This ought to be the first rule of “Biblical Archaeology”

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“Biblical archaeology” is in “scare quotes” because it’s a highly problematical concept, but more of that later. What I want to address first is what ought to be a first principle for anyone reading about claims for discoveries that are supposedly related to the Bible (Hebrew or Christian) or any religious text, for that matter. It’s this:

If a discovery confirms your pre-held religious beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud.

As a principle, I think it’s a good one. But it’s one I have rarely, if ever, encountered in so-called “Biblical Archaeology”, which is a sub-discipline that is characterised by a distinct lack of sceptical thinking. Why is that?

Let’s answer that by looking at some recent claims: the “Jesus family tomb”, the “lead codices” from Jordan and the interminable searches for “Noah’s Ark”.

The “Jesus family tomb”

The so-called ‘Jesus family tomb’
The so-called ‘Jesus family tomb’

In 2005, the Canadian investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici (know to television viewers as The Naked Archaeologist, a rather unappealing designation) entered a tomb originally found during construction work in 1980 at Talpiot (‏תלפיות‎), a suburb of Jerusalem. It seems that he did this without the permission of the Israel Antiquities Authority (העתיקות רשות), which makes it an illegal act. The purpose was to make a documentary with the film director James Cameron, as Jacobovici believed that it was the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and other members of his family. The documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, was released in March 2007, with a follow up book co-authored by Jacobovici and Charles R Pellegrino, The Jesus Family Tomb: the discovery that will change history forever (there are different versions of the subtitle that are less emphatic than this!) that was released a month later.

Both the book and the film have proved controversial, with criticism focusing on statistical claims that allegedly show that the combination of names found on ossuaries recovered from the tomb has only a one in six hundred chance of occurring in first century CE Palestine. They take this to be proof that the tomb really was that of Jesus and his family. There are problems with their argument, though: the statistics used by Jacobovici suggest that there were at least a thousand men named Yeshu‘a/Yehoshu‘a bar Yehosef alive in the first half of the first century CE. As more than twenty-two ossuaries of the right date bearing the name Yeshu‘a/Yehoshu‘a have been found in and around Jerusalem, several of these ought to belong to a Yeshu‘a/Yehoshu‘a bar Yehosef. Jacobovici’s statistical claims only stand up if Yehosef is counted twice (once on the ossuary belonging to Yeshu‘a bar Yehosef and once on the ossuary naming Yoseh, who cannot be shown to be the father of Yeshu‘a)/

The inscription supposedly naming Yehosu‘a bar Yehosef
The inscription supposedly naming Yehosu‘a bar Yehosef

To make matters worse, they include several additional names in their analysis: Mariamenou-Mara and Yehudah bar Yeshu‘a. The reading of the first name is disputed, her identity as the wife of Yeshu‘a bar Yehosef is entirely speculative and the suggestion that she was Mary Magdalene is also pure speculation. The second name is included to create a son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Why? There is no biblical authority for this move. Instead, it relies on an idea first mooted in the notoriously slipshod but best selling The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, that Jesus fathered one or more children, creating a dynasty that survives to the present day. Following the unprecedented success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, the plot of which is based around the conspiracy at the heart of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married has now entered popular discourse.

It is not unfair to say that Simcha Jacobivici could not have made his documentary without Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s unfounded speculation about the marital status of Jesus. His contribution to the debate their book engendered uses statistics in a dishonestly tendentious way. Using this manipulated data, he claims to have found proof that a perfectly ordinary tomb in a Jerusalem suburb housed data that completely undermines the core belief of Christianity: that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended physically into heaven. Regardless of the religious dimension, which seems to be to create a Jesus-without-divinity, the claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene is a core prop in the hypothesis by which the Talpiot tomb is identified as that of Jesus’s family. This is an example of using one unsubstantiated hypothesis as a prop for another in order to claim that the original hypothesis is thus proven.

The “lead codices” from Jordan

One of the alleged lead codices from Jordan
One of the alleged lead codices from Jordan

In March 2011, the Jewish Chronicle Online, followed by several newspapers (including The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph), carried a story of an amazing new discovery: a group of lead codices or ‘books’ that were claimed to contain Christian texts older than the writings of St Paul (generally reckoned to be the oldest part of the New Testament). Curiously, although the early stories places Robert Feather at the centre of the recognition of the books, The Daily Telegraph focuses on a press release issued by David and Jennifer Elkington. Robert Feather is a metallurgist by profession and a member of the West London Synagogue who has published The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of Qumran, which links the treasures listed in the scroll with ’ḫnjtn (Akhnaten) and his city of ’ḫtjtn (Akhetaten). He links the codices with the rebellion of Simeon bar Kokhba in 132-136 CE rather than with early Christianity. David Elkington describes himself as “an Egyptologist, specializing in Egypt-Palestinian links that have inevitably drawn him into the field of Biblical studies” and is the author of In the Name of the Gods: the mystery of resonance and the prehistoric messiah, which is described as a “highly acclaimed academic thesis on the resonance and acoustical origins of religion”.

