The Ossuary Formerly Known as the “Jonah Ossuary”

The Ossuary Formerly Known as the “Jonah Ossuary” April 12, 2012

A movement is afoot to ditch the term “Jonah ossuary” which reflects an interpretation that most do not find plausible, and substitute another nickname, such as the “amphora ossuary” or, if that isn’t catchy enough, the “handled fish ossuary.”

In The Bible and Interpretation James Tabor recounts James Charlesworth’s claim to have found the name of Jonah embedded in the inscription. The Globe and Mail features the news.

Steve Caruso gives the suggestion a failing grade, in a blog post that includes this image:

And Bob Cargill suggests that if one is willing to try to turn all lines and scratches into letters, then one can find other names besides Jonah on the ossuary:

Mark Goodacre lists the top ten problems with the claims being made about the ossuary and the inscription on it. James Tabor responded. The Duke Chronicle has an interview with Mark Goodacre and Eric Meyers about the subject.

Eerdmans announced that they will be publishing a volume on the Talpiot controversies.

Antonio Lombatti, John ByronKen Schenck, Jim West (several times), Jim Davila, Joel WattsSharon Hill, and others have also commented on this topic (or shared images on Pinterest). And if you haven’t seen it yet, last but not least, here is a second video that Bob Cargill shared yesterday:

UPDATE: Here is a link to the CNN video of Bob Cargill being interviewed. Mark Goodacre shows how the alleged stick-man has kept changing.


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  • Just Sayin’

    Hmmm . . . Eerdmans “impressive array of experts” includes Charles Pelligrino, discoverer of Atlantis . . .

    Oh well, at least he and Jacobovici should get on well together . . .

  • Yo Yo Ma?  Isn’t he that cellist?  

  • James Tabor

    James, being serious for a moment, who is proposing the “Amphora ossuary” as the new name? The only two art historians who have commented and have disagreed with the Jonah interpretation have argued it was a nephesh  or funerary monument–up-side-down at that, but nothing like an amphora (Fine, Jensen). Meyers, who wrote his dissertation on ossuaries, says the same. Cargill, who is by far the most vocal and vigorous has argued a krater-vase from the Hellenistic period, that looks nothing like an amphora. We of course considered the amphora possibilities, as well as the nephesh, as I cover in my paper, but in the end found there were simply too many dissimilarities. If it is an amphora, and someone wants to propose that, it would be great to see some examples that resemble the Talpiot tomb ossuary image–I have looked at all of them in the Israel State Collection (see Rahmani for photos) and they are quite different. I thought most of the “bibliobloggers” were going for “some kind of a vase,” but not one paralleled on any ossuary–which would not be the case with an amphora.

    • Brettongarcia

      “Some kind of vase”  in fact is about where I am going.  Based on my humble MA in Art History.  I threw out “amphora” just to note the possibility of a pointed base, even in a vase.

  • Is it fair to mention “double standard” when one rejects many vessel parallels because they are not precise enough while not offering any parallels whatsoever for the fish and Jonah”stickfigure and written name combination?

  • Susan Burns

    I see the fish and Jonah. Great discovery!

  • kyorphan

    By funerary marker, do they mean an amphora? Wouldn’t that
    be anachronistic. Also, what of the post-and-lentil structure to the right? Is
    that a tomb’s entrance? Jonah in the whale = Christ in the tomb. Debate should
    focus on the accompanying image and its correlation to the “fish” emblem.
    At this point, the Christian interpretation seems far more convincing (regardless
    of the stick figure/Hebrew lettering problem).