The Latest on the So-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and the Benefits of Scholars Blogging

So-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Appears to be a forgery, in which the forger accidentally copied a typo from an online PDF translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

Jeremy Hsu at FoxNews has published an article entitled, “Did Jesus have a wife? Scholar calls parchment ‘forgery’“, that highlights the benefit of university professors, trained graduate students, and professional scholars using online resources like blogs and Facebook to share their research and findings regarding archaeological claims to craft together viable theories based in evidence.

This account was impressive:

The smoking gun
All the grammatical anomalies in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife suggest the writer was not a native speaker or even an academic expert in Coptic — the ancient, dead language of early Christians living in Egypt. Instead, Bernhard says that the pattern of errors and suspiciously similar line breaks suggests an amateur might have forged the “patchwork” text using individual words and phrases taken from Michael Grondin’s Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. [Most European Languages Unlikely to Survive Online]

“There’s this general pattern in that everywhere the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could diverge from gospel of Thomas, it doesn’t, and in places where it does [diverge], it appears it’s following Mike’s Interlinear,” Bernhard told TechNewsDaily.

One the most suspicious grammatical errors in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife appeared to be a direct copy of a typo in the PDF file version of the Interlinear translation — a connection that Grondin himself made when he was examining his translation. He shared that knowledge with Mark Goodacre, an associate professor of New Testament at Duke University, who had been writing up a blog post independently about the possibility of the “Jesus’ Wife fragment” being a forgery.

Goodacre and Bernhard eventually got in touch and agreed to coordinate the online publishing of their respective blog post and paper. Goodacre credits Bernhard with first making the connection between the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and the online version of the Gospel of Thomas.

“I would have already put money on this thing being problematic, given the links between the fragment and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas,” Goodacre explained. “But the link with the online Interlinear version of the Gospel of Thomas really makes, for me, the case of authenticity a very difficult one.”

It is amazing how the internet is evolving with scholarship, and how scholars are beginning to harness the power of social media to share preliminary research. Of course, these results must still be subject to academic peer review, but because social media allows many more scholars to provide initial feedback (either making additional contributions by highlighting potentially overlooked evidence, or by encouraging the discard of poorer arguments through scholarly criticism and refutation), the arguments are usually much stronger by the time they reach the publisher’s desk. This is a good thing.

Check out the article. And read the summaries of the scholarly consensus, which appear to be leaning toward declaring the unprovenanced document, acquried from an anonymous antiquities dealer, as some sort of forgery. Of course there are some amateurs and pseudoscientists and pretend scholars who, for reasons of their own financial gain, attention, or conspiracy mongering, really really want this to be authentic. But those scholars who use scholarship to share evidence and debate claims and craft together a working theory based in fact are trending toward forgery.

And kudos to my colleague, Mark Goodacre!!

More:
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/jesus-wife-fragment-further-evidence-of.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/divorcing-mrs-jesus-leo-depuydts-report.html
http://www.ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-gospel-of-jesus-wife-latest.html
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/10/jesus-wife-an-egyptologists-perspective.html

Next Stop: The “Sign of Jonah” Corporate Logo

The "Sign of Jonah Corporate Logo" (based upon the image publicly available here: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/11/name-of-jonah-encrypted-on-the-jonah-and-the-fish-image/) is one possible design for the hypothetical argument that a graffito artist INTENTIONALLY attempted to incorporate a typographically hidden name of "Yonah" vertically and without a standardized linear guideline into the arms and legs of an upside-down anthropomorphic seaweed wrapped stick man image with the DELIBERATE purpose creating a symbol that represented early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection.

The "'Sign of Jonah' corporate logo" (satirically based upon the image publicly available here: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/11/name-of-jonah-encrypted-on-the-jonah-and-the-fish-image/) is one possible design for the hypothetical argument that a graffito artist INTENTIONALLY attempted to incorporate a typographically hidden name of "Yonah" vertically and without a standardized linear guideline into the arms and legs of an upside-down anthropomorphic seaweed-wrapped stick man image with the DELIBERATE purpose creating a symbol that represented early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection.

I’d like to make a prediction: the next argument we’re going to hear from Dr. James Tabor is what I’m referring to as the “Sign of Jonah” corporate logo theory.

