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Computer-generated sketch of boy Jesus based on Shroud of Turin (courtesy Retequattro-Mediaset)


The BibleSearchers Reflections

Reflections on the Time of the End

By Robert Mock MD


Gleanings on Global News at the

Time of the End

January, 2005 Special Edition Issue


Biblical Archeological News of 2004 



The Pool of Siloam (where the blind man gained sight by Yahsua)

The Priestly Benediction on Ancient Silver Amulets – 6th Century BCE

The Cave of John the Baptist

Bulging and Garbage on and from “The Temple Mount”

The Village of Cana – Miracle of the Water turned to Wine

The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) declared Forgeries

The Ossuary Stone Box of James the Just, brother of Jesus

The Ivory Pomegranate of Solomon’s Temple

The Joash Inscription of Solomon’s Temple

Qumran as a Pottery Factory

The Shroud of Turin



The Pool of Siloam (where the blind man gained sight by Yahsua)



Archaeologists identify traces of ‘miracle’ pool  - Siloam Pool was where Jesus was said to cure blind – December 23, 2004
Image: SILOAM POOL Water flows through the site where archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the Siloam Pool in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Thursday. The pool was used by Jews for ritual immersions from about 50 B.C. to A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple


JERUSALEM (MSMBC) - Archaeologists in Jerusalem have identified the remains of the Siloam Pool, where the Bible says Jesus miraculously cured a man's blindness, researchers said Thursday — underlining a stirring link between the works of Jesus and ancient Jewish rituals.


Water flows through the site where archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the Siloam Pool in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Thursday. The pool was used by Jews for ritual immersions from about 50 B.C. to A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple


The archaeologists are slowly digging out the pool, where water still runs, tucked away in what is now the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. It was used by Jews for ritual immersions for about 120 years until the year 70, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple.

Many of Jesus' acts are directly linked to Jewish rituals, and the miracle of the blind man is an example. According to the Bible, the man was undergoing ritual immersion in the Siloam Pool for entry into the Temple compound, and Jesus used the occasion to cure his blindness.


'100 percent sure'

In the last four months, archaeologists have revealed the pool's 50-yard (50-meter) length and a channel that brought in water from the Silwan spring. In the past week, a section of stone road that led from the pool to the Jewish Temple was uncovered. "The moment that we revealed and discovered this four months ago, we were 100 percent sure it was the Siloam Pool," said archaeologist Eli Shukron. "We know today that the Siloam Pool is connected to the Temple Mount. There is a road that connects the two elements. The entire system is clearer today," Shukron said.


Stephen Pean, a Bible scholar, said the pool's waters were considered so pristine they could purify even a leper. Pean said Jesus likely chose to cure the blind man using the purest water available, because people with any disabilities were barred from the temple. "The whole point is that people will not only be healed physically but also healed spiritually," he said. "This discovery helps bring the Gospel alive in the context of Jewish practice."


Artifacts confirm identification

The archaeologists excavating the site are with the Israeli government's Antiquities Authority. They found biblical-era Image: Artist's impressioncoins marked with ancient Jewish writing, along with pottery shards and a stone bottle cork — helping them confirm the area was the Siloam Pool. The stone-lined pool has steps leading into it from all sides, said Ronny Reich, a University of Haifa archaeologist. One side of the pool, two corners, a part of the esplanade around it and the water channel leading to it have been uncovered, he said.  Jesus, according to the New Testament, put clay on a blind man's eyes and then sent him to wash them out in the pool's purifying waters, giving him sight.

Jews, who traditionally made three pilgrimages a year to Jerusalem, would immerse themselves in the Siloam Pool before heading down the stone pathway to the temple. They also used the pool for drinking water and camped around it.

An artist's impression shows the Siloam Pool as it might have looked in Jesus' day, based on new excavations by archaeologists. (Reuters)


"Jesus was a pilgrim in Jerusalem ... so this would be a natural place for him to be ... enjoying the water supply," Reich said.  The Israeli Antiquities Authority is negotiating with the Greek Orthodox Church, which owns the land, to continue the dig. Archaeologists believe the pool is under the thick green covering of an overgrown vegetable garden and several large trees. Nine-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) stone walls topped by old sewage and drainage pipes separate the new discovery and the pool's stone steps, uncovered in the 1960s. Now archaeologists hope to remove the old pipes and connect the esplanade and water channel to the steps that lead into the pool."Here we can judge and see how large it is — the grandeur of the city in those days," Reich said. (Article)





Canal where ‘Jesus gave sight’ found  - December 23, 2004

Jerusalem (JPost) - An elaborately paved assembly area and water channel that carried rainwater to the pool of Shiloah (Siloam) during the Second Temple period were uncovered several days ago by archeologists digging in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Thursday. The latest finds at the site, in the present-day Arab village of Silwan, come just six months after Israeli archeologists first stumbled upon the 2,000-year-old pool while the city was carrying out infrastructure work for a new sewage pipe in the area. The archeologists uncovered several steps leading down to the pool, whose water came from the nearby Gihon spring.


The aqueduct that carried rainwater to the pool of Shiloah, uncovered by archeologists  Photo: AP


Recent excavations at the site, on the southern edge of the City of David, have indicated that the pool was used for ritual immersion, and not necessarily as a reservoir as previously thought, the Antiquities Authority said.  The Talmud refers to the pool as the water source for libations during Succot, festivities known as Simhat Beit Hashoeva. The waters of the Shiloah spring were used in purification ceremonies. Christian tradition considers the site to be the area where Jesus performed the miracle of restoring the sight of a blind man, as recounted in the New Testament Book of John.


John 9:1-7 – “Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him. We must perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He  smeared the mud on the blind man's eyes and said to him, "Go wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated "sent"). So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Coins found at the site date back to the first century BCE.  "It is amazing to see and learn what happened here 2,000 years ago," said President Moshe Katsav as he and his wife, Gila, made their way down the newly uncovered flight of steps toward the site, quipping that the water flowing through the honey–colored rocks was cleaner than the tap water in his own house.


Excavations on November, 2004 –


The pool has long been a focus of archeological research. Two British scholars first uncovered, in the 1890s, the Byzantine church and its pool, and parts of a steep street descending the length of the City of David from the Temple Mount to the north, a street which archeologists say led to the section of the pool that has now been excavated. The excavations at the site, which are led by Eli Shukrun of the Antiquities Authority and Dr. Roni Reich of the University of Haifa, are supported by the ultra-nationalist Elad Organization which espouses the reestablishment of Jewish communities in east Jerusalem, and by the East Jerusalem Development Corporation. After finding Second Temple remains at the site, Reich said Thursday that archeologists are hoping to find First Temple artifacts as the excavations continue.

While the dig proceeds, the site is closed to the general public.


The Priestly Benediction on Ancient Silver Amulets – 6th Century BCE

"May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."


Solving a Riddle Written in Silver –September 28, 2004

Jerusalem (NYTimes) - The words are among the most familiar and ecumenical in the liturgies of Judaism and Christianity. At the close of a worship service, the rabbi, priest or pastor delivers, with only slight variations, the comforting and fortifying benediction: "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."


Jerusalem – Silver Plaques Inscribed with the Biblical Priestly Benediction – Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs


An archaeological discovery in 1979 revealed that the Priestly Benediction, as the verse from Numbers 6:24-26 is called, appeared to be the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. - some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. But doubts persisted. The silver was cracked and corroded, and many words and not a few whole lines in the faintly scratched inscriptions were unreadable. Some critics contended that the artifacts were from the third or second century B.C., and thus of less importance in establishing the antiquity of religious concepts and language that became part of the Hebrew Bible.


So researchers at the University of Southern California have now re-examined the inscriptions using new photographic and computer imaging techniques. The words still do not exactly leap off the silver. But the researchers said they could finally be "read fully and analyzed with far greater precision," and that they were indeed the earliest. In a scholarly report published this month, the research team concluded that the improved reading of the inscriptions confirmed their greater antiquity. The script, the team wrote, is indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent exile of Israelites in Babylonia. The researchers further reaffirmed that the scrolls "preserve the earliest known citations of texts also found in the Hebrew Bible and that they provide us with the earliest examples of confessional statements concerning Yahweh."  Some of the previously unreadable lines seemed to remove any doubt about the purpose of the silver scrolls: they were amulets. Unrolled, one amulet is nearly four inches long and an inch wide and the other an inch and a half long and about half an inch wide. The inscribed words, the researchers said, were "intended to provide a blessing that will be used to protect the wearer from some manner of evil forces."

The report in The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research was written by Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel who discovered the artifacts, and collaborators associated with Southern California's West Semitic Research Project. The project leader is Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, a professor of Semitic languages at U.S.C., who worked with Dr. Marilyn J. Lundberg, a Hebrew Bible specialist with the project, and Dr. Andrew G. Vaughn, a biblical historian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. A companion article for next month's issue of the magazine Near Eastern Archaeology describes the new technology used in the research. The article is by the same authors, as well as Kenneth Zuckerman, Dr. Zuckerman's brother and a specialist in photographing ancient documents. Other scholars not affiliated with the research but familiar with it agreed with the group's conclusions. They said it was a relief to have the antiquity and authenticity of the artifacts confirmed, considering that other inscriptions from biblical times have suffered from their uncertain provenance.


Close-up Examination on how a Benediction was Revealed


Scholars also noted that early Hebrew inscriptions were a rarity, and called the work on the amulets a significant contribution to an understanding of the history of religion in ancient Israel, particularly the time of the Judean Monarchy 2,600 years ago. "These photographs are far superior to what you can see looking at the inscriptions with the naked eye," said Dr. Wayne Pitard, professor of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern religions at the University of Illinois. Dr. Pitard said the evidence for the antiquity of the benediction was now compelling, although this did not necessarily mean that the Book of Numbers already existed at that time. Possibly it did, he added, but if not, at least some elements of the book were current before the Babylonian exile.


A part of the sacred Torah of Judaism (the first five books of the Bible), Numbers includes a narrative of the Israelite wanderings from Mount Sinai to the east side of the Jordan River. Some scholars think the Torah was compiled in the time of the exile. A number of other scholars, the so-called minimalists, who are influential mainly in Europe, argue that the Bible was a relatively recent invention by those who took control of Judea in the late fourth century B.C. In this view, the early books of the Bible were largely fictional to give the new rulers a place in the country's history and thus a claim to the land. "The new research on the inscriptions suggests that that's not true," Dr. Pitard said. In fact, the research team noted in its journal report that the improved images showed the seventh-century lines of the benediction to be "actually closer to the biblical parallels than previously recognized."


Dr. P. Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University, a specialist in ancient Semitic scripts, said the research should "settle any controversy over these inscriptions." A close study, Dr. McCarter said, showed that the handwriting is an early style of Hebrew script and the letters are from an old Hebrew alphabet, which had all but ceased to be used after the destruction of Jerusalem. Later Hebrew writing usually adopted the Aramaic alphabet.


There was an exception in the time of Roman rule, around the first centuries B.C. and A.D. The archaic Hebrew script and letters were revived and used widely in documents. But Dr. McCarter noted telling attributes of the strokes of the letters and the spelling on the amulets that, he said, ruled out the more recent date for the inscriptions. Words in the revived Hebrew writing would have included letters indicating vowel sounds. The benediction, the scholar said, was written in words spelled entirely with consonants, the authentic archaic way.


Burial Cave at Ketef Hinnom


The two silver scrolls were found in 1979 deep inside a burial cave in a hillside known as Ketef Hinnom, west of the Old City of Jerusalem. Dr. Barkay, documenting the context of the discovery, noted that the artifacts were at the back of the tomb embedded in pottery and other material from the seventh or sixth centuries B.C. Such caves were reused for burials over many centuries. Near this tomb's entrance were artifacts from the fourth century, but nothing so recent remains in the undisturbed recesses. It took Dr. Barkay another seven years before he felt sure enough of what he had to announce details of the discovery. Even then, for all their microscopic examination of the inscriptions at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, scholars remained frustrated by the many unreadable words and lines.

About a decade ago, Dr. Barkay enlisted the help of Dr. Zuckerman, whose team had earned a reputation for achieving the near-impossible in photographing illegible ancient documents.  Working with scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Zuckerman's group used advanced infrared imagining systems enhanced by electronic cameras and computer image-processing technology to draw out previously invisible writing on a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The researchers also pioneered electronic techniques for reproducing missing pieces of letters on documents. By examining similar letters elsewhere in the text, they were able to recognize half of a letter and reconstruct the rest of it in a scribe's own peculiar style. "We learned a lot from work on the Dead Sea Scrolls," Dr. Zuckerman said. "But at first a processing job like this would send your computers into cardiac arrest. We had to wait for computer technology to catch up with our needs." As the researchers said in their magazine article, the only reasonably clear aspect of the inscriptions was the Priestly Benediction. Other lines preceding or following the prayer "could barely be seen."


