Friday, April 20, 2012

The Patio Tomb Box and the Fish

It appears that the fish controversy may have a productive "end".  Professor James Charlesworth and Robert Deutsch (an Israeli epigrapher) have found an overlooked inscription in the nose of the fish that reads in Hebrew "JONH" or Jonah.  The lines of the stick figure form an inscription according to a new report that can be found HERE

I continue to agree that the figure on the box is a fish.  And now with this inscription and photos of it, I find the evidence convincing that the artist was depicting Jonah.  Further, given that this pictorial is on a bone box from first-century Jerusalem, it is plausible that the reference is to resurrection. 

With this find, we have some type of Jew in the first century for whom the Jonah story made sense within the context of death. So I am moving in the direction that we may be seeing here evidence of an early Christian-Jewish tomb.   


Br. Pax said...

Sure seems like it! Jonah would seem to make it so. Good prediction :)

James D. Tabor said...

Thanks for your insight April. See my latest blog post on this, it adds some new insights I think, another photo (and none of our photos are doctored or photoshopped as some have falsely charged), and some important notes on getting beyond the controversy and asking then what the implications of this might be:

I honestly think the main obstacle to this reading, which seems crystal clear to me, is a psychological one. It is very hard for us academics to eat humble pie if we have so strongly condemned a view for weeks on end with endless posts trashing the idea this is a fish--and suddenly say, okay, I was wrong on all that, let's begin to consider what it might mean. I was always willing to consider the alternative views--a funerary tower, a perfume flask, or an amphora, but found them lacking, as I point out in my paper on which I think you have read: To me this reading of YONAH is not so much a "vindication" as just more evidence to what I thought was already a strong case, despite the critics.

Jim Deardorff said...

I think we should keep in mind the full meaning of the sign of Jonah. He was swallowed up by the big fish, spent three days & nights in its belly, and then was spat out ALIVE. Jonah was "arisen" (anastasis) out of the fish. We should interpret "resurrection" in this sense.

With this in mind, Jesus invoked the sign of Jonah, indicating that he could prophesy he would survive the crucifixion. Then his appearances afterwards, and the many traditions of his having dwelled incognito first in Damascus, then traveled through Anatolia and finally east on the Silk Road to India, all make sense.

Steve Caruso said...

Dr. Tabor,

A "psychological one"?

Then virtually all epigraphers who have seen this -- who come from very diverse backgrounds -- must share the same psychology between them.

- Haggai Misgav reads ZILAH or ZOLAH.
- Ed Cook says *possibly* an oddly-spelled YEHUDAH.
- Stephen Pfann cannot say without an RTI photo.
- Ada Yardeni thinks it’s a decorative motif.
- Gershon Galil thinks it’s a decorative motif.
- Levy Rahmani thinks it’s a decorative motif.
- André Lemaire says he’s very skeptical about seeing letters.
- Christopher Rollston thinks it’s a decorative motif.

Eshter Eshel thinks it’s a decorative motif.

And you know my own objections which I have outlined quite thoroughly:

This is hardly "confirmed" as your press release touts. :-)

The only other epigrapher who says he sees "YONAH" who wasn't associated with the project is Robert Deutsch, and he hasn't been involved in the discussion afterwards nor has he spoken up to explain his position in any detail.

So, by all accounts, the biggest problem with your position is that it does not faithfully represent the evidence.

As such, the focus should be solidly on methodology not ephemeral problems with "psychology." :-)


James D. Tabor said...
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James D. Tabor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Caruso said...

I have no idea how you even know what any of them have said. What were they shown? What was their reply?

For details, ask Antonio Lombatti. He's been maintaining a list on his blog, of which I also believe you are aware.

I have not seen your posts other than the sarcastic one of giving James Charlesworth an F on a paper which I considered somewhere between silly and insulting. Your whole approach is cavalier, maybe cute to you, but to quite a few others quite juvenile.

There is a very important distinction between juvenile mockery and satire. The former is merely malicious for being malicious' sake. The latter has a very established tradition in blogging which you, yourself have indulged in I note and seeks to provoke conversation, explore problems, and voice criticism. :-) It certainly has done this.

