Talpiot Tomb Representation and Rhetoric

Talpiot Tomb Representation and Rhetoric September 18, 2013

The discussion of the Talpiot tomb (not that one, the one across the street) and the rhetoric used by Simcha Jacobovici in recent blog posts continues. Steve Caruso offers a visual representation of the differences between the two “replicas.”

Mark Goodacre responded to specific claims Jacobovici made, while Bob Cargill and Dan McClellan look specifically at his rhetoric.

Here’s the image Steve made:



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  • x x

    James Tabor’s waning credibility is now completely busted.

  • James Tabor

    XX, whoever you might be…Not sure about my credibility since I had nothing to do with either replica…Steve, thanks for your post. I would point out what I know. The two replicas were never intended to be used for epigraphic purposes, or any kind of detailed study of features, but to show the general placement and representation of features on the ossuary–which you really can’t tell from all the close up probe camera photos from all angles. One was made by Discovery Times Square, they own it and it was an adjunct exhibit to their Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, which includes the Talpiot tomb ossuaries, now on tour–I think it is in Boston with Chicago next. The other was done in Israel by Associated Producers. Both were done before Charlesworth recognized the inscription in the “head” of the fish. There is no question the second is more accurate in various features (the fish is more correct proportionally, etc.) and the main difference was the right panel was left blank since the tiny bit that could be seen in the photos, blocked by the other ossuary, looked odd–people thought it was some kind of hangman’s gallows and were trying to interpret esoteric meaning from it. What you need to do is look at the HiRes photos. Far from a “mess of lines” it is clearly YONAH, and your “mess of lines” drawing indeed reads clearly Jonah as well. Take a look at other graffio ossuary inscriptions, the style and “messiness” is identical. I will be blogging on this soon and have pulled in all the parallels. In the meantime the best two clearest photos are at http://jamestabor.com/2013/09/13/can-you-read-jonah-in-hebrew/

    • Tom Verenna

      James, in regards to your statement, no–I don’t think ‘Yonah’ is visible to anyone without the aid of the 2nd Replica and the CGI photos. In the HD/High Resolution shots it looks to be the artists rendition of shading like with the other parts of the vessel/fish that have random lines drawn in them (which I would add are conveniently missing from the 2nd replica). My point is that the YONAH seems only visible with the benefit of the power of suggestion. A more skilled epigrapher like Chris Rollston can present a more detailed case for this than I can in my limited experience. But I have to disagree with your conclusion that these are clear enough for anyone to see.

      Also, I’m still waiting for your response and outrage over Simcha’s latest blog post contra Goodacre and others. As I said to you in email, I’m just curious what you think about Simcha’s latest post; I know you
      are not Simcha and do not share every view of his, so I ask: do you
      concur with him that Bob and Mark and I, as well as others who have
      criticized the Talpiot discoveries, are ‘sleeper agents of Christian
      theology?’ Do you consider what Mark wrote to be ‘slime’? Do you really think any of us would advocate for ‘Pauline theology’ knowing our views and perspectives on religion in general (remember how many of us supported Chris Rollston against his former employer, a confessional institution)?

      I realize you didn’t write the blog; but I want your take on it. I
      thank you for showing considerably more constraint where your associate,
      Simcha, has not. But you have publicly criticized Bob and others of
      using bullying tactics. So I ask, were you planning on writing a
      response to Simcha publicly asking him to apologize for his own abusive
      tone? You are rightly outraged when you feel slighted by abusive
      language–but do you consistently also feel outraged when Simcha goes on
      a character assassination spree? Will you publicly denounce his
      abusiveness as well? I’m just asking for consistency and your

      • Tom Verenna

        James, I would remind you that you did not “see” YONAH in the image either. I recall you had this to say about the scratches in the “head” (I say “base”):

        “The “head” itself has a very distinctive pattern on it which we have
        taken to be the artists attempt to represent seaweed “wrapped about my
        head” as mentioned in the text of Jonah (2:5). The “eye” of the fish is
        also etched on the lower right side, with a curved line. We are not yet
        certain what the Etruscan “F-like”
        marking is to the left of the figure’s body as it is now oriented but
        our guess is it has to do with an eastern mythical hero motif and
        several suggestions have been made by two of our ancient art historians.”

        I would never doubt your ability to read Hebrew, James. But even you can’t deny that you didn’t see the ‘He’ there either–you saw an Etruscan character instead which, for me, seals the case on this inscription–in that it is not there.

    • Steve Caruso

      Dr. Tabor,

      Thanks for your comment over here as well. I have responded to your initial comment over on my own blog to read at your leisure. 🙂