It’s only the start of the story and already we are in murky waters. Who is the discoverer of the codices? Both claimants refer to their owner, a Jordanian lorry driver called Hassan Saeda (or Saida), while the Elkingtons were in possession of two of the books at the time of their interview with The Daily Telegraph. The power of blogging was soon brought to bear on these issues. It turns out that David Elkington is a graphic designer originally known as Paul Elkington and that his “thesis” was self-published; he had originally contacted Biblical scholar Professor Peter Thonemann of the University of Oxford on 15 September 2010, sending him images of what were clearly the same objects, only they were said to have been found in Egypt. Thonemann was able to identify the Greek text on one of the codices as a bungled copy of part of a Greek inscription published in Inscriptions grecques et latines de Syrie XXI: Inscriptions de la Jordanie, 2: Region centrale, 118. It was thus clearly a fake. Nevertheless, he put out his press release on 22 March 2011 knowing this.

The Elkingtons
The Elkingtons in a portrait by The Daily Telegraph

In detailing the strange behaviour of David/Paul Elkington, blogger Thomas S Verenna notes that what is “scandalous is the complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking. These codices might never have been heard of if the authors of the reports for BBC and Fox News (among others) had just checked with the academic community before publishing the “find”After examining the almost immediate response to the codices by Biblioblogs, one is confronted with the value of a form of media, which is not peer reviewed or looked over by an editor, which can bring about correct historical information to a large audience quickly. Perhaps blogging isn’t enough; but it is something”.

I couldn’t agree more. What this story illustrates is one of the principal mechanisms by which Bad Archaeology and other pseudosciences are promoted: go straight to the press with a fantastic story secure in the knowledge that the hacks will do little to check its veracity. This is the practice of churnalism, whereby press releases are simply copied-and-pasted or occasionally very lightly redacted for publication. No scholarly articles are written to confirm the legitimacy of the finds, no data is made available for qualified scholars to examine, overblown claims are made for the significance of objects that are not available for examination and those making the claims inflate their own scholarly credentials.

The ‘lead codices’ are a feature of Biblical archaeology that is all too common: the allegedly important object that is supposed to rewrite our understanding of early Judaism/Christianity that turns out to be a fake. The ossuary of James the Just, the Jehoash inscription and the Turin Shroud are just some of the examples of frauds intended to bolster the faith of the pious by providing evidence that their beliefs are grounded in reality or to push a particular version of the past to discredit the religious beliefs of others. In some cases, the motive is simply greed.

Noah’s Ark

The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark by Jan Breughel the Elder
The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark by Jan Breughel the Elder (1613)

I’ve covered this topic ad nauseam both on this blog and on the main site, but it’s a hardy perennial of Bad Archaeology. Scarcely a year passes without some new announcement that it’s been located. That’s not what I want to discuss this time, though. What I want to touch on is the curious belief among some of the faithful that objects mentioned as being significant to the religion of the Hebrews ought still to exist somewhere, as I touched on in this post some time ago.

Noah’s Ark makes a brief but significant appearance in Genesis VI.14-VIII.19. We’re told what Noah was commanded to use in his construction. The main material was “gopher” (גֹ֔פֶר) wood; nobody actually knows what sort of wood this was (Wikipedia’s suggestion that it may be a Hebrew transliteration of Assyrian giparu, claimed to mean “reeds” is wrong, as the word means “residence of the enu-priest”, “part of a private house”, “meadow” or “taboo”: this is why Wikipedia entries always need to be checked against more authoritative sources!). Pitch is also mentioned, while it had a “covering” that could be “turned back”. Although it is described as a massive boat, it was supposedly made from perishable materials: wood, even when coated in pitch, rarely survives in archaeological contexts and tends to survive only in very specific conditions (extremely dry, freezing or anaerobic situations). Nothing in the text of Genesis suggests that it was anything more than a temporary home for Noah, his family and the animals they cared for during the Flood. Its usefulness over, it was simply abandoned on the “Mountains or Ararat” by those who descended to the lowlands to repopulate the earth.

Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat: move along please, there’s no Ark to see here

So why do people want to go in search of it? Putting aside the question of whether the “Mountains of Ararat” (הָרֵי אֲרָרָט) in Genesis VIII.4 refer to the mountain we call Mount Ararat today, by what mechanism do they see the Ark surviving? And surviving as a complete or near-complete ocean-going vessel? Should its preservation be viewed as a miracle performed by Yahweh?

If I were to initiate a search for, say, the shells of the eggs laid by Leda, Han Xiang’s gourd without end or Mami Wata’s grooming set, it is unlikely that I would get many enthusiasts to join me or donate money to my expedition. It is only the privileged position that Hebrew mythology enjoys in Western culture that convinces some people that Noah’s Ark once existed in the real world.

The underlying problem with “Biblical Archaeology”

A great deal of what is presented to the public as “Biblical Archaeology” bears little relation to what other archaeologists recognise as archaeology. The spinning of data to push a particular and tendentious interpretation, the outright forgery of artefacts and the naïve belief that certain objects ought to survive to the present day are not characteristics of scientific archaeology but are typical of pseudoscience.

A great deal of what passes for “Biblical archaeology” consists of a search for sites and artefacts that ‘confirm’ what the Bible says; indeed, this was one of the inspirations behind the development of archaeological excavation. Following the questioning attitudes to religious certainty inculcated by Enlightenment writers, the faithful wanted to demonstrate that their beliefs could not be shaken by rational inquiry but, rather, would be confirmed through it. Unfortunately, the reverse has tended to happen. Archaeology has not confirmed the glories of the Davidic kingdom, has failed to produce evidence for Noah’s flood, has not revealed the location of Jesus’s crucifixion, has not identified a Pharaoh of the Exodus. And it probably never will.

