Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If it walks like a duck: Ossuary 6 of the Talpiot 'Patio' Tomb depicts commonly used Jewish images

I am delighted to be able to publish today a guest post from Wim G. Meijer about the images on the ossuary 6 in Talpiot Tomb B. Dr Meijer has been a reader of the NT Blog for a while and he has followed the story of the Talpiot Tombs with some interest. We have been corresponding in recent months about some fascinating observations that he has made about parallels with the images on Talpiot Tomb B, Ossuary 6, that shed light on those images. I encouraged Dr Meijer to write up his observations for the blog and I am delighted that he has now done so. Although this article is Dr Meijer's work, I would like to make clear that I find his observations enlightening and persuasive. His expertise is in a different discipline (Biomolecular and Biomedical Science), but I think his eye is sharp and his instincts right.

If it walks like a duck: Ossuary 6 of the Talpiot 'Patio' Tomb depicts commonly used Jewish images

Wim G. Meijer, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland (wim.meijer@ucd.ie)

Tabor and Jacobovici identified ossuary 6 of the Talpiot 'resurrection' tomb (Talpiot patio tomb) as early Christian based on the presence of a cross on the side of the ossuary and the depiction of Jonah as a stick figure with his head wrapped in seaweed, apparently being spit out by a giant fish. In addition, it is claimed that the fish head also contains a Jonah inscription. If true, this would be the earliest example of these Christian images ever identified. Furthermore, Tabor and Jacobovici argue that the presence of this Christian tomb 60 meters from the controversial ‘Jesus family tomb’ (Talpiot garden tomb) supports their conclusion that Jesus and his family were buried there.

Figure 1: The ‘Yehosah’ ossuary
 (top panel) and the ‘cross’ in
 the middle of the ossuary
 (enlarged) compared to replica 1
 of ossuary 6 of the Talpiot tomb
 (bottom panel)
A golden rule in science is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Have they provided such extraordinary evidence? I don’t believe they have. In what follows below I provide what I believe is compelling evidence that the images on ossuary 6 are standard Jewish images of the period, not connected to the emerging Christian movement. Therefore, in my opinion ossuary 6 is not from a distinctively Christian ‘resurrection’ tomb, but from a tomb belonging to a normal Jewish family.

A cross is also present on the ‘Yehosah’ ossuary from a tomb belonging to a priestly family.

The ‘Yehosah’ ossuary, described by Asher Grossberg in the Biblical Archaeology Review, was discovered in a cave tomb in south-eastern Jerusalem (Grossberg, 1996). The ‘Yehosah’ ossuary displays a clearly identifiable cross in the centre (Fig. 1), with similar dimensions as the one on Talpiot ossuary 6. Clearly the cross on ossuary 6 is not unique, but is it Christian? The ‘Yehosah’ tomb contained a further seven ossuaries bearing the inscription of names that are closely associated with contemporaneous priestly and Levite names. This includes the name ‘Tarfon’, which is mentioned in the Talmud as belonging to priests performing duties in the Temple. Grossberg thus concludes that the Yehosah ossuary is from a tomb belonging to a priestly family. The cross on the Yehosah ossuary is therefore most certainly not a Christian symbol. Based on ancient descriptions of the Temple, Grossberg argues that the central image containing the cross is a depiction of the second Temple.

The depiction on the side of ossuary 6 is strikingly similar to images of the second Temple.

Tabor and Jacobovici focused on the cross on the side of ossuary 6 as a Christian symbol, and have not paid much attention to the image as a whole. However, when the entire image is taken into consideration (Fig. 2), one can not help but notice the striking similarities between this image with that on a coin struck during the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-136 CE). This coin depicts a structure with two columns on each side, which is generally believed to be the facade of the second Temple. These two columns on each side are clearly visible on the side of ossuary 6 (Fig. 2). The columns flank an arched, dome like structure in both images, with at the centre a square, which on ossuary 6 is freestanding, while the sides are merged with the sides of the domed structure on the coin. However, based on the similarities it seems clear that these two contemporaneous images depict the same: the facade of the Temple. This imagery was not only used in the 1st and 2nd century CE, but is still present in many synagogues as the Aron Kodesh, housing the Torah scrolls (Fig. 2). It is arguably one of the oldest and most enduring images in Judaism.

Figure 2: Comparison of the image on the side of replica 1 of ossuary 6 to a coin
 struck during the Bar Kokhba revolt and an Ark Kodesh of the Rachmastrivk
a Hasidim, Jerusalem.
In summary, comparison of the image on the side of ossuary 6 to contemporaneous images on an ossuary belonging to a priestly family and to a coin of the Bar Kokhba revolt strongly suggests that the image on the side of ossuary 6 is Jewish, and most likely depicts the facade of the second Temple.

The image of the ‘fish’ is similar to vessels on contemporaneous coins of the first Jewish revolt.

