fake lead jordan codices update

Scholars have identified a "stamp" used to impress text on a page of the so-called "Jordan Codices." The stamp is staggered to produce what appears to be a paragraph of text, but in reality is nonsensical text.

Scholars have identified a "stamp" used to impress text on a page of the so-called "Jordan Codices." The stamp is staggered to produce what appears to be a paragraph of text, but in reality is nonsensical text.

Thomas Verenna has an excellent update addressing the fake “Jordan Codices” on the Bible and Interpretation website. The evidence continues to pile up against the “owner” of the fake “artifacts.”

The evidence demonstrates that the otherwise nonsensical text of the codices is actually copied from an assortment of real objects dating to the Second Temple period. In fact, the team of scholars and bloggers that have been investigating the fake codices have identified a stamp that was apparently used to impress lines of text over and over again to give the appearance of long paragraphs of text. Unfortunately, the result of the text is nonsense.

This is once again an excellent example of the crowd sourcing power of scholars and astute graduate students on the internet, using their skills to debunk pseudoscientific claims and forgeries directly to the public.

So what should we expect from here? Should we expect David (or is it Paul) Elkington to double down and claim that they are, in fact, legitimate? Will he attempt to save face and claim that the Jordanian government has “reclaimed” the documents before he has had a chance to prove their authenticity? (Although I must warn Mr. Elkington against this tactic; if the Jordanians spend even an ounce of effort recovering these objects from Mr. Elkington, and they are indeed fake, he may face a problem or two with the Jordanians.) Will Mr. Elkington (and/or his duped followers) attempt to attack the scholars who proved his claims to be false and his “artifacts” to be fakes?

Only time will tell. But, apparent revelations about the man at the center of the fake codices are not helping his case.

Advertisements

evidence continues to pile up that the jordan lead codices are fakes

Jordan Lead Codices are fakes.Tom Verenna has put together an excellent video setting forth much of the evidence that the so-called “Jordan Lead Codices” are, in fact, fakes.

If you have not been following this case, Bibliobloggers (scholars and students who blog about matters pertaining to the Bible) were among the first and most vocal critics of this so-called “discovery,” and many have led the way in demonstrating their lack of authenticity.

You can check out the original Lead Codices press release, the Wikipedia page, as well as the Facebook page, whose editor/s (who many observers now believe to be David Elkington himself or someone close to him) have begun deleting comments questioning the authenticity of the find. The latest debunking of the case can be found here.

Like most unprovenanced “discoveries,” the Jordan Lead Codices are continuing to be exposed for what they are: a book-selling, documentary-pitching, money making, religious profiteering scheme, which uses a hungry media to prey on the faithful and the public, and employs the tried-and-true formula of 1) a sensational press release (without academic peer-review or scholarly evaluation), followed by 2) a pseudoscientific data dump that attempts to dilute and drown out the logic and actual science put forth by scholars responding to and debunking the claim (at least until the book gets released).

This formula to misuse archaeology to make religious claims for ideological and/or money making purposes works regardless of the faith of the huckster making the claim: Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim – peddlers representing all faiths and even some “alien enthusiasts” (all of whom are usually amateurs with no formal training in scholarship or archaeology) have used the formula to sell books, sell tickets, pitch documentaries, and attempt to proselytize the public and/or take its money. And, by the time actual scholars respond and debunk the story, the media have usually moved on (and if the media do publish a follow-up story, it is usually no longer a headline). Let’s face it: archaeological hucksters keep using the formula because it works (or at least always has), and it will continue to work in the future as long as scholars fail to respond to the false claims immediately and publicly.

(Keep in mind, the archaeological hucksters often get a little bent out of shape when scholars call them on their nonsense and criticize their claims, and the hucksters’ responses can often take the form of personal attacks coupled with unwarranted claims of religious/ethnic persecution (i.e., anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-whatever). This is often followed by attempting to undermine the credibility of the scholar making the criticism by invoking made-up religious claims of their own (e.g., that a scholar was at some point an “ordained minister” or some similar fabrication that is not only false, but the mere thought of which offers the scholar and his colleagues hours of entertainment (i.e., “Could you imagine a church that would hire that scholar as a minister? Now THAT might be a fun church to attend. What would sermons be like? I’d love to hear the one on Creation, the Flood, and Balaam…” etc., etc.), as well as additional hours of conversation about the desperate lengths to which some archaeological hucksters will go to distract readers from the fact that they cannot defend their claims on the merits of the argument). But I digress. The best thing to do when this happens is not respond, and to allow the merits of the argument (or lack thereof) to speak for themselves.

