Saturday, March 17, 2007

Amos Kloner Interviewed by Darrell Bock-- the Tenth Ossuary was Blank

There is now a critique of the Discovery Channel documentary by Amos Kloner himself as interviewed by Dr. Darrell Bock. It is in so many ways very revealing and makes perfectly clear that the tenth and blank ossuary was not by any means the James ossuary which we have no reason to think came from the Talpiot tomb. Indeed there are many reasons to think otherwise, a few of which can be listed here:

Click here to join Dr. Bock and Amos Kloner

1) Oded Golan's family has testified that he had that ossuary in the 70s; 2) one of his old girl friends also said she saw it back then, and she doesn't even care for the man any more; 3) photographic evidence, apparently corroborated by the FBI at the trial shows that he had it before the Israeli law changed on this subject; and 4) Eusebius was not referring to some later medieval relic site near the so-callled tomb of Absalom mistaken for the tomb of James. He is quite specific in saying he saw an inscribed stele as well marking out this tomb as the tomb of James the Just. He ought to know--- he lived in the Holy Land in the 4th century. He certainly ought to know better than we do; 5) the antiquities dealer from whom Oded got the box said it came from Silwan, and the soil found in it comported with that view; 6) the measurements of the James ossuary don't match the measurements of the tenth ossuary, and Zias and Kloner are clear enough there was only ten in the Talpiot tomb. Of course we can't question the deceased member of the excavation team, but Kloner and Zias are clear enough-- that last ossuary could not be the James ossuary-- it was blank. 7) I have detailed photos of the James ossuary including photos of the pitted nature of the bottom portion of the face of the box, caused by water damage over a long period of time. This ossuary was not in a dry cave for centuries, definitely not, and this distinguishes it from the ossuaries that came out of the Talpiot tomb so far as I can see.



Ben Witherington said...

Seems to be working now.


Jay said...
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Jay said...
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Jay said...
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Jay said...

What follows is Dr. Tabor's most recent statement about the "James" ossuary.

"I should clarify here that such a possibility is not solely linked to the matter of the 10th missing ossuary that has been so much discussed and that I raised back in 2005 when I completed my book, The Jesus Dynasty. It was Shimon Gibson who first made the point that the James ossuary could be an 11th ossuary, taken from the tomb when it was left open Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, March 28-31st, 1980. What I can say is that we are “on the case,” and if the patina reports, which I have just received and want to pass on to Yuval Goren and others qualified to judge, hold up, then we will be one step closer to offering the James ossuary a provenanced location. As I see things, that would change the probabilities considerably in terms of a “potential” to “near certain” identification of the Talpiot tomb with that of Jesus of Nazareth. There are also some other options to resolve this issue that can be pursued."

Just a few thoughts:
1. Why was somebody like Yuval Goren not contacted immediately? Why go all the way to Suffolk County, New York to solicit the opinion of a crime lab director?
2. The idea that the "James" ossuary is the 11th ossuary might eliminate the problem of wrong measurements, but it does so at a cost. One must increasingly burden Yosef Gath. Either he was more incompetent than we first suspected, or his criminal falsification was more thorough than we first suspect. Floating the idea that "James" is the 11th ossuary is ad hoc and a sign that this theory is in very grave danger. Supporters of Ptolemy could add epicycle after epicycle to explain the movement of heavenly bodies without recourse to the Copernican theory. It did not make them correct.
3. The Discovery channel website offers up what can only be called misleading graphs of the "fingerprint" of the "James" and "Mariamene" ossuary. Their graph obscures mismatches on two elements. At first glance, one thinks that they match on all but 3 elements. But, in fact, they match on all but 5 elements. This is obscured by the presentation. Intentional? I do not know. I do know that there are a lot of mistakes I have found-- across the entire presentation -- that enhance the argument of Jacobovici (e.g. the book says that Feuerverger's paper has been submitted to peer review -- NOT TRUE). And I have found no mistakes that diminish the argument.
4. Pellegrino and Jacobovici claim that their patina fingerprinting is a "new" method that they have "vindicated" with the "James" ossuary. This is patently ridiculous. You CANNOT test, in a single run, a new method and an unprovenanced item. Your logic will ultimately be circular: How do we know that the method works? It matched the "James" ossuary. How do we know that the "James" ossuary matches? The method showed it. The "patina fingerprinting" must be vindicated first.

Also, my current estimate of the chances that the Talpiot tomb belonged to Jesus of Nazareth is approximately 1 in 295,000. I hope to offer to the public a formal statement of this probability soon. Randy Ingermanson, whom Tabor quotes approvingly, is working with me. He and I see eye-to-eye on how to run the calculations on Talpiot.

John Q. Brunson Jr. said...

In compliance with Dr. Witherington wishes to comment on this blog I now once again pose my question, "Of course the general public may not be aware of what may be an old argument among scholars. However, what I don't understand is the frantic tantrum being thrown by the academy over this issue. Professionalism and basic manners? No one is attacking anyone's faith. I simply don't 'get' why everyone is so up in arms. Can you give me an insight into this mindset Dr. Witherington?"

