacobovici’s claims because they want to defend Christianity, scholars will reject Mr. Jacobovici’s speculations because he engages in circular reasoning, lacks evidence, breaks any number of rules of textual criticism, and engages in what I’ve described in the past as “speculation wrapped in hearsay couched in conspiracy masquerading as science ensconced in sensationalism slathered with misinformation” – all of which is designed to sell books and get viewers to watch the accompanying documentary in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

So in my professional opinion as an archaeologist and a tenure-track professor at a major research university (GO HAWKS!), I must recommend against this book. Just don’t bother. Were it a Dan Brown-esque novel, positing a speculative interpretation about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene utilizing a fanciful allegorical interpretation of a document written six centuries after Jesus came and went, I’d say buy it and have fun. Fiction can be so much fun! But the problem with this book is that Mr. Jacobovici believes what he’s writing. He believes his interpretation is true. He wants it to be true. And that hovers somewhere between comical and scary.

I HAVE read the book and it really is worse than you might imagine. The text in question is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”, and the allegorical reading of the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth is little more than a wishful hope that it would be so, employing little more than name substitution and a desire to prove The DaVinci Code true. Absolutely no scholar will take this book seriously. It will not change Christianity. It will not change biblical scholarship. It’s just Simcha doing what he does best: direct-to-the-public pseudoscholarship just in time for Christmas.

No, Barack Obama is Not the Antichrist: Debunking A YouTube Video

The following video has been sent to me four times in the last few weeks by different individuals asking for my thoughts on the matter. And while nonsense of this caliber doesn’t dignify a response, it is important to remember that it is nonsense like this that is often designed to confuse people who don’t know Hebrew and therefore don’t know any better. So despite the fact that the video is nonsense, here is my take down of this video and it’s ridiculous claims.

This is nothing but proof-texting poorly done. Here are the problems with the argument:

1) Whoever wrote this is bending over backward to try to claim that a Greek NT text was actually originally “spoken” in Aramaic. (Again, you can argue that Jesus spoke in Aramaic, but the text of the NT was written in Greek, especially Luke, which no one (of significance) argues existed in Hebrew prior to its Greek text.) But then the author of the video concludes by saying “as spoken by a Jewish rabbi today”, falsely (and ridiculously) assuming that a Jewish rabbi today would read text originally spoken in Aramaic and written in NT Greek in modern Hebrew. This is the epitome of absurdity and can’t even qualify as circular reasoning.

The author of the video is attempting to use the definitions of certain Hebrew words to define (incorrectly) other Greek words, and that it is the sounds made by these incorrect definitions of Hebrew words (and not their meanings – go figure!), that give use the name of the Antichrist (which the video desperately wants to be Barack Obama).

2) Remember also that when NT writers are quoting the OT, more often than not they are quoting the LXX (the Septuagint, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), so these Hebrew words likely never entered into the equation. Additionally, the LXX provides excellent Greek translations of Hebrew words (as you’ll see shortly). So the author of the video is trying desperately to claim that any word he can find in any language that is remotely similar to the words in Luke 10:18 are eligible for substitution, and that it’s not the meaning of these words, but the sounds they make that matter. Of course, this is patently absurd and certainly not how language translation works, but that’s not going to stop this nutjob from trying.

3) The words that the author of this video is claiming are being used are simply wrong. He’s trying to argue that the word for lightning, ברק, or BRQ is the president’s name, when actually the President’s name is Barack, or ברך, or BRK, or “blessed”. (The president’s name is actually more likely derived from the Arabic word from the same Semitic root, which has the same meaning: “blessed”.) The author of this video confuses the qoph (Q) with the kaph (K) – a common mistake made by those who don’t know Hebrew. Thus, he’s looking at the wrong word in the concordance. But, since it “sounds” the same, he either figures he’ll be able to fool some folks, or simply doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

4) The author of the video is also using the wrong word for “heavens”. Hebrew has a very well known word for “heavens”. It is שמים, or “SHAMAYIM”. However, the author of this video is attempting to argue that the word במה or “BAMAH” is being used here. The problem here is that the word “BAMAH” is a religious high place, not unlike the altar area in a cathedral. A “BAMAH” is mentioned in the Bible, but elsewhere (not here), as the places on which gods are worshiped. We find them, for instance, at Megiddo and Tel Dan. But they have nothing to do with the heavens. So the author of the video tries to make a diversion into the book of Isaiah 14:14, and claim that the poetic phrase במותי–עב, or “BAMOTEY AV”, which is used poetically here for “heights of the clouds” is another way to say the “heavens”, and invokes this verse because of an ancient theological claim made by some early Christians, who understand Isa. 14:4-21 to be referring to some “Lucifer” (a name that doesn’t appear until in the Latin Vulgate) and comes to be equated with Satan in later centuries, even though Isa. 14:4 clearly sets the content of the prophecy as a “taunt against the king of Babylon”, and not a prophecy about “Satan” (who is never even mentioned in the text). But because of this later Christian tradition that associates Isaiah 14 with Satan, the author of the video argues that the word “BAMAH” here can be substituted for the word for “heavens”. The problem is, of course, that although the root here is “BAMAH”, the word used here to refer to the “heights” is plural, not singular. The plural of במה in Hebrew is במות or “BAMOT”. So if the text were saying “heavens”—even though this is the completely wrong word for “heavens” in Luke 10:18—the word would be the plural “BAMOT” just as it appears in Isa. 14:14, and then it would appear in the genitive construct form (BAMOTEY-), and not simply “BAMAH”. But, because “BAMOT” or “BAMOTEY” do not sound like the President’s name, the author of this video deliberately ignores this.

(It’s rough when pesky facts get in the way, no?)