A great many of its practitioners start out from a particular religious viewpoint (usually orthodox Judaism or a Christian sect) and aim to find evidence that backs up their literalist interpretation of the sacred texts. This seems to have been at least part of the motivation behind the forgery of the ‘James the Just ossuary’ and other dubious artefacts traced back to Oded Golan (the other being financial, of course).

In an important book, The End of Biblical Studies (Prometheus, 2007), Biblical scholar Hector Avalos argues that:

Since archaeology has failed to reveal much biblical history that matters, biblical archaeology… not only has ceased to be relevant but it has ceased to exist as we knew it. Instead of revealing biblical history, archaeology has provided a fundamental argument to move beyond the Bible itself. If… biblical archaeology has to serve theology once more to be relevant, its days as a secular academic field are numbered. Either way, biblical archaeology ended in ruins—literally, socially, and metaphorically…

So our purpose is to excise from modern life what little of the Bible is being used and also to eliminate the potential use of any sacred scripture as an authority in the modern world. Sacred texts are the problem that most scholars are not willing to confront. What I seek is liberation from the very idea that any sacred text should be an authority for modern human existence. Abolishing human reliance on sacred texts is imperative when those sacred texts imperil the existence of human civilisation as it is currently configured. The letter can kill. That is why the only mission of biblical studies should be to end biblical studies as we know it.

Strong words. And perhaps a little over-the-top. But, as Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman show in The Bible unearthed: archaeology’s new vision of ancient Israel and the origin of its sacred texts (2001), archaeology paints a coherent picture of the development of the Jewish people that is completely at odds with the claims of the Bible. No amount of fraud, wilful misinterpretation of data or quests to find the objects that will ‘prove’ a particular religious viewpoint will bring back the innocent and ignorant days when the Bible could be read as literally true.


  1. Your remarks also apply to the so-called “biblical astronomy”. I don’t know if we could speak of “biblical zoology” but some of my neighbors still believe some animals are “impure”… Anyhow, one thing I find hard to explain is how people can believe “a couple from every species” could find a place in the Ark, even if all animal species were not known at the time this legend was written.


  2. Only issue is that the three examples that you bring are not really biblical archaeology. They are non-professionals delving into things that might be (but most probably are not) related to the bible and archaeology. The cutting edge of “biblical archaeology” today has nothing to do with the image that you are painting. Current, state of the art “biblical archaeology” is as sophisticated, and at times, even more sophisticated, than any types of archaeology going on in the world. The image of Biblical Archaeology with its bad name, that you and so many have an issue with, is something that is mostly part of the past, and if it still exists is done by people who are either not archaeologists, or, are not highly rated by their peers.

    Aren Maeir
    Bar-Ilan University


    1. Yes, I’d tend to agree with you. The problem is that the examples I use here are what passes in the media for “Biblical Archaeology”. Another issue I did’t deal with because of space issues is the name: why not “Levantine Archaeology” or “The Archaeology of Israel/Palestine” or some such appellation? The use of the word Bible raises all sorts of questions that I find troubling.


      1. If you relate to “Biblical Archaeology” as the study of the cultures in which the biblical text appeared (and not proving or disproving the text – and if at all – serving as material correlates for the scientific study of the Bible), then it is no better, or worse, than “Classical Archaeology”, “Homeric Archaeology”, etc.


  3. Folks you haven’t seen the end of it, Simcha, Tabor and others AKA as the BAR Crowd are at it again. Soon they will be coming out with a book in which they claim to have found an ossuary, ca 50 meters from the “tomb of Jesus Family’ with the $ign of the Profit’ scribbled on the side of the ossuary, i.e. man coming out of the mouth of a big fish. We were able to convince National Geog. to cancel the contract for the documentary, however as there’s lots of money riding on it, others may pick it up. Thanks to Jo Anna Wail for the tip.


  4. “her identity as the wife of Yeshu‘a bar Yehosef is entirely speculative,” unless of course you know anything about the 1st century Jewish culture which almost required a Hebrew man, let alone a Hebrew Perushi judge of the Jewish people, to be married. Honestly, can you read Hebrew, have you studied Judaism, have you ever heard of a nation that was destroyed and exiled out of it’s land returning and creating a state. Oh that must be a pre-held religious belief….wait a minute…..that was a previously stated, written down, and recorded….lucky guess from that Jewish Tanakh. You also must have seen the miss-titled “Lost Tomb of Jzeus,” which should have read Yeshua, but you didn’t pay much attention or stone cold hard facts don’t impress you. The tomb exists, the ossuaries were documented, eyewitnesses of the excavation are still living. I have been to the site. There is no marking whatsoever as it being an off limits archeological site so for you to cry “which makes it an illegal act,” is a massive red herring. It was illegal because you say so? I didn’t see Jacobovici on trial with Oded Golan. I wonder why. You don’t mention the legal and ethical problems of the IAA. Have you really any concept of the Israeli legal system? This one must really test your sanity. You are just as much of a hypocrite as the religious you belittle. I suppose it’s a living.


    1. You’re repeating the myth that all men in first century CE Jewish culture had to be married. Some did not, for whatever reason: there was no rule to compel them to do so, and it’s a story that can be traced back to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Yes, it was usual, but not compulsory. The truth of the matter is that we have no idea about the marital status of Jesus of Nazareth.