Simply put, the theory will sound something like this:

A graffito artist intentionally attempted to incorporate a typographically hidden name of “Yonah” (vertically and without a standardized linear topline) into the arms and legs of an upside-down anthropomorphic seaweed-wrapped stick man image with the deliberate purpose creating a symbol that represented early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

That’s my prediction. Here’s my rationale:

In the beginning, Dr. Tabor saw a “stick man Jonah” with a “seaweed-wrapped head” coming down and out of the closed mouth of “Jonah’s great fish.” (Other scholars have called this a depiction of a vessel of some sort (complete with handles), complete with a base and decorative motifs. Other scholars have suggested the image is the representation of a nephesh.)

Dr. Tabor and his partner, filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, went to press with a book (The Jesus Discovery) and broadcast a documentary (The Resurrection Tomb Mystery) making this claim.

However, a few days before the airing of the The Resurrection Tomb Mystery documentary (and six weeks after withering critiques of their The Jesus Discovery book, much of which focused upon their iconographic interpretations including the claim of a “seaweed-wrapped head of a stick figure Jonah“), attention turned to a new discovery credited by Dr. Tabor to Dr. James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary, who purportedly noticed an inscription made up of the letters yod (“Y”), waw (“O”), nun (“N”), and heh (“H”), spelling יונה (“YONH,” or “Jonah”). (I critiqued this claim earlier.)

The problem was that this discovery came long after the publication of the book, and after the final cut of Mr. Jacobovici’s documentary had been sent to Discovery Channel for broadcast. However, Dr. Tabor quickly came to favor Dr. Charlesworth’s observation, perhaps assuming that it was more likely to be adopted by others as a credible possibility. However, because Dr. Tabor had already published the “seaweed-wrapped head of a stick figure Jonah” argument and wasn’t ready to jettison it in favor of Dr. Charlesworth’s “Jonah Inscription” theory, he needs a plan to integrate them together into a single Jonah Fish Grand Unifying Theory (AKA Jonah Fish GUT).

Thus, I predict, Dr. Tabor will attempt to incorporate both theories, blending Dr. Charlesworth’s “Jonah Inscription” theory into his existing “seaweed-wrapped head of a stick figure Jonah” argument. Dr. Tabor has already argued in response to Dr. Mark Goodacre’s critique of some migrating arms and legs, arguing that although he now assigns different lines to the stick figure’s arms and legs, this is not incompatible with his original “stick man Jonah” theory. I argue that this tactic would be better named the “Mr. Potato Head Jonah,” and one can rearrange arms and legs as needed to fit whatever theory is being argued this week.

Mr. Potato Head Jonah. Simply rearrange arms and legs as needed to fit whatever theory is being argued this week.

Mr. Potato Head Jonah. Simply rearrange arms and legs as needed to fit whatever theory is being argued this week.

I am also guessing that Dr. Tabor will, no doubt, attempt to call it, “yet one more piece of evidence all pointing to their original conclusion…”

So, because Dr. Tabor can’t claim that he saw the purported “Jonah inscription” or knew about it beforehand, they’ll attempt to accept the new “Jonah inscription” theory while retaining the original “stick man Jonah” theory using the same technique that apologists have used for years: harmonization. In fact, Dr. Tabor has already hinted at this tactic in an earlier blog post.

I believe the next logical step for the Jesus Discovery/Resurrection Tomb Mystery folks will be to claim that the ancient graffito artist deliberately intended to craft together an anthropomorphic / typographic logo or symbol of letters that incorporates both theories: a stick-man anthropomorphic image made of poorly executed, misaligned letters spelling out the name of Jonah.

I believe this is where they’re headed, and Dr. Charlesworth himself may argue this harmonization in his forthcoming article.

Of course, this will leave us with a few questions:

1) Why would the graffito artist choose to hide a poorly executed and misaligned name in the base of the image, when he took the time to create a rather well planned horizontal area in the center of the image where he could inscribe letters? (Note: The artist chose to fill this area with additional geometric design motifs.)

Why would the artist hide a name at the bottom of the image using very poorly executed and misaligned letters when he demonstrates he is perfectly capable of inscribing a linear area in the middle of the image far better suited for an inscription?

