If the Evidence Doesn’t Fit, Photoshop It: Digital Image Manipulation in the Case of Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor’s Jonah Ossuary

As the author of a book in the burgeoning fields of digital archaeological reconstruction and virtual reality, and as a member of the University of Iowa Digital Humanities Cohort, I know the importance of transparency when it comes to representing archaeological data in digital media. While most find it boring (and while some critics claimed chapters 3 and 4 in my book, Qumran through (Real) Time, which detailed each tedious technological step of my digital reconstruction methodology would have been better left out), I find it essential to the credibility of the practice of digital reconstruction to demonstrate at each point in the process precisely how digital reconstructions are made and exactly how the data are handled and represented. When dealing with digital representations of archaeological data, it is essential for the establishment of a researcher’s credibility to document all alterations of digital imagery and data. For as a colleague of mine (who happened to disagree with part of my digital Qumran reconstruction) once memorably stated to me, “If you give the public a picture of your interpretation of the data, they’ll believe it!”

Images are powerful. And because they are powerful, archaeologists must take great care in representing visual data properly in publication. For just as well-handled visual data can greatly inform the reader and provide new insights into archaeological research, so too can mishandled, or worse yet, deliberately manipulated visual images distort reality. Unfortunately, deliberately altered visual data have been used to support sensational claims throughout history like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and this abuse has only worsened with the rise of digital photography and editing. It is now possible for unscrupulous individuals to manipulate photographs for the purposes of supporting sensational claims in the hopes that said claims can be published in print and on television to generate tremendous revenues for those making the claims.

Unfortunately, digital technology is often times also used by some to distract from a weak argument. That is, some will elaborate upon and highlight the use of technology in the hope that the mere presence of sophisticated technology, which may have no bearing whatsoever on the interpretation of an object in under examination, will distract from any subsequent fallacious claims being made about said object. And, in more disquieting cases, digital technology is sometimes used to “enhance” or even fabricate evidence outright that supports an otherwise untenable claim.

Or, to put it another way: if the evidence doesn’t fit, Photoshop it (especially if it looks fishy).

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that an image that has been circulating in the press as part of the marketing campaign in support of the new book by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and University of North Carolina, Charlotte Professor, Dr. James Tabor, entitled, The Jesus Discovery, and Mr. Jacobovici’s forthcoming documentary, has been digitally manipulated in such a way as to lead the reader toward a desired conclusion. That is, the image making the rounds in the press and published by Dr. Tabor on the Bible and Interpretation website has been digitally altered and made to look like an engraving of a “great fish” on an ossuary discovered in Jerusalem, in order to support the authors’ rather sensational claim.

What’s more, in Dr. Tabor’s article, the manipulation of the photo of the “fish” on the ossuary has been made without any acknowledgment that the image has been manipulated.

Evidence

In his recent publication in Bible and Interpretation entitled, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” Dr. James Tabor describes “Ossuary 6” (the “Jonah Ossuary”) on page 20, and references two images: Figs. 20 and 21.

Fig. 20 from page 41 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, Feb 28, 2012.

Fig. 20 from page 41 of the 'Bible and Interpretation' article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, published Feb 28, 2012. The caption for this image reads: "20. Jonah image on front façade of ossuary 6."

Fig. 21 from page 42 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, Feb 28, 2012.

Fig. 21 from page 42 of the Bible and Interpretation article "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" by Dr. James Tabor, published Feb 28, 2012. The caption for this image reads: "21. Blowup of Jonah image."

Fig. 20 is pictured on page 41 along with a caption that reads: “20. Jonah image on front façade of ossuary 6.”

Fig. 21 is pictured in page 42 along with a caption that reads: “21. Blowup of Jonah image.”

Nowhere in the text of Dr. Tabor’s article or in the captions beneath the images is there any acknowledgment whatsoever that Fig. 21 has been altered other than being “blown up” or enlarged. This differs slightly from the caption of the same image in the Jesus Discovery book, where the caption for Fig 26 on p. 86 reads: “A composite representation of the ossuary image of Jonah and the big fish” (italics mine). On March 1, 2012, the team’s “Jesus Discovery” media website labeled the image as a “CGI enhanced image of ‘Jonah and the Whale’.”

However, whether the image in question is a “blown up” or “composite” image, as soon as one looks at original photograph and the composite/blown up image side-by-side, one immediately notices that Fig. 21 is no simple enlargement of Fig. 20, but rather a highly-doctored digital artist’s representation of Fig. 20.

Side-by-side comparison of Figs. 20 (left) and 21 from the Bible and Interpretation article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor on Feb 28, 2012.

Side-by-side comparison of Figs. 20 (right) and 21 from the 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb. 28, 2012. I have rotated Fig. 21 (left) back to its actual orientation for comparison purposes.

Let us examine the examples of digital image manipulation.

1. Fig. 21 in Dr. Tabor’s article has been enlarged, rotated, and cropped. Simple changes to scale that retain fundamental aspects of digital data, such as shape, color, and features are generally not considered compromises of the digital image.

Archaeological photo indicating size and direction.

Example of archaeological photo indicating size and direction.

Archaeological photo indicating size and direction

Example of archaeological photo indicating size and direction

However in cases where alterations of scale and orientation are made to images, it is common practice to supply a centimeter measuring stick or relative scale (see above) to convey relative size, and a compass pointing north (see above) to indicate the orientation (especially for rotated images).

Digital reconstruction of the SE pottery annex at Qumran from 'Qumran through (Real) Time' by Robert R. Cargill.

Digital reconstruction of the SE pottery annex at Qumran. Photo from 'Qumran through (Real) Time' by Robert R. Cargill. Note the digital overlay indicating direction/orientation and loci.

These size and direction indicators can even be added to hard to reach areas (like those accessible only through robotic arms) and digital reconstructions after the fact (see above). Both of these are absent in both of Tabor’s Figs. 20 and 21.

Frog or Horse?

Frog or Horse?

Fish or Girl?

Fish or Girl?

As the classic optical illusion of the frog and the horse or the fish and the girl (note that this fish actually has an eye) demonstrates, rotation and orientation make a huge difference when identifying an object. The psychological process of “cognitive priming” can be used to lead the brain to interpret certain objects in a desired manner. Michael Shermer’s book, The Believing Brain, examines this process in detail.

It is quite telling that it was this digitally altered photo, Fig. 21, that was first sent to the press by Jacobovici and Tabor, and that the image was rotated to the side in most press reports. That is, the absence of any indication of proper orientation on the photograph allowed Jacobovici and Tabor to depict the image on its side, that is, in a manner more consistent with the natural orientation of a fish, rather than in its proper orientation with the tapered end down, which would more resemble some kind of ceramic or glass vessel.

