On the Christian Need for Relics: Holy Grail Edition

The Holy Grail, à la Monty Python

The Holy Grail, à la Monty Python

In the wake of yesterday’s post, “No, no, you DIDN’T find the Holy Grail,” I thought I’d take a moment to spell out what I believe to be the driving forces behind the constant need on the part of some to hunt for Christian relics.

For the purposes of this article, I define “relics” as both the physical remains of venerated individuals and the objects associated with them.

The reasons people seek out and claim discovery of relics can be boiled down to two general categories: money (including fame) and a confirmation of one’s faith (including hope and healing).

[Note: Much of what I say below was featured in my Inside Edition interview with Megan Alexander (Twitter) yesterday evening, where I responded to the most recent sensational, pseudoarchaeological claims made by a pair of Spanish authors claiming to have found the Holy Grail. And, Inside Edition was kind enough to post an extended version of the interview on their website, where I repeat some of what I say below.]

Let’s deal with the obvious reason first: money.

Religious relics are a HUGE business. Anyone who has ever traveled to Jerusalem or Rome can attest to just how influential religious tourism is in these regions, and how essential it is to their respective local economies. The spectrum of souvenirs sold by local shops ranges from ubiquitous pieces of artwork and religious literature on the one end, to much rarer objects like antiquities (both legal and illicit), and yes, relics and rumored relics on the other end.

But the money isn’t just made by shopkeepers and antiquities dealers; churches and museums (which are often one-in-the-same) bring in HUGE tourism dollars from pilgrims who will fork over large sums of money to view something that confirms their faith. (We’ll deal with confirmation of faith in a moment.) There are tickets to be sold and refurbishments of chapels to be paid for, and possession of a relic is one quick and easy way to attract both pilgrims and profits.

But money made from relics isn’t limited to those who possess the relics; authors of books and producers of television documentaries can make thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars producing literary and video content about the relics, even if they themselves do not possess them. Toss in an effective marketing strategy – one which almost always includes releasing the book or film (or both) on or around Easter or Christmas – and publishers can sell tens of thousands of copies of speculative books, and producers can sell sensationalized, factually-challenged documentaries to ratings-hungry cable networks, who are increasingly replacing substantive history programs with reality adventure fiction.

Thus, the business of relic hunts is one of the main driving forces behind the continued claims of holy relics.

The second reason relics are so popular is due to their role in confirming the faith of believers.

The fact is that people like to give their faith something tangible. In a world increasingly reliant upon evidence and verifiable data, relics offer a form of spiritual “evidence” that confirms one’s beliefs. People of faith crave evidence confirming the person of Jesus as well as the claims made about him.

But the desire for evidence is not a modern phenomenon.

We must remember that there is absolutely zero archaeological evidence that points to the existence of Jesus, and much less so that supports the claims made about him, such as his divinity, his miraculous powers, etc. And as for literary evidence, outside of the biblical text, there are no authentic references to Jesus from the first century CE. None!

Now, I should note that text of Josephus’ Antiquities (18 and 20) as we now have it does possess two references to the Jesus mentioned in the Bible. But, anyone who can read Greek (well) will quickly notice that these references to Jesus – commonly referred to as the “Testimonium Flavianum” – are Christian additions to the original text of Josephus that were added in an attempt to remedy the obvious (and somewhat embarrassing) problem that the best known, most prolific, and most knowledgeable historian of Jewish life from first century CE Palestine that we know of, Flavius Josephus, never once mentions Jesus. In all of his detailed histories of the events surrounding Herod and the Jews and all of the messianic pretenders he mentions, he never once mentioned Jesus of Nazareth. This was obviously a problem for early Christians, whose story of Jesus (with the dead being raised, and the earthquakes, and the eclipses, and healing stories, and the thrashing of the temple, and the crucifixion, and the resurrection, etc.) should have certainly merited mention in Josephus’ exhaustive chronicles had they actually taken place. (For more on this subject, see Richard Carrier’s blog post and JECS article.)

But there is silence about Jesus in the extra-biblical literature from the first century CE. That is, outside of the handful of Christians, who were producing literature about Jesus, there is no mention of him in the first century CE. (It’s also the likely reason for the apocryphal Letters of Paul and Seneca, which seek to elevate Paul to a status of a revered Roman philosopher in order to remedy the fact that he was never mentioned by any of his Jewish or Roman contemporaries. Cf. Bart Ehrman, Forged, 90-92.)