Map of Site of Burial Cave at Ketef Hinnom west of the City of David in Old City of Jerusalem.


To get higher-definition photographs of the inscriptions, Ken Zuckerman applied an old photographer's technique called "light painting," brought up to date by the use of fiber-optic technology. He used a hand-held light in an otherwise dark room to illuminate a spot on the artifact during a time exposure. In addition, he photographed the artifact at different angles, which made the scratched letters shine in stark relief. The next step was to convert the pictures to digital form, making possible computer processing that brought out "the subtleties of the surface almost at the micron level." This analysis was particularly successful in joining a partial letter stroke on one side of a crack with the rest of the stroke on the other side. It also enabled the researchers to restore fragments of letters to full legibility by matching them with clear letters from elsewhere in the text. In this way, the researchers filled in more of the letters and words of the benediction itself and for the first time deciphered meaningful words and phrases in the lines preceding the benediction.


Scholars were particularly intrigued by a statement on the smaller artifact. It reads: "May h[e]/sh[e] be blessed by YHWH, the warrior/helper, and the rebuker of Evil."  Referring to God, Yahweh, as the "rebuker of Evil" is similar to language used in the Bible and in various Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars said. The phraseology is also found in later incantations and amulets associated with Israel, evidence that these artifacts were also amulets, researchers concluded. "In the ancient world, amulets were taken quite seriously," Dr. Zuckerman said. "There's evil out there, demons, and you need protection. Having this around your neck, you are involving God's presence and protection against harm."


Ketef Hinnom Repository where the Silver Amulets were found


Dr. Esther Eshel, a professor of the Bible at Bar-Ilan and an authority on Hebrew inscriptions, said this was the earliest example of amulets from Israel. But she noted that the language of the benediction was similar to a blessing ("May he bless you and keep you") found on a jar from the eighth century B.C. If the new findings are correct, the people who wore these amulets may have died before they had to face the limitations of their efficacy. They might then have asked in uncomprehending despair, "Where was Yahweh when the Babylonians swooped down on Jerusalem?"  Other scholars, including those previously skeptical, will soon be analyzing the improved images. In a departure from usual practices, the researchers not only published their findings in a standard print version in a journal but also as an accompanying "digital article," a CD version of the article and the images to allow scholars to examine and manipulate the data themselves. The research group said, "As far as we are aware, this is the first article to be done in this fashion, but it certainly will not be the last." (Entire Article in Full)



Jerusalem – Silver Plaques Inscribed with the Biblical Priestly Benediction Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 29, 1998


The Cave of John the Baptist


John the Baptist’s Cave ‘Found’ – August 16, 2004

Shimon Gibson (left) and archaeologist Rafi Lewis in caveEin Kerem (BBC News) - A British archaeologist says he has found a cave used by the New Testament figure John the Baptist.  Shimon Gibson spent five years excavating the site near Jerusalem, unearthing objects apparently used in ancient purification rituals. Images carved on the walls include that of a man with wild hair and carrying a staff, said to be reminiscent of John, whom the Bible says baptised Jesus. Biblical scholars have questioned the find, which they say is inconclusive.


The cave contained carvings said to depict John the Baptist


The 24m (79ft) deep cave is situated on present day Kibbutz Tzuba, about 4km (2.5miles) from John's birthplace of Ein Kerem.

Mr Gibson's team found quarter of a million pieces of pottery apparently from artifacts used in the immersion process.

The explorers also uncovered 28 steps leading to a chamber containing an oval stone with a foot-shaped indentation and a niche apparently through which oil would flow onto a worshipper's foot. "John the Baptist, who was just a figure from the Gospels, now comes to life," said Mr Gibson.


A wall carving appeared to depict John, who belonged to a sect which forbade followers from cutting their hair. Another carving of a face Foot-shaped niche in cavewas symbolic of a severed head: John was decapitated by Herod Antipas, who ruled the Holy Land at the time of Jesus. "Nothing like this has been found elsewhere," Mr Gibson said. "It is the first time we have finds from the early baptismal period... It is an amazing discovery that happens to an archaeologist once in a lifetime."


Worshippers are believed to have had their feet anointed here


But some biblical scholars are treating Mr Gibson's claim with caution. Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said the find was intriguing, but that more work needed to be done.  (Link to Entire Article)


Cave in Israel linked to John the Baptist  - August 17, 2004

Kibbutz Tzuba, Israel (USA Today) - Archaeologists think they've found a cave where John the Baptist baptized many of his followers — basing their theory on thousands of shards from ritual jugs, a stone used for foot cleansing and wall carvings telling the story of the biblical preacher. Only a few artifacts linked to New Testament figures have ever been found in the Holy Land, and the cave is potentially a major discovery in biblical archaeology.


"John the Baptist, who was just a figure from the Gospels, now comes to life," British archaeologist Shimon Gibson said during an exclusive tour of the cave given to The Associated Press. But some scholars said Gibson's finds aren't enough to support his theory, and one colleague said that short of an inscription with John's name in the cave, there could never be conclusive proof of his presence there. John, a distant relative of Jesus — their mothers were kin, according to the Bible — was a fiery preacher with a message of repentance and a considerable following.


Archaeologists believe they have found a Byzantine-era carving of John the Baptist in a cave near Jerusalem.


Tradition says he was born in the village of Ein Kerem, which today is part of modern Jerusalem. Just 2.5 miles away, on the land of Kibbutz Tzuba, a communal farm, the cave lies hidden in a limestone hill — 24 yards long, four yards deep and four yards wide. It was carved by the Israelites in the Iron Age, sometime between 800 B.C. and 500 B.C, the scientists said. It apparently was used from the start as a ritual immersion pool, preceding the Jewish tradition of the ritual bath.


Over the centuries, the cave filled with mud and sediment, leaving only a tiny opening that was hidden by trees and bushes. Yet in recent years, it had occasional visitors — Reuven Kalifon, an immigrant from Cleveland who teaches Hebrew at the kibbutz, took his students spelunking. They would crawl through the narrow slit at the mouth of the cave, all the way to the back wall, though they saw nothing but dirt and walls. In December 1999, Kalifon asked Gibson, a friend, to take a closer look. Gibson, who has excavated in the Holy Land for more than 30 years, moved a few boulders near the walls and laid bare a crude carving of a head. Excited, he organized a full-fledged excavation.


Stick Figure Thought to Represent John the Baptist –


Over the next five years, Gibson and his team, including volunteers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, cleared out layers of soil, picking up about 250,000 shards from small jugs apparently used in purification rituals. The explorers uncovered 28 steps leading to the bottom of the cave. On the right, a niche is carved into the wall — typical of those used in Jewish ritual baths for discarding the clothes before immersion. Near the end of the stairs, the team found an oval stone with a foot-shaped indentation — about a shoe size 11. Just above, a soapdish-like niche apparently held ritual oil that would flow through a small channel onto the believer's right foot. On the water-covered floor of the cave, stones and boulders were moved aside by the worshippers and a middle path was filled with gravel, said Egon Lass, an archaeological consultant at Wheaton College, near Chicago, who also worked on the dig.


Crude images were carved on the walls, near the ceiling, and Gibson said they tell the story of John's life. One is the figure of the man Gibson spotted on his first visit to the cave. The man appears to have an unruly head of hair and wears a tunic with dots, apparently meant to suggest an animal hide. He grasps a staff and holds up his other hand in a gesture of proclamation. James Tabor, a Bible scholar from the University of North Carolina, said there is little doubt this is John himself. The Gospels say that John was a member of the Nazarites, a sect whose followers didn't cut their hair, and that he adopted the dress of the ancient prophets, including a garment woven of camel's hair.


On the opposite wall is a carving of a face that could be meant to symbolize John's severed head. The preacher had his head cut off by Herod Antipas after he dared take the ruler to task over an illicit affair. But the images are from the Byzantine era, apparently carved by monks who associated the site with John, following local folklore, Gibson and Tabor said. "Unfortunately, we didn't find any inscriptions" that would conclusively link the cave to John, Tabor said. Still, Gibson, who heads the Jerusalem Archaeological Field Unit, a private research group, argues that the finds and the proximity of John's hometown are strong evidence the cave was used by the preacher. "All these elements are coming together and fill in the picture of the life and times of John the Baptist," said Gibson, who has written a book about the dig, "The Cave of John the Baptist," to be published this week.


Stephen Pfann, a Bible scholar and president of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, said Gibson has provided a plausible explanation for the unusual finds, but further study is needed. "It is inviting more scholars to come in and give alternative explanations, if they can," he said. Gibson said he has left about a third of the cave untouched for other archaeologists to explore. Tabor said no one could ever say for certain that John the Baptist used the cave. However, he said, the cave could help bring to life an important part of the New Testament. "We actually have a geographical location near Ein Kerem now, at which water purification rites were conducted that go back to the first century and connects them to the traditions of John the Baptist," he said.



Ein Kerem the Traditional Birthplace of John the Baptist – Near East Tourist Agency – Many Pictures

The Cave of John the Baptist – Critique by Todd Bolen in

Archeologists Skeptic About ‘John the Baptist’s Cave’ – Southern Baptist Convention Press

Letter by James Tabor – non-published details on the John the Baptist’s Cave

Christianity Today Weblog

NTGateway Weblog

AKMA Random Thoughts - Critic’s thoughts

Search for the Sacred – Newsweek

Video of John the Baptist Cave – 42 second clip


Bulging and Garbage on and from “The Temple Mount


The Temple Mount Bulge – Jordanian Team to Fix Eastern Mount Wall – June 10, 2004

Jerusalem (JPost) - A team of Jordanian engineers which has been repairing the bulge on the southern wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount will be in charge of repair work on hundreds of small holes uncovered in the adjacent eastern wall, a senior Jordanian official said Thursday. A joint Egyptian-Jordanian report on the stability of the eastern wall issued this week tells of hundreds of small cavities all over the eastern wall, the head of the Jordanian team, Dr. Raief Najim, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview from Amman.


The report cites the natural flow of rainwater over the years – not a winter earthquake in the region – as the cause of the damage, which Najim said is particularly serious in two areas of the eastern wall.


Repair on Southern and Eastern Bulges in the Temple Wall -


A copy of the English-language report is being delivered this weekend to Jerusalem police, officials said.

Last month, Shuka Dorfman, the head of the Antiquities Authority, warned that the eastern wall was in danger of immediate collapse which could cause a "domino effect" and bring down other sections of the ancient compound. The rare public warning followed a classified report issued by the authority earlier this year had stated that the wall was in danger of immediate collapse as a result of the February earthquake that rattled the country. That report said that the earthquake damaged the eastern wall to such an extent that sections of the wall are likely to cave in on the underground architectural support of the mount, known as Solomon's Stables. New cracks and movements in the already fragile wall were discerned by archeologists following the earthquake, the Israeli report states. But Najim said that the structural stability of the wall was not effected by what he termed "the weak spots" in the eastern wall.

Close-up Eastern Bulge Area on Temple Mount  -

Eastern Bulge Area on Temple Mount


The Jordanians, who have been charged with the ongoing repair of a bulge on the southern wall over the last year, have become increasingly involved in Temple Mount issues after nearly a decade during which they were sidelined by the Palestinian Authority. Najim noted that while the bulge on the southern wall is larger, the damage on the eastern wall lies on a much greater area. The most seriously effected defects on the wall are 40 square meters and 10 sq.m. each, he said. Over the last year, Jordanian engineers repairing the southern wall have injected 25 tons of material to buttress it, Najim said.


The 18-month-long repair work on the southern wall should be completed in about a month, he said, while work on the eastern wall, which will include the replacement of deteriorated stones, will take about a year. Israel is responsible for overall security of the site, while the Wakf, or Islamic trust, is charged with day-to-day maintenance. Wakf director Adnan Husseini has previously asserted that there is "no problem" with the eastern wall. "It's not as serious as the Israelis say, but a lot of work needs to be done," said Prof. Saleh Lamei, director-general of Cairo's Center for Conservation and Preservation of Islamic Architectural Heritage, who carried out the survey of the eastern wall this spring at the behest of the Jordanian government. Najim said that one of the report's recommendations was to have "preventative maintenance" to ensure that water does not stay inside the stones. Antiquities Authority archeologists have not been monitoring the site regularly for more than three years due to concern over renewed Palestinian violence. (Read Entire Article)



Southern Bulge Area on Temple Mount –

Close-up Southern Bulge Area on Temple Mount



Remnants of the Temple? Not in this garbage – December 9, 2004

Jerusalem (Haaretz) - The removal of refuse from the Temple Mount is being criticized by some experts, but does the dirt really hold any archaeological treasures? "What do you care if we get rid of this pile of garbage?" asks Mohammed Abu-Kitesh, a long-time Waqf worker, pointing to the mounds of dirt and building debris piled up on the eastern side of the Temple Mount esplanade.  About two weeks ago, the Waqf (the Muslim religious authority) authorized a visit by a group of Israeli guests, led by archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov, to the various sites on the mount. Abu-Kitesh wanted us to see the dirt and debris that have piled up over the past four years.  The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAI) has examined the piles and declared them free of significant findings.


