A lot more has been said on the issue of the Jonah ossuary this week; in fact it has been an interesting few days. As James McGrath keeps the round-ups alive (here and here; I won’t belabor it by reposting everything here–go to James’ blog for the details), I’ve been contemplating something that has been bothering me that I had completely missed previously.
Dr. James Tabor has made an effort recently to reenforce his belief that there is an inscription in the
vessel ‘fish’. However it seems that every instance a new image is released by his and Simcha’s team, there are startling differences that cause me to raise an eyebrow. Mark Goodacre blogged about something quite similar last year, but this needs to be demonstrated more thoroughly taking into account more recent events.
1. The Elusive Etruscan Letter and the Stick Man
During the very beginning of the debate over the iconography on the ossuary (fish or vessel?), I wrote a long post in response to Dr. Tabor’s conclusions that the ossuary portrayed the fish spitting out Jonah. I am sure it still stands up to scrutiny a year later–but it dawned on me recently that I had quoted some pretty interesting dialogue from Dr. Tabor on the part of the fish in which he now claims there exists an inscription.
Back in the first week of March, 2012, Dr. Tabor posted up this bit:
And in detail, this specific part of his analysis:
To be clear, at this point Dr. Tabor was still using the CGI generated photo as an original photo of the actual ossuary (which turns out was not the case). In my response to Dr. Tabor, I made note that the misleading image was photoshopped in some way, but I also highlighted the lines of his image:
I wrote then:
Note how completely ‘unhuman’ the ‘stickfigure’ looks when you isolate the lines (in red) and see what is really there. Frankly, I’m finding any resemblance to a ‘stickfigure’ to be completely disingenuous. Also, take note of all the red squares. Those are repeated notches which indicate to me that this item was not just digitally modified but parts of it were copied and pasted into the image to fill it out. The left side of one notch in the middle-upper-left of the image has been cut off (and looks like a smudging effect was applied). So how is it that Dr. Tabor expects us to carefully examine this iconography in any detail when the iconography presented is not an accurate representation of what is on the ossuary?
Remember when Simcha and Dr. Tabor were then arguing that this was a stick figure and the ‘head’ of the fish contained an eye? How adamant were they (specifically Dr. Tabor) about the stick man being spit out of the fish?
I do find it interesting that Dr. Tabor draws attention to the fact that critics “have suddenly move[d] from the ‘tower’ to the perfume flask.” But then again, the image that had been originally seen by everyone was not oriented correctly–but then, Dr. Tabor can’t really decide if orientation matters or not (Hint: it probably doesn’t if what you want to see is a fish and a stick figure). Because Dr. Tabor and Simcha have suddenly gone from a “stick man” in a “fish’s head”, and then they said that it was a mix between a “stick man”, “fish’s head” and an “inscription” reading “Jonah”. How dare they! But most importantly, that is one impressive shape-shifting fish-stick-man-name!
But this stick figure is so incredibly clear, Dr. Tabor says. In fact he went to the trouble of posting up a fan drawing of it:
Man, just look how clear this is! So great of Dr. Tabor to highlight the ‘so plainly’ visible stick figure. Dr. Tabor even makes a point to state the clarity of the stick man a third time:
After this image was exposed as a computer generated image, not an ‘enhancement’, Dr. Tabor produced this image (probably courtesy of his team):
Even in his preliminary report on the subject, he sees a stick figure.
The interesting bit is at this point, in early march, no mention of any inscription is found. Anywhere. In fact, again, Dr. Tabor doesn’t read anything in Hebrew on this ossuary. Instead time is given to the Greek inscription on the back of ossuary 5 (not the same ossuary) and that’s it. Dr. Tabor is thoroughly puzzled by what he initially sees as an Etruscan letter.
A few final notes here:
- The original “replica” ossuary and the CGI fabricated image have a connected line well below where it is portrayed as elsewhere or have an unconnected line at the center of the ‘fish head'; this indicates they didn’t see a connection:
- Dr. Tabor especially made note of how “clear” the stick figure was on the ossuary.
But it seems that as time goes on, the fish iconography seems to shift and mold into something that seems remarkably more pliable to Dr. Tabors’ arguments.
2. The Shape-Shifting Fish-na-Man-na-Name-O-Tron!
At the end of March and early April, we see a dynamic shift in argument from the Jesus Discovery team. A new replica is released (though barely discussed) with very different ‘fish head’ iconography and the startling news that the stick figure was actually serving a double-purpose: he was hiding the inscription YONH (Yonah)! From Dr. Tabor’s blog:
And this is the accompanying picture provided by Dr. Tabor:
A side by side:
These photos are interesting because they demonstrate not only a shift in tactics, but a little misleading information. Bob Cargill and Steve Caruso have done some excellent work demonstrating the glaring inaccuracies and inconsistencies here.
Steve demonstrates the errors here. The biggest controversy here is the difference between this image and the unedited “raw” image. Here is what I’ve put together:
There is just so much happening between these three photos. So much is lost, so much added, lines are fusing together left and right. They move and sway and vanish and reappear. It’s incredible!
And wouldn’t you know how Dr. Tabor was defending this? Why, the same way he defended the stick man of course.
On Steve Caruso’s blog post on April 14, last year, Dr. Tabor wrote:
It [the inscription-ed.] is plain as the Aramaic on your face and I think you surely know it.
It is just so plain! So plain. It is as plain as the Etruscan letter, the stick man, the ‘half-fish’ with handles. It’s just, so d’uh! It’s so plain that Dr. Tabor writes just today:
In fact it was obvious enough that Dr. Tabor missed it for months on end. He missed it during the few months he was investigating the ossuary, he missed it for a few additional months while reviewing photos, while writing his preliminary report. He made it through just an entire month of blogging, mistaking such a plain and obvious hey as a letter in the Etruscan alphabet.
There are also sketches done of the “Jonah” ossuary by the Jesus Discovery team and it was so plain to see that they included it! Oh wait, no they didn’t.
And isn’t it interesting that the photos and second “replica” used now (in fact featured on the website) are missing extraneous lines that would otherwise obscure and dilute the inscription? And isn’t it odd that no one seems to be denying that fact?
So to recap: First it is a fish with a stick man, then it’s a fish with a stick man that is also an inscription. Stick man is so powerful.
What I find most distracting is that Dr. Tabor seems to again be changing tactics! While initially the inscription was hidden inside the shape shifting stick man, now Dr. Tabor just wants us to forget about the stick man entirely. He told Mark Goodacre just a few days ago:
Honestly, maybe it is time for the Jesus Discovery team to abandon the stick man entirely and focus on the inscription. Clearly that is where Dr. Tabor’s head is at. So what do we believe? A stick man? Not a stick man? An Etruscan letter? A hey? It is interesting that when Dr. Tabor sees something that contradicts his “rock-solid” plain view of a fish and Jonah or a stick man, well, it is just probably a mistake. He writes:
A closeup view of this area makes it clear that there is certainly no handle remotely resembling that of a vase or amphora but just a couple of stray lines, unconnected to the image, that the engraver might have even made by mistake.
Wait, you mean it shows up in multiple images and resembles items that we have seen on other ossuaries? Oh… oh my…
Well, this is embarrassing…. I just think we should end this on a positive note. So… take it away Xzibit!