      Because of that, we cannot say that Mariamenou-Mara was the wife of Yeshu‘a bar Yehosef: she could have been his sister, mother, daughter, aunt, sister-in-law, anything. It is an assumption that she was his wife based entirely on a completely modern and historically unattested idea that Jesus of Nazareth and May Magdalene were married. There is nothing on the ossuary of Mariamenou-Mara to indicate that she was married to anyone buried in the tomb.

      The “stone cold hard facts” are exactly what impress me: I want evidence. And evidence is precisely what Jacobovici et al. have failed to provide. Yes, the tomb exists. Yes, the ossuaries exist (even though one of them has gone missing from storage, if it ever got there). The problem is how Jacobovici and others use the evidence. Their statistics don’t convince me and they don’t appear to convince scholars better qualified to criticise than I am.

      The tomb could be the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth; no evidence has been presented to demonstrate that it must be his tomb. And the idea that it is flies in the face of the only documents we have for his ultimate fate: the Gospels, problematical though they are as historical texts. They tell us that the body was missing from the temporary tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea when the first visitors arrived. In other words, our only primary sources for the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth tell us that his body went missing – by whatever means – leaving nothing behind to put in an ossuary. If we are to accept the ossuary labelled Yeshu‘a bar Yehosef (or Yehoshu‘a bar Yehosef) as that of Jesus of Nazareth, then we need stronger evidence than some dubious statistics.

      The illegality of Jacobovici’s entry into the Talpiot tomb is a consequence of its status under Chapter 7 of the Antiquities Law 1978. I suggest you read it before criticising me for not understanding it.

      Call me a hypocrite if you want. Insults are always the last resort of those who have no rational argument.


      1. I am an orthodox Jew. I don’t have time for Christian fairy tales. We are talking about a Jew here not a Christian. Few that don’t have a financial stake to perpetuate the Christian myth take seriously that the man did not exist or that he was not a religious (in the sense of keeping of Torah) Jew. You don’t know Jewish history and are exaggerating. This extant comment from the Babylonian Talmud, “Indeed, one who dwells without a wife dwells without joy, as it says “Rejoice, you and your household” (Yevamot 62b).” is enough along with the common practice of the majority among religious Jews today who are married to show that it is not a myth. Logic always sides with what is observable until it is proven otherwise. Religious Jews STILL marry to fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply. That has extended since that time to the present . When you use the word compulsory you exaggerate the point.

        What do the “gospels” have to do with historical texts or a Jewish leader? You are willing out of one side of your mouth to call the Christian texts problematic, which they are, AND THEN use them as your only source. I don’t give them ANY credibility when measuring a Jew! Even Eusebius (a church father!) in Ecclesiastical History, III, xxvii, 1-6 wrote that the students of Ribi Yehoshua (that was his title), rejected the NT (Null Testament)

        “Thus they shared in the impiety of the former class, especially in that they were equally zealous to insist on the literal observance of [Torâh & Halâkhâh]. They thought that the letters of the Apostle [Paul] ought to be wholly rejected and called him an apostate from [Torâh & Halâkhâh]. They used only the Gospel called according to the Hebrews and made little account of the rest. Like the former they used to observe Sabbath and the rest of the Jewish ceremonial, but on [Sun-god-days] celebrated rites like ours in commemoration of the Savior’s resurrection. Wherefore from these practices they have obtained their name, for the name of Ebionites indicates the poverty of their intelligence, for this name means ‘poor’ in Hebrew.” (Excerpted from the History Museum, Eusebius EH III, xxvii 1-6

        Jewish and Greek manuscripts contain the names of the genealogy of Ribi Yehoshua and Josephus verifies the existence of Yaacov (James.) There is not a challenge from the Jewish camp regarding these genealogies. I have not read anyone except Christian apologists that categorically deny that the group of names are not interesting. So why unless you have an axe to grind against religion in general would you give more credibility to Christian apologists since their reasoning lies outside of extant history and science? They “believe” you can’t find bones of their image. Their livelihood depends on it. Here is supposedly the only time in history a living body floats away and how do you prove it, by never finding a body. That is leaving objectivity to prove something existed by it’s absence! Real men don’t levitate up out of the earth’s atmosphere. What would you call someone that purports to choose science over make-believe but then gives the make-believe crowd the nod? Hypocrite is a great word. Hypocrites don’t like it.

        I am not an expert at statistics but I have had post college training in statistics along with college level calculus, algebra, geometry, and other math courses which were required for a bachelors degree in chemistry. I have also purchased
        Feuerverger’s paper and I did my best to read it. I didn’t understand it so well but I wouldn’t say it is dubious. You must understand statistics very well to call it dubious. The truth is no body argues Feuerverger’s math, they argue that he can’t use all the names because they wouldn’t. He well documents why he uses the names that he uses and there is extant historical documentation to back up why he uses those names. He pares down the number arguably more than some would but no one argues when he pares down the number. That doesn’t make the statistics dubious.