Excavations on the Temple Mount –

However, after a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of the Antiquities on the Temple Mount, a temporary injunction was issued prohibiting the IAI, the defense minister, and the prime minister from authorizing the Waqf to remove the mounds. Why? 
About 10 years ago or more, the Waqf, which manages the Temple Mount, began to clean out the subterranean space on the southeastern side of the plaza, known as Solomon's Stables. The peace process was in high gear, and things were relatively quiet. On Fridays and during Ramadan, hundreds of thousands of worshipers would crowd the mount, and only a small number were able to find room inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Waqf said they wanted to prepare the underground space as a place of prayer for the crowds on rainy days; according to their records, the space served in earlier Islamic periods as a place of prayer and was known as the Marwani Hall (named after Omayyad Caliph Marwan ibn al-Hakham, who lived at the end of the seventh century).

These spaces were first created by Herod the Great in the first century BCE during work to expand the Temple, which in his day reached its greatest dimensions. To create the expansive Temple courts, especially where the Temple itself was located, Herod built huge retaining walls, of which the Western Wall is one, and created several levels on the plateau. Those entering the Temple Mount 2000 years ago could ascend via the Hulda Gates in the southern wall via tunnels (like a subway), or climb a flight of stairs like the one constructed at the southern corner of the Western Wall, with its well-known remnant, Robinson's Arch.

Beneath the courts were - and to some extent still are -
spaces, cisterns and arches, of which the Marwani Hall (or, as the Crusaders called it, Solomon's Stables) is the most famous and the largest. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, large portions of these courts were also destroyed. The arches that supported them collapsed, many stones were removed from the mountain, and the site stood deserted for hundreds of years. The Byzantines sought to perpetuate the ruination in order to prove that Jesus was right when he predicted the destruction of the Temple. Only about 600 years after the destruction, the new Muslim rulers of Jerusalem began to restore the esplanade. They rebuilt the large retaining walls on the foundations of the Herodian walls, and recreated the underground spaces and the arches of Solomon's Stables. But the new level created by the Muslims in constructing the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque was not the same as the Herodian level - it was lower. How do we know this?

The archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov gives a few examples:
The golden Dome of the Rock stands over a large piece of bedrock, which is without a doubt the highest point on the mountain. All scholars agree that the Temple was built above this level. Therefore, if we dig beneath the rock and around it, there is no chance that we will find remains from the days of the Temple. Robinson's Arch, the large stone protruding from the southern part of the Western Wall, provides additional proof. This was the spring of an arch that supported a bridge that led into the Temple Mount. If the arch is reconstructed, it comes out at a point approximately three meters higher than the present esplanade around the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The conclusion is that there is
no chance today of finding any remnant of the structures that once stood in the Temple courts. All scholars agree on this point. They also all agree that the arches of Solomon's Stables, in their present form, date from the Early Muslim period or later.

The place now looks nice and clean. After the work carried out by the Waqf, the large halls were paved with marble and covered with costly rugs. Two ancient remains from the time of Herod have been preserved here. The first is a stone with Herodian carvings in secondary use in the southern wall. The second is a protrusion that is the spring of an ancient arch. These two elements have not been damaged by the Waqf's work.
It will always be possible to remove the marble flooring and excavate if so desired. The Waqf therefore rejects the accusations that they sought to wipe out the remains of Jewish antiquities in Solomon's Stables. The Waqf says it employed an archaeologist to supervise the work, which it says was carried out with full scientific oversight.

Rabbi Goren allowed it

There is no doubt that the Waqf's work had a political agenda. After the Six-Day War, archaeologists Binyamin Mazar and Meir Ben-Dov directed a long series of excavations outside the mount along the southern wall. Among other things, they discovered remains of the wide steps that led to the Hulda Gates, which served as the main entrance to the mount. At that time, rabbis, led by then-chief rabbi Shlomo Goren, permitted Jews to enter the southern portion of the Temple Mount in the area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, including Solomon's Stables. This area, they explained, was added to the Temple Mount during the time of Herod the Great and was not part of the sanctuary, where it would be forbidden for Jews to go without being ritually purified.


New Excavations in 2005 to remove large earthen embankment south of the Western Wall Prayer Area –

 In other words, whereas
halakha (Jewish law) had for generations prohibited Jews from ascending to the area of the mosques, these permits encouraged groups of national-religious yeshiva students to try to enter the southern portion of the Temple Mount. Moreover, in political talks, like those held about a decade ago by Yossi Beilin and Mohammed Abbas (Abu Mazen), the Israelis proposed that Jews establish a synagogue in Solomon's Stables. Similar ideas were brought up later in the failed Camp David summit.

Palestinian spokesmen began to view such proposals as
Jewish attempts to take over Al-Aqsa the way the settlers took over the mosque at the Cave of Machpela in Hebron. It was apparently in this context that the Waqf hastily cleaned out the halls and prepared them for Muslim prayer.  During its restoration of Solomon's Stables about five years ago, the Waqf began work on a large-scale dig to create additional openings on the north side of the prayer hall. In removing large amounts of dirt and building debris they discovered Early Muslim-era arches in the northern wall. Most of the debris, in which it was suspected important artifacts from the time of the Temple were to be found, was dumped at the Al-Azzariyeh waste disposal site and on the slope of the Kidron Valley.  But Meir Ben-Dov says that almost all the dirt and debris removed from the site dates from the Mameluke and Turkish periods, and that only a small number of shards, of negligible significance, going back to the time of the Temple, can be found there. The IAI, which authorized the removal of the material, agrees with this assessment.

A great deal of media attention has been focused on the affair. Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a member of the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction to Antiquities on the Temple Mount, says that his attitude on the issue is not political. According to Netzer, this is an area of antiquities and no work or excavation should be carried out without proper scientific oversight. Meir Ben-Dov says that even in the excavations carried out by the Religious Affairs Ministry at the Western Wall and its environs, large amounts of dirt were removed using heavy equipment, which does not allow for strict scientific supervision. Neither was such supervision present during restoration work at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, he says.  In any case, Waqf leaders say anyone who wants to examine the material is free to do so. All they ask is permission to remove the mounds of debris, as they have become a nuisance that prevents them from continuing the cleanup and restoration of the courtyard of the holiest place in the country. 
(Fascinating Article in Full)


The Village of Cana – Miracle of the Water turned to Wine


Site of Jesus’ First Miracle Said Found – December 21, 2004

Israeli archaeologist Yardena Alexander stands in a dig in the northern Israeli Arab town of Cana on Dec. 20,2004. Alexander believes she has uncovered proof that modern-day Cana was the location of the biblical town of the same name, where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.  (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)CANA, Israel (FoxNews) -  Among the roots of ancient olive trees, archaeologists have found pieces of large stone jars of the type the Gospel says Jesus used when he turned water into wine at a Jewish wedding in the Galilee village of Cana. They believe these could have been the same kind of vessels the Bible says Jesus used in his first miracle, and that the site where they were found could be the location of biblical Cana (search). But Bible scholars caution it'll be hard to obtain conclusive proof — especially since experts disagree on exactly where Cana was located. Christian theologians attach great significance to the water-to-wine miracle at Cana. The act was not only Jesus' first miracle, but it also came at a crucial point in the early days of his public ministry — when his reputation was growing, he had just selected his disciples and was under pressure to demonstrate his divinity.  The shards were found during a salvage dig in modern-day Cana, between Nazareth (search) and Capernaum. Israeli archaeologist Yardena Alexander believes the Arab town was built near the ancient village. The jar pieces date to the Roman period, when Jesus traveled in the Galilee."All indications from the archaeological excavations suggest that the site of the wedding was [modern-day] Cana, the site that we have been investigating," said Alexander, as she cleaned the site of mud from winter rains.


 Dec. 20: An Israeli archaeologist Yardena Alexander holds a piece of an ancient stone vessel at a dig in Cana, an Arab town in northern Israel.


However, American archaeologists excavating a rival site several miles to the north have also found pieces of stone jars from the time of Jesus, and believe they have found biblical Cana. Another expert, archaeologist Shimon Gibson, cast doubt on the find at modern Cana, since such vessels are not rare and it would be impossible to link a particular set of vessels to the miracle. "Just the existence of stone vessels is not enough to prove that this is a biblical site," and more excavations are needed, he said.  Based on the shards, Alexander believes the vessels found at her site were 12 to 16 inches in diameter — or large enough to be the same type of jars described in the Gospel of John.


Other evidence that might link the site to the biblical account includes the presence of a Jewish ritual bath at the house, which shows it was a Jewish community. Locally produced pottery was used at the simple house, showing it could have been from the poor village described in the Scriptures. Stephen Pfann, a Bible scholar in Jerusalem, said that while the American dig has generally been accepted by scholars as the true site, the shards found in modern-day Cana raise new questions. "I think there is ample evidence that both sites are from the first century, and we need more information to correctly identify either site," Pfann said.  Alexander has been digging in modern Cana since 1999.  The current find came in a last-ditch "salvage dig" before a house is built on the site. A Christian Arab family financed part of the excavation, in accordance with Israeli law, before construction can begin.  Alexander believes that with more substantial investment, the site could became a major tourist attraction and pilgrimage destination.  "We're really working very hard to save some of this site because what we do have here is a village of Jesus," she said. "And it was here that he carried out the first miracle." (Entire Article)


KHIRBET CANA - Could This be the Ancient Biblical Town?

Recently unearthed evidence, aided by computer technology, points to a town in Galilee as the possible Cana of miracles.

Bet Netofa Valley, as seen from Cana, looking southeastThree sites - two in Israel, one in Lebanon - are presumed to be the biblical Cana, the town where Christians believe Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine. Because of this, each of the sites has attracted pilgrims throughout the centuries.  The "true" location has been searched in Qana, 10 kms southeast of Tyre and Kafr Kenna next to Nazareth, however, no remains of the Roman period were found at either site.


Khirbet Cana


It is the third of these sites, Khirbet (ruin of) Cana - a site in the Galilee, 8 miles northwest of Nazareth and 12 miles west of the Sea of Galilee, which seems the most likely "candidate"  in the quest for the true location of Cana. Recent archaeological evidence points to it as the location of the biblical town mentioned in the Gospel of John (John 2: 1-11) where Jesus, attending a marriage feast with his mother and his disciples turned water into wine. The preliminary findings support this theory: thus, for instance, some 25% of the plentiful pottery uncovered here stems from the late Hellenistic and early Roman, and 50% from the Byzantine Period.


The site is being excavated by a team of archaeologists under the direction of Professor Douglas R. Edwards of the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington. According to Prof. Edwards, this spot, on the north side of an important trade route, the Bet Netofa Valley, was a destination for pilgrims already as early as the 5th century CE, and the amount of imported pottery indicates the possibility that these pilgrims came in large numbers. "Cana and its environs represent an intriguing location," states Edwards. "It had a long time religious association as the site where Jesus turned water into wine. It became one of the villages settled by one of the Jewish priestly families after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. And it lies along an east-west thoroughfare, at least through the Byzantine Period. The historical periods for Galilee generally receive little attention, in large measure because of the plethora of literary evidence. But texts provide only a small window into the very complex societies of which they were a part."


Sifting sand for the finds.So some 70 enthusiastic archaeologists, college students and graduates, and individual volunteers spent 5 weeks in the months of July and August in 1998,1999 and 2000 (at least two more seasons are being planned), digging, photographing, drawing, digitizing, discussing and analyzing finds - vestiges of life from ancient days - fitting together clues as to how our ancestors lived, worked, played, fought and died.

There were many specialists among the participants, including, archaeologists, geologists, anthropologists, architects, photographers, chemists, paleozoologists, paleobotanists, ceramics specialists, scientific illustrators, and specialists in GIS, GPS and carbon dating. They spent from 5 a.m. to 1 o'clock noon (with breaks for rest and breakfast) on that hill in Lower Galilee engaged in their serious search. Accommodations were luxurious by archaeological standards. The participants were lodged at the Hasolelim Country Inn, in air-conditioned rooms at a kibbutz just outside of Nazareth. There were opportunities to swim in the kibbutz private swimming pool, and play tennis and basketball on the premises.


Geographical points were mapped out using information gathered from the Trimble Positioning System (GPS)- Trimble Pro-XR and Trimble 4800; in this way, longitude and latitude of a location were measured within 1cm accuracy. These coordinates were then stored in the computer which was later plugged into a larger system for data retrieval. Maps were then produced via GIS, and as new structures are uncovered, their location is programmed and added to the new maps - thus up-to-date maps of the dig site are available at all times.