Figure 3: Comparison between Temple
 vessels depicted on coins of
 the first Jewish revolt to the
vessel on replica 2 of ossuary 6.
The front of ossuary 6 depicts what Tabor and Jacobovici argue is a depiction of a large fish spitting out Jonah. If so this would be the earliest known use of this Christian image. During the first Jewish revolt (66-70 CE), ending in the destruction of the Temple, coins were struck displaying vessels that experts agree were used in Temple services, in particular wine libation, as is suggested by the presence of a grape leave on the other side (Fig 3). The vessels depicted on these coins have a mouth that is as wide or wider than the widest part of the vessel, and have two handles in the middle at the widest point of the vessel, just below the neck. The similarity of these vessels to the image on the ossuary is striking: this too has a mouth (the tail of the 'fish') that is wider than the widest part, and has two handles ('fins') in the middle at the widest part of the vessel just below the neck. The ‘fish’ thus has the same characteristics as the vessels depicted on contemporaneous Jewish coins.

If Tabor and Jacobovici are correct about their ‘fish’, then the critical part of the ‘fish’ image, defining it as Christian, is its mouth spitting out Jonah as a stick figure and containing a Jonah inscription. I cannot help but wonder that if this part of the image is all important then why is the tail of the fish depicted on the side of the ossuary and not Jonah? Without Jonah, the inscription and the fish head, there is nothing in this half image that has any Christian significance. However, depicting just the very wide mouth of a vessel used in Temple services still makes this half image instantly recognisable as a ritual vessel.


If ossuary 6 is early Christian, as claimed by Tabor and Jacobovici, it would have contained uniquely Christian images that are not shared with or have similarities to images on Jewish objects. However, the images on ossuary 6 also occur on contemporaneous Jewish coins and an ossuary belonging to a priestly family, which most likely depict the Temple and a vessel used in Temple rituals. Therefore both Occam’s Razor and the Duck test lead to one obvious, inescapable conclusion: Ossuary 6 is Jewish and does not have any connection with the emerging Christian movement.


Grossberg, A. ‘Behold the Temple: is it depicted on a priestly ossuary?’ Biblical Archaeology Review 22,3 (1996) 46-51, 66.


Adrift said...

Great post. Is it noteworthy to at all to experts that the fish/amphora is standing on its head? From my amatuer perspective it would seem to make maybe a little sense if the "fish" was on its side and spitting Jonah out, or maybe even if it was sitting on its tail and spitting Jonah up out of the sea, but standing on its head, the shape of a vessel seems all but obvious.

Brandon Alspaugh said...

I agree with this article for the most part, but I do quibble with this rigid either/or proposition that Meijer sets up where an icon that is "Jewish" therefore cannot be "Christian".

We might say that the symbols are not distinctly or inarguably Christian - and Meijer has certainly done that - but to create this strange dichotomy where there is no permitted overlap between first-century Judaism and first-century Christianity seems dangerous and weakens the overall argument.

Frank Jacks said...

Let me piggy-back on Brandon's comment for I have been puzzled by the assumption on both sides of this ... hmmm, conversation? ... about whether the images are Christian OR Jewish, especially when most everyone in scholarly circles agree that this is a false dichotomy, as the earliest Christians (i.e. those gathered around James) continued to be practicing Jews! Indeed, I rather think that their eschatological expectation only provided added impetus to their being faithfully righteous in their observance of Torah (as they understood things). Thus, how could there be at this stage any use of images that were not Jewish? But notice how this does cut both ways! That the image is "just" Jewish hardly in itself precludes that the ossuary was not holding the bones of a Christian Jew! I am not aware of any evidence of the emergence of a distinctively "Christian" version of Jewish art or iconography, at least not in Palestine. Thus, the available information makes both sides of this debate/conversation "unproved" (even unprovable), doesn't it? Or am I missing something? If so, what? These last questions are genuine ones, not a rhetorical ploy, for I might well be ignorant of significant information, which I would of course love to hear about.

And finally, Mark, thanks for posting this most interesting item for us!


Paul Regnier said...

Brandon and Frank,

I think Simcha & co are arguing that this is a Christian tomb based on the use of Christian iconography. If there is no Christian iconography, then there is no particular reason to think the tomb is Christian.

Similarly, the argument that the existence of a Christian tomb in Talpiot B makes it more likely that Talpiot A is the family fomb of Jesus also fails if there is no particular reason to think that Talpiot B is Christian.

Richard Bauckham said...

These are very interesting suggestions, though I think they need to put in a wider context of other examples of ossuary decorations. The facade depicted on the 'Yehosah' ossuary clearly depicts two panelled doors, and there are quite similar depictions on other ossuaries. They have usually been interpreted (see Rahmani's Catalogue) as depictions of the entrance to a tomb. Some have single doors. The 'cross' on the Talpiot ossuary does not look very like double doors, but I think it is plausibly seen as a crude version of the kind of doors seen on the 'Yehosah' ossuary. All of the ornamentation on the Talpiot ossuary is very crudely drawn.
In the representation of the temple facade on the Bar Kokhba coin, Dan Barag has convincingly shown that the object in the centre is not part of the facade but the Table of the Shewbread, placed sideways on and seen through the open door of the sanctuary (as it would have been seen when the sanctuary furnishings were displayed on festival days).
There are amphorae on other ossuaries, and they are usually understood to represent the amphorae that surmounted some tomb monuments (again see Rahmani).
So a connexion with the Temple is not necessary for understanding the iconography of this ossuary as quite ordinarily Jewish, with no reason to posit a Christian provenance. However, I don't actually want to exclude the possibility of Temple references. Especially in the light of the synagogue stone from Magdala, I think we probably need to re-visit some of the iconography of the Jerusalem ossuaries.