For instance, in the Yahoo News story by Eric Pfeiffer and the MSNBC Cosmic Log story by Alan Boyle on Feb. 28, 2012, the doctored image appears rotated onto its side with no indication in the caption or in the story that it has been digitally altered. Similarly, the Photoshopped image depicted in the Haaretz.com story by Nir Hasson on Feb. 28, 2012 describes the image as an “enhanced image” without noting that the image is out of context and rotated to better resemble a fish. Likewise, in the LiveScience story by Wynne Parry and the syndicated FoxNews.com story on Feb. 28, 2012, both the digitally altered photo and the photograph are included among the images. And while the doctored image under examination has a caption that reads, “A CGI-enhanced image” (italics mine), both the Photoshopped image and the photograph are rotated to resemble the natural orientation of fish, and no indication is given for either image that they have been rotated from their in situ orientation.

Of course, Jacobovici and Tabor can “blame the press” for rotating the images, but they wouldn’t have had the problem had the orientation indicators and size and scale indicators been digitally placed on the images in the first place. Likewise, the fact that their own YouTube promotional videos also have the image turned on its side while they prime the brain with discussions about a fish (see the 1:35 mark) suggest that the image rotations were not the product of the press, but were done by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor from the outset.

It therefore appears that the repeated rotation of the image to its side and away from its proper orientation is not the result of trying to fit it on a page for publication, but may be a deliberate attempt to orient the image in such a way so that it better resembles the natural disposition of a fish. The image Jacobovici and Tabor released to the press appears to have been intentionally disoriented.

2. One then notices that Fig. 21 is a different color than Fig. 20. It appears more brown or sand colored, possessing much less green than Fig. 20. While this may be an attempt by the authors to make Fig. 21 look more like other known images engraved in limestone ossuaries, and while this is, in fact, an alteration of the digital data, we can excuse this acceptable manipulation of the image as a simple color correction from the original photo (Fig. 20). That said, many archaeologists do not like the practice of “color correcting,” as maintaining color data is the purpose of employing Munsell color charts in archaeological recording and photography. Such color information is lacking from the article and the figures.

Thus far, the image has been enlarged, rotated, cropped, and color corrected. Unfortunately, Fig. 21 appears to have undergone an additional digital perspective manipulation to correct the oblique angle of the camera, which apparently was not perpendicular to the image when the photograph was taken. This is a more serious digital manipulation of the image, as it involves correcting the lengths and angles of objects to make them appear as if they were photographed at a perpendicular angle to the object (straight on). This technique is also used to correct so-called “barreling” and “fish-eye” lens effects that result from certain cameras and angles, especially during close-up shots. This more severe correction to the image in Fig. 21 can be excused as a digital correction of a poor initial camera angle, but it is customary to acknowledge that the image has been altered to correct for perspective. This is nowhere indicated in Dr. Tabor’s article.

Unfortunately, the evidence of image manipulation with regard to Fig. 21 (the image that has been sent to the press) far exceeds simple rectification of orientation, size, color, and perspective. The evidence below details a number of digital alterations to Fig. 21 that simply cannot be described as a “Blowup of Jonah image.”

A side-by-side look at differences between Figs. 20 (left) and 21 (pgs. 41-42) from the original Bible and Interpretation article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor published on Feb 28, 2012.

A side-by-side look at differences between Figs. 20 (left) and 21 (pgs. 41-42) from the original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012. I have rotated Fig. 21 (right) back to its actual orientation for comparison purposes.

3. An object covering the right side of the supposed “tail fin” (marked as “Digitally Removed” in the upper right corner of Fig. 20 above) is present in Fig. 20, but suddenly absent in Tabor’s Fig. 21. On p. 83 of the Jesus Discovery book, this object is identified as another ossuary (#5) that is “jammed up against it so closely we were unable to see its full decorated façade.” In Fig. 21 above, Ossuary #5 been digitally removed and the right portion of the “tail fin” has been digitally generated using a Photoshop process called “clone stamping.” This is evidenced by the fact that it appears darker than the rest of the “fin.” Likewise, the dark shadow that appears down the right side of the “tail fin” in Fig. 21 may be explained as the unintended result of the process of cloning and creating that portion of the “fin,” as there is a dark spot present in Fig. 20 at the intersection of the right side of the image and Ossuary #5. The shadow is the result of cloning that dark spot up along right side of the “tail fin.”

4. Perhaps one the most egregious alterations to Fig. 21 appears in the so-called “tail.” The shape of the “tail” is altered to make it look more like the tail of a fish. The horizontal top of the “tail” in Fig. 20 is straight, but the corresponding line in Fig. 21 shows a tremendous bend on the right side. This is a deliberate result of the cloning process that produced the right side of the “tail fin” after Ossuary #5 covering part of the image in Fig. 20 was digitally removed from Fig. 21. The creation of this portion of the “tail” appears to have been deliberately drawn at an angle to further the illusion of a natural fish’s tail. Likewise, the left side of the “tail” in Fig. 21 also appears to have been gently rounded at the top, and then curved toward the bottom so that it better resembles a natural fish’s tail, while the corresponding area in Fig. 20 reveals a nearly L-shaped angle.

"IMG_7422 Posted on February 29, 2012 by admin" located on thejesusdiscovery.org website is a photo of the 'museum quality replica' of the "Jonah Ossuary" in question.

"IMG_7422 Posted on February 29, 2012 by admin" located on thejesusdiscovery.org website is a photo of the "museum quality replica" of the "Jonah Ossuary" in question.

It is worth noting that the reproduced image on the “museum quality replica” exhibited at Jacobovici and Tabor’s Feb. 28, 2012 press conference in New York does not match Tabor’s Fig. 21 image above, which was the image released to the press. The image is in its proper orientation, and not on its side. The artist(s) who engraved the replica more faithfully followed the original photograph in Fig. 20 above than did the doctored “composite” photo that was distributed to the press, as the replica more accurately reconstructs the top of the image.

