Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hear O Israel

Alternate title: "My Shema's Bigger Than Your Shema"

In 1985 when I began studying the Bible in depth, I wrote Deuteronomy 6:4-12 (known as the Jewish Confession of Faith, or "Shema" meaning "hear" for the first word of it in Hebrew) on a piece of 3/8" correction tape (back when humans wrote on paper), 14 feet long, & placed it around the inside of my apartment door. 5 years later when I bought my first condo, & again each time I moved to other residences, I carefully removed & relocated it (thanks to its weak adhesive). I dreamed of the day when I could own a house, & actually paint it on the outside. God allowed me to see that day materialize yesterday, March 24th, 2012!

I had been planning this since the day I moved here in 2008. My house has a very special architecture with a street-facing balcony 4-feet wide (east-to-west) & 35-feet long (north-to-south). It figuratively screamed "Paint an ancient inscription on me!" when I first saw it!

Because of circumstances I won't make public, I didn't immediately want to use the Shema. At times I wanted to use Greek texts (John 12:44-7; 2Corinthians 4:6), or other Hebrew texts (Exodus 15:2; Joshua 24:15; 1Chronicles 16:23-7,33; Psalms 96:1-6, 98:4, 119:89), or even the Septuagint Shema. I couldn't make up my mind, but I began storing & studying photos of Roman-era Greek inscriptions on Valentine's Day in 2009, knowing I'd be painting the entire exterior the following summer (it's a fixer-upper & needed a paint-job anyway). I initially imagined the text filling the entire lintel over the "doorposts of [my] house" & my "gates", but later got the idea to reduce the text height to accommodate 2 lines, one in Hebrew, the other Greek. That's when I knew I'd be able to include the Shema along with a Greek text ... but which one?

After many months of consideration, pondering how much of the Shema to include, & which NT text of approximately the same length could complement it, I narrowed it down to John 10:27-30, Acts 2:22-4, & 1Corinthians 8:4-6. If I could paint the entire Bible over my house, I would, but with room to emphasize a single juxtaposition from both Testaments, I wanted to choose one with the most or best keywords.

John records Jesus using the words "hear" & "one".

Acts records Peter using "Israelites", "hear", & "God" plus "Jesus", "crucified", "resurrected".

1Corinthians records Paul using "God", "one", plus "Jesus".

In the end, I chose Acts because I thought it was really cool how I could juxtapose Moses addressing Israel at the beginning of the Deuteronomy text, with Peter addressing Israel at the beginning of the Acts text, which is a very succinct profession of core-Christian faith.

I spent many days over many months doing my best to calculate the height & length of the inscriptions because unlike writing on paper or on a computer, I knew that I had to get it right the first time, or it would look terrible & dishonor God. I was able to balance all of Deu 6:4-9 with Acts up to the first phrase in verse 24.

Another important factor was the weather. Obviously I couldn't do it in the rain (it's been raining hard since about 9 AM today as I draft this report), & it's quite windy here nearly every day, especially in the afternoon. That would make it difficult to read my notes, & blow around my other tools. Also my dense garden & uneven landscaping made it difficult to maneuver my ladder into safe positions. I also have a series of hanging plants on my balcony connected to an irrigation system that I decided to work around rather than dismantle.

I thought it would only take about half a day to do the entire job, & I did not want to stop for bathroom breaks, so I skipped breakfast entirely (as I usually do for long bike rides); but as it turns out, it took the entire day, from about 7 AM to 4:30 PM (I didn't stop for lunch either, but did drink a couple glasses of water). With 475 letters, that's just over 1 minute per letter. Carefully painting 2-inch-wide letters on an unpredictable, rough stucco surface turned out to be quite a challenge ... not just from an artistic perspective, but also the physical exercise of straining to reach areas from a single ladder position, & of course the repetition of climbing a couple steps to dip my brush in the paint can on the balcony, then back down to paint the inscription, & over & over for nearly 10 hours.