Mystery CaveAncient walls, pottery, glass, many building remains and other artifacts littering the site today are silent witnesses to a town which at its peak, was home to some 1000 people. Caves, tombs and cisterns (some 60), ancient walls and Christian artifacts unearthed during three excavation seasons offer concrete hints for the archaeologists' theories. The earliest evidence of human occupation were stone tools from the Neolithic Period and the latest evidence dates from the Turkish Period, testifying to the town's long life and continued habitation from as early as the 5th millennium BCE to as late as the 19th-20th century CE. The largest number of ceramic remains comes from the Early Roman and Byzantine Periods, while the earliest architectural feature is a rectangular building from the Early Roman Period. The building has fine wall plaster with a well-constructed plaster floor and a pilaster which suggests a second story.


Mystery Cave


On top of an acropolis of some 12 and a half acres are some large building stones, possibly from an old city wall, as well as the remains of a large complex (ca. 70x60 meters) which may have been a church or a monastery. It is believed that this wall, probably from the sixth or seventh century, was hastily built during the last vestiges of the town on the acropolis. This complex has a "mystery cave", possibly associated with a synagogue, and a dovecote, believed to date from either the Hellenistic or Byzantine period and suggesting possible commercial as well as agricultural activity.



There is a Byzantine storage area with steps, and an earlier complex, with what may be a Roman road. For reasons unknown, the inhabitants of this area moved to a lower slope during the Middle Ages and the population dwindled to an estimated 100-150 people. According to Professor Edwards, evidence suggests that this lower site may have contained the "Church of the Master of the Feast" mentioned by ancient writers as the pilgrim site of the "water-in-wine" miracle.


The pilgrim cave has graffiti (including Greek) and crosses drawn on several layers of wall plaster. A portion of the cobbled floor on which pilgrims apparently walked has been partially excavated and dated to the sixth century. A special display greeted the pilgrims as they entered the now blocked up entrance. It included a re-used sarcophagus lid turned on its side with at least one cross incised on the side facing the pilgrims. Stone containers, two of which remain in place, were plastered to the wall and the re-used sarcophagus. These containers may well have held the water vessels that pilgrims believed were associated with the water to wine miracle. Marble fragments with gold leaf that were found in the fill indicate that the site was elaborate if not spectacular. Steps lead to lower caves that have as yet Mystery rock.been unexcavated.


Mystery rock.


Among the artifacts found on the site is an obsidian arrow head, probably imported from Turkey, and a cylinder seal probably from the Assyrian or Persian period, which shows two bearded robed men with staffs facing each other, with a tree of life between them, a winged sun, a griffin and an ibex. Unearthed, too, were two silver Tyrian coins dating to the 4th century BCE, coins from the second century BCE indicating important links to the Greek speaking Seleucid empire, and Maccabean coins and pottery.


Field architect Aaro Soederlund from Finland digitized the finds, first in 2D, later in 3D format. "The Pilgrim Cave is perhaps the most extraordinary place in Cana," he says. "It consists of at least five spatial units. As we measured it, manually, we used the base line method. Against that we were then able to erect the sectional horizontal sub-lines in a 90 degrees angle to it. Photos were taken systematically both by digital and traditional cameras and used as a reference when modeling the details." Sony and Nikon digital cameras, a 35mm camera and Sony Digital Video camera were used to record images. A scanner was used for digitizing the field drawings for guidelines under the CAD-views The scanner was used also for taking the height data from detailed topographical maps to model the correct shape to the landscape, on top of which the archaeological details were then added.


As the principal modelling and drawing tool ArchiCAD 6.5 and ArchiTerra turned out to be fast and almost inexhaustible. In addition to documentary plans and surface models, animations, QTVR (Quicktime Virtual Reality)  models and still images were produced with ArchiCAD 6.5 add-ons.Cana find - cistern."The drawings were scanned into the computer where they were used under the ArchiCAD screens showing the respective plans and sections. When the 'sculpted' model was in balance with the drawings on all of the screens, it was ready to be used for producing field-stills, animations and QTVR's."


Cana find - cistern


As for the cisterns, Soederlund continues, the modeled group of cisterns is the richest known to date: a small bell-shaped (believed to be a) silo with skylight, another big bell-shaped cistern with a big skylight, an angled plastered staircase leading down to a plastered mikve (ritual bath) and a big rectangular (sewage) cistern

From the beginning of the dig in 1998 GIS technology has been integrated in the work. ArcView GIS combines orthophotos, reports, databases and surveys for analysis by the excavation team as well as by future excavators. The team also develops a virtual world in which students, the general public and scholars can view the reconstructed site. This virtual world is presented in two forms: one uses ArcExplorer, the other draws on Dreamworld technology. The latter allows persons to move around a virtual world that presents three-dimensional views of the site. Real archaeology through GIS technology has moved into the virtual world and serves as an educational, scientific and research tool.



Two Canas of Israel shown on the Map of the 1870 Survey of Western Palestine by the Palestine Exploration Fund courtesy of

Cana of Galilee - Douglas R. Edwards, Project Director

Site of Jesus' Miracle Said to Be Found  (AP Video)


The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) declared Forgeries


Police indict 4 on charges of running antiquities fraud ring  - December 29, 2004

Jerusalem (Haaretz) - The forged treasures include an ivory pomegranate touted by scholars as the only relic from Solomon's Temple, an ossuary that reputedly held the bones of James, Jesus' brother, and a stone tablet with inscriptions on how to maintain the Jewish Temple, officials said. "During the last 20 years, many archaeological items were sold, or an attempt was made to sell them, in Israel and in the world, that were not actually antiques," the indictment said. "These items, many of them of great scientific, religious, sentimental, political and economic value, were created specifically with intent to defraud."

The 27-page indictment, submitted by police to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court, charges collector Oded Golan, along with three antiquities dealers, Robert Deutsch, Shlomo Cohen and Faiz al-Amaleh, on 17 counts including forgery, receiving fraudulent goods and damaging antiquities.

Golan denied the accusations as a campaign of lies and rumors spread by Israel's archaeological authorities to destroy the local antiquities trade."There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations related to me," Golan said in a statement, adding that he believed he would be cleared in court. According to the document, the members of the ring took genuine artifacts and added inscriptions to them, falsely increasing their importance and greatly inflating their value. After forging the inscriptions, they would paint the items with a coating designed to emulate the patina that would accumulate on the object over thousands of years, the indictment said.

The work was so sophisticated, it fooled top antiquities experts, and some of the fake artifacts sold for huge sums, authorities said. "We only discovered the tip of the iceberg. This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars," said Shuka Dorfman, head of Israel Antiquities Authority. The indictments came less than a week after the Israel Museum announced that the ivory pomegranate, one of its most prized possessions, was a forgery. The museum bought the pomegranate from an anonymous collector for $550,000 in the 1980s, with the money deposited into a secret Swiss bank account at the time.

Among the other objects the police tagged as forgeries were two of Golan's possessions, the James ossuary and the "Yoash inscription," a shoebox-sized tablet from about the ninth century B.C., inscribed with 15 lines of ancient Hebrew with instructions for maintaining the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The ossuary, with the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," had been touted as a major archaeological discovery - the oldest physical link between the modern world and Jesus. But last year, Israeli experts said that while the ossuary, a 2,000-year-old limestone box, was indeed ancient, parts of the inscription were added recently. The forgeries also include clay tablets with descriptions of biblical events, a stone menorah said to belong to the priests in the second temple and a stone seal said to belong to Menashe, king of Judah.

"This was an attempt to change the history of the Jewish and Christian people," said police spokesman Gil Kleiman.  According to police and Israel Antiquities Authority estimates, the four ran the forgery ring for monetary reasons. They tried to garner millions of dollars from antique collectors in Israel and around the world, as well as from museums. (Entire Article)


Israel Names Antiquities Laboratory Director as Suspect in Antiquities Forgery Ring – January 3, 2004

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The former head of the antiquities laboratory at the prestigious Israel Museum is the fifth suspect in a sophisticated forgery ring that allegedly produced a treasure trove of fake Bible-era artifacts, a government official and museum spokeswoman said Monday. The rings has been accused of forging what had been heralded as perhaps the two biggest biblical discoveries in the Holy Land in recent years - the purported burial box of Jesus' brother James and a stone tablet with written instructions by King Yoash on maintenance work at the Jewish Temple.


Justice Ministry spokesman Uri Steinberg named the suspect as Rafael Braun. He said he was the fifth person appearing on an indictment that was handed down by a Jerusalem court last week.  Braun's name was withheld during a five-day effort by the court to track him down, Steinberg said.  A court official could not say whether Braun had been located.  An Israel Museum spokeswoman confirmed that Braun was employed at the museum as the head of the antiquities laboratories, but left in the late 1970s or early 1980s.  Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Israeli antiquities expert said Braun was living in Switzerland, where he worked as an antiquities restorer.  The indictment accused Braun and antiquities collector Shlomo Cohen of attempting to forge an inscription on an ostracon - a fragment of limestone pottery - from the period of the kingdoms of Judea, which lasted from the tenth to sixth century B.C. "During or close to 1995 the two accused men formed a conspiracy to forge an ostracon with the purpose that it would constitute an ostracon with an inscription from the period of the Judean kingdoms," the indictment said. "The accused did this for financial benefit."  Beside Braun and Cohen, the Israeli accused three other men in the antiquities frauds- Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan; Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University; and antiquities dealer Faiz al-Amaleh. (Article)


The Ossuary Stone Box of James the Just, brother of Jesus


Other BibleSearcher Articles

The Murder of James the Just in 62 CE

The Death of James the Just and the Blood Libel with the House of Ananus


The Stone Box of James the Just brother of Jesus – December 19, 2004
(CBS) Correspondent Bob Simon has a story about the Bible and truth. More precisely, it's about Biblical antiquities and how they can be seen to prove that the stories told in the Bible really happened. Just two years ago, the world of biblical archaeology was rocked to its foundations, and all because of a stone box that was discovered in Israel, and called an ossuary.
Ossuaries were used to hold the bones of the dead approximately 2,000 years ago, in the time of Jesus. The discovery of this ossuary created more excitement among Christian scholars than anything since the Shroud of Turin. And like the Shroud, no sooner was it unveiled than it came alive, with questions.


Did a stone box, an ossuary, once contain the bones of the brother of Jesus, as its inscription said? Or was it a forgery?  (Photo: CBS)

The box is made of limestone. It's not terribly large, but it attracted a very large crowd, more than 100,000, when it was first exhibited. It made the New York Times and the cover of Biblical Archaeology Review. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, who wrote a book about the box, was at that first exhibit. "There was a lot of excitement. There was, you know, the atmosphere was kind of palpable, really," says Witherington. "And there were various of us just sort of buzzing around this exhibit." Actually, ossuaries are quite common. The Israel Antiquities Authority keeps hundreds in its basement. What was so special about this one? The mysterious engraving on its side -- sort of a Da Vinci Code in stone. It's written in ancient Aramaic and it reads "James. . . Son of Joseph. . . Brother of Jesus."

Could this box have contained the bones of the man the Gospels mention as Jesus' brother? "If it can be proven, it's probably one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the century," says Steve Pfann. He and Claire Pfann are scholars of early Christianity, based in the Holy Land. They believe the ossuary is the first firm archaeological evidence that Jesus once lived here. That is really a great thing just to be able to confirm, from an extra-biblical source, that a man named Jesus existed," says Claire Pfann.

Jesus' brother, James, isn't nearly as well known as other members of the family. But after the crucifixion of Jesus, James became the leader of the early church, the first Bishop of Jerusalem. James died, it is written, in 62 AD, when he was stoned by an angry mob and fell from the walls of the Holy Temple. The way things were done back then, his body would have been put in a cave. And a year later, when the flesh was gone, his bones would have been placed in an ossuary. And it gets better.

Archaeologists agree that the box is genuine and that it dates from the time of James and Jesus. Statisticians say the odds against it being anyone other than James and Jesus are enormous. Two Israeli geologists gave it their stamp of approval. But some experts felt they couldn't render a definitive verdict because it was put on public
display so quickly they didn't have time to study it. "The ossuary was kept more or less secret by a small group of scholars who knew about it," says Neil Silberman, a historian of archaeology who believes the box was presented to the public by people more interested in showmanship than science. "It was thrust on the world, in a combination of public relations campaign and huge exhibition, that really didn't allow people to think about it."


