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Commentary on recent archaeological discoveries, current issues bearing on the historical reliability of Scripture and other relevant news concerning the Bible.

One day a friend sent me an invitation to a church meeting and asked me if I knew anything about the subject. On the flyer was a picture of a human skeleton with crooked teeth and a rock embedded in his forehead. The title above the skull read: 'They've Found Goliath's Skull!' Needless to say, that caught my attention...

On Monday morning, February 26, 2007, I heard this opening statement by Matt Lauer on the NBC Today show: "Is this the tomb of Jesus? A shocking new claim that an ancient burial place may have housed the bones of Christ and a son. This morning a Today exclusive that could rock Christianity to its core." When I saw the interview with James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici I said to myself, "This isn’t new. It is a rehashing of the 1996 'Easter special' by the BBC!"

The segment on the Today show was an infomercial promoting the new book by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, entitled The Jesus Family Tomb (hereafter footnoted as J&P 2007), and the documentary that would be aired later on the Discovery Channel called "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." The book is well written, very dramatic, and reads like a page-turning detective novel.

I said in the title of this article, the "rediscovery" of the so-called tomb of Jesus' family because in 1996, the BBC ran an Easter special called "Heart of the Matter: The Body In Question" on the resurrection of Jesus. In this documentary they claimed that the ossuaries of Joseph, Mary and Jesus were found in 1980 and were sitting in the basement of the Department of Antiquities in Jerusalem. The London Sunday Times ran an article on March 31, 1996, entitled, "The Tomb that Dare Not Speak Its Name." Jacobovici acknowledges this BBC broadcast in their book (J&P 2007:23, 24), and hints at his knowledge of the title of the newspaper article (J&P 2007: 194). Now he claims to have more information that was not available in 1996 to prove his case, and has a different interpretation of some of the ossuaries.

In the Forward to the book, James Cameron describes the research as being done with "systematic rigor" (J&P 2007: viii), and called it "brilliant scholarly research" with conclusions that were "virtually irrefutable," "compelling," and "extremely convincing" (2007: xi, xii, xiv). Is this the case, or is Cameron overstating his case?

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Simcha Jacobovici in Jerusalem during the summer of 2005 while he was filming a segment of "The Naked Archaeologist" at the Pool of Siloam. (He wasn’t naked, nor is he an archaeologist. By his own admission, he is an investigative journalist / filmmaker.) One cannot help but like the guy. He has a charming personality and is a very colorful character with plenty of chutzpah! These comments are meant as a compliment.

The underlying premise of the book and documentary is that the family tomb of Jesus was discovered in Jerusalem and contained ten ossuaries (bone boxes) with bones of various members of Jesus' family, including Jesus himself and his son Judah. The other members of the family were Jesus' brother Jose; his mother Mary; Jesus’ wife Mariamene, who was actually Mary Magdalene; and another relative named Matthew. The book also claims that one ossuary went missing after the excavation and later surfaced on the antiquities market with the inscription, "James the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus," so at least two of Jesus' brothers would have been buried in this family tomb.

The implication of the book and documentary is that Jesus was not resurrected from the dead as predicted by Jesus himself, and proclaimed by His disciples and the early church. They also make very subtle statements that plant seeds of doubts in the minds of the readers about the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The stakes are high in this discussion because the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus is a foundational truth to Biblical Christianity. If Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, this would rock Christianity to its very foundation. On the other hand, if the Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, then His claim to be God manifest in human flesh would be true, and people should trust the Lord Jesus as their Savior and then follow Him as they seek to live by His principles and teachings.

The Discovery of the Ossuaries

In June of 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunified after the Six Day War. Since then there has been extensive building activity in the suburbs surrounding Jerusalem. On occasion, building contractors would come across ancient burials of the First and Second Temple periods and other archaeological remains. The contractors had a decision to make: Do the burials and other archaeological remains get reported to the Department of Antiquities, or do they get blown up or plowed under? Unfortunately, many were not reported and were destroyed.

In March of 1980, a bulldozer exposed part of a Second Temple burial cave on Dov Gruner Street in the neighborhood of East Talpiyot, south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Fortunately, this one was reported to the Department of Antiquities and a salvage excavation took place. A double-chambered loculi and arcosolia tomb was excavated by Yosef Gath (permit number 938), with the help of Amos Kloner and Eliot Braun. Shimon Gibson drew the architectural plans of the burial cave. This excavation was conducted from March 28 to April 14, 1980. The reason for the lengthy excavation was that there was over a meter of terra rosa soil in the tomb. This burial cave contained ten ossuaries, six of which had inscriptions bearing the names of individuals on them, and pottery from the Herodian period.

An initial report of this important discovery was first published in Hebrew by Yosef Gath in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) periodical, Hadashot Arkheologiyot (1981: 24-25), so it was not readily available to the English-speaking world. The ossuaries were not published in English until a catalogue of ossuaries in the collection of the State of Israel was released in 1994 (Rahmani 1994a: 222-224). In this catalogue, the nine ossuaries are numbered 701 to 709; the 10th ossuary, a plain broken one, was not published (1994a: 222b). The burial cave was finally published in English by Amos Kloner, one of the excavators of the cave, in the IAA publication ‘Atiqot 29 (1996) 15-22. Kloner also documented the tomb in his archaeological survey of the southern sector of Jerusalem (2000: 84*, 136; designated [106] 76.2-8/3). In a reworking and updating of his 1980 doctoral dissertation from Hebrew University, Kloner again published the Talpiyot tomb in a book entitled The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, this time in Hebrew (Kloner and Boaz 2003: 207, 208).

Ossuaries and Secondary Burials

During the Second Temple period, Jewish burials included stone objects called ossuaries. These limestone boxes contained the bones of a deceased person after the rite of secondary burial was completed, about a year after the death of the individual (Rahmani 1994b: 191-205). In the newspaper articles and blogs concerning the Talpiyot tomb, sometimes the ossuaries are called coffins, chests, caskets, etc. This article will refer to them by their technical name, ossuaries.

It would be helpful if the Jewish burial practices were described in order to put this discussion into proper perspective. When a Jewish person died during the 1st century AD, they were usually buried in a rock-hewn tomb or a trench in the ground before sundown, or at least within 24 hours of death. The only exception was the Sabbath: in this case, burial took place after sundown.

The dead body would be left to decompose. The family would have a seven-day period of mourning called shiva. The initial mourning period was followed by a less intense period of mourning for thirty days called shloshim. However, the entire mourning period was not over until the body had decomposed, usually about a year later. The Jerusalem Talmud states: “When the flesh had wasted away, the bones were collected and placed in chests (ossuaries). On that day (the son) mourned, but the following day he was glad, because his forebears rested from judgment (Moed Qatan 1:5). In Tractate Semahot (“Mourning”) it states: “Rabbi Eleazer bar Zadok said: ‘Thus spoke father at the time of his death: “My son, bury me at first in a fosse. In the course of time, collect my bones and put them in an ossuary; but do not gather them with your own hands”’” (12:9; Zlotnick 1966:82). This practice of gathering the bones and placing them in ossuaries was called ossilegium (Rahmani 1994b: 53-55).

The Ossuaries of the East Talpiyot Tomb

Ten ossuaries were found in the Talpiyot tomb, six of which had inscriptions. Let us examine the six inscriptions. The first ossuary was given the registration number IAA 80-500 by the Department of Antiquities. Rahmani listed it as 701 in his catalogue of ossuaries in the State of Israel collection (1994a: 222b, 223a). This ossuary was decorated and had an inscription in Greek with the name “Mariamene, who is (also called) Mara” on it (Rahmani 1994a: 222b). Kloner points out: “The name Mariamene [is] a variant of the name...(Miriam, Maryam) and...(Marya). [This name] is inscribed on more than twenty ossuaries in the Israel State Collections” (Rahmani 1994: 14, 115-116). These names “are the most common feminine names of the Second Temple period” (Hachlili 1984: 189). Ilan states that Mariam is used 80 times (2002: 242-248). Mara, a contraction of Martha, is used as a second name. This name too “is common in the Jewish feminine onomasticon” (1996: 17). Mara is recorded eight times in the onomasticon of names (Ilan 2002: 422, 423, 450).

The second ossuary, IAA 80.501 (Rahmani’s 702; 1994a: 223a), was also decorated and had the name “Yehuda, son of Yeshua” on it. In English, it would read “Judah the son of Jesus.” Kloner again points out: “The name Yehuda (Judas) is the third most popular name in the Jewish onomasticon of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In a study of 1,986 names of the Hellenistic and Roman period, conducted by T. Ilan, 128 persons were found to bear this name (Ilan 1987:238)” (1996: 18a). She later enlarged her list to 180 names (Ilan 2002: 112-125, 449). Kloner goes on to discuss the name Yeshua, or Jesus. He states that this name is “a derivative of Yehoshua (Joshua)...Yehoshua/Yeshua is the sixth most common name used during the Hellenistic and Roman periods in Eretz Israel, borne by 71 of the individuals studied by Ilan” (1996: 18a). Ilan later came up with a total of 104 names (2002: 126-133, 449).