5. The zig-zag triangle and braided border design visible in Fig. 20 to the left side of the image suddenly disappears from Fig. 21. The full size image of Fig. 20 (above) shows that the supposed “fish” is surrounded by a double border consisting of a line zig-zagging in between two parallel lines forming a column of triangles, that sits inside of a beautiful braided or herringbone design, all of which passes just outside the left “fin” of the “fish” in Fig. 20. However, this design element, which appears to be engraved equally as deep as the “fish” in Fig. 20, suddenly disappears in Fig. 21, despite the fact that many of the lines in the double border design appear at many of the same angles present in the “fish” design. Given the lighting, many of the lines comprising the border should appear along with corresponding lines making up the “fish” image, but are peculiarly absent. The border design appears to have been Photoshopped out of Fig. 21 using a combination of clone stamping, feathering, and use of the “healing brush” tool, as the resulting brown texture remaining after the deletion of the border appears indicatively blurry and feathered.

Again, the motivation behind the deletion of the border may be understood as an attempt to remove the image further from its actual context. Combined with presenting the image on its side, eliminating the border gives the viewer the illusion that the “fish” is swimming freely in the ocean rather than bound and framed narrowly by an ornate border, which, along with its proper orientation, certainly detracts from its interpretation as a fish.

6. A segment of the “fish’s abdomen” near the supposed “tail” (that I have labeled Seg4 above) suddenly appears clearly in Fig. 21, but is barely recognizable if not completely absent in Fig. 20. Changes in lighting cannot account for this change, as the three segments (Seg1, Seg2, and Seg3 above) are visible in Fig. 20. Even if we allow for the presence of Seg4 in Fig. 20, it still does not match with the altered angle of the tail in Fig. 21.

The addition or “enhancement” of the Seg4 layer may explain the more tapered, narrowed look of the “abdomen” of the “fish” in Fig. 21, perhaps leading the viewer away from interpretations of Fig. 20 as a nephesh monument or some other architectural structure, and encouraging an interpretation as a fish.

7. Finally, there are marks around the outside of Fig. 21 that betray the telltale signs of digital alteration, specifically, digital cloning. In a number of boxes above, I highlight examples of digitally produced marks that are identical in shape and size. (They do differ in color/tint, as this effect can be applied after the cloning process is complete.) Each mark of a mechanically engraved ossuary is unique in reality. At the pixel level of Fig. 21, however, the attempts at reproducing artificial “engraver’s marks” that I have isolated demonstrate, I believe convincingly, that someone used a Photoshop “clone stamp” tool to add artificial scratches all around the “fish,” and give the illusion of a naturally engraved image.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engravers marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the original Bible and Interpretation article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor published on Feb 28, 2012.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engraver's marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012.

Take for example the white boxes numbered 1-4 above. I have cut-and-pasted (a process similar to Photoshop cloning) these examples in the chart to the right. As you can see, the marks bear the telltale signs of being copied time and again around the outside of Fig. 21. Each cloned “engraver’s mark” is comprised of a main line attempting to represent an engraved gash. However, identical marks labeled as “low lines” appear just below each of the “main lines.” Likewise, a light spot appears above the left end of each of the “main lines.” Because such identical markings at the pixel level would never appear naturally on an ossuary, anyone familiar with Adobe Photoshop and digital imagery can attest that these are obviously the product of someone who has cloned gashes and attempts at “engraver’s marks” around the edge of the supposed “fish” in an attempt to make the altered image look more natural.

Likewise, if we examine the yellow boxes above, I have highlighted additional examples of identical, digitally cloned marks that were added in an attempt to disguise the fact that cloning had been done to the image. By altering the shape of the “engraver’s marks” added to the digital image, it was hoped by the digital artist that the additional variety of artificially produced “engraver’s marks” would conceal the artificial marks, making the evidence of cloning less noticeable.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engravers marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the original Bible and Interpretation article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor published on Feb 28, 2012.

Comparison of digitally cloned "engraver's marks" added to Fig. 21 (pg. 42) from the original 'Bible and Interpretation' article entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," by Dr. James Tabor, published on Feb 28, 2012.

Yellow boxes 5 and 6 above demonstrate a variation of the “engraver’s marks” digitally added to the image. Likewise, yellow boxes 7-9 show yet another deliberate variation. I have enlarged the identical marks in boxes 7, 8, and 9 in the chart to the right. In each example, there is a central horizontal “main line” curving upward to the left, a small notch just below the center of the main line, and a curved, almost vertical mark just above each “main line.” Again, these examples reveal definite evidence of digital manipulation to Fig. 21 in Dr. Tabor’s article.

Tabor and Jacobovici’s Response

The scholarly community has been nearly unanimous in their rejection of Jacobovici and Tabor’s claims. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) has posted on its blog a series of posts by reputable scholars critiquing the authors’ claims. And while these rebuttals vary in substance and style, from critiques of the inscription to critiques of the authors’ use of the Bible, one of the most intriguing rebuttals has been from a host of scholars critiquing the above altered image in question above, perhaps without the knowledge that it had been digitally altered. Specifically, perhaps based partially upon the demonstrable Photoshopped Fig. 21 above, several scholars (including Dr. Christopher Rollston, Dr. Eric Meyers, Dr. Jodi Magness, Dr. Stephen Fine, and myself) have argued that the image would be better interpreted as a nephesh monument.

However, I cannot help but wonder how many of these expert opinions may have been based upon the digitally altered and deliberately disoriented image described above. It now appears possible that at least some of the scholars interpreting the image in question as a nephesh monument may have been basing some of their arguments on a digitally altered image, removed from context, and rotated away from its original orientation. The interpretation as a nephesh monument may still be a possibility. But alternatively, given a knowledge of the image’s proper orientation, it may also be interpreted as a representation of an amphora as suggested by Italian scholar Antonio Lombatti, or some other kind of vessel like a krater as recently suggested by Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Andrew McGowan, or perhaps even an unguentarium, as suggested by Kings College London Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Dr. Joan E. Taylor.

The one theme shared by scholars interpreting the image both as a nephesh monument and as some kind of ceramic or glass vessel is this: they all agree it’s not a fish.

But scholars can only evaluate the claims and evidence that authors publish, and proper context and the integrity of the image data are essential to one’s interpretation. The caption under Fig. 21 from page 42 of the original version of Dr. Tabor’s Bible and Interpretation article, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” published on Feb 28, 2012 simply read: “21. Blowup of Jonah image.” Except, it obviously was not.

As I have shared the above evidence of image manipulation with my scholarly colleagues, including an exchange with Dr. Tabor on the ASOR Blog, it now appears that Dr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici are attempting to take steps to correct their descriptions about the misleading photo in question (Fig. 21 above), which has, in fact, been removed from its context, rotated away from its in situ orientation, and digitally altered, by updating the captions describing these images, and in some cases, correcting their orientation after the fact.