        I have indeed read the Antiquities Law of 1978 and I don’t see a violation and I also note that there is no case pending against Jacobovici. Are you saying he violated the law because he went into an unmarked IAA site? Where is it stated in the Law of 1978 that that is a violation. So maybe you should point out to the IAA so they can proceed. My guess is after going after Oded Golan (even though he did break the law by receiving and selling the Yaacov ossuary after 1978) and wasting all that taxpayer money, they won’t go after Jacobovici since he merely went inside an unmarked site and did not remove anything. Or should we assume he did? Didn’t you wonder why Golan was tried for faking antiquities instead of selling authentic antiquities? After all the 78 Law is for dealing with Israeli authentic antiquities not fakes. But if they find that the ossuary is authentic which the patina shows unequivocally, slam dunk, game over, then it becomes the 1980 “lost ossuary” and he goes to jail. Why wouldn’t they go after him for that? Because then the IAA has to explain how he got it. They said they had it in 1980 but then “lost” it. Now he has it! Try to catch up.

        The archeology was already done twenty years before the documentary. The science of the patina and the DNA tests were both valid. Neither proved anything but both accord with the theory of a 1st century Jewish family according to all that can be logically deduced and induced from the existing extant literature and scientific dating. The names extraordinarily match extant records of Ribi Yehoshua. And that family was “in all probability” the family of Ribi Yehoshua, the Jewish leader, killed by the Romans for being the King of the Jews. An only Jewish history and one that will soon dispel the Christian myth forever.


  5. Truth@lies.
    for example:+) on Noah’s ark; any non idiot who can read Bible commentaries knows this except idiots in Mass media without any knowledge of hermeneutics…@philosophy ho ho….who TV watchers

    With James tomb-not so easy; the court is still on and arguments are more in favor for James

    On “Jesus”;hm, if there are really bones of Jesus from Nazareth + his wife @son- it would be th first proof he was married@had a child; after his conversion/ Baptism by John’s scenes he quit his family like Jeremiah@other prophets@NT apostles! What wrong with this?
    Be more honest!


  6. Mr:conneljahu
    FEw corrections: in free time you can check any library near to deepen information.
    “Christian fairy tales”= NT: data+interpretation of historical facts” like any historical literature including OT: Torah,Prophets, Wisdom literature,etc.: ex.TORAH=An interpretation of real historical particulars laws written in different times by authors called J,P, D, E@combinations.
    The titles of Jesus from Nazareth: the Son of Man, Messiah, the Son of God- are correct to interpret the resurrected Jesus, whose Spirit acts in the world; only His Spirit@ no one else. To properly understand the mentioned titles one must know biblical hermeneutics+ thomistic philosophy @20th cent. logic to rightly know terms like “God” or the relation between “father”@”son”/ eternal or temporal?
    Do not ignore it: it would be a sing agains the Holy Spirit-no mercy!


    1. Krzysztof, let’s not get into arguments about religion. Mr Konnelijahu, as an Orthodox Jew, is still awaiting the Messiah; this wait has been an occasional source of Jewish humour over the centuries. You are, I presume, Christian and for you, the Messiah arrived two millennia ago.

      Your views are different to the point of conflicting. There is no resolution to this. All I can ask is that the two of you avoid public mud-slinging or worse. Please don’t spoil the discussion!


  7. Hi Keith: thanks. Conflicting is …natural in discussion in science, philosophy, religion @especially in politics.
    Yes, I am a Christian, a Catholic@I listen to God-1 commandment.
    My point was just to provoke to reason. We, Christians@Jews both are awaiting for “Messiah”= or Peace Global!,NT calls it Parussia or Second Coming; usually you cannot perfectly know the details-compare to evolution theory in biology: you know the principle but it is impossible to to foreknow the future like in natural sciences but you a new is coming-practically: w world chistastment (wars, natural disasters,…); in NT era it was A.D. 70 Jerusalem destruction/ simijlar event you can see in the history of any nation (read the Prophets)
    Regarding “coming Messiah”: on Jan 27, during Holy Mas, Domaniewska 20, Warsaw “sth” happened “mysterious”-read 1Cor 11:26 after my “Word” against R.C. priest @1 million movement, Neocatechumenat..R.C. priest did not finish the Mass…court case art.195.1 of criminal code is still on! If not a accident, then…..

    I love Psalms especilally prayers against …enemies@they work even in killing them(enemies: in universities, Church,@state).Bible is alive! I can give you names@the dates of them going to…Hell!


  8. According to the qualifications of Mashiach he did actually live and die in the 1st century CE. His name and title was Ribi Yehoshua ben Yoseph ben David. So you would be incorrect about me looking for another Mashiach. What the hell was your whole article about but discounting that Ribi Yehoshua’s tomb was in ALL probability found?

    Incidently R Akiva (an orthodox Jew) acknowledged Shimon bar Kosiba, and probably thousands of Chabad (did you know they are orthodox Jews?) acknowledge R Schneerson,
    Rav Kaduri (an orthodox Jew) acknowledged the same Ribi Yehoshua after his death,

    You were correct about one thing, There is no discussion here, only your personal opinions which haven’t added any objective value.


    1. Hi Eliyahu.

      I’m sorry if I misrepresented you. Yes, I did know about Rabbi Akiva’s acknowledgement of Shimon bar Kosiba as the Messiah (and his laughing response that there would be plants growing in the good Rabbi’s skull before the Messiah appeared). Thank you for the information about Rav Kaduri.

      However, only one part of the post was about the tomb of Yehoshua ben Yoseph, and it was specifically about the identity of the people buried in it. My annoyance is with the misuse of statistics and the tendentious identifications of individuals.


  9. Two thoughts. First, your approach of implicitly representing this sort of quackery as typical of what we might call ‘mainstream’ Biblical Archaeology is a little disingenuous. You might as well represent Pyramidology as part of Egyptology on the basis of Flinders Petrie’s reason for going to Egypt. Or homoeopathy-quackery as normal for all medicine. Not really helpful, no matter how right it is to dismiss this drivel.