Again, it is important to point out that the word used in Luke 10:18 is not the phrase used in Isa 14:14 for “heavens”. The author of the video is attempting to do an end-around and substitute a phrase from a different text in place of the word in Luke 10:18 because the word in Luke 10:18 doesn’t fit his narrative. The word used in Luke 10:18 and translated as “heavens” is “οὐρανοῦ” or “OURANOU”, which is the genitive of “OURANOS”. It sounds similar to the planet named Uranus. οὐρανος is the typical Greek translation of the word שמים, or “SHAMAYIM”, the Hebrew word for “heavens”, found, for instance, in Gen. 1:1, when God created the “οὐρανὸν” (heavens) and the earth. The Hebrew word being translated here is שמים, or “SHAMAYIM”, or “heavens”. Thus, you’ll note that when ancient authors wanted to translate the word for “heavens” into Greek, the Hebrew word standing behind the word for “heavens” in Luke 10:18 is “SHAMAYIM”, not “BAMAH”.

It is also worth noting that the LXX translates the verse in Isa. 14:14 as

ἀναβήσομαι ἐπάνω τῶν νεφελῶν, ἔσομαι ὅμοιος τῷ ὑψίστῳ.

that is, “I will go up above/on the clouds (νεφελῶν, or NEPHELON, and NOT “οὐρανὸν” or “heavens”!!); I will be like the Most High”.

So, we see that because the text of Luke 10:18 does not say what the author of the video wants it to say, he attempts a detour through Isaiah 14:14, but then is not honest about the plural form of the genitive construct, and thus changes the word into the root he wants to use (the one that sounds more like “bamah”), even though the text of Luke 10:18 says no such thing. It is sheer deception and an ignorance of Hebrew (and scholarship for that matter).

5) There is also a problem with the grammar of the phrase that the author of the video is attempting to interpret as “lightning from the heavens”. The Hebrew letter ו, or “WAW” is used as the word for “AND” at the beginning of a word. But at the 2:55 point, the author of this video is attempting to use “WAW” as the word “FROM THE” in this construction. The problem is that this is not how one creates a construct or possessive in Hebrew. The way to do this in Hebrew is by using the construct form, which usually entails the use of a “YOD” and a maqqaf (hyphen) in between the words to be joined (cf. see the phrase במותי–עב in Isa. 14:14. See the -י in the middle?), or employing the word מן, or “MIN-” meaning “from”, followed by the word. But the author claims that adding the letter “WAW” can produce the same result. Of course, it can’t, but the author of the video needs it so that he can produce the sound “O-bamah”. So despite the fact that Isa. 14:14 clearly employs the construct state (-י) to form the poetic phrase “heights of the clouds”, the author claims that since you could use a “WAW” (which you can’t), that it’s all the same thing and so poof – “Obama”. Thus, the author of this video is again betraying his ignorance of Hebrew by arguing that the genitive of possession is represented by the conjunction “WAW”, rather than following Hebrew convention and placing the words in a construct state or using the word “MIN”. Again, this is simply made up nonsense in the attempt to produce something that sounds like “Obama”.

One further mistake: the author of the video claims that the Hebrew letter “WAW” makes an “O” or “U” sound. “WAW” typically makes an English “V” or “W” sound when spoken. The only time a “WAW” makes a vowel sound is when it is used as a plene vowel – either as a holem producing an “O” sound, or as a shureq, producing a “U” or “OO” sound. When it appears at the beginning of a word, it can produce a “U” sound (which is what the author is attempting to claim), but it then means the conjunction “AND”, which would render “lightning and high place” (in the singular). So the author of the video simply claims that a “WAW” is there (when it’s not), and that you should pronounce it as an “O”, and only listen to its sound, but NOT read its meaning, because that would insert the word “AND”, and he can’t have that.

Sound absurd yet??

So in the end, we see that the author of this video incorrectly assumes that the Hebrew words are used instead of the Greek (originally, he claims), and then proceeds to use the WRONG words for BOTH the President’s name (Barack vs. Baraq) AND the word for “heavens”, and then uses the singular instead of the plural, IN ADDITION TO using the wrong word for “from”.  And even if he were to use the correct Hebrew words, a methodology that claims that one can back-translate Greek text into Hebrew words from different Old Testament passages in order to produce a combination of mere sounds (not words with meanings, but mere sounds) that when combined produce the sounds of a modern name is faulty methodology. This is not how translations (or languages, or exegesis, or theology, etc.) work. This is sheer nonsense.

This video is completely bogus, and is obviously the work of some fool ignorant of Hebrew, who simply wants to convince listeners that the Bible says that President Obama is the Antichrist. It’s completely fake – just as fake as when other fools attempted to argue that since Ronald Wilson Reagan had six letters in each of his names, that he represented the mark of the beast – 666.

These are the foolish ramblings of idiots who think that they can use the Bible to convince people that the sitting President is somehow evil.

On Facebook, Fox News, and Intersexuality

I swear, the people at FoxNews aren’t just idiots, they’re proudly ignorant idiots, mocking that which (and those whom) they do not (and refuse to) understand.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to "intersex...whatever that is".

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to “intersex…whatever that is”.

Facebook recently added additional gender options to its traditionally dichotomous male/female profile preferences. The gender terms provided by Facebook have been known for some time by those studying gender and sexuality, and have been explained to the public by professionals on several occasions.

So you can imagine why it may come as no a surprise to many that numerous pundits at Fox News not only do not know what many of these terms mean, but openly mock them.

Listen to the audio on the movie here.

Let me Google that for you: intersexThese are news people. They are supposedly investigators. So why mock intersexual people (or individuals exhibiting an intersexual condition) by saying on air “whatever that is”, when you can just as easily Google it.