Page 42 of the article by James Tabor entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem" published at Bible and Interpretation. The original article (left) was published on Feb. 28, 2012. The revised article (right) appeared on the site on March 2, 2012. Note that the orientation of the image in Fig. 21 (left) is rotated away (CCW) from its in situ orientation, better resembling the natural disposition of a fish. However, the same image on the right has been rectified to its proper orientation (although it has been flipped horizontally). Note also the the revised caption on the revised article (right) still reads, "Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image," despite the fact that the image in question is still not a 'closeup' of the replica, and still does not indicate that the photo has been heavily Photoshopped.

Page 42 of the article by James Tabor entitled, "A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem," published at 'Bible and Interpretation.' The original article (left) was published on Feb. 28, 2012. The revised article (right) appeared on the site on March 2, 2012. Note that the orientation of the image in Fig. 21 (left) is rotated away (counter-clockwise) from its in situ orientation, more closely resembling the natural disposition of a fish. However, the same image in the updated version of the article on the right has been rectified to its proper orientation (although it has now been flipped horizontally, with the digitally reproduced section of the "tail" on the left side). Note also the the revised caption on the revised article (right) still reads, "Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image," despite the fact that the image in question is still not a "closeup" of the replica, and still does not indicate that the photo has been heavily Photoshopped.

For instance, the editors at Bible and Interpretation confirmed to me that they have, in fact, taken down Dr. Tabor’s original article (which I have reposted here for purposes of comparison), and replaced it with a new, revised version. They also updated the title of the revised version with an editorial comment noting that Dr. Tabor’s present article is a different version from the one originally published.

Editor's comment (see red arrows pointing to text in parentheses) noting that a new version of James Tabor's Bible and Interpretation article, originally published Feb 28, 2012, had been revised.

Editor's comment (see red arrows pointing to text in parentheses) noting that a new version of James Tabor's 'Bible and Interpretation' article, originally published Feb 28, 2012, has been revised.

This revision appeared on the Bible and Interpretation website on March 2, 2012, after Dr. Tabor and I had discussed the Photoshopped and rotated image on the ASOR blog. To his credit, Dr. Tabor confirmed that he uploaded a revised version of his article at Bible and Interpretation, noting on his Tabor Blog:

By the way, if you are one of the 18,000 that have downloaded that article in the last two days take a look again at the picture in the appendix–we have added the museum reproductions of the ossuaries.

However, Dr. Tabor makes no mention in his revised article of the fact that he has also corrected the orientation of the supposed “fish” in the image in Fig. 21 by rotating it 90-degrees clockwise into its actual in situ orientation. In the original version of the article, the image was horizontal, with the “head” of the “fish” pointing to the right, perhaps in an attempt to better resemble the natural disposition of a fish. Likewise, the caption for Fig. 21 has been changed from the original, “21. Blowup of Jonah image” to now reading, “21. Museum replica showing placement of image on front panel and closeup of image.”

A side-by-side comparison of the "museum quality replica" (left, source: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/intro/img_7422/) and the digitally altered photo from Dr. Tabor's 'Bible and Interpretation' article. Both are artist's renditions of the image on the ossuary. Note the difference in shape and scale even in these artists' renditions. Note also that the digital reproduction from the revised 'Bible and Interpretation' article has now been flipped horizontally.

A side-by-side comparison of the "museum quality replica" (left, source: http://thejesusdiscovery.org/intro/img_7422/) and the digitally altered photo from Dr. Tabor's 'Bible and Interpretation' article. Both are artist's renditions of the image on the ossuary. Note the difference in shape and scale even in these artists' renditions. Note also that the digital reproduction from the revised 'Bible and Interpretation' article has now been flipped horizontally.

The problem is, if one examines the two images in Fig. 21 of the new article closely, the images still don’t match! The bottom image is not a “close up” of the top image at all. Rather, the top image is an artist’s reconstruction on a replica, and the bottom image is a highly Photoshopped image. Look closely at the so-called “tails”: the bottom image has a bent “tail” on the top left (as the digital reproduction from the revised Bible and Interpretation article has now been flipped horizontally), while the image on the “tail” on the replica is flat and straight.

The caption of the same image in their Jesus Discovery book beneath Fig. 26 on p. 86 reads: “A composite representation of the ossuary image of Jonah and the big fish.” Again, there is no mention of the multiple digital alterations that the image has experienced, just the words “composite representation.”

Finally, the caption under the same image on the thejesusdiscovery.org website finally concedes it is a “computer enhanced” photo. Unfortunately, these photos were not made available on the website until after the book had been released, after the press conferences, after scholars had begun their initial critiques, and after I had begun to point out that the image in question (Tabor’s Fig. 21) had been digitally altered as described above.

The question is: which pictures should we believe? Should we accept the artist’s rendition on the “museum quality replica,” or the doctored, heavily Photoshopped, “computer enhanced” digital “composite representation”?

And this is the point: the image that was released to the public was a Photoshopped image. It was rotated. It had been altered in other ways, including having the “tail” reshaped to more closely resemble that of a fish. Yet, these were the images given to scholars to evaluate. And that’s what we evaluated.

I cannot speak for other scholars, so I shall only speak for myself: I admit that my original suggestion of some similarity between the image in question and Absalom’s Tomb stemmed from my analysis of the photo sent to the press (Fig. 21 above), which I have now demonstrated to be a doctored photo that was rotated to more resemble the natural disposition of a fish, and which lacked any indication of size, scale, or orientation like a cm stick or compass point. Once I realized that I had based my analysis upon a doctored photo, I publicly conceded that I no longer favor the interpretation as a nephesh memorial, but instead favor an interpretation of an amphora, krater, unguentarium, or some other form of vessel.

I also noted that as scholars, we must be willing to alter our conclusions based upon new (or in this case, accurate, in context) evidence following a consensus of our trained peers. The question is: are Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor willing to do the same? Now that they’ve had the opportunity to experience the peer-review of trained professionals, will they heed the nearly unanimous voice of the archaeologists and scholars stating that the image under investigation is not a fish?

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the visual evidence detailed above compels us to conclude that Fig. 21 from pg. 42 of Dr. James Tabor’s original Feb 28, 2012 Bible and Interpretation article entitled, “A Preliminary Report of an Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem,” has experienced a high degree of digital manipulation. Given the changes to the “tail fin” of the supposed “fish,” and given the deliberate rotation of the image’s orientation causing it to more resemble the natural orientation of a fish without offering a compass point or any indication on the image whatsoever that the image has been rotated, it can be argued that the motivation behind making these digital alterations to the image was the desire to create, or at least “enhance” the illusion of a “great fish” swimming freely in the ocean, while vomiting forth a human head.

