Simcha Jacobovici’s Circular Responses During Interview with Canada’s Drew Marshall

I just finished listening to Canadian talk show host Drew Marshall‘s interview with Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. Craig Evans.

This was my first time listening to Drew Marshall, and let me say he was a gracious host, and yet he didn’t let Simcha off the hook (my only fish pun). He actually called Simcha on a couple of things, but of course, that didn’t stop Simcha from entering into his obstinate alternate reality and completely dodge the questions and spin some answer that only a six-year old would accept as valid.

Listen to the interview. Read my marked-up comments.

Please keep in mind that in addition to being Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, I am also part of the “Digital Public Humanities” consortium here at Iowa. This means that part of my job as a scholar (in addition to teaching and researching and writing and excavating with Dr. Oded Lipschits at Tel Azakah in Israel) is responding to claims made in the public sphere (and if necessary, critiquing them) that involve technology and the humanities (i.e., the Digital Public Humanities), particularly in the fields of religion and archaeology. Simcha Jacobovici’s latest Discovery Channel documentary, The Resurrection Tomb Mystery (alternatively titled The Jesus Discovery in Canada) makes a sensational religious/archaeological claim involving innovative technology directly to the public, bypassing scholarly conventions of peer-review in refereed journals and professional conferences.

The above video is a critique of a publicly broadcast interview where filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici attempts to present ‘evidence’ for his latest pseudo-archaeological claim.

A couple of things to listen for:

At the 22:43 mark, Simcha mentions me by name, stating in the interview:

Even my worst detractors are saying, this – this guy Cargill he spends all of his days on his blog attacking me – even he says in the pages of the Washington Post, ‘This is important. This is different’.”  – Simcha Jacobovici, The Drew Marshall Show, April 7, 2012

Of course, I never said that. My four quotes from the April 5, 2012 Washington Post article by Nicolas Brulliard are as follows:

“It sounds like they’re trying to act out ‘The Da Vinci Code’.”

“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.”

“Cargill also says that the inscription and carvings found in the tomb are significant regardless of their interpretation.”

This is a typical example of how Simcha mishandles information. I obviously don’t agree with Simcha, but that doesn’t stop him from claiming I said: “This is important. This is different,” and spinning it into some kind of support for him.

(But, it’s always good to know that Simcha is paying attention. ;)

So there’s the joke that Simcha still does not realize the difference between a mention and an endorsement. I’ve addressed this elsewhere.

Second: I about fell out of my chair laughing at Simcha’s insistence that his 6-year old daughter’s assessment that the image on the ossuary is a fish was the “ultimate test”. Then again, that fact alone really does explain a lot about these sensational claims. Forget scholars and trained professionals. We don’t need no stinking scholars! (Because we scholars disagree with his conclusions.) So, he turns to his daughter. And she accepts that it is a fish. Case closed. Again, the “Mishi Test” (his words (on multiple occasions), not mine) alone trumps all the education and all the scholars in the world.

(BTW, and I mention this in the video: To be really honest, this is not a bad rhetorical tactic on Simcha’s part. Because now, if anyone ever calls Simcha on the fact that he consulted his six-year old daughter regarding ancient Jewish burial iconography, he can claim, “You’re personally attacking members of my family. How dare you!” or something like that.

Simcha invoked his six-year-old daughter’s professional(?) testimony as evidence in his interpretation of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6, but if you call him on it, he might try claiming “personal attack.” (And the less discerning among us might even buy it!) But I really wonder if he’d actually go there? I mean, it’d be a fairly obvious double standard and disingenuous retreat to a feigned offense designed to distract from his lack of evidence and circular reasoning. And yet, I’m torn about whether he’d actually do it. Maybe one of his doting fans (or employees) will claim “personal attack” for him? At least we’d know of its disingenuous nature beforehand.)

Finally, the sad fact that Simcha absolutely refuses to listen to ANY OTHER POSSIBLE EXPLANATION or interpretation regarding his “Jonah Fish” image is, with all due respect, laughable. In fact, if you listen to me on the video, you’ll hear me quite literally laughing out loud. Simcha actually tries to compare “that Drew Marshall exists” to his claim that the inscribed image on Ossuary 6 “is a fish.” Both are unquestionable facts in Simcha’s mind. In fact, he says that any other interpretation than ‘fish’ is “silliness,” and he refuses to entertain any further discussion about it. There is no other possible interpretation in Simcha’s mind. It’s a fish. End of story. (Did I mention he admitted he’s NOT an academic and NOT an archaeologist?)

The fact that Simcha absolutely refuses (and says so in the interview) to see anything other than what he ABSOLUTELY MUST see in order for his speculative theory to work essentially explains everything you need to know about both Simcha and this entire project.

In the video, Simcha admits he is “not a theologian, not a Christian,” and of course, elsewhere has admitted he is “not an archaeologist, nor an academic.” (Simcha Jacobovici, “The Nails of the Cross: A Response to the Criticisms of the Film,” jamestabor.com, June 22, 2011, p. 45.) And yet, if any theologian, Christian, academic, archaeologist, or any one else trained in these fields suggests anything other than “it’s a fish,” Simcha will have nothing to do with it.

That’s how desperate and precarious their theory has become…and the documentary hasn’t even aired yet.

Drew Marshall’s interview with Simcha Jacobovici will be remembered as THE moment that the delusional obstinate stubbornness of Simcha Jacobovici became self-manifest. He said it himself. He doesn’t want to hear anyone tell him it’s not a fish. It just is. Oh, and because it’s a fish, it’s a “Christian tomb,” “owned by Joseph of Arimathea,” those buried inside “knew Jesus” and “heard him preach,” and therefore the tomb next to it “contains the bones of Jesus.”

Do we really need to say more?

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