Why would the artist hide a name at the bottom of the image using very poorly executed and misaligned letters when he demonstrates he is perfectly capable of inscribing a linear area in the middle of the image far better suited for an inscription?

2) If we are going to engage in Rorschach Test archaeology and try to make decorative lines into a name with little care for letter shape, rotation, and linear guidelines, then why can’t we find other lines that spell other names like “Yo Yo Ma“? (In fact, I’m almost tempted to start a contest where viewers can send in their best “THE JONAH CODE” hidden inscriptions…)

Inscribed name of Yo Yo Ma "discovered" in so-called "Jonah Ossuary." This is obviously a prophetic motif symbolizing the spread of Christianity as Yo Yo Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents before moving to the United States.

Inscribed name of Yo Yo Ma "discovered" in so-called "Jonah Ossuary." This is obviously a prophetic motif symbolizing the multicultural spread of Christianity as Yo Yo Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents before moving to the United States.

Thus, much like the typographic/anthropomorphic elements used in making the famed letters of YMCA, I predict this argument will gravitate toward a Y-O-N-A explanation – where arms and legs form the shape of letters – and linger there for a little while longer.

YMCA of the Rockies statue

YMCA of the Rockies statue

when is a nun not a nun?

My friend and colleague Dr. Mark Goodacre made a keen observation last evening that is worthy of repeating. It relates to recent claims made by Dr. James Tabor that Dr. James Charlesworth has found the letters of the name of Jonah in the image inscribed on the front of Ossuary 6 from the so-called “Patio Tomb” from Talpiot, Jerusalem. The specific issue has to do with the fact that Dr. Tabor wants to interpret a pair of lines on the image as a single line, so that he can interpret them as the Hebrew letter nun, and thereby produce a necessary element of the name of Jonah. The problem (as Dr. Goodacre has pointed out) is that the supposed letter nun is drawn as two separate lines in their own reproduced images!

Indeed, one can test for the clarity of the lines here by returning to the CGI composite image of what is depicted on ossuary 6.  This image aims to represent what the authors of the project used to regard as clear and self-evident and yet it is quite clear that before this new “Jonah” reading had been proposed, they too saw a break in the line that is now held to be a nun.  In other words, before the “Jonah” inscription interpretation, they too could not see the continuous line of a letter “nun”.

That is, Jacobovici and Tabor’s own Photoshopped composite CGI image clearly treats the lines of the desired nun as two separate lines! I’ve dealt with this before, but see below how Dr. Goodacre has refuted Dr. Tabor’s claim with Dr. Tabor’s own published rendering of the image!

Lines from the CGI composite image from Ossuary 6 are depicted as TWO lines, not ONE.

Lines from the CGI composite image from Ossuary 6 are depicted as TWO lines, not ONE.

Once Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor found something they felt would make a better argument, they jettisoned the ‘stick man Jonah’ argument (or at least rearranged / eliminated his arms and legs), and are now resorting to redrawing (or at least reinterpreting) the image in a more favorable light and angle in order to produce an ‘inscription’ that doesn’t exist. As I stated in my live CNN interview with Carol Costello, Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor (and reportedly Dr. Charlesworth) have resorted to “Rorschach Test archeology” to salvage something – anything – that relates to Jonah.

So, my friend and colleague, Dr. James Tabor, has recently announced that Dr. James Charlesworth has discovered the name of Jonah at the bottom of an image inscribed on the face of an ossuary that was re-discovered in the so-called “Patio Tomb” in Talpiot, Jerusalem.

While Dr. Charlesworth has yet to publish anything on the matter (the only report we have is from Toronto’s finest news source, The Globe and Mail), Dr. Tabor has released a new image on his post from yesterday, which he has captioned: “Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera.” The image is below:

Image of "Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera" of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem, supposedly containing letters forming the name of "Jonah."   (Original image available at: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/19/inscription-on-the-jonah-image-says-yonah/)

Image of "Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera" of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem, supposedly containing letters forming the name of "Jonah." (Original image available at: http://jamestabor.com/2012/04/19/inscription-on-the-jonah-image-says-yonah/)

First of all, I am quite curious to know what has caused the blurred out areas on each side of this ‘untouched’ image. The blurred out and shadowed area to the right may be caused by Ossuary 5. However, I know of no known obstructions on the left of the image, unless the blurred area is caused by a part of the camera itself.

