Apparently, I’m now “The Enforcer”

Go figure.

Steve Caruso has shared with us the following post, which plays on Mr. Simcha Jacobovici’s recent response to Émile Puech’s comments about him.

In Mr. Jacobovici’s response, her refers to me as “The Enforcer”, causing Steve to create the following:

So thanx to Steve for the pic, and thanx to Simcha for the laugh. His comments are always fun to read, although after a while, they do begin to sound like my crying twin 4-month olds.

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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

how to substitute press releases for evidence

The supposed "Jonah inscription"

The supposed "Jonah inscription"

If you can appreciate “circular reasoning,” then you’ll love this latest example of “circular citations,” a process referred to by my colleague Steve Caruso as the “Citation Two-step” or the “Feedback Fox Trot,” but what I call the “Evidentiary reach-around.”

By now, many readers have been following the sensational claims made by Simcha Jacobovici and Dr. James Tabor. The pair claim to have discovered (among other things):

  1. The “Sign of Jonah”
  2. The “earliest christian symbols ever discovered”
  3. The “first christian symbol ever found from first century CE Jerusalem”
  4. The “earliest testimony of faith in the resurrection of Jesus”
  5. The “earliest record of a teaching or saying of Jesus”
  6. An inscription calling on “YHWH to raise up”
  7. And most recently, an “Inscription bearing the name of Jonah”

(see the back cover of The Jesus Discovery for a full list of sensational claims)

Note that none of these claims have been confirmed, and just about all scholars (except those working with or for Simcha on this or another of his film projects) reject these sensational claims outright. I said as much in my live interview with CNN’s Carol Costello on “CNN Newsroom:”

However, the night before the premier of “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery,” (Simcha Jacobovici’s latest documentary on Discovery Channel), apparently not happy with their “stick man Jonah” argument, the team jettisoned that claim and Dr. James Tabor announced via his blog that a “new discovery” had been made by none other than “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery” consultant and collaborator, Dr. James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary.

And where was this great new discovery published? In a peer-reviewed journal? At a professional conference? How about on a blog? No, the revelation came via an article in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail by Michael Posner entitled, “Ancient ossuary hints at earliest reference to resurrection of Jesus.” In the article, Dr. Charlesworth is quoted as follows:

Most likely,” says Princeton Theological Seminary scholar James Charlesworth, director of a project on the Dead Sea Scrolls, “we may comprehend the inscription as reading ‘Jonah.’ And I have no doubt it is a fish.”

If Prof. Charlesworth is right, then a consensus may form that the ossuary depicts Jonah being vomited out of the mouth of the fish” (italics mine)

Again, Dr. Charlesworth has yet to publish anything on the supposed “inscription.” There has certainly been no announcement on the two places we would expect to find announcements of this magnitude: the Princeton Theological Seminary website and Dr. Charlesworth’s Foundation on Judaism and Christian Origins. Yet in both places there is nothing. Nothing has been published by Dr. Charlesworth as of yet (although he is said to be presently working on something for publication regarding this inscription.)

And yet, that does not stop the press machine from grinding away.

Dr. Tabor next sends an article to Bible and Interpretation, where it is published citing only a single source: the Globe and Mail article by Toronto’s Michael Posner. Again, not a single shred of evidence or scholarly consensus has been cited other than the claims of Dr. Charlesworth as reported by Dr. Tabor on his blog, by Dr. Tabor on Bible and Interpretation, and by the single article in the Globe and Mail.

In the mean time, the press office at then University of North Carolina, Charlotte issues a press release which parrots the claim of the “discovery” of the “inscription.” Nowhere in the press release is any source cited; the press release quotes only Dr. Tabor, and parrots the announcement that Dr. Charlesworth has made a momentous “discovery.”

And for good reason: Dr. Charlesworth has not yet published anything on the subject. But because the press release is coming from UNC Charlotte to promote its professor and his claimed discovery, the press release is issued without citing anything other than conversations with Drs. Tabor and Charlesworth. And this is all well and good. The UNC Charlotte public relations office is doing its job: announcing the claims of its faculty.

All is well and good.

However, once the press release is issued, it is immediately picked up by science news aggregate website Phys.org. That Phys.org got the story directly from the UNC Charlotte press machine is made fully evident in the last line of this article, which reads:

“Provided by University of North Carolina at Charlotte.”

