Talpiot Ossuary Followup

I’m sorry … I just can’t let this one pass. Over at The Bible and Culture, Ben Witherington has an interview with Dr James Charlesworth about matters Talpiotical (Dr. Jim Charlesworth on Talpiot Tomb B) and the question of fish v. amphora comes up. I find it very difficult to swallow this one and it will bug me if I don’t point it out. Inter alia Dr Charlesworth says:

First, it is imperative to realize the image is something inscribed by an unskilled hand on limestone. The inscriber did not use a ruler or compass; he seems to have used only a chisel and hammer. He thus produced a poorly incised ornamentation by freehand. We should expect that type of work in and around Jerusalem in pre-70 strata, since Jews were prohibited, and thus had no skills, to depict any likeness in God’s creation (recall the Commandment). There was also probably no workshop or skilled artisans to help him; and perhaps the image was made without sufficient time.

… then, when dismissing the possibility of an amphora:

An Amphora. The image does appear in some ways like an amphora. It is rounded and has a top. The image has something on each side. Could these be handles? If so, they are not like any known handles on an amphora, whether drawn or part of an amphora itself. Is it possible that retinal retention has elicited these attempts to discern the meaning? If one looks at an amphora, one can easily see this image as an amphora. But, is that what the engraver intended? The oval-shaped bottom of the drawing seems too rounded for the base of an amphora. The handles, moreover, are oddly shaped and unlike any on an amphora. Many artisans depicted amphora correctly on ossuaries, why is this image so unlike others?

… I’m sorry, but suggesting an artist is unskilled on one hand and then expecting/arguing for a level of skill on another is one of those cake-and-eat-it-too things.

3 thoughts on “Talpiot Ossuary Followup

  1. All one has to do is to see the skilled hand of many Judeans who made these ossuaries, remember the source of comments posted here, one of their ‘advisers’. It is an amphora and was designated as such in 1981 by a colleague who published it as such. Too many biblical advisers here with little or no expertise in the subject at hand. Leave archaeolgy to the archaeologists and theology to the theologians …

  2. But the problem with your doubts is that the doubters have the exact same double standard. The doubters say it can’t be a fish because it would be a poorly drawn fish.

    Whatever it is, it is not precisely drawn. The imprecise nature of the drawing isn’t an argument for anything in particular.

    1. True, the imprecise nature of the drawing isn’t an argument for anything, but it isn’t correct to cast aspersions on the doubters. As many (especially Joe Zias) have noted, when this was found, it was identified as an amphora … the only people questioning that identification are those with theological/financial agendas. There seems to be a lot riding on this identification and it seems apparent that Dr Tabor et al find the ‘Jonah’ association more compelling than the thing they’ve claimed in the documentary is the earliest depiction of a cross (which, by the way, I don’t think is a cross).

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