You'll also note that -- where I do discuss both your and Charlesworth's opinions in the post -- the graphic in question on my blog is rather generic and does not name anyone in particular. If I were aiming at Charlesworth directly, I might have had a "Name: James Charlesworth" in the upper-left hand corner as is customary, but no I saw it more fit to leave it open as a statement to the theory as a whole.

"I wonder if you could even stand in Charlesworth's shadow. I was taught to respect my teachers."

James, please. Where I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, that appears to be a direct personal insult, serves no edifying purpose, and is irrelevant.

"Otherwise you would not have people replying to Charlesworth within a hour of seeing what he proposed, including people with no credentials whatsoever in the field. Just knee-jerk--let's trash this latest proposal."

I've certainly seen examples where "knee-jerk" responses were the case. I can certainly concede that there is always a bit of that element in any such discussions.

However, pertaining to this find, what I believe that I and others have seen is consistent misrepresentation and sensationalism of the site and its artifacts -- whether purposefully or by accident, each case must be decided upon individually and I feel there has been a bit of both -- which has caused a very healthy air of skepticism.

The "Yonah" inscription I believe is the latest chapter in the list of examples, and every photograph published to date paints a different picture, from the infamous "CGI composite" in all of its orientations on which "Yonah" cannot possibly be derived, to a half dozen images where it is impossible-to-ambiguous, to the most recent photo you posted on your blog which not only shows very different dimensions and colors for the vessel/fish inscription, but also shows a slightly different lay of lines in places from the previous images.

In all honesty I'm curious as to why this image was not published earlier. I have my own theories about this, which I am sure to which you will disagree (i.e. that the portion of the inscription that you believe is "Jonah's head" is very clearly a hemisphere like the base of a vessel, not a head at all) but it is an important piece of the entire puzzle as it reveals things about the inscription that have not been demonstrated in any of the other pictures released thusfar. I'm still chewing on it, myself.

So, it's these (excuse the oxymoron) consistent discrepancies that I feel sire this kind of reaction more than "if this is true than my criticism crumbles" mentality (as even if this does say "Yonah" it still leaves many problems for which to account), and is a greater driving force than any "knee-jerk/trash-talk" reaction.


Joseph Nobles said...

Sorry, but I can see clear engraved lines that are being ignored to make the insided of the "head" read Jonah. The whole Patio tomb box phenom rests more on pareidolia than anything else, and this purported Jonah inscription demonstrates that well.

Skeptic said...

The whole thing rest on money, nothing else as shown by the many blogs attesting to this. As for Tabor citing the names of people within the IAA and others who support this, this is false, until we see some letters of support. All they did was give Arav the license, never did they justify the results. Same with Vendyl Jones who for years received licenses via 3rd parties to 'excavate' these places where ashes of the red heifer, items from the Copper Scroll, etc would be found. In fact, the IAA also allowed Ran Wyatt to excavate the Garden tomb, where he discovered the blood of Jesus, as the license was given to a third party who had a BA in archaeology.
Not a whole lot of difference between the above and the current affair except marketing, aggressive marketing and more 'archaeology by press conference' aka 'archaeology for losers'.

James D. Tabor said...

Steve, I am removing my exchange with you in that I don't want to use April's blog as a forum for this kind of exchange. Maybe we can take this up privately if you like. I think we are talking past one another. said...

Would the christian tomb be the first archaeological evidence for the existence of early christians in Jerusalem, then. This is amazing.

James D. Tabor said...

I might clarify here that when I write of a "psychological" aversion to the Jonah reading, and Steve might be right, that could be a poor choice of words, I am not thinking of this list of epigraphers that Antonio Lombatti has contacted, as I have no details as to what he provided them or what they have said in return specifically. None of them, other than Chris Rollston, so far as I know has been involved in the ASOR discussions the past eight weeks. Rather I had in mind those in the "biblioblogging" world who have taken strident positions against the "Jonah" interpretation and replied within hours of Charlesworth's suggestion with hardly time to even consider it--making fun of it, questioning his motives, and all sorts of other charges. My understanding is that Prof. Charlesworth is publishing his more formal analysis next week, as he, like most of us with a "day job" is swamped with end-of-the-semester exams, theses, dissertations, and the like. I think his comment to the Toronto Globe and Mail was entirely appropriate as he was asked by a serious and responsible reporter his view of the inscription and he offered it. This is not by any means "publishing" through the press. Many of us are called often to comment on a new find or text--I am sure April DeConick remember's the "Gospel of Judas" days well, and I had my own experience with the newly released Dead Sea Scrolls in 1990. We all subsequently published our views in academic venues. said...

