Folks might recall our previous post on the contentious claims being made by Dr James Tabor and Professor Simcha Jacobovici in regards to their research at a tomb in Jerusalem which they claim contains the earliest evidence of Christianity, and possibly is connected to some of Jesus’ disciples (The “Patio Tomb” … Evidence of Early Christianity? I Hae Me Doots (A Classics Perspective) ). I’ll direct folks to that post to see how the story was spun by the press, but the conversation/discussion continued on various fronts over the past weeks and I think the claims have been thoroughly discredited. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to put together a ‘one-stop-shopping’ type roundup of all the various scholarly opinions that have weighed in, especially seeing that the book on this tomb has just come out and there is an impending Discovery documentary. When the latter comes out, without a doubt, folks will be hitting the internet looking for ‘the real story’ and hopefully what follows will help guide their opinions.
At the outset, I think it is important for folks to know that I am retracting my own reading of the “Messanic” inscription on Ossuary 4. I was working from the early photos of the inscription and, while I still like the idea of a ‘pagan’ couple named Gaius and Julia in a Jewish tomb, other photos — which are much more clear but haven’t been made available to the general public — demonstrate that my reading clearly cannot stand. The photos that are available as part of the press kit at The Jesus Discovery site continue to be somewhat low quality (alas, see, e.g., here, here, here, and here), but contact with other scholars who are privy to such things have shown definitively, e.g., that the first line is definitely ΔΙΟΣ, among other things (this aspect of the story is probably still developing).
And so, on to the roundup … in what follows I’m linking to professional scholars (i.e. they have degrees in a relevant discipline and are actively engaged in teaching and/or research) ; if a link has (JT) or (SJ) following it, it is an indication that James Tabor or Simcha Jacobovici have responded to the blog in its comments section. (Comments) indicates that there are valuable comments by other scholars that are worth reading as well. Again, I strongly encourage folks to spend some time reading the (now revised) version of James Tabor’s paper on the site which is up at Bible and Interpretation …
Other views on the inscription:
- Christopher Rollston, Reflections of an Epigrapher on Talpiyot Tombs A and B: A Detailed Response to the Claims of Professor James Tabor and Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici(JT) [suggests numerous problems; must be contrasted with Bauckham (below)]
- Christopher Rollston,James Tabor’s Iota: A Palaeographic Problem for his Inscriptional Reading (JT)(Comments)
- Richard Bauckham, The Four-Line Ossuary Inscription from Talpiyot Tomb B – an Interpretation (JT) [suggestion: Belonging to Zeus IAIO. I, Hagab, exalt (him/you).]
- Richard Carrier, Amazing Proofs of Jesus![inter alia, on problems with reading all sorts of inscriptions]
… at this point, we should reiterate that this “messianic” inscription is on Ossuary 5 but there are serious problems with the identification of the various ossuaries (especially 4 and 5) when the available photos are examined closely. In this regard, I decided to make this problem my initial foray into Pinterest, and direct folks there to see the problems. Mark Goodacre blogged on the same subject and definitely should be read in conjunction therewith:
- Mark Goodacre, Anomalies in the Talpiot Tomb B Photographs(JT)
- David Meadows, Talpioyot Tomb B/Patio Tomb(Comments)
Turning now to the more contentious issue, namely, the so-called Jonah image, things have definitely taken some strange turns. After several folks had pointed out the image in the newspapers had been rotated to predispose the public to see it as a fish spewing out a man, several reasonable alternative suggestions were made:
- April DeConick, It looks like a fish to me(JT)(Comments)[included primarily because AD initially saw a fish, then changed her mind ... the comments are very useful]
- Steve Caruso, More on “The Jesus Discovery” – A Fish? Nay.[amphora or unguentarium]
- Bob Cargill, On ‘Absalom’s Tomb’ in Jerusalem and Nephesh Monument Iconography: A Response to Jacobovici and Tabor by Robert Cargill(JT)
- Joan Taylor, The Talpiyot Unguentarium(JT)
- Tom Verenna, Some Considerations About the Iconography on the Ossuary[unguentarium]
- Andrew McGowan, A Fish Story in the Talpiot Tomb[kantharos]
- Juan Fernandez de la Gala, SOME CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT THE ICTHYOMORPHIC DRAWING ON OSSUARY 6:3 FROM EAST TALPIOT TOMB (TALBIOT B OR “PATIO” TOMB), IN JERUSALEM(JT)[funerary neck amphora]
- Antonio Lombatti, Never seen a fish depicted upside-down[amphora]
- Antonio Lombatti, Some observations on fish-like images on ossuaries [fish images on other possibly Christian ossuaries]
Other comments on the ‘fish’:
- Mark Goodacre, Scales of a fish on the Talpiot ossuary?
