Émile Puech’s Position on the “Jesus Discovery” and “Lost Tomb of Jesus” Films

Émile Puech wants to make clear that although he does indeed read the inscription on the Talpiot “Patio” tomb ossuary as YONAH (Yod, Vav, Nun, He) written across the mouth of what appears to be a fish, thus reminding one of the story of Jonah, he considers the attendant theories related the “Patio” tomb and the adjacent “Jesus family” tomb as baseless and pure fiction.  Although Simcha Jacobovci points out in his published piece at the Times of Israel that Prof. Puech does not share the “Jesus tomb” interpretation and believes Jesus tomb was left empty, Professor Puech nonetheless feels “abused” that his interpretation of the Jonah inscription was used as “dramatic support” for the Jesus tomb theory.

I regret that Prof. Puech feels he was abused in any way. Getting his expertise in reading the inscription and making any comments on the ossuary itself, including the “fish” image was the purpose of the interview. I found it most valuable to hear his evaluation on that matter, which he essentially reaffirms below. It is surely acceptable to take the position, as he does here, that he sees what is most likely a fish with the inscription YONAH across the head but to maintain that in his view this lends no support whatsoever to the connection of this tomb or the “Jesus” tomb 60 meters away to Jesus of Nazareth or his followers. In fact, Prof. James Charlesworth, who first identified the YONAH inscription holds a similar view. He does not think the “Jesus” tomb is that of Jesus of Nazareth though he thinks it possibly relates to some of his devoted followers and perhaps his family.

Prof. Puech was asked to comment primarily as an expert epigrapher. His reading of the YONAH inscription is thus all the more valuable, as he does not share the views of The Jesus Discovery, but is honestly reading the inscription and interpreting the image as he sees it. Father Puech believes that Jesus was taken to bodily to heaven–hence the empty tomb–and thus there is no possibility of a Jesus tomb at Talpiot or anywhere else, other than the empty tomb” in the Church of the Holy Scepulchre . Since we are operating here with different suppositions it is no surprise that we disagree.

Here is his message to me this morning.


Prof. Tabor,

This is my position on the films.

My position after viewing the films.

The films by Simcha Jacobici “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” and “Resurrection Tomb the Jesus Discovery” are both pure novels from beginning until the end.

There was no Jesus’ family tomb in Talpiot, not even in Jerusalem. This is a history fiction. Mary his mother was buried  in the Josaphat valley in Jerusalem, not in Talpiot according to the oldest testimony. Jesus was bury in haste in a new rock-cut tomb near the Golgotha, just a few meters from it, according to the gospel of John 19,41-42, one of the witnesses of the scene, on the Friday evening before Passover. And the night after the solemn Shabbat, the holy women, and John and Peter, his disciples, went to the tomb, but they found an empty tomb, the stone was rolled out of the entrance (and there is no rolling stone in the Talpiot tomb). They did not find the body, only the shroud and the napkin which covered his face, in situ, not unrolled or displaced. Such is the testimony of the first people of the first generation after the events.

The scenographic construction of the films is no more than insinuative to prove a fiction of the history with no scholarly arguments.

First I said that there is no family tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, and the tomb were he was bury was found empty.

Second, the body of a crucified people cannot enter in a family tomb, it will make it impure and desecrated the content according to the Jewish practices and believes. Only after the entire decomposition of the flesh of sin could the bones of a crucified being brought into the family tomb, because, it is said, that the earth of Israel purify the flesh for sins. This is not the case presented in the film which contradicts the Jewish practices.

The names on these ossuaries are very common names in that time, even the popular Joseh for Joseph contrary to the opinion of the authors, who ignore the data. We know such names already in the Jason inscriptions of Jerusalem. The so-called famous Mariaméné mara inscription is a pure fiction. The engraved inscription reads Mariam kai Mara, the names of two persons : two sisters ?, but it has nothing to do with Maria Magdalena and their interpretation is an imaginative one to produce a sensational novel, a new revelation on the historical Jesus who maried Maria, had children, and so on. There is no stop for such dreams based on wrong readings. Poor pseudo-science!

How to agree with the producers who abused me in putting my name as a proof for their arguments !

On the ossuary, of which only a latex replica was presented to me : If the replica is a correct one (the best would be to study the original and we expect that one day it will be out to be in peace with this fiction), what can be said ?

On the left side, it is possible to see a kind of frame of a building, a door or a window with a cross structure inside to support panels, like wood or glasses, but there was no glass in that time as far as I am aware. But it is not possible to isolate the cross motif from the frame in order to prove that this cross represent the first symbol of the Christian faith.

On the crude representation on the panel of the front : it cannot be a nefesh, or an unguentarium. Is it an amphora as some have argued ? For that, the handles are not correctly drawn and placed, nor the foot which has normally an horizontal line or a triangle with a flat basis. Is it a fish? I said that I never saw a fish like this also, but is it impossible? What surprised me is the triangle like a closed mouth of a fish with a cursive inscription across it, reading ywnh: he is quite clear, nun pretty good, and yod-waw quite acceptable. Thus the name reminds the one who was inside a big fish, a whale in the book of the prophet Jonas. From the closed mouth of the ‘fish’ seems to go out water simulated by waves in the round bulb below, but there is no figuration of a man going out. How could that be possible with a closed mouth–even of a resurrected body? That’s all.

What I said in the interview is that in the gospel Jesus said : “No sign shall be given to this generation except the sign of Jonas (which will be a sign for the death-resurrection of Jesus). The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonas and there is something greater than Jonah”.

Now what to do with all that, Not too much! I did not say that this is a figuration of the Jesus’ resurrection, or else. To say that it is is too far an extrapolation of a very poor and crude drawing. Could the ossuary belong to a Judeo-Christian tomb? I have no opinion on that, but certainly not to a supposed Jesus’ family tomb which never existed in or around Jerusalem. The tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was found empty after the sabbath, the third day after the burial of Jesus.

The ossuary with the name of Simon bar Yonah in the Dominus Flevit necropolis has nothing to do with Simon-Peter, nor the one with James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, with Jesus of Nazareth, as I wrote long time ago, nor the ossuary with the wrong reading of Caiphah with the high priest, the correct reading is Quphah (two times in scriptio defectiva and once in scriptio plena which can not transcribe a diphtong, as I have already shown in a paper). And so on.

I am ashamed to have  been abused by the Simcha Jacobovici film and by the exploitation of the interview they did. Simcha never presented himself by his name before the interview; I was called by  Noam for an interview first on the Dead sea Scrolls, with that addition in two different occasions.

I totally disagree with their interpretation of the tombs and the data and the use they did of the interview for their purely fictive pseudo-historical Novel. This misses totally of scientific proofs.

Best wishes to the reader. This is my final say on that subject.

Emile Puech