This is what Tom Verenna has done in his video below. Give it a watch.

i just threw up in my mouth: on david elkington and the lead codices

David Elkington

Jennifer and David Elkington.

this just made me throw up in my mouth. seriously, i have to go brush my teeth now.

according to an article entitled “revelations of our own indiana jones” in the this is gloucestershire website:

THE Five Valleys’ real-life Indiana Jones has made a startling discovery which could unlock the earliest secrets of Christianity.

Historian David Elkington spent two years trying to preserve the 2,000-year-old metal books and dodging death threats in the Holy Land in an adventure to rival the fictional Raiders of the Lost Arc movie hero.

really? indiana jones? and i love how the author misspelled “ark.” really? indiana jones lost his arc welder? perhaps it should be “nikola tesla and the lost arc.” i don’t know who makes england prouder, this article’s author or elkington?

“We were making our way through the valley when we heard the sound of fire,” said David. The scrub next to their 4X4 had been set alight.

He added: “It was extremely fierce. Someone was angry that we’d got too close to the site.”

yes, because the best way to scare someone away from your own land/cave is to set fire to your own property. exactly.

David is hopeful that the books will soon be in the care of the Jordanian government, allowing further study.

The couple will publish their account of the battle to unlock the codices’ secrets in the book The Divine Revelation.

of course you are.

the lead codices debacle has been a publicity stunt from the outset. good grief people!

the least the gloucestershire paper could have done is wait until after the rapture this saturday….

excellent article on the portrayal of archaeological objects in the media by thomas verenna

Thomas S. Verenna has written an excellent article at Bible and Interpretation entitled, “Artifacts and the Media.”

The article discusses the media’s response to the recent fake lead codices that purported to be possibly the ‘earliest Christian texts’ and ‘the face of Jesus,’ as well as scholar-bloggers’ role in exposing those behind the sensational campaign.

Verenna states:

More scandalous is the complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking.  These codices might never have been heard of if the authors of the reports for BBC and Fox News (among others) had just checked with the academic community before publishing the “find”.  At the very least, the journalists might have used less authoritative language, expressed more caution, and exposed the controversy rather than simply stating, as if doing so made it fact, that these codices were “the earliest Christian texts” and that they held “early images of Jesus.”

Give it a read.

fake martin luther king, jr. quote demonstrates how we got the apocrypha

MLK said what?There is a beautiful quote going around the internet. It reads:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is only one problem with this quote: Martin Luther King, Jr. never said it. As Megan McArdle and Erik Haugsjaa point out, the second part of the quote is from Dr. King’s 1963 Strength to Love, but the first sentence isn’t part of the original quote. It’s fake. Someone added it to the King quote to make it relevant to Osama bin Laden’s death.

MLK 'Strength to Love' on Google Books

The actual quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Strength to Love' as demonstrated in Google Books. Note the first part of the quotation was not written by Dr. King.

The viral nature of this quote demonstrates how people will believe whatever they read if it fits their preconceived notions, especially when it is attributed to a well-respected authority or personality. This is precisely how we got the Apocrypha (the books that didn’t make it into the Bible), and a number of the books that actually did make it into the biblical canon. Someone writes something, it sounds like something someone authoritative would say, the quote or book is attributed to said authority, people read it, believe it, and pass it on. (Recommended reading: Forged by Bart Ehrman.)

It’s how we got the fake Bin Laden death photos, it’s how we got the MLK quote, and it’s how we got many of the books of the Bible (i.e., some letters attributed to Paul, all 4 Gospels, many of the pastoral letters, the Apocrypha, etc.).

What’s a shame in the modern age is that it’s actually quite easy to fact check. Unfortunately, people don’t. They just parrot misinformation without citations because they like the way it sounds. It reiterates the need for readers to check their facts, and for authors to cite their sources.

In the words of Al Gore, “This is not why I invented the internet.”1

1Al Gore did not make this statement.


UPDATE: See the Salon.com article by Drew Grant, who attributes the quote to a tweet from Penn Jillette, who got it on Facebook from someone named Jessica Dovey. A screenshot of Dovey’s Facebook message shows that she did, in fact, offset MLK’s quote from her own comments. So Penn (apparently) mis-attributed the first portion to Dr. King. Penn acknowledged his mistake, but not before it went viral.

This demonstrates that there are usually two attributions needed for a saying to become ‘authoritative’: attribution to a recognized respected authority, and the propagation by another respected/beloved figure. It also demonstrates a point that Bart Ehrman and his teacher, Bruce Metzger, both make: not all edits and changes are intentional. Like Penn in this case, it was an honest mistake, which, to his credit, he immediately corrected.

Excellent work Drew!!

no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before easter)

Simcha holds a nail.