Some academics live in a closed bubble. A world all of their own. they get so paranoid that they begin to see what they want to see. Whether or not it is something to do with computers I am not sure. But this tale is definitely fishy.

Simcha Jacobovici said...

In terms of your work, April, on Early Christology you state: "Once the link had been forged between Jesus’ exaltation and the investiture of the Divine Name, there was no turing back" (How We Talk About Christology Matters page 6). In this tomb, there is an inscription asking "Jehova" to "rise up", i.e. an "exaltation". No Jew, then or now, would write the Tetragrammaton on a box full of bones i.e. "Tuma", or impurity. So whoever wrote this name may not have meant it in the usual way. Given that this inscription appears 60 meters from a "Jesus, son of Joseph" and inches from an ossuary that breaks the commandment concerning graven images, can it be that the Tetragrammaton here is referring to Jesus? Can it be that the combination of the inscription and the Jonah image demonstrates that, from the very beginning, Jesus' followers parted company from normative Judaism?


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Unknown said...


About Steve Caruso (on this blog).

Steve Caruso is another intellectual coward who is hiding behind censorship, just as Thomas Verenna does. Steve Caruso runs a site called the Aramaic Blog, and he disputed some of my translations of Greek and Aramaic text. However, through not understanding how the Talmud, New Testament and the books of Josephus Flavius were written, he comprehensively lost every single argument. But instead of admitting his faults, he simply deleted all the posts, just as Verenna has on his blog.

What is it with these pseudo-intellectuals, that they are so full of themselves and their qualifications that they exude superiority and arrogance in equal measure, but when they loose the argument they do not have the good grace to admit they were wrong.


Steve Caruso said...

Ralph.... you're now taking a break from smearing Tom to smear *me*?

...on the blog of someone who is working on the same grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities as I (the Mandaic Book of John translation)?

I'm not sure how this is helping your case.


Unknown said...

Then why do you hide behind censorship? Are you a scholar, or a fraud?

Steve Caruso said...

In many things in life, there are fine lines between related concepts. Satire and mockery, Swedish pancakes and crepes, etc. etc.

The line between -- say -- scholar and fraud or censorship and having zero tolerance for slander, however, are very broad and well-defined.

The only people who make a stink about those sorts of things are people who make it their business to be on the wrong side of those lines. Quite often they are the very same people who, under the cloak of anonymity, leave such comments as yours.

Again, these are the same sort of people who demonstrate (to *multiple* people, consistently) that they don't understand the most rudimentary and basic of core concepts of a field such as Aramaic Studies...

(Such as being unable to translate any simple sentence put to them... while claiming superior understanding...)

And then, after running at the mouth (often using profanity and slander or anti-academia nonsense, mind) to the point that their conversation partner realizes that the conversation is not going anywhere and he is not going to get back the hours of his life he wasted engaging persistent ignorance...

And perhaps wants to do more important, meaningful things with his life...

So he stops engaging this sort of person and removes those places where that sort of person has insulted other people and was profane...

That sort of person then turns around, cries "I've been censored!" and declares victory.

That sort of thinking is "illness".

And it's not just one person either. There are plenty of individuals who fit this "type."

But once again, I must remind myself that I've put enough into this sort of conversation that I once again have better things to do this morning (like choose whether I'm making Swedish pancakes or crepes for breakfast... tough choice). :-)


maklelan said...

Ralph Ellis-

I've elsewhere engaged your argument about the proper understanding of those Greek and Aramaic texts, which amounts to the claim that they are "pesher," and therefore are--according to your understanding of pesher--just sarcastic texts making fun of their ideological opponents. It has not only been shown that the relevant texts in no way reflect that rhetorical purpose, but it has also been shown that you simply don't know Greek or Aramaic at all.

The only one hiding behind anything here is you. You're hiding behind attempted anonymity, you're hiding behind your refusal to engage concerns with your argument, you're hiding behind ad hominem, and you're hiding behind evasive accusations.