Again, Tucker Carlson saying the words “whatever that is” in reference to intersex individuals is either evidence of incompetence as an investigative journalist, or sheer mockery of intersexuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

And when Todd Starnes, host of the radio program Fox News & Commentary and a regular guest on Fox & Friends, says on Facebook,

“In the beginning God made man and woman…but Facebook decided to improve on the original models.”

or the idiotic

“What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker? Facebook doesn’t offer those options.”

and concerning “gender-fluid” individuals, who fluctuate somewhere on the spectrum between male and female, Starnes joked,

“You might want to have a roll of paper towels handy — just in case.”

I shake my head. It’s not news. And it’s a poor attempt at comedy. It’s a feigned ignorance for the purposes of mocking very real persons.

Intersexuals are not hypothetical individuals, and they are far more prevalent than you might think. Depending on the definition, about 1-1.7% of all live births – one or two out of every hundred people you know – show some form of sexual ambiguity, with 1 in 10 of those requiring optional surgery to assign them to a traditional male or female sex category.

I’ve blogged on this issue before. The case of Caster Semenya is but one higher profile example of an intersexual individual being questioned in the public spotlight.

And intersexual individuals are not new. There are photographs documenting intersexual individuals dating almost as far back as photography itself. Hell, the Greeks wrote complete myths about intersexuals in an attempt to explain their (divine) origin.

But it is this continued, deliberate ignorance of the existence of intersexual individuals – and the complete apathy concerning learning about them – that explains why so may religious conservatives (including those at Fox News) make the ignorant arguments they do concerning same-sex marriage. To put it simply, the existence of intersexual individuals implodes all arguments they make both about their opposition to anything but heterosexual marriage, and their claims that individuals choose their sexuality and are not born or “created” that way.

To argue age-old gender related religious arguments like “men are the spiritual leaders” and “women cannot be elders in the church” and “marriage is only between one man and one woman” falsely assumes that all individuals are either male or female. This is simply not the case, whether the Bible acknowledges intersexual individuals or not. Remember, science is not the Bible’s strong suit, and there are many realities of the modern world that the Bible simply does not acknowledge (for instance, that disease is caused by germs and not possession by evil spirits).

Intersexual individuals (formerly called Hermaphrodites after the Greek god Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who, according to Ovid, fused with a nymph (Salmacis) resulting in his possessing the physical traits of both a man and a woman) are very real individuals who do not fall into the traditional male-female dichotomy. Additionally, intersexual organisms are very common in nature. For example, clownfish (of the subfamily Amphiprioninae) of “Finding Nemo” fame are sequential intersexuals, with all specimens being born initially male, but with the largest fish in the group transforming very naturally into a female for reproductive purposes. (Remember that next time you watch the Disney favorite!)

Again, if you are going to argue that God made people, then God made intersexual people the way they are. (Right? Because “God don’t make no mistakes.”) They certainly didn’t “choose” to be intersexual; they were born that way. And while many intersexual individuals are proud of who they are and of the way they are, many others struggle with acceptance in a society so obsessed with sexuality and sexual conformity (especially to conservative religious traditions).

So tell me, praytell, who can intersexual individuals marry? Can they serve in leadership roles in a church?

These are real questions about real people, and the idiots at Fox News are too ignorant to know what they are, too stupid to look it up, and to bigoted to do anything but laugh at them. There is no excusing it. It is sheer mockery. They mock what they do not (and refuse to) understand because it does not fit their religious right wing narrative.

It is not news; it’s public social mockery of that which is “different” or “outside” and “beyond” the conservative worldview resulting from the religious blinders imposed by the Conservative Evangelical Republican political machine.

Westboro Baptist Church Could Learn A Thing or Two from Ted Cruz

You know, because FUNERALS are the most tactful venues to stage a protest.

Take a lesson Westboro Baptist Church. You’ve got nothing on Ted Cruz.

Archaeologist David Ussishkin responds to the use of mechanical excavators…in 2006!

For Simcha Jacobovici, facts apparently mean nothing. He appears to be making this up as he goes... (Photo www.jpost.com)

For Simcha Jacobovici, facts apparently mean nothing. He appears to be making this up as he goes… (Photo http://www.jpost.com)

The recent exposure of paid employees of Simcha Jacobovici attempting to alter the Wikipedia article on “bulldozer archaeology” was as embarrassing for Simcha as it was shameful.

“John” (User: JohnEUnited) and “Nicole” (User: Naustin1980) were caught red-handed in their attempt to manufacture artificial controversy on Simcha’s behalf by creating single-purpose accounts to pepper the Wikipedia article with references to Robert Deutsch’s (previously) anonymous ad in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review, and Simcha’s bandwagon cheerleading attempts to promote the manufactured controversy.

The publishing of material on Wikipedia for the purposes of self-promoting and/or attacking others is not permitted upon on Wikipedia.

The article has since been restored.

“John” and “Nicole” also attempted to credit Simcha with the neologism “bulldozer archaeology”. That’s right, these champions of “investigative journalism” claimed that bulldozer archaeology was “a term coined by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici”. I kid you not. John McGinley then graciously spammed an email to a number of archaeologists and scholars touting their weasel works on Wikipedia, claiming, “”Bulldozer Archaeology² [sic] is now a recognized term in Wikipedia…The Goren/Deutsch debate is now in Wikipedia.”

Idiots.

It only took about ten seconds to discover who was behind the changes to the Wikipedia page, AND any number of instances (for instance, this one by Ralph Harrington) of the use of the term “bulldozer archaeology” long before Simcha’s PR team claimed he “coined” the phrase.

Once again, investigative journalism at its finest!

