maximize the money, archaeology be damned: simcha jacobovici claims ‘new’ evidence of jesus

See? Once you have this inscription, we know Jesus was buried here. Simple, no? I shake my head...

See? Once you have this inscription, we *know* Jesus was buried here. Simple, no? I shake my head...

On December 8, 2012, in response to learning that Simcha Jacobovici had sued one of his more vocal critics, Joe Zias, I left the following comment on Jim West’s blog:

How much do you want to bet that this law suit was filed a couple of months before the release of Simcha’s ‘next big thing’? Wouldn’t it be something if this lawsuit was simply part of a media strategy to intimidate critical scholars by suing someone just prior to the release of some crazy new claim. The cherry on top would be another ossuary claim, because the world doesn’t have enough sensational ossuary controversies. Just watch. Let’s see if this is what happens. If so, Simcha will have proved me correct, and the world will know precisely what this is all about.

Well, what do you know? I hate to say it, but…I told you so.

And now, the press is beginning to be polluted with this: ‘Naked Archaeologist’ finds signs Jerusalem cave was used to bury Jesus’ disciples (Haaretz)

And this: New find revives ‘Jesus Tomb’ flap (MSNBC)

And this: Tomb exploration reveals first archaeological evidence of Christianity from the time of Jesus (

And this: The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity [Hardcover]

Fascinating how these stories all hit the wires the same day – Feb 28, 2012 – precisely the same day that Jacobovici’s new book gets released?? And, is it coincidence that said media marketing campaign gets kicked off during the Lenten season just before Easter?

This is nothing more than a coordinated press release to sell a book and promote a forthcoming documentary. There is no new discovery here; this has been known for years.

REMEMBER: don’t watch what Simcha says – you know he’s going to try and sell the public on his latest speculation. Rather, watch what the scholars say – or better yet, watch what the scholars don’t say, and you’ll have your answer.

As for the ‘substance’ of the argument? Witherington got it right: “one speculation upon another speculation.”

Am I shocked? Absolutely not. This is the kind of nonsense we’ve come to expect from Simcha Jacobovici: maximize the money, archaeology be damned.

31 Responses

  1. I wonder if a class action lawsuit against Simcha by all the scholars who can demonstrate his work to be misleading would be an effective tool for slowing him down… or would merely be more fuel for publicity. Turnabout would be the last thing he would expect. :-)


  2. […] 4.    Dr Robert Cargill: Maximize the Money, Archaeology be Damned: Simcha Jacobovici Claims ‘new’ Evidence of Jesus: …Fascinating how these stories all hit the wires the same day – Feb 28, 2012 – precisely the same day that Jacobovici’s new book gets released?? And, is it coincidence that said media marketing campaign gets kicked off during the Lenten season just before Easter? […]

  3. […] Cargill aptly writes: Fascinating how these stories all hit the wires the same day – Feb 28, 2012 – precisely the […]

  4. steve,

    no, unfortunately it wouldn’t work, and would only make him look like a victim. simcha is very careful to always clarify that he is a filmmaker and ‘not an academic, not an archaeologist’. he fully admits this. by doing so, he competes in the documentary film making market, and not scholastic circles. (he relies on the press to make him look like a learned authority, but he wisely never claims to be so himself). since anyone can claim anything they want according to free speech (you know, as long as it isn’t criminal impersonation, identity theft, aggravated harassment, forgery, or a threat against the president, etc.), and can make as much money as people will send them doing so, this is not illegal. p.t. barnum made millions selling sensational claims to ‘suckers born every minute’. it’s not illegal. simcha is shrewdly doing the same. credibility as a scholar means nothing to him. as a ‘filmmaker,’ it’s all about getting companies to buy his films, and getting people to watch. the talentless kardashians can use the press to make millions on outrageous claims and behavior, and so too can simcha. there’s nothing illegal about it. likewise, scholars have every right to point out the flaws in the argument, expose the speculative underpinnings of the fallacious claims, and, you know, be scholars. there’s nothing illegal about that either. and when he’s critiqued on the merits of his arguments, simcha will claim ‘anti-semitism’ or ‘closed-mindedness’ or ‘scholarly jealousy’, which deflects from the holes in his argument by attempting to make into a personal critique, and his professional credibility suffers further from that, but that’s his choice. he knows what he’s doing and he’s honest about why he does it: it’s all about the money. the substance is merely a means to an end.

