Don’t Miss Episode 4 of Bible Secrets Revealed: “The Real Jesus” Tonight on History

Don’t miss episode 4 of the six-part series “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History.

The fourth installment, entitled “The Real Jesus“, debuts Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013 at 10/9c .

The episode explores:

“For billions of people around the world he is known as “The Son of God” — the Messiah — whose teachings have inspired one of the most powerful and influential religions in the world. Nearly everything we know about the life of Jesus comes from the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But just how accurate are these sacred texts?”

And if you missed the first three episodes, you can watch them for free online at History‘s “Bible Secrets Revealed” website.

Tweet your feedback with the hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed.

(This has become a lot of fun, as many of the show’s participants are live tweeting the episodes. Don’t miss out on your chance to ask questions and make comments with the over 1.3 million people who watch the show each Wednesday night.)

And send your questions to Bible History Daily, where I’ll be answering some of them and providing more in depth explanations of the material covered in the show.

a critique of simcha jacobovici’s ‘secrets of christianity: nails of the cross’ by dr. robert r. cargill


Simcha Jacobovici recently claimed to have discovered the nails used to crucify Jesus. I have written a critique of Simcha’s documentary entitled, “A Critique of Simcha Jacobovici’s Secrets of Christianity: Nails of the Cross” for Bible and Interpretation.

Here’s a snippet:

Simcha makes two bold claims to say the least: the first is that the lost nails of Jesus’ crucifixion have been recovered, and the second is an implicit assertion that the IAA covered it up. Unfortunately for Simcha, his theory has a problem, and its name is Legion, for they are many. Any one of these problems renders Simcha’s theory impossible, and their aggregate renders the theory preposterous.

Read more and comment.

no, simcha, you didn’t find the ‘nails of the cross’ of christ (a week before easter)

Simcha holds a nail.

Simcha holds a nail. That must prove it.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.

Everyone’s least favorite fake tv archaeologist “veteran investigator” presenter of ridiculous, sensationalistic trash σκύβαλα, Simcha Jacobovici, is releasing a documentary entitled, “The Nails Of The Cross,” which “investigates” whether the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been discovered. And completely coincidentally, Simcha’s press release machine is revving up a week before Easter. Shockerrrrr! (said with a high pitched voice and dripping with sarcasm.)

The South African Independent Online reports Mr. Jacobovici’s claims in a Reuters story by Ari Rabinovitch:

“What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,” he said in an interview, wearing his trademark traditional knitted cap.

(I love that they mentioned his “trademark knitted cap!)

Jim West broke this story this morning. And the unwitting press is already sopping it up like vinegar in a sponge. The UK’s Telegraph is even running video. (Thank goodness Dan Bahat is there to talk some sense into folks.)

So let me ask: Why is it that Mr. Jacobovici continues to prey on an oft unwitting public so near to the Christian holy days? Is his greed for cash so great that he’s willing to jump to any conclusion just to get on TV? Has he been so far ostracized from anything resembling legitimacy within professional archaeological circles that he feels he has nothing to lose by using his own production company to create ridiculous documentaries about unsubstantiated claims?

The Israel Antiquities Authority knows Mr. Jacobovici is making this up. It said in a statement:

The Israel Antiquities Authority, which oversaw the Jerusalem excavation, said in reaction to the film’s release that it had never been proven beyond doubt that the tomb was the burial place of Caiaphas. It also said that nails are commonly found in tombs.

“There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre, but the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research,” it said.

Crucifixion nail through the ankle bone

Replica of crucifixion nail through the ankle bone of Yehohanan ben Hagkol. It is the only evidence of a nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem ever discovered.

So once again, we have Simcha Jacobovici making unsubstantiated, fantastic claims a week before Easter with the sole purpose of getting people to watch his nonsensical documentary. Keep in mind, anyone who has dug in a Roman period site in Israel has most likely found nails. I have. But to claim that they are the nails of the Crucifixion is wholly irresponsible, even if you did find your nails in a tomb. There has only been evidence of one nail used in crucifixion in Jerusalem, a replica of which is in the Israel Museum. It was discovered by my friend and former excavation director Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis of the IAA, and the nail was in an ankle bone in an ossuary clearly inscribed in Hebrew with the name “Yehohanan ben Hagkol.”