Thus, because of the lack of outside literary and physical evidence of Jesus and of the claims made about him in the biblical texts, early Christians sought out other various forms of “evidence” that could prove, at least to them, that Jesus was who he claimed to be. And this desire to find and confirm relics associated with Jesus was not limited to the poor Christian populace, but was an endeavor undertaken at that highest levels of authority, exemplified perhaps no better than by Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who made pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the express purpose of acquiring Christian relics and memorializing the locations of significant moments in the life of Jesus by building chapels on them.

For this reason, Christian relics – especially those associated with Jesus like the “nails of the cross“, pieces of the “true cross“, the “holy spear” used to pierce his side, his burial shroud, and even fragments from his supposed tomb, etc. – have been the focus of scrutiny (and many, many books and documentaries) over the years. Relics allow Christians to touch what they believe to be evidence of Jesus, thereby confirming their faith.

Included within this confirmation of faith is the ancient belief that objects associated with Jesus possessed miraculous powers, and principal among them, healing powers. This tradition that objects associated with Jesus possess healing powers may stem from the biblical story of Jesus healing the bleeding woman found in Mark 5:24b-34, and paralleled in Matthew 9:19-22 and Luke 8:43-48.

Mark’s version of the story reads:

Mark 5:24b  And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
Mark 5:25  Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.
Mark 5:26  She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
Mark 5:27  She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,
Mark 5:28  for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”
Mark 5:29  Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
Mark 5:30  Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”
Mark 5:31  And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’”
Mark 5:32  He looked all around to see who had done it.
Mark 5:33  But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.
Mark 5:34  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Note that the woman in the story merely touched Jesus’ cloak, and that the text says that Jesus felt power go out of him. Luke 11:46 says, “But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’”

This detail in the text implies that Jesus’ healing power can affect people who merely touch objects that touch him, and can do so even when he’s not consciously intending to perform a miracle. Again, in this story, Jesus is like a statically charged doorknob, whose power can be discharged by anyone wearing Uggs on a shag carpet making contact with him. In the story, the woman receives the healing simply by touching only his clothes, and Jesus confirms the act of touching by acknowledging that he felt power go out of him.

Because of stories like this, people likely began searching for objects, any objects, said to be associated with Jesus, hoping that they too might be the recipients of the unconsciously administered residual miraculous healing powers of Christ contained within the relics, thereby further confirming faith in Christ to them and to all who might witness the healing.

And when we add this story to Old Testament accounts of healing that arise from touching relics, such as the account of a man being resurrected from the dead after coming into contact with the bones of the prophet Elisha as recorded in 2 Kings 13:21, we can begin to understand how the obsession with discovering relics was not just about money, but about a confirmation of a faith that relies on miraculous accounts in the absence of archaeological evidence.

On Claims of the Holy Grail

Specifically addressing the recent claims of the discovery of a Holy Grail, let me remind readers that we know what common and industrial use cups from first century Palestine look like. There have been a number of archaeological discoveries that show us what common cups look like, including cups eligible for ritually pure meals. Such vessels can be found in the remains of the Burnt House in Jerusalem, and at Qumran – the site associated with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls – where both stone and ceramic cups have been discovered, and most recently in the Mount Zion excavations in Jerusalem.

Stacked, V-shaped drinking goblets from Qumran made of Pottery dating to between the 1st C. BCE and the 1st C. CE. Height 26.5 cm (10 7/16 in.), diameter 16 cm (6 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (65-72). More at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/art2.html

Stacked, V-shaped drinking goblets from Qumran made of Pottery dating to between the 1st C. BCE and the 1st C. CE. Height 26.5 cm (10 7/16 in.), diameter 16 cm (6 1/4 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (65-72). More at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/art2.html

Limestone cup dating to the 1st C. CE. Cup (A): height 7.5 cm (3 in.), diameter 8 cm (3 1/8 in.) Cup (B): height 12.8 cm (5 in.), diameter 19.4 cm (7 1/2 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (38,39). Cylindrical cups of this type are frequently found in sites of the Second Temple Period. It is believed that their capacities correspond to the dry and liquid measures mentioned in the Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic laws governing all aspects of Jewish life.  The surfaces of these vessels were pared with a knife or adze, and their surface was left un-smoothed. The vertical handles rule out the possibility that they might have been produced on a rotating lathe. More at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/art2.html