The third ossuary, IAA 80.502 (Rahmani’s 703; 1994a: 223a), was a plain ossuary with the name “Matya” inscribed on the outside of the ossuary. On the inside of the ossuary, the name “Mat(y)a” is scratched. Both names are shortened forms of the name Matityahu, or Matthew (Kloner 1996: 18). In Ilan’s list of Jewish names, 46 males were identified with this name (1987: 238).

The next ossuary, IAA 80-504 (Rahmani’s 704; 1994a: 223), a plain limestone box with an Aramaic inscription, was the one that caused a sensation. Dr. Rahmani described it in these terms: “The first name, preceded by a large cross-mark, is difficult to read, as the incisions are clumsily carved and badly scratched. There seems to be a vertical stroke representing a yod, followed by a shin; the vav merges with the right stroke of the ‘ayin. The reading ‘Yeshua’ is corroborated by the inscription on No. 702 referring to Yeshua, the father of Yehuda” (1994a: 223). Kloner comments: “The first name following the X mark is difficult to read. In contrast to other ossuaries in this tomb, the incisions are here superficial and cursorily carved. Each of the four letters suggesting “Yeshua” is unclear, but the reading is corroborated by the inscription on Ossuary 2, above (Rahmani 1994: 223)” (1996: 18b). Both Rahmani and Kloner agree that the reading of this inscription is very difficult. In fact, both place a question mark after the translation of Yeshua. Others have suggested that the name be read Hanun. Interestingly, there was another ossuary in the State of Israel collection that has a clear inscription saying “Jesus the son of Joseph” (Rahmani 1994a: 77; no. 9). This ossuary, however, was unprovenanced (Sukenik 1931: 19).

The fifth ossuary, IAA 80-504 (Rahmani’s 705; 1994a: 223b), is another plain ossuary with the name “Yose” on it. Kloner observes: “Yose is a contraction of Yehosef (Joseph), the second most common name in the Second Temple period (Ilan 1987: 238; see Hachlili 1984: 188-190). [Simon / Simeon is the most popular name]. Ilan has recorded 232 individuals with this name (2002: 150-168, 449). Some 35% of all known Jewish males of the Hellenistic and Roman periods in Eretz Israel bore “Hasmonean” names: Matthew (Ossuary 3, above), John, Simon, Judas (Ossuaries 2 and 4, above), Eleazar, and Jonathan. Joseph was the sixth brother in the family (2 Maccabbees 8:22), and the similar popularity of this name may be explained by this fact (Ilan 1987: 2 40-241)” (1996:19).

The last inscribed ossuary, IAA 80-505 (Rahmani’s 706; 1994a:223b, 224a), was a plain limestone one and bore the name “Marya”.

The next three ossuaries that were published were uninscribed. Each had rosettes on them, and one of them had mason's marks (IAA 80-506, Rahamni’s 707; 1994a: 224a, Plate 101; Kloner 1996: 20; IAA 80-507, Rahmani’s 708; 1994a: 224a, Plate 101; Kloner 1996: 20; IAA 80-508, Rahmani’s 709; 1994a: 224a, Plate 101; Kloner 1996: 21). The tenth ossuary, IAA 80-509, is just labeled “plain” (Kloner 1996: 21). Rahmani states that it was a “plain, broken specimen” but does not list it in his catalogue (1994a: 222b).

Dr. Rahmani cautiously draws the conclusion that the ossuary of Yose (No. 705) “with that of Marya on No. 706, both from the same tomb, may indicate that these are the ossuaries of the parents of Yeshua (No. 704) and the grandparents of Yehuda (No. 702)” (1994a: 223). Is Dr. Rahmani justified in trying to assume Marya (Mary) was the wife of Yose (Joseph)? Simcha follows Tabor’s suggestion that the Yose ossuary held the bones of Jose, the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; J&P 2007: 65, 77). On their website Cameron and Jacobovici initially claimed: “An incredible archaeological discovery in Israel changes history and shocks the world. Tombs with the names the Virgin Mary, Jesus of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene and Judah, their son, are found and an investigation begins.” Are these claims justified?

Are These the Ossuaries of the Lord Jesus and His Family?

The simple answer to the question is NO! None of the ossuaries say “the Virgin Mary,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” “Mary Magdalene,” or “Judah, their son.” The filmmakers are reading more into the names than appear on the ossuaries. In all fairness to them, the website was later modified. Jose is identified as the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; J&P 2007: 65, 204). Matya is identified as either the gospel writer (2007: 62), or a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus (2007: 78). The fact that these names appear together is purely coincidental. The names of Joseph, Mary and Yeshua (Jesus) were common names of Jewish people living during the Second Temple Period.

I am always leery of people saying, “I am not biased in my thinking, I have an open mind and will follow the truth wherever it leads.” Everybody, without exception, has biases and presuppositions in their thinking. The perspective of the book and documentary is that Jesus' bones were reburied in an ossuary in the Talpiyot tomb and he was not bodily resurrected from the dead. They do, however, allow for a “spiritual ascension” (whatever that means) (2007: 71, 137). My perspective (bias, if you will), on the other hand, is that the Lord Jesus Christ is God manifest in human flesh and that He died on Calvary’s cross to pay for sin, and three days later His body was resurrected from the tomb just outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Now that all the cards are on the table, let’s begin the critique.

Charles Pellegrino suggests that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. He quotes from the account in Matthew's gospel (27:61-66) and says that the “writer of Matthew was not familiar with the mechanics of secondary burial” (2007: 72). Quite the contrary, as Byron McCane has pointed out, Jesus was very familiar with secondary burials when He rebuked His disciple with the statement, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:21, 22; McCane 1990: 31-43).

Pellegrino also suggests a scenario whereby the disciples hid in the tomb during the Sabbath and then removed the body after sunset, but before the soldiers were posted at the tomb (2007: 73). This does not account for the fact that the disciples were scared for their lives. When the soldiers came at Gethsemane, they fled (Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50). After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples at evening. John records that “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews” (20:19). Yet the demeanor of the disciples changed dramatically after the giving of the Holy Spirit on Shavuot (the Day of Pentecost) in Acts 2. They boldly proclaimed the message of the bodily resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ. If they had stolen the body of Jesus, why would they preach a lie? And more than that, why would they die for a lie?

Pellegrino also wrote to Father Mervyn Fernando in Sri Lanka and asked him a hypothetical question. “What if archaeologists actually found, say bones and DNA of Jesus? Would a discovery such as this necessarily contradict what Christians believe about the Resurrection story?” (J&P 2007: 73). Father Fernando responded by calling Pellegrino’s attention to First Corinthians 15:35 and following, and saying, in part, “That is, the risen body of Christ (as understood by the apostle Paul) is a spiritual one, not the material / physical one he had in this life. That physical body would have perished, and if any part of it (bones) are recovered/identified, it would in no way affect the reality of His resurrection” (2007: 74). The reference to the spiritual body is found in verses 44 and 46. The verse say believers in the Lord Jesus will get a spiritual body, one that will be raised in incorruption, glory and power (15:42-44).

What does Jesus Himself say about that 'spiritual' body? After His bodily resurrection, He appeared to His disciples out of thin air. This spooked them and they thought they had seen a spirit (Luke 24:36, 37). Jesus tries to reassure them by saying, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (24:38, 39). He then went on to eat fish and honeycomb! (24:41-43). When Peter and John looked into the tomb, it was empty, except for the grave cloths and handkerchief that was neatly folded on the bench of the tomb (Luke 24:12; John 20:3-8). Note specifically Jesus said He had flesh and bones. There was no decaying of the flesh, nor would there be bones left in the tomb to be collected a year later and placed in an ossuary.

According to early tradition, Joseph was buried in Nazareth (Bagatti 1969: 12; Kopp 1963: 64-66), possibly the “tomb of the saints” on the property of the Sisters of Nazareth (Livio 1990: 28). The fact that Jesus and his family were “poor” does not necessarily mean they could not have been buried in a rock-hewn tomb. Joseph was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). Some have suggested that the word “carpenter” also included the craft of stone masonry. If that is the case, Joseph could have carved out the family tomb at no cost to himself. Early tradition also places Mary’s burial in Nazareth (Kopp 1963: 65, 66). However, there is a 5th century AD tradition that places her tomb in the Kidron Valley near Gethsemane (Strome 1972: 86-90). There are some who doubt the historical accuracy of this tradition (Taylor 1993: 205, 206). A much later tradition places the burial of Mary in Ephesus in present day Turkey (Meinardus 1979: 113-117). The house where she allegedly resided was located on the mountain south of the city of Ephesus. The location of this house was supposedly revealed to Sister Catherine Emmerich in a vision (1774-1824). The name of this nun might ring a bell in some peoples mind because she was the source for some of the unbiblical scenes and events depicted in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ.”