Simcha holds a nail. That must prove it.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

Everyone’s least favorite fake tv archaeologist “veteran investigator” presenter of ridiculous, sensationalistic trash σκύβαλα, Simcha Jacobovici, is releasing a documentary entitled, “The Nails Of The Cross,” which “investigates” whether the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been discovered. And completely coincidentally, Simcha’s press release machine is revving up a week before Easter. Shockerrrrr! (said with a high pitched voice and dripping with sarcasm.)

The South African Independent Online reports Mr. Jacobovici’s claims in a Reuters story by Ari Rabinovitch:

“What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,” he said in an interview, wearing his trademark traditional knitted cap.

(I love that they mentioned his “trademark knitted cap!)

Jim West broke this story this morning. And the unwitting press is already sopping it up like vinegar in a sponge. The UK’s Telegraph is even running video. (Thank goodness Dan Bahat is there to talk some sense into folks.)

So let me ask: Why is it that Mr. Jacobovici continues to prey on an oft unwitting public so near to the Christian holy days? Is his greed for cash so great that he’s willing to jump to any conclusion just to get on TV? Has he been so far ostracized from anything resembling legitimacy within professional archaeological circles that he feels he has nothing to lose by using his own production company to create ridiculous documentaries about unsubstantiated claims?

The Israel Antiquities Authority knows Mr. Jacobovici is making this up. It said in a statement:

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the Jerusalem excavation, said in reaction to the film’s release that it had never been proven beyond doubt that the tomb was the burial place of Caiaphas. It also said that nails are commonly found in tombs.

“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre, but the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research,” it said.

Crucifixion nail through the ankle bone

Replica of crucifixion nail through the ankle bone of Yehohanan ben Hagkol. It is the only evidence of a nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem ever discovered.

So once again, we have Simcha Jacobovici making unsubstantiated, fantastic claims a week before Easter with the sole purpose of getting people to watch his nonsensical documentary. Keep in mind, anyone who has dug in a Roman period site in Israel has most likely found nails. I have. But to claim that they are the nails of the Crucifixion is wholly irresponsible, even if you did find your nails in a tomb. There has only been evidence of one nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem, a replica of which is in the Israel Museum. It was discovered by my friend and former excavation director Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis of the IAA, and the nail was in an ankle bone in an ossuary clearly inscribed in Hebrew with the name “Yehohanan ben Hagkol.”

So let’s explore Mr. Jacobovici’s actual claim a bit further. According to Reuters:

The film begins by revisiting the burial place hailed by many at the time as the burial place of Caiaphas, who in the New Testament presides over the trial of Jesus.

The grave, along with a number of ossuaries – or bone boxes – was uncovered during construction work on a hillside a few kilometres south of the Old City.

Caiaphas is a major figure in the Gospels, having sent Jesus to the Romans and on to his death, and one of Jacobovici’s assertions is that the high priest did not deserve such a bad reputation.

Two iron nails were found in the tomb [of Caiaphas!] – one on the ground and one actually inside an ossuary – and, according to the film, disappeared shortly after. [emphasis mine]

Jacobovici says that because Caiaphas is so closely linked to the crucifixion, he believes the nails found in his tomb will be shown to belong to Jesus.

‘What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,’ he said.

‘If you look at the whole story, historical, textual, archaeological, they all seem to point at these two nails being involved in a crucifixion,’ he said.’ And since Caiaphas is only associated with Jesus’s crucifixion, you put two and two together and they seem to imply that these are the nails.’

(all bold, red, and italics mine)

“Two and two together”??? Let me get this straight:

  • Simcha claims to have found the tomb of the High Priest Caiaphas, a claim which is uncertain because archaeologists aren’t even sure that the tomb is Caiaphas’ tomb.
  • The excavation found two nails in the tomb, one in an ossuary, and one on the ground.
  • The nails disappeared (i.e., someone took or misplaced them).
  • The nails “magically reappear” in a lab in Tel Aviv 20 years later.
  • Because Caiaphas is mentioned in the story of Jesus, and the nails “disappeared” for a time, they must be the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion?????

How in the name of anything that makes sense does that make any sense? Why weren’t the nails discovered in the Tomb of Jesus that Simcha claimed to have discovered in 2007 as part of a press campaign touting his last laughable documentary, The Jesus Family Tomb, just before Easter of 2007 (which was so heavily criticized by scholars for its inaccuracies and sensational jumps to conclusions that Discovery pulled its subsequent airings)? Or, did Mr. Jacobovici think that the world would forget his last unsubstantiated claim?

Perhaps the words of the principal from the Adam Sandler cult classic, Billy Madison, would serve as an appropriate response:

“Mr. Madison Jacobovici, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

The fact that the Mail Online provides lots of pretty pictures, and Mr. Jacobovici makes a speculative documentary, doesn’t mean the above lack of logic makes any sense.