Due to the 43-foot length of the inscription, & the way it wraps around the north & south sides of the balcony, I made a large, composite image that you can see by clicking on either of the 2 images below, which show the key phrases "Hear, Israel" & "Listen, Israelites" at the beginning of each text:

I don't know if this is the largest/longest Shema in the history of the world, but it would be nice to know if it is. (The only results I found when searching online were porn-related.) If you know of any that are bigger or even close, be they in Paleo-Hebrew or modern block letters, please let me know.

And here is the 8.5x11" piece of paper I used during the work (no, I don't have it memorized in any language; & the Hebrew fonts are based on the Dan Stela, courtesy of Kris Udd):

During the course of the painting, I made 3 obvious mistakes. I was able to correct 2 of them immediately while the paint was wet by wiping it away & re-painting. The other one I decided to leave in since it wasn't that critical, just a malformed Vau head, sort of resembling the one on the S2U seal. I also made one of my diagonal Alef strokes at the wrong angle, but consider that an even more trivial mistake.

Paleographically, I chose to use the Paleo-Hebrew script with which I'm most familiar, dating to Hezekiah's reign. Because there were so many other factors to consider in this project, I didn't need to introduce another variable for errors to occur by using an earlier, more pictographic script. And as I said earlier, I chose general forms of the Greek letters seen in Roman-era inscriptions, the most noticeable one being the Alpha with its downward-bent inner stroke. I don't have extensive knowledge of the Greek paleography, so if anyone notices a glaring problem, please let me know (not that I would fix it at this point, but it would be nice to know in case I ever redo it or have to move again someday).

The verses I chose utilized most of the letters in their respective alphabets. The Deut text doesn't include Gimel & Samek; the Acts text doesn't include Phi or Psi. That turned out to be an excellent variety!

I chose to use the Masoretic text rather than research DSS variants. For Acts, during the course of proofreading from alternate sources, I noticed several differences between the Textus Receptus & Nestle-Aland; the former is longer, so I chose the latter to make it easier to align over the same length as the Shema. But just to intrigue any Greek scholars who happen to analyze my painting, I used the TR order of "from God approved" instead of the NA's "approved from God", & the TR spellings for "hands" & "killed". This way they'll know I considered both versions, & don't consider such errors to be a threat to my faith.

Stylistically, I deliberately avoided forming ligatures among the Hebrew letters except for two Bet-Resh instances to commemorate the H4C seal (& Siloam Inscription). I was not even aware of their presence until I was in the midst of painting them! However, in some instances I could not avoid connecting the Hebrew & Greek strokes. Here's an example of a Bet-Resh, & just to the left you can see a Mem connecting an Upsilon & Tau:

A couple of interesting alignments occurred between an Oyin & an Omicron, as well as this Mem over a Mu (this close-up also illustrates the rough stucco surface):

Finally, according to the Mishna (which I haven't studied, but the Jewish Encyclopedia references Ber. ii. 5), the reciting of the first verse of the Shema represents the acceptance of the yoke of the kingship of God!

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."--Matthew 22:37-40

G.M. Grena

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

King of Wrong Interpretations

No, this brief post isn't about Robert R. Cargill's embarrassing, lame, crybaby comments about James Tabor's ossuary photos; he apparently still can't imagine that his wrong interpretation was his fault.

Instead, I'm writing about a surprise admission from Family Radio founder, Harold Camping, finally admitting that his May 21, 2011 prediction was "mistaken", "wrong", "a painful lesson", & that the common interpretation of Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32 is "right".

Sure would've been nice to hear him announce that the Church Age hasn't ended, but maybe he just needs a few more months. Will it take Robert Cargill 10 months to see the light?

G.M. Grena

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hebrew Scriptures vs. Historical Assumptions

"The answer to the question of when the production of the stamped jars began cannot be more than a historical assumption with no clear-cut archaeological evidence supporting it."

So said Oded Lipschits in Archaeological Facts, Historical Speculations and the Date of the LMLK Storage Jars: A Rejoinder to David Ussishkin, published this week in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures vol. 12, Article 4. Unfortunately, he did not acknowledge the existence of either of my 2010 or 2012 BibleInterp articles, but that's his problem, not mine.