Second, notice how FLAT “Jonah’s seaweed-wrapped head” suddenly appears in HiDef. From this straight-on angle it appears to be a nearly symmetrical attempt at representing a half-spherical (or hemispherical, or echinus – HT: compsciphi ;-) base of a vessel. Note the difference in shape between the CGI composite representation above and the “Untouched Photo from HiDef Camera” immediately above. Note how distorted the base of the vessel is in the CGI composite, while the actual image is nearly symmetrical, as Steve Caruso has pointed out here and here. Again, Dr. Tabor’s own new images refute his previous claims.

Finally, while this one photo that Dr. Tabor has produced above appears to show lighting and an angle favorable to Dr. Tabor’s argument, other images on their own thejesusdiscovery.org website clearly show that from multiple different angles with different lighting, the lines that form the supposed nun are, in fact, two separate strokes. Additionally, the would-be vertical stroke of the supposed nun clearly extends well beneath the angled, would-be bottom stroke of the supposed nun, clearly indicating that the nun is little more than wishful thinking.

An image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website showing the bottom of the image inscribed on the face of Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Note that the lines which Dr. Tabor explicitly (and Dr. Charlesworth reportedly) claim to form the Hebrew letter nun are clearly two separate lines, with the vertical down stroke extending well beyond the angled bottom stroke. The traced strokes are highlighted in an inset. (Original image available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/50.jpg)

An image from the thejesusdiscovery.org website showing the bottom of the image inscribed on the face of Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Note that the lines which Dr. Tabor explicitly (and Dr. Charlesworth reportedly) claim to form the Hebrew letter nun are clearly two separate lines, with the vertical down stroke extending well beyond the angled bottom stroke. The traced strokes are highlighted in an inset. (Original image available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/wppa/50.jpg)

See also this close-up from a previous post:

An over-under comparison of the original image (above, available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1) and the same image with the contrast and levels increased for clarity. The red arrow points to a space between the lines that make up the supposed 'nun'. Thus, this is not likely a 'nun'.

An over-under comparison of the original image (above, available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1) and the same image with the contrast and levels increased for clarity. The red arrow points to a space between the lines that make up the supposed 'nun'. Thus, this is not likely a 'nun'.

I believe I speak for many when I say that I am certainly awaiting Dr. Charlesworth’s treatment of this inscribed area. I have stated earlier that one must do some rather strenuous mental gymnastics to arrive at the letters for the name of Jonah in this image, including ignoring lines that are clearly present but do not fit the desired inscription, joining together lines that are clearly not conjoined, reshaping letters, and eliminating any semblance of linear alignment. Again, if these are the epigraphical rules we are following, then my ‘discovery‘ of the name of ‘Yo Yo Ma‘ is not as comical as it is intended to be…

Then again, if Antonio Lombatti’s recent post listing various scholars and their readings of the supposed inscription is any hint, it appears that, yet again, the scholarly consensus (of at least those not working with Simcha on this or another of his film projects) is leaning away from reading “Jonah” the base of the vessel.

why the so-called ‘jonah ossuary’ does not contain the name of jonah

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the image that Dr. Tabor and Dr. Charlesworth both claimed yesterday morning contained the “name of Jonah.”

I disagree. I have argued against this here and here.

I have marked up the image below. (The original is here.) I have placed a marked-up image next to the original so that viewers can see that the color-stroked lines correspond to the actual engraved lines. (Click for larger image.)

Side-by-side images of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side images of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Dr. Charlesworth has claimed that red line forms a yod (“Y”), the aqua line forms a waw (“O”), the lime and yellow lines constitute a nun (“N”), and the orange, black, and pink lines form a heh (“H”). Dr. Charlesworth proposes that these lines form the name יונה (“YONH,” or “Jonah”).

There are a number of problems with this reading. Jim Davila, Antonio Lombatti, Mark Goodacre, Steven Goranson, and Steve Caruso have all already addressed many of the problems. Below is a summary with illustrations.

1. There is a space between the lines that comprise the supposed nun (yellow and lime lines), meaning it is likely not a nun. NOTE that given the present lighting, there are visible horizontal lines (to the left) and angled lines (above and to the right). Thus, were the yellow and lime lines connected, we should expect to see a quite visible horizontal connection between the two lines. However, this is lacking even though the same angles are visible in the same lighting elsewhere in the same photograph.

