Talpiot Tomb articles (Revised 4/13/2012)

The following articles were recommended to me by James Charlesworth of Princeton. I am editing a book with him on 1 Enoch, but these articles are about the Talpiot tomb B find. 

The following articles were recommended to me by James Charlesworth of Princeton. I am editing a book with him on 1 Enoch, but these articles are about the Talpiot tomb B find. 

I have decided to place the positive articles in this blog entry. These are news reports on the find.  So here is the first piece from Haaretz (a major Israeli newspaper). The second is from MSNBC. I have now added (4/13/2012) at the end fo this post,  Tabor's post on phtographs, so you can see what we are adiscussing by going ot this site.


'Naked Archaeologist' finds signs Jerusalem cave was used to bury Jesus' disciples



Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer, hopes findings of current explorations will substantiate his earlier theory that Jesus was buried in a nearby cave.

By Nir Hasson



Under an ordinary residential building in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, a robotic arm with a camera inserted into a Second Temple-era burial cave has revealed mysterious inscriptions and drawings on ossuaries.

Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer who is best known for his documentary TV series "The Naked Archaeologist," argues that the cave served as a burial cave for at least some of Jesus' disciples.


Jacobovici is exploring the cave for his latest documentary project, backed by the Discovery Channel, and hopes his findings substantiate his earlier theory that a nearby cave is the one where Jesus was buried. He made that claim in a previous documentary, and said the theory was backed up by the names found on the ossuaries, or receptacles for bones, in the cave.

The discoveries could potentially have revolutionary implications for the understanding of early Christianity and of Jesus as a historical figure.

Jacobovici's previous theories were based on findings by others, and a press conference he is scheduled to hold today in New York to unveil a book and film about his current project will be the first time he and his colleagues reveal findings from their own explorations.

Every few years, Jacobovici shakes up the archaeological world, mainly with his interpretations of Second Temple-era finds having to do with the New Testament. Last year, he argued that a pair of nails found in another burial cave in Jerusalem were the original nails used to crucify Jesus.

Violent confrontation

The cave, which was found in the 1990s, was sealed after protests from ultra-Orthodox activists stopped the exploration, and an apartment house was subsequently built on top of it.

After successfully negotiating with the residents' committee of the building on Olei Hagardom Street for permission to drill into the floor, Jacobovici had an almost violent confrontation with the ultra-Orthodox group Atra Kadisha.

Eventually, he pledged to Atra Kadisha leader Rabbi David Schmidel that he would explore the cave only by means of a robotic arm inserted through the building floor.

It seems that the finds – the most important of which was an incised drawing clearly showing a large fish swallowing or vomiting a human figure – were worth the effort.The carving underscores Jacobivici's belief that Jesus was buried in the nearby cave because the fish, and the image of Jonah and the whale, were both early Christian symbols.

The fish cannot be mistaken for something more ordinary, like the prow of a ship, and can only be understood as a fish and a human figure – making it unique among the hundreds of ossuaries found in Jerusalem, said Israeli archaeologist Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, a member of Jacobovici's team.

Another member of the team is James Tabor, an expert on religions from the University of North Carolina.

In the early Christian burials in the Catacombs of Rome are 108 depictions of Jonah, Jacobovici told Haaretz last week. Jonah's power as a Christian symbol comes from a verse in the Book of Matthew comparing Jonah's emergence after three days in the belly of the whale to Jesus' resurrection after three days.

The second of Jacobovici's dramatic finds is an inscription in Greek letters. It can be variously interpreted, but all refer in one way or another to resurrection, he says.

Jacobovici, along with the experts he has enlisted, claims the words are "God" in Greek, the Tetragrammaton (the traditionally unutterable four-letter name of God in Hebrew ), the word "arise" or "resurrected" in Greek, and the word "arise" or "resurrected" in Hebrew.

This appears to support the claim that the cave was used as an early Christian burial site because the idea that a mainstream member of the Jewish community would inscribe an ossuary with the Tetragrammaton is unlikely; even a prayer containing this word has never been found on an ossuary.

"It shows us that perhaps this whole area was a very unorthodox area, a different area. Not the Jewish mainstream," said Arav.

Unlike many archaeologists, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yuval Baruch – who appears to be the only Israeli archaeologist other than Arav who has seen the findings – says Jacobovici could be right.

Although Baruch said yesterday that Jacobovici's use of a robot "to photograph not in the best light" was problematic, he added: "If it is indeed a fish, it is fantastic. It has no parallel."

Baruch criticized Jacobovici's work for being "mostly unconnected to context."

"Ossuaries were not mass produced, and different decorations are being discovered all the time," he said.

All the same, he said archaeologists should be grateful.

"Archaeologists have to understand that what Simcha does is to take the esoteric profession of archaeology and turn it into Indiana Jones, something very appealing," he said. "From that perspective, we should thank him."


The second piece is longer, so I merely post the link:


More Photos of the Talpiot Tomb Discoveries Released

We have just uploaded a dozen or so additional photos of the Talpiot tomb discoveries at our main web site: 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 academicreport, 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.


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My first post on this issue was mostly critical of the find and its claims. Here are pieces that are more positive. I post these so one has both sides in front of them. I will assess these issues in a later post.


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    On Tabor

    Derek, This thing about the tomb really bothers me. Some people are getting into this trap, some of Tabor's claims is that Jesus was married and a son. They want to portray Jesus as a mere man, without his attributes. I think it is sad that some people really believe this kind of stuff. It is very deceptive to claim something it is not. What is the difference between this discovery and the Talpiot Tomb? Is this not the same hoax? I am sorry that Tabor is involved in this kind of stuff, you can expect that from Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron, but about Tabor? He isn't the most orthodox guy, but he is putting all his credibility in doubt.