Brandon Alspaugh said...

Paul -

I absolutely agree with you that we should not accept the Jacobovici/Tabor conclusions on the Talpiot tomb unless they are able to demonstrate the iconography is inarguably Christian, and to date they have not.

Where I feel the argument is on less sure footing, as I said, is when Meijer says something like the following:

"If ossuary 6 is early Christian, as claimed by Tabor and Jacobovici, it would have contained uniquely Christian images that are not shared with or have similarities to images on Jewish objects."

This is a strange burden to place on iconography when we allow for, say, early Christian texts to have so many similarities to Jewish texts.

Meijer is correct that in order to sustain their case Jacobovici/Tabor need to demonstrate a uniquely Christian icon on the ossuary, but he's not correct in saying that to qualify as Christian iconography it need be completely devoid of anything even remotely Jewish. That's the dichotomy I object to, because it places an intolerable burden on iconography that we don't place on texts.

Benjamin Overcash said...

I'm reposting my comment to fix some poorly-constructed language.

Regarding the 'cross', it is also important to remember that the cross-shaped 'tav' of Ezekiel 9:4 apparently had eschatological significance in at least some circles of pre-Christian Judaism (e.g. the Qumran community; cf. the reference in the Damascus Document). In fact, the 'cross' symbol appears on a number of ossuaries which would not for any other reason be considered Christian. And, considering the eschatological significance of the cross-shaped 'tav' mark in Second Temple Judaism, it wouldn't be surprising to find it on an ossuary. So, we shouldn't jump to conclusions when we see crosses on ossuaries and assume they must therefore be Christian.

I am quite surprised, however, that nothing is made of the two asterisk-shaped symbols on the side of the ossuary, which look like the Christian iota-chi monogram. These symbols appear outside of Christianity, of course, in a variety of uses - oftentimes just for decoration, which is probably the case here. But, given all the other dubious evidence, I'm surprised this one was missed.

James D. Tabor said...

Mark, thanks for this. Am I to understand that you now find the suggestion that the image we have identified as a fish on the front left of the ossuary is in fact most likely a "wine cup," as depicted on the revolt coin? I just wanted to clarify as I am dumbfounded that you would see any similarity or find this proposal "enlightening" "persuasive" and "right." We definitely need to have a drink in Baltimore! Anyway, I will try to find time to write about this latest proposal on the "fish" and the "cross" on my blog though right now I am pressed with getting ready for the conferences.

Richard, did you notice the fish on the Magdala stone? Very interesting both in terms of style and context.

I have addressed the orientation of the fish several times on my blog and in my initial paper, as well as the "cross" representing an entrance of some type, either temple or perhaps the "bars of Sheol," see http://bibleinterp.com/articles/tab368028.shtml, so I won't repeat things here.

Richard Bauckham said...

James, I don't see a fish on the Magdala stone.

James D. Tabor said...

Richard, look again. There are actually two. On the top. Very clear. And two vases as well on the front side. See http://jamestabor.com/2012/12/29/vases-and-fishes/

Stephen Goranson said...

James, I am also unclear about what two portions of the Magdala stone top that you consider to be fish. Care to specify?

Geoff Hudson said...

There is a difference between the cup on ossuary 6 and the cup on the coins of revolt. Has anyone noticed?

Geoff Hudson said...

The 'cup'on ossuary 6 seems to be holding a liquid which is dripping out at the bottom. The liquid could be perfume. But why would someone put such a symbol on an ossuary which contains the dry bones of several people? That doesn't make sense. There would be little or no odour from the bones.

But what if the liquid represented anointing oil? Would that make sense as a symbol?

Richard Bauckham said...

James, I find Aviam's interpretation of the decorations on the Magdala stone mostly convincing: Mordecai Aviam, 'The Decorated Stone from the Synagogue at Migdal,' NovT 55 (2013) 205-220.(I have a forthcoming [hopefully] article taking his interpretation further and differing from him a little.) He and I think that all the decorations relate to the Temple. I think the vessels flanking the Menorah are the gold libation jars that were in the Holy Place along with the Menorah and the altar of incense (also depicted on that side of the stone). The twelve shapes (hearts, rectangles etc) on the top face of the stone, surrounding the rosette, are the twelve loaves of the Shewbread, which were in a variety of different shapes. None of them seem to me to resemble fish at all.

Geoff Hudson said...

Why do ossuaries appear from about 20 BCE until 70 CE? Were they associated with a change in beliefs of a particular group?

Geoff Hudson said...

James and Richard,

Was there any symbol on the Magdala stone of animal sacrifice?

Richard Bauckham said...

Geoff, that's a good question. No. The altar of burnt-offering is not depicted.