There is a space between the lines that make up the supposed 'nun'. Thus, this is not likely a 'nun'.

An over-under comparison of the original image (above, available here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1) and the same image with the contrast and levels increased for clarity. The red arrow points to a space between the lines that make up the supposed 'nun'. Thus, this is not likely a 'nun'.

We must also ask if there is a line (that I have not highlighted) at the bottom of the lime green line running from northwest to southeast, that intersects the center white line at the space where the lime green and yellow lines approach one another. We might also ask whether the dark green line is a continuation of the lime green line.

2. The line above the supposed yod (blue line) is completely overlooked or intentionally ignored.

Side-by-side images of the original image (left) of a supposed 'yod' and a line above it. The line above the supposed 'yod' is completely ignored. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side images of the original image (left) of a supposed 'yod' and a line above it. The line above the supposed 'yod' is completely ignored. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

3. The line making up the supposed waw (aqua line) is bent the wrong way.

Side-by-side image of the supposed 'waw' from the so-called 'Jonah ossuary'. The waw is bent the wrong way. (Original image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side image of the supposed 'waw' from the so-called 'Jonah ossuary'. The supposed 'waw' is bent the wrong way. (Original image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

4. The faint line to the bottom left of the left leg of the supposed heh (purple line) is completely overlooked or intentionally ignored.

Side-by-side of an ignored line to the left of the left leg of the supposed 'heh'. (Original image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side of an ignored line to the left of the left leg of the supposed 'heh'. (Original image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

5. The line that provides the top of the supposed heh (pink line) is far too long in relation to the lines of the other supposed ‘letters.’

Side-by-side image of a supposed 'heh.' The top of the supposed letter is far too long in relation to the lines that would comprise the other supposed letters. (Original image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side image of a supposed 'heh.' The top of the supposed letter is far too long in relation to the lines that would comprise the other supposed letters. (Original image: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

6. The faint, but definitely present line toward the bottom on the left side (the green line) is completely overlooked or intentionally ignored.

Side-by-side illustration of a faint line (green line above) that has been missed or ignored. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side illustration of a faint line (green line above) that has been missed or ignored. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

7. There is no base line. The supposed yod should not be lower than the supposed waw, and the supposed nun should not extend that far above the supposed heh, etc. In the graphic below, I have isolated the lines that supposedly make up the name of Jonah (and have ignored and not highlighted the lines that have been missed or intentionally ignored, just for argument’s sake).

No baseline exists for the supposed letters. We should expect the letters to hang from a baseline like on nearly all other ossuary inscriptions.

Side-by side image with lines that were missed or ignored removed. This image therefore consists only of the lines that some believe to make up the name of Jonah. No baseline exists for the supposed letters. We should expect the letters to hang from a baseline or show some attempt at some linear alignment like on nearly all other ossuary inscriptions.

Thus, in order for the name of Jonah to be present on the bottom of this vessel (or proposed “Jonah’s Great fish”), Dr. Charlesworth and Dr. Tabor must claim the following:

1) that two strokes that are not connected can count as a letter typically made with a single stroke (see the nun in #1 above)
2) that lines that clearly appear among the other lines can be simply ignored and disregarded because they do not fit the desired outcome (see #2, #4, and #6 above)
3) that letters can bend over backward to become something they’re not (see the waw in #3 above)
4) that lines of letters can be disproportionately lengthy compared to others (see #5 above)
5) the letters lack any semblance of a linear alignment (see #7 above)

If the above rules are permitted, that there may be no end to the ways in which we can interpret a random set of lines at the bottom of a vessel (complete with handles).

Side-by-side images of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Side-by-side images of the bottom of the image inscribed on Ossuary 6 from the so-called "Patio Tomb" in Talpiot, Jerusalem. (Original image here: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/press-kit-photos/?wppa-album=3&wppa-photo=15&wppa-occur=1)

Because yods, waws, and nuns, are essentially straight or slightly curved lines of varying lengths, if we eliminate linear alignment, we can make a chicken scratch patch of lines of various lengths say just about anything that contains the letters Y, W, O, or N. And if we add the lines that were missed or deliberately ignored, we can introduce the letter Z, and perhaps L.

