Regular readers of this blog are quite up to date on the strange web of intrigue and controversy since the publication of The Jesus Discovery by James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici, and the airing of the film “The Resurrection Tomb Mystery/The Jesus Discovery” in the US and Canada respectively. Slowly but surely more of the full story is coming out. Eretz, the magazine of Israel, has an exclusive cover story on our discoveries in the May, 2012 English with the intriguing title: Archaeological Storm: Who’s Afraid of the Tomb of Jesus? There are some new and important facts and circumstances related to the 1981 discovery of what we have called the “Patio” tomb in East Talpiot–the one below the condominium building that we accessed via robotic arm and cameras. I will be blogging on this over the next few days. Stay tuned.
As some of you know who have followed the story, the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit that was earlier at Discovery Times Square in NYC has now moved on to Philadelphia. Few seem to realize that included in this very comprehensive exhibit which was put together by the every talented James Sanna, are not only the Dead Sea scrolls but a trove of other archaeological artifacts from the IAA State of Israel collection, including–you guessed it–four of the ossuaries from the Talpiot “Jesus” tomb: namely Yeshua bar Yehosef, Mariamene Mara, Yose, and Matya. We filmed the ABC Nightline special (link here is you missed it) on the new Talpiot Tomb discoveries back in April in the Discovery Times Square exhibit and it was interesting to watch the droves of visitors in the exhibit hall walking obliviously past the display of the ossuaries, tucked behind a glass window.
Unfortunately, Jude son of Jesus had to stay home as he is on special display in the Israel Museum and Maria is stored in the basement of the museum so far as I know. Other cities are to follow, I think Chicago is next, and it looks like it might be just in time for the SBL/AAR/ASOR/Bible Fest meeting, which could be most interesting. Maybe some of us might end up organizing something around this as there already are some things planned on the various programs dealing with the new Talpiot “patio” Tomb discoveries. I am doing a paper for SBL on both the Jonah image and the Greek inscription, also a lecture with the BAS Bible Fest, and Simcha Jacobovici and I are part of a forum on archaeology and the media hosted by Mark Goodacre, Robert Cargill, and Christian Brady, also for SBL. What would be nice would be some kind of forum/debate on the Talpiots tombs more generally but so far I don’t think anything like that has been included in the program. With the latest publications of the trial evidence on the James ossuary, which few of its naysayers seem to have noticed (see the comprehensive report “Implications of the “Forgery Trial” Verdict on the Authenticity of the James Ossuary” by Rosenfelt, et al. here), and all the other new evidence available for discussion, most of it posted now at bibleinterp.com (search “talpiot”), it would certainly be a topic of great interest. At the same time the comprehensive volume of papers from the January, 2008 Jerusalem conference titled: The Tomb of Jesus and His Family? Exploring Ancient Jewish Tombs Near Jerusalem’s Walls, eds. James H. Charlesworth and Arthur C. Boulet (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012) will be published and available at the annual meetings in Chicago.
We have just uploaded a dozen or so additional photos of the Talpiot tomb discoveries at our main web site: thejesusdiscovery.org. They are available for both viewing and downloading and can be used freely by anyone. You can find them under the tab: Photos and Graphics.
Some have circulated the charge that we have cropped, altered, manipulated, edited, “photoshopped,” or otherwise adjusted the photos we have released, while others have even suggested the poor quality of the images is a purposefully sinister move on our part since we don’t want the public to be able to see clearly our findings so we can control their interpretation. These charges and innuendos are as false as they are unfortunate. Here are the facts:
1. No photos of the Jonah image or any other images from the tomb have been cropped, altered, manipulated, edited or adjusted in any way whatsoever. The photos we distributed were precisely what we took from the camera itself, or still shots taken from our monitors.
2. Because there is no single camera shot of the Jonah image but rather hours of camera footage and hundreds of stills, all taken at varying angles with different light, we asked our CGI people to produce a computer generated composite of what the whole image might look like. Our desire is to make this representation as accurate as possible and as time goes on we will continue to make improvements. The image is oriented downward, with the fish’s nose and “head” of Jonah pointing to the bottom of the ossuary, as is discussed and made clear in my preliminary academic report, in the book, The Jesus Discovery, on the ossuary museum model, and at our press conference in NY on February 28th. In fact this downward orientation was one of the reasons we rejected the nephesh or “tower” interpretation of the image, since an up-side-down monument made no sense to us or to many of our academic consultants.