In Dr. Rahmani’s catalogue of ossuaries, he observed that: “In Jerusalem’s tombs, the deceased’s place of origin was noted when someone from outside Jerusalem and its environs was interred in a local tomb. Thus, Bet She’an-Scythopolis is mentioned in a bilingual inscription (No. 139), Berenike (No. 404) and Ptolemais (No. 99), both probably cities in Cyrenaica, each occur once” (1994: 17). This last ossuary (No. 99) was originally published by Prof. Nahman Avigad which was in a collection of ossuaries that were discovered in a tomb in the Kidron Valley on November 10, 1941 and excavated by Prof. E. L. Sukenik. There were eleven plain ossuaries that did not have any decorations on them, but all had inscriptions with the names of the individuals that were reburied in the ossuary. Two of the ossuaries had place names of where the individual was from. Avigad concluded that the “family must have come from one of the large Jewish communities of the Diaspora–Egypt or Cyrenaica...Cyrenaica is more likely to have been the country of origin of this family. Its members belonged apparently to the community of Cyrenian Jews which is known to have existed in Jerusalem in the time of the Second Temple. In the New Testament mention is made of their synagogue (Acts 6:9)” (1962: 12). In the Dominus Flavit necropolis another Cyrenian named Pilon was buried with a Greek inscription on his ossuary (Bagatti and Milik 1981: 81, 91; Fig. 23, no. 3).

Since Jesus and His family were from Nazareth in Lower Galilee and not Jerusalem in Judea, one would expect a place of origin after the name of the deceased. For example, Jesus of Nazareth, Jose of Nazareth, Matthew of Capernaum, Mary of Nazareth, Mariamene of Magdala, and Judah son of Yeshua from Nazareth. No place of origin is given on any of the ossuaries, which indicates that were all Jerusalemites from Judea.

Is Dr. Rahmani justified in saying Mary and Joseph were husband and wife? Sometimes inscriptions on the ossuaries tell the relationship between people, i.e. son of, daughter of, husband of, or wife of, etc. In the case of Marya, there is no relationship indicator, so we do not know if she was the mother, wife, sister, aunt or daughter of Joseph, Yeshua, Yehuda, one of the three skulls on the floor, or someone in the uninscribed ossuaries.

The ossuary containing the bones of “Yeshua” (704) could not be that of Jesus of Nazareth for two reasons. First, the New Testament is very clear, Jesus bodily rose from the dead. Since His flesh did not see corruption (Ps. 16:8-11; Acts 2:25-32), there could be no need for an ossuary. Second, ossuary No. 702 contained the bones of “Yehuda, the son of Yeshua.” Apparently the Yeshua of ossuary No. 704 had a son named Yehuda. Again the Gospels are clear: Jesus never married and never had children (see J&P 2007: 105). Also, both Rahmani and Kloner have questions marks after the reading of the name Yeshua on the “Yeshua, son of Joseph” ossuary. Others have suggested the name actually read Hanun.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, one of the excavators, Amos Kloner, states: “It makes a great story for a TV film. But it's completely impossible. It's nonsense. There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb. They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot tomb belonged to a middle class family from the 1st century CE.“

Did the Mariamene Ossuary Contain the Bones of Mary Magdalene?

Simcha tries to argue, based on a conversation with Dr. Bovon of Harvard Divinity School, that Mary Magdalene was the Mariamne, the sister of Philip, in the 4th century Apocryapha book, the Acts of Philip (J&P 2007: 95-103). This Mariamne was the one whose bones were buried in the Talpiyot ossuary.

Dr. Richard Bauckham, a New Testament scholar, stated in a blog on the Internet: “There is no reason at all to connect the woman in this ossuary with Mary Magdalene, and in fact the name usage is decisively against such a connection.”

There is also a chronological problem concerning the “bones.” According to the scenario in the book, Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had a son Judah. That son was the “Beloved Disciple” at the Last Supper and the young boy who ran away naked from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51), who was about 10-13 years old (J&P 2007: 207-209). Assuming this is true for a minute, and assuming Jesus was crucified in AD 30, let’s crunch the numbers. Judah would have been born between AD 17 and AD 20. That would place the wedding of Jesus and Mary Magdalene between AD 16 and AD 19. Assuming Mary Magdalene was between 16 and 18 years of age when she got married, she would have been born between 1 BC and AD 4. Herein is the problem. According to the Acts of Philip (which the filmmakers believe is historically reliable), the event surrounding the martyrdom of Philip, the brother of Miriamne, takes place in the 8th year of Emperor Trajan (Roberts and Donaldson 1994: 8: 497). This would place the martyrdom about AD 104. Eusebius confirms the burial of Philip at Heirapolis and hints at a date around AD 100 (Ecclesiastical History 3. 31. 1-4; LCL 1: 269-271). If Mary Magdalene is the Miriamne in this account, she would be between 100 and 106 years of age when she proceeded to the Jordan [River] (Roberts and Donaldson 1994: 8: 503b).

Simcha assumes she died and was buried in Israel (J&P 2007: 102). If the Miriamene of the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene, more than likely she would have gone back to Galilee and her home town of Magdala, only a few miles from the Jordan River, not Jerusalem. There is also another chronological problem. Ossuaries ceased to be in use in Jerusalem after AD 70 (J&P 2007: 26; Rahmani 1994a: 21-25).

Simcha contends that the Romans would have executed all the heirs of anybody trying to establish a throne apart of the emperor in Rome (J&P 2007: 105, 106). In the case of Jesus, they would kill his wife and any children they might have. This scenario should raise some serious questions for Simcha’s contention. If Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus, why was she not executed on the spot? After all, she was at the cross when He died (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). If one believes that Miriamne of the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene, she would have lived for at least 75 more years, through the reign of a host of Roman emperors. Why did they not find her and have her executed? Simcha states that the Romans “were very good at hunting down sons, daughters and wives” (2007:106).

The bones of Mary Magdalene are not in the ossuary of Mariamene who is also called Mara. They belong to someone else.

Is “Judah, the son of Jesus” the “Beloved Son,” the “Beloved Disciple” and the young lad in Mark 14:51?

Simcha begins this chapter by correctly observing that: “In none of the Gospels, be they canonical or apocryphal, is Mary Magdalene – Miriamne – described as being married to Jesus. Nor is a child of Jesus ever mentioned” (J&P 2007: 105). He should have stopped at this point and gone on to the next chapter. Jesus was never married and never had a child with Mary Magdalene or any other woman. Yet Simcha insists, based on the ossuaries, that Jesus was married and had a child, so any reference to these “facts” must be in “code.”

According to Simcha, in order to hide the identity of “Judah, the son of Jesus” from the Romans, the disciples spoke in code. He speculates that Judah was really called the younger brother of Jesus named Judas (Mark 6:3). He goes on to speculate that this Judas was nicknamed “the twin” based on the Greek word “Didymos” and the Hebrew word “Te-om” (translated Thomas). This Judas was also the author of the Gospel of Thomas (2007: 106-108). In his “gospel” the Parable of the Vineyard Owner is given (Saying 65).

The parable of the vineyard owner (Mark 12:1-12) is misapplied in the book. They give a novel twist to this parable by saying it “could be referring to the fate that would have awaited any surviving son sent into the world by Jesus” (2007: 108). They acknowledge just before this statement, “Perhaps, as many have interpreted, the parable is describing his own death” (2007: 108).

Rather than “perhaps,” it would be better to say, this parable is talking about the death of the Lord Jesus. Mark records the reaction of those on the Temple Mount. “And they [the chief priests, the scribes and the elders (11:27)] sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away” (12:12). Some of the religious leaders were trying to eliminate the Lord Jesus, and not some imagined son.

In the parable, Mark records a statement about the son of the vineyard owner. “Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (12:6). It is important to note that the son is called “his beloved.” (The Gospel of Thomas leaves out the word “beloved”). The word “beloved” is used only three times in the Gospel of Mark. A careful reader of the Greek text of this gospel would remember the two previous occasions where the word is used. The first time the word is used is at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The voice from heaven [the Father] says, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (1:11). The second time is at the Transfiguration of Jesus where the same voice from heaven says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (9:7). The context of the first two usage is clear in Mark’s gospel, so the beloved son in the parable is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, not Judah.

Simcha states that the Gospel of John “harbors a deep secret.” He contends that the “beloved disciple” who leaned on Jesus’ chest was His own son Judah. His proof is a statement: “Unless your eating habits are very different from mine, at my dinner table only my kids cuddle with me and lean against my chest” (2007: 207). A personal analogy is not proof that Judah was the beloved disciple. One should put the event in the Gospel of John in its proper context. It was at a Passover Seder when the “beloved disciple” leans back on Jesus' chest while they are reclining during the meal. [Some translations use the word “sit”, but the Greek word is “recline”]. The disciple whom Jesus loved is none other than the Apostle John, the youngest of the disciples. He does not mention his own name when he wrote the gospel because he finally learned the lesson of humility that Jesus had been teaching.