    Second, not really comfortable about simply junking the use of sacred texts as a historical source. True, they tend to be problematic (then again, what source, particularly from the ancient world, isn’t to some extent?), but I think a careful approach can be productive without necessitating doing a Rohl (or worse).

    Also, I was under the impression that the Pool of Siloam had been positively identified? Granted, it’s not anything like the Exodus, the Crucifixion, or any other major event in the Judeo-Christian narrative, but still… Then again, I have issues with the idea of ‘proving’ the historicity of this or that religious event. What would constitute sufficient evidence? Aquinas’ dictum on faith seems to apply here (and amusingly enough, to his five ‘proofs’, too).


    1. I think that you have highlighted the problem I have with the use of the term “Biblical Archaeology”: real archaeologists working in Israel and surrounding areas are not constrained by Biblical texts, so it would be best not to use the term as it suggests to many outsiders that they are engaged on proving the reliability of the text, while many who do use the term are precisely the quacks that I am taking to task.

      I don’t suggest junking the religious texts: my approach as an archaeologist to any text is to treat is as supplementary evidence that may (or may not) add some extra information to a site. The Bible should not be immune to this approach. Nor should the Hymn to the Aten or any other religious text.

      I’m unsure that we can use archaeological data to ‘prove’ any event, religious or otherwise. We can gather data in support of the hypothesis that such-and-such an event happened as described in a text, but we can never demonstrate conclusively that our data constitutes final ‘proof’.


  10. First, let me say how much I enjoy your blog. I find the ever-evolving mythology of modern psuedoscience endlessly entertaining, and it deserves all the light it can get from real scientists.

    Second, I agree with everything you write about “Biblical Archaeology”, and I wish more archeologists would come out with their opinions on the matter. (My local university is center for Mayan studies – I’ll have to ask what they’d think of being called “Popol Vu-ical Archaeologists”.) Historically, Biblical Archaeology stands in a similar relation to modern, scientific archaeology as astrology to astronomy, or alchemy to chemistry – but being much more recent, the divide is not so clear-cut. Most outside of Academia or the sciences (and many inside) don’t see any division at all, which allows vested religious interests to dominate public discourse, and a theocratically politicized police-force like the IAA to be taken as the ultimate authority on the archaeology of the Levant.

    Third, your “first principle” is a good one in principle, but “it’s wishful thinking at best” is a potentially blinding exaggeration. Genuine archaeological finds can and do confirm all kinds of religious beliefs, even if only accidentally.

    Finally, you really need to read up on the Talpiot tomb. At its face, it certainly looks like just another wildly exaggerated claim from this field (though it does seem an odd choice to illustrate your principle, confirming more anti-religious biases than religious ones – I take it that’s an unstated part of the principle). Jacobovici makes no claim to being any kind of scientist, and his film can hardly be judged as a scientific document. In it, Dr. Feuerverger’s quick-and-dirty, highly conservative analysis of the probability of the Talpiot name-cluster does get rather muddled, but I see nothing dishonest in that. Feuerverger’s later in-depth analysis is available for free——- (Eliyahu is perfectly correct in challenging its dubiousness!) The film’s references to mediaeval “Holy Bloodline” legends are only to be expected from a popular documentary of this sort, but it stops mercifully short of trotting out the Holy Blood-Holy Grail “conspiracy theory” version of them. The case for the Talpiot tomb being that of Jesus the Nazarene in no way rests on that hypothesis, and it is indeed unfair to say the film could not have been made without it. gives a good, unbaised overview of the issue.
    Taborblog, by one of the more scientifically-minded Biblical archaeologists, chronicles post-documentary discoveries and comprehensively


  11. The premise held by the author of this website is as biased and unobjective as he claims the name ‘biblical archaeology’ implies. The problem with the terminology lies not with the field of Biblical archaeology but with what comes with it–Jesus, God and the Bible. The desire for complete objectivity is impossible,as illustrated by Dr. Wm. Dever in his book, Did God Have a Wife BUT the failure of Dr. Dever’s illustration comes when he adheres to a double standard. he refuses to be objective but dismisses the biblical authors because they weren’t objective.

    When it comes to the Bible, one thing we can count on, secularists refuse to meet the same standards they demand of the Bible, its human writers and Jesus’ modern followers. There is nothing wrong with the term Biblical Archaeology for it focuses on cities, events, people mentioned in the Bible. To call it anything else demonstrates the bias against and hatred for the biblical work and the evidence for its veracity.

    If the people who attack the term and sub-field would be honest in their own work and assessment of the Bible then maybe they would obtain some credibility but since they are not, their attacks are easily dismissed because the hypocrisy on their part over-shadows any point they are trying to make.

    The supposed first rule of biblical archaeology also exposes the narrow mind of those who do not agree with the field or the Bible and that is something they condemn followers of Christ for having. it must be sad in their little world of hatred, for they cannot allow equal time, opportunity, freedoms for those things they disagree with and demand for themselves.


    1. The accusation of double standards is an easy one to make. It doesn’t mean that you’re right to do so, though. My view of the Bible is that it is a compendium of writings of varying antiquity that tell us what two religious groups thought about their worlds. The problem I have with the idea of “Biblical Archaeology” is that it is restrictive in its focus.