It is far more likely that the graffito artist made a poorly executed attempt (like the rest of the graffito vessel) at representing the geometry we find at the bottom of many amphoras, kraters, and hydrias, just above their half-spherical bases.

This interpretation seems far more likely that taking a Rorschach Test / word search approach to epigraphy.

on seeing the name of “Jonah” in the “Jonah Fish” ossuary

This really is Rorschach Test archaeology.

News from Simcha, Dr. Tabor, and Dr. Charlesworth claim to have ‘discovered’ the ‘name of Jonah’ inscribed in a jumbled mess of lines at the bottom of the so-called “Jonah fish” ossuary.

I addressed this yesterday in a YouTube video. There is no ‘Jonah.’ Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor had been arguing that the half-spherical base of the vessel was, (I kid you not), the ‘seaweed wrapped head of a stick figure Jonah.’

But, this was SO patently absurd, that just last night, they’ve changed their position and are now arguing that a bunch of randomly etched-in lines spell out the Hebrew name of ‘Jonah.’ (Think about it: Jonah loses his legs and arms if they are now ‘letters.’)

The problem with this is that the first three letters of the name of Jonah in Hebrew, yod, waw, and nun, are essentially differing lengths of straight or slightly curved lines. They are looking at these simple lines and trying to make letters out of them like one would look at a Rorschach Test and make into whatever their imagination tells them.

Jim Davila, Antonio Lombatti, and Mark Goodacre have already addressed this new ‘discovery.’

Apparently, their previous ‘stick figure Jonah’s head’ argument was so weak, they appear to have already ‘cut bait’ (all pun intended) and have moved on to “Rorschach Test Archaeology.”

So, if that’s how we’re going to do it, then I have a (quite satirical) ‘discovery’ of a name of my own:

If a bunch of random lines is "Yonah," then I've discovered "Yo Yo Ma." The argument of "Jonah's seaweed wrapped stick figure head" is so weak, Simcha and his team have cut bait and moved on to "Rorschach Test archaeology."

If a bunch of random lines is "Yonah," then I've discovered "Yo Yo Ma." The argument of "Jonah's seaweed wrapped stick figure head" is so weak, Simcha and his team have cut bait and moved on to "Rorschach Test archaeology."

in search of the historical charlesworth (and the difference between a “mention” and an “endorsement”)

A screen capture of Dr. James H. Charlesworth's Princeton Theological Seminary faculty page.

A screen capture of Dr. James H. Charlesworth's Princeton Theological Seminary faculty page. (Available at: http://www3.ptsem.edu/Content.aspx?id=1917)

My colleague, Dr. Mark Goodacre at Duke University recently raised an interesting question regarding the invoking of the name of Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Dr. James Charlesworth in support of recent claims by Dr. James Tabor and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici regarding their supposed “Jonah’s Great Fish” ossuary.

Goodacre quite cleverly devised a synoptic comparison between Dr. Charlesworth’s own account of his first viewing of the so-called “Patio Tomb” ossuaries (as narrated in a letter he sent to the members of his Foundation on Judaism and Christian Origins), and the account as narrated by Jacobovici and Tabor on page 70 of their Jesus Discovery book.

You can read Dr. Goodacre’s comparison here.

The questions I have are as follows:

  1. Who shouted?
  2. Who sight-read the inscription?
  3. How did Dr. Charlesworth interpret the inscription?
  4. How did Dr. Charlesworth interpret the image?

(I almost want to highlight the discrepancies in different color highlighter as a nod to Burton Throckmorton, but I do have a question for Dr. Goodacre: what parts of the narrative can we attribute to Q? ;-)

===

The question is important because Dr. Charlesworth (rather surprisingly) appeared to endorse Simcha Jacobovici’s last sensational claim about the discovery of the tomb and bones of Jesus at Talpiot – a claim that nearly all credible scholars rejected outright. Dr. Goodacre reported at the time:

“James Charlesworth of the Princeton Theological Seminary, who also consulted on the film, told Newsweek that the documentary makes a strong case for the biblical lineage, which is supported in part by archaeologists, historians, statisticians and DNA and forensics experts.

“‘A very good claim could be made that this was Jesus’ clan,’ he said.”

