Update on Second Talpiot Tomb

This is about Talpiot B, the tomb with the alleged “Jonah and the fish” symbol on one of the ossuaries. Most people don’t think this is a coherent identification. I don’t (“Jonah” still looks like a ball of string to me). I’ve posted before about what the image probably is (here and here). Other scholars have accused the principle folks behind it of Photoshopping evidence. At any rate, here’s a recent update of the image — the work of Dr. Wim G. Meijer, via Duke professor Mark Goodacre’s NT blog.

More Free Online Resources for Ancient Research

As is my custom, every once in a while I have to post something that veers away from exposing paleobabble toward real research. I’ve posted in the past about the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and its posting of various volumes related to Assyriology. Here are some other goodies (courtesy of the Ancient World Online blog):

The Claremont Colleges Digital Library offers several open access resources relating to antiquity:

The Bulletin of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity is published periodically under the auspices of the Society for Antiquity and Christianity for the general information of persons interested in the research programs of the Institute.
The Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia (CCE) will initially include approximately 2800 articles published in The Coptic Encyclopedia (Aziz S. Atiya, ed. NY: Macmillan, 1991).
The Nag Hammadi codices, thirteen ancient manuscripts containing over fifty religious and philosophical texts written in Coptic and hidden in an earthenware jar for 1,600 years, were accidentally discovered in upper Egypt in the year 1945.


This site contains over 25,000 links to Greek and Latin authors online. The links include detailed lists of events and sources for the history of the Hellenistic world and the Roman republic. It includes links to online translations of many of the sources, as well as new translations of some works which have not previously been easily available in English.

Margaret Barker and the Jordan Codices

This past June Dr. Margaret Barker was on Coast to Coast AM talking about the infamous Jordan Codices. Barker is a legitimate scholar in the fields of biblical studies and Second Temple Judaism. She’s a favorite author of mine, not because I always (or even often) agree with her, but because she’s out of the box.

My fondness for Barker’s work won’t stop me from being critical of her thinking, though. Her thoughts about these codices, which basically the rest of the scholarly community thinks are fakes, for very good reasons, are a case in point. But I don’t have to chime in myself, as a fellow scholar and friend of mine, Dan McClellan, has already done so. Dan is one of a handful of scholars who has followed the codices saga very closely and done a lot of work to chronicle it for the rest of us. I recommend reading Dan’s critique of her appearance.

Want to Study Ancient Papyri?

Have I got a website for you.

If papyri is your thing, you should definitely know about Brice Jones’ metasite for papyrological resources. There are a few dozen links to online papyrus collections, journals, online publications, Coptic lexicons, and other tools. Pretty slick.

Brice is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal.

Los Lunas Lunacy

At times I am asked about the evidence for ancient (Jewish) visitation to the Americas. Part of what prompts the question is inscriptional “evidence” like the Los Lunas stone. (Other parts are British Israelite and Mormon apologetic leanings). While I’m not one who rules out an ancient sea crossing by someone before Europeans, the Los Lunas stone can be safely assigned to forgery. No modern epigrapher of ancient Hebrew alive today would defend the authenticity of the inscription.

Here’s a recent (Feb 2013) lengthy article on the stone that tries hard to be even-handed. But even this essay contains damning evidence of the stone’s fabricated nature. For instance, when commenting on the thoughts of David Atlee Phillips, curator of Archeology at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico, the author of the piece notes:


“The smoking gun for Phillips is the “caret,” symbolizing a correction, a modern symbol. “I infer that the person who inscribed the words was not fluent in the language, but was working off a photograph or drawing and temporarily overlooked part of the inscription.”1 Furthermore, Phillips writes, “when you stand and look at the inscription, a glance downward will show the possible signature of the creators. There in the bedrock is inscribed ‘Eva and Hobe 3-13-30.’ There is an oral tradition at UNM that Eva and Hobe were anthropology majors who prepared the inscription as a hoax, and who were found out. They were told that if they ever did something like that again, their careers in the field would be over.”

Professor Phillips is quoted elsewhere in the article as confirming something I’ve already learned many times over about people who want to believe in things like the Los Lunas stone:

“As every con man knows, the essence of a good fraud is allowing the victim to believe what that victim wishes to believe. The ‘true believers’ I have encountered vis a vis the Los Lunas inscription fall into two categories. First, individuals for whom an ancient Old World inscription in the New World would validate their particular religious beliefs. Second, individuals who are looking to make the Next Great Scientific Discovery. Some humans are able to resist the temptation of the more self-serving path, but others are not—and once they are on that path, they use their certainty to determine which potential facts are correct and which are not. In my experience, once people have started down that path, they are quite impervious to whatever information I provide them.”

Impervious is the right word for it. Just read through the comments to posts on this blog and you’ll understand.

At any rate, for those who want to become familiar with the Los Lunas inscription, this article is a very good place to start.

  1. A better explanation for this may be that the forgers were looking at a transcription or hand drawing of some Old World material and copied the caret straight out of the transcription, not realizing it wasn’t part of the inscription, but an item placed there by the transcriber. -MSH.

Exposing the Burrows Cave Myth

Here’s a welcome post on the (in)famous Burrows cave from the Ohio Archaeology blog (HT: Jason Colavito on Twitter). I’ve gotten a number of inquiries over the years about its “ancient inscriptions” and other items that allegedly prove the Phoenicians (or Lost Tribes of Israel) came to America in antiquity.

The author of the post is Brad Lepper, the curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society. Lepper links from this post to another article of his in the Columbus Dispatch for good measure. Check out both if Burrows is new to you or you’ve heard about it before and had only one side of the story presented.

The post ends with links to learn more about the Burrows’ Cave chicanery.

Falling Into Burrows Cave

Burrows Cave: a modern hoax

2009 Burrows Cave Update

Testing of “Jesus Wife” Coptic Fragment Ongoing

CNN’s religion blog recently posted that testing of the Coptic fragment that includes Jesus referring to his wife has delayed publication of an article by Karen King on the fragment in the Harvard Theological Review. The short piece is a useful one, as it asks some needed questions about the fragment in a concise way for readers.

I’m not sure what the hubbub is about testing the actual fragment. I expect the material itself is very old, but that proves nothing about the authenticity of the text, since all one would need to do to create such a forgery is access to the same material and the “recipe” for ancient ink.  Irving Wallace showed us how to do that decades ago in his novel, The Word. But maybe other scholars don’t read novels. Additionally, genuine physical material won’t answer the syntactical irregularities and borrowed vocabulary in the text that led scholars to think it a fraud in the first place (see here and here).

Jordan Lead Codices Fakery Update

The BBC recently aired a short segment on the lead codices from Jordan on its Inside Out program (thanks to J. Davila, J. McGrath, and Dan McClellan for the initial heads-up on the special). The codices are allegedly early Christian texts.

I’ve blogged about the lead codices several times, as have other biblical and ancient Judaism scholars. The overwhelming consensus is that they are fakes — for lots of cogent reasons (see this video as well). The BBC investigated the claims and, most immediately, the person behind them, David Elkington.

Here is the BBC video (13 minutes or so) about the codices.