      I do not understand why you accuse me of “hatred”; it’s a harsh word and quite wrong. Why do you think I hate “followers of Christ”? I don”t. I feel sorry for people who are so blinded by authority figures that they can’t think for themsleves, but this does not describe the majority of my Christian friends and colleagues. You have set up a straw man version of what I think so that you can criticise it (you cannot know what I really think and it is presumptuous of you to claim that you do).

      You seem to dislike secularism. Why? When was the last time a militant secularist blew up a church, set fire to a synagogue, massacred worshippers in a mosque, fire-bomed an abortion clinic? I know that this is straying way off the subject, but so have you.


  12. Not every subject has to have unlimited focus. Those who like to target a specific needs to put restrictions on the area of study. There is nothing wrong with doing that. If you do not want to be restricted in your study of the LEvant then you do not have to be BUT you have no right to condemn or criticize those who want to keep the focus of their work and area narrowly defined.

    There is no strawman in my previous post, your self-appointment is all the example I need to see that your bias influences your judgement. Just because you or Dr. Dever do not like the term Biblical Archaeology does it mean that there is something wrong with the term or its area of study.

    All I can see from your website is that you do not like something and have decided to go on a crusade attacking a legitmate field of study. I do not see any legitmacy in your point of view we who do do Biblical archaeology do not have to meet your standards or ideas. We have the same freedom as you to do our work under any label we choose.

    I think your agenda is misdirected and uninformed or very narrow-minded because you wish to eliminate a very valuable field of stusdy simply because the topics do not meet your criteria. They do not have to because you are not a person anyone has to please.

    i would think it best if you stopped attacking others, when your glass house is very vulnerable. You may not like those people, listed in your article above, but then no field of study, let alone life, is free of charlatans, con men, false teachers who seek only to make a name for themselves and a buck. To dispose of a whole field of study because it contains the name ‘biblical’ in its title means you would have to dispose of physics, biology, and so many other areas who are not free of such people.

    Your whining about these people just tells everyone that you are not capable of dealing with these problems in a mature and sensible manner. Those of us in the Biblical field know how to handle those people without throwing the baby out with the bath water.


    1. Excuse me, Dr Tee, but you are the one &lduo;whining” here. I have gone through the original post and I really can’t see anything that could be described as “whining”. I suspect you of using deliberately emotive and insulting language because you are the one who (in you own words) is “not capable of dealing with these problems in a mature and sensible manner”.

      If you read the second comment on the post (by arenmaeir) and my reply to it, you’ll see that I concede that my use of the term &;ldquo;Biblical Archaeology” is more to do with “what passes in the media for “Biblical Archaeology””. The examples I cite are cases where the traditional media have run with stories that they have not checked, where they have not consulted acknowledged experts in the field and where they are content simply to repeat what is put out in press releases. I quote Hector Avalos to show that there are mainstream scholars who have issues with the concept.

      In posts like this, my main concern is the uncritical repetition of stories with a very poor evidential basis. I am attacking not the person, as you seem to think, but the message. That much ought to be clear if you are really reading the post. In contrast, you seem to be attacking me, personally. You use emotive language. You presume to know my thought processes. You create straw man arguments (and, despite your denial, you do: at what point does this post “condemn followers of Christ”?). You accuse me of hatred. You are wrong to do so.


  13. You do realize that newspapers, magazines, and such just report the news. They do not have to be critical or scholarly. There are journals for that task. I just think that you are demanding from the popular press something they are not designed to do nor is their purpose.

    If this had taken place in archaeological, scientific, or scholarly journals then I think you would have a case but I think you have muddled the genre and expect academic work from non-academic sources. The job of the professional is to out the frauds honestly with the evidence and critical thinking so the public can get the truth. Yet too many people want things the easy way.

    The above examples are merely extremes and are NOT part of Biblical Archaeology but you use it to attack a field that is not to your liking. Real Biblical Archaeology does not participate in such endeavors.

    I am not attacking you but think you have your wires crossed when it comes to the term Biblical. No, I do not construct strawmen but look at your words and address them.


    1. Dr. David Tee said “You do realize that newspapers, magazines, and such just report the news. They do not have to be critical or scholarly.”

      Reporting is not the same as parroting. Objective journalism does not need to be scholarly, but it does need to be critical. At the very least it must attempt to validate the source and content of the story. Special interest journalism, i.e. journalism that openly supports a certain view or idea, is free to spin the story in accordance with its views, but not to the point of misrepresenting the original source and not without also validating the source and content. Once a story is reported in a newspaper, magazine, etc… it gains a certain credibility, especially to a layperson who trusts the journalistic source and has neither the time nor inclination to validate the story on their own.

      There was a time when fact checking was an assumed part of journalism, but the focus of journalism has shifted away from the accurate reporting a story to being the ‘breaking source’, ratings, and providing around-the-clock speculative reporting of sensational events. This environment is fertile ground for charlatans and con artists to add a veneer of authenticity to their speculations, unfounded beliefs, and outright lies. This is part of the reason pseudosciences have become so popular of late and, in some cases, threaten to displace legitimate scientific discovery. When the History Channel runs 4 seasons of a show that speculates ancient aliens being responsible for everything from creating humans, killing the dinosaurs, building or instructing how to build monolithic stone structures, bigfoot, early pagan religions, the Biblical flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with nuclear weapons, creating zombies and other mythological monsters, and influencing the works of Leonardo da Vinci it isn’t terribly surprising that a certain number of people believe this to be credible studies of history that the mainstream is unable or unwilling to accept.