But it was upon perusing this Harrington article that I stumbled upon a citation, which led me to yet another article, in which none other than Tel Aviv University Professor Emeritus of Archaeology Dr. David Ussishkin responded to questions about his use of a mechanical excavator.

You’ll recall that Simcha highlighted the fact that Prof. Ussishkin did not sign the Tel Aviv University statement addressing the use of mechanical excavators in the midst of the Simcha/Deutsch campaign of retaliation against Prof. Goren.

Simcha stated:

“More important than who signed the statement, is who did not sign it. Legendary Tel Aviv archaeologist David Ussishkin – excavator of Lachish and Megiddo – never used a Caterpillar and did not sign the statement. Also notable by their absence are Tel Aviv archaeologists Ran Barkai, Avi Gopher and Dr. Mario Martin.”

[Emphasis mine]

As we see, Simcha invoked the name of Dr. Ussishkin just before he cited a deceased archaeologist as having supported him, and then corrected/deleted it from his blog. But he should have also deleted the claim about Dr. Ussishkin.

That is because not only does the above Harrington article prove that Simcha did not coin the phrase “bulldozer archaeology”, but we also note that in footnote 21 of the same article, which references a blog post entitled, “Archaeologist David Ussishkin Responds to El Haj Accusations“,  Dr. Ussishkin states:

“5. I believe the use of a JCB to determine the line of the rock-cut Iron Age moat was justified. It was essential to establish the size of the Iron Age enclosure in order to understand properly the site. In most of the area to the south of the site where this work took place bulldozers had removed and disturbed the debris during development works which had taken place here prior to the beginning of the excavation project. In view of the nature of the debris here it would have been impossible to accomplish the work with the aid of students/volunteers. A JCB with a long arm working delicately under archaeological supervision was the right solution: it can do useful work without damaging ancient remains, and I believe that this was the case here. Some later wall remains were exposed and recorded but were mostly left unexcavated – they probably belong to Byzantine domestic remains in the Iron Age moat or along its inner side. They all remain buried for future excavations.”

With all best wishes,

David Ussishkin

[emphasis mine]

Now I ask you: how many times can Simcha Jacobovici shoot himself in the foot trying to attack professor Yuval Goren? How hard is it to check to see if David Ussishkin ever endorsed the use of a mechanical excavator?

And how long will he rely on his bumbling employees to spam out emails about Wikipedia pages they marked up without even doing a minimal amount of simple research before they go embarrassing Simcha by making claims about him that take ten seconds to debunk?

Today we not only learned that Simcha is not beyond having his employees credit with something he did not do (coin the phrase “bulldozer archaeology,”), but that Simcha was wrong about claiming that Prof. Ussishkin never used mechanical excavators; clearly, David Ussishkin feels that:

“A JCB with a long arm working delicately under archaeological supervision was the right solution.”

Investigative journalism at its finest. lol.

Once again, how can we ever trust ANYTHING Simcha says?

I shake my head.

Lest We Forget: Remembering the 9-11 Religious Aftermath Too

As we pause to remember those who died in the September 11 tragedy, let us also never forget the theologically perverse religious drivel that spewed forth from the mouths of two of the most ridiculous religious leaders to have ever lived in the days immediately following the tragedy.

May we never forget how religion was misused and abused to promote the conservative cause in the wake of tragedy.

Remember, according to Robertson and Falwell, God hates liberals, so he caused thousands of innocent people to be murdered as punishment.

And you should blame the feminists, the gays, the lesbians, the abortionists, the federal courts, the pagans, the secularists, the ACLU, and People for the American Way, because it’s their fault God killed innocent people.

Damnable, damnable idiots.

(HT: Christian Nightmares)

One Big Balagan: Robert Deutsch, Simcha Jacobovici, and their Campaign of Misinformation against Prof. Yuval Goren

בלגן (balagan): noun. (modern Hebrew, from Russian). 1) a chaotic mess of confusion and nonsense. 2) a state of extreme confusion and disorder.


There is something quite foul coming from Israel, being wafted about by the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review, and perhaps not surprisingly, the stench appears to be pointing back to Robert Deutsch and Simcha Jacobovici.

Archaeology professors from the Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University recently responded to a cheap and petty series of attacks on the integrity and archaeological methodology of one of their own, Dr. Yuval Goren, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

The attack comes in the form of a paid advertisement published in the most recent issues of Biblical Archaeological Review (BAR), which accuses Prof. Goren of “CATER-PILLAGING the Stratigraphy of Tel Socoh”. The ad features a photo of Prof. Goren standing in front of a JCB, a mechanical backhoe.

An anonymous advertisement depicting Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University (later revealed to have been paid for and placed by Robert Deutsch) appears in the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review on page 29.

An anonymous advertisement depicting Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University (later revealed to have been paid for and placed by Robert Deutsch) appears in the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review on page 29.

The initial publication of this photograph was followed by an email from Robert Deutsch to the Archaeonews list-serv on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 9:47 AM, which read:

“To: archaeonews@archaeological-center.com
Subject: Re: [Archaeonews] A picture is worth a thousand words

Dear List Members

Attached is a picture which appears on page 29 in the recent May/June 2013 BAR Magazine entitled:

Cater-Pillaging the Stratigraphy of Tel Socho

Socho is a biblical town in the Elah Valley located between the ancient cities of Qeiyafa and Azekah
(Joshua 15:35; 1 Samuel 17:1), some 25 Km. south-west of Jerusalem. Its name is mentioned among the
four towns impressed on the so called royal LMLK jar handles from the time Hezekiah king of Judah.

Instead of advanced nano-archaeological investigation we see destructive mecano-archaeology.