… but in regards to the Jonah image, as time went on it became very clear that rotating the image to predispose viewers to see a fish; CGI enhancement (and possibly photoshopping) of key images began to rear their ugly heads. Robert Cargill led the way on this one, which resulted in ‘unenhanced’ photos appearing in the press kit:
- If the Evidence Doesn’t Fit, Photoshop It: Digital Image Manipulation in the Case of Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor’s Jonah Ossuary(JT)(SJ)
… after the ‘corrected’ images were added to the press kit, other items began to appear:
- Tom Verenna, Again – It’s Not a Fish…and Stop using Doctored Photos!(JT)[evidence of a 'handle' on the 'tail' of the 'fish']
- Mark Goodacre, When is a fish not a fish? When it has handles(JT)[similiter]
- Tom Verenna, A Possible Handle on Image 5 of the Amphora?(JT)
… and Robert Cargill pounded the final nail into the ossuary (I believe) with a post just the other day:
- sins of commission and omission: digitally generated marginal ‘fishes’ and overlooked handles on the so-called ‘jonah ossuary’(JT)
… which, interestingly enough, resulted (it appeared) in all sorts of photos disappearing and reappearing from the press kit. Steve Caruso was/is all over that:
That said, as can be seen from the above, Dr Tabor has been actively trying to defend his views with the various scholars. In the interest of balance, we should also make readers aware of things he posted on his own blog or at the ASOR blog:
- Talpiot Tomb Ossuaries in New York–What are the Chances?
- A Fish or a Tower?
- What a Difference a Day Makes
- A Perfume Flask or a Fish?
- The Fish and the Man…
- A Reply from Prof. Tabor—A Jonah Fish Image or a Tower Tomb Monument?
Miscellanea (Other blog posts which are useful):
- Mark Goodacre, Was there a predisposition to find Jonah and the whale?(JT)
- Mark Goodacre, The Talpiot Tomb and the Beatles [also on 'predisposition'](JT)
- Joel Watts, $imcha gives a prime example of the Theory of Motivated Reasoning[similiter]
- Jason Staples, The New Talpiot Tomb: An Observation on the Patio Tomb and Resurrection[on the illogic of folks believing in resurrection wanting to be buried next to Jesus' dead body]
- James McGrath, The Talpiot Tombs and New Testament Historical Criticism(JT)
- Robin Jensen, Prof. Robin Jensen Refutes Any Claim that She Concurs with the Interpretation in “The Jesus Discovery”(JT)(SJ)[self-explanatory headline]
- Eric Meyers, Eric Meyers’ review of “The New Jesus Discovery”(JT)[book review]
- Jodi Magness, Jodi Magness responds to the “New Jesus Discovery”[criticizing the lack of actual 'archaeology'](JT)
- Mark Goodacre, The Da Vinci Code and the Talpiot Tomb(SJ)
- Tom Verenna, What are the Criticisms of the ‘Jonah’ Ossuary?
… also worth a read:
- Move Over Indiana Jones – GE Cameras Do Non-Invasive Tomb Exploration [GE's report on the technology used; note that it produces high res imagery, so many folks were wondering why the need for CGI enhancement]
Other Roundups (which include items I have not):
- Tom Verenna, Roundup of Biblioblogger Comments on the New Jacobovici Claims(February 28)
- James McGrath, Talpiot Tombs Latest (Including Fish-Reorientation and Unguentaria)(March 5)
- James McGrath, Latest Talpiot Tomb Round-Up (including a review of The Burial of Jesus)(March 6)
- Tom Verenna, New Roundup on the ‘Jesus Discovery’ (AKA the ‘Jonah and the Whale’ ossuary) (March 6)
- James McGrath, Round-Up on the Talpiot Patio Tomb (to fish or not to fish – that is the question)(March 8th)
- James McGrath, Talpiot Tombs Latest Round-Up (with fish handles) (March 11)
- James McGrath, The Talpiot Mysteries: Featuring the Biblioblog Detectives and the Case of the Ichthyomorphic Ossuary Unguentaria/Amphora(March 13)
… that should be satis superque to debunk this one. I may add items to this page over the next few days if it seems worthwhile.