Ironically for a journal about Hebrew Scriptures, Lipschits bases his refutation of Ussishkin strictly on archeological data isolated from Hebrew Scriptures (except for briefly mentioning "the town lists of Judah and Benjamin" found in Joshua), whereas mine remains founded on the historical veracity of 2Kings, Isaiah, and 2Chronicles.

Along with not mentioning my 2004 book, Lipshits hasn't mentioned the northern LMLK sites because they remain a problem for his interpretation. From his perspective, the "late" handles have no business being at sites belonging to Israel. When we met in person at ASOR/SBL 2007 in San Diego, he claimed these were irrelevant in the context of what he calls "an ongoing administrative system" in the JHS article. Back in 2007, 4 years after I had web-published the seal-set chronological division theory (distinct from the iconic chronological division held by many 20th-century scholars), Dr. Lipschits did not necessarily believe in a chronological division of the sets or understand which types were found at the northern sites (if he did, he kept it a secret from me when we met).

From his perspective, it wouldn't matter if LMLK seals were found anywhere because they could be explained as strays; however, he's not being consistent, because now he doesn't call the "early" types (that have been found under Assyrian destruction layers) "strays", nor does he call the "late" types (at sites not conquered by Assyria) "strays". So calling the northern-site specimens strays would be an example of special pleading.

They were not found along the main road traveled by Assyrians visiting Judah; nor were they found near the Israelite capital that Assyria conquered. They were found at sites that (from the terse excavation reports) are Israelite/Judean (i.e., non-Assyrian). And now that Lipschits has committed to this chronological division theory, he needs to explain late types found in archeological contexts where according to conventional scholarship, Judeans did not live, & at a time when the northern sites had been vacated by Israelites ... INCLUDING Levitical priests (assuming such critters existed, which many scholars don't).

However, as I argued in my Winter 2005 Bible & Spade article, they can be explained in light of the Hebrew Scriptures, where minority groups within certain Israelite territories remained on friendly terms with Judah out of respect for God's ways. That was during the beginning of Hezekiah's reign before Assyria had conquered northern Israel. It is not unreasonable to expect some northern LMLKs even afterwards since 2Kings 17:27-32 records priests resettling there who would've known about LMLKs, & would've had imperial authority to interact with Judah on behalf of people living in northern Israel. Alternately, some Israelites might have remained & not been exiled by Assyrians, especially refugees who lived temporarily in Judah. After Sennacherib's defeat, we should not be surprised if some returned to their home territory. Obviously I'm making historical assumptions here, but I have a basis for them. A reliable basis:

"... the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."--1Peter 1:23

Oh, & Dr. Lipschits made another mistake on p. 4 of his JHS article:

"...Ia- is with lapidary inscriptions...; Ib- is the same but with cursory inscriptions..."

When I developed the classification system for the LMLK Research website 10 years ago, I dropped the Roman numeral & Latin lettering system in lieu of abbreviations that would be easy to remember, such as "L" for "lapidarist" (Lemaire's Ib) & "C" for "cursory" (Lemaire's Ia). Diringer believed the cursory inscriptions were older (Lemaire built upon Diringer/Lapp/Aharoni's system that named this set "ia"), but as I mentioned on p. 385 of my LMLKv1 book, Diringer didn't consider the possibility that an old person (like Isaiah) could've inscribed the seals with an older style around the same time as a young person with a later style. Maybe Lipschits, Sergi, & Koch will also discover this hypothesis several years from now.

G.M. Grena

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BS Part 2

Last Friday (March 9th), I posted--or attempted to post--a comment on Dr. Joan Taylor's excellent article, The Talpiyot Unguentarium. I'm guessing that the comment went into a moderation queue because the page refreshed, but without adding the comment. When it still had not appeared Saturday while comments by other people had appeared, I decided to submit it again, this time using Firefox instead of Internet Explorer since sometimes sites require different security settings or versions. By the end of the day when still other comments appeared, I decided to send an E-mail to Drs. Rollston & Meyers who are currently responsible for editing (& presumably moderating) the ASOR blog. I also CC'd ASOR executive (& LMLK VIP) Andy Vaughn. Alas, several days have elapsed without a response. Big surprise. So even though it won't get the attention here it would've gotten there, I'm posting it here for vanity's sake:

"Simcha Jacobovici's rebuttal to Prof. Robin Jensen certainly showed that either her memory is poor, or she deliberately misrepresented her participation in the filming. In any event, if the image under discussion isn't of a fish, it doesn't matter.

