Clearly the month of April has ushered in a new era of idiocy … in addition to the lead codices (I’ll do a round up of the latest in the next few days), and the ‘gay caveman’ (which has already been debunked), we now have Naked Archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici claiming — in the context of promoting a documentary, of course — that he ‘very probably’ has a couple of nails used in the crucifixion of that Guy whose crucifixion is being marked around this time of year. Here’s the Irish Times version:
Two ancient nails discovered in a Jerusalem archaeological excavation 20 years ago may have been those used to crucify Jesus, according to a claim by Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici.
The nails, discovered in an excavation of a first century Jewish tomb in 1990, have divided historical opinion. Mr Jacobovici’s view is set out in a documentary that will be aired on television in both the United States and Israel.
A number of ossuaries were found in the tomb, which belonged to the Caiaphas family, according to inscriptions on two of the bone boxes, Mr Jacobovici says.
Caiaphas was the name of the Jewish high priest at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus, according to the New Testament.
“Do I know 100 per cent that these nails were used to crucify Jesus?” Mr Jacobovici said today. “No. I think we have a very compelling case to say: these are them.”
The nails were not photographed at the time that they were found, and there is no record of what was done with them, according to the documentary.
At around the same time as the excavation, two ancient nails from the Second Temple period were delivered to a Tel Aviv University lab from Jerusalem and remained there since then.
These two nails are bent, which may be consistent with their being used for crucifixion, according to the documentary.
Mr Jacobovici says that the crucifixion nails were seen as a powerful talisman, that could protect the bearer in this life and the afterlife, and were therefore included in the tomb.
For Caiaphas, the crucifixion of Jesus was one of the most important events in his life, and this is another possible reason they were included in his tomb, Mr Jacobovici says.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said in response that there is no scientific proof for his theory.
Nails are commonly found in ancient burial caves from this period, and are believed to have been used for chiseling the name of the deceased on the sarcophagus, and there is no indication that they have any other significance, it said.
The tomb found in Jerusalem has not been proven to have belonged to the family of the high priest of that name, and may have belonged to another family with the same name, the IAA said.
“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film, at the centre of which is a genuine archaeological artifact,” the IAA said in a statement. “However, the interpretation presented in it has no basis in the find or in archaeological research.”
The documentary will be aired as part of a series called Secrets of Christianity.
The Irish Times coverage (and most of the others) is accompanied by a Reuters photo of Simcha holding one of the nails, of course:
Constantly having to deal with the press giving publicity to things which anyone with a modicum of critical thinking ability can recognize as incredibly unlikely, if not downright stooopid, is getting tiresome. As such, I will point folks to our previous ‘crucifixion nail’ discovery claim from last year, just around this time (surprise!): That Crucifixion Nail. In that piece, you will see a picture of the famous Givat Hamivtar nail in the Israel Museum, which is our only reasonable evidence of what a crucifixion nail looked like. As mentioned in that piece, the GH nail is about 12 cm long which, if someone has common sense, is pretty much a minimum length to penetrate body bits and hold said body securely to a cross. Unless Simcha has preternaturally large hands and is causing us to misjudge the size of the nail he’s holding, I highly doubt this ‘find’ would actually be able to hold anything living to a cross. But hey — Simcha’s a daring guy — let’s send this one to some lab in Thunder Bay for DNA testing. Perhaps we will find traces of cells with only 23 chromosomes … at least they don’t call Simcha an ‘archaeologist’, naked or otherwise.
… see also Robert Cargill’s post on this: no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before easter)
UPDATE (the next day): See now the coverage in Time Magazine: Nails from Caiaphas’ Tomb: Used to Crucify Jesus? … which seems to be answering many of the questions raised by me and others. Interestingly, SJ suggests the nails were sufficient to go through hands, which is probably true … they’re clearly insufficient to support the weight of someone hanging from their hands, however. Overall, however, the Time item expresses some good skepticism which we really aren’t used to from journalists of late.