Limestone cup from Qumran dating to the 1st C. CE. Cup (A): height 7.5 cm (3 in.), diameter 8 cm (3 1/8 in.) Cup (B): height 12.8 cm (5 in.), diameter 19.4 cm (7 1/2 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (38,39). Cylindrical cups of this type are frequently found in sites of the Second Temple Period. It is believed that their capacities correspond to the dry and liquid measures mentioned in the Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic laws governing all aspects of Jewish life. The surfaces of these vessels were pared with a knife or adze, and their surface was left un-smoothed. The vertical handles rule out the possibility that they might have been produced on a rotating lathe. More at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/art2.html

Large limestone goblet dating to the 1st C. CE from Qumran. Height 72 cm (28 1/4 in.), diameter 38.5 cm (15 1/8 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (37). This large goblet-shaped vessel was produced on a lathe, probably in Jerusalem, and is extremely well crafted. It is surprising that an ancient lathe was capable of supporting and working such a large and heavy stone block. More at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/art2.html

Large limestone goblet dating to the 1st C. CE from Qumran. Height 72 cm (28 1/4 in.), diameter 38.5 cm (15 1/8 in.) Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (37). This large goblet-shaped vessel was produced on a lathe, probably in Jerusalem, and is extremely well crafted. It is surprising that an ancient lathe was capable of supporting and working such a large and heavy stone block. More at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/art2.html

Stone cup from the

Stone cup from the “Burnt House” in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 CE. These implements were likely used for industrial purposes. For more: http://www.jewish-quarter.org.il/atar-saruf.asp

A 22-faceted, pared stone cup discovered in the Mt. Zion excavations in Jerusalem, inscribed with cryptic writing. For more: http://www.uhl.ac/en/resources/media/

A 22-faceted, pared stone cup discovered in the Mt. Zion excavations in Jerusalem, inscribed with cryptic writing. For more: http://www.uhl.ac/en/resources/media/

Let us also recall that Jesus and his disciples were poor, and that Jesus taught a renunciation of wealth (cf. Matt. 6:19, 24; 19:21; Mark 6:8-9; Luke 12:33; etc.). Thus, Jesus and his disciples most likely did not carry with them the sort of bling that is often the focus of grail claims.

And let us also remember that the “upper room” mentioned in Mark 14:15 and Luke 22:12 was likely a rented room (some even argue a Sukka) for two reasons. First, Passover was a pilgrimage festival in first century Palestine. They needed to find a place because Jesus and most of his disciples were said to have lived in Galilee and were not from Jerusalem.

Second, the Synoptic Gospels all record the story of Jesus instructing his disciples to find a man carrying a jar in Jerusalem who would lead them to an upper room where they were to prepare the Passover meal. Thus, according to the Synoptic Gospels, the room did not belong to Jesus or one of the disciples, but was a room made available to them for the Passover meal during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Thus, the cup that was used during the Last Supper was either provided by the owner of the rental room, or by Jesus’ disciples. The latter is not likely because the disciples were not likely to carry expensive objects as Jesus preached a message of the renunciation of wealth. And the former is unlikely because the owners of rooms rented to poor Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem were not likely to lay out the fine China. Next time you stay in a hotel room, look at the quality of the coffee cup provided to you. I’m guessing it’s not made of agate or gold.

Thus, if we accept a historical Jesus and a historical Last Supper, the cup used by Jesus would most likely be a nondescript stone cup – the likes of which archaeologists have uncovered in Jerusalem and Qumran and other sites throughout Roman Palestine time and again over the years. These stone cups are usually made of limestone (which is ubiquitous throughout Jerusalem), and are usually carved by paring facets in the cup from top to bottom, forming a roundish cup with handles sometimes carved from the stone.