The Apostle John does not draw attention to himself in the gospel he wrote, just like Dr. Luke does not mention his own name in the book of Acts. That is the same reason John Mark does not mention his own name when he describes the “young man” who runs away naked from Gethsemane (Mark 14:51, 52; J&P 2007: 207, 208). On the other hand, he might have been embarrassed to mention his name!

The speculation that “Judah, the son of Jesus” is the “Beloved Son,” the “beloved disciple”, or the young man in Mark 14 has no factual basis whatsoever.

Does the DNA Evidence Prove the Case?

The DNA evidence is presented as one of the smoking guns. The chapter on the DNA begins with the statement: “If these two ossuaries truly belong to Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene, DNA tests would reveal that the two people buried within were not related. All scriptural records – whether canonical or apocryphal – were clear on one genealogical point: Jesus of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene, if their DNA could be read, would be two individuals who had no family ties. But what are the alternatives? People in the same tomb were related by either blood or marriage” (J&P 2007: 167, 168, 207). I would agree with this statement, and as the mitochondrial DNA tests showed, the two were not related by blood (J&P 2007: 172, 207). But does that mean Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married to each other?

Mariamene in the ossuary could have been married to Yose, Matya, or Yehuda in the other ossuaries, one of the three skeletons that were discovered on the floor, if they were males, or someone in the uninscribed ossuaries. Or, for that matter, her husband might not have been buried in the tomb. Perhaps he died in a far-off land while he was on a business trip. Since there was no ketubah (marriage contract) found in the ossuary of Mariamene, or the name of her husband on the ossuary (Rahmani 1994a: 15a), the DNA tests prove nothing.

In an interview, Simcha was asked why he did not have the remains in the other ossuaries tested. His response was, “We’re not scientists. At the end of the day we can’t wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA. We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, ‘I’ve done my job as a journalist’” (Goodstein 2007: 10).

I think it is fair to say they did not take the story far enough. They got the results they wanted so they could say Jesus and Mary were not related by blood, so this proved, in their minds at least, that they were married. For their scenario, no further testing was needed. Perhaps with further DNA testing it would have been shown that “Judah, the son of Jesus” was not related to “Mariamene”, or that “Jesus, son of Joseph” was not related to “Maria.” The “James the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was not related to “Jesus, son of Joseph” or “Jose.” These results would have been devastating for their scenario, so why test any further? Leave well enough alone. This “smoking gun” fired a blank.

The Statistical Analysis

The second “smoking gun” of The Jesus Family Tomb is the statistical analysis. As we have already seen, the DNA gun was a blank with smokeless powder. As we shall see, the statistical analysis will fire a blank as well.

When doing statistical analysis, one must ask: “What are the assumptions being made?” The results are only as good as the information that is put into the computation.

The Cameron/Jacobovici/Pellegrino/Tabor team started with the assumption that Jesus was not bodily resurrected from the dead. They also assume that a poor Galilean family from Nazareth would buy a tomb in Jerusalem. One of the excavators described the burial cave this way: “It’s a good-sized tomb, carved with great care under the direction of someone not lacking funds” (J&P 2007: 9). Jesus recounted His economic status by saying: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). The also assume, based on their DNA “analysis,” that Jesus was married to Mariamene (a.k. Mary Magdalene). I do not believe they proved any of their assumptions, so their statistics are meaningless.

James Tabor gave an interesting, but flawed, analogy on his website. He said: “Imagine a football stadium filled with 50,000 people – men, women, and children. This is an average estimate of the population of ancient Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. If we ask all the males named Jesus to stand, based on the frequency of that name, we would expect 2,796 to rise. If we then ask all those with a father named Joseph to remain standing there would only be 351 left. If we further reduce this group by asking only those with a mother named Mary to remain standing we would get down to only 173. If we then ask only those of this group with a brother named Joseph only 23 are left. And finally, only of these the ones with a brother named James, there’s less than a 3/4 chance that even 1 person remains standing. Prof. Andre Feuerverger, of the University of Toronto, a highly regarded senior scholar in the field did the formal statistics for the Discovery project. His figure of probability came out to 1/600.”

There is one major problem with this analogy. Jesus would not have even been in the stadium! This analogy denies the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Did the “James Ossuary” Come from the Talpiyot Tomb?

Simcha likes to add a bit of conspiracy theory to the plot of his book. He suggested that the so-called “James Ossuary” originally came from the Talpiyot Tomb (S&P 2007: 92, 184-188, 209, 210). At the conclusion of some fancy tests in a crime lab in New York, Pellegrino concluded that when the James Ossuary was “compared to other patina samples from ossuaries found in the Jerusalem environment, the Talpiot tomb ossuaries exhibited a patina fingerprint or profile that matched the James ossuary and no other” (J&P 2007: 188). Simcha speculates that the 10th ossuary was misplaced or stolen after it left the site in Talpiyot and before it arrived at the Rockefeller Museum. If the 10th ossuary is in fact the “James Ossuary,” this would add immense credence to the idea that this is the Jesus family tomb.

Dr. Joe Zias, the chief anthropologist for the IAA in 1980, has stated in emails that he was the one who catalogued all ten of the ossuaries as they came to the Rockefeller Museum. Since it was a “plain” non-descript ossuary, it was placed in the courtyard of the museum.

Again, in the Jerusalem Post interview, Amos Kloner was asked about the alleged missing tenth ossuary. Kloner responded, “Nothing has disappeared. The 10th ossuary was on my list. The measurements were not the same (as the James Ossuary). It was plain (without an inscription). We had no room under our roofs for all the ossuaries, so unmarked ones were sometimes kept in the courtyard (of the Rockefeller Museum).”

It can be easily demonstrated that the “James Ossuary” and the tenth ossuary from Talpiyot are not one and the same ossuary. Ossuary 10 (IAA 80.509) was published by Kloner as “plain” with the dimension of 60 cm long; 26 cm wide; and 30 cm high (1996: 21). When the “James Ossuary” was first published, the dimensions were give as 50.5 cm long as the base and 56 cm long at the top; 25 cm wide; and 30.5 cm high (Lemaire 2002: 27, 28). When Simcha published his book, he gave the dimensions of the “James Ossuary” as 56.5 cm long; 26 cm wide; and 30.2 cm high (S&P 2007: 210). Simcha notes the 3.5 cm discrepancy on the length and dismisses the idea that the length changed when the ossuary broke en route to Toronto in 2002. He suggested, however, that in the initial measurement at the Rockefeller Museum, the numbers were rounded off and concludes that “the missing ossuary and the James ossuary may be one and the same after all” (2007: 91, 210).

Note how Simcha changes the numbers. The discrepancy in length is not 3.5 cm as stated by Simcha, but 4 cm if we take the original measurements by Dr. Lemaire. There is a 1 cm discrepancy on the width if we take Lemaire’s numbers. Instead of a 0.5 cm difference on the height, Simcha reduces it to 0.2 cm. Where Simcha got his numbers, we are not told, but it is obvious he is aware of the problem and is trying to marginalize the discrepancies.

It can be safely concluded, as Kloner has pointed out, that the 10th ossuary was never missing and is not the same as the so-called “James Ossuary.”

This ossuary still presents a problem for Simcha. According to Oded Golan, the owner of the ossuary, he purchased the ossuary in the mid-1970’s, several years before the Talpiyot tomb was excavated in 1980. These dates are important, because in 1978 a law was passed that allowed the state of Israel to confiscate any antiquities that they deemed important. That would include the James Ossuary.

Simcha can’t have his cake and eat it too. Either the James Ossuary was purchased in the mid-1970’s as Golan claims and he should be exonerated at his trial (if he did not forge the inscription), or it’s from the East Talpiyot tomb excavated in 1980 and Golan lied, thus giving him a one way ticket to jail.

Is There a Masonic Connection to this Tomb?

Jacobovici and Cameron try to add a Masonic connection to this tomb, perhaps trying to cash in on the popularity of the Da Vinci Code (J&P 2007: 123-134). The chapter entitled “Whence Came the Nazarenes” is pure speculation and has no cited documentation, so the reader cannot judge the validity of the claims.

The Three Skulls

There were three skulls found on the floor of the burial cave and mentioned several times in the early part of the book as being important. A discerning reader would most likely keep in the back of his/her mind thinking that they would play an important role later in the book (J&P 2007: 10, 11, 14). Sure enough, Simcha speculates that some of the Crusaders, or Knights Templars around the 12th century, entered the tomb and placed the three skulls in an “odd and clearly ceremonial configuration” (J&P 2007: 109, 123, 131). Gibson also had that impression, suggesting they formed a triangle pointing to the Temple Mount (2007: 15). Simcha asks if it is possible that these are the skulls of Templar leaders that were honored by being buried in the tomb of Jesus (2007: 132).

The three skulls are clearly marked on Shimon’s drawing (J&P 2007: Plate 1, facing page 110). However, only one skull appears in Kloner’s publications (1996: 15; 2003: 208). A much more plausible explanation is that these three skulls were on the shelf of the two arcosolias and rolled off during seismic activity in the area. Two of the skulls are just below the arcosolias and the other might have rolled across the floor.