We should not state that the image has been “faked,” as there is obviously an image on the ossuary. However, we are forced to conclude that the image was digitally manipulated and its orientation altered in such a way so as to encourage and enhance its interpretation as a fish over other possible interpretations. The fact that Dr. Tabor is still using the doctored photo as “evidence” upon which to base his recent rebuttals of other scholars’ critiques of his theory on his own jamestabor.com blog and in a new Bible and Interpretation article is quite telling.

What is more troubling is the prospect that other images published by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor may be similarly digitally “enhanced” without proper acknowledgment. If such image manipulation is demonstrated in the “Jonah fish” image, which is central to their sensational and already highly spurious claim, how can we be sure that other images, such as those of the inscriptions, have not experienced similar amounts of digital alteration? Let us remember that the image distributed to the press and on the “museum quality replica” are, in fact, artist’s renditions of the image on the ossuary and not the image itself – a rendition that the authors desperately want viewers to interpret as a fish.

With the credibility of the visual evidence demonstrated above now highly suspect, and with the scholarly consensus nearly unanimously interpreting the image as something other than a fish, we should be all the more skeptical of any and all claims made by Mr. Jacobovici and Dr. Tabor regarding any claim of Jonah, a fish, or so-called “new evidence” of early Christianity obtained from these tombs.

Because if it doesn’t look like a fish, and doesn’t swim like a fish, it may very well be an ancient vessel cleverly Photoshopped to look like a fish.

near eastern archaeology vol 74 no 2 now available online

NEA CoverFrom the ASOR Blog:

ASOR is pleased to announce that NEA 74.2 (June 2011) has now been posted online at Atypon Link. This issue (and 4 years of back issues) is available to online subscribers of NEA and to ASOR members who have chosen an online subscription as part of their membership.

The following is an abbreviated table of contents:

-Stefan Münger, Jürgen Zangenberg and Juha Pakkala: Long Article on Kinneret
-Rami Arav, John F. Shroder Jr., Steven Notley: Forum Responses on Bethsaida
-Amihai Mazar: Forum Article on “The Iron Age Chronology Debate”
-Ann E. Killebrew, Lorenzo d’Alfonso, Brandon R. Olson: Fieldnotes
-Hans Barnard: Fieldnote
-Garth Gilmour: Fieldnote

A detailed table of contents is available here.

In fact, the last 4 years of ASOR journals are available to ASOR members. Click here for details.

Go, read, and learn.

congratulations to dr. jeremy smoak, inaugural winner of the asor aviram prize for best paper

Dr. Jeremy Smoak, UCLA

Dr. Jeremy Smoak, UCLA, was awarded the Aviram Prize for best paper

Congratulations to UCLA’s Dr. Jeremy Smoak, who has been awarded ASOR’s inaugural Aviram Prize for best paper of the year. Dr. Smoak’s paper is entitled, “May Yahweh Bless You and Guard You from Evil: The Structure and Content of Ketef Hinnom Amulet I and the Background of the Prayers for Deliverance in the Psalms.” The paper compares the rhetorical structure of the amulet from Ketef Hinnom to several Psalms that petition Yahweh for protection against evil. The paper will be presented at the 2011 ASOR annual meeting in San Francisco this November, and will be published in the Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions within the next year.

Joseph Aviram

Joseph Aviram

The Dorot Foundation announced its sponsorship of the prize earlier this year. The Aviram Prize, administered by the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), was established to honor Joseph Aviram, who has held the positions of Director and President of the Israel Exploration Society (IES), an organization to which he has devoted the past seventy years.

(Abraham Rabinovich wrote an excellent article on Aviram for the Jerusalem Post back in April 2011.)

The Aviram Prize is awarded by a committee of distinguished scholars to the paper “that most advances the scholarship of its given field.”

Congratulations to Dr. Smoak on this honor.

“The world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies” (and other highlights from Raphael Golb’s appeal)

After his arrest, Raphael Golb lied about sending emails he later claimed were "parody." Now, in the appeal of his conviction on 31 felony and misdemeanor counts of forgery, criminal impersonation, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer, Dr. Golb is making more false statements. One must ask, at what point will he begin to resemble the main character in the famed tale of a boy who couldn't stop lying?

After his arrest, Raphael Golb lied about sending emails he later claimed were "parody." Now, in the appeal of his conviction on 31 felony and misdemeanor counts of forgery, criminal impersonation, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer, Dr. Golb is making more false statements. One must ask, at what point will he begin to resemble the main character in the famed tale of a boy who couldn't stop lying?

As I was perusing Dr. Raphael Golb’s appeal of the 31 guilty verdicts against him in the case of the People of New York v. Raphael Golb (in case you missed it, Dr. Golb was found guilty of 31 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer), I stumbled across this interesting claim on pages 69-70:

‘”And Cargill concluded a lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature by suggesting that “the world will be rid of Norman Golb when he
dies.”‘ (Appeal of guilty verdict in the case of the People of New York v. Raphael Golb, § Argument, IV, A)

I chuckled. I did so because I specifically remember this very issue coming up during my testimony when Dr. Golb’s defense attorney, Ron Kuby, cross-examined me. Before we examine whether or not the above statement is true, here is the transcript of the exchange from pages 763-768 of the corrected court transcripts of my cross-examination by Dr. Golb’s defense attorney, Ron Kuby:

Q (from Golb Defense Attorney Ron Kuby to Dr. Robert Cargill):  Earlier on cross-examination, Dr. Cargill, I made reference to a paper that you had prepared related to this case and your experiences. Do you recall this?
A (Dr. Robert Cargill to Golb Defense Attorney Ron Kuby):  This is the paper to which you referred in November?
Q.  Yes.
A.  Yes, I think you mentioned that paper earlier.
Q. Is it fair to say that that was entitled “Scholars Behaving Badly?” It’s got a longer title to it but that’s part of it?
A.  That’s the principle portion before the colon title, yes.
Q.  And this was an exclusive to Archaeology magazine?
A.  I’ve never published in Archaeology magazine.
Q.  I’m sorry? Dr. Cargill, just take a look at the document marked page one, scan it silently to yourself if you please, and after you’ve satisfied yourself and you know what it is.
A.  (The witness complied.)
Q. What do you recognize that to be, sir?
A.  This is a document that I wrote for consideration of publication for Archaeology magazine?
Q.  So you sent it to Archaeology magazine for publication; is that correct?
A.  I was working with an editor there.
Q.  And did they publish it?
A.  No, sir.
Q.  Could you hand it back, please?
COURT CLERK:  And that is marked as?
MR. KUBY:  H-1.
Q.  And with respect to this article, you’ve delivered variations of this article in the form of a lecture; is that correct?
A.  I have not delivered variations. I’ve delivered one redacted variation of that article, the one that we’ve already described at SBL.
Q.  And this article, you wrote this article, right?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Did you end the article by saying, “Unfortunately the words of Shrine of the Book Curator, Magen Broshi, still appear to echo true today.” Quote “When will be we free of Golb? When he dies.” Close quote. You wrote that?
A.  I’m sorry?
Q.  You wrote that?
A.  Magen Broshi wrote that.
Q.  You were quoting Magen Broshi?
A.  In the initial draft, in the first draft of this article, I had a lot of things, and things that we ended up redacting out of the article thinking the article is too long.
Q.  But in the Society for Biblical Literature lecture that you gave on November 23rd, you included that portion in the speech that you gave, did you not?
A.  I do not recall.
Q.  You do not recall?
A.  Including that portion.
Q.  Well, we’ll hold that for now. Magen Broshi – you identified him in this article as the Shrine of the Book Curator, correct?
A.  I believe so.
Q.  And what is the Shrine of the Book?
A.  The Shrine of the Book is a building that contains many of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It’s a part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Q.  So it’s an important institution in your area of work?
A.  In my area of work, yes, it’s an important place.
Q.  And you were aware, were you not, that in an interview with the newspaper Ha’aretz, Magen Broshi said, “When will we be free of Golb? When he dies.”?
A.  I read that quote in Dr. Golb’s book. That’s when I learned of that quote.
Q.  And you saw fit to quote it in your papers, correct?
A.  No, I did not. I saw fit to include it in the original draft of the paper, which was later redacted from the paper. No one every publicly saw that.
Q.  Pardon me?
A.  No one ever publicly saw that.
Q.  I’m not asking you that question, you wrote those words, correct?
A.  I quoted Dr. Broshi in the early draft of a document that I wrote.
Q.  And when you say you included it in your paper, that is the portion that you had said, simply to quote, “Unfortunately Broshi’s words are still true,” you mean by that it’s unfortunate that you wouldn’t be rid Norman Golb sooner than his death?
A.  No, sir, that’s not what I meant.
Q.  Do you know how old Norman Golb is?
A.  I do not.
Q.  Do you have any idea?
A.  I would have to speculate.
Q.  Any notion of how long you have to wait to be free of him?
(District Attorney) MR. BANDLER: Objection.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q.  You also wrote, did you not, that Norman Golb will, quote, “fight his litigious losing battle until the bitter end?”
A.  I’m sorry, are you quoting from a draft of a manuscript I wrote?
Q.  I am asking you if you wrote the following words?
A.  I don’t recall. I mean, we would have to see if it’s in a draft of a manuscript that was never published.
Q. Did you ever deliver those words to the Society of Biblical Literature on November 23rd?
A.  I don’t recall.
Q.  You don’t recall. Is this the kind of thing you would remember if you had done it?
A.  No.
Q. Because it’s so commonplace to attack Norman Golb, it just doesn’t ring a bell anymore?
THE COURT: That’s an extraordinarily large…  I will direct the jury to disregard it and the witness not to answer it.

In the above exchange, we find Dr. Golb’s defense attorney, Ron Kuby, doing his job: attempting to impugn my credibility to the jury. But it quickly became obvious to the judge and the jury that Mr. Kuby (or Dr. Golb, who many suspect did much of the “research” for his own defense) made a mistake. The defense mistakenly thought that I had read the draft article I had submitted to Archaeology as my 2009 SBL paper. They obviously had not attended the lecture or heard it, but simply assumed that I had read the draft article to the SBL session. At one point, they even bluffed and asked me if I wanted to hear a CD audio recording of the paper:

Q.  Now you lecture from time to time as well, is that correct?
A.  I do.
Q.  And one of the lectures that you gave was on November 23rd of last year, correct?
A.  Yes, sir.
Q.  The Society Biblical Literature is that where it took place?
A.  It was either ASOR or SBL, they meet together.
Q.  And you have sort of turned your experience with this case into a academic paper, haven’t you, if that’s an unfair characterization, please correct me.
A.  Yes, I wrote about, I think it’s safe to say I wrote about the proceedings of this matter, yes.
Q.  And you did it in what I’ll call a formal paper?
A.  I did it in a paper presented, I believe – and I’d have to check if I’m wrong – at the Society of Biblical Literature. It may have been ASOR but it might have been SBL.
Q.  And you published a review of this as well in the Archaeology Review as well?
A.  Of this paper? Not to my knowledge.
Q.  At the November 23rd lecture? And this lecture was before whom again?
A.  It was again to my recollection the Society of Biblical Literature, it was a session on online research. There are different sessions within the Society of Biblical Literature. You can give a lecture on the Books of Samuel, a lecture on the prophets, and they have one on technology and the use of research.
Q.  And in that lecture did you say the following, quote, “Despite Norman and Raphael’s many criticisms, the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits were experiencing tremendous success and Norman Golb was still not being invited to speak at the museums lectures. Our patient vigilance had begun to payoff and the Golbs were experience increasing difficulty in getting out their message,” end quote?
A.  If it’s not word for word, that’s consistent with something that I said in the lecture.
Q.  Well, would you like to listen to a CD of that?
A.  Sure. No, but I guess you’re going to play it anyway.
Q.  No, I’m not.
(Court transcripts of the cross-examination of Robert Cargill, p. 759-760)

Golb’s defense attorney, Mr. Kuby, didn’t want to play the CD of my SBL paper because he didn’t have it. Had he actually been in possession of the conclusion of my 2009 SBL paper entitled, “Scholars Behaving Badly: ‘Charles Gadda,’ Raphael Golb, and the Campaign of Anonymity on the Internet to Promote Norman Golb and Smear His Rivals,” he’d have heard the following conclusion:

Finally, scholars should be reminded that they cannot force their legacies upon history; rather, our legacies are the product of a lifetime of research, instruction, publication, and collegiality. Today, scholars must collaborate and work together—within the parameters of peer review and professional conferences—and must not attempt to substitute these established practices with self-published articles and campaigns of online intimidation. The days of the old scholarly model of ripping your opponent’s position (and them personally) are over. Today, it is important for scholars to work cooperatively, with colleagues to bring about responsible scholarship. Because you must never forget: the island is always watching.