Dr. Taylor's interpretation accounts for the image far better than Simcha's. Instead of 'our fish' in his March 4 comment, readers should substitute either of the following:

  1. 'our sky-swimming fish' vomiting Jonah onto dry land at the bottom of the ossuary

  2. 'our Jonah-drowning fish' vomiting Jonah onto the bottom of the sea

Unfortunately neither of these corresponds with the story of Jonah, nor with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Too bad Simcha's 'fish' wasn't oriented sideways, but even if it had been, it still would've looked more like an ancient jar (shown in this sideways orientation on Roman-era coins) than a fish with multi-oriented scales on only half its body. And the inscribed lines look like common decor on funerary jars.

Simcha criticized Dr. Taylor's perfume-jar references as being from the wrong time or wrong place, & noted that no similar specimens were found in the tomb. Yet there are no similar Jonah/resurrection images from any time or any place, & I don't recall hearing that any copies of the book of Jonah were found in the tomb. At least we know there were jars in existence that the image resembles; we just can't prove that the artist who inscribed the image ever saw them. Is Simcha able to prove that the artist ever read the book of Jonah?

Simcha & Dr. Tabor have repeatedly emphasized the '3 days & 3 nights' quotation, & if the artist had wished to convey this narrative, it would not have been difficult to utilize 3 simple suns (rosettes/stars were common on ossuaries) along with 3 moons.

I would also like to go on record as complimenting Prof. Juan V. Fernandez de la Gala for his articulate & tactful article, Some Considerations about the Icthyomorphic Drawing on Ossuary 6:3 from East Talpiot Tomb (Talbiot B or 'Patio' Tomb), in Jerusalem (though the editors should tend to the "TalBiot" typo).

G.M. Grena

Sunday, March 04, 2012

BS from Brilliant Scholars

During this past week, many of us became intrigued with some big surprises from brilliant scholars over the Preliminary Report of a Robotic Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem by James D. Tabor (abbreviated herein as PR). From my perspective, the biggest of these surprises came from the initial rush to identify the image on one of the ossuaries as being of a "nephesh" monument/marker. It is far more similar to a fish than to one of those, but far more similar to a jar than to a fish.

My own interest in this subject comes from the casual research I've done into amphorae for my 2nd LMLK book. Herein I will focus on this PR, & several of the early posts by academicians on the ASOR blog. Though I read many minor typos in these writings (at least half-a-dozen in Tabor's PR), I will forego my normal corrections to focus on my BS-from-BS theme.

Quotations herewith are in chronological order as best I can approximate.

"An April 17, 1981 memo that Kloner wrote right after his team finished their work ... is nowhere to be found. One early Roman period cooking pot was catalogued by the IAA as from this tomb, although excavators remember other items being removed. There is no copy of the excavation license or application in the files. These are unfortunate losses..."--PR p. 2, f/n 3

BS (big surprise & hereafter)! Note that this was done in 1981, not 1881!

"Other than theological objections, the response most often offered to any probable identification of [the other tomb that received much publicity in 2007] with Jesus and his family is that 'the names are common.'"--PR pp. 6-7

BS! Belief in spiritual salvation is theological. Belief in a well-documented historical event is not theological. The only way to argue that the resurrection of Jesus did not occur & still maintain belief in any historical event, is to posit either that God cannot interact with us, which is a theological objection; or that you simply refuse to consider it, which is an arbitrary, hence irrational objection.

