You’ve probably been seeing this making the rounds in the news.
A lost Syriac manuscript that depicts Jesus and Mary Magdalene?
In a word:
Robert Cargill sums it all up as good as I could myself here. Read his review, and then you honestly won’t have to read the book. In fact, just read the following paragraph. It sums it up perfectly:
The text in question is neither “lost” nor a “gospel”, and the allegorical reading of the Syriac version of Joseph and Aseneth is little more than a wishful hope that it would be so, employing little more than name substitution and a desire to prove The DaVinci Code true. Absolutely no scholar will take this book seriously. It will not change Christianity. It will not change biblical scholarship. It’s just Simcha doing what he does best: direct-to-the-public pseudoscholarship just in time for Christmas.
I fear that I must own up to this little piece of satire as it is my own casual observation that birthed it. 🙂
Critical commentary on this particular instance will follow at some later date, but for plenty of prior discussion, please feel free to browse my blog archives.
UPDATE Oct 14: Quite conveniently, Christian Brady over at Targuman posted an interesting entry about satire. As I employ quite a bit of satire on my blog here as an illustrative tool (…and I admit enjoyable) I feel it’s a good read given recent postings. 🙂
I also believe that there is an important line to draw between satire, and simple mockery or ridicule. The former acts as a statement of criticism often showing where something may be improved, where the latter two on their own may simply be malicious.
It’s the difference between criticizing someone with a bit of humor to illustrate one’s point vs. a bully at a playground making fun of another kid because it makes them feel good. Satire’s purpose is to fuel conversation where simple mockery or ridicule’s purpose is to squelch it.
I generally make satirical memes as a means to illustrate problems and stimulate further the debate about things that happen in the academic world. In the age of Facebook and other social media — riding upon the very same mechanism that spreads pictures of LOL-cats at lightning speed — there are fewer methods that move as quickly to prompt discussion as visual vignettes that point out poignant problems in an entertaining manner. 🙂
Food for thought.
UPDATE Dec 29: HT to Antonio Kuilan on Facebook:
Neil DeGrasse Tyson‘s watermelon bid (which is larger and more threatening). Since he’s an actual Astrophysicist, however, he might know what he’s talking about. 😉
If anyone has any further “academic watermelon memes,” I will be happy to post them here.
UPDATE Jan 7 2014: The first watermelon of the year, that has upped the ante.
Pat Robertson seems to be doing… something to his invisible watermelon. I’m honestly not sure what to say.
I’ve taken the time to further illustrate the First Replica next to the Second as well as what I’ve been able to trace from the photographs of the genuine ossuary. Click to enlarge to see the notes.
The first replica does well at reproducing some very strong visual elements of the original ossuary that are very prominent without knowledge of the alleged script. These are features that anyone would notice at a glance, simply because of the pattern the lines make: The prominent “V” shape between the “he” and the “nun” as well as the prominent “lens” shape between the “yod” and the “waw” as well as the “tav tail” on the “he.”
The second replica destroys and filters these features, instead leaning towards forms that better express “Jonah” with little ambiguity.
Additionally, on the first replica, the supposed “nun” is so very widely broken that there is no way to read it as one scratch. It also has some of the “minor” scratches that were prominent.
Among additional interesting note is that “Jonah” is not as easily read on the first replica, but the first replica has fish in the margins where the second replica has an easy-to-read “Jonah” but no fish in the margins.
It seems as if the props Jacobovici uses change to suit the mood. 🙂
IMPORTANT NOTE: “Original Photos” refers to the actual ossuary, not the first replica. Image updated to version 1.1 with less ambiguous language.
UPDATE Sep 18:
|Second replica in red, James Tabor’s “yellow inked” outline in yellow.
As pointed out by several others, an examination of the “yellow-lined” version of “Jonah” offered up by James Tabor is not identical to the form found on the second replica, however it does share some interesting features.
- The serifed, disconnected “yod.”
- The oddly double-curved “waw.”
- The connected & exaggerated “Nun.”
- The “broken” “he.”
Curious, the similarities, including lines that aren’t there.
“Acting like an enforcer, Professor Cargill has assured us that by next week Puech will recant everything.”
– Simcha Jacobovici
So yes, Simcha Jacobovici is once again crying foul
after bamboozling a scholar to seemingly endorse his ridiculous theories, when in truth they did not and is trying to lay the blame squarely upon the shoulders of Professor Robert Cargill.
Since I am content in my little bit of satire of Simcha’s overly-dramatic sweeping declarations, apparently elevating Bob to the status of Dirty Harry
, I will simply link to the pertinent exposition and critical commentary:
UPDATE: Mark Goodacre over on the NT Blog has brought to light that the “Museum Quality Replica” of the so-called “Jonah Ossuary” has been given a facelift in light of criticism and the shifting claims of Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor. Strangely enough in Replica 2 the inscription that supposedly says “Jonah” is almost too clear compared to the order of scratches on the first replica (which don’t connect certain “letters”), and more importantly the mess of scratches in the actual photographs of the genuine ossuary.
(This second replica’s all-too-clean inscription, by the way, was what Professor Puech was apparently basing his reading off of.)
Curiouser and curiouser. I wonder what Jacobovici has to say about this?
I have to say that I am disgusted.
It’s all fun and games to have a replica made to show off to the press. Seriously. People enjoy that kind of thing. *I* enjoy that kind of thing.
However, it’s another issue entirely to call something a “replica” that’s demonstrably not faithful or accurate to the original, revise it without noting the changes after criticism has mounted so that it looks more like what you’re trying to prove, and then use that altered representation to apparently deceive someone prominent like Puech.
It’s even a further ethical failure, in my opinion, to then turn around and use that person’s opinion (which one can assume has been misinformed due to the altered inscription; think GIGO) as propaganda for one’s own “crackpot” theories.
I’m with Mark on this one. I believe that Simcha owes not just Prof. Puech, but everyone involved thus far an overdue apology for these tactics.