Thank you for your time.

Obviously, the conclusion of my SBL paper was different from the unpublished draft article that I had submitted to Archaeology. But that reality didn’t fit what Dr. Golb’s defense wanted to argue. So, he attempted to mislead the jury into thinking that I read the draft Archaeology article as my SBL paper, which was simply not the case. But, we see again that Dr. Golb’s defense team was not interested in the truth, or even the facts, but rather in continuing their attempt to smear me (and Dr. Schiffman) by simply making things up.

So, back to Dr. Golb’s appeal. There are ultimately two problems with the statement, “And Cargill concluded a lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature by suggesting that ‘the world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies’,” in Dr. Golb’s appeal. First, Dr. Golb’s defense again intentionally misleads those unfortunate few interested enough in reading through the 111 pages of rehashed red herrings and irrelevant excuses presented in the appeal by failing to inform the reader that this statement is actually a quote from Shrine of the Book Curator, Dr. Magen Broshi, which he made to the newspaper, Ha’aretz, on October 4, 1991.

In fact, the defense counsel knew this, because they had not only asked me about it during my cross-examination, but had quoted it and properly attributed it to Dr. Broshi in their earlier Motion to Dismiss the charges against Dr. Golb, pages 4-5:

This suggestion was accompanied by widely reported defamatory statements, including the assertion by Magen Broshi, director of the Shrine of the Book museum in Jerusalem, that Norman Golb was a “revolting polemist, an opinionated trouble-maker” who had “filled the world with his filth,” and of whom “we will be free … when he dies.” (Haaretz, October 4, 1991.)

The defense counsel contradicts reality (and its own court filing!) by claiming in their appeal that *I* made the statement they themselves correctly attributed to Dr. Broshi earlier in their motion to dismiss.

Go figure.

Of course, what’s ironic about Dr. Broshi’s quote is that I would have never known about it had Dr. Golb not published it on page 230 of his own book, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So Dr. Broshi said it. Dr. Golb repeated it on page 230 of his book. Dr. Golb’s defense team repeated the quote in their motion to dismiss, and specifically asked me about it during cross-examination. But according to Dr. Golb’s appeal, *I* made the quote.

I shake my head.

But, there’s another problem with the statement, “And Cargill concluded a lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature by suggesting that ‘the world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies’,” in Dr. Golb’s appeal: I NEVER QUOTED THE QUOTE!

The defense mistakenly assumed that I had read from the draft of an article that I had written and sent to Archaeology for publication. However, we decided not to publish the article, which means no one ever read the draft of the article except me and the Archaeology editor, and apparently Mr. Kuby (who somehow managed to obtain a copy of the draft of the article). The defense was attempting to make me look bad by trying to argue that I read Dr. Broshi’s quote to a session at SBL. The only problem is, I didn’t use the line in my SBL paper! I told Dr. Golb’s defense counsel that I couldn’t recall using that line during cross-examination. Unfortunately for Dr. Golb’s defense counsel, I did not. But that didn’t stop the defense from attempting to tell the jury that I quoted the quote in my paper. And when the jury saw through Dr. Golb’s lies and found him guilty thirty-one times, it didn’t stop Dr. Golb’s defense from stating the flat out lie that I concluded my SBL paper with the words, “The world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies.” It never happened, and yet, there it is in Dr. Golb’s appeal, presented as if it were fact. Simply amazing!

The defense is not only misleading the court (and the public by posting the appeal online anonymously), but it is also flat out lying when it claims in their appeal that I said something in a lecture that I did not.

Of course, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Dr. Golb can make up whatever he wants in his appeal because it is “protected speech.” But the NY DA will simply point out that the appeal is full of lies and misstatements, and the appellate court will make the appropriate judgment.

But this just shows once again what we’ve come to expect from Dr. Golb and his defense team: the demonstrated, repeated willingness to mislead any who will listen, misrepresent facts, and flat out lie in a desperate attempt to blame someone – anyone! – for Dr. Golb’s own crimes.

latest issue of nea (74/1) is available

The latest issue (74/1) of Near Eastern Archaeology is now available for online for subscribers. Printed copies of the journal will be mailed in about a week.

The issue contains a long article on Ramat Rahel by Oded Lipschits, Yuval Gadot, Benjamin Arubas and Manfred Oeming. The issue also contains notes and reviews by Israel Finkelstein and Eli Piasetzky, Theresa M. Barket and Colleen A. Bell, Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg, Joe D. Seger, and Carrie Hritz.

ASOR joins LCCHP and Other Organizations in Warning of Cultural Heritage Emergency in Egypt

ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) LogoASOR has added its name and support to a statement expressing concern over the potential loss of cultural heritage in Egypt. While human life and well-being are of primary importance, much of Egypt’s cultural identity is rooted in its proud cultural heritage, dating back thousands of years. Reports of museums being looted and artifacts like mummies being destroyed are devastating to Egypt’s irreplaceable cultural heritage.

Here is the statement in its entirety:

The undersigned cultural heritage and archaeological organizations express their concern over the loss of life and injury to humans during the protests in Egypt this week. We support the desire of the Egyptian people to exercise their basic civil rights. We also share their concern about the losses to cultural heritage that Egypt has already sustained and the threat of further such losses over the coming days.

Brave actions taken by the citizens of Cairo and the military largely protected the Cairo Museum. However, the numerous sites, museums and storage areas located outside of Cairo are even more vulnerable. As the prisons are opened and common criminals are allowed to escape, the potential for greater loss is created. A recent report from Egyptologist Professor Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama in Birmingham states that damage has been done to storage areas and tombs in Abusir and Saqqara and that looting is occurring there and in other locations.

We call on the Egyptian authorities to exercise their responsibilities to protect their country’s irreplaceable cultural heritage. At the same time, we call on United States and European law enforcement agencies to be on the alert over the next several months for the possible appearance of looted Egyptian antiquities at their borders.

For a link to ASOR’s Policy on the Preservation and Protection of Cultural Property, click here.

For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, visit www.culturalheritagelaw.org.

Introductory Remarks for the Inaugural Blogger and Online Publication Session at the 2010 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting

Introductory Remarks for the Inaugural Blogger and Online Publication Session at the 2010 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting
Robert R. Cargill, Presiding
November 22, 2010, 1:00-3:30 PM
Room: A702 – Marriott Marquis

Society of Biblical LiteratureI’d like to welcome each of you to this inaugural “Blogger and Online Publication” section at the 2010 SBL annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Each of our presenters today represents a specific look at the history, present state, and future of blogging and online publication.

