on seeing the name of “Jonah” in the “Jonah Fish” ossuary

This really is Rorschach Test archaeology.

News from Simcha, Dr. Tabor, and Dr. Charlesworth claim to have ‘discovered’ the ‘name of Jonah’ inscribed in a jumbled mess of lines at the bottom of the so-called “Jonah fish” ossuary.

I addressed this yesterday in a YouTube video. There is no ‘Jonah.’ Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor had been arguing that the half-spherical base of the vessel was, (I kid you not), the ‘seaweed wrapped head of a stick figure Jonah.’

But, this was SO patently absurd, that just last night, they’ve changed their position and are now arguing that a bunch of randomly etched-in lines spell out the Hebrew name of ‘Jonah.’ (Think about it: Jonah loses his legs and arms if they are now ‘letters.’)

The problem with this is that the first three letters of the name of Jonah in Hebrew, yod, waw, and nun, are essentially differing lengths of straight or slightly curved lines. They are looking at these simple lines and trying to make letters out of them like one would look at a Rorschach Test and make into whatever their imagination tells them.

Jim Davila, Antonio Lombatti, and Mark Goodacre have already addressed this new ‘discovery.’

Apparently, their previous ‘stick figure Jonah’s head’ argument was so weak, they appear to have already ‘cut bait’ (all pun intended) and have moved on to “Rorschach Test Archaeology.”

So, if that’s how we’re going to do it, then I have a (quite satirical) ‘discovery’ of a name of my own:

If a bunch of random lines is "Yonah," then I've discovered "Yo Yo Ma." The argument of "Jonah's seaweed wrapped stick figure head" is so weak, Simcha and his team have cut bait and moved on to "Rorschach Test archaeology."

If a bunch of random lines is "Yonah," then I've discovered "Yo Yo Ma." The argument of "Jonah's seaweed wrapped stick figure head" is so weak, Simcha and his team have cut bait and moved on to "Rorschach Test archaeology."

13 Responses

  1. “yo yo ma” Brilliant!

  2. […] the news.Steve Caruso gives the suggestion a failing grade, in a blog post that includes this image:And Bob Cargill suggests that if one is willing to try to turn all lines and scratches into letters,…:Mark Goodacre lists the top ten problems with the claims being made about the ossuary and the […]

  3. I love your discovery of Yo Yo Ma. But you still can’t beat my “face of Jesus”!

    For more on how the stick man integrates into the new scenario, see http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/changing-face-and-body-of-stick-man-in.html

  4. Great post, Mark.
    I can see it now: a YouTube video claiming Iowa professor finds name of Yo Yo Ma in Jesus ossuary.

  5. Funny comparison and to the point. By the way, I am curious as to why you haven’t linked up your CNN interview. Jim West did but for international people his link does not go to your bit but to a story on Syria.

  6. Very funny Bob, but you are wrong on all counts. No one has abandoned the stick figure image and who gave you the idea that I or any of us thought it was somehow weak. It is plain and evident and I have argued it from the start. As for the inscription, it is extremely clear, certainly the Vav and Heh, and the Yod and Nun are under discussion but why make silly jokes about this as if these letters are some imaginary grabbing at straws. Do you think Haggai Misgav and others, including James Charlesworth, can not see an inscription when they see one? It might say Zila or even Julia or Yonah–but we do have four very clear letters, and they are ingeniously shaped to also represent the stick figure. I think your levity is a bit of whistling in the dark.

    As I pointed out to you recently, and see my latest blog response to you and Mark, every element of both the Jonah ossuary and the inscription are echoed clearly in Jonah 2:2-7. Take a look. Could this be conincidence? The LORD God lifts up from Sheol, the Temple, the bars/gates into death, etc.

    I have not listened to your CNN interview yet but my wife relayed to me its substance. I did see your video where you make fun of anyone who sees anything but your vessel–yes, really folks, these clowns see a fish here–but then we still don’t know if what you and others see is a nephesh, an amphora, or a krater-vase–not the same at all. Something does not compute here. Lots more coming out on the fish, but in the meantime you should try to take the inscription with a bit more seriousness. It is clearly and absolutely NOT random scratches or “decorations” and it looks nothing like anything you can cite on any of your “vessel” examples, or even the uniform designs in the middle of the image.

  7. James,

    I’m sorry, but it’s just not there. With all due respect to Dr. Charlesworth, I don’t agree. And we can have this discussion. Maybe I’ll write up a post on why the ‘Jonah image’ doesn’t have the name of Jonah on it.

    As for the interview, I articulated my 5 objections to Carol Costello. You’ve heard them all before. I also mentioned the ‘new discovery’ of the supposed ‘name of Jonah’ and I told her if we’re going to do “Rorschach Test archaeology,” then I can find the name of Yo Yo Ma on the image…and then proceeded to do so.

    BTW, you never gave us the name of the four art historians you said identified the vessel as a fish…

    (And remember, critical scholars have done nothing but increase the controversy, push back, and further stir the pot, which Simcha has played up in a number of interviews, which has only increased the viewership this evening. I know he’s smiling because we’ll all be watching. Soon this will be over and we can go back to other things. But I must concede that Simcha got what he wanted: controversy, and he can take some comfort in that.)

    It’s been fun. Please know that I think you’re a wonderful man and colleague. You really have represented yourself and your university with dignity and respect throughout this entire ordeal. I’m pleased to call you a colleague.

    Have fun tonight,


  8. […] Turns out Robert Cargill did indeed comment on the alleged "Jonah" inscription: here and here. I'm still getting caught up on this one! The second post is much more substantive than […]

  9. […] of linear alignment. Again, if these are the epigraphical rules we are following, then my ‘discovery‘ of the name of ‘Yo Yo Ma‘ is not as comical as it is intended to be… Share […]

  10. […] and linear guidelines, then why can’t we find other lines that spell other names like “Yo Yo Ma“? (In fact, I’m almost tempted to start a contest where viewers can send in their best […]

  11. […] Rollston in the Globe and Mail aticle; Jim Davila in Paleojudaica, Antonio Lombatti, Robert Cargill, Robert Cargill again, Steve Caruso and Steve Caruso […]

  12. […] now, the professor maintains with a guarded edge a reading of Jonah, but I suspect when he sees the evidence, he will […]

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