As to ossuaries, it's debated. That they are related to belief in resurrection is questioned because high priestly families, usually thought to be Sadducees, used them. But it may be the practice was related to belief that the bones were the surviving remains from which God would resurrect the person, and families who didn't believe in resurrection nevertheless adopted the custom when it became popular. It does seem as though all Jerusalem families who were wealthy enough to afford a family tomb and ossuaries used them.
Some scholars have related ossuaries to a sense of individual identity. Maybe people wanted to remember their family members as individuals, not just lost in a family grave. It's a puzzle. But it's convenient for archaeologists and historians to be able to date ossuaries so precisely.

Geoff Hudson said...

Thanks Richard,

Could I expand the question? Do you know of any ossuary that shows a symbol of animal sacrifice, such as the altar of burnt offering?

Richard Bauckham said...

Geoff, Just to clarify: the Magdala stone is not an ossuary, but had some sort of function in the synagogue. What function is debated.

I don't know of any symbols of animal sacrifice on ossuaries, but most of the decoration on ossuaries does not relate to the cult. Most scholars see most of the decoration on ossuaries as purely decorative. Maybe the most common design is the rosette, which may have been seen as a symbol of Israel, since it seems to be a peculiarly Jewish decorative motif.

Richard Bauckham said...

By the way, Geoff, if you're interested in ossuaries a good place to start is Craig Evans' short book, which also discusses relevance to NT studies.


b"h z"a

Dear Mark: How curious you repeat my claims without one reference to me, nor comments published by Professor Kloner December 27 of 2012 ce. at Bar Ilan University, nor reply made by Simcha Jacobovici on January 3, 2013 ce., nor any of my further disclosures expounded upon at my blogspot -- most of which you were also provided via e-mail.

I suggest your readers visit my blogspot. I further urge you to get straight and to give credit where credit is due.

Please visit www.chassiyot.blogspot.co.il

Most sincerely, Avrahaum

Adrift said...

Avrahaum, I'm confused.

According to his intro, the post you're replying to was written by Professor Wim G. Meijer, not Professor Goodacre.

Wim Meijer said...

Dear Avrahaum,

I was not aware of your blog or you until your comment today. My writing was therefore not influenced in any way, shape or form by your blog. Although we draw the same conclusions, my blog entry is completely different from yours.

I have compared the image on side of ossuary 6 to that of the contemporaneous Yehosah ossuary and the Bar Kokhba coin as well as the present day Aron Kodesh (Figures 1 and 2), a comparison I do not see on your blog.

I do note that your blog reports the similarities between the vessel on the front of the ossuary and the coins of the first revolt, which I do as well (Figure 3).

However, your blog does not discuss the half image of the vessel on the other side of the ossuary and the inference that the lack of Jonah, the inscription and the fish head in this half image argues against it being a Christian symbol.

Independent arguments against the Christian nature of this ossuary have been made on a good number of blogs, which may overlap to a certain extent.

I hope that all of these convince the general public that ossuary 6 is not linked to the emerging Christian movement.

Best regards,


b"h z"a

Dear Adrift:

There is no need to be confused.

Mark Goodacre has long been aware of my original disclosures and complaints about concealed and suppressed GE Photographs taken by Simcha Jacobovici and his crew at The Talpiot Patio Tomb.

Mark did make very clear in his introduction that he had been in contact with Wim Meijer for some months.

It was Mark's responsiblility to inform Meijer about my work. It was Mark who read & stood behind his invited guest's work.

He presented the man.

Meijer's own conclusions mirrored many of my disclosures & claims. So much so that I thought perhaps he was taking note of my work and not giving me due credit, with Mark's expressed knowledge and consent.

Since writing my brief post Wim and I have communicated. He has assured me that he did not use any of my material. I trust the man on face value.

However, I still firmly believe that Mark Goodacre should have realized his own responsibility. To inform Meijer about my work.

Now I actually hope that Wim will continue writing. I hope he will now use my material in his future postings. Together with others like Mark Goodacre, and you, and everyone and anyone else who at all cares about intellectual, and academic and historic integrity.

The truth of photographed fact & evidence has not been released!!

Therefore NO conclusions can be drawn. It is that simple. People have wasted life-energy on a con-job.

Unfortunate as it true, The discussions had on blogs like this, are discussions entertained over false, viciously unethical,
contrived, self-serving claims made by Tabor & Jacobovici.

My dear Mr. Adrift, urgently gain foothold on land and demand that Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor finally disclose their concealed suppressed GE Photographs.

Demand they publish corrections required, with apologies to the public.

I again invite you and others to:

Most sincerely, Avrahaum

Geoff Hudson said...

Wim Maijer

The point is that the image of an amphora on an ossuary was not common outside of approximately 20 BCE to 70 CE. And the image appeared on a number of ossuaries. That is what you should focus on. Why did ossuaries start to be used and why did their use end fairly abruptly? And as we have heard from Richard, he doesn't know of any image of animal sacrifice on ossuaries.

Wim Meijer said...

