the talpiot tomb and jesus: it’s come to this

The whole Simcha Jacobovici / Talpiot Tomb / Jesus Family Tomb / Jonah Ossuary / Resurrection Tomb Mystery / Jesus Discovery circus has finally (and perhaps not unexpectedly) completed its descent into absurdity.

It’s come to this:

The Talpiot Tomb: It's Come to This

For background, see "Representative from Simcha Jacobovici’s Associated Producers, Ltd. Claims to Have Discovered the FACE OF JESUS in Talpiot Tomb Ossuary!" at http://wp.me/pm5VN-2tc.

HT: Every Jesus Sighting Ever

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.)

James Tabor is Correct: ‘It’s Anything But a Fish’: Logical Fallacies in Defense of the “Jonah Ossuary” Theory

Dr. James Tabor has once again doubled down on his theory, shared by his Jesus Discovery co-author, Mr. Simcha Jacobovici, that Ossuary 6 discovered in a tomb in Jerusalem is covered in fish.

Having “jumped the tropical fish shark,” Dr. Tabor is once again making a number of rhetorical arguments that attempt to distract from the evidence at hand.

First, Dr. Tabor uses the straw man argument of “well, those who interpreted the object as a nephesh pillar have gone silent,” and therefore he (Dr. Tabor) must be correct. This logic, however, fails to take into account a number of possibilities including, but not limited to:

  1. They’ve made their analysis and they’ve moved on. They may still stand by their analysis, and they may not.
  2. They’ve followed the scientific paradigm of presenting their own theory, and then allowing other scholars present other theories, and they are now allowing those theories that appear to be gaining more scholarly consensus to stand.
  3. Because they’ve not said anything, we can’t be sure they based their initial analyses upon Photoshopped imagery (as I conceded I had done).

But this is an example of a rhetorical logical fallacy. Just because the initial critics have fallen silent does not mean that the more recent, more populous criticisms are not valid. Likewise, attempting to argue, “Well, because different scholars have proposed different theories, then some scholars who opposed us must be wrong,” doesn’t make the “fish theory” any more correct. This is a logical fallacy.

Second, Dr. Tabor states:

‎”…it was surely unlike anything seen on any other ossuary. That, everyone seems to now agree upon, even those proposing some kind of vase or amphora.”

The logical fallacy employed here is the errant assumption that because it is ‘unique,’ his ‘unique’ interpretation is correct. Dr. Tabor gets bonus points for an “appeal to dissenters,” arguing that because those who disagree with his interpretation also agree that it is ‘unique‘, that they must also support the remainder of his interpretation. They do not.

This is another example of a logical fallacy. Just because it is unique does not make it a fish, as it could be another unique object.

The third and perhaps most egregious fallacious argument is Dr. Tabor’s argument concerning the handles on his fish. I (and others, namely Mark Goodacre, Tom Verenna, Michael Heiser, ) have demonstrated in earlier posts that Dr. Tabor’s multiple ‘fish’ appear to have handles.

Dr. Tabor states:

Most recently it has been suggested by those arguing the image is some kind of vase, that it actually has handles attached to what we identify as the fish’s tail. A closeup view of this area makes it clear that there is certainly no handle remotely resembling that of a vase or amphora but just a couple of stray lines, unconnected to the image, that the engraver might have even made by mistake…It is also the case that the “handles” imagined on our other image…simple [sic, assuming ‘simply’] are not there. The “handle” that is supposedly on the left is at a right angle and not even attached, clearly a random mark, and the “handle” identified on the right looks curved and it is also unclear as to whether it is actually a part of the image or a random scratch. (emphases mine)

So, according to Dr. Tabor, what appear to be handles are (in order of appearance): “a couple of stray lines,” “unconnected to the image,” “made by mistake,” “imagined,” “simply not there,” “a random mark,” and “random scratch.”

Nothing to see here. Please disperse. There is no handle here. You are "imagining" things. It is a "random scratch." It is "unattached." It is only a "couple of stray lines." What is highlighted in red above is "simply not there." They were "made by mistake." It's only a flesh wound.

Nothing to see here. No handles here either. Again, you are "imagining" things. They are completely "random scratches." They are just "stray lines" "made by mistake." They are "simply not there."

Of course, what Dr. Tabor fails to mention is that the ‘fish’ appears to have the same “imagined” “mistaken” “unconnected” “randomly scratched” “stray lines” in the same random size, in the same random shape, and in the same random place on the opposite corresponding side of the vessel! (Coincidentally, these are clearly seen in an image that Dr. Tabor did not show in his blog post, and that for some reason conveniently does not appear among the thejesusdiscovery.org website photos).

You are "imagining" things. That thing on the top right of the vessel is simply some stray lines that just so happen to be in the same random size, and in the same random shape, and in the same random position on the corresponding side of the vessel er, fish. It's "simply not there." Can't you *not* see?

You are "imagining" things. That thing on the top right of the vessel is simply some stray lines that just so happen to be in the same random size, and in the same random shape, and in the same random position on the corresponding side of the vessel, er, fish. It's "simply not there." Can't you *not* see?

Handles on both sides of the Jonah Ossuary image

You are "imagining" things. That thing on the top right of the vessel is simply some stray lines that just so happen to be in the same random size, and in the same random shape, and in the same random position on the corresponding side of the vessel, er, fish. It's "simply not there." Can't you *not* see?

You are "imagining" things. That thing on the top right of the vessel is simply some stray lines that just so happen to be in the same random size, and in the same random shape, and in the same random position on the corresponding side of the vessel, er, fish. It's "simply not there." Can't you *not* see?

I believe it is apparent from the above evidence that whatever it is at the top of each side of the engraved image on Ossuary 6 above, the fact that they are the same size, same shape, and same corresponding location on both sides of the image argues firmly against any claim that they are in any way, shape, manner, or form “stray lines,” “made by mistake,” “imagined,” “simply not there,” or  “random.”

I don’t really know what else to say. Fish don’t have handles. It’s getting to the point where it’s become almost comical, and I really must begin to ask who it is that is doing the imagining…


P.S. For those reading who do not know me, Dr. Tabor, or the other scholars involved in this debate, please know that everyone involved has a very good sense of humor, which allows us to remain in professional conversation about the “Jonah Ossuary.” Several of us (including me here and here and Dr. Tabor here) have made use of humor, parody, and satire at times in our arguments.