There were more than three skulls associated with the tomb. Simcha tells the story of children in the neighborhood playing soccer with skulls (plural). How many there actually were, we are not told (2007: 4). They were from the antechamber of the tomb, outside the tomb proper. One of the neighbors collected two bags of bones from this area (2007: 11-13).

Simcha speculates that the Knights might have taken a skull and femur bones from one of the ossuaries, and this became one of the Templar symbols, the skull and crossbones (2007: 133, 134).

In Christian art, a skull and crossbones are usually depicted underneath the cross where the Lord Jesus was crucified. Some might suggest this is the meaning of the “place of a skull” (Matt. 27:33). The theological meaning that has been given for the skull and crossbones is that Adam was buried underneath the place of crucifixion. This was to illustrate the theological truth set forth in I Cor. 15:21 and 22: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Also the truth in Romans 5:12-21: “Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned...For as by one man’s disobedience [Adam] many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous...even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:12, 19, 21).

The Chevron and Circle Symbols

One of the striking features of the façade of the tomb is the chevron over the entrance and a circle underneath it (J&P 2007: 7, 8, 11, 12; for a good color picture, see the cover of Kloner and Zissu 2003). Simcha speculates that the “façade is related to the promise of Jesus – as a Jewish Messiah – to build a Third Temple at the ‘end of times,’ then even the ‘Templar’ name may be related to the Talpiot tomb” (J&P 2007: 134, see also 2007: 130).

This is pure speculation on Simcha’s part. The First and Second Temples had a flat roof and not a gabled one. The architectural description of the Temple described in the Temple Scoll is of a flat roof as well. The same is also true of the “Ezekiel Temple” (Ezek. 40-48). One would assume that the Third Temple would have a flat roof as well.

At least one chevron appears on an Iron Age tomb that was exposed just south of Jaffa Gate. Shimon Gibson was one of the excavators and this author was on his team. (Broshi and Gibson 1994: 147-150, picture on page 149. The tomb on the right has a chevron above the entrance.)

James Tabor was examining an ossuary found in the Kidron Valley that had three inscriptions on it. One read “Alexander/(son of) Simon”, another read “Simon Ale/Alexander/(son) of Simon,” and also “of Alexander/Alexander QRNYT” ossuary (Avigad 1962: 9-11). Tabor claims that with the lighting just right, he saw “a chevron forming a circular gouge [modern or ancient?] to produce an inverted ‘V’ enclosing a dark circle” (J&P 2007: 129). In his report, Avigad says nothing about this. It would be surprising if something like this was missed by the keen observant eyes of Avigad.

I suspect that the chevron was an unfinished molding of a façade of a tomb that depicted a gabled roof with pediment and a circle, possibly a wreath, similar to the “Tomb of the Grapes” (Avigad 1950-51: 99, 100). Avigad also mentions that there are similar entrances in the southern necropolis of Jerusalem (1950-51: 100; footnote 7). The chevron could also represent a nefesh (Rahmani 1968: 220-225, Plate 23; 1994a: 28, 29; 1994b: 198-203). Wreaths are also known on ossuaries (Rahmani 1972: 113-116).

The skulls on the floor of the tomb and the façade with an inverted chevron and circle underneath it are Second Temple phenomena. The connection with the Knight Templars is pure speculation and not based on facts. Thus there are no Masonic connections with this tomb.

Other Factual Errors

There are factual mistakes that would have been caught if the book had been peer-reviewed and also fact-checked by the publisher prior to publication. For example, Beth Shemesh was not the ancient home of Samson (J&P 2007: 31), it was Zorah (Judges 13:2; 16:31). It is not a legend that the Judeo-Christians fled to Pella (J&P 2007: 36), but an event based in historical reality (Pritz 1988: 122-127). Pritz’s book is even quoted in the bibliography (J&P 2007: 214). John the Baptizer was not beheaded by Herod the Great (J&P 2007: 63), but rather, by his son Herod Antipas (Hoehner 1980: 110-171). The Aegean Islands do not spread “westward in long chains to the volcanic remnants of Thera” from Mt. Athos (J&P 2007: 95). Thera (Santorini) is to the south of Mt. Athos, and the only chain of islands are the Sporades and beyond them is the island of Evia and then the mainland of Greece.

The Best Explanation

In the spring of 1979, while I was a graduate student at the Institute for Holy Land Studies studying archaeology and the history of ancient Israel in Jerusalem, I attended a fascinating series of lectures at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem on ancient Jewish burial practices by Dr. Levi Rahmani. His last lecture was on ossuaries and the Jewish practice of secondary burials during the Second Temple Period. This lecture was later published in Biblical Archaeologist (Rahmani 1982). During the question and answer period, Father Pierre Benoit, the director of the Ecole Biblique, the French School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, asked Dr. Rahmani a loaded question. “Would Jesus’ bones have been placed in an ossuary?” His response was a classic. “Yes, they would have been, but something unexplainable happened!”

The best explanation for the unexplainable was given by the angel who rolled away the stone from the entrance to the empty tomb. He said, “...He is not here, for He is risen as He said” (Matt. 28:6)!

The events that transpired during the previous few days were all predicted by the Hebrew prophets hundreds of years before they happened. In fact, there were over thirty prophecies that were fulfilled during the last day of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus.

King David was also a prophet (Acts 2:30). Nearly a thousand years before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, David gave a vivid prophetic description of the event (Psalm 22), beginning with the cry from the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (22:1; cf. Matt. 27:46). David gave the reason God forsook His Son: because the Lord is holy (22:3). God could not look upon sin, even when all the sins of all humanity were being placed on His sinless Son. David also predicted the mockery and reproach by the crowd as Jesus was being crucified (22:6-8, 12-13; cf. Matt. 27:39-44). He foretold of the bones being out of joint and His hands and feet being pierced (22:14-17; cf. John 20:20), and even the casting of lots for his garments by the Roman soldiers (22:18; cf. Matt. 27:35; John 19:24). David also predicted that not one bone in His body would be broken (Ps. 34:20, cf. Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; see also John 19:36). This fulfilled the picture of the Lord Jesus being the unblemished Passover Lamb that was slain for sinners (I Cor. 5:7). The prophet Zechariah foresaw that the people of Jerusalem would look upon the LORD Messiah whom they pierced (Zech. 12:10; cf. John 19:37; Rev. 1:7).

Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isa. 53:9). Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a wealthy man, approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus so he could bury it before sundown, according to Jewish Law (Matt. 27:57; Mark 15:43). Pilate granted this request, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah of being buried in a rich man’s tomb.

David also predicted the resurrection of the Holy One, the Messiah (Ps. 16:8-11). The Apostle Peter gave a divine commentary on this passage, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-33). Peter had seen the Risen Lord Jesus on a number of occasions after He had been buried (Luke 24:34; Mark 16:14; John 20:26-31; John 21:1-3; Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; Mark 16:19; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8; I Cor. 15:5). In his sermon, Peter quoted Psalm 16 and said it was the Messiah of whom David was predicting, and not himself. The proof of that statement was that one could still go down to the City of David and see the tomb of David. If a person could get inside the tomb, they would still see the bones of David. He saw corruption, but the Lord Jesus did not, because He was resurrected from the dead.

The prophet Isaiah foretold the reason the Messiah would die. He stated: “Surely He (the Messiah) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:4-6). On the cross of Calvary, the Lord Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God, died as a perfect sacrifice, to pay for all our sins so that a holy God could be just and declare those who have put their trust in Him and Him alone, justified. When a person trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are justified (declared righteous) by a Holy God (Rom. 3:21-5:2).

The Importance of the Resurrection

The importance of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly stated in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus is “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). He states elsewhere that the bodily resurrection is a crucial part of the gospel, the good news of salvation when one puts their trust in the Lord Jesus. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (I Cor. 15:1-5).

God loved sinful humankind so much, even though they were in rebellion to Him and his Word, that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, who voluntarily died on the Cross of Calvary, to pay for all the sins of all humanity (John 3:16; 10:7-18; Rom. 3:23; 5:8; I John 2:2). The death of the Lord Jesus satisfied the holiness and justice of God, so that salvation could be offered to sinners as a free gift, simply by putting ones faith (trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior (John 6:47; Rom. 4:1-8). Salvation is by faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and no merits or works of our own can gain us entry into Heaven and God’s righteousness (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:4-9).

Have you trusted the One who died for your sins and bodily rose from the dead, and offers you the free gift of eternal life, a home in heaven, the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God?

There were people in the church at Corinth in the 1st century AD that questioned the bodily resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:12). The apostle Paul recounts the many eye-witnessed that had seen the Lord Jesus alive, after His crucifixion, including himself (I Cor. 15:5-8). Paul connects the importance of the bodily resurrection of the dead with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He sates: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (I Cor. 15:13-19). Is the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus important? You bet it is!

