Tag Archives: Tom Verenna

Again on Ralph Ellis

Ralph has responded to my most recent blog post at great length after I invited him here to engage concerns with his scholarship directly. I told him I would not delete his posts, but I would not allow him to post if he showed himself unwilling or unable to address concerns with his arguments. I’ve consolidated my responses to his comments in the following:

Thank you for taking the time to post here, Ralph, but I invited you here to discuss Steve’s concerns with your claims, not your concerns with Tom or with his claims. Nevertheless, let it never be said that I am not accommodating. I’m not interested in engaging your personal attacks against Tom or anyone else, but I will respond to the claims you highlight from your book. However, I expect you to do me the same courtesy and fully address my concerns. If you refuse to do so, I will disallow future posting. I’m not going to delete anything unless it is vulgar or spamming, but I will ban you from commenting if you depart any further from the discussion I delineate, or attempt to sidestep my criticisms. I hope you understand that my time is important to me, as I’m sure your time is to you. I will not go diving down rabbit holes just to help you muddy the water.

Now, regarding your conflation of King Abgarus and King Monobazus, you don’t really provide any evidence, you simply assert their conflation at a sublevel. Instead of saying you conflated them because they were the same person (flagrant begging the question), you simply say you conflated them because their wives were the same person, as a result of Adiabene and Edessa being the same place. You’re still begging the question, you’re just moving the fallacy a couple steps away from your main claim to obscure it a bit. You do not provide a word of evidence for these identifications except for a forced inference you impose upon Josephus’ text in order to harmonize an artificial conflict. In other words, you see Josephus’ lack of reference to Edessa and assume—based on no evidence—that he would have had to have mentioned it.

Assumptions about what an historian would have had to have done do not form legitimate methodological bases for conflating toponyms and personal names, though. Historical authors frequently leave out quite important information for reasons that are not clear to us. For instance, some people claim that the absence of the mention of Belshazzar from Herodotus’ histories means Herodotus didn’t know about him, but they overlook the fact that Herodotus also never mentions Nebuchadnezzar, of whom Herodotus could not possibly have been ignorant. Josephus is actually quite infamous for glaring omissions from his retelling of Jewish history that he obviously felt did not reflect on Judaism the way he wanted. His Antiquities and his War are also inconsistent, crafting the narratives with different details to satisfy the rhetorical concerns of each composition. In short, I don’t see any reason whatsoever we are required to find Edessa or its rulers in Josephus’ text. If you wish to insist that we cannot leave the text without identiying Edessa within it, you will have to provide something well beyond the naked assertion that he just cannot have left it out.

Next, the existence of the kingdom of Adiabene is not in doubt, nor is there any historical need whatsoever to find some candidate from the archaeological record to identity with it. Its history, quite independent and distinct from that of Edessa, is narrated in a variety of ancient documents. For example, Strabo, Ptolemy, and Pliny all describe the geographic location of Adiabene, as well as the location of Edessa. There is some geographic overlap, but that is easily explained by the fact that Adiabene controlled the region for a time. See this text for discussion of the geographic descriptions of Adiabene. There is simpy no reason on earth to think that they are the same city. Josephus’ omission of Edessa is absolutely irrelevant. It certainly does not serve as evidentiary leverage for ignoring what other writers have to say about the two regions. The evidence unilaterally and unequivocally precludes your thesis, and there is simply no evidence whatsoever to support it. No responsible historian would ever subscribe to such a stunningly problematic thesis, and that is not rhetoric at all; the claim violates every single principle of historiography I can think of.

Next, you claim that you were constrained in your use of Greek and Hebrew fonts, and that you had to provide JPEG images of all occurrences of those scripts. You don’t make clear whether you produced the JPEGs or they were produced by Innodata using a text you submitted. If you did it, it would mean that whatever came through in the book was what was in the JPEG you submitted. They can’t edit the fonts in a JPEG image. If you mean to say you submitted the text and they turned it into a JPEG image, then there’s an interesting problem. The mistake was the confusion of a final sigma with a non-final one, which requires at least knowing the Greek alphabet and what the final sigma represents. I find it hard to believe that an Innodata inputer saw the final sigma, knew it was just the form of the sigma when it appears at the end of a word, but still managed to accidentally input a non-final sigma. No, the error found in your book is quite common to beginners who are typing out Greek from a transliteration. I am compelled to conclude that this was your error, but I am not going to pursue the argument any further; it does not seem to me that would admit it even if it were your error. The point of highlighting this error was to expose an obvious lack of familiarity with the relevant languages, which I believe is a valid and accurate conclusion, irrespective of the source of the error in your book.