In keeping with this tradition, please allow me to conclude with perhaps Monty Python’s best known sketch (and a true comedic masterpiece), which I believe best illustrates Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s continued insistence that the imagery on Ossuary 6 is a healthy, beautiful, easy-to-see parrot fish. Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor are the shopkeeper behind the counter, and the rest of the academy (not somehow affiliated with Simcha or this project) is the customer. Enjoy.

YouTube Tutorial on Correcting for Perspective in Photoshop: “Jonah Ossuary” Edition

I have created a new video on my YouTube account, which is a tutorial explaining how to correct for perspective in Photoshop. The tutorial was prompted by the release of a CGI image of the so-called “Jonah Great Fish” image inscribed on Ossuary 6 discovered in a tomb in Jerusalem, as well as other images released by Dr. James Tabor and Mr. Simcha Jacobovici in their book, The Jesus Discovery.

The video is here:

Give it a watch (and apologies in advance for the 26 minute length).

the “jonah ossuary” theory has finally “jumped the shark” (only, it’s a tropical fish)

I recently read the latest post by Dr. James Tabor on his jamestabor.com blog.

While arguing that the image on the front of Ossuary 6 should be viewed as a fish seen from its side, Dr. Tabor states at one point:

“Jerry Lutgen showed our image to a couple of marine biologists in Florida recently and they both immediately identified it as a fairly accurate drawing of a common fish.”

I know this to be true because the same Jerry Lutgen made the same comments on my blog, where he wrote:

I circulated the “fish” image to three fish experts, two staff members of a large marine biology center in the US and one a renowned ichthyologist from Israel.

When asked if they saw a fish or an inanimate object like a vase, both of the US fish guys had no trouble seeing a fish. As one of them said: ”I would have guessed it was a depiction of a fish more so than a vase”

In response to the question; “is it a fish”, the reply of the Israeli ichthyologist is compelling. He states:

I believe that it is a triggerfish from the BALISTIDAE family. It is the only family presenting a first dorsal fin transformed to a strong spine; same for the ventral fin…

What Dr. Tabor didn’t mention in his blog is that Mr. Lutgen’s ichthyologist friend identified the Ossuary 6 image specifically as a triggerfish of the family Balistidae. I have included a picture of a triggerfish below.

Queen Triggerfish (Image via Wikipedia)

A Queen Triggerfish (of family Balistidae), rotated 90-degrees clockwise to place specimen on its side and in the necessary orientation to correspond to the so-called "Jonah Ossuary." (Image via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:4987_aquaimages.jpg)

Of course, the problem with this (and perhaps the reason Dr. Tabor didn’t mention it) is that triggerfishes are tropical fish that range from 20-50 cm (not meters, centimeters!) long, with the largest species (the stone triggerfish) maxing out at one meter long:

Triggerfishes are about 40 species of often brightly colored fishes of the family Balistidae. Often marked by lines and spots, they inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world, with the greatest species richness in the Indo-Pacific. Most are found in relatively shallow, coastal habitats, especially at coral reefs…

The largest member of the family, the stone triggerfish (Pseudobalistes naufragium) reaches 1 metre (3.3 ft), but most species have a maximum length between 20 and 50 centimetres (7.9 and 20 in).

You read that correctly: the “Jonah’s Great Fish” tale has become so precarious, that the theory of a “fish” depicted on Ossuary 6 has come to rely on its similarity to a 50 cm tropical fish.

I would show you an image of a “seaweed wrapped head of a stick figure” coming out of the mouth of a triggerfish, but the only photo I could find of a triggerfish of the family Balistidae in relation to a human is this picture of a triggerfish bite to a human hand received from a ill-tempered specimen:

Triggerfish bite

A triggerfish bite. No wonder the artist of the "Jonah Ossuary" drew a stick figure: they are easier for tropical fish to swallow.

Therefore, as a public service, I have provided the chart below to demonstrate the mental back flips one must perform in order to arrive at the conclusions Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor are drawing from the evidence before us:

The Anatomy of the "Jonah Ossuary" Theory. These are the steps one must accept in order to conclude that a 50 cm tropical fish is the inspiration behind the image of a supposed "great fish" inscribed on Ossuary 6.

The Anatomy of the "Jonah Ossuary" Theory. These are the steps one must accept in order to conclude that a 50 cm tropical fish is the inspiration behind the image of a supposed "great fish" inscribed on Ossuary 6.

I’m just not certain that this is the דג גדול (“great fish”) that Jonah 1:17 (2:1) was talking about.

Why would an artist choose a 50 cm tropical fish, more likely to be found in the tropical and subtropical reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba than in the Mediterranean (Joppa to Tarshish), to represent a “great fish” capable of swallowing a man?

And why would said artist spend so much time illustrating the relatively intricate geometric designs on the “body” of the vessel “fish” and then make a stick figure human?

Not to add yet another fish pun to the mix, but I now believe the entire “Jonah Ossuary” theory has officially “jumped the shark.” For those not familiar:

Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that is used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show sensational archaeological theory when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show the supposed “evidence” in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to say it. There are no fishes on the ossuary. The “fish in the margins” are not fish. (They are oval decorations.) The “half fish” is not a fish (It is a vessel with visible handles on each side). And the “Jonah fish” is not a fish. (It, too, is a vessel with handles on each side.) The “seaweed wrapped head” is not a seaweed wrapped head. (It is the base of the vessel). And the inscription does not say what Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor say it says (see also here).

I have no problem with Dr. Tabor’s argument that the “sign of Jonah” and the iconography of a “great fish” are symbolic of resurrection. None whatsoever. It has much merit. The problem is, we simply don’t have fish or the “sign of Jonah” in the “Patio Tomb,” not with the iconography, not with the inscription. And with the recent appeals to parallels with tropical fish, I’m afraid all we’re now at the moment where Fonzie “jumps the shark,” only in this case, it’s a tropical fish, thereby signalling the beginning of the end of this entire ordeal.

(And the Resurrection Tomb documentary hasn’t even aired yet.)