So let’s explore Mr. Jacobovici’s actual claim a bit further. According to Reuters:

The film begins by revisiting the burial place hailed by many at the time as the burial place of Caiaphas, who in the New Testament presides over the trial of Jesus.

The grave, along with a number of ossuaries – or bone boxes – was uncovered during construction work on a hillside a few kilometres south of the Old City.

Caiaphas is a major figure in the Gospels, having sent Jesus to the Romans and on to his death, and one of Jacobovici’s assertions is that the high priest did not deserve such a bad reputation.

Two iron nails were found in the tomb [of Caiaphas!] – one on the ground and one actually inside an ossuary – and, according to the film, disappeared shortly after. [emphasis mine]

Jacobovici says that because Caiaphas is so closely linked to the crucifixion, he believes the nails found in his tomb will be shown to belong to Jesus.

‘What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found,’ he said.

‘If you look at the whole story, historical, textual, archaeological, they all seem to point at these two nails being involved in a crucifixion,’ he said.’ And since Caiaphas is only associated with Jesus’s crucifixion, you put two and two together and they seem to imply that these are the nails.’

(all bold, red, and italics mine)

“Two and two together”??? Let me get this straight:

  • Simcha claims to have found the tomb of the High Priest Caiaphas, a claim which is uncertain because archaeologists aren’t even sure that the tomb is Caiaphas’ tomb.
  • The excavation found two nails in the tomb, one in an ossuary, and one on the ground.
  • The nails disappeared (i.e., someone took or misplaced them).
  • The nails “magically reappear” in a lab in Tel Aviv 20 years later.
  • Because Caiaphas is mentioned in the story of Jesus, and the nails “disappeared” for a time, they must be the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion?????

How in the name of anything that makes sense does that make any sense? Why weren’t the nails discovered in the Tomb of Jesus that Simcha claimed to have discovered in 2007 as part of a press campaign touting his last laughable documentary, The Jesus Family Tomb, just before Easter of 2007 (which was so heavily criticized by scholars for its inaccuracies and sensational jumps to conclusions that Discovery pulled its subsequent airings)? Or, did Mr. Jacobovici think that the world would forget his last unsubstantiated claim?

Perhaps the words of the principal from the Adam Sandler cult classic, Billy Madison, would serve as an appropriate response:

“Mr. Madison Jacobovici, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

The fact that the Mail Online provides lots of pretty pictures, and Mr. Jacobovici makes a speculative documentary, doesn’t mean the above lack of logic makes any sense.

Finding a nail in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem does not mean you’ve discovered the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s irresponsible, and Simcha should know better by now. This is nothing more than a press campaign designed to stir up controversy to get people to watch a bad documentary.  And Mr. Jacobovici’s latest TV offering is nothing more than a train wreck of reality television. Simcha should probably just break down and get his own fake reality show. (Oh wait, he already does.)

no, it’s not a nail from the cross of christ

A nail. That’s it. A nail.

as my mother used to say to me, ‘i just got through warning you, and you did it anyway.’

the telegraph is the latest in the long line of irresponsible, ridiculous, and purely sensationalistic media outlets to prey on the hopes of some gullible christians around the world and make a claim (or ask a silly question) with absolutely no archaeological or factual basis. their latest offering asks if a nail found in an archaeological excavation could have been a nail used in the cross of christ. the headline reads:

Nail from Christ’s crucifixion found?

the subheading reads:

A nail dating from the time of Christ’s crucifixion has been found at a remote fort believed to have once been a stronghold of the Knights Templar.

antonio lombatti has already addressed this issue.

listen up: there is absolutely no evidence to support any claim that this was a nail from the cross of christ, as the headline asks.

btw, this is not ‘minimalism;’ it is just the facts of archaeology. allow me to explain.

the archaeologist says that the nail

dates from the first to second centuries

and that it appeared to have been

handed with extreme care, as if it was a relic.

but that’s all we know. someone ages ago may have thought it was a relic from the time of christ. all the archaeology shows us is that the nail dates to within a couple of hundred years of the time of jesus.

and what is the context of the find? the answer is a small fort on a tiny island just off the coast of the port of funchal, a city on another small island, madeira, off the southwest coast of portugal. according to its website, the location:

Fort of São José is the headquarters of the Principality of the Pontinha, a self-proclaimed country by Prince D. Renato Barros. The Fort of São José is located off the coast of the port of Funchal, capital of the Madeira Islands, an autonomous region of Portugal.