So while gold and silver cups are mentioned in the Bible in connection with the Temple (1 Chron. 28:17) and various palaces (Gen. 44:2), while Roman and Egyptian glass vessels were made at the time, and while expensive precious and semiprecious stone cups were made from onyx, agate, jasper, chalcedony, sardonyx, and carnelian, it is most likely that these expensive cups would not have been used by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. Rather, ceramic, or more likely, limestone cups would have been used for ritually pure meals like the Passover. Mishnaic regulations taught that stone vessels were insusceptible to impurities (m. Kel. 10:1; m. Oh. 5:5, 6:1; m. Par. 5:5; m. Miq. 4:1; m. Yad. 1:2; cf. m. Betz. 2:3), while ceramic vessels could potentially absorb impurities into the bodies of the vessels. Thus, because stone vessels were thought not absorb impurities like ceramic vessels, and were therefore preferable for the storage and pouring of liquids, especially in a ritually pure state, one might suspect that the cup used in a Passover meal in Jerusalem in the first century CE would have been made of common limestone, and not of the semiprecious and precious stones that would have been prohibitively expensive to Jesus and his disciples. Likewise, the cup would have been of simple design like the cups we find in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem and Qumran.

Finally, because the room was a rented room, the cup was either left in the room (if provided by the room’s owner), or taken with the disciples (if provided my them) after the meal. Either way, we have absolutely no record whatsoever of a chain of custody of any cup used in the Last Supper – an essential piece of evidence necessary to prove the provenance of an archaeological object, and therefore to confirm any credible claim of a “Holy Grail”. So even if – and this is a big IF – there were a Holy Grail, we would have absolutely no way of proving a cup was, in fact, the Holy Grail. Thus, the entire endeavor is sheer and unadulterated speculation.

Lest we forget, Easter is approaching. And thus ’tis the season for those who prey on the hopes of the honest faithful to make money by making sensational pseudoarchaeological claims related to Jesus…money made from those eagerly seeking a confirmation of their faith.

 

Summaries and expanded discussions of Bible Secrets Revealed Episodes 1-4 available at Bible History Daily

Bible History Daily
I have provided episode summaries of History‘s documentary series “Bible Secrets Revealed” episodes 1-4 at the Bible History Daily website. I’ve also included expanded discussions of many specific issues, as well as answers to many questions posed by Biblical Archaeology Society readers.

The discussions range from the origin of Jesus’ title “Son of Man”, to the origin of the virgin conception of Jesus, to how translators of the Bible fixed the problem of who really killed Goliath.

"Bible Secrets Revealed" Title Image (Courtesy Prometheus Entertainment)

The summaries are here:

Episode 1: Lost in Translation

Episode 2: The Promised Land

Episode 3: Forbidden Scriptures

Episode 4: The Real Jesus

I shall be providing a summary for Episode 5: Mysterious Prophecies soon, and will do the same for Episode 6: Sex and the Scriptures once it airs.

I may also pull some excerpts from those discussions and repost them here on occasion in order to highlight certain points and promote discussion.

Enjoy!

Full Episode of History’s “Bible Secrets Revealed” Episode One: “Lost In Translation” Available Online

Bible Secrets Revealed on History

In case you missed it, you can watch the FULL EPISODE of History‘s Bible Secrets RevealedLost In Translation” online for free.

And don’t miss next week’s episode, “The Promised Land“, airing Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 10/9c.

Tweet your comments and feedback about the show with hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed

New History Channel Documentary “Bible Secrets Revealed” Begins Airing November 11

History logoI’m pleased to announce that a new documentary series will begin airing on History beginning Monday, November 11, 2013 at 10:00pm / 9:00 Central.

The series is entitled, Bible Secrets Revealed, and is produced by Prometheus Entertainment for the History channel.

The titles of the six episodes and their schedule of appearance are as follows:

“Lost in Translation” – November 11, 2013
“The Promised Land” – November 18, 2013
“The Forbidden Scriptures” – November 25, 2013
“The Real Jesus” – December 2, 2013
“Mysterious Prophecies” – December 16, 2013
“Sex and the Bible” – December 23, 2013

The documentary features dozens of the world’s top biblical scholars, religious studies scholars, archaeologists, and historians, who offer different points of view while addressing some of the more difficult readings in the biblical and extra-biblical texts.

It is also worth note that portions of the documentary were filmed on site during the 2013 season of archaeological excavation at Tel Azekah.

Please tune in to this documentary, which seeks to address difficult biblical scriptures and teachings in a responsible, academic, yet entertaining manner. The series is certain to be compelling as much for its scholarship as for its examination of secrets buried deep within the biblical texts, that have often traditionally been known only to scholars.

Take a Tel Aviv University history course – “The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem” – online for free!