Dear Avrahaum,

I can only reiterate what I said in my previous reply to you on this blog and in an email to you: my blog entry and your blog are very different and are not related to each other in any way, bar that we arrived at similar conclusions. If anyone is interested they can judge that for themselves by comparing blogs. However, I do not appreciate your innuendo against Mark or me.

Geoff, I do not know the answer to your question relating to the use of amphorae on first century ossuaries nor do I see the relevance of animal sacrifice to my post.

Best regards,

Wim Meijer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

b"h z"a

Dear Wim:

There was no innuendo iimplied against you. I stated clearly that I have taken your word on face value.

Likewise, there was no innuendo regarding Mark.

Mark had an obligation to inform you of my work. He did not. That was wrong of Mark.

He furthermore had obligation to make reference to my work when introducing yours, due to the similarities. I actually hold Mark responsible for creating a little 'spat' where not needed.

Mark could speak for himself but I do not expect him to do so. It would be far more productive for him to finally cry foul against his friend James Tabor. To make a severe demand that Tabor & his co-author Jacobovici make public disclosure of the GE Photographs they have wrongfully concealed & suppressed from publication.

Mark's failure to challenge both Tabor & Jacobovici immediately to disclose the GE Photographs makes of Mark Goodacre an enabler; and a collaborator through silence.

Mark has previously made numerous requests for "corrections" but he has never demanded that the FACTS Photographed be produced.

Originally, Mark's requests for corrections had value, because he did not know of the fact that GE Photographs were being concealed.

Once I entered the discussion, Mark should have realized that the suppressed evidences had bearing on his own complaint. Instead of stopping the con-game, he continues it.

One last comment on Mark's blog. He has posted a picture of Simcha Jacobovici on or about September 12 which I find to be extremely offensive and anti-semitic.

I wrote to Mark asking that it be removed. He has refused to do so.

No innuendo there either, Wim.

Mark's anti-semitic depiction of Simcha Jacobovici is not funny. It is unacceptable.

Wim, enjoy writing, and continue your interests in the field. As a rule I do not engage in these blog discussions because of guys like Mark Goodacre who avoid the core problem posed by Jim Tabor & Jacobvici. Their Failure To Make FULL, HONEST & TRUTHFUL DISCLOSURE

Any further communication between you and I would best be conducted via private e-mail.

Most sincerely,


Geoff Hudson said...


There were about 3000 ossuaries discovered, 2000 of which were plain. Now plainness does not speak of wealth. Most ossuaries came from the immediate Jerusalem area. See Jodi Magness's book Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit, her Note 27, page 247 - Kloner and Zissu, The Necropoolis of Jerusalem, 112-13. Why do they mostly come from Jerusalem?

In the period 20 BCE to 70 CE the absence of symbols of animal sacrifice (e.g. an altar of burnt offerings) on ossuaries could indicate the owners were not so priestly. This would also indicate a different type of elite (with a different belief) living in Jerusalem at the time, who were friendly towards Herodians and Romans?

Adrift said...

Dear Avrahaum,

I looked at your blog before posting, and found it very interesting and informative. I really like all of the high resolution images on the blog.

As for demanding anything from Simcha Jacobovici and professor Tabor, I'm just an amatuer enthusiast, so I don't think I'm really in a place to demand anything.

In my humble opinion, I think you're being unnecessarily harsh to professor Goodacre. It sounds like you and he agree about many of the details concerning the Talpiot tomb. I don't agree that its professor Goodacre's responsibility to go around calling foul or demanding data from other professionals. This is a blog, not an academic journal. I think he does a terrific job at writing this blog so that its both informative and entertaining for both the expert and enthusiast, while remaining as objective and professional as possible.

And maybe I'm naive, I don't see anything at all anti-semitic about the September 12th picture of Mr. Jacobovici. Its just a screen grab of Mr. Jacobovici's from his own "The Jesus Wife Papyrus" video.

Geoff Hudson said...

Fig 46 in Magness's book shows a different ossuary with an amphora in between two incised rosettes. Here the amphora looks as though it has been amateurly scratched into the surface in contrast with the rest which is professionally inscribed. The same could be said about the amphora on ossuary 6. It is as though the amphora was of central importance to the owners of the ossuary. It has been added like some of the names that appear on ossuaries.

Richard Bauckham said...

Geoff, the provenanced ossuaries all come from family tombs, which would have been expensive to excavate and build. Many of the tombs contained a lot of ossuaries. I don't know how many tombs there are (it would be interesting to check) and undoubtedly there are many that have not been discovered, but I think we are still dealing with the relatively wealthy families. Remember that people had a lot of children and some died in infancy. Some of the known tombs were undoubtedly priestly. The offering of animal sacrifices was by no means the only important thing the priests did. Actually they did that outside the holy place. They offered incense on the altar of incense inside the holy place. The famous temple vessels were inside the holy place. I agree with you about fig. 46 in Magness. That's a very interesting observation, and it makes one wonder why they wanted to add specifically an amphora. The families buried in the Akeldama tombs seem to have been immigrants from Syria. I don't know any reason to think they were priestly.
I would like to think more about the significance of amphorae on ossuaries, when I can find the time to look at all the examples! You're asking the right questions. Go on looking for the answers.

