Thursday, April 14, 2011

Simcha's Nails: Illustrating the Problem

I know that I should leave the story alone, but perhaps I may draw attention to at least one element in the reports that illustrate the problem with Simcha Jacobovici's absurd claims to have found the nails that crucified Jesus.  Time Magazine's report features this statement:
The Nails of the Cross dwells on 1st century non-Gospel writings that portray Caiaphas as an eventual follower of Christ.
Now it is of course possible that the Time reporter has misunderstood something in the documentary, but I would not be surprised if this kind of nonsense is present given that the Lost Tomb of Jesus website features several clams of this kind that are demonstrably false.

So let us be clear.  There are no "first century non-Gospel writings that portray Caiaphas as an eventual follower of Christ".  In fact there are precious few first century sources that mention Caiaphas at all.  He appears by name in Matthew, Luke and John (and arguably as the unnamed "high priest" in Mark 14) and he appears twice, briefly, in Josephus's Antiquities 18.  As far as I am aware, that is it for the literary record.   In none of these, nor in any other writings from the early centuries does Caiaphas become a follower of Christ.

Indeed the scarcity of the literary record on Caiaphas draws attention to one of the many other difficulties with the claim about the nails, that Caiaphas was only associated with the crucifixion of one man, for example here:
Caiaphas, infamous for the crucifixion of only one man, could have asked his offspring to place the nails in his ossuary, speculated the filmmaker.
This idea, of Caiaphas's infamy in relation to Jesus, is a feature in most of the articles that have been written about it. But we simply don't know anything about other crucifixions that Caiaphas may or may not have been involved with. Josephus does not associate him with any crucifixions, but he does not associate him with anything much at all. And I'd have guessed that the Romans crucified other Jews in Judea in Caiaphas's time as High Priest too (c. 18-36).

And in fact our sources, meager as they are, do mention two more crucifixions carried out by the Romans while Caiaphas was high priest, of two men (brigands, insurgents) along with Jesus (Mark 15.27 and par.). I think it is historically naive to imagine that these were the only three crucifixions carried out in the eighteen year period from 18 to 36, while Caiaphas was high priest.

That is just for starters, and already treats the claims with more respect than they are due.


Marcello Jun said...

"...treats the claims with more respect than they are due."

This the understatement of the year, and we're still in April!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Mark, for you efforts to educate those who produce such stuff, as well as those those exposed to it. The recent lead book fakes were also outrageous. Even National Geographic TV cannot be relied upon for quality. Work to be done.

Jack Wellman said...

This is much like Jacobovici's Lost Tomb of Christ. Hate to say, wait, I love to say it. His tomb was never lost but it was found empty!