2. In the case of the four line Greek inscription, the name MARA, and the photos of the “fish in the margins” along the top border of the ossuary, we have posted photos that are “lined in” to show how we see the letters or the images. These marks are clear and obvious. They are done by anyone wanting to illustrate something on a complex photo. So long as the original, unlined version is available, so people can make comparisons, marking features on photos, or otherwise highlighting, is certainly not “manipulating” “altering” or otherwise “adjusting” them with an intent to deceive. Recently several have used such marks to point out other features they want to call attention to–including “handles” they see on several of the images from both 1981 and our shots from 2010-2011. This is perfectly fine with us and the debate and discussion is then open as to whether what one “sees” in does in fact represent what one maintains.
3. No photos on the web site have been taken down, altered, manipulated, or otherwise adjusted. When our web person is in the process of arranging or uploading new photos the site remains live so it might appear to a visitor, for a very short time, that this or that has been taken down or added, but everything is up that we put up on February 28th, with more photos now added. We do continually want to correct anything wrong. For example, two of our photos were labeled 1980 rather than 1981, and we have corrected that. We appreciate anyone pointing out any other errors and we will do our best to correct them. I thank Mark Goodacre for his sharp eyes in noticing that one of the figures in my Preliminary Report is misidentified (the inside shot of the ossuary with the bones, Fig. 7 in my Preliminary Report, was incorrectly labeled as ossuary 5 when in fact it is ossuary 4 as our GE camera man has now confirmed). Robert Cargill suggested that the label “composite representation” for the complete Jonah image we produced should be clarified as a CGI representation and not a photo and we agreed and made that clarification.
We hope these additional photos will stimulate more discussion, collegiality, and “good faith” exchange of views. Once the film is aired in early April on Discovery TV we will no doubt have the green light to distribute live video clips of our filming and many other images.
I got the sad news last night at 7:51pm. It beeped in as a CNN bulletin on my iPhone. Steve Jobs, legendary founder of Apple computer, and inspiration behind Mac computers, the mouse, iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, the AirBook, and most recently the iPad, had died of pancreatic cancer at age 56.
Friends began to shoot me e-mails and text messages. Posts began to appear on Facebook and Twitter and last night Twitter was so jammed, with people posting tributes, you could not get on for over an hour. Steve’s creative genius and love of elegance, his independent spirit and commitment to “whole earth” thinking, his hard work and determination, has truly transformed our world. From music, to photos, to the Web, to writing, e-mail, and a host of amazing “millennial” applications, my world intersects with Steve Job’s creations every day. I wrote all my books on my MacBook and can hardly remember what life was like without these Apple products that have so enriched our pleasure in using technology and brought it to our desk, lap, and hand in such a lovely and convenient way. Even the PC/Microsoft users, Android people, and a host of other knock offs are largely using products adapted and copied from the original Macintosh, iPhone, or iPod. Jobs was neither engineer or technician. He was a dreamer. But he combined those dreams, and their elegant sense of “taste” and beauty, with hard work, persistence, and a self-demanding style that would never give up. His life, like all of us, was a complex tangle of starts and stops, of breakthroughs and disappointments, but always his bright spirit prevailed in the end.
We will all miss him and I believe our new millennial world will continue to be transformed by his innovations in ways we can only dream of today.
The NYTimes has some amazing coverage this morning if you want to browse a bit, beginning with the front page story by John Markoff. There is lots more in the links:
James, signing off on his MacBook Pro
Many readers will remember the sensational story that broke into the news in March of this year regarding a series of “lead codices,” that some had claimed dated back to the 1st century and might prove to be some of our earliest Christian documents. Since that time much has been revealed about these artifacts and it appears the preponderance of evidence by qualified experts is these items are fake. As one of the few academics who did not jump on the bandwagon labeling the James ossuary inscription as fake (and indeed it appears it will be vindicated as genuine) I hasten to add that to me these artifacts appeared to be as phony as a three-dollar bill from day one. Nothing I saw, read, or heard about them added up. My initial reaction, without even knowing the whole story, was that they appeared to be fake and whether fake or genuine there was not a chance they could be dated to the 1st century CE.
I wanted to call attention to three items that will bring folks up to date with some of the latest evaluations by scholars:
1) A YouTube video, The Lead Codices that was put together by a team of scholars and “bibliobloggers” who have followed the story.
2) An extensive article by Tom Verenna at the Web site The Bible and Interpretation, which, I might add, is well worth browsing on many related topics. The site has a good search feature, try “Talpiot tomb” or “James ossuary” for example.
3) An article nicely written, comprehensive article by Prof. Philip Davies published in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly 143, 2 (2011), 79–86, see: PEQDaviesLeadCodices.