The Conclusion of the Matter

I do not know who the Jerusalemite Jesus was that was buried in the Talpiyot tomb, but I do know where the Lord Jesus Christ is right now. After He was bodily resurrected from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on the third day, He physically ascended into heaven and He is seated at the right hand of the Father waiting to return to earth to establish His Kingdom in Jerusalem.

Christianity has not been “rocked to the core” by the “shocking” claims in this book and documentary. There is no need to change history. The Lord Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected from the dead. No archaeologist will ever find an ossuary with the bones of the Lord Jesus from Nazareth because He never “saw corruption” (Ps. 16:10), and thus never needed an ossuary.

See the 'Jesus Tomb' debunked in this cutting edge video. Click on image to pre-order TODAY!

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About the Author

Gordon Franz is a Bible teacher who has engaged in extensive archaeological and geographical research in the Lands of the Bible. He has worked on a number of archaeological excavations in Israel, including: Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem, Ramat Rachel, Khirbet Nisya, Lachish, Jezreel and Hazor.

A moving video on archaeology related to the Passion Week, by Joel Kramer of Sourceflix (Off site link).

Passion Week Archaeology from SourceFlix.com on Vimeo.

The recent reputed discovery of Noah's Ark by the BASE Institute has gotten a great deal of airtime as well as publicity on the Internet. There are, however, some excellent reviews that critique the claim that Noah's Ark landed in Iran...

The Exodus Decoded made its US debut August 20 on the History Channel. Produced and narrated by Simcha Jacobovici, the film purportedly provides new evidence to demonstrate the Exodus really happened. Some of Jacobovici's points are old hat... 

Since mid-June, 2006 there has been a flurry of reports in the media and on the Internet about the possible discovery of Noah's Ark on a mountain in northern Iran. Robert Cornuke has now focused on what is perhaps the biggest target of all, both literally and figuratively – Noah's Ark.

The Judas Gospel comes from a well-known genre of ancient literature called Gnostic Gospels. We know of about 50 of these ancient texts from discussions by early church fathers who rejected them as heretical...

Today some Christian geologists and oilmen, encouraged by some prophecy teachers, are looking for greater treasures...oil...black gold, with the Bible as their 'treasure map'...

This article was first published in an abridged form in the April 2004 ABR Electronic Newsletter.


Read more Contemporary Issues articles here: https://biblearchaeology.org/contemporary-issues-list


Everybody loves a treasure hunt! As a young boy, I liked adventures. On occasion I would play "pirate" by taking a wooden cigar box and putting in several rolls of pennies (a lot of money in those days for a boy my age) and other goodies, and burying them in the backyard. Then I made a treasure map with various landmarks in the area and put an "X" on the spot where the treasure was buried. I would then proceed to roll up the map and put it in a bottle and seal it with a cork. The next morning I "found" the bottle "floating" in my backyard, and set off to find the treasure. I will never forget the excitement of the discovery!

Years later, while a graduate student in Israel, I worked on an excavation at the edge of the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem. We were excavating caves from the period of the Judean Monarchy (Iron Age). On the first day we found some bronze bracelets that had corroded and turned green and some silver earrings that had turned gray. I asked the excavator, Gabriel Barkay, if it was possible to find gold. He answered in the affirmative. Since the silver and bronze were corroded, I asked Goby what gold would look like if I found it. He said, "Don't worry, you'll recognize it when you see it!" The next day, I remember carefully brushing away the dirt with a paintbrush to reveal a beautiful gold earring that was 2,600 years old and looked just like new. I still remember finding my first gold object as if it was yesterday.

Today some Christian geologists and oilmen, encouraged by some prophecy teachers, are looking for greater treasures...oil...black gold, with the Bible as their "treasure map"! They are so convinced that Israel will soon be awash in fabulous oil wealth that they have invested millions of dollars of their own money as well as that of well-meaning Christians. Did the Creator leave a "treasure map" for modern geologists to find a huge deposit of oil under Israel? Would Israel then "bless" all nations by providing a steady flow of reliable oil to the world that is so dependent on OPEC? Or would the hungry bear, Russia, invade Israel to take the "spoil" (drop the "sp" and you have "oil"!, cf. Ezek. 38:13)? Does the Bible make such fantastic claims and should it be used as a magical divining rod for the discovery of black gold?

Israel, like the rest of the industrialized world, is dependent on a steady flow of oil from reliable sources. After capturing the Sinai Peninsula in the Six Day War in June of 1967, Israeli petroleum explorers discovered and developed the Alma Oil Fields on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula. These fields provided Israel with a reliable source of oil. However, Israel "lost" the oil fields in the negotiations for peace with Egypt. Part of the Camp David Peace Accord, signed in Washington, DC in 1979, included the return of these oil fields to Egypt in exchange for compensation and a promise of the sale of oil to Israel. Israel not only gave up land, but also a steady supply of oil with the agreement. Today, Israel does not have a steady, reliable supply of oil.

As of this writing (2004), there has been no major source of oil discovered in Israel. There are a few wells here and there that pump out small quantities of oil, but nothing like the Persian Gulf area. Several Christian oilmen have tried to discover a marketable amount of oil, but to no avail. Some, using the Bible as their treasure map and guide, have tried to get the faithful to invest in their oil operations. A number of years ago an expose appeared in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, "Prophets and Profits Motivate Evangelicals Hunting for Israeli Oil" (Getschow 1985:1). The article describes some of the personalities and operations, and then goes on to list several states that have prohibited the sale of their "penny stocks" because of the suspect nature of these groups and their operations. At one prophecy conference, a book by Rev. Jim Spillman entitled The Great Treasure Hunt (1981) outsold the Bible (Getschow 1985: 16). This article will analyze the verses used by the prophecy teachers to find petroleum oil. Are they really referring to petroleum oil, or is it something else?

"... fruitful bough by a well" (Gen. 49:22)

As the patriarch Jacob laid on his deathbed in Egypt, he set out to bless his twelve sons. The account begins with Jacob calling them together to tell them what will befall them "in the last days" (Gen. 49:1). Most prophecy teachers automatically assume the phrase "the last days" are the days we are living in now. Is that the case? The phrase is used 14 times in the Old Testament. The context must determine if it is used of a day still in the future, or of subsequent years from the prediction. A clear example of a future day is Isaiah 2:2 which describes a future day when Jerusalem will be exalted (Varner 1987: 24). The "blessings of Jacob" were fulfilled in the subsequent years in the history of Israel after they entered the Land of Israel and settled it.

With regard to the blessing of Jacob, Spillman found several "cryptic" references in this passage. In verse 22, there is a "well" and in verse 25, "the Almighty...will bless you (with)...blessings of the deep that lies beneath." He says the key to unlocking this cryptic message is an oil rig discovering oil deep in the ground (1981: 22-24). Is this speaking about an oil well in the Hill Country of Ephraim and Manasseh?

Unfortunately sometimes the prophecy teachers, on their trips to Israel, are so caught up in the contemporary society that they overlook some of the culture that has gone on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. An appreciation of this "time capsule" is overlooked, and an understanding that would come to the true meaning of the text.

Would you join me for a short trip to a Palestinian home in the Hill Country of Samaria (West Bank)? In 1980, I worked in Jerusalem on the restoration of the pottery from a burial cave found by Joseph Free at ancient Dothan. It was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without even seeing the picture! At the end of our time restoring pottery, the project supervisor, Dr. Robert Cooley, took his volunteers to visit Tel Dothan as well as have lunch at one of the ancient capitals of Israel, Samaria. On the way home, we stopped at a village near Samaria to visit with relatives of the taxi driver. By western standards it was a "primitive" rural setting. The afternoon was hot, and we appreciated the shade of the grape vine that spread out over the porch. I noticed the vine was near a cistern so the family could water it on a regular basis. The blessing that Jacob bestowed upon Joseph was... WATER! The grape vine (Ps. 80) that was planted by a well of water will shoot its branches over the wall. The blessing from heaven is the rains that will come in their proper seasons when the people are obedient to the Word of God (Deut. 11:9-17). The waters will seep down into the rock and reach the water table and provide water from the deep, i.e. the well. Jacob's father Isaac had blessed him with "the dew from heaven" to provide the essentials for life, i.e. grain, oil and wine (Gen. 27:28).

The searcher has misinterpreted this so-called cryptic message.

"... to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock" (Deut. 32:13)

Spillman continues his search for petroleum oil with his "treasure map" in front of him when he turns to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 32 and the last part of verse 13: "he made him draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock." He thinks it is absurd to understand the oil as olive oil because it came from crushed olives and honey could not be bee's honey because it comes from beehives. According to him, the honey is "earth" honey, symbolic of petroleum (1981: 36,37). It is true that the word translated "draw" does have the idea of "suck" or "eating to satiety" (Cassuto 1971: 108). But to read "pump" and find an oil rig is a bit far-fetched.

Prophecy teachers would do well to read the accounts of the 19th-century explorers to the Holy Land. The visit by these men opened up a whole new realm of Biblical study. They wrote about their experiences and the Palestinian folklore and how these illustrated the Biblical passages and ways. Rev. William Thomson, an American missionary in the region from 1833 to 1879, traveled extensively and wrote a three-volume set, The Land and the Book, about his experiences.