  14. I’m sorry folks, but I’m not going to waste my time reading this.

    His very first term is in quotation marks, which is usually a good way to create a “hook” at the beginning of an essay. However, he then goes on to try and impress his reader by noting that said quotes are scare quotes. Forty years ago I was taught that you put quotation marks around literal quotes OR around words whereof you are using a non-traditional meaning of said word or phrase. Scare quotes is simply a term used to identify a TYPE of non-traditional meaning; and it is a relatively new term (again, for an old use). By referring to his use of the term “biblical archeology” and commenting that he had enclosed such in scare quotes, he is implying that there is something sinister about the term and what it represents. The truth is, his use of the term “biblical archeology” is not used with a non-traditional meaning and therefore should not be enclosed in scare quotes or any other type of quotation marks. And placing quotes around “scare quotes” (same sentence) does not fit ANY definition of quotation use.

    However, I did manage to get to his premise, i.e., “If a discovery confirms your pre-held religious beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud.” WHO THE HELL SAID THAT???? That’s as ludicrous as, ““If a discovery confirms your pre-held (historical) beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud,” (How can someone research the death of Cnute without having several preconceived notions regarding his death, and therefore, by this standard, any conclusion will be “wishful thinking” and “fraud” even if said conclusion is correct.), or “If a discovery confirms your pre-held (scientific) beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud” (This would rule out almost everything that Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and /or Albert Einstein worked on.), or “If a discovery confirms your pre-held (evolutionary) beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud” (The people who proved that many of the dinosaurs were warm blooded believed such when there was still very little indication of such.).

    In other words, this person couldn’t pass one of my college class, writing assignments even if he tried to. He doesn’t know how to use proper punctuation, he doesn’t know how to think critically, and he definitely doesn’t know how to identify invalid arguments.

    I’ll close by noting that I did scan the rest of the essay enough to notice that he is using Noah’s Ark and the supposed Jesus’s family tomb as examples…you couldn’t pick two worse examples if you wanted to. First of all, most Christians do not accept the family tomb story and in this day and age, most Christians are not buying into the Noah’s Ark story, either. Why doesn’t this author dig into something with a little more meat on it like the origins of writing and alphabets, or the differences between Egyptian medicine and that of the early Hebrews and the reasons for said differences, or the development of our legal system (specifically, that the punishment should fit the crime, a concept that is fundamental to our legal system here in the USA, and its origin in biblical writings). But no, he chooses, instead, to pick something that most Christians do NOT accept as true as an example of how Christians use their pre-existing beliefs to cloud their archeological findings. Now how dumb is that?

    I may, or may not, agree with the overall premise here, but somebody needs to help this kid out, he needs a college scholarship so he can learn how to write…


    1. It’s very flattering to be referred to as a “kid” when I’m actually 54 years old. Less flattering when it comes from someone who refuses to read a post but disagrees with its premise, complains about my use of scare quotes (I do know how to use them), thinks that I am attacking religion when I am not and accuses me of being unable to write (despite finding it unnecessary to capitalise the first letter of his name: does he think he’s e e cummings?). He comes across as both arrogant and patronising.

      If the author had actually bothered to read the whole post, he would have discovered that I would agree wholeheartedly with his complaint that my initial premise that “[i]f a discovery confirms your pre-held religious beliefs, then it’s wishful thinking at best and even more likely to be a fraud” should be extended to other areas of enquiry. Indeed, if I excavated something that appeared to confirm my deeply-held beliefs about the archaeology of a particular locality, I would subject it to more intense testing than if it conflicted with my pre-existing beliefs. Why? Because in any endeavour that relies on the interpretation of evidence, it is too easy to be fooled into an acceptance of data that appear to confirm one’s prejudices and to overlook those that do not (or, at least, to explain them away). Biblical archaeology (there, I didn’t use scare quotes!) of a particular flavour has a history of looking for evidence to confirm the stories of the Bible (both Hebrew and Christian writings); it has been horribly prone to frauds and tendentious interpretations.

      I used the examples of the search for Noah’s Ark and the recent claims for the “Jesus family tomb” as particularly egregious examples of what can go horribly wrong with trying to prove biblical stories (and, with the tomb, modern stories about biblical characters). This is not an attack on Christianity and I am well aware that the majority of Christians do not accept these stories.

      I am very glad that I am not in randy’s classes: I think he should be grateful that he’s never been in one of mine!


  15. was the wedding (where Yoshuahua turned the water into wine) Jesus’s mother’s responsibility? If it was one of his siblings getting married, WOULDN’T MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE OR JOHN SAID WHICH SIBLING AND WHO THEY MARRIED? Why did Mary come to Jesus about the wine being gone, IF IT WASN’T HIS WEDDING?!
    I’ve read the Bible 4 times and even though it wasn’t translated well, since Aramaic and Hebrew aren’t the same!
    What is your faith? Bad reporting?
    The shroud of Turin could not have been faked.
    And, have you seen the archaeological artifacts and soldier’s bodies proving the water closed on the egyptian army wiping them out? And, wow, proving something else in the Bible really did happen!!!
    If you had common sense you wouldn’t be so negative of so many things that you’d rather just give your opinion of, than to do any real research on the topics!


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