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to announce that during the upcoming academic year, Tel Aviv University will be offering two on-line history courses. The courses are available within the content management framework of “Coursera”, an education company that offers courses online for anyone to take, for free!
The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem - Professor Oded Lipschits, TAU

I am thrilled that one of these courses is being offered by my Tel Azekah excavation partners, Dr. Oded Lipschits and Ido Koch – two of the smartest (and if I may, kindest and funniest) scholars you’ll ever meet.

They are teaching a course online called “The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem”. The course description is as follows:

The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem (click to access the course)
Professor Oded Lipschits, Ph.D. and Ido Koch
Starting date: Oct 1, 2013 (6 weeks long)

About the Course
The period of the demise of the Kingdom of Judah at the end of the sixth century B.C.E., the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the exile of the elite to Babylon, and the reshaping of the territory of the new province of Judah, culminating at the end of the century with the first return of exiles – all have been subjects of intense scrutiny in modern scholarship. This course takes into account the biblical textual evidence, the results of archaeological research, and the reports of the Babylonian and Egyptian sources and provides a comprehensive survey and analysis of the evidence for the history of this 100-year-long era. The course includes a detailed discussion by Prof. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, with guest lectures by leading scholars dealing with the archaeological and biblical aspects of this debated topic.

This is a unique opportunity to enhance your knowledge of the history of Israel and the Middle East. And this is YOUR CHANCE to take an online course with one of the best archaeologists and historians in the world. DO NOT miss this opportunity to be able to say, “I took a course from Prof. Oded Lipschits and Ido Koch of Tel Aviv University”.

SIGN UP TODAY!

Preview the course here:

About Tel Aviv University: Tel Aviv University (TAU) – Israel’s largest and most comprehensive institution of higher learning – is home to over 30,000 students studying in nine faculties and over 125 schools and departments across the spectrum of sciences, humanities and the arts. During the upcoming academic year, TAU will be offering two on-line history courses within the framework of Coursera – an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.

שנה טובה – Happy New Year!

!!שנה טובה Happy New Year!! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

Ros and I had a wonderful summer in Israel, and we hope “everything the best” to our friends, our family, and those we’ve yet to meet.

Roslyn outside of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem

Roslyn outside of the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem

At the Golan Heights Winery

At the Golan Heights Winery

Cheers!

washington post reports on the so-called ‘jonah ossuary’ circus

Simcha points at a blank areaNicolas Brulliard of the Washington Post has filed an excellent report entitled, “Jerusalem tomb houses some of Jesus’s earliest followers, filmmaker says,” critiquing the approaching media circus known as Simcha Jacobovici’s latest Easter season documentary, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery.

The article reports:

“Where we’re standing right here is the beginning,” [Jacobovici] said this week outside the building erected atop one of the two 1st-century tombs. “To my mind, this is the most important archaeological find ever maybe — of the past 100 years for sure.”

Not everyone agrees.

No, not everyone does. In fact, the only people thus far who have even come close to supporting Jacobovici’s claims are those receiving some form of compensation for doing so in the form of cash, honorariums, subsidized trips, consulting credits, co-authorships, or on-air face time. Thus far, not a single scholar not somehow associated with this or another of Mr. Jacobovici’s projects has offered any form of public endorsement of, agreement with, or academic support for his claims. (You can read more about this near unanimous rejection of Jacobovici’s claims here).

“It sounds like they’re trying to act out ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ ” says Robert Cargill, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa.

And once again:

The reading of the inscription has spurred a healthy amount of discussion among scholars, but Tabor and Jacobovici’s interpretation of one of the carvings has been rejected outright. Where they see a stick-figure Jonah emerging from a great fish heading downward, others see a vase, a perfume bottle or a pillar but no fish and no Jonah.

“The image on ossuary 6 is not Jonah’s great fish spitting out a seaweed-wrapped head of Jonah,” says Cargill, who favors the Greek vessel interpretation. “Fish don’t have handles.”

Handles: fish don't have them.

Handles on a "fish" are more likely handles on a vessel. But why isn't this drawn on the 'museum quality replica' shown to the press??

Handles on a "fish" are more likely handles on a vessel. But why isn't this drawn on the 'museum quality replica' shown to the press??

Give it a read.

Representative from Simcha Jacobovici’s Associated Producers, Ltd. Claims to Have Discovered the FACE OF JESUS in Talpiot Tomb Ossuary!