As mentioned in the Subject: “A picture is worth a thousand words”

I will appreciate your comments

Sincerely
Robert Deutsch”

What the anonymous, unsigned ad on the pages of BAR does not state, what the email above Archaeonews email does not claim, but what I confirmed in a phone conversation with an administrator at BAR immediately after the initial appearance of the ad, is that the BAR ad was paid for and placed by none other than Israeli antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch, who was indicted by an Israeli court a few years ago as a co-conspirator with antiquities dealer Oded Golan, who was indicted for, among other things, allegedly forging an inscription that purportedly reads, “Jacob (or James), Son of Joseph, Brother of Joshua (or Jesus)”, on what has come to be called the “James Ossuary“.

I commented publicly on Jim West’s blog on April 28, 2013 that Deutsch was, in fact, behind the purchase and placement of the ad, stating:

Jim,

BAR didn’t run a story, rather, that photo and the caption around it was actually a 1/4 page ad taken out and paid for by non-other than Robert Deutsch. He had originally spammed a bunch of us trying to get bloggers to give his ‘ad’ a little publicity.

Deutch’s claims are, of course, deliberately misleading.

(NOTE: Don’t miss the bizarre exchange in the comments following my comment, from Robert Deutsch himself. His refusal to claim authorship of the ad and his highly disconnected responses offer a glimpse into irrationality of his argument.)

This week, BAR confirmed that Robert Deutsch did indeed purchase and place the ad in a statement, which reads in part:

“The advertisement in BAR was paid for by Robert Deutsch, a leading Israeli antiquities dealer…”

So we now have confirmation that Robert Deutsch purchased and placed the anonymous, unsigned ads criticizing Prof. Goren in the pages of BAR for using a mechanical excavator.

But why would Robert Deutsch do this? What possible motive would Mr. Deutsch have for attacking a professional archaeologist anonymously?

In 2005, Robert Deutsch promised to take revenge for being indicted in the Oded Golan forgery case, vowing to sue “the IAA [Israel Antiquities Authority] and its agents personally“:

“The public announcements and press conference by the IAA during this last week (December 2004), in which they purposely linked my name to a host of allegedly illegal activities with which the IAA knows that I have absolutely no connection, leaves me no alternative but to immediately file suit against the IAA and its agents personally, for irreversibly damaging my name and reputation and for the serious financial consequences of their malicious and criminal acts.” [Emphasis mine]

Upon his acquittal, Robert Deutsch again promised to have his revenge. In multiple comments (here and here) on the ASOR Blog, Robert Deutsch declared:

“I was acquitted of all the fabricated charges and I will sue the IAA after having my scholarly reputation ruined by the false accusations.”

and

“They ruin my name and for that I will sue them for all of my expenses and all of my damages.”

and

“All they were trying to do was spoil my name – and they will pay for that.”

and

“For all of these things, they will pay, they are the real criminals here, ruining a scholar’s name and reputation. I don’t mind how long it will take, they will pay.”

and

“No amount of money can compensate enough for all the damage they have caused to me.”

BAR also published Deutsch’s intent to sue the IAA, and followed it with the publication of a separate article entitled “Robert Deutsch to Sue IAA“, which largely echoed comments he made elsewhere on blogs and message boards.

Indeed, can we now state that it appears Mr. Deutsch has begun his campaign of revenge, at least against Prof. Goren?

Golan and Deutsch were acquitted of antiquities forgery at the trial’s conclusion when the judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that Golan executed the inscribed text on the ossuary. However, the judge also warned that the acquittal of Golan on forgery charges should not be read as a judgment on the authenticity of the ossuary nor its inscription, which a healthy majority of scholars consider to be a forgery.

During the trial, Prof. Yuval Goren testified on behalf of the IAA that the inscription was a modern forgery due to issues with the patina covering the inscribed areas. That is, he testified against Golan and Deutsch, on behalf of the IAA. To many readers, this could certainly provide potential motive for Mr. Deutsch’s present campaign against Prof. Goren, especially after repeatedly vowing to have his revenge against those who sought to “damage his name”. (Read Mr. Deutsch’s own words here.)

What is not immediately apparent is that the BAR ad is a complete misrepresentation of the facts, and suggests a number of outright falsehoods.

For one, the piece of equipment is not a Caterpillar, nor a bulldozer, but a JCB backhoe loader with a loader on the front end and a bucket scoop (or “backhoe”) on the back.

Second, the JCB is not on the Sochoh archaeological tel, but in the valley below. Archaeological squares were opened to ensure the careful, controlled excavation of the wadi below.

Third, Prof. Goren’s excavations at Tel Sochoh were carried out using the highest archaeological standards and methodology. As a supervisor at Sochoh’s partner excavation, Tel Azekah (we shared office, lab, and classroom space at Nes Harim), I witnessed daily the extraordinary care taken with the materials and stratigraphic evidence from the Tel Sochoh site. All finds were processed with the highest standards and archaeological contexts were preserved with the utmost detail.

Prof. Yuval Goren works in the archaeological office at Nes Harim, which houses the staff of the Sochoh and Azekah archaeological excavations. I took this photo from my station in the lab.

Prof. Yuval Goren works in the archaeological office at Nes Harim, which houses the staff of the Sochoh and Azekah archaeological excavations. I took this photo from my station in the lab.

Fourth, the use of mechanical excavators is minimal, but common in modern archaeology. Mechanical excavators are commonly used to clean areas in preparation for manual excavation, remove heavy debris like stones and felled trees, to remove previously excavated and replaced backfill documented in prior excavations, and to open controlled test probes for the purposes of determining whether assets should be deployed to new area for the purposes of manual excavation in areas where ground penetrating radar is unable to yield verifiable results.