"The gospel of John indicates that the initial burial of Jesus near the place of crucifixion was a hasty emergency measure.... What are the chances that Joseph of Arimathea would just happen to have his own new family tomb conveniently located near the Place of the Skull, or Golgotha, where the Romans regularly crucified their victims?"--PR p. 8

BS! What are the chances that Romans would crucify people "conveniently" near any tombs? What are the chances that tombs would be located "conveniently" near a place of capital punishment?

Matthew 27:60 makes it clear that Joseph's tomb is the same one described in John 19:41. An accurate historian takes into account all available evidence unless there's a reason not to. Here Dr. Tabor has failed to give us a reason why we should accept John's more ambiguous version over Matthew's more specific version.

"One would assume a more permanent burial cave would have been provided for Jesus as soon as the Passover was over and burial rites could be completed."--PR p. 9

BS! Only one with an arbitrary bias against the historical record available to us would "assume" such a position.

"If our interpretation is correct this Jonah image would ... represent archeological evidence related to faith in Jesus' resurrection from the dead-—presumably by his contemporary 1st century followers."--PR p. 21

BS! [Take a deep breath; here comes a long sentence...] If Tabor's interpretation is correct, Jesus wasn't resurrected, so His bones were collected by embarrassed family members, who put them in a family-ossuary a couple miles south of Jerusalem, where they would remain available as a testimony against anyone who would proclaim that He had resurrected (which Jewish leaders could use to squelch such proclamations instantly), or that His reference to Jonah would be typologically fulfilled by Him, & thus these members of His family would be the LEAST LIKELY people on the planet to commemorate His false teaching by inscribing an image of Jonah & an inscription praying to God for resurrection on their family's ossuaries.

Tabor's interpretation might be plausible if these tombs were located in Taipei, but not in Talpiot. If his interpretation is correct (based on the belief that Jesus remained dead & decayed), I would expect an image of Jonah coming out the other end of the fish, not from its mouth.

"Accordingly, we take ... the scales or markings on the body to indicate that the fish is 'kosher'..."--PR p. 21

BS! Apparently only half the "fish" was kosher since mostly the top portion & a little of the bottom of the image has markings, & the markings are strangely divided into separate regions bearing distinct patterns. All scaled fish I've seen have similar scales over the length of their body. They don't have scales of completely different shapes overlapping in completely different patterns suddenly changing in contiguous regions. On the other hand, some Hellenistic-Roman funerary pottery bore such markings, as I'll soon illustrate.

" if the fish is vomiting Jonah onto the land."--PR p. 21

BS! As if the "fish" is swimming in the sky! If the bottom of the ossuary is the land, where's the water? Jonah 1:15 makes it clear that he & the fish were in the sea, not the sky.

"Along the top border are a series of smaller fish that seem to be swimming along a river."--PR p. 22

BS! Since PR was published, Tabor has published images of these "smaller fish", which are nothing more than decorative ovals. No mouths. No eyes. No fins. No tails. And if they were intended as fish, they would imply that "Jonah" is being vomited to the bottom of the sea, not onto dry land!

"Whether this cross is intended as a Christian symbol or not belongs to the larger question of how the tomb is interpreted as a whole..."--PR p. 22

BS! Why would only one ossuary have Christian symbols if the "whole" tomb belonged to Christians?

"On the right end of the ossuary is the scaled body and tail of a fish, with only the lower portion shown as if it is diving down into water (Fig. 24)."--PR p. 22

BS! And the rational basis for believing one "fish" is diving under the water & another "fish", oriented exactly like the other, is vomiting a man onto dry land is ... wait, let me guess, it's because we always find dry land under water, right? And again we see a compartmented region of scales, but ordinary section of decor if it's a jar.

"Although we initially considered the possibility that the image might be ... perhaps a crudely drawn amphora, we soon realized that we were dealing here with something far different..."--PR p. 23

BS! Wait, let me guess. How about a crudely drawn fish using its half-scaled body to swim in the sky? That would definitely be "far different"! For now I'll stick with the crudely drawn jar.

"We have carefully examined all the extant examples of nephesh and amphora on ossuaries of this period and have not found anything that is even close."--PR p. 23

BS! Maybe Dr. Tabor would find something "even close" by looking at images of real amphorae, & comparing their key features.