Possible Solution to the “Seaweed-wrapped Stick Figure Head” in the “Jonah Ossuary” Iconography

As I continue to examine the new, hi-resolution images that my colleague, Dr. James Tabor, has released on the thejesusdiscovery.org website’s “Press Kit Photos and Graphics” page (and many thanks to Dr. Tabor and his team for doing so!), I came across a beautiful, hi-res photo of the base of the inscribed image.

Image 15 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned "Detailed Jonah Image - no cgi" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1). The image shows a close-up of the bottom of the image inscribed on the front left panel of Ossuary 6 (the proposed "Jonah Ossuary").

Image 15 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned "Detailed Jonah Image - no cgi" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1). The image shows a close-up of the bottom of the image inscribed on the front left panel of Ossuary 6 (the proposed "Jonah Ossuary"), rotated 90-degrees clockwise from its in situ orientation.

Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici interpret this as the head of a stick figure Jonah wrapped in seaweed, referencing the poetic prayer of Jonah from within the great fish’s belly recorded in Jonah 2:5:

“The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.” (NIV)

Many scholars, however, are now convinced that the image that Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici are interpreting as a “Great Fish” spitting out the seaweed-wrapped head of Jonah (and thus a reference to the resurrection of Jesus, as both were said to have spent three days in their respective places), is actually an attempt by an ancient artist at a representation of a vessel of some sort, which are commonly found on ossuaries from Jerusalem.

I have suggested in a recent post that the image we see on the front panel of Ossuary 6 is actually a vessel of some sort (perhaps a krater, hydria, or some other kind of vessel), and I point to the symmetrical handles present on both the body of the vessel and the rim as evidence, as well as similar handles on another image present on the same ossuary, which Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici interpret as a “half fish.”

One problem I have had with an interpretation as a vessel, however, has been how to reconcile the roundish engraved area at the base of the image (the stick figure’s “seaweed-wrapped head”). However, based upon the new photos released by the thejesusdiscovery.org website, I’d like to suggest a possible – and I stress possible – solution.

It is fair to say that the skill of the artist who engraved the image on the front of Ossuary 6 lies somewhere between the professionally made, inscribed ossuaries we find in Jerusalem, like the well-known “Joseph, son of Caiaphas” Ossuary (see front panel below) and graffiti (see side panel inscription of name below, which is more like the image inscribed on Ossuary 6).

Ossuary of Joseph, son of Caiaphas. Jerusalem. 1st century. Limestone. Israel Antiquities Authority Collection, exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. (Image copyright: Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Ossuary of Joseph, son of Caiaphas. Jerusalem. 1st century. Limestone. Israel Antiquities Authority Collection, exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. (Image copyright: Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Thus, while the “Patio Tomb” Ossuary 6 artist may not be a seasoned professional artisan, he still may have attempted some advanced techniques.

This may be the case with the base of what I propose is an inscribed representation of a vessel on the front of Ossuary 6.

Image 15 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, showing the bottom of an inscribed image (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1). The roundish image at the bottom may be an attempt to represent the half-spherical base of a vessel by the artist. Surrounding the untouched photo (which has been rotated back to its in situ orientation) are (clockwise from top right): a blowup of the area under examination; an artificially inked outline of the engraved area depicting the edges of the object in red and the engraved marks representing the curved surface of the base in black); a Google Sketch-up digital model of the base of the vessel in approximate orientation; the bases of various vessels representing half-spherical bases.

Image 15 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, showing the bottom of an inscribed image (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1). The roundish image at the bottom may be an attempt to represent the half-spherical base of a vessel by the artist. Surrounding the untouched photo (which has been rotated back to its in situ orientation) are (clockwise from top right): a blowup of the area under examination; an artificially inked outline of the engraved area depicting the edges of the object in red and the engraved marks representing the curved and flat surfaces of the base in black); a Google Sketch-up digital model of the base of the vessel in approximate orientation; the bases of various vessels representing half-spherical bases.

Note that the roundish area at the base of the image under examination above is not actually round, but more of a sphere with a flattened bottom. Note also that the engraved lines used to fill in the area also appear to have a consistent pattern to them: those engraved lines toward the top of the sphere (above the artificially inked red outline of the inscribed image above) appear to all be curved down at their ends perhaps representing the curved surface of the top of a spherical base, while the engraved lines at the bottom of the image (the flattened part of the sphere below the red line in the image above) all appear to be straight or curve up at their ends, perhaps representing the flat, circular bottom of the base.

Thus, the roundish object at the bottom of the inscribed image on Ossuary 6 may be an early attempt to represent the half-spherical base of a vessel by the artist in perspective. This would be quite a fascinating discovery in its own right! The level of execution on the attempted representation of the base is consistent with level of artistic ability exhibited throughout the rest of the inscribed image.

I created a very quick Google Sketch-up digital model (blue background) of my proposed base of the vessel and placed it in its approximate orientation next to the image. I’ve also added representative images of bases similar to what I’m arguing the ossuary artist is attempting to represent.

Image 15 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, showing the bottom of an inscribed image (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1). The roundish image at the bottom may be an attempt to represent the half-spherical base of a vessel by the artist, perhaps in perspective. Surrounding the untouched photo (which has been rotated back to its in situ orientation) are (clockwise from top right): a Google Sketch-up digital model (green background) showing the possible base not in perspective in approximate orientation; a blowup of the area under examination with artificially added red ink outlining the border not in perspective; an artificially inked outline of the engraved area depicting the edges of the object in red and the engraved marks representing the curved and flat surfaces of the base in black) in perspective; a Google Sketch-up digital model (blue background) of the base of the vessel in perspective in approximate orientation; the bases of various vessels representing half-spherical bases.

Image 15 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, showing the bottom of an inscribed image (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1). The roundish image at the bottom may be an attempt to represent the half-spherical base of a vessel by the artist, perhaps in perspective. Surrounding the untouched photo (which has been rotated back to its in situ orientation) are (clockwise from top right): a Google Sketch-up digital model (green background) showing the possible base not in perspective in approximate orientation; a blowup of the area under examination with artificially added red ink outlining the border not in perspective; an artificially inked outline of the engraved area depicting the edges of the object in red and the engraved marks representing the curved and flat surfaces of the base in black) in perspective; a Google Sketch-up digital model (blue background) of the base of the vessel in perspective in approximate orientation; the bases of various vessels representing half-spherical bases.