On one of his trips he observed a phenomenon that illustrated Deuteronomy 32:13. "In the clefts of a precipice overhanging Wady el Kurn swarms of bees made their home. The people of M'alia, several years ago, let a man down the face of the rock by ropes. He was entirely protected from the assaults of the bees, and extracted a large amount of honey; but was so dismayed by their number that he could not be induced to repeat the exploit. One is reminded by this incident of the expression concerning Israel in the farewell ode of Moses, Deut. 32:13: 'He made him to suck honey out of the rock.' And Asaph, in the eighty-first Psalm, sings thus: 'With honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee'" (Thomson 1882: 2: 259). Unfortunately Rev. Thomson does not describe the extraction process, but it is clearly referring to honey produced by wild bees.

When I was a freshman at Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture in Doylestown, PA, I had an interest in beekeeping, so I joined the apiary society. At one time I asked the director of the society, a renowned beekeeper himself, if the beekeepers could "suck" honey out of the rock? His response was, "I strongly suspect that the term draw or suck simply means remove or extract. If the term 'suck' is accurate, there is no reason that the honey gatherers couldn't have inserted hollow tubes into the honey combs and sucked honey into them" (personal correspondence from Dr. Robert Berthold, August 31, 1994).

Prof. F. S. Bodenheimer, a noted Israeli biologist, has stated: "In Israel of Biblical times wild honey hunting only was known, whereas at the same time real and extensive beekeeping was carried out in Egypt and Anatolia. In our country the first documents on beekeeping are found in the Mishnah tractate Ohaloth" (1959: 402). The writings of the Mishnah are much later than the Biblical period. The director of Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Gardens near Tel Aviv, Nogah Hareuveni, states: "Honey is mentioned several times in the Bible, but never is there an implication that it is a cultivated product. Apiculture developed many centuries later..." (1980: 12). The honey was public property and had to be gathered (Prov. 25:16; Judges 14:8,9; I Sam. 25,26). Spillman is wrong on two counts. First, the honey referred to is wild bee's honey that does come from the rocks, and not petroleum. Second, the ancient Israelite farmer did not cultivate honey in beehives during the Biblical period.

In order to determine what the oil is in verse 13, one must take a careful look at the context in which it appears. Note all of verses 13 and 14: "...he might eat the produce of the field;...honey...oil...curds...milk...lambs...rams...goats...wheat...wine." It is obvious from the context that the oil has to be olive oil because it is something that one eats. One does not eat or drink petroleum oil!

The flinty rock refers to the kind of soil that the olive trees grow in. Rev. Thomson again observed, "The substratum of this plain [near Beirut] is chalky marl, abounding in flint, and the sand is merely an intruder blown in from this desert on our left. The olive is found, also, in places where there is no rocky basis; but it is in soil such as this that the trees flourishes best, both in crevices of this flinty marl, and draws from thence its stores of the rock beneath. I am told the tree languishes, and its berries are small and sapless" (1882: 3: 34). An alternative view set forth by Dr. David Eitam, an Israeli archaeologist whose expertise is olive presses, suggests this might allude to the rock-cut olive presses (1979: 154). The landmark on the "treasure map" has been misread. The oil is olive oil, not petroleum oil.

"Asher shall dip his foot in oil" (Deut. 33:24)

Before Moses died, he blessed the children of Israel. Of Asher he said, "Asher is most blessed of sons; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil. Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; as your days, so shall your strength be" (Deut. 33:24,25).

This was the verse that set Andy Sorelle, a Texas oilman and co-owner of Energy Exploration, Inc., on a new search for oil in Israel. In 1979 a college friend of Sorelle sent him a map of the territories of the twelve tribes of Israel. As he recounts the event, "There's a passage in Deuteronomy 33.24 where Moses, talking about the blessings of the twelve tribes, said Asher would dip his foot in oil. Well, on the map, the leg of Asher started in Lebanon; the heel of the foot was drawn at Haifa, and the toe at Caesarea. I suddenly realized that the only area we had not surveyed in Israel was that between Caesarea and Haifa" (Gafen 1981). On February 12, 1981, Sorelle began his first well in Israel on the Israeli naval base at Atlit. At 5,200 feet there was a small amount of oil evident but they continued to a deeper level. On December 1, 1981 they stopped their operation at 17,296 feet because the oil rig they were using could not go any deeper. It took almost a year to get a bigger rig in place; by the beginning of 1983 they commenced operations again. Due to problems, they had to stop again at 21,428 feet (Gaverluk and Lindsted 1984: 11,24). I'm sure Mr. Sorelle is very sincere in his belief that there is a large amount of marketable oil in the area, but is there a Biblical basis for his belief? Should Christians be investing in this or other oil operations based on this verse of the Bible? Two issues need to be addressed. First, what is the oil that is being referred to? Second, are the oil rigs in the tribal territory of Asher?

It is clear from the context that the oil in this passage is olive oil. The Hebrew word "shemen" is used 190 times in Scripture for "generally olive oil whether pure or prepared for various uses as perfume or ointment" (Austel 1980: 2: 937), and is never used for petroleum oil. Interestingly, the early rabbinic writings understand it to mean olive oil as well. In the tractate Menahoth on regulations concerning the meal offering in the Temple, the rabbis taught,"And let him dip his foot in oil: this refers to the territory of Asher which flowed with oil like a fountain" (Menahoth 85b). The context is talking about olive oil.

The second issue is the location of the oil wells. Sorelle placed his well near the ancient Crusader fortress of Atlit. Others placed them on Mount Carmel. Are these oil wells in Asher's territory? A careful study of the tribal-city list of Asher (Josh. 19:24-31) suggests otherwise. While it is true a couple of Bible atlases place Asher's territory down in the Sharon Plain, south of the Carmel range, most place the tribal territory north of Mount Carmel (Carta Bible Atlas [2002] maps 71 and 72; Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible [1989] pages 99 and 102; The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands [1985] map 49). A very careful analysis of the tribal list by Zvi Gal, the district archaeologist for Galilee, in whose jurisdiction "Asher" falls, has demonstrated that the southern border of Asher's territory was the Kishon River just north of Mount Carmel (1992: 101-104; 1985: 115-127). Another careful and detailed study of the tribal territory of Asher was done by Dr. Zecharia Kallai who is a professor of Historical Geography of Eretz-Israel at Hebrew University (1986: 204-224, 427-433). Where Sorelle and others have put their oil wells have been in Manasseh's tribal-territory, not in Asher's!

The context of Moses' blessing to Asher is that there will be an abundance of olive oil in his territory. Has that been the case? Another 19th-century explorer who visited the area of Asher, Canon Tristram, a missionary and a naturalist, recorded his impressions as he traveled over Rosh ha-Niqrah, or the "Ladder of Tyre" (on the northern border of Israel today), and viewed the Plain of Acco for the first time. He described it as "...a green cultivated plain many miles in extent, stubbed with olive groves, with their grey-blue hue spangling the carpet, and each grove half concealing a village" (Wilson 1980: 70).

Two Presbyterian ministers from Scotland took a journey to the Holy Land in 1839. On one trip they recorded their impressions of an area two hours from Tyre: "...the summits, were sprinkled over with groves of olives, showing how fertile and how suitable for the cultivation of the olive this range must have been in former days. This was more remarkable, because we were now in the tribe of Asher; and the prophetic blessing pronounced upon Asher, was, 'Let him dip his foot in oil'" (Bonar and McCheyne 1973: 265). How discerning these two students of the Scripture were!

Only a few excavations have been conducted in the Israeli part of the tribal territory of Asher. The part in Southern Lebanon has not been touched at all, except the ancient city of Tyre. With a limited amount of excavations, archaeology could not shed light on the culture and agriculture of the day...until recently.

Zvi Gal excavated a small fortress on a ridge on the slopes of Western Lower Galilee. This site, called Hurvat Rosh Zayit (Khirbet Ras el Zeitum in Arabic), is translated "the ruins of the head of the olives." A discerning reader will notice that the name of the site has something to do with olives. It also lies less than a mile north of the Arab village of Kabul, which preserves the name for the site of Biblical Cabul (Josh. 19:27). When he excavated the site he discovered a small fortress, 80 feet by 80 feet, with a wall preserved to a height of 10 feet, dating to the time of King Solomon. The pottery from the excavation, mostly Phoenician, dated from the late 10th to mid-9th century BC. This led the excavator to suggest that this was one of the twenty cities that Solomon gave to Hiram, king of Tyre. After examining the sites, Hiram did not like them and called the place "Cabul-land" (I Kings 9:10-14; Gal 1993a: 39). The most significant discovery for our study is three large olive presses. Gal states, "These settlers based their economy largely on the production of olive oil. A large complex of oil presses is now being excavated on the west side of the site. Within a well-built structure, we have found at least three presses, and another press outside the structure has been excavated and reconstructed. These presses, together with the many rock cut installations found on the surface around the area, make this the largest known oil-press complex in Galilee" (1993a: 84; 1993b: 128-140). This complex dated to the 8th century BC and has Israelite features. It was destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser III in 733/32 BC (Gal 1990:91).