To isolate the features I would use to interpret this ossuary art, I made my own drawing based on a composite of the "original Jonah Image - no cgi" & "Detailed Jonah Image - no cgi" photos presented in the Photos & Graphics section of The Jesus Discovery's website:

As is obvious, I did not attempt to correct for the skewed camera perspective, & did not attempt to restore the obstructed top-right region, but I did rotate it so it would be shown in its intended orientation, & I did utilize the only 2 non-cgi images made available at this time. I disagree with the representation shown in the Discovery Center's full-size replica interpretation where the jar's top/opening appears slanted. I see no such slant warranted from the distance between the jar & the decorative border (I say this based on my examinations of photographic skew of many published LMLK seal impressions). Two important features of this stand out:

  • 5 patterns placed in distinct regions with a 6th region mostly void

  • A distinct knob-like component on the bottom

  • Nearly symmetrical handles as expected for a jar, but not for dorsal & pelvic fish fins (based on the orientation of the tail)

Here is my isolated drawing of the alleged figure of Jonah, rotated 180 degrees to show its similarity to a schematic human:

If it were important enough for the family to convey the message of Jonah via this imagery, & since we know the family was literate based on the other inscriptions, why didn't someone simply inscribe the few letters for Jonah's name in Aramaic, Greek, or Hebrew? Of course, there's always the possibility that such an inscription exists in the large obstructed portion of the ossuary's face, so that would definitely falsify my interpretation.

Note that the multiple incisions Tabor interprets as seaweed wrapped around Jonah's head were also incised in the decorative border. It seems odd that an artist would go through the time-consuming labor of making all of these decorative marks along with the alleged "scales" on only one half of the "fish", but not make any more prominent distinction of the key figure, Jonah.

I realize that the following photos depict objects not associated with 1st-century Roman empire; however, Tabor has argued that his interpretation of Jonah & the fish is "unprecedented" (PR pp. 22, 23, 27), meaning that there are not only no contemporary parallels, but no similar images at all. At least the objects I'm using to interpret the ossuary image were in existence.

In other words, if someone were to argue that there's no evidence that a member of this Talpiot family had seen one of these jars, I would easily counter by arguing that there's no evidence they had ever read the book of Jonah since no copies of it were found in the tomb.

Furthermore, since this essay is the product of a few hours of Internet research, on which only a small portion of museum pieces have been published, I would argue that if I had the ability (time + money + permission) to examine excavated jars at every major museum housing Roman-era jars, I'd be able to find contemporary specimens bearing similar features.

This example of a pithos-amphora (from 7th-century BC Thebes at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens; photo courtesy of Ancient Greek Thesaurus) shows how a flat top & rounded base could be the product of artistic perspective:

This fragment (from a Roman-era East Mediterranean site at the Mortimer Wheeler House; photo courtesy of Museum of London) shows knob-bottoms were a common feature on ancient jars at this time:

This example of a Hellenistic-era Rhodian amphora (from an unspecified site; photo courtesy of The Institute for the Visualization of History) shows an entire knob-bottomed amphora:

This example of a tripod-amphora (from 9th-century BC Athens at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens; photo courtesy of Ancient Greek Thesaurus) shows a flared neck:

This example of a hydria (from the 3rd-century BC at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford; photo courtesy of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum) shows an undecorated lower half:

Again, I'm not suggesting that the person who decorated this ossuary used any of these jars in particular, but merely that the features we see on the ossuary image existed on real jars. Oh, & just in case those little ovals were intended to be real fish, please note that along with wine & oil, many of these ancient jars stored garum, which is a salt-fish paste or pickled fish. (I pulled that tidbit from Table 56 of my LMLKv2 draft, which lists 14 other contents stored in ancient jars.)

Now I will address the big surprises in posts by equally brilliant scholars on the ASOR blog in response to Tabor's PR.

"The book is truly much ado about nothing..."--Eric M. Meyers

BS! All excavations in Israel are important, & the finding of Roman-era inscriptions & artwork without any clear parallels by using innovative 21st-century technology is not "nothing".