UPDATE: I’ve also added a Google Sketch-up digital model (green background) of my proposed base of the vessel, which would show the base not in perspective, but rather simply as a flattened half-sphere.

Again, I stress that it is a possible alternative to the stick figure’s “seaweed-wrapped head” proposed by Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici, but I welcome feedback from my colleagues. I’d also welcome feedback from anyone who may know at other early attempts to represent perspective in art, especially on ossuaries from Jerusalem, as Ossuary 6 might be quite unique in this regard.

And thank you again to my colleague Dr. Tabor for making the new images available to me and to the public.


UPDATE: See Steve Caruso’s article on how correcting the base of the Ossuary 6 inscribed vessel for rotation and perspective causes the base to look even more like the half-spherical base a vessel.

Sins of Commission and Omission: Digitally Generated Marginal ‘Fishes’ and Overlooked Handles on the So-called ‘Jonah Ossuary’

“Men are often unjust by omissions, as well as by commissions.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.5.1


“For the record, I am not an archaeologist, nor am I an academic.”

– Simcha Jacobovici, “The Nails of the Cross: A Response to the
Criticisms of the Film,” jamestabor.com, June 22, 2011, p. 45.


Introduction

Marcus Aurelius suggested that there are two kinds of sins: those committed by commission, and those committed by omission.

And while the word “sin” connotes a religious wrongdoing and would therefore be inappropriate for an academic discussion of archaeology and the Digital Humanities, the underlying paradigm is unfortunately still quite apropos. Put simply: there are alterations that can be committed to evidence to enhance and promote certain otherwise unlikely interpretations of the data, and there are other instances where pieces of evidence are conveniently omitted when they detract from the interpretation being promoted by a particular scholar.

Unfortunately, recent examination of additional photos released to the public in support of Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. James Tabor’s alleged recent discovery of a “Jonah” ossuary suggests that the pair (and/or their artists) may be responsible for both additional manipulations of the evidence, and the omission of obvious evidence that does not support their claims.

I and others have detailed the various problems with the imagery released to the public by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor in support of their recently released book, The Jesus Discovery. Specifically, I have documented evidence of digital image manipulation on the primary image fed to the public (that also happens to serve as the pair’s website header logo) that has been variously described as a simple “blow up,” (Fig. 21, pg. 42 of Dr. Tabor’s original Bible and Interpretation article) then a “composite representation” (Fig. 26, pg. 86 of The Jesus Discovery), and then a “CGI enhanced” image, and finally acknowledged as a “computer enhanced” image on the pair’s website.

I suggest a more appropriate way to refer to this particular image is as a heavily Photoshopped, out of context, borderless, “computer enhanced”, resized, reshaped, color corrected, “CGI” digital artist’s rendering of the image, rotated out of its in situ orientation, complete with fake, limestone-colored “engraver’s marks” added to the area surrounding the image to give the illusion that the image is real, and with a completely reshaped, digitally generated tail designed to encourage its interpretation as a fish. We can let the readers decide if that image is simply “computer enhanced” or, as I suggest, wholly reconstructed.

I thought it ended there.

Unfortunately, my colleague Thomas Verenna recently drew my attention to yet another problem with yet another one of the images that Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor have offered to the public in support of their claim. This time, in addition to using Photoshop to “digitally enhance” an image to make it better support their claim, there is also reason to believe that the pair has omitted evidence that demonstrates that their proposed “Jonah fish” is nothing more than a poorly inscribed attempt by an ancient artist at an ornate vessel – complete with handles – that are otherwise common to ossuaries of that period.

Let us begin with problems arising with the commission of digital manipulation.


Problems of Commission

There are two major problems with the image below (from thejesusdiscovery.org, Image 16, captioned “Fish in the margins”): one of omission and one of commission.

[UPDATE: Since I published this article on Mar 13, 2012 at 11:49am Central Daylight Time, the thejesusdiscovery.org website has removed the doctored image below. To fix the missing image in this article resulting from its deletion, I have replaced it here with the copy of the image I downloaded from the publicly accessible “Press Kit Photos and Graphics” section. However, I have left the original URL of the removed image in the caption for reference. ]

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins".

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins". Note the spotlighted areas have had artificial ink added to the engraved lines to enhance their interpretation as fishes. (available from: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1)

Let us first address the evidence of commission, specifically, evidence of digital manipulation to the above image to encourage an interpretation of images as fish.

The photo below is the “Fish in the margins” image, which has been cropped to remove the heading, and which has had the “brightness” increased a level of 52 and the “contrast” increased a level of 92. Increasing the brightness and contrast makes dark images easier to see, and increasing the contrast makes different elements on the image stand out against one another.

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16) Note Ossuary 5 on the right is pressed up against the so-called "Jonah Ossuary" (Ossuary 6).

The first thing one notices in the above image put forth by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor is that the image has obviously been digitally “spotlighted,” or enhanced in such a way so as to brighten and draw attention to certain objects in the image.

While the addition of a Photoshop “spotlight” filter is technically a digital alteration to the otherwise untouched digital photograph, if the image experienced only digital highlighting, which is easily recognized as an artificial enhancement to the image for the purposes of focusing attention upon certain areas without otherwise making changes to the integrity of the digital data preserved in the image, this “spotlighting” does not really rise to the level of “data manipulation.”

Unfortunately, this simple “spotlighting” is not the only manipulation made to the image, and the additional alterations that have been made to the photograph appear designed to create the illusion that there are “fish swimming” in the margins of the photo (hence the image’s title, “Fish in the margins”), with the hopes of thereby enhancing the authors’ claim that the image just beneath the “spotlighted” border is a fish and not a vessel of some sort.