Finding a nail in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem does not mean you’ve discovered the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s irresponsible, and Simcha should know better by now. This is nothing more than a press campaign designed to stir up controversy to get people to watch a bad documentary.  And Mr. Jacobovici’s latest TV offering is nothing more than a train wreck of reality television. Simcha should probably just break down and get his own fake reality show. (Oh wait, he already does.)

the problem with “fun” youth groups

Almost ChristianMy wife (a former youth minister) has said this repeatedly (screamed it in fact), but now national studies are supporting her experiences with evidence.

Too many church youth groups are making three fundamental mistakes:

  1. The youth group is about having fun and entertaining teens, rather than educating them about the biblical text, its possible interpretations, and modeling proper Christian behaviors of service and compassion. Ski trips and pizza parties, while useful for occasional team building, should not be the core of a youth group’s activities. (Nor should “really relevant worship” for that matter, but that’s another story. I’ve come to believe that “worship” has become the new “doctrine,” which is emphasized by churches to impart a sense of self-assuredness or personal benefit, and distracts Christians from focusing upon the more important, yet difficult central aspects of Christianity like service to others and nonviolent dispute resolution. But I digress…)
  2. Parents rely on the youth minister as a babysitter and scapegoat, and often blame the minister for their child’s spiritual (and academic, and social…) shortfalls, when evidence shows that it is the parent (go figure!) who is actually the most influential person in a child’s spiritual development. The youth minister is not the reason your child is failing math, not the reason he’s a punk, and not the reason you can’t get him to clean his room or call home when he’s out late. If your child is misbehaving and causing problems in youth classes, it’s most likely because he feels it’s the one place he can get away with it. Sending your wreck of a child off on a ski trip when he needs to learn how to sit still, keep his mouth shut, respect others, and not act like a reprobate does not help his cause.
  3. Free expression and the permission of teenage angst are favored by many parents (when they don’t have to deal with it!) above modeling and insisting upon proper behavior in youth classes. All too often parents send their problem children to youth group with the hope that the youth minister can cure in one hour a week what the parent has been unable to prevent throughout the child’s entire lifetime. Worse yet, kids who act up and disrupt youth classes are often backed by their parents, who refuse to believe that their perfect child could possibly be at fault for disturbances in youth group classes.

According to new studies by Kenda Creasy Dean highlighted at CNN.com:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

Allow me to translate:

YOUTH GROUPS ARE NOT THERAPY SESSIONS FOR YOUR KIDS! While they may be places of refuge where kids who may not have safe places at school to develop socially can thrive, this is not the primary purpose of church youth groups. They are not social clubs. Church youth groups should exist to instruct teens about the Bible, and to teach kids how to work together collaboratively to serve others and resolve differences peacefully – that is, to act like Christians! YOUTH GROUPS SHOULD NOT BE VENUES FOR MISCREANTS TO FIND RELIEF FROM THE PROPER DISCIPLINE THEY SHOULD BE FINDING AT HOME AND AT SCHOOL!

Youth groups that exist purely for the social benefit of teens may be beneficial to some teens’ self esteem, but lacking any deeper foundational instruction that helps shape their behavior and teaches kindness toward others, youth groups become worthless. They simply perpetuate the same social cliques present on any school campus.

The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.

So, they learned how to ski, and how to make jokes in class, but they never got around to learning about what the Bible teaches, because that wasn’t “cool.”  And now they are giving you problems at home, and don’t care much about faith, and you’re upset that the youth minister didn’t “fix” this, when it was the parents who insisted upon the ski trips over the textual studies and discipline to begin with. Again, go figure.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good — what the study’s researchers called “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

And this is the problem with “fun” (only) youth groups: when they don’t have fun, or actually have to do something “hard” like learn, or serve, they see this as a failing of Christianity and leave. And the sad part is, it is often because the parent insisted that the youth minister provide more fun activities and spend more time trying to appease the child’s wild behavior rather than insist upon a solid biblical curriculum, and authorizing the youth minister to discipline the child when necessary.

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.

Simply put, you cannot blame a youth group or a youth minister for failing your kids, especially if some youth advisory committee is tying the hands of the youth minister and dictating what he/she should be doing. As Dean’s book, Almost Christian, concludes, a child’s behavior is the result of a parent’s parenting, and not a youth group. Of course, most would say, “Duh. That’s obvious anywhere, not just church,” and they’d be right, except, of course, in the mind of a distressed parent looking to a youth group to fix a poorly parented child, and to deflect responsibility and blame the youth group for the child’s problems if it fails to do so.

Youth groups should be fun, but that is not their primary mission. If a youth group is nothing more than a social activity club for teens, it is lost. And don’t be surprised if the students are lost soon thereafter, especially once they learn that a rational knowledge of what one actually believes, a life of service, and proper behavior are non-negotiables in an adult life of faith.

(HT: Jim West)

%d bloggers like this: