If You Buy Into Images Like This…

…then you need to do more research.  Because these images are misleading and mostly wrong.  By mostly, I mean like 80% wrong.  And anyone who argues with certainty that these beliefs impacted Christianity to a large degree need to reevaluate their critical thinking skills.  Because you’re wrong.

Click through to see full image.

This image represents precisely the sort of misinformation and false arguments commonly made within the mythicist community.  This is why serious scholars don’t take you seriously.  This is why you are like creationists–because you continue to fabricate data to support your flawed conclusions.

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South Park on the History Channel, Ancient Aliens, and the Public Understanding of History

South Park spoofed the History Channel’s series Ancient Aliens and I have to say, it was both hilarious and scary.  South Park has always been on the front lines (so to speak) of social commentary and satire.  Spoofing silly beliefs is nothing new for the show.  A few years ago it spoofed Scientology and before that it spoofed Mormonism.  Both episodes were extremely entertaining but it showed a side of humanity that frightens me.   In both of these earlier episodes, it explained what these two groups actually believe (and what they believe is just nonsense; see for yourself and watch the videos and then do a little research to verify).  Needless to say, the show Ancient Aliens has decent enough ratings and a large enough following to scare me as well.

But this particular episode is interesting.  As I’ve said before, those who believe that there were ancient astronauts from outer space who came to earth–and that there is evidence for this–are just nuts.  It’s a new form of maximalism, whereby nonexperts pretend as if they know what they are talking about by making up ridiculous conspiracy theories and connecting the dots which can’t exist anywhere but in the fabric of their own imaginations.

To quote from Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (the guy pictured on the left):

“The Great thing about the ancient aliens theory is the fact that we can compare modern acheivements with stories from our ancient past.”  (source)

He goes on to argue quite absurdly that if we can create a two headed dog today, this allows for the possibility that two headed dogs existed in the past, created by ancient aliens.  Yes, that is exactly what he is saying.  Watch the video.

This is either a space suit or a scuba suit. We await the next History Channel series: 'Ancient Deep-Sea Alien Dive Teams'

And then compare this sort of illogical position with that of, say, the Zeitgeisters, who are just as crazy with their theories about astrotheology and the stars.  They say, for example, that the stars line up a certain way and on certain times of the year they do such and such and that is where the ancients get such and such an idea.  It’s all crap.  When you punch in the data to an astronomy program that maps the stars and can tell you about their positions in the past, they just don’t line up the way the Zeitgeist movement claims.  And when you start to factor in that some constellations are fixed and have no bearing whatsoever on the ancient Near East, it collapses the whole argument because the thread of links they correct are so fragile. For example the ‘southern cross’ constellation.  The movie Zeitgeist argues that the southern cross has bearing on the fabrication of the Gospel narratives.  But this just doesn’t work once you do a little fact checking:

The stars of the Southern Cross are just visible above the southern horizon in Alexandria, and in Jerusalem in antiquity although I don’t think it is visible there now. The constellation was, however, not recognized in antiquity, and its four bright stars were included by Ptolemy in Centaurus, which sort of surrounds it11 (bold emphasis is mine).

Why wasn’t the Southern Cross constellation recognized in antiquity? Dr. Swerdlow explains:

That Crux, the Southern Cross, was not recognized as a separate constellation in antiquity is probably because, as seen from the Mediterranean, it is low on the southern horizon and is surrounded on three sides by stars of Centaurus, which is a large, prominent constellation, and the four bright stars of Crux are included as stars of Centaurus in Ptolemy’s star catalogue. It is only when you go farther to the south, so that Crux is higher in the southern sky, that it becomes prominent as a group of stars by itself, so its recognition had to wait until the southern voyages of the sixteenth century.12

In other words, the “Southern Cross” (Crux) constellation could not have served as a basis for the Gospel account of Jesus, because it was not distinct enough for any of the ancient Mediterranean inhabitants to identify it.

(source: read all of it and judge for yourself)

To add to this, the movie tries to suggest that the Crux is visible in April, around the time of Easter.  This is only true, however, for anything at or less than the 25th parallel north.  None of the relevant cultures of the ANE would have been able to witness this (Egypt, Palestine, Italy, Asia Minor, etc…).  Only those locations in the far, far southern hemisphere see the Crux year-round.    But facts mean nothing to the Zeitgeist movement and its most ardent followers (of whom this author has had many encounters and none of them have been remotely interesting or cordial–they don’t take well to dissonant perspectives).  The same can be said for those who believe in ancient aliens.

I’m glad to see that the creators of South Park laid out all the glaring problems of the series Ancient Aliens in an entertaining way.  For those who want to see more about what I and others have to say about this series, check out this link after you watch the clip below.

South Park: Ancient Aliens Thanksgiving

A New Sort of Maximalist: Alien Astronauts

This is absolutely absurd and its a shame I have to waste my time to write this.  But as with all ridiculous conspiracy crap that exists out there, those dilettantes who actually believe in alien astronauts that came to earth and helped mankind are actually getting media attention through the History Channel. I don’t know why; these people are completely delusional.

First, they don’t seem to care (or they simply cannot fathom) the difference between modern history and ancient history.  That is, they haven’t yet figured out that ancient literature is exaggerated, often filled with fictitious tales that were outright fabricated using earlier literature, and often grounded in political and religious idealism.  So when one reads about ancient military victories, one shouldn’t automatically assume that the Greeks actually had a super weapon, or were literally handed gifts from the gods to win.  The same goes for the Romans, the Egyptians, the Israelites, and so forth.

Second, these dilettantes can’t seem to fathom that the ancient mythic mind was not at all concerned with ‘fact’ vs. ‘fiction’.  Those who were able to write the sorts of literature that have survived today (literature, mind you, not personal letters–ancient histories count as literature) cared little whether they were recounting things as they happened.  They didn’t care whether or not Apollo was there with his bow, mowing down Greeks outside the walls of Troy.  To them, it happened and it didn’t happen.  This might be a difficult concept for modern people who have a completely different, rational mindset then those authors from antiquity.

Finally, these alien astronaut ‘experts’ are reading all sorts of things into the text and are fabricating all sorts of nonsense based totally on pseudo-archaeology.  This sounds like something BAR would publish, if we replace “ancient astronaut” with “Biblical Israel”.   Indeed, these alien astronaut supporters are sounding more and more like maximalists.  And frankly, I’m not sure what is worse….

For a full analysis of the Ancient Alien show, I suggest everyone get acquainted with two links:

Steve Caruso Clarifies the Function of the Lead Codices

Steve Caruso responds to a blog comment which asks “if these are fakes, what is the original object they are making facsimiles of?”  The question is one that has been asked before so their function deserves to be highlighted and exposed.  Steve writes:

Whoever fabricated these is not making copies of a genuine artifact, more than producing fake “antiquities” to sell at a significant profit. As we saw on eBay, one was being offered to the tune of $13,000. That’s not a bad markup for $5 worth of ancient Roman lead.

I have seen the same pattern like this before several times only in “golden letters on leather” where a pastiche of re-used iconography is assembled in a pattern that seems authentic enough to someone who doesn’t know what to look for.

When I’ve been approached by individuals trying to fence fakes it was always a matter of presenting something with enough intrigue to make the sale, and then threatening that time is short to complete the transaction.

Within this method, the sealed book angle, given the Apocalyptic reference, is the icing on the proverbial cake, and what seals (no pun intended) the deal for a potential buyer.

via Blogger: The Aramaic Blog – Post a Comment.


Jordan Lead Codices: Palm Tree Iconography

There are two definitive Palm Tree stamps which were used in the production of the iconography on the lead codices.  The first is a 12-branch palm tree (Type A):

Found on these codices, for example:

The second (Type B) is one that has smaller branches (and more of them) which are shaped in a rounded fashion rather than the pyramid-like fashion from the one above:

Found on these codices, for example:

Now onto the analysis of these palm trees, starting with the one with thirteen-branches.  Right away, their authenticity is called into question.  First the number of branches is simply wrong.  Second, the style of the branches are completely inaccurate from what we would expect of iconography from the period in the region.  Palm tree iconography found on coins from the first and second Jewish wars all feature seven branches with the exception being the fourth year prutah during the first Jewish war which features eight branches:

Here are some examples of seven-branch palm trees featured on coins dating to the Bar Kokhba uprising (second Jewish war):

And even those minted by Roman procurators like Antonius Felix also contained similar palm tree iconography:

You can clearly make out the six branches in the image, even with its poor quality.

Marcus Ambivulus’ (prefect of Judea) coin iconography is the closest match one might find to the iconography of Type A found on the lead codices:

As one can see, the branches are in a wave style, that is that each branch–particularly on the top rows–form a wing-shape or a flattened “v” rather than connecting to a central trunk like the other palm tree coin iconography.  It is likely that these coins, found all over Israel and Jordan (and in museums), were the inspiration for the Type A  palm trees on the lead codices.  Although I have also found this ring with a palm tree on it as well:

This ring, said to be a temple offering during the first Jewish war (the iconography is clearly based on the year four, first Jewish war prutah), bears the same number of branches.  The thing is, Joe Zias has told me that this ring is similar to tourist trinkets he has seen in Israel, peddled by workshops as well.  In other words, if this is indeed fake (and I am inclined to believe it might be), it is remarkably similar to the design on the codices.  The difference, again, is the style of the branches.  This ring has the branhces connecting to a central trunk rather than the wave or winged pattern of the Type A palm tree on the codices and the palm tree on the Ambivulus prutah.  So while this is very similar, it is more likely, in this authors opinion, that the palm tree Type A iconography is based on the Ambivulus prutah.  Now on to Type B.

Type B palm trees like very modern in style.  In fact, the palm tree iconography of Type B is unlike anything I’ve seen from antiquity.  Even on Judea Capta coins, where the palm trees look close (but not nearly close enough), the iconography has more differences than similarities:

Clearly not the same iconography.

The only palm tree iconography I could find which resembles the iconography of the Type B palm trees on the lead codices is the Nerva sestertius:

It is this authors opinion that the Type B iconography is loosely based upon this coin, or a modern equivalent.

And just to throw another wrench into the mix, I have included some fake coins in this lot to show that, not only are modern fakes with palm tree iconography are everywhere in our modern world (and the dies easy to come by), but that these dies are extremely close to the real thing.  Fake coins (with their palm tree iconography) are everywhere and more often than not are purchased by a lot of unsuspecting people.  Chances are you probably can’t tell the difference between the real ones and the fake ones, unless you are trained with a keen eye to spot them!

Bible and Interpretation – Update on the Jordan Lead Codices

My new article on Bible and Interpretation is up!  It is a brief update on the status of the investigation into the Jordan lead codices.  Here is a snippet:

None of the codices that have been released thus far for the public have proven to be authentic (including those which Elkington has supported as authentic) and none have shown to be more than the products of workshops, skilled in peddling fakes to tourists at a hefty price. It is also true that the iconography and even some of the script has roots in actual artifacts but these qualities were repurposed, out of context, from items found in museums in Jordan.

Update _Codices4.pdf (application/pdf Object).

Jordan Lead Codices: Exposing the Fakes [Updated]

As of today, the following blogs have posted this video and made very important comments.  Please check them all out and see what they have to say.  Don’t take my word for it!

  • James McGrath
  • Dan McClellan (with further explanations on the manipulated metallurgical report and pictures of the censorship!)
  • Jim Davila
  • David Meadows
  • Jim West
  • Mark Goodacre
  • Fr. Stephen
  • Steve Caruso, who notes:In a bit, I’ll have another post that actually goes over some clarifications that have been made to one of the metallurgical reports by the researcher who compiled it.
  • Joel Watts
  • Dorothy Lobel King also has brought up an excellent point.  According to BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY, LTD. v. COREL CORP., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), Elkington cannot claim copyright on the photos by law!  Unless the photos are of fakes (and if he wishes to pursue the claim that I am stealing copyrighted material, he would have to admit to this), in which case the codices are indeed the property of the workshop and the photos would be his.  However, if these are the real thing, as he is alleging, then pictures of the lead codices, which would be considered artifacts and already in public domain, cannot be copyrighted.  So by attempting to copyright the photos, he has already admitted to guilt!
  • Kerry
  • Bob Cargill has very interesting things to say.  Bob, unlike David Elkington, is a real archaeologist (as is Dorothy Lobel King) and notes:
    Like most unprovenanced “discoveries,” the Jordan Lead Codices are continuing to be exposed for what they are: a book-selling, documentary-pitching, money making, religious profiteering scheme, which uses a hungry media to prey on the faithful and the public, and employs the tried-and-true formula of 1) a sensational press release (without academic peer-review or scholarly evaluation), followed by 2) a pseudoscientific data dump that attempts to dilute and drown out the logic and actual science put forth by scholars responding to and debunking the claim (at least until the book gets released).

    This formula to misuse archaeology to make religious claims for ideological and/or money making purposes works regardless of the faith of the huckster making the claim: Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim – peddlers representing all faiths and even some “alien enthusiasts” (usually amateurs with no formal training in scholarship or archaeology) have used the formula to sell books, sell tickets, pitch documentaries, and attempt to proselytize the public and/or take its money. And, by the time actual scholars respond and debunk the story, the media has usually moved on (and if the media do publish a follow-up story, it is usually no longer a headline). Let’s face it: archaeological hucksters keep using the formula because it works (or at least always has), and it will continue to work in the future as long as scholars fail to respond to the false claims immediately and publicly.

  • Dan McClellan also adds a few more comments on his blog, like this gem:

    As the manipulative nature of this kind of campaign is exposed, “archaeological hucksters” tend to react by appealing to argumentum ad hominem and a sense among laypersons of distrust for putative academic elitism and bias…

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