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. Time image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital 'ink' added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. The image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital "ink" added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

The causal observer may miss the more cleverly disguised alterations to this image. However, a closer examination of the above image reveals that the “Fish in the margins” image has been digitally “inked” using a Photoshop “pencil” or “brush” tool. That is, a careful look at the three proposed “fishes” betrays the fact that each of the engraved circles spotlighted above has had small digital pixels of color added to the grooves of the image to “enhance” the natural lines apparent in the photograph. This digital “ink” is not easily noticed because the color of the line has been carefully chosen to resemble closely the color of the surrounding engraved lines, perhaps in an effort to make the artificial “ink” added to the engraved lines look more natural. This digital “ink” was applied rather well in my opinion by the digital artist altering the image, as I did not notice it at first glance. Then again, there was no reason to suspect that the image had been doctored, as there is no indication whatsoever on the image or in its caption stating that the image has been digitally “enhanced,” “altered,” “inked,” or manipulated in any way other than the obvious spotlighting. Rather, it was only after a close-up examination of the high-resolution image that I noticed the naturally colored, but quite artificial digital “ink” in the engraved area.

Had that been the extent of the image manipulation, one might be able to dismiss it as simple “enhancement” for highlighting purposes. Unfortunately, there is a still greater problem with the digital “inking” alteration: the digital ink does not align with the engraved lines. That is, the artificial digital “ink” added to the photograph extends well beyond the engraved lines. This may have been done to foster the illusion of the presence of fishes (akin to the so-called “Jesus fish” one finds on the back of a vehicle) in the border, thereby encouraging, by similarity and multiplicity of the images, the interpretation of the larger image just below as also a fish.

Unfortunately, one quickly notices from a different photo, entitled “Fish in the margins detail,” offered to the public by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor that the actual engraved lines comprising this so-called “fish” in fact do not overlap.

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally 'inked' the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally "inked" the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

The image above (which has also experienced an artificial Photoshop “spotlight” filter) does not possess the digital “ink” present in the “Fish in the margins” image.

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally 'inked' the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

"Fish in the margins detail" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. This image (nearest to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary #6), is the same image as above, except the authors have NOT digitally "inked" the image. Note that the engraved lines do NOT overlap to form a fish shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=17)

A closer examination of this “Fish in the margins detail” image (above) reveals that the engraved lines of the supposed “fish” closest to Ossuary 5, in fact, do not overlap, and therefore do not form a little “Jesus fish” shape.

If we place these two images side-by-side, we can see the alterations that have been made to the “Fish in the margins” image.

The "Fish in the margins detail" image (left) and the "Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website demonstrate that the digital enhancements to the "Fish in the margins" image include artificial digitally "inked" lines colored to look like naturally engraved limestone lines that do not correspond to the engraved lines on the ossuary. The digital "ink" extends well beyond the engraved lines of the actual image, which do NOT overlap. This means that the image was digitally altered to generate the illusion of small "fishes swimming" around the edges of the ossuary, perhaps to support the illusion that the image just beneath them is a "fish" and not some sort of vessel.

The "Fish in the margins detail" image (left) and the "Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website demonstrate that the digital enhancements to the "Fish in the margins" image include artificial digitally "inked" lines colored to look like naturally engraved limestone lines that do not correspond to the engraved lines on the ossuary. The digital "ink" extends well beyond the engraved lines of the actual image, which do NOT overlap. This means that the image was digitally altered to generate the illusion of small "fishes swimming" around the edges of the ossuary, perhaps to support the illusion that the image just beneath them is a "fish" and not some sort of vessel.

The “Fish in the margins detail” image (on the left) clearly demonstrates that the engraved lines do not overlap. The engraved line forms an incomplete oval, with its opening on the lower left side. However, the digital “ink” in the “Fish in the margins” photo is drawn (quite remarkably!) in such a way so as to suggest that the engraved lines actually do overlap, forming a “Jesus fish” image. Let us look again closely at the digitally “inked” “Fish in the margins” image:

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. Time image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital 'ink' added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo from thejesusdiscovery.org website with spotlight Photoshop filter added by authors. Time image spotlighted is the nearest image to Ossuary 5, which abuts the "Jonah fish" ossuary (Ossuary 6). Note the digital "ink" added by the authors suggests that the engraved strokes on the image overlap, forming a "Jesus fish" shape. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

One can clearly see that the image has been drawn to suggest a “Jesus fish” image where there clearly is none. The “Fish in the margins” image contains artificially added, digitally “inked” lines colored to resemble naturally engraved limestone lines, which do not correspond to the engraved lines on the ossuary. The digital “ink” extends well beyond the engraved lines of the actual image, which do NOT overlap. This means that the image was digitally altered to generate the illusion of small “fishes swimming” around the edges of the ossuary, perhaps to support the illusion that the image just beneath them is a “fish” and not some sort of vessel.

The evidence of commission presented above is indisputable. An unacknowledged digital alteration was clearly made to the “Fish in the margins” image to create the illusion that there are fishes swimming around the edges of the ossuary. And again, this digital manipulation is nowhere acknowledged in the image or its caption. This is textbook digital manipulation of a image for the purposes of supporting a particular claim.


Problems of Omission

Let us now examine possible evidence of omission of data.

Verenna suggested that the “Fish in the margins” Image (Image 16) depicts a visible “handle” on the left top side of the inscribed image that Jacobovici and Tabor label a “fish’s tail.”

Furthermore my colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre, along with comments by Don Griffith on the ASOR blog, have also noted that another image on the same ossuary, which I call a “half fish,” and which Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor interpret as a “Big Fish tail,” may also have handles and may also be an attempt at an inscribed vessel of some sort.

The half fish image, captioned as "Big Fish tail, back of "Jonah" Ossuary, 1981", is available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=46&wppa-occur=1. The image shows what appears to be the top of some sort of vase or other vessel, but Jacobovici and Tabor interpret it is the tail end of a fish. One will note a loop (possibly a handle) on the upper left corner of the image, and also note curved handles stretching down from the top to the body of the vase on each side.

The "half fish" image, captioned as "Big Fish tail, back of "Jonah" Ossuary, 1981" (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=46&wppa-occur=1). The image shows what appears to be the top of some sort of vase or other vessel photographed during Kloner's investigation in 1981, but Jacobovici and Tabor interpret it as the tail end of a "Big Fish." One will note a loop (possibly a handle) on the upper left corner of the image, and also note curved handles stretching down from the top to the body of the vase on each side.