This comment has been removed by the author.

b"h z"a

Dear Mark:

Mr. Adrift suggests that there is nothing anti-Semitic about your September 12 2913 ce posted image of Simcha Jacobovici.

Mr. Adrift tells me that it was a "screen grab" from "The Jesus Wife Papyrus" video.

Review "The Jesus Wife Papyrus" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvPz5BMnnjw ;at approximately
1:50 [time-frame sequence] you will see Simcha discussing the underwear bloggers against whom he complains.

Unless I am mistaken, Mark, you selected a photograb from that sequence. A photo shot which has Jacobovici acting as if he is typing away like the underwear bloggers he resents.

Within context of the video it is funny. Taken out of context it is not.

It is classic anti-Semitic.

Mark, I previously presented you with classic hate-art examples. You ignored my presentation and reasonable request that you take the image down.

Now, please review my public request for you to remove the anti-Semitic depiction of Simcha:


Your selection of that particular screen grab may have been thought as innocent -- from a Fruedian perspective it was not. Let's just call it an anti-Semitic slip, shall we not old chap?

Please be a good fellow and take the anti-Semitic 'creepy creeping Jew' photo off your blog.

When you do so, perhaps you can explain your innermost feelings; and how wrong it is to isolate and extract any image that will possibly mislead others who are not so familiar with the entire context from which the image was taken.

Perhaps you can relate your own personal experience to that of those actions Tabor & Jacobovici took in isolating & extracting -- for their prejudiced purposes --an alleged to be 1st Century Common Era "Christian cross" taken entirely out-of-context.

Mark, I thank you for allowing me to post comments on your blog to address these matters.

Please do remove the anti-Semitic image of Simcha Jacobovici; And urgently suggest to your friend Tabor & his co-author Jacobovici to make public disclosure of the concealed & suppressed GE Photos.

Respectfully suggest in your own language that with their proper disclosures the interested and purchasing public might finally realize the entire context out of which they prejudicially isolated
and extracted as image which they elected to fraudulently call the earliest 1st Century Common Era Christian Cross ever discovered.

Every consumer has a right to be protected from concealments and suppression of factual evidence when purchasing or viewing a book or documentary film which assert that photographed archaeological facts make their case & argument.

Hidden Unfair & Deceptive Acts of Concealment & Suppression Do Not Belong In An Academic Marketplace Of Ideas!

You, Mark, can help to halt con-game Tabor & Jacobvici created.

So can your readership.

Simply ask for public disclosures of GE Photographs I have proven exist & which Tabor & Jacobovici have refused to publish.

If they still refuse to disclose and publish, ask for your money to be returned. Complain to the corporations involved.

That would be: Simon & Scuster; The Discovery Channel; VisionTV of ZOOMER MEDIA, Ltd.; Running Subway Productions ; Associated
Producers, Ltd. subsidiary AP Talpiot ...

In other words: Do ask Professor James D. Tabor and Golden Dolphin Award Winning, 3 time Emmy Award winning Investigative Journalist Simcha to please be honest and disclose.

They have refused thus far. Take the anti-Semitic photograb off your blog, and explain your error and willingness to correct the record.

Perhaps they'll listen to you & follow your lead. Perhaps they will disclose and finally publish corrections.

Thank you.

Most sincerely,


Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, on page 152 of her book, Magness writes: "outside of Jerusalem, the largest cemetery with rock-cut loculus tombs containing ossuaries is at Jericho, which was the site of the Hasmonean and Herodian winter palaces, and the centre of a priestly community".

The cutting of rock and stone must have been a common skill used in quarrying, mining, and rock-cut tombs, ossuaries, and a wide range of buildings and structures, especially in this area of Jericho near to the Herodian palaces. So, I could see some tombs and ossuaries being a DIY effort, by skilled relatively poor workers who may also have been priestly.

Richard Bauckham said...

Geoff, Sorry that I still don't agree about this. The tomb I know about in Jericho, belonging to the Goliath family, probably a priestly family, is sumptuous - with a courtyard and wall decorations. Many tombs had expertly carved entrances, though maybe this was not universal. Of course, there were skilled workers who did this work, and we know something about ossuary workshops. But I can't believe that these skills were especially common. Remember also that you had to buy the site for the tomb.To really answer this question I suppose one should be finding out how many tombs are known of a very simple kind and containing only plain ossuaries. I don't know that, and the fact is that the tombs scholars tend to get familiar with are those with inscribed or at least decorated ossuaries. I'm not being dogmatic about how far up the socioeconomic scale one had to be to use ossuaries and so I say 'relatively wealthy' - which I suppose begs the question - like your 'relatively poor'! But tombs and ossuaries were certainly a luxury. Most people were buried in the soil with no tomb.

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, What do you make of the report cited by Magness on page 247 of her book?

Kloner and Zissu, The Necropolis of Jerusalem. Magness says pages 112-113 report that more than 3000 ossuaries are known, most of them from Jerusalem and more than 2000 of which are plain.

And she does imply that the rock-cut tombs with ossuaries at Jericho were numerous.