so the context of the nail is a fort claimed by some prince, who formally announced his island’s secession from portugal. you read that correctly, a nail that some claim might be from the cross was found in a fort off the coast of portugal. riiiiight.

the most one can say is that an archaeologist (bryn walters in this case) thinks that a nail discovered along with three skeletons and three swords in a fort on a small island off the coast of portugal, might possibly have been revered by the three deceased men, who could possibly may have been knights templar (since there is some old legend tying this city to the knights templar), who in turn may have believed that the nail they may have been toting along with them could possibly have been a relic that someone said was once a nail from the cross of christ.

and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you sell newspapers: you find something, and interpret it as possibly something that perhaps someone believed to be something ages ago because someone else revered it.

of course, some representative (christopher macklin in this case) from some modern knights templar club (the knights templar of britannia) is going to say that the discovery was ‘momentous,’ but who cares. that is no more proof or credible support than some nutjob from some alien abduction organization saying that some purported sighting of a ufo is ‘monumental’ or ‘evidence of extra-terrestrial existence.’

and just so you know, i’ve found lots of nails excavating in roman era archaeological sites much closer to jerusalem than this nail. but i’d never make this claim, because it’s not only irresponsible and reckless, but is not supported by the evidence.

finding a nail in portugal is no more evidence of the cross of christ than finding wood on a mountain in turkey is evidence of noah’s ark.

now, please note, that the archaeologist never claimed it to be a nail from the cross of christ. all he said it was that it was a nail that appeared to have been revered or at least delicately handled, possibly by the three men buried nearby. those men, in turn, could have been knights templar. and those knights possibly could have been told that this was a nail from the cross of christ. an assumption of an assumption of an assumption. thus, this is not really the archaeologist’s fault, for he stated the truth. it is the unnamed author of the article that is responsible for the hype and misleading headline. and that, of course, falls at the feet of the telegraph.

because in the end, all you really have is a nail.

march 3 update: see the los angeles examiner article by chris cunnyngham.

two women

two women.

both knew their place, but not everyone agreed where that place was.

the place for a woman was certainly not at the feet of a rabbi. martha understood this, and confined her service to the traditional and scripturally authorized domestic realm, preparing the house for the arrival of her lord and his men. and martha served her lord well.

but mary, mary did not get the memo. you see, mary knew her place too, but it was not a place people expected, and martha thought mary should have known better. there was a god-ordained order to things, and women were not supposed to step out of their roles as domestic servants. but mary chose to break with tradition, and sit at the feet of her lord… with the men.

and in luke 10, we have one of the earliest debates about the role and place of women. so the question is asked: what does it mean to be a servant? must a servant be a servant in the kitchen only? or can she be a true servant – the kind of servant jesus himself endorsed – one that sits at the foot of the teacher along with the twelve, along with the apostles, the disciples – those who would become church leaders – that is, along with the men?

and mary, who longs only to be a true servant, breaks tradition, and joins the men. and as we shall see, jesus says that mary has chosen what is better: because the true disciple serves at the feet of the lord.

martha, who knew her place, is not mentioned again in luke’s gospel. but her sister, mary, she is mentioned again. in fact, she is mentioned in two places that luke considered moments of utmost significance.

it is no coincidence, that as jesus hanged on the cross, and gasped for his last few breaths of life, that the very student, the very disciple for whom jesus stood up and defended at martha’s home – mary – she was there, again, still, near the feet of jesus when he died.

luke emphasizes this in luke 23:49 when he says, “all those who knew him – including the women who had followed him from galilee – remained at a distance watching these things.” mary – the better disciple – remained at the feet of jesus, even while other disciples had fled in fear.

and perhaps it was this same mary that was among those mentioned by name in luke 24 as being one of the few women that was faithful enough, and devoted enough, and brave enough to visit the tomb on the morning of the resurrection.

and it was these women – these faithful servants – and this faithful student – who relayed the message of the resurrection to the eleven men – who were hiding, and unbelieving, off in the distance.

perhaps it is a literary irony, but it is certainly no coincidence, that the very woman who sat at the feet of jesus while he was teaching, also stood near the foot of the cross when he breathed his last.

because the true student not only hears the teaching, but embodies the lessons taught.

the true student not only does the easy assignments, but completes the difficult assignments as well.

and the true disciple sits at the feet of the teacher, whether the lesson is being taught in a room, or while hanging on a cross.

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