As Rogue Classicism points out, the Archaeological Institute of America‘s “Ask an Archaeologist” page includes the use of mechanical excavators in modern excavations:

What tools do archaeologists use for excavation?
Archaeologists use a great variety of tools for excavation, depending on the nature of the area in which they are working. The most common digging tools are picks, shovels, and trowels. In areas where there is a lot of sediment or dirt over the sites, archaeologists sometimes use heavy equipment like bulldozers and back hoes, but only to remove earth that shows no signs of human remains. If excavation will be a delicate operation, as during the careful cleaning away of soil from a damaged painting or human skull, archaeologists use dental picks, spoons, brushes, or anything that works. They often improvise based on the situation in which they find themselves. [Emphasis mine]

Nearly every archaeological tel I’ve ever been associated with has used a mechanical excavator at one point or another. This much was made clear by Yuval Goren’s response to the initial ad, demonstrating that nearly every modern excavation in Israel employs mechanical excavators in their excavations.

Prof. Yuval Goren responds to criticism of the use of mechanical excavators with a short article on Scribd, which includes a montage of different modern excavations all using mechanical excavators.

Prof. Yuval Goren responds to criticism of the use of mechanical excavators with a short article on Scribd, which includes a montage of different modern excavations all using mechanical excavators.

Ironically, one archaeological site that Prof. Goren left out of his montage is the site of Bethsaida, excavated by Prof. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, Omaha. The Bethsaida Facebook page proudly displays publicly accessible photos of their use of mechanical excavators (JCB backhoe loaders to be precise).

One photo is located here:

JCB mechanical Excavator featured on the Bethsaida Excavations Facebook Page

JCB mechanical Excavator featured on the Bethsaida Excavations Facebook Page

Another photo is located here:

JCB mechanical Excavator featured on the Bethsaida Excavations Facebook Page

JCB mechanical Excavator featured on the Bethsaida Excavations Facebook Page

Prof. Arav just today responded to his own use of mechanical excavators at Bethsaida on Jim West’s blog, stating:

“I am delighted to see the interest in the Bethsaida Excavation Project. This project is an interactive educational project. We have just completed the 27 excavation season. Bethsaida was proved to be the capital city of the kingdom of Geshur. Where else we have a capital city of a kingdom in such a great state of preservation?

(Backhoes are used at Bethsaida only to remove dumps. The picture you see is removing dumps outside of the city walls. All backhoes jobs at Bethsaida are approved and supervised by IAA). Anyway, thanks for your interest at Bethsaida. It is indeed an amazing site without parallel.

Dr. Rami Arav
Director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project” [Emphasis mine]

[A short digression: Quite interestingly, a Co-Director of the Bethsaida excavation, Nicolae Roddy of Creighton University, was quick to follow up about claims that have been made by documentary filmmaker and TV archaeology enthusiast, Simcha Jacobovici, whose autobiographical information and whose PR staff (namely, one of Mr. Jacobovici’s Associate Producers, Nicole Austin, who is always quick to defend Mr. Jacobovici online) continually claim to be a “Co-Director of the Bethsaida excavations”. Prof. Roddy issued the following statement regarding Mr. Jacobovici’s involvement with the Bethsaida excavation:

“For the record, Simcha Jacobovici is not associated with the Bethsaida Excavations Project in any way, let alone as co-director. As co-director myself (for the past seventeen years), I would resign in a heartbeat if this were the case. As for the backhoe, I was there the day it filled in the long furrow left after the extraction of Syrian bunkers. It was not there doing archaeology of any sort.–

Nicolae Roddy, Creighton University”

Simcha Jacobovici's biography at his company's Associated Producers, Ltd.) website claims that he is a "co-director of the Bethsaida Excavation in the Galilee, Israel". Visit http://www.apltd.ca/pages/people/simcha-jacobovici for details.

Simcha Jacobovici’s biography at his company’s Associated Producers, Ltd.) website claims that he is a “co-director of the Bethsaida Excavation in the Galilee, Israel”.
Visit http://www.apltd.ca/pages/people/simcha-jacobovici for details.

The truth is that Mr. Jacobovici holds the honorary title of “Co-Director of the Bethsaida Excavations” (along with ten other individuals) because he serves as the leader of the Huntington University (of Canada) delegation, which contributed $2000 to the Bethsaida Excavations Consortium. The honorary “Co-Directors” have no authority over the site, nor the excavations. They are invited to attend an annual meeting, and are permitted to list themselves as “Co-Directors” as the leaders of a contributing consortium institutions. Because Mr. Jacobovici states that he was named as an adjunct professor at Huntington University (see image above), and because Huntington University is a contributing consortium member, Simcha Jacobovici can list the title of “Co-Director of the Bethsaida Excavations” on his resume, although the title is largely honorific, similar to those donors who give to a university and are rewarded with a honorific seat on a “University Board”, as opposed to those who are appointed to a university’s “Board of Regents”, and who exercise actual authority over the institution.

So do not be confused: I confirmed this morning that Simcha Jacobovici’s title of “Co-Director of the Bethsaida Excavation” is largely honorary. He has no authority regarding the site, nor the decisions made regarding its excavation. These decisions are left to the professional archaeologists running the excavation, led by Dr. Arav. Huntington University of Canada (where Mr. Jacobovici has been named an adjunct professor) donated $2000 to the consortium, and in exchange Mr. Jacobovici was granted the right to call himself a “Co-Director” with ten other contributing consortium leaders. Here ends my digression.]

Thus, the use of mechanical excavators is endorsed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and is used by the best and most reputable archaeologists in the field.