Image 47, captioned "Jonah Ossuary, 1981", (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=47&wppa-occur=1) shows the end of the so-called "Jonah Ossuary" and what Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a 'half fish' diving downward. However, the image appears to have faint handles on both sides.

Image 47, captioned "Jonah Ossuary, 1981", photographed during Kloner's investigation in 1981 (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=47&wppa-occur=1) shows the end of the so-called "Jonah Ossuary" and what Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a "Big Fish" diving downward. However, the image appears to reveal faint handles on both sides.

In the image below, I have duplicated the “half fish” image and placed it immediately beneath the original photograph taken during Kloner’s investigation in 1981, along with my highlights. A closer examination of this image below demonstrates that the “half fish” image does indeed appear to have handles on each side, beginning with a loop sticking up above the top of the vessel (clearly visible on the left), and extending down to the body of the vessel, prompting Dr. Goodacre’s question: “When is a fish not a fish? When it has handles.”

The 'half fish" image (Image 46) from the thejesusdiscovery.org website (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=46). Note the clear presence of curved handles on both sides of the engraving, connecting the top of the image to the body. There is an engraved line in the shape of an oval loop on the upper-left and perhaps the upper-right corner of the engraved image. The handle on the right is fairly obvious, there appear to be two possibilities for lines comprising the handle on the left side: one closer to the body (congruent with the handle on the right) and one farther from the body, which appears to connect with the looped engraving on the upper-left corner of the image.

The 'half fish" image (Image 46) from the thejesusdiscovery.org website (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=46). Note the clear presence of curved handles on both sides of the engraving, connecting the top of the image to the body. There is an engraved line in the shape of an oval loop on the upper-left and perhaps the upper-right corner of the engraved image. The handle on the right is fairly obvious, there appear to be two possibilities for lines comprising the handle on the left side: one closer to the body (congruent with the handle on the right) and one farther from the body, which appears to connect with the looped engraving on the upper-left corner of the image.

The “half fish” image (Image 46) from the thejesusdiscovery.org website reveals the clear presence of curved handles on both sides of the engraving connecting the top of the image to the body. Note the engraved line in the shape of an oval loop (spotlighted above) in the upper-left corner and the upper-right corner of the engraved vessel. And while the handle on the right is fairly obvious, there appear to be two possibilities for lines comprising the faint handle on the left side. One is closer to the body and would be congruent with the handle on the opposite side. The other possibility is a handle that arches farther from the body and appears to connect with the looped engraving on the upper-left corner of the image.

Image 47, captioned: "Jonah Ossuary, 1981" (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=47). Image 47 clearly shows a handle on each side of the vessel, along with an oval loop on the upper-left corner of the image. There is a question whether the left handle makes an angle (black arrows) and arches back to the top of the vessel, or makes a wider arch back to the top.

Image 47, captioned: "Jonah Ossuary, 1981" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=47). Image 47 clearly shows a handle on each side of the vessel, along with an oval loop on the upper-left corner of the image. There is a question whether the left handle makes an angle (black arrows) and arches back to the top of the vessel, or takes a wider curve back to the top.

Note in the above Image 47 taken in 1981, the image clearly shows handles on each side of the vessel. The oval loop (spotlighted above) on the upper-left corner of the image is also clearly visible. There is a question whether the left handle makes a right angle (black arrows) and returns back to the top of the vessel, or makes a wider curve back to the top.

However one interprets the above images, it is quite clear from these untouched, original photographs that this image is not a fish, but an attempt to represent a vessel of some sort, complete with handles, attaching at oval loops in the the upper-left and upper-right corners of the vessel.

Or, to put it another way: fish don’t have handles!

But the oval loop on the upper-left corner of the engraved “half fish” image is worthy of particular note because a similar oval loop appears on the upper edges of the so-called “Jonah fish” image on the Jonah ossuary. That is, there appear to be a similar oval loop handles on the so-called “Jonah fish” image central to Jacobovici and Tabor’s theory, which have been omitted from much of the discussion concerning the image. And while several scholars have come forward now suggesting the image in question is in fact some sort or another of inscribed vessel, be it an amphora as suggested by Italian scholar Antonio Lombatti, a krater as recently suggested by Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Andrew McGowan, or an unguentarium, as suggested by Kings College London Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Dr. Joan E. Taylor, all agree the the image in question is not a fish.

To demonstrate the evidence of an omitted handle on the “Jonah fish” image, let’s begin with Tom Verenna’s highlighted image:

Possible handles present on the "Fish in the margins" photo (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16), as drawn by Tom Verenna, Mar. 10, 2012. The red lines suggest possible handles on the top of an image that Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a "fish's tail fin".

Possible handles present on the "Fish in the margins" photo (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16), as outlined by Tom Verenna, Mar. 10, 2012. The red lines suggest possible handles on the top of an image that Jacobovici and Tabor interpret as a "fish's tail fin".

Unfortunately, the red line used by Verenna to highlight the handles obscures the actual engraved lines. Additionally, the long vertical line descending from the top of the vessel appears to be the border surrounding the image. Therefore, I have attempted to highlight the handle using other techniques.

In an effort to demonstrate that I am not adding or subtracting digital data to or from Jacobovici and Tabor’s images, I shall demonstrate the omission in a step-by-step process.

First, below is the “Fish in the margins” image available on the thejesusdiscovery.org website:

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins".

Image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned as "Fish in the margins". Note the spotlighted areas have had artificial digital "ink" added to the engraved lines to enhance their interpretation as fishes. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) Note also the oval loop on the left side of the so-called "tail fin".

We have already discussed the three spotlighted images in the above image, which I have demonstrated were clearly digitally “inked” to appear like fish, when they clearly were not, as the engraved lines do not overlap.

But notice also the now infamous “Jonah fish” image just beneath the highlighted and digitally “inked” images. Specifically, notice the oval shaped loop on the top left corner of what Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor call the “tail fin.”

