My worry about the suggestion was that it led to a revision of an already problematic aspect of the case, the idea that the image featured a "stick figure" of Jonah emerging from the fish, a point made by Stephen Goranson and illustrated in my post headed The Changing Body of the Stick Man in Talpiot Tomb B. But more importantly, the suggestion about the letters spelling out Jonah was received with scepticism -- Christopher Rollston in the Globe and Mail aticle; Jim Davila in Paleojudaica, Antonio Lombatti, Robert Cargill, Robert Cargill again, Steve Caruso and Steve Caruso again.
Now James Tabor makes clear that, as far as he is concerned, the Inscription on the “Jonah image” Says YONAH. He complains about several blog responses and he quotes from troubling posts that I have not seen. My preference is, of course, to deal with matters of substance and there is something I would like to draw attention to.
One of the difficulties that some have seen with the new proposal is that one of the alleged letters, the nun, appears to be broken in the middle, and thus does not appear to be a nun at all. Here, for example, is Robert Cargill's helpful illustration:
|Image (bottom) on Ossuary 6. Original image here .Coloured lines courtesy of Robert Cargill.|
The difficulty with this letter is that there is an obvious break between the elements of the alleged nun. James Tabor maintains, however, that the lines are clear and that they are not random markings. He does not acknowledge that there is any break at all in the lines that constitute the alleged nun. In his pictures, the line is represented as continuous. Take for example the recent illustration on his blog:
|Alleged letters spelling out "Jonah" on James Tabor's blog|
Indeed, one can test for the clarity of the lines here by returning to the CGI composite image of what is depicted on ossuary 6. This image aims to represent what the authors of the project used to regard as clear and self-evident and yet it is quite clear that before this new "Jonah" reading had been proposed, they too saw a break in the line that is now held to be a nun. In other words, before the "Jonah" inscription interpretation, they too could not see the continuous line of a letter "nun".
It's worth taking a close-up look at the image. The original CGI image is oriented horizontally, but a rotation and a zoom-in helps us to compare this with the images used to illustrate the alleged inscription:
|Close-up of CGI composite of the bottom left facade of Talpiot Tomb B|
Update (6.54am): Link to James Tabor's post above fixed (with thanks to James Davila). See now Jim Davila's helpful comments on Paleojudaica, including the following:
If Professor Tabor wants to convince his colleagues that there is an inscription there and that it says "Jonah," he needs to take up the objections one by one and demonstrate that (1) the lines he says he sees on the ossuary, especially those of the "nun," are really there and as he sees them and (2) that each supposed letter shape can be closely paralleled by specific letters in other Herodian informal lapidary inscriptions such as appear on ossuaries.
Update (4.45pm): See now also Antonio Lombatti, Is YONAH there or not? and Robert Cargill, When is a nun not a nun?. (See what he did there?!). See too Steve Caruso, Unfaithful Representation.