(NOTE: One should remember that the claim that “no one would go on record endorsing the bulldozer methodology” likely has more to do with the one asking the question (namely, Mr. Jacobovici), and less to do with standard archaeological practice. Given their past experience with certain sensationalizing individuals pretending to be archaeologists on TV, the IAA may very well have developed a practice of not responding to certain archaeological amateurs and others who are only looking to misrepresent any answer the IAA might give. Their silence is likely a result of the person asking the question, not practice in question.

But again, I digress.)

This brings us to the joint response from a host of archaeology professors at Tel Aviv University, which clearly spells out the case I have made above.

In response to the BAR ad, the faculty of the Marco and Sonia Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University issued the following statement:

Statement by faculty members of the Marco and Sonia Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, regarding the alleged use of mechanical excavator at Tel Socoh

A defamatory, anonymous paid advertisement, alleging that Prof. Yuval Goren of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University has used a mechanical excavator to “pillage stratigraphy” in the excavation of Tel Socoh in the Shephelah, has again been published in the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). Those who read BAR should note that:

1. There was no use of a mechanical excavator on Tel Socoh.

2. The slide shown in the ad illustrates work carried out in a wadi near the mound, as a sequel to a systematic manual excavation from surface to natural soil nearby. The sounding was aimed at detecting pottery and slag in the vicinity of the site. This method is authorized (and endorsed) by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

3. This is a common method in archaeology. Most seasoned archaeologists – regardless of period of research, location on the globe, and institutional affiliation – use mechanical excavators in certain, closely controlled circumstances.

Signed: Oded Lipschits, Erez Ben Yosef, Shlomo Bunimovitz, Yoram Cohen, Alexander Fantalkin, Israel Finkelstein, Moshe Fischer, Yuval Gadot, Amir Gilan, Raphael Greenberg, Zeev Herzog, Dafna Langgut, Nadav Na’aman, Benjamin Sass, Deborah Sweeney, Oren Tal

Thus, it is abundantly clear that mechanical excavators are a part of the standard tool box available to modern, licensed, approved archaeologists. This is not in question. It is legal. It is legitimate. It is approved by the IAA in licensed excavations. Mechanical backhoes are present at some point or another at just about every site. There is nothing wrong with the use of mechanical excavators in controlled archaeological contexts. This is fact. This is standard practice among professional archaeologists.

So we must return to our initial question: Why is Robert Deutsch paying for anonymous ads in Biblical Archaeology Review that accuse Prof. Yuval Goren of “Cater-pillaging” archaeological sites?

Given Mr. Deutch’s history with Prof. Goren, and given his public vow to retaliate against those involved in the IAA’s case against him, one cannot help but consider the possibility that this uninformed, unsigned ad, which is a deliberate misrepresentation of standard archaeological methodology, within the pages of BAR is, in fact, an attempt to sully the name and professional credibility of an established archaeological professional, namely, Prof. Yuval Goren.

If this is the case, one can understand why Robert Deutsch did not want to sign his name to the ad. As it is potentially defamatory, Robert Deutsch would be wise to take all precautions necessary to avoid the appearance that he is paying money to make false accusations and insinuations about the professional practices of Prof. Goren in the pages of BAR.

Of course, the irony is that THERE IS NO CONTROVERSY! It is a completely manufactured attempt at character assassination. Any “controversy” is the contrivance of Robert Deutsch (via his “anonymous” paid advertisements), and the opportunistic bandwagonning of Simcha Jacobovici and his PR machine.

Furthermore, one might conclude that this manufactured controversy may or may not be a continued attempt at retaliation against Prof. Goren for testifying not only against Oded Golan, but against the very authenticity of the so-called “James Ossuary” in an Israel forgery trial that concluded last year. Indeed, the claim of the authenticity of the “James Ossuary” is one thing shared in common by Mr. Deutsch, Mr. Jacobovici, and BAR Editor-In-Chief Hershel Shanks.

The ad is intended to smear the reputation of Prof. Goren. That is its sole purpose. It is not journalism, it is a paid attack ad. And now that the truth has been made public, this causes potential legal trouble for Robert Deutsch and BAR.

And this brings us to the recent efforts of Simcha Jacobovici. Readers should continue to dismiss Mr. Jacobovici’s colorful imagination, who views the facts of this particular case as something that must be obscured until is fits whatever conspiratorial theory he is arguing this week. And this week, it is backhoes at Tel Sochoh (but apparently nowhere else).

At no point is this more evident than Mr. Jacobovici’s recent series of blog posts, in which he compounds mistake upon mistake, and hypocrisy upon hypocrisy. In fact, at one point, Mr. Jacobovici’s attempts at fanning the flames of this manufactured controversy became so irresponsible (and glaringly self-evident), that he has already had to issue an apology for citing a dead woman as testifying in his own defense.

I kid you not!

This past week, Mr. Jacobovici stunningly included archaeologist Orna Zimhoni, M.A. (ז״ל), who passed away in 1996, among a list of scholars that reportedly refused to sign the Tel Aviv statement (seen above). Simcha wrote,

“Also notable by their absence are Tel Aviv archaeologists Ran Barkay, Avi Gopher and Drs. Mario Martin and Orna Zimhoni.”

Now, not only is Mario Martin (as brilliant as he is) a post-doc and not a faculty member at Tel Aviv University, but Mr. Jacobovici appallingly listed the deceased Orna Zimhoni as one who consciously did not sign the statement! (Mr. Jacobovici later issued a apology, but only via email, and not on his blog. Mr. Jacobovici simply corrected his mistake by deleting the name of Ms. Zimhoni from his blog post, and now apparently from his Times of Israel editorial, which now also appears corrected.) This opportunistic, yet highly insensitive attempt to use a deceased archaeologist in support of his claim, only demonstrates Mr. Jacobovici’s lack of research ability and his underscores his careless rush to condemn those with whom he disagrees.