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Image available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

"Fish in the margins" photo with brightness and contrast raised. (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16)

In the photo above, I have adjusted the “brightness” of the image by an increase of 52, and increased the “contrast” to a level of 92. As mentioned above, brightening and increasing contrast are common techniques designed to make engraved lines on objects more easily visible. Note that on the image below, I have spotlighted the oval looped structure on the upper-left corner of the large engraved image. Note that the oval loop is in precisely the same location as the oval loop in the above photos of the “Jonah Ossuary” taken in 1981.

"Fish in the margins" photo (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16) with brightness and contrast raised for clarity and with the handle spotlighted. (Note: the Photoshop spotlight filers on the three so-called "fishes" along with the digitally added artificial "ink" were added by the authors or their artists.)

"Fish in the margins" photo (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=16) with brightness and contrast raised for clarity and with the oval looped handle spotlighted. (Note: the Photoshop spotlight filers on the three so-called "fishes" along with the digitally added artificial "ink" were added by the authors or their artists.)

In the example below, I have taken the same image, but this time added red arrows to show how the engraved oval loop proceeds up from the upper-left corner of the vessel, curves into the border (it is unknown whether the loop was engraved before or after the border), and then proceeds down along beneath the rim of the vessel. The descending etched line then curves back toward the body of the vessel. Note that the engraved lines comprising the handle are as clearly visible as other similar lines of the same angle in the same light that comprise the so-called “fish’s tail.”

The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

In the side-by side comparison below, the shape of the handle becomes clear.

A side-by-side comparison of the handle in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

A side-by-side comparison of the handle in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1) with the handle outlined by a series of red arrows. The handle at the top left of the vessel is clearly visible.

Thankfully, my friend and colleague, Dr. James Tabor, has graciously sent to me additional untouched, uncropped photos of the inscribed image Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor interpret as a “Jonah fish,” and has and given permission to reproduce these photos here in this article. In the images below, one can clearly see the oval loop handle at the top of the vessel.

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

A closer look at the above image in over-under and side-be-side comparison allows us to highlight the handles.

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the similar handle at the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image shows a definite oval loop handle, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the handle on the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image (Jacobovici and Tabor's "Jonah Fish") shows a definite oval loop handle, of a similar shape and in the same place as on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the similar handle at the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

The top-left corner of the inscribed image (Jacobovici and Tabor's "Jonah Fish") shows a definite oval loop handle, of a similar shape and in the same place as on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. This image also displays the handle at the body of the vessel. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Additional photos from Dr. Tabor demonstrate the power of the robotic camera to peer behind Ossuary 5, which abuts the “Jonah Fish” Ossuary 6. These photos are perhaps the most telling of all as they reveal that there actually are handles on both sides of the top of the vessel.

This image, which peers behind Ossuary 5 abutting Ossuary 6, reveals that there are oval loop handles on both sides of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

This image, which peers behind Ossuary 5 abutting Ossuary 6, reveals that there are oval loop handles on both sides of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

If we examine the portion of the image behind Ossuary 5, a view made possible by the robotic camera, we quickly note that there is a corresponding handle on the top right of the vessel as well. We also note that the top of the vessel is, in fact, straight, and not bent like the “CGI composite image” that has been circulated to the press.

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. Note also that the top of the vessel is straight, not bent. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel, just like on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. Note also that the top of the vessel is straight, not bent. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Again, a close up of the above photo demonstrates that the top corner of each side of the engraved image has a handle.

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel (matching the left), similar to the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel (matching the left), similar to the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there is also an oval loop handle on the right side of the top of the inscribed vessel similar to the left, and also similar to the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Looking behind Ossuary 5 reveals that there are oval looped handles on both sides of the top of the inscribed vessel, similar to the handles on the "half fish" image on a different panel of the same ossuary. (With thanks to Dr. James Tabor for this image.)

Thus, we now have evidence of engraved oval loop images of similar shape and size located on both sides of the top of both the so-called “Jonah fish tail” and the so-called “half fish” image from the same ossuary! And yet, for some reason, these engraved oval loops on the upper-left corners of the engraved image are not represented in the “CGI” “computer enhanced” “composite representation” image that has been fed to the press. In fact, it appears to have been omitted:

Image 13 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb." Note the handle visible in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 is not reproduced in this image, and is cropped where the handle would be.

Image 13 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1). Note the handle visible in the "Fish in the margins" Image 16 is not reproduced in this image, and is cropped where the handle would be.

It is also noteworthy that prior to Dr. Tabor’s sending me additional photos from their remote penetration of the tomb, all of the other photos (with the exception of the “Fish in the margins” image) crop the handles from this particular corner of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s “fish tail.” Or, to use filmmaker lingo, the proposed handle is conveniently “just out of frame.”

For instance, note that on Image 14 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website, captioned “Original Jonah Image – no cgi,” the oval loop is cropped from the image:

Image 14 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned: "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" (available from: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1). Note that the image is cropped precisely where the handle should be.

Image 14 from the thejesusdiscovery.org website captioned: "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1). Note that the image is cropped precisely where the handle should be.

In fact, if we examine all of the other images that had been released to the public, we notice that with the exception of the “Fish in the margins” photo (which was released to highlight so-called little “fishes swimming” in the border, which were shown above to be altered images that were digitally “inked” and made to look like fish artificially), all of the other photos crop the oval loop handle from the image. In fact, the new batch of photos released on the thejesusdiscovery.org website on Mar. 11, 2012 contains one additional photo of the tail (Jonah Image Photo 4), but it too is cropped precisely where the oval loop handle should be! That is, the engraved oval loop that I propose is a handle is coincidentally omitted from each of the images, including the “CGI” “computer enhanced” “composite representation.”

Clockwise from top left: The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1); the "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" Image 14 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1); "Jonah Image Photo 4" displays the intersection of Ossuary 6 (left) and 5 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=49&wppa-occur=1); the "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb" Image 13 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1); Fig. 20 on p. 41 of original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012, rotated CW for vertical alignment. Note that only in the "Fish in the margins" image is the handle visible. It is cropped or otherwise not represented from each of the other images.