It was peculiar because not long after the release of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, Dr. Charlesworth appeared to back away from his support of Simcha’s claims, even going so far as to post a statement on Princeton Theological Seminary’s website (since removed) officially clarifying his position (again, distancing himself from Simcha’s claims). As Dr. Goodacre again recounts:

“Prof. Charlesworth has provided an updated statement on the Princeton Theological Seminary website (also reproduced by permission on Deinde). In the statement, he distances himself from the notion that the “Yeshua” ossuary belonged to Jesus of Nazareth, but suggests that the tomb might still be that of his extended family…”

Dr. Charlesworth concluded:

“My judgment is that this ossuary does not belong to Jesus from Nazareth. Again, the names “Jesus” and “Joseph” are extremely common in the first century….” (emphasis mine).

And now, given the obvious discrepancy between the claims Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor are making about Dr. Charlesworth’s alleged support for their conclusions about the “Jonah Fish” on page 70 of their book:

“He [Charlesworth] also offered without hesitation the same interpretation of the fish. What we are looking at, he said, appears to be the earliest representation from Jesus’ followers of their faith in his resurrection of the dead. A quiet shudder went through the room as the implications of his conclusion sunk in.” (The Jesus Discovery, p. 70, emphases mine.)

A paragraph from page 70 of "The Jesus Discovery" by James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici

A paragraph from page 70 of "The Jesus Discovery" by James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici

and the rather distant and ambiguous (albeit admittedly promotional) account from Dr. Charlesworth’s Mar. 31, 2012 letter to the members of his Foundation, I cannot help but ask whether or not Dr. Charlesworth is once again backing away from Simcha’s claims and conclusions, or whether he ever really supported them at all.

===

The question becomes one of the difference between a “mention” and an “endorsement.” Mr. Jacobovici seems to consistently (and perhaps deliberately) confuse the two.

For instance, when scholars began to question the recent claims made by Mr. Jacobovici regarding his alleged “discovery” of iconography he claims is a representation of Jonah and his “Great fish,” Dr. Tabor posted a response from Mr. Jacobovici, which at one point reads:

In the words of Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem District Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “there’s nothing else like it on an ossuary.” We also found a statement of faith. But even if you say it’s not about resurrection, but some kind of exaltation or testament to an ascension of some kind, there is simply nothing like it on any of the thousands of ossuaries cataloged so far. Again, those are the words of Yuval Baruch.

However, this isn’t exactly an “endorsement.” All Yuval Baruch is saying is that it is “unique.” He’s not saying he agrees with Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici’s conclusions about the interpretation of the iconography or their reading of the inscription, rather, only that they’ve found something “different.”

Likewise, look at Simcha’s own words on my blog, when he offers a supposed litany of “support” for his claims:

“What psychological landscape do you inhabit? The IAA has licensed our dig. Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, put our finding on its front page. Yuval Baruch, IAA Jerusalem district head, has called it “a significant find;” James Charlesworth calls it “a Jonah image” in our film; John Dominic Crossan hails it as an extremely important find. Likewise, Prof. Barrie Wilson….the list goes on.”

However, is this really “support”? Aside from the personal red herrings we’ve all come to expect from Simcha (in this case, questioning my “psychological landscape”), let us examine the supposed “support” Simcha trots out:

“The IAA has licensed our dig.”

Great! They’re not digging illegally, but the IAA website still has no mention of Simcha other than a refutation of an earlier sensational claim Simcha made about discovering the nails from Jesus’ cross (Easter 2011). And they certainly do not agree with Simcha’s interpretation of the iconography or the inscription.

“Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, put our finding on its front page.”

Congratulations! They made news. His public relations people did their jobs. But the article did not endorse the conclusions of the find, they simply mentioned that Simcha had made his annual sensational Easter claim. (Cf. “Jesus nails” around Easter 2011; “Finding Atlantis” around Easter 2010; “Lost Tomb of Jesus” around Easter 2007; “Exodus Decoded” around Easter 2006, etc.)

“Yuval Baruch, called it “a significant find.”

Wonderful. It’s “significant.” They do have Jewish ossuaries after all. But, does Yuval Baruch agree with their conclusions?

“James Charlesworth calls it “a Jonah image” in our film.”