I believe with further excavations in the region, more olive oil installations will be uncovered, thus confirming the truth of Moses' blessing on Asher.

The last part of Moses' blessing says, "Your sandals shall be iron and bronze." Spillman suggests that this is referring to oil derricks that are made of iron and brass to prevent sparks from igniting a fire on the rigs, as iron on iron would (1981: 49). Sorelle said this verse did not make sense until recent times because he believes that "this area will be such a developed oil field that from a helicopter it will look like he is wearing shoes of iron and brass" (Webber n.d.: 21). There is a better understanding for this passage.

To produce olive oil there are three stages that must be gone through. First, the olives are crushed. Then, the olive pulp is pressed to express the liquid that is oil and watery lees, or impurities. Finally, the oil floats to the top and is separated from the impurities (Frankel 1994: 26). This process could, until recently, still be observed in some settings in one simple installation. The farmer would crush the olives with a stone, or by treading them while wearing some kind of shoes (cf. Micah 6:15). The crushed olives were pressed with a stone and the liquids collected in a vat and the oil skimmed off after separating from the watery lees (Gal 1993b: 133). A better explanation for the "sandals of iron and brass" would be that these are the shoes used by the farmer to crush the olives. This was the method used by the ancient Israelite farmer before the large stone olive crushers came into use during the Iron Age in Israel (Gal 1993b: 135).

It is interesting that Micah 6:15 mentions the "treading of olives." One cannot tread, or crush, olives with bare feet. Quite possibly the shoes were of iron and/or brass. However, Oded Boronski says this phrase can "not be taken literally since this method is ineffective and the stones might cause harm to the feet of the treader." The phrase should be "a poetic expression for oil pressing" (1987:119).

However, Rahael Frankel, an expert on the olive oil industry in antiquity, has observed, "Despite the fact that olives were usually crushed by rolling stones over them on flat surfaces, a special Greek word... exists for the shoes which were worn while treading olives. It appears that olives were trodden in much the same way as grapes, except that the latter were trodden barefoot" (1994: 78).

The blessing of Moses to Asher should be understood in light of its ancient Near Eastern context. Asher was literally blessed with an abundance of olive oil and he would crush the olives with special shoes made of iron and/or brass in order to allow the oil to run out. To imagine an oil rig in this passage and to get Christians to invest in a "penny stock" is not a good interpretation of this passage.

Jacob's Blessing of Asher (Gen. 49:20)

When Jacob blessed Asher he said, "Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties" (Gen. 49:20). The Hebrew root for the word "rich" is "shemen" which is translated "oil or fatness." Again, the hint is of olive oil. But Jacob goes on to say this food shall be for the royal tables. Has this ever happened? Do people eat or drink petroleum oil at their tables?

Very little history was recorded in the Scriptures regarding the tribe of Asher. We do know that each tribe provided food for the royal court one month a year during the reign of King Solomon (I Kings 4:7,16). I'm sure the people in the palace looked forward to the rich food from Asher. It must have been exquisite. Of course, olive oil is very healthy for a person as well.

Another case where food from Asher landed on the royal tables was Hiran, king of Tyre. In exchange for cedars and cypress wood from the Lebanon Mountains, Solomon promised him food for his household (I Kings 5:9). This food included 20,000 kors of wheat and 20 kors of pressed oil each year (I Kings 5:11; II Chron. 2:10,15). The closest tribal to Tyre with this kind of food was Asher.

Just as Moses' blessing on Asher was literally fulfilled, so Jacob's blessing. The abundant food did end up on the table of royalty.

The Conclusion of the Matter

It has been demonstrated that the search for petroleum oil using the Bible as a treasure map or a magical divining rod is unwise and fruitless. The serious student of the Scriptures is to properly exegete the passage, i.e. take out from the passage that which is in the text, rather than reading into the text that which is not there, which is what these oilmen and prophecy teachers are doing. The prophecy teachers should heed the words of James, "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing we shall receive a stricter judgment" (3:1). Bible teachers are responsible for properly interpreting the Scriptures and will be held accountable by the Lord for their teachings.

The Holy Spirit has several tools at His disposal to help the Bible student properly interpret the Biblical text. We have noted at least four in this article. First, there are good linguistic tools available that will help the student understand the proper meaning of the words. Invest in a good lexicon or Bible dictionary. Second, there are the 19th-century explorers who visited the Holy Land and wrote of their experiences. One should visit the local library and check out these books; they are fascinating reading. Third, one can glean insights into the Scriptures by visiting the contemporary Palestinian culture that still reflects the ancient ways of doing things. This gets harder and harder to find as the Palestinians improve their lot financially. And finally, there have been many archaeological discoveries that have added much light to the Biblical text and the material culture of the days of the Bible.

The blessings of Jacob and Moses to Asher are referring to olive oil, not petroleum oil. When I was a field trip instructor at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, I always enjoyed the Sharon Plain field trip because we would end up at Mukrakah on Mount Carmel. This was the place where Elijah had the encounter with Ahab and the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18). As we journeyed the winding roads on Mount Carmel to Mukrakah, we passed an abandoned oil rig. I would chuckle to myself because the rig was situated in a huge olive grove, probably owned by the local Druze. If only the oilmen had taken the time to look around them, they would have seen one of the essential blessings for daily life in ancient Israel, olive oil, not petroleum oil.

On one field trip I pointed to the oil rig and expounded the Scriptures of Asher's blessing and hammered the point that it was olive oil and the rig was in Manasseh's territory. Later, while having lunch at Mukrakah, a student sheepishly came up to me and confessed that he had lost a lot of money investing in those "penny stocks". He said, "I wish I knew then what you just related to us from the Scriptures. I would not have lost my money." I encouraged him to continue searching the Scriptures just like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

Should Christians invest in oil exploration and operations in Israel? If the exploration is based on sound geological data, by all means. But if it were based on the imagination of some prophecy teacher who is not properly interpreting the Scriptures in their historical-grammatical, geographical and material context, it would be very unwise. The Christian should be discerning and invest his or her money elsewhere. After all, we are stewards of the money that the Lord has entrusted to us.


Read more Contemporary Issues articles here: https://biblearchaeology.org/contemporary-issues-list


Bibliography

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Austel, H. 1980 "Shemen". Pp. 937, 938 in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Vol. 2. R. Harris, G. Archer, and B. Waltke, eds. Chicago: Moody.

Bodenheimer, F. S. 1959 A Biologist in Israel. Jerusalem: Biological Studies.

Bonar, A., and McCheyne, R. 1973 Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications.

Boronski, O. 1987 Agriculture in Iron Age Israel. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Cassuto, U. 1971 The Goddess Anath. Jerusalem: Magnes.

Eitam, D. 1979 Olive Presses of the Israelite Period. Tel Aviv 6: 146-155.

Frankel, R. 1994 Ancient Oil Mills and Presses in the Land of Israel. Pp. 19-89 in History and Technology of Olive Oil in the Holy Land. R. Frankel, S. Avitsur and E.

Ayalon, eds. Arlington, VA and Tel Aviv, Israel: Olearius Editions and Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.

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1985 Cabul, Jiphthah-El and the Boundry Between Asher and Zebulum in the Light of Archaeological Evidence. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins 101: 115-127.

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1993a Cabul, A Royal Gift Found. Biblical Archaeology Review 19/2: 38-44, 84.

1993b An Olive Oil Press Complex at Hurbat Ros Zayit (Ras ez Zetun) in Lower Galilee. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palestina-Vereins 109: 128-140.

Gaverluk, E. and Lindsted, R. 1984 Oil of Asher. Oklahoma City, OK: Southwest Radio Church.

Gefen, P. 1981 A Matter of Belief. Jerusalem Post. September 11, 1981.

Getschow, G. 1985 Prophets and Profits Motivate Evangelicals Hunting for Israeli Oil. Wall Street Journal. August 22, 1985. Pp. 1,16.

Hareuveni, N. 1980 Nature in Our Biblical Heritage. Kiryat Ono, Israel: Neot Kedumim.

Kallai, Z. 1986 Historical Geography of the Bible. The Tribal Territories of Israel. Jerusalem: Magnes.

Spillman, J. 1981 The Great Treasure Hunt. Medford, OR: Omega.

Thomson, W. 1882 The Land and the Book. 3 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Varner, W. 1987 Jacob's Dozen. Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

Webber, D. n.d. Countdown for Israel. Oklahoma City, OK: Southwest Radio Church.

Wilson, C. 1880 Lebanon and the North. Jerusalem: Ariel. Reprint.

Daniel Brown's 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, has sold over 36 million copies in 44 languages and has been a best seller for months. Has the real truth about Jesus been repressed? Is Christianity a fraud?

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