I don't have access to this book. I have the book by Craig Evans on order.

Richard Bauckham said...

Yes indeed, there are many such tombs at Jericho. I wasn't meaning to contest that. I meant the only one I know anything about is the Goliath tomb. I don't know how simple or elaborate the others are. Kloner and Zissu say that rock cut tombs range from simple to elaborate, and they give the figures for ossuaries you cite. The question is: how many families would that represent over the course of 80 years or so, taking into account also that ossuaries would have been less popular at the beginning of that period? Lets say it would make an average of 60 people dying each year. What size of population would produce 60 deaths per year? I don't think I know how to work that out! On the question of plain and decorated ossuaries, my impression is that often you find both types in the same tomb. So it's not simply that less wealthy families used plain ones. One can think of various reasons why the same family should sometimes use plain and sometimes decorated ones, the relative importance of the person being a major issue, I guess. Caiaphas's ossuary is much the most splendid in the family tomb.

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, On page 56 of Craig Evan's book there are quotations related to scribes, builders, farmers, smiths, butchers and other professions, all from ossuaries.

Richard Bauckham said...

As I remember (I don't have the book to hand) the interpretation of some of those terms is controversial. But in general I'd say it shows that the particular persons - those particular scribes - were reasonably well off, probably unlike many other scribes.

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, I think the inscriptions in Chapter 3 of Craig's book show that there was a considerable middle class, not just scribes. This cross section of entrepeneurs of their day was probably the same at Jerusalem and Jericho.

DCHindley said...

Point 1: The "cross" does look like a doorway, although I wonder why the doorway doesn't rest on the floor but seems to be in the center like some kind of window on a wall. But the temple in Jerusalem is not the only structure that might have a door. How about a Synagogue? The image of the Bar Kochba coin does not appear to show a doorway between the pillars but the plan of the interior of the temple (as if seen from above). Yet there is nothing particularly priestly about the man, and certainly no temple structure.

Point 2: The fish image. While it is rightly pointed out that the vessels depicted on the coins of the first Jewish revolt have lips wider than the width of the vessel proper, they both show something the "fish" image does not. A pedestal to allow the vessel to be set on a flat surface and remain upright. The fish lack this feature. If it is supposed to represent a vessel, at best it is an amphora. The little circle that is at the base could be water dripping from a nice fresh fish being displayed for sale at a market. The rectangular structure next to the fish on the long side of the replica ossuary image is what? A fish monger's place of business? Now an image of a window makes more sense. The squares do not represent panes in a window, but they could depict the shutters of a display window (closed, apparently, after the man's demise).

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard, are Essenes or Pharisees or Sadducees mentioned on any ossuary that you know of?

Adrift said...

DCHindley, I'm not sure this addresses your point 2 satisfactorily, but on his blog, Avrahaum Segol pointed out the following weblink that shows a number of early second century coins that display temple amphorae that, though they do seem to sit on pedestals, have a decorative circle between the pedestal and the bottom of the bowl (coins #106 and #107).


Geoff Hudson said...

Adrift and DC Hindley, the amphora on ossuary 6 is exactly the same as that on Fig.46 of Jodi Magness's book. They both have small holes in the bottom through which oil is allowed to leak.

Geoff Hudson said...

Adrift and DC Hindley, anointing oil was precious, being a mixture of various perfumes with olive oil. It was probably dispensed from an amphora through a fine hole which could easily be blocked with a plug.

Adrift said...

Thanks Geoff! I'll have to buy a copy of it.

Carl Mosser said...

For what it is worth, Meijer's second point is a non-sequitur. He states "Grossberg thus concludes that the Yehosah ossuary is from a tomb belonging to a priestly family. The cross on the Yehosah ossuary is therefore most certainly not a Christian symbol." Luke identifies Zechariah, and by implication John the Baptist, as a priest (Lk 1:5). The Baptist's followers may well have included other priests and, as with other followers of the Baptist, some may have become Christ-followers. Later Luke reports that a large number of priests became 'obedient to the faith' (Acts 6:7). This constitutes prima facie evidence for the existence of priests who were also Christ-followers. The fact that an ossuary came from a priestly tomb has no bearing on the likelihood that it includes Christian iconography.

Richard Bauckham said...

I'm not very clear where the discussion of amphorae is going. If we're talking about the famous, golden vessels used in the Temple, they were not for holding anointing oil (which would surely have been contained in small flasks, like the one in the Gospel story of the woman anointing Jesus, not amphorae) but for holding wine that was poured out in libation offerings.

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b"h z"a

Dear Mark:

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"... A Debate Of The "Cross" - Who Found "The Earliest Christian Cross" First? Was It Zias & Epstein?"

Most sincerely,


Geoff Hudson said...

Richard and Carl, but what about the representations of amphora, with anointing oil, scratched into surfaces of ossuary 6 and the ossuary fom Magness's book? What did those amphorae signify? Craig's book has it, that ossuaries were owned by a cross-section of middle class families. The middle classes were in the close presence of the herodians in their palaces in Jerusalem and Jericho. (Kokkinoss says that the herodians retained their power, see his book The Herodian Dynasty).