A detailed view of an inscription in Aramaic reading "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," appears on the ossuary.  (Photo: CBS)

But isn't that how the world operates if something as spectacular as an ossuary with the name of Jesus is found? "Well, maybe that's part of the problem," says Silberman. "In studying the history of archaeology, I'd have to say that this is perhaps the most outrageous case of tabloid archaeology, and the most singular celebrity artifact I've ever seen." But the problem with the artifact, according to Silberman and others, is not the box itself, but the inscription. A prominent historian said the language of the inscription was "too perfect, too pat." Some epigraphers (script experts) said the two halves of the inscription don't match. The beginning, "James son of Joseph," is straight, the letters formal. But the end, "Brother of Jesus," is uneven, and the letters are different. In other words, "Brother of Jesus" may have been added by a forger.

The question comes up because the ossuary was not dug up at an authorized excavation, where every shard is scrutinized by scholars. Like most so-called antiquities, it just turned up in the shop of an antiques dealer, which is another way of saying it was looted. The Israel Antiquities Authority has a special unit of archaeological detectives trying to stop this trade. They spend their nights burrowing underground on the trail of tomb-raiders, like those who may have stolen the ossuary from the tomb of James. The trouble is, no one has any idea when that happened, or where.

But 60 Minutes knows where it turned up: in the Tel Aviv apartment of Oded Golan, an Israeli entrepreneur, amateur pianist and one of the world's biggest collectors of biblical antiquities. He says he bought the ossuary from an Arab dealer in the '70s and never thought twice about the inscription, because as a Jew, he knew nothing about Jesus. "I didn't know at the time at all the Jesus had any siblings," says Golan, who had this ossuary for more than 20 or 25 years, never knowing what he had. Golan says it was in 2002 when an eminent scholar happened to see the ossuary at his home, and told him what the writing could mean. Golan sprung into action. He had the box scrutinized by specialists in different fields. They were impressed. So, Golan shipped it off to Toronto for its unveiling before a colloquium of archaeologists who gave it their undivided attention.

After they'd had their fill, the Israel Antiquities Authority demanded that it be brought back to Israel so they could have a look. They appointed two committees to decide whether that inscription was cut 2,000 years ago, or much more recently. "The letter is freshly cut from the varnish into the rock," says Professor Yuval Goren, director of Tel Aviv University's archaeology department, and one of the committee members. He's been checking the ossuary's patina, the residue that gathered on the surface of the stone box over the past 2,000 years. And he's been comparing it to the patina inside the letters of the inscription. "Inside the inscription, there was another type of patina-like material that seemed through the microscope, it seemed to be completely different," says Goren, who believes the inscription had been added later. "Whether all of it is a fake, or only part of it is a fake, this I don't know. The patina, coating it, all of it is a fake." "And frankly, if all of it, or part of it is a fake, it doesn't make any difference, does it?" asks Simon. "I don't think so," says Goren.

The ossuary was returned to Golan. But then, just two months after it had been exhibited in Toronto, there was another extraordinary revelation. A tablet was secretly offered to Israel's National Museum, with a reported price tag of $4 million. Why so much? It was billed as the only remnant of the Temple of King Solomon, a godsend for religious Jews, because it would strengthen their claim to the Temple Mount, which has been contested for centuries by Jews and Muslims.

First the ossuary, and then the tablet, both revealed in the space of two months? It was an amazing coincidence, but the amazing coincidences don't stop there. Amir Ganor, head of the Antiquities Authority Detective Unit, was put on the tablet's trail and all leads pointed to the apartment of Golan. They confiscated the tablet and decided to take the ossuary as well. But when Golan led them to it, the detectives could barely believe their eyes. "He opened a small chamber on the roof, and I saw this chamber is a toilet, and what I found on top of the toilet, I found the ossuary of James the brother of Jesus," says Ganor.

Golan doesn't try to deny that he kept the ossuary on the toilet, but he says don't leap to unwarranted conclusions. "I was really scared that people will come into the house and steal it, so I took it to the safest place in this building," says Golan. As the unit continued to search the building, they stumbled upon a workshop that they found interesting. There were drills designed, they thought, to cut new inscriptions. There were half-completed seals. Ancient charcoal, useful perhaps, to outwit carbon dating. There were samples of soil from archaeological sites, which could be used to make fake patinas. The cops called the workspace a factory of fakes. "The police are talking to us also about earth and charcoal samples from a specific period that they say you would have used to make something appear to be much older than it is," says Simon.

"This is just a wrong allegation. It's a false allegation, that's all what I can tell you," says Golan. "Because all the materials that I had, which are some soils, different color soils. It's in order to give when you restore an ancient piece you would like to give a feeling to the viewer that it looks old." He admits that he has restored some of the artifacts that he has found. But has he ever created an artifact? A fake? "No," he says.

Golan says the Israeli authorities want to make an example of him, a scapegoat. And Witherington, who wrote that first book about the ossuary, agrees: "There's this huge anxiety about collectors and looters and forgers. I think they saw this as a window of opportunity." An opportunity, he says, to clean up the business, and make Golan a scapegoat.

Does he think the ossuary is real or fake? "I would say it's probably real," says Witherington. But the Antiquities Authority continues to insist it's a fake. And not only that. They claim Golan has been making forgeries and millions of dollars for the last 15 years. And they say the real casualty here is knowledge itself, our passion to dig down to the real foundations of our history, and our faith.

"It seems to me that there's really two possibilities when you're dealing with the James ossuary and other recent discoveries," says Simon. "Either they're real or you've got a group of very talented forgers." "There've been good forgers for hundreds of years," says Silberman. "But a 16-year-old with a basic graphics program can take absolutely documented inscriptions, and rearrange the letters, and reproduce them and it makes it very much harder just to see the difference between something new and something genuine. So both sides are getting better. The forgers are getting better, as is science in discovering forgeries is getting better," says Simon.

"Well, that's what we call progress in archaeology, I guess," says Silberman. The Israeli police say they plan to indict Golan on multiple charges of forgery and fraud later this month.


'IAA handling James ossuary case very poorly' – Hershal Shanks (‘Biblical Archeological Review) Interview – October 8, 2004

Translating the InscriptionJerusalem (JPost) Two years ago, Hershel Shanks, editor of the popular bimonthly journal Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), announced to the world the discovery of a first-century CE Judean ossuary (burial box) bearing the Aramaic inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The announcement generated international headlines. Since then, an official commission of inquiry by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has determined that the "Jesus inscription" is a fake; the ossuary owner Oded Golan has been accused of forgery; and Golan is now the subject of a police investigation relating to those accusations.


Inscription on the Ossuary of James the Just


Shanks in turn has accused the IAA inquiry of being seriously flawed, and refuses to accept its findings. He has also charged IAA director Shuka Dorfman with conducting a personal "vendetta" against him that includes refusing financial help from BAR for IAA-supervised excavations.


On a recent visit to Israel, Shanks talked about the ossuary and other matters. Two years after you first presented the "James ossuary" to the world, have any of the doubts raised about it altered your opinion as to its authenticity? Well, I don't know for sure if it's a forgery or not. But I do know for sure that the IAA is handling the matter in an embarrassingly poor way, producing deeply flawed reports. And I do know for sure that what they have produced has not proven the inscription on the ossuary to be a forgery.


But given the murky facts surrounding its discovery, shouldn't the burden of proof be on those like yourself arguing its authenticity? I question this "burden of proof" remark of yours. You do have to be careful. There are forgeries, and there are some pretty good ones, but I don't think the burden of proof is one way or another. I think that what we need, what we always had, is a presentation of scholarly views, and an openness to these views – not a court that comes down and declares something as forgery or authentic. This is the first time in the history of the country that a committee has been appointed to determine the authenticity or forgery of an antiquity. And if anything, I think it will never be done again. The proper way is to allow scholars to speak and not be intimidated.


Didn't you make any effort to check the background of Oded Golan, the dealer now accused of forging the inscription, before announcing to the world the discovery of the ossuary? No, I did not; the question from my viewpoint is the object. It could be a forgery for all I know, but that doesn't mean that everything is a forgery. The government of Israel and the police have treated Golan horribly. The pressure put on him was ghastly. They shackled him. They team-interrogated him without his lawyers for 30 hours. Everybody thinks he's been indicted, but they didn't charge him. They rushed him off to jail with rapists and murderers. They threatened him, I won't tell you how. Then, after four days, they released him. And now everyone says he's on bail, when he's never even been charged. This is not the way the State of Israel should act.


Your critics charge that another problem with promoting "finds" such as the ossuary – that enter the market through antiquities dealers like Golan rather than being found in situ at excavations – is that it encourages archaeological looting. Looting is a terrible problem. I hate looters. I want to see them captured and put in jail. But there is an enormous amount of looting, and when valuable, informative, important items are found [that way], I don't ignore them. I want to look at them and I want to learn from them and so do most scholars. The archaeological establishment in many cases is so against the market that they won't look at it. I am deeply opposed to that policy, and so is every expert in inscriptions, every epigrapher, every paleographer. Because you cannot be an epigrapher or a paleographer without looking at the inscriptions that come from the antiquities market.


Many archaeologists I speak to say that's exactly the problem; that the paleography field has become corrupted because so much of the scholarship is based on fakes, and this leads to embarrassments like the James ossuary inscription being certified as authentic by so-called experts in the field.  I'm a journalist, not a scholar. I don't make these judgments myself. I have only two choices. To publish, or not. Now when Professor Andr Lemaire of the Sorbonne – one of the most distinguished paleographers in the world – agrees the ossuary inscription is authentic... that's all the authority I need. The voice of a man with such magisterial authority is sufficient.


In the case of the James ossuary inscription, I realized its importance and I consulted obviously with other paleographers. I went so far as to ask the Geological Survey of Israel to study it. All gave it good marks. I had two choices – publish, or not publish. As a result of that, this guy that now heads the IAA – Shuka Dorfman – gets mad at me. Now if he's just mad at me, that's okay. But he has gone further. He has made this a vendetta. No one, but no one, has been able to explain why he [Dorfman] is mad at me. There are suppositions, and the best that I can tell you is that when the press came to him and said tell us about the ossuary inscription, he didn't know anything about it. Yet the IAA had given permission to export the ossuary to be exhibited, and in the application it quotes the inscription, and Dorfman didn't see it. He let this thing out of the country, and I could understand why he was embarrassed.


Let's assume the James ossuary is authentic. If so, it is surely a relic of great importance to Christians. But given the fact that even those who dispute the Gospels as history concede the likelihood that there was a first-century Judean prophet named Jesus, what is the ossuary's actual archaeological value? Firstly, to find an inscription that mentions Jesus is of enormous importance in itself. Just that. Secondly, I've heard many times what you've said. So, what do we want it for, when we all know he existed? It is valuable if it refers to Jesus of Nazareth – and you can argue about this – and it dates to about 62 or 63 CE, when James was stoned to death while he was still the head of the Jerusalem Christian community. If his [James's] bones were put in an ossuary at this time, we've learned that as late as 63 CE members of the Jesus movement were still following Jewish customs of burial. This is certainly a very significant finding.


Given the enormous public interest in archaeological artifacts directly connected to the Bible, isn't there dangerous temptation in the media and even among archaeological professionals to exaggerate any possible connection with Old and New Testament stories – as perhaps was recently done with the so-called "John the Baptist" cave found outside Jerusalem? There is no question that what you say is true. For example, Newsweek just did a cover story on antiquities looting in Iraq and in Israel, and the illustration was a 17th-century painting of Jesus that had nothing to do with the story. And yes, [archaeologist] Shimon Gibson excavated this cave and drew some potential relationships with John the Baptist, and that is no doubt what lit a fire and gained it enormous publicity.


Now, as you point out, many, many archaeologists think this is an exaggeration, though Gibson himself presents it only as a possibility. However, there is as well as a countermovement among archaeologists who really don't want to get involved with the Bible, and certainly not with anything linked to Jesus. Isn't that because many archaeologists today say the evidence increasingly points to the historical unlikelihood of much of the biblical accounts, even those previously deemed historically accurate by previous generations of scholars? Israel Finkelstein, for example, argues that incorrect dating of archaeological remains mistakenly led Yigael Yadin and others to overestimate the size of the David and Solomonic kingdoms. Do you see an ideological motivation behind these revisionist views?

In the case of Israel Finkelstein, I have no reason to doubt his integrity. But I think there is a little modishness in finding flaws with the biblical account. We need to do that, but we also want to see if we can identify a historic core to the Bible.


Today [biblical archaeologists] are almost considered to be non-professional. To take one well-known example, not one piece of real archaeological evidence has been found to support the story of a mass Israelite slave exodus from Egypt. Well, non-literal biblical scholars would agree that contrary to the Bible – which says that 600,000 Israelite men left Egypt, and if you add women and children, you get to two or three million – it [the Exodus] wasn't a matter of that many people. However, the circumstantial evidence is quite strong of an Israelite presence in Egypt. Moses happens to be an Egyptian name. We know there were slaves in Goshen, where the Bible places the Israelites. We've found an Israelite-type house there. We know the route they would have taken, because other slaves have escaped along this route. And we have a hieroglyphic inscription from the late 13th century BCE about Israelites already being in Canaan.