Clockwise from top left: The "Fish in the margins" Image 16 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=16&wppa-occur=1); the "Original Jonah Image - no cgi" Image 14 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=14&wppa-occur=1); "Jonah Image Photo 4" displays the intersection of Ossuary 6 (left) and 5 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=49&wppa-occur=1); the "Computer Enhanced Jonah image found in Tomb" Image 13 (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=13&wppa-occur=1); Fig. 20 on p. 41 of original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012, rotated CW for vertical alignment. Note that only in the "Fish in the margins" image is the handle visible. It is cropped or otherwise not represented from each of the other images.

But what is even more odd is the fact that the oval loop and the line proceeding from the loop down beneath the lip of the vessel are, in fact, represented by the digital artist who sketched the so-called “Jonah Ossuary,” as well as by the artists that created the museum quality replica of the ossuary for Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s New York City press conference.

Note closely on the sketch of the “Jonah side” image, the artist appears to attempt to represent the engraved loop present on the ossuary. Likewise, if one looks closely, one will note that the artists who created the “museum quality replica” for Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor also appear to have attempted to represent the handle (or at least the inscribed line) just beneath the upper-left corner of the image inscribed on the ossuary.

Sketch of "Jonah Ossuary" (top; available: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/44.png) and "Museum Quality Replica" (available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/IMG_7422.jpg). A close look at each of these reproductions reveals that the artists actually attempted to represent the visual evidence of the handle. The sketch represents the top loop, and the replica represents the etched line beneath the top left of the image.

Sketch of "Jonah Ossuary" (top; Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/44.png) and "Museum Quality Replica" (Available at: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/IMG_7422.jpg). A close look at each of these reproductions reveals that the artists actually attempted to represent the visual evidence of the oval loop in the upper-left corner of the inscribed image. The sketch represents the top loop, and the replica represents the etched line beneath the top left of the image. However, this feature was omitted from the "CGI composite representation" of the image.

Thus, despite the fact that the engraved lines comprising the oval loop handle are as clearly visible at the same angle and in the same light as other engraved lines comprising so-called “fish’s tail,” and despite the fact that the same engraved oval loop and handles are also clearly visible on the so-called “half fish” on a different panel of the same ossuary, for some reason, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor chose to omit this evidence from their representations, and chose not to represent the evidence in the heavily Photoshopped “CGI” “computer enhanced” “composite image” they have been offering to the press.


Conclusion

Unfortunately, if we take into account the visual evidence that has been omitted, and we acknowledge the digital manipulations that have been committed to the images, we are left with the following conclusions:

1) The “fish swimming in the margins” are the result of digital “inking” and are not fish after all, but simple unclosed, oval shapes used as decorations in the border.
2) The “half fish” on the side panel of the ossuary has clearly visible handles, and is therefore not a fish, but actually some kind of representation of a vessel.
3) The “Jonah fish,” which possesses oval loop handles similar to the “half fish” inscribed vessel (but which were not represented by the authors), is therefore not a fish, but actually an attempt at a representation of some other kind of vessel.

Because, once again, fish don’t have handles.

Thus the entire theory appears to be one big digitally manipulated fish tale (and not a fish’s tail).


Why Pointing Out Evidence of Digital Image Manipulation is Important

Some may ask, “Why bother?” Scholars have certainly asked, “Why waste your time debunking sensational claims that deliberately bypass the academy and peer-review to make a few bucks on TV and a book?” At the other end of the spectrum, supporters of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor will no doubt say, “Why are you so jealous that you didn’t find Atlantis, the route of the Exodus, the nails of Jesus’ cross, the tomb of Jesus’ family, and now the earliest evidence of Christianity represented by a fish (with handles)? Why pick on Simcha and Dr. Tabor?”

These are both legitimate questions. Let me reassure you I am not picking on anyone. Rather, as a scholar in the relatively young field of the Digital Humanities, it is important, nay essential to distinguish between the use of new technology for sensationalism and quick TV profits, and the appropriate use of that technology in humanities research.

Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor’s entire project is based upon a new technological methodology and approach to archaeology. In that regard, they are doing the very thing that I did in my dissertation research – propose a new theory using a new technological methodology. And even if their theory were an absolutely solid, undisputed theory, complete with papers given at professional conferences and articles in refereed journal articles resulting in scholarly consensus, if the technology and digital imaging used to support that theory is not credible, or worse yet, shows obvious evidence of digital manipulation to favor the theory, it undermines not only their entire project, but the credibility of the Digital Humanities as a whole.

As a Religious Studies scholar in the Digital Humanities, my job is to promote and defend the use of technology to solve research problems (in this case, an archaeological one). There are already enough senior scholars who are skeptical of the use of any new technology that does not reinforce the conclusions they reached without technology. One of my jobs is to convince scholars that the process of digital reconstruction is a transparent, trustworthy, academically accepted methodology.

I don’t care if an argument pertains to Jesus, Jonah, or the Colosseum – my job is to promote and defend the use of technology in Humanities research. And when researchers do not follow standard practices of transparency, it hurts my own credibility as a Digital Humanities scholar as well. I’m trying to argue to the academy that the Digital Humanities are a good and beneficial thing, while others are peddling a sensational theory about fish on ossuaries and uploading multiple, unacknowledged, digitally “inked,” heavily Photoshopped images in support of their theory.

It hurts everyone, especially potential corporate partners like GE, who are quite proud of their new technology and of their potential applications. They report in their online company magazine:

Ultra sharp images were required to make the inscriptions on the ossuaries legible to viewers, so engineers from the Inspection Technologies business of GE Measurement & Control custom designed a high definition camera for the crew.

GE is attempting to demonstrate a wonderful new technology that could truly transform archaeology and could be an effective research tool in the Digital Humanities. Unfortunately, it’s first use in the archaeological field is by a filmmaker attempting to turn an inscribed vessel into a fish, which GE reports as “Move Over Indiana Jones.”

When this so-called “fish” gets debunked, and it will, how will GE feel about having its pilot use of a robotic camera scuttled by the academy, who refuted the claims of a documentary featuring its technology before it even aired? One can only hope that companies like GE will continue to support efforts in the Digital Humanities by credible scholars in the academy who will use the technology for real archaeology, and not for sensational television.

And just think: when Mr. Jacobovici’s pseudo-documentary The Resurrection Tomb airs on Discovery this spring, we’ll get to do this all over again.


Handles: Fish don't have them

Photoshop: When reality won't cooperate

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