  5. Hey! I feel it is criminal impersonation. He tries to pass himself off as someone who knows what he’s talking about. ;-)

    But all that joking aside aside, aye I am very sadly aware of all of what you mentioned. He’s worked himself into a nearly unassailable position to snipe dollars away from people who *want* to believe and are (as always) willing to believe despite the poor credibility of the “messenger.”

    I personally feel it’s not “substance being a means to an end” but more “substance abuse” where the substance in question is stretched, molded, and broken to fit any hypothesis that can be put to paper.

    I also apologize for preaching to the choir. Everything that can be said about Simcha’s business model *has* been said. :-)


  6. “expect crazy Simcha speculation, try to ignore”…

    I just wrote that my 2013 Lenten Calendar…

  7. […] maximize the money, archaeology be damned: simcha jacobovici claims ‘new’ evidence of jesus […]

  8. Hey read the article, the response WILL be given Ten Months from now. this is all future stuff.

  9. […] response to Simcha Jacobovici’s ridiculous claims of a “Jonah’s Great Fish” icon on a burial ossuary in Jerusalem, Duke […]

  10. Bob, I’m ususally on your side, but man, you are way off base here.

    First of all, there is nothing wrong with publicity or making money. People who complain about money are obfuscating the issue, which is whether his conclusions fit the evidence. Besides, if one is after wealth, being a documentary filmmaker is not exactly the best method.

    I work in finance. I know people who make seven figure salaries after they lose $30 billion in trades.

    Second, there is nothing wrong with speculation. 99% of everything we read or hear about Jesus is speculation. Do you really think Ben Witherington’s conclusions about Jesus ulimately are any less speculative? Bullcrap.

    Jacobovicci has been a lightning rod for scholars because he knows how to frame scholarly issues in a way that highlights their potential appeal to the general public. Bitter jackwagons like Joe Zias (have you ever read his comments on articles in Bible & Interpretation? What an incoherent asshole) think that they somehow have a copyright on ideas. It’s the same with Bart Ehrman — anyone who can appeal to a broad audience is immediately cast as suspect in the scholarly world, when what should be suspect is those who aren’t smart enough to write simple sentences.

    This isn’t to say I agree with Simcha’s conclusions about this or anything else. However, I do find the denunciations of him go far beyond whatever his misdeeds are alleged to be. For example, I was not persuaded that the nails he found came from Jesus’ tomb. I think he overstated the probability contained in the evidence. But the facts surrounding the nails were fascinating. and the critics wildly misconstrued what he actually said.

    I don’t know anything about this tomb, but I’ll wait to read about it before I get on my high horse.

  11. As if it’s not sad enough that there are so many believers that _are_ just poor suckers, lonely, scared of death (and therefore fearful of life), we then have to stand by and watch Simcha Kardashian preying on that weakness, and pick their pockets uncontested.

    As always, it’s the uncontested part that worries me. Scholars need a voice, a focus, a clear means of telling the same folks who pick up and run with the stories, that the stories are bogus in every way. Thanks, Bob, for standing up on this one.

    Maybe humour would be a better way of shifting the sand under Simcha’s feet? Get people laughing (in a good way), and their ‘reverence’ for the non-archaeologist might just dissipate a little.

  12. One other thing — where does the idea come from that only academics have license to write about technical topics?

    We all read books and magazines written by professional writers. Do we immediately dismiss all those because the author doesn’t have a phd in the relevant topic? Of course not.

    Academics who write about finance in journals are mostly a joke. They can put together long strings of equations that are utterly meaningless and are read by nobody.

    Simcha has every right to write whatever the hell he wants and anybody who doesn’t like it should write their own books and stop crying. This subject ticks me off because i believe in free speech and bible archaeologists are freaking babies when it comes to speech. I subscribed to BAR for 20 years but the catfights were too much.

  13. no one’s saying he can’t say whatever he wants. i say that very thing above. the sad part is that he makes claims that people want to hear and believe, and uses is press machine to say it.
    scholars need to do exactly what you suggest: write our own stuff and refute it.
    again, the kardashians can say what they want and make money doing so. likewise, critics can point out the nonsense of it all. simcha will make his money, and i don’t begrudge him that. i just wish he wouldn’t make it on the backs of people who want to believe, and spoil the name of archaeology while doing it.

    everyone will present their argument, and in the end, a consensus will form. that’s how it works.

  14. Ossuary… as in “a container or room into which the bones of dead people are placed.”

    Does anyone know as to the definition Jim West is referring to when using the term ossuary… sorry if this is off-track from the subject at hand.