This means that this “story” was the same written and released by the press office of Dr. Tabor’s home university, The University of North Carolina, Charlotte. What’s more, far from mentioning the overwhelming scholarly rejection of these sensational claims, the press release reads:

“So far, Israeli epigrapher Robert Deutsch has confirmed Charlesworth’s reading of YONAH and Haggai Misgav of Hebrew University says there are definitely letters there although he reads them as ZOLAH rather than YONAH.”

The article does NOT mention the list of epigraphers (see Antonio Lombatti’s list) who reject outright that an inscription even exists, much less says what Drs. Tabor and Charlesworth say it says. Then again, as this press release was composed by UNC Charlotte to promote UNC Charlotte Professor, Dr. James Tabor, we should not expect a hint of objectivity in the press release. Rather, we should expect only Dr. Tabor’s claims and spin to support the claims.

But that does not stop the press machine.

Another Science news aggregator Eurekalert, picks up and parrots the Phys.org story, and even uses the same headline: “Hebrew inscription appears to confirm ‘sign of Jonah’ and Christian reference on ancient artifact.”

Appears to confirm??” Again, no evidence has been cited, and Dr. Charlesworth still has not published a single word on the matter. But now, despite the overwhelming opposition to the sensational claims, they are apparently “confirmed”??

Meanwhile, science news website LiveScience staff writer, Jennifer Welsh picks up the UNC Charlotte press release that has been parroted by Phys.org and Eurekalert, and publishes her own story entitled, “Ancient ‘Bone Box’ Called Oldest Christian Artifact.”

What?? Despite the fact that the article is largely rehash of the UNC Charlotte press release and now includes graphics taken from Dr. Tabor’s blog, somehow the claims is now “called the oldest Christian Artifact“??

Remember, to this point, the UNC Charlotte press release has been picked up and parroted by three news aggregators, with each one altering the title to make the claim a bit more substantiated, despite the fact that Dr. Charlesworth has still not published a word on the matter and the only source for all of these claims is the same author, Dr. James Tabor, who is selling a book making the claims, and who has utilized the UNC Charlotte press office to promote his claims.

And the press machine grinds on.

Finally, this afternoon, MSNBC re-published the LiveScience article by Jennifer Welsh as its own, this time altering the title to read, “Ossuary confirmed as oldest Christian artifact.”

WHAT???

Did you see that? CONFIRMED!?? While Dr. Charlesworth has still not published a single word on the supposed “inscription” – an inscription mind you that multiple epigraphers and scholars have rejected altogether as an inscription, much less one that reads “Jonah” – the UNC Charlotte press release, which was issued to promote the findings of Dr. Tabor as published in his new book, The Jesus Discovery, has gone from the Globe and Mail‘s headline of “Ancient ossuary hints at earliest reference to resurrection of Jesus,” to MSBNC’s headline of “Ossuary confirmed as oldest Christian artifact.”

!!!!!!!
(I shake my head.)

And nothing has changed. Not a single thing. Nothing has been published in support of the claim that has not originated from Dr.  Tabor and UNC Charlotte. Meanwhile, a host of scholars including myself have published rejections of all of these claims. And yet, there it is: Ossuary confirmed as oldest Christian artifact, all within 24 hours and without a shred of evidence or scholarly support.

Un-believable!

Just to sum up:

  1. Dr. Charlesworth’s has yet to publish anything on a supposed “Jonah inscription.”
  2. Toronto’s Globe and Mail reports that Dr. Charlesworth has found something.
  3. Dr. Tabor cites the Globe and Mail article as “breaking news” on his blog.
  4. Dr. Tabor’s  university public relations office at UNC Charlotte issues a press release announcing the “discovery” of the inscription by Charlesworth in support the claims made in Dr. Tabor’s book.
  5. Phys.org and Eurekalert pick up the UNC Charlotte press release that “confirms” the discovery.
  6. A LiveScience staff writer re-writes the Phys.org and Eurekalert stories (which were based upon the press release), altering the title.
  7. MSNBC republishes the LiveScience story with the headline: “Ossuary confirmed as oldest Christian artifact.”

And nothing has changed. Not a shred of evidence has been presented outside of Dr. Tabor’s initial claims about Dr. Charlesworth’s apparent “discovery.’ No publications. No other citations. And yet, despite the chorus of scholarly rejections, the claim is “confirmed” in the press. The same story gets republished and republished, with the headline becoming more and more certain with each regurgitation.

And that, my friends, is what scholars call the “evidentiary end run.”

And that’s how you replace evidence and scholarly consensus with a press release.

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.

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.

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