Does he? And, does referring to the image in question as “a Jonah image” constitute an endorsement? I, too, refer to it as “a Jonah image” (including the “scare quotes,” and I usually precede it with a ‘so-called’ or ‘purported’), but I am guessing few would interpret my referring to the vessel inscribed on Ossuary 6 as the “Jonah Image” as support for their conclusion. The question is: does Dr. Charlesworth agree with Simcha’s conclusions? If so, will he do so publicly and unequivocally?

“John Dominic Crossan hails it as an “extremely important” find.”

Again, describing something as “extremely important” is little more than a kind way of saying, “Great, you found many nice things.” Again, they did, after all, find ossuaries with an inscription and some engraved images on them. I’d call this “extremely important” as well. But the question is: does Dr. Crossan agree with their conclusions?

“Likewise, Prof. Barrie Wilson….the list goes on.”

Does it? Does it go on? Or is that all they’ve got? So far, the only people that have shown any support whatsoever for Simcha’s claims have received some sort of compensation for doing so, be it cash, honorariums, subsidized trips to Israel or other places, named consulting credits, on-air face time, co-authorships on books, or they work for Associated Producers, Ltd. I have yet to find (and have asked many times) a single scholar who has not been somehow associated with or compensated by Simcha Jacobovici that endorses or agrees with his conclusions regarding this tomb and its ossuaries. And since Barrie Wilson has been working on projects with Simcha, we are still left searching for a single scholar not working with or compensated by Simcha (or his company, Associated Producers, Ltd.) that supports his claims.

Nothing they’ve listed thus far can be considered an endorsement, much less an agreement with their conclusions.

Again, claiming something is “unique” or “significant” is NOT the same as endorsing or agreeing with someone’s conclusions. I’ve dealt with this before.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A “MENTION” AND AN “ENDORSEMENT” OR “SCHOLARLY AGREEMENT.”

===

It will be interesting to watch to see if Dr. Charlesworth publicly endorses Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici’s claims about “Jonah fish” and ossuaries, or if he comments about it as many critics have done. Will Dr. Charlesworth state unequivocally, “This is a representation of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, which is a symbol for the resurrection of Jesus, meaning this is first century evidence of Christian belief in the resurrection of the very man Mr. Jacobovici claimed was dead and buried a few meters away only a few years ago. Likewise, the inscription says precisely what Dr. Tabor and Simcha say it says”?

Or, will Dr. Charlesworth play the role of the “interested promoter,” stating things like:

I am pleased to announce [the release of] an important documentary.”

And uncommitted, scholarly realities such as:

The meaning of the drawings will need to be debated among specialists.”

And then rather than offer endorsements of Simcha’s conclusions, ask a bunch of questions like:

Is the drawing a sign or a symbol? A sign can mean one and only one thing. A symbol must be interpreted and usually has many meanings. How do we discern the intended, implied, or attributed meaning of an early Jewish drawing?

And then acknowledge that the technology is indeed innovative (without agreeing with Simcha’s conclusions) by asking:

Is not the method of unintrusively exploring an ancient tomb itself ground-breaking?

And then speak to the emotion of peering at a Jewish tomb (note: not a “Jonah image,” but the somber reality of staring at mortal remains), by stating:

I was moved when I looked through a camera on the end of a robotic arm into a pre-70 Jewish tomb.

And finally, ask the question we’ve all been asking:

What was it? What was depicted? What did the early Jew intend to symbolize?

I am very, very curious to see if Dr. Charlesworth says what he says he is saying, or whether he says what Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor say he said.

Will Dr. Charlesworth declare unequivocally that the image is, in fact, an image of Jonah spitting out a seaweed-wrapped head of a stick man Jonah? Will he even comment at all in the film about the so-called “Jonah image”?

I am equally curious whether Dr. Charlesworth reads the inscription as, “O Divine YHWH, raise up, raise up!” or “The Divine Jehovah raises up to the Holy Place,” or “The Divine Jehovah raises up from [the dead],” as Dr. Tabor suggests, or, whether he suggests it says something else, (as others have suggested here and here and here and here). Does he see the tetragrammaton or not?

Or, will the response more closely resemble a parent’s response to a drawing his or her child made in daycare: “That’s very nice. How unique. This is quite significant. And what is this? Is that a “Jonah image“? Here, let’s put it on the fridge for all to see.”

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.

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