    Thank you,

  15. What people want to hear what he writes? What press machine? How much money do you think he makes? I bet his income would be rather modest if he worked at Morgan S tanley.

    getting a show on the History Channel isn’t a press machine. Thinking that someone who writes about ancient history has a press machine is crazy. Archeologists should be happy that somebody, anybody in their field can get even a tiny amount of attention in the larger world. The guys who scream about Simcha are the same ones who beat off in front of the Dead Sea Scrolls without publishing for 30 years before someone put them them online and then they squealed like little girls. Screw them and I mean it.

    Not many people want to hear about a Jesus tomb. Christians don’t. Jews don’t. A few skeptics, maybe, but the provenance of artifacts isn’t light reading.

  16. Why do people pick on Simcha when he works with a well-respected scholar from what I have read? People call him $imcha sometimes, but no one says James Tabor Ph$. Why?

    I have no interest in the subject, but I am fascinated by the reactions of scholars. I agree that it is wrong to take new and barely understood archaeological finds directly to the public. It would be different if they waited to hear everyone’s opinions and then came out with their unusual theory which would still be a surprise to everyone, even if they had shown the pictures right away. No one looking at it would have dreamt that it was Jonah and it represented a Christian ossuary in some way.

    It is an obvious get rich quick scheme by him and the scholar he works with, and the scholar does have legitimate scholarly opinions, but it is wrong to go after the public’s money until they have a better understanding of what they found. Scholars don’t have to take a vow of poverty, but they should not expose the public to new ideas that are just wild guesses.

    No one will be hurt by this. Most average people actually do have some intelligence and can see that they are guessing. Other scholars will write books and articles attacking their work, and the public will eventually hear about it. Scholars should be writing their books now to tell people their ideas are just wild guesses. I just don’t know how they write 300 page books about nothing. That also amazes me.

    Kenneth Greifer

  17. i think that jesus was nothing more than the martin luther king, jr. of his time. not the son of god, etc. but merely a man, who had a dream, and tried to pursue it, only to find that it led to his death.

    it seems that he was peaceful, possibly even an honorable person, worthy of some kind of veneration by those who followed him…same as martin luther king, jr. but at the end of the day, it is more likely that he was a human being and not the son of god. faith is a great concept, so is hope, but alone, they can be dangerous. history has shown that to be a fact of sorts…no different than rationalization, that too, alone, can be dangerous…and again, history has shown that to be a fact of sorts.

    i think that jesus was married, had a family, but also too, i think that jesus did have supernatural properties – more along the abilities of psychics and healers do that we identify with in today’s society. is it possible that he was ‘resurrected’…of course, why not…those who wake up from comas have that same effect going on…and medically speaking, we know what to call it now. could he of had a supernatural experience that led to his resurrection…of course, why not…the body is a chemical process…and we only know the ability of the brain up to a certain point…who knows what our mind, soul and body truly is capable of…we rely upon technologly to steer us through life which tends to hinder natural processes or understandings.

    everything is how it should be…regardless of the outcome. is there a god that exists? of course, why not. what is this god? who knows, but maybe it is not entirely something that we have the capacity to understand, but do we need to? of course, why not. if we didn’t pursue that mission, we surely would not be as knowlegeable about our cultures and societies as we are today. history says much…and is probably the most truth that exists in the world today. seeking proof just serves to confirm what history already shows…the facts. you can’t change history, regardless of anything that you believe…it is, what it is. and if jesus was married, and the bones or family tomb of jesus has been truly located, is it any thing but mere confirmation that the new testament was probably a journal of sorts and may have been hyped up to glorify a story, similar to literature is done, today?

  18. @Bond Boy : Your argument regarding Simcha’s freedom to write on technical subjects – even though he’s completely wrong about his “take” on the subject – really means you’re arguing anyone can write anything about any subject, whether they’re a specialist in that subject or not!

    As far as the media goes, those types of pseudo-writers already have a completely unfettered media channel – it’s called the internet! :) What this character is doing, is writing his own blog – but getting a publisher to print it and flog it off to the great unwashed.

    Capitalism at its best? Absolutely, there should be no restrictions on what anyone can say (free speech is always important). But to claim (or worse, as he’s doing, *implying*) that he’s some kind of expert in the field? Well, that brings to mind the picture of the empty field with the expert standing in the middle, with no-one around for miles and miles and miles…:)

    The fact that the overwhelming _expert_ consensus is completely opposed to his claims about the carving is a mark of how egregious his methods and claims are.

    Still, anyone can buy any BS they want to. That’s how the major religions have operated for centuries!