Richard Bauckham said...

Amphorae were for holding liquids like wife and foodstuffs. Yes, they were in common use. I don't see anointing oil in the pictures. I guess you're referring to what I would call the stands. These amphorae on ossuaries are like the ones on the Magdala stone, where they flank the Menorah and I think are very likely the gold libation jars used in the Holy Place. I think amphorae on ossuaries are generally regarded as just funerary symbols, but it seems to me possible that they represent the Temple vessels. One would have to look at all amphorae pn ossuaries and I haven't time to do so just now!!

Richard Bauckham said...
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Richard Bauckham said...

Sorry, that should read 'liquids like wine'!!!

Geoff Hudson said...

Richard , I agree that the amphorae on ossuary 6 and in Magness's book would have to rest on stands or be hung. These were not cups for an oblation, as on the Magdala stone. The question is what funerary symbol does the ossuary or the oil within it represent? The mere fact of a fine hole being in the bottom is indicative that the container was for precious, viscous oil. The cups on the Magdala stone were for less viscous fluid like wine. On both ossuaries there is a line representing the level of the oil. This was a deliberate funerary symbol scratched into the surface of the ossuary presumably by the owners.

Jordan Ryan said...
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Jordan Ryan said...
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Jordan Ryan said...

Sorry, I removed my comments. I realized after re-reading Richard's posts that I was talking about something slightly different, pertaining more to Aviam's article than the discussion here. My apologies to all.

Geoff Hudson said...

There appears to be no evidence on ossuaries of animal sacrifice being revered. Yet we understand that there were priests (approximately 30,000 of them) in existence. So what were these priests doing? It seems as though animal sacrifices had ceased, despite what we read in Josephus. The priests are hardly present. Just a few priests are referred to on ossuaries in Craig's book. Ossuaries were not the sole possessions of elite priests.

Geoff Hudson said...

There appears to be no references to Essenes, Pharisees or Sadducees on ossuaries. There are a few ossuaries to priests or members of their family from Jerusalem. But there are other folk from the Jerusalem area: "Yehuda the scribe", "Simon, builder of the temple", "Nicanor of Alexandria, who built the doors", "Yehoni the artisan (or smith)", "Jonathan the potter", "the captive physician", "Gaius the midget", "the dour" or the grump", "Maryam, wife of the cow" - just the sort of folk I would have felt comfortable being with. (See pages 53, 56 and 57 of Craig Evan's book). Craig has done a fine job, but a complete trawl of ossuary names would be better.

Richard Bauckham said...

Geoff - The vast majority of ossuaries that have names on them have only names. (They were only ever seen by members of the family, who didn't need to be told more than the name.) Craig has picked out some of the few that have descriptions of the persons. One of those you quote illustrates my point about being cautious with some of these - Nicanor, we know from other sources, was a wealthy Egyptian Jew who paid for the doors to be made, not an artisan who worked on them. Since most of the ossuaries have no indication of the occupations (etc) of the people in them, we simply can't tell how many of them were priests. But there are certainly several identifiable families of the priestly aristocracy. Moreover, most decorated ossuaries have purely decorative designs, or (in the case of the rosettes that are very very common) a decorative design associated with being Jewish. I would be very surprised to find something connected with animal sacrifice on the ossuary of a priest. Why should we expect it? I would also be very surprised to find the terms Essenes, Pharisees or Sadducees on ossuaries. It's just not the kind of thing people put on ossuaries. A member of a prominent Sadducean family would not in any case be known as 'Simon the Sadducee'. He would be known as 'Simon the son of Nicodemus'.

Geoff Hudson said...

richard, one could say that Herod built the temple. In which case why was there a need for a builder of the temple called Simon. Perhaps he was an expert in construction. Similarly, Nicanor may have financed the doors of the sanctuary, but he may also have had some expertise and been involved in their construction - after all he apparently died in Jerusalem. And someone from Egypt brings another dimension to our picture of what some of these folk believed - perhaps he considered animal sacrifice unnecessary.

There are symbols like rosettes related to being Jewish, but there are other symbols like sanctuary doors (built by Nicanor) which have a more religeous significance to do with belief. So it does surprise me that apparently there is no priest's ossuary with a symbol for the altar of burnt offerrings.

Philo (also from Alexandria) does not mention Pharisees and Sadducees, only priests and Essenes. He says that the Essene's "lawgiver (Moses) trained an innumerable body of his pupils" and that "they were "honoured with this appellation because of their exceeding holiness". This can only refer to prophets.

Richard Bauckham said...

Nicanor migrated to Jerusalem, like many diaspora Jews, because he wanted to be near the Temple, so that he could participate in its worship. Yes, he 'built' the doors to the sanctuary in the same sense that Herod built the Temple. Simon is different; I guess he must have played some part in the construction himself, but I can't believe he was just one of the thousands of ordinary builders.
I suspect we are now in a private dialogue, and it's time to finish.
There are much more complete catalogues of ossuaries, with photos, that you could consult to pursue your interest in this, but unfortunately they're very expensive to buy.