But if there were any kind of sizable Israelite slave exodus, wouldn't you expect to find an inscription relating to it either in Egypt or elsewhere in the ancient world?

I would be pleasantly surprised to find something like that. You're suggesting something very dangerous – that is, to say that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The general rule is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.... unless the evidence can be expected, and you're saying it would be expected, and I'm saying it would not.


Biblical archaeology was something of a national Israeli pastime in the glory days of Yadin excavating at Masada and unveiling the Dead Sea Scrolls. There's definitely been a lessening of public interest here in the field over the years. What can and should be done to spark popular imagination in the subject?

There is no easy answer, no quick solution. I certainly think that the press could do more. I think that the burden is on the Israeli media to cover it in a better way. You have the chicken and the egg problem.


Does the Israeli press not cover it well now because people are no longer interested in it, or are people uninterested because it's not covered well? I also think that archaeologists could do more. It is really a failure on the part of most archaeologists to understand that their support often comes from the public. The public has a right to be informed, and informed in terms that they can appreciate. Even if it means sensationalizing the subject, especially its links to the biblical narrative?  To a certain extent it's legitimate, and to a certain extent it's illegitimate. Some people may think that Shimon Gibson hyped this cave thing with John the Baptist. I think that's probably true, and some people say that I hyped the ossuary too much, which I think is not true. You have to make these kinds of judgments.

I am in the business of trying to present the findings of the scholarly world to a broader audience that won't read academic reports. I have wonderful relations with so many archaeologists who do work successfully to bring the material to a wider audience. I don't think that the general press and the archaeologists themselves do enough of this. The IAA declined to react to the comments made in this interview. The Israel Police told The Jerusalem Post that they have concluded their investigation into Oded Golan, and have passed their findings to the State Attorney's Office, which is now weighing whether to file charges against him. (Entire Interview with Hershall Shanks)


James Was Not a Midget! - Observations on a Visit to the James Ossuary Exhibit the Royal Ontario Museum By: Steve Sanchez , Th.M.

The Experts and the Ossuary: A Report on the Toronto Session about the James Ossuary by Paul Flesher, Director Religious Studies Program Univ. Wyoming


The Ivory Pomegranate of Solomon’s Temple

Ivory pomegranate 'not Solomon's' – December 24, 2004

The ivory pomegranateAn ancient ivory pomegranate thought to be the only relic of King Solomon's Temple is from a different period, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem has said. The museum had regarded the thumb-sized artefact, thought part of a sceptre, as one of its most precious possessions.


Experts now say the pomegranate's inscription was added later


However, Israeli experts conducting an investigation discovered the artefact was much older than believed. The museum paid $500,000 (£260,000) for the object in 1998, believing it an important relic of Jewish history. But Israeli experts have now determined that the object is a lot older than originally believed. It dates to the 13th or 14th Century BC rather than to the 8th Century BC, or the time of Solomon, as originally believed.


Researchers had thought that the pomegranate was an ornamental top for a priest's sceptre, based in part on an inscription which reads "Belonging to the Temple of the Lord, holy to the priests." Now officials say the Hebrew inscription was only added to the pomegranate recently.


Inscribed Ivory Pomegranate from the "House of the Lord" – by Ancient Near

Ivory pomegranate, damaged sectionApparently unremarkable at first sight, a small ornamental ivory object in the form of a pomegranate (right) and bearing a short inscription in palaeo-Hebrew script, must nonetheless be recognised as one of the most important and controversial acquisitions yet made by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Many scholars believe, on the basis of its inscription, that this minute object probably represents the only archaeological find discovered so far that could likely be associated with the Temple of Yahweh, purportedly built by Solomon, king of Israel, in the 10th century BCE.

As might be expected, the pomegranate has created some controversy with regard to both its authenticity and the veracity of its inscription - a situation only aggravated by the object's lack of provenance and the somewhat dubious means by which it came to world attention (namely, the trade in antiquities). After thorough examination, however, many scholars concur as to its veracity and, therefore, its extreme importance.


 Damaged rear section of the pomegranate


Provenance: Unknown, presumably the Jerusalem area. Apparently first acquired for the Jerusalem antiquities trade in or before 1979, in which year it was seen by André Lemaire (who later announced its discovery). Bought by the Israel Museum in 1988 for US$550,000.

Dimensions: 43 mm (1.68") in height, 21 mm (0.83") in diameter.

Description: Ivory (faunal source unknown), solid body, a single hole 6.5 mm in diameter and 15 mm deep cut into the base, presumably for mounting on a rod or shaft. Artefact shaped as a pomegranate in blossom, the rounded body of the fruit tapering down to a flat bottom and topped by a tall, narrow neck terminating in six long petals, two of which are broken. The shoulder of the artefact bears a shallow incised inscription of 9 complete and 3 incomplete characters in palaeo-Hebrew script. The artefact is damaged: a significant portion of the body is broken away, resulting in the loss of about one-third of the original inscription, whilst the surface reveals considerable wear and the effects of exposure to the elements. (Click to Open Entire Scientific Treatise)


The Joash Inscription of Solomon’s Temple


'Biblical Temple' tablet found – January 14, 2003

Jerusalem (BBCNews) - The tablet was reportedly found where the Temple stood. Israeli geologists say a purportedly ancient stone tablet detailing repair plans for the Jewish Temple of King Solomon is genuine, an Israeli newspaper has reported. The fragment is said to date from the period of the Jewish King Joash, who ruled the area 2,800 years ago. If officially authenticated, the find would be the first piece of physical evidence backing up biblical texts.


The Joash Inscription is inscribed with ancient Phoenician script – Photo by Orientalist


It could also intensify competing claims to the site in Jerusalem's Old City, where the stone is said to have been found, which go to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Muslim clerics have denied any Jewish historical connection with the site, revered by Jews as the location of their biblical temples. The blackened stone was unearthed during renovations by Muslim authorities on a mosque compound, known to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, according to the Ha'aretz daily.


The incomplete sandstone tablet contains an inscription in ancient Phoenician in which a king tells priests to take "holy money... to buy quarry stones and timber and copper and labour to carry out the duty with the faith". If the work is completed well, it adds, "the Lord will protect his people with blessing". The words closely resemble descriptions in the biblical Book of Kings II and refer to King Joash. The first Temple, Judaism's holiest shrine, was built by King Solomon and stood for 400 years before it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.


The tablet was examined by experts at Israel's Geological Institute. "Our findings show that it is authentic," Ha'aretz quoted Shimon Ilani from the institute as saying.

Mr Ilani said carbon dating showed the tablet was inscribed around the 9th Century BC. The stone was also said to have been found to contain microscopic gold flecks, which mean it may have existed in the Temple itself.  A top Israeli archaeologist, Gabriel Barkai, said that if the tablet was definitively authenticated, it would be a "sensational" discovery. The director of the Islamic Trust that administers the mosque compound, however, denied that the tablet had been discovered there.


The Joash Inscription by Prof. Victor Avigdor Hurowitz (Dept. of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev at Beer Sheva.

The So-called Joash Inscription  - Bibliography by Guiseppe Regalzi

The Temple Inscription of Joash by Todd Bolan with BiblePlaces (January 13, 2003)


Vindicating Golan........and maybe the James Ossuary too – November 11, 2004
Well although my Deinde partner in crime was able to make it to SBL, I had to hold down the fort for Dr. Craig Evans while he was away. One interesting detail that Dr. Evans has shared with me (although I cannot recall which session) is that one of Oded Golan's ex-girlfriends from the 70's has emerged with a picture from the 70's in which she posed next to the James Ossuary which had the full inscription on it. I am interested to read the ensuing storm of discussion on the BAR website, which has been the haven for discussion around the James Ossuary. Of course this does not prove that the ossuary inscription is authentic, but it surely supports the notion, and goes a long way towards releasing Golan from the charge of forger.
Response by David Q Hall
I was at a holiday party yesterday where a photographer took pictures of people and a computer was used to paste their images to a series of background photos.  Some people had pictures of themselves standing on a snowy mountain, others had pictures of themselves standing in front of a fireplace in a mansion, and others had images of themselves standing in front of a Late Show theater marquee.  None of the people were at the scenes where they appeared in their photos.
Not to say the ossuary is a fake, but rather that it is controversial, and certain "evidence" does not confirm its authenticity.  The Jehoash inscription was more vigorously contested than the ossuary.  Golan, the dealer who once possessed both objects was alleged to have forgery tools in his possession. David Q. Hall 

Qumran as a Pottery Factory


A Crack in the Theory (Qumran as a Pottery Factory) – December 16, 2004

Qumran (JPost) - He squinted his eyes against the strong desert sun, trying to make out the shades of gold in the Qumran from southdusty, shadowy hills around him. A gazelle sprinted in the distance. As tourists around him snapped pictures, he tried to imagine what life had been like there 2,000 years earlier, on the seemingly desolate plateau. "It is magnificently hot on the mountainside and the view is unbelievable," said Alexander, a Ukrainian immigrant, remembering his numerous visits to the Qumran archeological site on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, between Jericho and Ein Gedi. "But I come for spiritual nourishment."


Khirbet Qumran by


Like scores of others before him who have longed to feel a connection to the spiritual roots of the historical Holy Land, he has found yet another site that fulfills his longing.

Sitting in the area that was described to him as the scroll-writing room, during a guided tour with a Christian group, he imagines a sect of ancient Jews engaged in holy work. And crossing into the room described as a house of prayer, he says he can almost see the roots of Christian spirituality coming to life in the wilderness.

Since the first discovery of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls nearby in 1947 and the subsequent digs, Qumran has risen to mythological status among Jews, Christians, archeologists and biblical scholars around the world.


According to the popular theories, the site was home to the Essenes, a monastic sect of Jews from the Second Temple period who lived a life of poverty, celibacy, prayer and isolation, and who scribed and hid the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, which comprise the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible, are widely considered the most - or at least among the most - important archeological finds of the 20th century. The site, the scrolls and the Essenes have always been linked. For Jews, the mythology of the site arises from the hunger for knowledge about Second Temple writings and lifestyles. For Christians, the monastic lifestyle of the Essenes at Qumran is believed to have influenced early Christianity. Christian scholars are also interested in discovering the Second Temple period Jewish lifestyle and beliefs that created space for their religion to develop.


Visiting the site, it is portrayed as the ruins of a mystical desert spiritual center, where tourists can learn about the history of the obscure sect and their hidden library of scrolls. But in scholarly circles, a storm is brewing, raising questions about the spiritual past of the site and its connection to some of the legends that have risen on its ashes. Did Essenes live at and scribe the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran? No, says a soon-to-be-released report. IN THE 1,936 years since the Romans destroyed the Dead Sea area settlements, many of the Qumran structures, including a pool, remained obscured by three-meter-high mounds of golden desert dust and debris.

In January, sifting through the dirt in knee-high rubber boots, archeologists Dr. Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg were feeling giddy, though it was the last season of their 10-year dig at Qumran and they had yet to fully confirm their suspicions that history wasn't as it seemed.


While a few theories have questioned the Qumran-Essene connection in recent years, scholars have long argued that the strongest testaments to the inhabitants' monastic lifestyle are austere, communal dwellings and 16 pools, long believed to be mikvaot, ritual purification baths. Ten years after beginning their own study of the site's structures, under the auspices of the Judea and Samaria Civil Administration, Magen, staff officer of archeology, and Peleg, district archeologist for east Samaria and the Jordan Valley, and their crew excavated their way down the steps of the site's last and largest pool yet to be uncovered. State-sponsored archeologists, they are among the renegades in the world of archeology: they have long been skeptical of prevailing theories that most of the pools were mikvaot and that the site was ever home to a monastic sect who penned the Dead Sea Scrolls. But during the dig earlier this year, as they reached the pool's bottom, Magen and Peleg say they found the most convincing proof yet to challenge the established Qumran theories.


Though none of their findings have been released, a few early news reports in the Israeli and American media have charged Magen and Peleg with trying to prove that the Essenes did not write the Dead Sea Scrolls and that the Essenes were not ascetic but affluent. An exclusive copy of the report's 22-page summary obtained by The Jerusalem Post shows that many rumors are off-base. The archeologists' work does not describe the Essene lifestyle imagenor disprove their relationship to the scrolls.

Peleg and Magen sat with the Post to go through all the points of their 110-page research paper, to be published this spring by Brown University archeologist Katharina Galor with Brill Academic Publishers, as part of a compendium on Qumran theories. The report doesn't comment much on the Essenes, it turns out, because no ascetics, including the Essenes, lived at Qumran, it says. The report also proposes a new theory on the structures and activities of the Qumran inhabitants that does not include copying religious texts or observing religious ceremonial rites. The authors maintain that they have disproved the site's connection to the scrolls and to the Essenes; and that this finding will reflect on the scrolls and perhaps on Second Temple Jewish history itself.