  19. Cephas:

    Your comment is mind-boggling.

    Have you ever heard about the First Amendment? Do you really think that only people who are correct have a right to publish? Who decides what is correct?

    By your standard, nobody has the right to publish anything about biblical archaeology, because there is no consensus on anything.

    By your standard, you must never read a newspaper or magazine, because people who write the articles don’t have degrees in the fields they cover.

    Where did I say that Jacobovicci was an expert? You are making that up. I don’t care if he is an expert. I don’t care at all about the tomb, I am reacting to the insanity of the idea that only academics have some god-given right to express views on certain topics.

    The “overwhelming expert consensus” is opposed? My god, a bunch of immature little girls have decided within one day of hearing the news that this claim is wrong and are rooting about for a better explanation. That is all you need to know about the seriousness of the critics.

    A serious critic would wait to actually study facts a bit before deriding a conclusion. But the critics aren’t serious, even if they may be right.

  20. My goodness, bond boy, you misread much!

    I’ve heard of the First Amendment, but I’m not overwhelmingly interested in the American constitution, I’m afraid. I know a bit about it, but not enough to comment. My assertion was that free speech is important.

    My other point is one you seem to have missed yourself, in the original article and related posts. The crackpot in question specifically DOESN’T claim he’s an expert. But he DOES rely on implication and association so that people who don’t know any better (i.e. his prey) think his opinions are as valid as real archaeologists, otherwise why would anyone give a stuffed fig for what he thinks about an old stone box?

    I’m glad you also included an ad-hominem attack in your list of responses – that’s fairly typical when you don’t have a valid argument. The “bunch of immature little girls” (most of whom are rational, mature men, btw) have agreed, after examining ALL the evidence, that this crackpot is wrong. You may not agree with them, but you would be well-advised to respect their judgement in this matter. Otherwise, as you say, no-one could trust anything!

    And finally, I’m reacting to your reaction about allowing crackpots like Jacobovicci to state untruths without regard for considered expert opinion. That’s not free speech, that’s lying. And while I agree you (and everyone else) has a right to lie about anything, I completely disagree that comparing a lie with the truth is valid in any way. What this chap has done is just that – he’s looked at a figure that most (if not all) the experts IN THAT FIELD have agreed is one thing, and he’s saying they’re all wrong – and by saying that, he’s generating publicity to fatten his pocketbook. Now, I agree that he’s allowed to lie, and I agree that people without the knowledge or skills to understand that he’s lying are perfectly justified in buying into his lie. What I disagree with is his use of a lie to fool people into giving him their money.

    That’s a whole lot different to a non-expert disagreeing with an expert consensus. And please don’t argue that he’s a disregarded genius, he’s quite patently not. He’d like people to THINK that he is, and he’s using that mistaken belief not to better our global knowledge, or shine a light onto the past, he’s using it to make money, period.

    Arguing that it’s his right to generate money by printing half-truths and untruths and errors is like arguing that someone can disobey the speed laws because they’re a better driver than the laws typically apply to. It doesn’t matter, he’s doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

    And arguing that either we trust anyone who writes on any subject explicitly, whether they be a biblical scholar or a journalist, or else we can’t trust anyone, is a patently false dichotomy. You’re not taking into account the fact that we trust those types of people because they have credentials that can be checked and withdrawn if they abuse them. Jacobovicci HAS no credentials on this subject, but he benefits financially from people NOT knowing that fact.

    I make money the hard way – by having learned how to do something difficult properly, which takes decades, and then by applying that knowledge to help other people – AS WELL AS make money for myself. I may be hopelessly naïve (I’ve been called worse! :) but it’s the truth, and to some extent I think many people would be pleased to be able to do the same. It’s when the money comes at the expense of the truth, that I get all fired up.

    So what this chappie is trying to do definitely grills my gizzards, and arguing that he’s perfectly entitled to do this misses the spirit of your First Amendment (as far as I can tell, anyway), though adhering strictly to the letter of the law.

  21. I read your Freshman mini-lecture about scholars admitting they were wrong. What’s this? “On December 8, 2012, in response to learning that Simcha Jacobovici had sued one of his more vocal critics, Joe Zias, I left the following comment on Jim West’s blog:”. I guess it’s “Back to the Future” all over again. “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

    How you could make such a knee jerk “scientific” analysis of the so-called ossuary “fish” and conclude so quickly that it most certainly was an etching of Absalom’s tomb. Is that scholarship? Is that science? At least you finally pushed back from that ridiculous claim when others brought forth more compelling possibilities. Suddenly, you weren’t so sure about the tomb thing; you discarded it, and jumped to the next best thing, and amphora. The image probably is not a rendering of an amphora even though it looks similar to one, although it is a very crude rendering. It most likely is the image of a perfume container of that era. The facts remain to be determined.

