Jodi Magness responds to the “New Jesus Discovery”

Posted in: Archaeology and Bible, Archaeology and Politics, ASOR, Bible and Media, Epigraphy, Excavations
Tags: Archaeology, biblical archaeology, Jesus Tomb response
Share on Facebook2Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Email this to someoneShare on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on LinkedIn0

Professor Jodi Magness
Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As usual, the arrival of the Easter season this year is heralded by a sensational archaeological claim relating to Jesus. In March 2007, we learned from a TV documentary and accompanying book that the tomb of Jesus and his family had been discovered in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood. The producer was undeterred by the fact that not a single archaeologist – including the tomb’s excavator – supported this claim (for my comments see http://www.archaeological.org/news/279; also see Eric Meyers’ response to the current claim). Now the same producer has identified remains of early Christian followers of Jesus in a tomb nearby. What is the basis for this new claim? Photos taken by a robotic arm that was inserted into the tomb supposedly show a graffito depicting a whale incised on an ossuary, and an inscription containing the Tetragrammaton and the word “arise” or “resurrection.”

(more…)

Share on Facebook2Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Email this to someoneShare on Reddit0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on LinkedIn0
31 Comments for : Jodi Magness responds to the “New Jesus Discovery”
    • Jim
    • February 28, 2012
    Reply

    Nice work Jodi

    • peter long
    • February 28, 2012
    Reply

    prof.magness'wise comments on biblical archaeology could also be applied to the quality of much current biblical analytic theology-there is a lot of slapdash work around in the public sphere!

    • James D. Tabor
    • February 28, 2012
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing your views here Jodi. I consider you a friend and I respect your scholarship. As you know I have responded to your initial take on the "Jesus" tomb on the SBL site- -http://sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?articleId=651, so no point in rehashing that again. Also, Elliot and Kilty have offered a new response to your treatment of the Talpiot tomb in your latest book, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus that you may or may not have seen: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/kil368009.sht…. I find their points persuasive for the most part. You main point about the names being "common" has been extensively refuted by quite a few scholars, see my article for references.

    I think you are wrong to equate our efforts at the Talpiot "patio" tomb to ark hunting and other sensationalist foolishness. This was a fully licensed excavation carried out with high standards and academic oversight. My conclusions are my own and I have presented them as judiciously as I could in my preliminary report-which you may not have read, as it was just posted today: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/tab368028.sht…. Academics often differ on their interpretations of both texts and artifacts but what I think we all would like to see is responsible discussion and debate of the evidence. I have offered my take on things. I hope others will do the same as well and if this is a pillar or tomb marker/nephesh let's see it argued in responsible fashion with evidence presented. It would be upside down? And with small fish swimming above it? And a diving fish on the side? I find the whole idea unconvincing and Eric and I discussed this last Fall when we met. If I were arguing any alternative, and I don't think this works either, but we carefully considered it, I would suggest an amphora-but that seemed to me in the end not to hold up. At least half a dozen art historians have agreed with the Jonah interpretation. Whether they want to enter this seemingly barbed discussion or not I have no idea, but we did consult extensively with several dozen colleagues, including specialists in the history of early Jewish/Christian art. Maybe a full discussion at ASOR or SBL in November would be helpful.

    • robert r. cargill
    • February 28, 2012
    Reply

    very well said, dr. magness.

  1. Pingback: Roundup of Biblioblogger Comments on the New Jacobovici Claims « The Musings of Thomas Verenna

  2. Pingback: Jodi Magness on what a real archaeologist is (Talpiyot Tomb) | Unsettled Christianity

  3. Pingback: Early Christian Tomb | HolyLandPhotos' Blog

    • Stephen Goranson
    • February 29, 2012
    Reply

    Hello, James.

    If one takes as relevant the orientation of the drawing, in order to argue against the nephesh interpretation, then one, to be fair, would also apply the orientation to the fish interpretation. If the "fish" were disgorging (with a closed mouth?) Jonah upon dry land, how could the fish do that-unless a flying fish?

    What you call "little fish swimming" is, to me, not an obvious interpretation.

    Half a dozen art historians agree with the Jonah interpretation, you say. Unless I missed it, I haven't seen one of them quoted. It's hard to evaluate such claims without specifics. I wonder if signed non-disclosure agreements help scholarship.

    If even an unskilled artist were going to draw a monster fish, do you think it likely that the drawing would include a monster fish eye?

    • Geoff Hudson
    • February 29, 2012