"Unless one believes Jesus body was taken to heaven, which historians do not entertain..."--Tabor in response to Meyers

BS! I'm a historian, & not only entertain it, but embrace it. Archbishop James Ussher was an excellent historian at his time with the information available to him, & he believed it. I have not yet read a single historian who can dismiss the evidence for Christ's resurrection while providing a rational basis for any other historical event.

"7.The ornamentation on the ossuary in Talpiyot Tomb B that Tabor and Jacobovici wish to consider Jonah and the Whale is a nephesh tower or tomb facade..."--Professor Christopher A. Rollston

BS! It's amazing that he would make such a definitive statement when he didn't even check to see how the object was oriented. He made this mistake by wanting to show support for the suggestion made by Meyers on the same occasion (Feb. 28), who was referring to an image in "The New Jesus Discovery" book. Meyers cautiously said "the image actually seems to resemble a nephesh, or tomb monument," & can be easily forgiven.

"Predictably, therefore, there are ornamental motifs on the ossuaries in Talpiyot Tomb B."--Professor Christopher A. Rollston

BS! Predictably? You mean archeologists don't need to use an old-fashioned crystal ball anymore, they can just call Prof. Rollston to predict whether an ossuary will or will not bear ornamental motifs?

"By the way, the features of this ossuary's ornamentation that Jacobovici and Tabor contend are the 'fins of a fish,' are actually a standard feature of a roof, namely, the eaves (which, of course, are important for directing the water away from a building)."--Professor Christopher A. Rollston

BS! Right now the only thing these "eaves" are directing is embarrassment onto Prof. Rollston's reputation for misinterpreting an image of which he didn't confirm the orientation.

"It is not prudent to assume that the word Mara is definitely feminine."--Professor Christopher A. Rollston

BS! The Jacobovici/Tabor position has every right to read Mara as feminine. Rollston has not given any basis for believing that it can never be feminine, so I would argue that his point is not prudent.

"With little fish swimming around it..."--Tabor in response to Professor Christopher A. Rollston

BS! The ovals Tabor identified as fish are only at the top, which is why he interpreted them as swimming in a river (instead of a sea per the book of Jonah).

"...the fact that the supposed whale appears to be a depiction of a nefesh (tomb marker)."--Professor Jodi Magness

BS! Fact?

"The current claim is based on finds that have no context, as they have not been excavated."--Professor Jodi Magness

BS! I am not aware of any site anywhere that has been completely excavated in scientifically. Normally only very small sections of it are examined, & historians interpret the relatively few findings as best they can. Dr. Magness knows this, but went overboard in her point. Say what you will about the images & inscriptions on the ossuaries under discussion, but at least we know some basic facts about where they were found, & that's better than nothing.

I've made fun of Robert R. Cargill's hasty & embarrassing misinterpretation of the ossuary image elsewhere, so here I'll simply emphasize what a BS it was to see him focus on differences between Dr. Tabor's originally skewed & subjectively edited photos, rather than simply admit he blew it.

"This so-called Jonah 'icon', is nothing more than the image of an ancient Jewish tomb incised on the side of an ossuary. In fact, it is a very nice image of one."

BS! Maybe the upper decorative regions resemble decorative regions of tomb images, but I haven't seen any images of tombs with flaring tops & narrowing/pointed bottoms (& upside-down eaves). Dr. Fine certainly didn't provide any specific references.

"As one of our consultants pointed out—the artist who drew this image was likely reluctant to represent a clear human figure in graphic form in a funerary context."--James D. Tabor

BS! If it was considered taboo, why draw it at all? Would a weird-looking human figure really be kosher?

"Also the “tail” i.e. does not look at all like the mouth of such a vessel, but has a very prominent, asymmetrical left tip."--Tabor in response to Dr. Joan E. Taylor

BS! How could the left "tail" be asymmetrical when the right "tail" is obstructed from view? However, the top of the image on the right side of the ossuary is symmetrical, just like all the jars I've seen.

Let's close with a BS tune from Heritage Singers:

G.M. Grena