Following this issue since the airing of the DC special, I have understood the arguments on both sides. My confusion and the reason for my question to Dr. Witherington is why is this particular issue generating such 'playground-bullyish' response from the academy at large.

I haven't seen this kind of passion since Dr. T.L. Johnson took on the Goliath of Funk, Borg and Crossan. Which I'm sure Dr. Witherington also remembers :)

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

Didn't I read somewhere that Shimon Gibson's work (either photographs or drawings) was the basis for their confirmation that their were 10 ossuaries and their eventual discovery that one had gone "missing"? If so, I hope Gibson's work original work is a matter of public record.

Ben Witherington said...

Amos Kloner himself was in the tomb, counted the ossuaries, and then Gibson came in the tomb and drew the lay out, as I understand this radio interview to say. It is quite irrelevant what happened after the tomb had all the ossuaries extracted, and there was agreement there was only ten to start with in the Talpiot tomb... not 11 or 12 or more, but 10, and all were accounted for at the Rockefeller where they were taken.

As to the "why all the fuss" question, it has to do with honesty and the integrity of the discipline among other things, not to mention the implications for Christian faith of finding Jesus' bones since resurrection meant no body left in the tomb.


Jay said...

Benjamin --

My understanding is that the answer to your question is a firm no. Yosef Gath was the original excavator. By the time that Gibson arrived to do the drawings, some of the ossuaries had already been removed. His drawings reflect what Gath had told him.

Furthermore, remember that the tomb itself was filled with silt. You will notice this on an analysis of the Gibson's drawings. He could not have begun drawing until the excavation had been completed.

The only way to connect the James ossuary to Talpiot is to make either a criminal or a buffoon out of Yosef Gath, a man who no longer is alive to defend himself.

Jay said...

John --

This was an attempt to outflank the academy -- to appeal directly to the public, which has loads of cash to hand over (out of fear that they believe a lie) but not the technical knowledge to reject the argument. None of these ideas were submitted for academic review. (Nobody among them has anything but a hope to one day submit them. Did you know that?) If they had been submitted, every one of them would have been rejected. The documentarians had the resources (via Cameron) the panache (via Jacobovici) and the connections/technical knowledge (via Tabor) to allow scholars a chance to review the arguments before they were submitted for public presentation. They chose not to do that. Why? The answer should be seen clearly in the universal rejection of the hypothesis: it is wrong.

And, beyond that, it seems to me that the academy feels abused. Experts were used to solicit the narrowest of opinions. Consider, in particular, Bovon and Feuerverger. They offered narrow opinions. Then, suddenly, they were made to be seen to be endorsing the broad project.

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

Jay, you and Ben are both probably right. What I remembered was the following:

"1. Is there a 10th missing ossuary?
It really depends on to whom you talk and how you define “missing.” There are ten ossuaries in Gibson’s drawing."*

And from the intro to The Jesus Dynasty:

"Shimon Gibson’s original drawing of the excavation of the Talpiot tomb clearly shows a total of ten ossuaries."

But this was after Gath and (if Ben is right) Kloner had counted 10 and after some of the ossuaries had been moved out. So the drawings appear to be irrelevant ... to how many ossuaries there really were.

"The idea that the "James" ossuary is the 11th ossuary might eliminate the problem of wrong measurements, but it does so at a cost."

Jay mentions the possible cost to the reputation of Joseph Gath (not to mention, by extension, possibly Amos Kloner). I think it will also mean a cost to the credibility of the entire campaign to get the James ossuary in the Talpiot tomb. I hope to explore this in my own blog in the near future.

Finally, I wouldn't refer to it as "the 11th ossuary," since the definite article implies its existence. I think it important to remember that "an 11th ossuary" is an ad hoc construct to deal with a growing problem, a hypothetical expediency for giving the James ossuary a "provenanced location" given the growing liklihood that it isn't the 10th "missing" ossuary after all. The rationale for conjuring up an 11th ossuary toward this end is also clear:

"That would change the probabilities considerably in terms of a “potential” to “near certain” identification of the Talpiot tomb with that of Jesus of Nazareth."

I apologize for my cynicism, but I'm becoming weary of all the new, ad hoc generation of tendentious hypotheses designed for the express purpose of "pushing things all the more toward a “Jesus family tomb.”

Or at least so it seems to me.


John Q. Brunson Jr. said...

Thank you Dr. Witherington & Jay for your polite response. Please patiently indulge me a bit further on this line of questioning. You say the makers of this film maneuvered an end-around of an established process within the academy. So the scholars responding are outraged at the breach of protocol not the fact that they think the hypothesis is wrong? Is that a correct interpretation of what you are saying?

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

Cute, John. I'm sure that's a crackerjack interpretation of what Jay and Dr. Witherington meant. I have a suggestion: Why not read what the scholars have written to determine whether they think the hypothesis right or wrong?

Ben Witherington said...