Qumran Scroll Pottery


AFTER 10 years of work at Qumran, when Magen and Peleg's crew reached the bottom layer of the large pool, they were stunned to uncover a previously unseen white sediment. The powder has turned out to be the most significant clue yet to the Qumran mystery, they say. "It was the most important thing ever found at Qumran: the bottom of the pool has some three tons of high-quality clay," Peleg told the Post. "We started to understand the site - there were no Essenes."

Qumran in the Second Temple period was not much more than a small, dusty, muddy, and smoky pottery-industry work station, devoid of spirituality, according to the clay sediment in conjunction with their other findings, he says.


The finding of "buckets and buckets" of burned dates also led the archeologists to confirm that the only other activity going on at Qumran was the production of date honey, stored in small ceramic vessels made there. Initially, to check that the powder was indeed viable clay, the archeologists threw the fine chalk-colored residue into a vat and added water. Then they delivered the clay to a potter and asked her to fire away. The potter gave the clay a quick thumbs-up. Her first vase adorns Magen's Jerusalem office, together with dozens of handmade drawings of Qumran artifacts. They are still running tests of the clay against the ancient Qumran pottery.

Qumran Cave 4A member of the first archeological team to dig Qumran in 1951, Dominican monk and archeologist Roland deVaux had suspected that pottery was made there, but had never succeeded in determining from where they would have had a supply of clay. Others, in his footsteps, would suggest that some of the Essenes were also potters on the side, making their own vessels.


Cave 4 at Qumran – by


Several years earlier, the Essenes and the scrolls were linked to Qumran before any excavation ever got under way. This was because of the proximity of Qumran to the caves where the scrolls were found, and because Israeli archeologist Eliezer Sukenik and his team decoding the Dead Sea Scrolls quickly concluded that they were Essene documents. Scholars found back-up for this theory by interpreting the writings of the major regional historians of the time - Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Elder and Philo of Alexandria - all of whom mentioned a fully or semi-monastic sect of Jews, though Pliny was the only one to place them in a settlement on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. DeVaux, studying Qumran rather than the scrolls, was the first to announce with assuredness that Qumran was an Essene settlement for monastic life and scroll-writing. But he died in 1971, before his final work was finished. Much of his research was never published or even seen, causing some archeologists to remain suspicious over what remains until today filed away.


After finding artifacts such as jewelry and precious glass at Qumran, "objects that are not suited to monks," say Peleg and Magen, they joined a chorus of other archeologists who have charged that what deVaux did and didn't report was biased. pottery vessels found at Qumran to the vessels found holding the scrolls, and concluded they were of shared origin.


Theories linking Qumran, the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls are accepted as truth or as a most-likely scenario in many scholarly circles, and have been used as the basis for tangent theories on Second Temple period Jewish history and early Christianity. Sukenik's son, Yigael Yadin, became one of the most famous Israeli

archeologists through the first decades of the state and his support helped to publicize the Qumran theory. Yadin was famous for hunting down the scrolls from dealers around the world. Today, it is estimated that there are over 900. Still, conflicting analyses of the scrolls, of the ancient historians' accounts and of certain findings at Qumran have led to at least a dozen other counter-arguments.


Earlier this year, archeologist Magen Broshi, former curator of the Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls Museum) at Jerusalem's Israel Museum from 1964 to 1994, together with Bar-Ilan University archeologist Hanan Eshel, published in the US a compendium of 12 Qumran Theories (see box). Broshi has been a strong proponent of the Essenes theory and was the first to dub Qumran as the oldest monastery in the world. Peleg and Magen argue that the new report will challenge earlier Qumran theories.


Of all 16 pools, only two were mikvaot, and Jewish law backs them up, the report concludes: "According to Halacha, a mikve can purify only when water collects without human or mechanical help, not from trickling on the ground and not led through channels."  According to aerial dating, the pools were added onto original structures built in the First Temple period, or Iron Age, circa 700 BCE. The paper also deduces that until it was destroyed in the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE, the first site was a military post - not fort - as it was the only place on the northwest shore that was protected from floods, and so could maintain a safe lookout. Rather than Nabatean, they hold that the fort was built by the Hasmonean Jannai family who conquered Samaria and the Jerusalem environs and built other such fortresses along the eastern borders of Judea against invading Nabateans. Because of the Roman conquest, the Hasmonean leaders had no Qumran scriptoriumneed for army posts and the site, says Peleg, was transformed for practical civilian purposes. "After the Roman conquest, they started building canals and built seven more pools - there was one purpose: to collect clay for the pottery industry," he explains. "It was no mikve, but a sophisticated water system to collect water and clay; and to filter stone and debris. We realized that the water that came from the aqueduct took clay from the whole region and it would sink in the pools."


The Scriptorium at Qumran by


As for Qumran being chosen for a monastery because it was isolated, Qumran was for its time fairly accessible, the archeologists argue. There were two donkey-accessible main roads, one directly to Jerusalem, and another to Jericho and on to Jerusalem. This was true for all the Dead Sea military forts. Neither the structures nor the remains support the monastery theory either, adds Peleg: "Essenes were supposed to have 200-300 members at Qumran, according to scholars. But if 200-300 ate twice a day and one meal a week was meat, during the 170 years (from 100 BC-68 CE) we guessed we'd have to find at least 100,000 remains of sheep or goats. But we found only 100," he says.  "And where did they cook? These were not ovens but kilns. And where did they live? There were no rooms. Some said they lived in tents but, because of the rain, that would not have been possible. And others said they lived in caves, but because of animals - hyenas, foxes, leopards, etc. - that would not be possible. Also, the caves were made from soft [limestone] sediment that was sinking all the time, not rock. So we're talking only 20-30 inhabitants at a time. It was just a factory. Maybe they slept there in certain seasons."


Others, until recently at digs undertaken this year, have suggested that the animal bones found in pottery vessels were burnt offerings, proof of the ritualistic lifestyle and ceremonial activities. But "all the animal bones that have been analyzed were cooked and not burnt as offerings," concludes the report. "It's a desert area and if you throw bones away, the animals would come. It makes sense that they were buried in the pottery," adds Peleg.


The last point of contention between archeologists is the Qumran cemetery, where graves are built in a north-south configuration and all the opened graves dated to that period were male. This helped promote the theory that the inhabitants were ritualistic and lived apart from some Judean Jewish burial practices. But the authors document that such graves have also been found in Jerusalem and on the other side of the Dead Sea.


THOUGH THE paper analyzes Qumran and not the Dead Sea Scrolls, the findings may indeed reveal something new about the scrolls and Jewish history, say the authors. "After 10 years of excavations, we have a new theory about the site and it reflects on the scrolls, the inhabitants, and many aspects and issues in the research of Qumran," says Peleg. "If the site is not Essene and they couldn't have written the scrolls at Qumran, where are the scrolls from?" The answer is easy, says Magen. Archeological finds all over the Judean desert show that Jews throughout the Roman conquest were fleeing towards the Dead Sea area and were bringing and hiding their valuables there. The fact that the scrolls were hidden or protected inside pottery that was identical to those found at Qumran doesn't mean the scrolls were written at Qumran, but that there was an abundance of pottery at Qumran that was able to serve those fleeing the Romans, he says. Scrolls dated to the same period were also found hidden at Masada.


"The scrolls are religious texts, and like today you have the prayers of Sephardim, the Ashkenazim, the haredim - but they are the same books for all Jews," says Magen, explaining that Jews from groups around the country were hiding their sacred and sectarian texts.  Of some 900 scrolls, some 25 percent are biblical texts, the oldest ever found and the only ones surviving the Second Temple period. The rest of the scrolls comprise Jewish literature and legend, psalms, commentaries, and analyses of legal, government, lifestyle and warfare philosophy. "Why are there 40 different documents of psalms?" asks Peleg. "Probably because they are from different areas. They are all from the same period as those found at Masada."


The Psalms Tehillim by IBiblio


This hypothesis, that the scrolls were hidden - not written - at Qumran, builds on the earlier theories of University of Chicago archeologist Norman Golb, who has argued that the site was not Essene and that the scrolls were probably the remains of Second Temple Jerusalem libraries. Considering that the texts are so diverse, that there are often numerous copies of the same text written in different styles, that some texts contradict each other, and taking into account the regional migration patterns during that period, Magen and Peleg say the natural conclusion is that the scrolls didn't come from one library or even from Jerusalem libraries alone, but from synagogues and libraries all over. As such, they constitute the broadest possible representation of Second Temple Jewish thought, and not just the Judaism of the Essenes, or of any one sect or geographical area.


Many scholars have long held that there were three main sects of Jews in the Second Temple period: the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Essenes. Reconsidering that the scrolls are a broad representation of Judaism could support a theory that there were actually dozens of streams, the authors add. "The Essenes may have been one of several groups that wrote the scrolls."


ONE THING is certain: debates questioning Qumran's connection to the Essenes and the scrolls stir a lot of passion. Certainly, if the latest theory is proven correct, tour guides and academics will have to revise their educational materials and itineraries. And tour companies, and even the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, could lose money, if Qumran's mystical draw evaporates. According to the Ministry of Tourism, 46,000 visitors passed through the site in 2003, and the site was "marketed to everyone. If the intention is to get Jewish or Christian visitors, they are going to highlight different things," said a ministry spokesperson. In other words, Christian tourists learn about Christian interests and Jewish tourists learn about Jewish interests. But what if the only interest is archeological and not sacred?

Still, there are larger questions for Jews, Christians and scholars.


Christian institutions have long supported the Essene theory. They were the holders and translators of many of the first scrolls, have often subsidized their own digs and research, and some have argued that the Essene site may have been home to the first followers of Jesus and represents, together with the scrolls, the first link between Judaism and early Christianity. Others argue it was the precursor of Christian monastic life. "Why are people so passionate about Qumran? There is something linked to Christian identity, Jewish identity, but that's not scholarly," explains Dr. Emmanuelle Main, a visiting French scholar at the Hebrew University, specializing in the history of Judaism and early Christianity, and currently teaching about Qumran. "The point with Qumran for Christians is that Qumran and the scrolls are a package since they were discovered and for the first time we have a [Jewish] document which is not from rabbinical Judaism. Jesus was a Jew; that poses an identity problem for some Christians.


The tendency until today of a few Christian scholars to want Qumran to be Essene is because they want it to be a pre-Christian community that is not 'so Jewish' and others even believe the Essenes were not Jewish. Some want to prove who was the 'Teacher of Righteousness' [mentioned but unnamed in the scrolls]. It's a bit difficult for some Christians to recognize that Christianity went out from Judaism," she says, explaining her concern that American fundamentalist Christians are behind unauthorized digs at Qumran to promote such theories. "But aside from Christian scholars who want to show the Christian connection, most Christian and Jewish scholars would agree. The point is not am I Jewish or Christian - I am Catholic - but the point is about methodology. It is hard to prove with methodology what something 'isn't.' As a whole, I think the Essene connection is the most likely hypothesis, but it is just a hypothesis. I tell my students, 'first deal with the facts and after with the hypothesis.' Now you are telling about a new theory but it will surely not be the last." "Beyond the scholarly research," she adds, "there is something here approaching the problem of the Jewish-Christian relationship."


From Jewish archeologists, there is also skepticism regarding suggestions that the site wasn't Essene or something similar, and a consensus that the site has no Christian connection. "There are many reasons to repudiate these [Christian] theories, the most important of which is chronological: both paleographical and physical evidence (i.e. carbon dating) place the principal scrolls much earlier than the entrance of Christianity," writes Israeli archeologist Broshi. Sipping a cup of coffee in Jerusalem recently, contemplating rumors of the new theory, Broshi shakes his head and rolls his eyes. Talk of new theories is "rubbish," he says.


"This theory is new because you had the feeling everything was exhausted and now people say this was a factory for producing pottery. But that is preposterous because the raw materials come from the environs of Jerusalem and there was not enough fuel to heat ovens up to 1,000 Celsius," he says. "If someone wanted to make pottery, they would have done it in Motza, where there were enough trees to use as fuel." "Not only that," he adds. "The market was far from Qumran and pottery is fragile; you would want to produce near the doorsteps of the buyer."


Precious glass, stones or cosmetic cases should be dated to after 67 CE, when Qumran may have been taken over by the Roman garrison, he says. "It was booty of the soldiers or that of some Beduin squatters." As for who wrote the scrolls, he is equally adamant. "The overwhelming majority of scholars and all who deciphered, read, published and commented on the Dead Sea Scrolls believe that the backbone of the library is Essene, even if not everything was written at Qumran." As long as there remain several interpretations of the ancient historians' descriptions, the scrolls and the findings at Qumran, together with the question mark of findings that have never been published, there may not be an easy consensus in sight."