    At least you copied the correct fish (tilapia) from Wikipedia to have your little fun. All you guys and gals make self-serving and self-righteous claims at being scholars and even scientists. That’s a real joke to me, a research computer scientist.

    I’ve seen no evidence of either from you or any other self-proclaimed scholar on the subject of “The Jesus Discovery.” A real scholar and scientist would not shoot first and ask questions later. He or she would thoughtfully weight the claims being made, consider the assumptions leading to those claims, and examine the evidence presented to support said claims. This would be done in a way that is respectful to the researchers and authors, and then critiques would be published in peer-reviewed journals. You and Eric Meyers and others of your ilk owe the authors a heartfelt public apology. Dr. Tabor has been most kind and respectful in response to what amount to personal attacks and insults of the most grievous kind by his peers. For shame. Go back and read your little mini-lecture on admitting you are wrong, and then do the right thing.

  22. Cephas, no you certainly do not understand the First Amendment. The spirit of it is that people are free to say what they want without interference from the government. Yes, it is his right to make money off half-truths, even lies.

    It’s funny that you object to my sarcastic comment about little girls (of course i know they are grown men, they just act like little girls) yet then call Jacobovicci a crackpot.

    And the experts in the field don’t agree on spit. That’s the whole issue here. Fine upstanding members of the scholarly Heathers guild have vehemently reacted befpre they have had a chance to study the evidence. Example: cargill here almost broke his leg rushing out a silly theory that he disowned by the end of the first day. I rest my case.

  23. Mr. Grubbs,

    Your comments really add nothing to the conversation about the issue at hand, but I saw fit to approve your remarks to show my audience the level of erudition, rhetoric, rationality, and professionalism we’ve come to expect from supporters of Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor, and to demonstrate to the world why so few scholars engage directly with the public.

    I am certain your comments above make Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor proud, and that they appreciate your advocacy in their defense. You represent them well.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a lecture to write, and I’m sure you’ve got some Glenn Beck podcasts you need to catch up on.


  24. Hey Bob, how is it every time some new or interesting ideas or theories come up, so called ‘educated scholars’ have to stoop to undermining the individual personally? I don’t care if Simcha’s right or wrong, however after reading your do-do, you have seemed to have left a typically lop-sided view that’s sooo ordinary. Don’t be scared of something you can’t seem to fathom. Be BRAVE little Buckaroo. By the way, were you going to make any money off that lecture?

  25. and we have a winner! (thomas, you owe me dinner.)

    and douglas, did you mean doo-doo?

  26. Cargill, You really are an impolite crap head. What’s “I’ve got a lecture to write” supposed to mean, some sort of academic pissing contest? You are so wrong about the Glenn Beck thing – if you only knew. Now, excuse me, I have some real-world work to do. Mensan, indeed!

  27. […] This is a good thing! Kudos to Smithsonian for listening to the facts, weighing the evidence, and evaluating the scholarly critique instead of rushing to air a sensationalized documentary that may turn out to be nothing but an hour of strained speculation sold to a cable channel in the hopes of making quick money, archaeology be damned. […]

  28. Jacobovici is a hack. It appears he is simply attempting to undermine Chrisitanity by showing Jesus is dead. You have to wonder if his motives are because he is Jewish and his “finds” are bent in that direction, instead of being bent by the facts. Scirptures are clear the Cruxcifixition site was on the Mount of Olives and from that site the Centurion could see in the door of the temple, which faced east. The scriptures also document that the Messiah was buried in a garden tomb near the crucifixtion site. Hence Jacobvici’s assumptions and “finds” don’t even conform to the documented facts of the scriptures from nearly 2,000 years ago.

  29. Recently he has been appointed ‘professor’ at a small unaccredited fundamentalist, Evangelical ‘university’ in Canada.

  30. There are many Messianics and Jews possing as Christians, yet denying the fundamental truth of the scriptures, “God was manifest in the flesh”. If they work against this truth it is because they know not the scriptures and are ultimately ignorant or worse “wolves in sheeps clothing”. I have seen nothing from Jacobovici to disprove this…no matter where he teaches. Now days teaching at a Christian University does not necessiarly mean you are Christian.

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