We shall also be passing around a plate to take up a collection for the use of this projector, which apparently sets the SBL back about $400 a day.

Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge two people who are largely responsible for this new session. The first is the SBL Manager of Programs, Charlie Haws, who worked diligently to make this session possible. His foresight and recognition that the academy must embrace the reality and power of blogging and online publication was not only courageous within the established academy, but an acknowledgment of the reality that this new medium brings an interactive, scholarly discussion about biblical literature, religion, theology, and archaeology directly to the public from each of our own unique points of view. So to Charlie Haws I offer my heartfelt thanks.

The other individual I’d like to acknowledge was here for ASOR last week, but had to return home. He was the driving force behind guiding this Blogging and Online Publication session from concept to reality. That man is Jim West. Jim’s persistence and hard work behind the scenes made this session possible. Whether you love him or hate him, you read him, (whether you admit it or not), and Dr. West has easily become the most widely read Bible-related blog online (as he regularly reminds us). I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the ever vigilant, ever present commentator of all things Zwingli and totally depraved, and if I may proudly add, my friend, Jim West. Thank you Jim.

We’ll have time for a few questions at the end of each presentation, but there will be an additional few minutes for discussion at the end of the session where you may direct additional questions to any of the presenters.

With that, our first paper will be presented by Dr. James Davila of University of St. Andrews in Scotland entitled, “What Just Happened:  The Rise of “Biblioblogging” in the First Decade of the Twenty-first Century.”

Our second paper will be presented by Dr. Christian Brady, Dean of Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania entitled, “Online Biblical Studies: Past, Present, Promise, and Peril.”

Our third paper will be presented by Dr. Michael Barber of John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, California entitled, “Weblogs and the Academy: The Benefits and Challenges of Biblioblogging.”

Our fourth paper will be presented by Dr. James McGrath of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana entitled, “The Blogging Revolution: New Technologies and their Impact on How we do Scholarship.”

Our final paper will be presented by me, Robert R. Cargill of UCLA, entitled, “Instruction, Research, and the Future of Online Educational Technologies.”

dr. ed wright responds to my peer-review article on bible and interpretation: a word on professional conduct in the academy

Dr. Ed Wright, Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona and President of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem has responded to my article entitled, “How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change,” on the Bible and Interpretation website. Dr. Wright’s article is entitled, “The Case for the Peer-Review Process: A Rejoinder to ‘How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change’.”

Dr. Wright is a friend and colleague, and I respect his opinion and the solid points he makes in his response. I’d also like to point out that this is how scholarly debate is supposed to take place. When a scholar produces research or a publication for consumption by the academy and/or the public, the scholar should expect and even invite professional criticism. It is the only way to expose holes in a theory or an academic argument, and this process makes the theory stronger. By pointing out problems with a theory, members of the academy contribute to a global discussion and together collaborate to find an interpretation or theory that best explains all of the data. Political candidates do the same thing during debates: they stand up and critique their opponent’s points of view, and, if done properly and professionally, they shake hands when it’s over and go have a beer together. That’s how it works.

Scholars should never personally smear or attempt to harm the professional development of anyone with whom they disagree. Rather, scholars (and students, and the public at large for that matter) should always argue each case on the merits of the argument. This is precisely what Dr. Wright has done here, and it is precisely what Dr. Jodi Magness and I did last year in the pages of NEA and the SBL session that reviewed my book. We stood up, exchanged points of view, pointed out flaws in each other’s theories, and then walked to the next session, where we advocated side-by-side on the same side of a different issue. Scholars should never respond to a professional, public critique of their work with personal attacks. Rather, scholars should respond on the merits of the argument in public (including peer-review journals, blogs, professional conferences, etc.), let others contribute responses, or not respond. Attacking someone personally will only bring much-deserved shame upon the attacking scholar.

This is how it’s supposed to work. Scholars should make their arguments in their own name and stand behind their claims. They should submit to the peer-review process to be critiqued by an assembly of their peers. This ensures the quality of the academic work and improves the collaborative understanding of a particular subject. Rather than attacking a scholar personally with an anonymous campaign of letters designed to impugn the credibility of a scholar who may hold a differing point of view, scholars should offer alternatives and allow the public (i.e., the academy if a scholarly issue, or the greater public if a popular issue) to determine which arguments seem best.

This is what Dr. Wright and Dr. Magness have done. It is what Larry Schiffman and John Collins and Eibert Tigchelaar and David Stacey and the late Hanan Eshel and Eric Cline and Yuval Peleg and many others have done. We all disagree with each other on any number of topics. And we may very well agree on any number of other issues as well. The point is that we humbly submit our contributions to the academy and the greater public for consideration, we make our critiques professionally, and we stand behind and are accountable for the manner in which we conduct ourselves. The academy has, with very few exceptions, always set the example for professional conduct in the exchange of ideas. The academy is the model to which the public and politicians ought to look as the ultimate example of civil disagreement. And this is what Dr. Wright and so many others have done. I hope to follow their example and always offer commentary and scholarly opinions in a professional, transparent (and occasionally humorous) manner.

Thanx again to Dr. Wright for responding. I’m sure the topic will come up when I see him at the ASOR annual meeting this year in Atlanta, hopefully over a beer (that he buys ;-)

bc

chris rollston on the inventors of the alphabet

Christopher Rollstonchris rollston has written a solid article on the probable inventors of the alphabet on the asor blog. he concludes:

(1) the Muttersprache of the inventors of the alphabet was a Northwest Semitic language, (2) and that the inventors of the alphabet functioned in a reasonably high status role within a component (or components) of the Egyptian administrative apparatus, that is, officialdom. (3) I believe that it is reasonable and tenable to argue that they learned Egyptian writing from Egyptian scribes. (4) I contend that it would be improbable that illiterate miners were capable of, or responsible for, the invention of the alphabet. (5) Ultimately, writing in antiquity was an elite venture and those that invented the alphabet were Northwest Semitic speakers, arguably they were officials in the Egyptian apparatus, quite capable with the complex Egyptian writing system.

give it a read.

BASOR 358 (May 2010) now available online

ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) LogoWord from ASOR Executive Director, Andy Vaughn, is that BASOR 358 is now available online.

The issue contains articles by Bradley J. Parker and Jason R. Kennedy, Jonathan S. Greer, Marcus Rautman, and Jodi Magness.

Visit the ASOR Blog for details.

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