Their [Magen and Peleg's] data is revolutionary," says Galor, the upcoming Qumran compendium's editor. "But there will be some scholars who will have difficulty with the data." Nevertheless, the Israeli archeologists remain unmoved by criticism that is coming their way from every side. As the field of research continues to grow, the conclusions, say Magen and Peleg, are just the latest reflections of history, staring up from the bottom of a pool.


Twelve theories
Summarized from a 2004 list published by archeologists Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel, before the latest theory came to bat.

1. Qumran was an Essene monastery; the scrolls belonged to the Essenes.

2. The residents of Qumran were the first followers of Jesus, or the first Christians.

3. The scrolls are forged or the scholarship on the scrolls is fiction.

4. The writers of the scrolls and Qumran residents were Pharisees.

5. The writers of the scrolls were Karaites.

6. The writers of the scrolls were Sadducees.

7. The scroll owners and Qumran residents were anti-Roman zealots.

8. Qumran was an agricultural establishment, growing balsam at a villa rustica.

9. Qumran was a commercial center on a major trade route.

10. Qumran was a military fort with no relation to the scrolls.

11. Qumran was a papyrus processing plant.

12. There is insufficient data to determine who wrote and owned the scrolls.


The newest theory by Dr. Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg, that Qumran was a small pottery factory, is slated to be published by Brown University professor Katharina Galor and Brill Academic Publishers in the spring, part of a compendium on new Qumran theories.



Qumran by

The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship by IBiblio

The Ruins of Qumran by Mosaic

Dead Sea Scroll and Qumran – Texts, Index and Bibliography by Holseton

Qumran National Park

Pottery at Qumran by Jan Gunneweg

The Enigma of Qumran by Yaron Ben-Ami


Related Sites at

Qumran - Center for the Study of Early Christianity - translation of de Vaux's notes including description of finds in each of the 11 caves.  Excellent!

The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls - West Semitic Research Project

Inventory of Manuscripts from Qumran - includes a list of what scrolls were found in each cave.

Scrolls from the Dead Sea (Library of Congress)  The site for the Library of Congress Exhibition from which the Qumran Library stems.

Qumran Library (Library of Congress) Detailed descriptions and high resolution photos of the scrolls.

Artifacts from the Qumran Site (Library of Congress) Excellent description and photos of archaeological discoveries at Qumran.

The Orion Center for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)  The site for extensive research on the scrolls.  Includes publications, other resources, and a "cave tour."

Shrine of the Book (Israel Museum, Jerusalem)  A brief but informative explanation of the scrolls including a section on their restoration.

Qumran (Walking in Their Sandals)  Gives easy-to-read information on the location, biblical significance, etc.  Features links to photographs and on-line scripture references. 

Qumran (The Israeli Mosaic)   Contains informative sections on  the ruins of Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Dead Sea sect, and getting there.  Links throughout allow for in-depth study.

Qumran (Into His Own)  A brief, encyclopedia-type article with multiple links to related words and topics for further study.

Qumran (Christian Travel Study Program)  Limited text and photos. 

Qumran Controversy (Archaeology magazine)  Discusses the controversy surrounding the assumed Essene authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  (Published in 1997.)

Qumran: A Day in the Life (The Foundation for Biblical Archaeology)  A fictional story, written about a man whose name was actually mentioned in one of the scrolls, based on details of daily life taken from the scrolls and other relevant sources.

Qumran (Donald D. Binder, SMU)  An article focusing on the dwellings of the community at Qumran.

Qumran Library (ibiblio) Photos, descriptions, and translations for various scroll fragments, including Psalms, phylactery, Community Rule, Calendrical Document, Enoch, Hosea Commentary, Leviticus, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, Damascus Document, and War Rule.

The Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran (Goodnews Christian Ministry)  A lengthy article dedicated primarily to the identity of the Essenes.

Qumran (Personal Page, by Melody Warren)  Describes in detail both Qumran and the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Qumran (Personal Page, by Lewis Hill)  The travel experiences of another visitor.

Qumran (United Travel)  A brief paragraph with photo. 

Qumran Science (Hebrew University)  Numerous scientific reports by Dr. Jan Gunneweg to determine date and identity of the inhabitants of the site and the caves.  Some material is unavailable online until it is published.


The Shroud of Turin


Did boy Jesus look like this? - Forensic experts use computer images from Shroud of Turin to guess age 12 – December 24, 2004
World Net Daily - What did Jesus Christ of Nazareth look like as a boy?


Computer-generated sketch of boy Jesus based on Shroud of Turin (courtesy Retequattro-Mediaset)


While no one knows for certain, forensic experts are now using computer images from the Shroud of Turin along with historical data and other ancient images to make an educated guess. In a documentary called "Jesus' Childhood" airing Sunday night on the Italian TV station Retequattro of the Mediaset Group, police artists use the same "aging" technology employed when searching for missing persons and criminals. "In this case the experts went backwards. Now we have a hypothesis on how the man of the shroud might have looked at the age of 12," Mediaset said in a statement. "While some features, such as the color of the eyes and the hair's length, cut and color, are arbitrary, others come directly from the face impressed on the shroud."


The group points out the facial proportions between the nose and eyebrow, as well as the shape of the jaw are identical to those on the shroud, which is a piece of linen some believe to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus after he was crucified. The resulting image shows a fair-skinned child with blond, wavy hair and dark eyes. "We made a rigorous effort based on the Shroud of Turin, but it's clear that the data at our disposal were limited," police official Carlo Bui told the Italian paper Corriere della Sera. "Let's say we have made an excellent hypothesis."

The Bible itself gives little information as to the specifics of what Jesus looked like during his ministry.


It does say he was a descendant of King David, who may have been fair-skinned with a reddish tint to his face and hair. The Old Testament notes David as a youth "was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." (I Samuel 16:12) Others have argued Jesus was more olive or dark-skinned being from the Middle East. The book of Isaiah gives what many believe to be a prophecy about Jesus' appearance as a human being, noting there wouldn't be any features out of the ordinary:


"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2)


When asked by Discovery News about the latest computer-generated image, Prof. James Charlesworth, an expert on Jesus research and the Gospel of John at Princeton Theological Seminary, said, "Too many Christians look down the well of history, seeking to see Jesus' face, and see the reflection of their own image. Those who follow Jesus find him attractive and thence always tend to portray him as a very attractive male, as in this new image."  "It shows clearly an Aryan Jesus, just like the Nazis proclaimed. Jesus was a Jew, looked like a Jew, and followed Jewish customs," he said.


As WorldNetDaily previously reported, the Shroud of Turin itself has been mired in controversy for centuries, with some maintaining the image on the linen is that of the crucified Jesus, while others reject it as an elaborate hoax. In the 1980s, three international laboratories were selected to run the newly refined accelerated mass spectrometry (AMS) method of carbon dating on the shroud, to help determine its time of origin. The labs, including one at the University of Arizona at Tucson, all concurred the shroud was dated 1260-1390 AD.


But many have since questioned the reliability of the carbon-dating process which fixed that time period. In 2000, millions of people turned out to view the controversial fabric during a rare public display. The New Testament does refer to linens in connection with Jesus' burial, recounted when Jesus' disciples went to his tomb:

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. (John 20:3-7)


While some think the "napkin" that was on Jesus' head casts doubt on the whole shroud theory, others believe it helps validate the shroud as authentic. A relic called the Sudarium of Oviedo is claimed by some to be the actual cloth around Jesus' head. The cloth is impregnated with blood and lymph stains that match the blood type on the Shroud of Turin. The pattern and measurements of stains indicate the placement of the cloth over the face. Juan Ignacio Moreno, a Spanish magistrate based in Burgos, Spain, asks a critical question: "The scientific and medical studies on the Sudarium prove that it was the covering for the same man whose image is [on] the Shroud of Turin. We know that the Sudarium has been in Spain since the 600s. How, then, can the radio carbon dating claiming the shroud is only from the 13th century be accurate?" (Article in Full)


The Shroud Of Turin's Second Image - New Evidence Reopens Debate About Controversial Relic – December 16, 2004
Christianity Today - The shroud of Turin was widely dismissed as a medieval forgery after radiocarbon tests in 1988 dated it to the 13th or 14th century. Now a growing body of evidence is calling for reassessment of the shroud, which is kept in Turin, Italy.


The latest item comes from the London-based Journal of Optics, published by the Institute of Physics. Two scientists from the University of Padua, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, report in the journal's April edition the discovery of a heretofore-undetected reverse image on the shroud. They say the smaller, fainter image on the back of the cloth depicts just the face and hands. And it's a superficial image, adhering only to the outermost fibers, just like the image on the front. "It is extremely difficult to make a fake with these features," Fanti writes.


The fact that their study was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal is significant and "a step in the right direction", says Barrie Schwortz, editor of This is one of the most comprehensive of the many websites devoted to the phenomenon. Schwortz, who is Jewish, was a shroud skeptic until he served as a photographer for the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). The five-day project was the most intensive investigation in the history of the image. Besides providing the first public viewing of the media age, the project reinforced the shroud's cachet as a truly unique religious icon.


But then, 10 years later, came the much-heralded carbon-14 tests, confirmed by three laboratories, dating the cloth to the Middle Ages. "It was like dropping an h-bomb, and seeing how long it takes life to come back," says Gary Habermas, chair of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University, who has coauthored two books on the shroud. Science vs. Science While most people concluded the shroud had been discredited, some significant questions have been raised. One of the main questions was whether the samples chosen came from an area of the shroud that was repaired. "What if we can prove that the carbon dating didn't sample the original shroud but a rewoven area?" Schwortz asks. He is awaiting word from another scientific journal, which is currently reviewing a paper on a chemical analysis by a sturp colleague. That colleague, Raymond Rogers, a retired fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, claims the carbon-14 tests were done on a dyed piece of medieval-era linen and cotton. He theorizes the cloth came from an undocumented repair of the shroud. On April 9, 2004, National Geographic suggested that the test samples came from a patch repaired during the Middle Ages. "It's a case of science vs. science, not faith vs. science," Habermas says. But until they're officially discredited, he says the carbon-14 tests are still the most powerful objection to the validity of the shroud.


Paul Maier, a professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and an expert on early Christianity, says, "The paper trail doesn't go back far enough." The specific history of the shroud goes back only to the 14th century. "I tend to think something as important as this would've had more attestation [because] the early church was interested in hard objects [connected to the faith]." Habermas still has doubts about the shroud. But he counters that there are a half-dozen images of Jesus on coins and paintings dating to around the sixth century that bear a remarkable congruency to the face on the shroud.


Some researchers have linked the shroud with reports of an image of Christ discovered hidden in the city walls of the Turkish city of Edessa in the sixth century. The image reportedly was later taken to Constantinople, where it disappeared in 1204. Pollen from plants native to Turkey and Israel turned up on pieces of sticky tape that the late Swiss criminologist Max Frei had pressed onto the shroud. In recent years two Israeli scientists, Hebrew University botanist Avinoam Danin and Israel Antiquities Authority pollenologist Uri Baruch, said they confirmed Frei's pollen evidence. Danin also claimed to have found images of flowers, unique to Israel, in the shroud.


Quality Material


Since sturp, the closest examination of the shroud occurred in 2002. A Swiss textile expert, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, remounted the shroud. She replaced a backing dating from 1534. Flury-Lemberg said she discovered a stitching pattern on the shroud similar to the hem of a cloth found in first-century Jewish tombs at Masada. She said the weave's three-to-one herringbone pattern was authentic for a first-century cloth of unusually fine quality.


Two Israeli archaeologists announced in 1997 that they believed the shroud could not be 2,000 years old because a garment could not last intact for 20 centuries (ct, Oct. 27, 1997, p. 100). About three years later, however, archaeologist Shimon Gibson discovered shroud-wrapped remains in a tomb in Jerusalem's Hinnom Valley. Although this shroud was in tatters, it was submitted to one of the same laboratories that handled the Turin shroud. Scientists dated Gibson's shroud to the first half of the first century, making the tomb occupant a contemporary of Jesus.


Gibson's discovery was largely unheralded. But late last year Gibson released the results of the tests, which showed the tomb occupant had died of Hansen's disease. The shroud had covered the oldest confirmed remains of a leprosy victim. Like Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, the shroud opens a window into the hearts of those who view it. "There is only one person it could've wrapped, even though science could never prove who it wrapped," Schwortz says. "The biggest irony of my life is that I spend most of my time trying to convince Christians that the shroud is authentic. God does have a great sense of humor."

Gordon Govier is the host and executive producer of The Book & the Spade, a weekly radio program focusing on biblical archaeology. (Article)


Related stories:

Evidence favors Shroud of Turin as real thing

Scientists: Relic authenticates Shroud of Turin



Thanks to December Newsletter for Insight into 2004



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