No John: That would be incorrect. The vast majority of scholars that I have heard from and read on this think the show was offering a fatally flawed thesis that was simply wrong. In addition, they were not happy with the secret and frankly unprofessional way the matter was handled in order to make a big splash with a book and a TV show. I short both the process and the product were badly askew.


John Q. Brunson Jr. said...
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John Q. Brunson Jr. said...

My apologies, I did not make myself clear enough so I will clarify. My question was not whether the scholars weighing in thought the hypothesis was right or wrong, I'm aware that most feel strongly that it is wrong, my question was is the general outrage a result of the breach of protocol or the 'wrongness' hypothesis.

Mr. Lewis, forgive me but your response seems yet another symptom in the curious phenomenon I was originally questioning. Thank you for your input.

Dr. Witherington, thank you for your response and I hope that I have clarified my question to remove any confusion.

My curiosity is genuine and my background is simply one of an amateur religious studies enthusiast. Subscriptions to BA and BR, on-off again membership in SBL/AAR following the work of scholars mostly in the Third Jesus movement since the mid 90's etc.

If this is not the proper forum for such questions I completely understand. My only reason for asking is that I have read some of your work and figured you may be able to answer.

Also for additional clarification, I don't have a position on the issue one way or the other. It was enough to make me pay attention and the first thing I saw was the extreme incredulity by the academy. And that made me pay attention even more.

I hope that at least clears up where the question is coming from. Thank you again fr your time and efforts.

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

My apologies, John. I'm a little quick on the trigger sometimes. Especially of late.

Jay said...

Dear John --

I think that you are distinguishing two concepts -- the wrongness of the hypothesis and the breach of protocol -- artificially.

I would argue that protocol was breached, at least in part, because the hypothesis would have been rejected. Now, this is not to say that it would have been delcared to be "False." Pratically speaking, there is no way to offer a critical test of this hypothesis -- i.e. there is no one piece of evidence that you could provide to show that the Jesus in the tomb is not Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, if this hypothesis had undergone peer review, it would have been rejected for publication because it is dramatically underdetermined -- that is, of all the potential alternative hypotheses to explain Talpiot, this one is not nearly the most reasonable or likely.

So, I would argue that the two are probably causally related. Peer review was avoided because the hypothesis is so "controversial."

On top of this, the documentary nevertheless wraps itself in the scholarly cloak. About a half dozen or so individuals with expertise in the study of this time period are brought in front of the camera. On top of that, you have many more people like Feuerverger who is an expert in one aspect of the argument. They are all made to be seen to agree with Jacobovici when -- in point of fact -- only one of them, James Tabor, actually does.

There is a dishonesty here. Whether it was because of intentional desire to deceive or whether it was because of blind ignorance, I do not know. My intuition is the latter.

Nevertheless, this is why I think that the documentary was so panned by scholars: it avoided peer review to get an argument out to the public that made itself look like it was peer reviewed.

Jay said...

Benjamin --

I, too, am weary of the nonsense regarding the "James" ossuary. The whole thing always struck me as ad hoc. The "James" ossuary was speculated to be at Talpiot because it had to be there. Jacobovici et al. think the "James" ossuary is the ossuary of James the Just. If it was placed in Silwan, not Talpiot, there is no reason to believe that Talpiot would be the Jesus Family Tomb.

If you argue that something improbable occurred because it must occur to save your other idea -- you should probably rethink that other idea. You should definitely do so when, in the midst of all this hypothesizing, you implicitly but clearly besmirch the good name of a dead man. That is just shameful.


Ken Carl said...

It seems to me that that all of this discussion about the James ossuary is a rather moot point. Archeology experts at the IAA including Joe Zias agree that the James ossuary is a forgery. I recently corresponded with Mr. Zias and asked him his opinion on the ossuary, this was his response:

"The evidence strongly suggests that the last half of the insc. was forged. as far as the patina goes and the shtick of Shanks that two leters showed ancient patina all a good forger has to do is to write the insc. in such a way that he uses those ancient crackes, defects as part of a letter or two which is what I suggest the forger did. Also, he and Shanks have a lot of $$$ as well as reputation riding on this."

I have read lots of opinions on the James ossuary but I have not seen any arguments by actual archeologist who have examined it and don't question its authenticity.

As for the rest of the discussion about emotional responses regarding this whole issue of the jesus tomb, of course it's emotional no matter what side you are on. But facts are still facts whether there is emotion or not.

Daniel said...

Let me preface this by stating that I do not routinely engage in shameful joy, but I hope everyone has seen the cover of this week's SUN WEEKLY. The entire cover is devoted to.....JESUS' FAMILY TOMB! Lots of comic-book style fonts trumpeting "How the Resurrection Really Happened!" "DNA Tests Prove His Link with Shroud of Turin!" "Revealed! Shocking Secrets!" and "Much, Much, More on the Greatest Archaeology (sic) Find of All Time!" Hopefully someone will post a picture. What's that old saying about water reaching its level?