Simcha Jacobovici‘s documentary production company Associated Producers, Ltd. saved the greatest surprise of all until the very end!

Mr. Jacobovici is apparently claiming to have discovered the FACE OF JESUS in an ossuary in Jerusalem! At least that’s the claim made by a video uploaded to YouTube by an Associated Producers, Ltd. employee.

In exclusive, un-aired footage from the forthcoming Discovery Channel documentary, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery, Associated Producers, Ltd. employee, Mr. John McGinley (email: jmcginley@apltd.ca), has uploaded a video claiming to have discovered an image of the FACE OF JESUS in the same tomb that Mr. Jacobovici and his partner, University of North Carolina, Charlotte Department of Religious Studies Chair, Dr. James Tabor, claim to have discovered the earliest evidence of Christianity.

Jacobovici and Tabor had already claimed to have found an ossuary engraved with an image they claim to be the biblical figure Jonah being swallowed by a “Great Fish,” and an inscription that the pair claim reads: “O Divine YHWH, raise up, raise up!”

However, few expected Mr. Jacobovici or anyone from his production company to claim to have actually discovered the FACE OF JESUS! In the stunning video entitled, “FaceofJesusinTombHiRez.mov” uploaded to his YouTube Channel, jesusfaceimage, Associated Producers, Ltd. representative McGinley points out – using footage from The Resurrection Tomb Mystery – precisely where the FACE OF JESUS appears, peering forth from the ossuary at the robotic camera operated by the remote intruders.

The description of the video uploaded by Mr. McGinley reads:

This amazing video made available by Associated Producers taken from their original footage highlights the “Jesus Face” spotted yesterday, April 4, 2012.

Apparently motivated by a satirical blog post penned by Duke University Professor Dr. Mark Goodcare (cf. “Literally Unbelievable,” a website about people who think stories published on the satirical website The Onion are actually true), Mr. McGinley shows footage of the General Electric remote robotic arm (the technology featured in the forthcoming documentary) fixating upon the FACE OF JESUS in the ossuary!

As the robotic arm passes over the FACE OF JESUS, viewers can hear the voice a member of Mr. Jacobovici’s team calling out:

“All right, go back!”

Then, as the camera focuses upon the FACE OF JESUS, you hear a member of Mr. Jacobovici’s team cry out:

“You can see on your monitor where you are!”

The leaked Discovery Channel footage then freezes and spotlights the image that the Associated Producers, Ltd. production team apparently believes to be the unmistakable FACE OF JESUS!

As the mesmerizing hum of the underground tomb drones on in the background, the footage shows several different highlighted angles of what Associated Producers, Ltd. employee McGinley claims is the FACE OF JESUS!

The video then cuts to an advertisement inviting viewers to:

“Watch the full documentary of The Jesus Discovery/Resurrection Tomb Mystery on April 12th at 10 pm EST on Discovery TV in USA and Vision TV in Canada”

which is followed by a link to the thejesusdiscovery.org website.

Since the release of the documentary’s companion book, The Jesus Discovery, authored by Tabor and Jacobovici, the pair had openly claimed to have found the engraved “Jonah Ossuary” and the inscription, but the book made no claim of the discovery of the FACE OF JESUS. However, the exclusive Discovery Channel footage leaked by Associated Producers, Ltd.‘s McGinley suggests that the The Resurrection Tomb Mystery documentary will make the additional, shocking claim that the very FACE OF JESUS also appears on the ossuary!!

The documentary airs Thursday, April 12th at 10 pm Eastern/Pacific on Discovery.

(This video has been mirrored here in case slow loading times or other problems should arise with the original video.)

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?

Dr. Robert Cargill will be the guest on the Ray Appleton Show on KMJ 580, Friday, May 20, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Ray Appleton Show KMJ 580 Fresno

Ray Appleton Show, KMJ 580 Fresno

I shall be the guest on the Ray Appleton Show on KMJ 580 at 1:00 PM on Friday, May 20, 2011 here in the northwest Fresno studio. Topics will include the Bible, religion, Christianity and Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Middle East politics, education, Fresno City College, and I’m guessing anything else Mr. Appleton wishes to discuss.

I am in town to give the commencement address at Fresno City College commencement ceremony this evening at 6:30 PM.

You can listen live at the KMJ Website.

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