But we have come to expect this of Mr. Jacobovici: facts are merely optional nuisances, and the dead will speak on his behalf if his opportunism finds it convenient. For shame, Simcha, seriously. Is this the kind of “investigative research” we are to expect from Mr. Jacobovici? The dead now speak on your behalf?

I shake my head. But it gets worse.

There is a much greater hypocrisy present in Mr. Jacobovici’s recent blog posts, and I’m not sure whether we’re dealing with sheer ignorance, sheer stupidity, or sheer hypocrisy. I fear we are dealing with all three.

After bloviating incessantly about the use of mechanical excavators in multiple posts on his blog this past week, it was revealed that the very Bethsaida excavation of which Mr. Jacobovici claims to “Co-Director”, ALSO USES MECHANICAL EXCAVATORS!! (See the images above.) Simcha’s ignorance of standard archaeological practice is surpassed only by his own hypocrisy. Rami Arav can use mechanical backhoes at Bethsaida, but Prof. Goren cannot at Tel Sochoh? This makes sense?

I’m stunned.

Simcha Jacobovici has the archaeological credibility of a 30 shekel note*: it appears legit to those who don’t know any better, but anyone who has ever done archaeology in Israel knows that it’s fake, fake, fake. Simcha Jacobovici reminds me of the pundits who appear on CNN during political campaigns right after the debates, whose professional job it is to feign outrage at “controversies” manufactured the campaigns paying them to do so.

I shake my head.

But shaking one’s head is all one can really do for this entire sad, manufactured episode that can only be described with one word: בלגן (balagan), a chaotic mess of confusion and nonsense. The sensationalist, vindictive triumvirate of Robert Deutsch, Simcha Jacobovici, and sadly (and again, surprisingly, given their recent progress), Biblical Archaeology Review, has manufactured a false controversy for the purposes of defaming a good scholar, Prof. Yuval Goren, who happens to disagree with them regarding the James Ossuary. It has become one big balagan, and the only appropriate action for legitimate scholars, real archaeologists, and the public to take is to shake their heads at Mr. Deutsch and Mr. Jacobovici and ignore them. Ignore their false claims. Ignore their manufactured controversies. And ignore their petty, vindictive contrivances.

As for BAR, I do not believe it is necessary for them to apologize, but I do hope they issue a simple statement similar to the statement they released this morning, along the lines of something like, “Given the recent facts that have come to light, and the obvious falsehoods and misrepresentations present in one of our paid, third-party advertisements, BAR will no longer be publishing the paid advertisement placed by Robert Deutsch in the pages of our magazine.” This simple statement alone would demonstrate BAR‘s good faith in this matter, and would do much to correct the misinformation (and potentially actionable defamation) campaign waged by Mr. Deutsch and Mr. Jacobovici, which may have been inadvertently published on several occasions by Biblical Archaeology Review. (I am pleased to see that BAR has at least outed Robert Deutsch as the author of the anonymous ad.)

Robert Deutsch is misrepresenting the work of Prof. Yuval Goren, and yet didn’t even have the backbone to sign or state the origin of his defamatory advert. Likewise, Mr. Jacobovici is taking his typical, opportunistic verbal swings at real archaeologists by parroting Mr. Deutsch’s misrepresentation of the facts. Therefore, it is time for the academic world and the general public once again to ignore Mr. Jacobovici and Mr. Deutsch, as throughout this entire balagan, they have more than demonstrated their lack of credibility, rush to judgment, and mistreatment of simple facts. For them, the truth is a simple nuisance which must be spun, massaged, manipulated, obscured, and sensationalized into armaments for their own personal PR battles.

The best thing to do is to illuminate the truth, expose the facts, demonstrate the PR-driven falsehood of the entire episode, and then ignore them both, for that would be the most powerful and most effective response of all.

And as for Robert Deutsch, the academy should continue to remain vigilant as he continues to exact the retribution he has vowed repeatedly to take. If he attempts another cowardly anonymous campaign of character assassination against someone he feels has wronged him, fear not: just follow the money and shine a light into the darkness, and his duplicity will be exposed, just as it has been in this entire balagan.

For in this regrettable episode, Mr. Deutsch and Mr. Jacobovici have failed in a spectacular way. And they will once again be relegated to the periphery, where the din of the ignorant, the vindictive, and the conspiratorial is occasionally loud, but is ultimately ignored and forgotten.

So, to what shall I compare the archaeological credibility of Mr. Jacobovici and Mr. Deutsch following this entire balagan perpetrated by their own self interests? They are not unlike a piece of basalt, which at first appeared shiny and impressive in the archaeological square. But after archaeologists and scholars dug a little deeper, they soon realized the basalt was a hard, stubborn, intrusive nuisance to the remainder of the archaeological activity being done all around it. So what did they do? And what became of the piece of intrusive basalt? The archaeologists sledged it repeatedly (with logic, of course) until it was broken it into multiple fragments (of debunked rhetoric, of course), and safely removed it from the archaeological square…with a JCB, of course.


UPDATE 1: Noah Wiener, the Web Editor for the Biblical Archaeology Society website, contacted me to notify me that he has located the broken link to the “Robert Deutsch to Sue the IAA” article and has fixed it. You can access the article here. To adjust for the correction, I have altered the original line: “(It may be worth noting, however, that a separate BAR article entitled “Robert Deutsch to Sue IAA” has mysteriously disappeared from the BAR website.)” to reflect the corrected link.

*UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that some not familiar with Israeli currency might not realize that there is no such thing as a 30 shekel note. It’s like a $3 bill. They do not exist. Any that do are fake.

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