As an example of some other concerns that are not based on inputter error, I would point to pp. 37–38, where you argue that the “Aramaic-Hebrew”  is a gentilic noun with the definite article, thus “The Adyab,” or “The Adia-bene.” You interpret it as a people because you understand the –bene suffix to represent the Hebrew word for “son” (thus “sons of Addai”). You also happen to fumble—or Innodata fumbled—the form of the final nun in the Hebrew בן (not בנ). You then accuse the Talmudic scribes of misunderstanding the word, resulting in the initial ḥet in two spellings and the final pe in one of those. Your analysis is staggeringly uninformed on several levels. The shorter form found in the Talmud and in the Syriac Chronicle of Arbela are original. The Greek Adiabene is secondary. We know this because the –ene suffix was one of a small number of Greek components attached to toponyms during the Parthian period when the Seleucid empire split up many Achaemenid satrapies into more manageable sizes. Compare “Adiabene” to the other names Osrhoene, Inigene, Tinigene, Akabene, Zabdicene, Dolomene, Sittacene, Mesene, Calachene, and Characene. The other widespread suffices that were added include –ena, -ia, and –itis. The –ene on the end of the toponym Adiabene has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Hebrew word בן. It comes from a Greek suffix added to the names of the cities after their annexation and division by the Seleucids. The Aramaic form without the suffix is original.

Anyone with a grasp of the Hebrew would not have understood it as “Sons of Addai” anyway, since the word you have read as “son” comes at the end of the word, rather than the beginning (Aramaic and Hebrew don’t do that), and also because gentilic nouns (“people of . . . , or “-ites”) end in yod (the long /i/ vowel). Finally, the Greek is based on the Aramaic word, which is represented in the Aramaic and the Syriac primarily with the ḥet. It is the Talmudic rendering with the he that is mistaken, the very spelling you naively think is original. Your etymology is stunningly uninformed and is flatly wrong.

It doesn’t seem to me you have much facility at all with the languages, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. Can you translate the following Greek sentence and parse the verbal elements:

εἰσέλθετε εἰς ἀγορὰν δῶρα παρά γε τῶν ἀδικούντων ληφόμενοι

And then translate this sentence from the Aramaic and parse the verbal elements:

שלם מראן אלה שמיא ישאל שגיא בכל עדן

Both of these sentences were taken from beginning grammars. I would appreciate a direct response to these two requests, whether that means providing the answers or acknowledging that you are unable.

Moving on (I’m skipping over much of your concerns with Tom’s treatment of your claims), you claim Josephus saw three “acquaintances” (ἐγνώρισα) being crucified and arranged to have them released and treated. You nakedly assert that these “acquaintances” are “three leaders of the Jewish Revolt.” There is no basis whatsoever for this identification, it’s just something you’ve conjured out of thin air. The text says nothing about the prisoners being leaders of the revolt, and the fact that Josephus mentions them as acquaintances in no way suggests they were leaders. Josephus uses even more intimate language for all kinds of men, women, and children. As Steve Mason points out, Josephus finds 190 “friends” and “close friends” among people locked up in the temple in §419, as well as others on crosses near a village in §420. Authors in this period inflated their importance by multiplying their intimate associations. These are unquestionably not leaders of the Jewish revolt. Finally, even if we assume that these three people were leaders of the Jewish revolt, the notion that because “King Izas” was a leader of the revolt, he had to be one of these three is flagrantly fallacious. To call that notion “axiomatic” is utter nonsense.

You say one may not agree with the speculation, but “the comparison is legitimate.” This is simply false. The comparison is not legitimate in any sense of the word, nor do the rest of the stories match. You are forced in your effort to make these things align to fudge meaning, ignore details, and subjugate the contexts to your conclusion. It’s flagrant begging the question. Your concluding remarks about Tom’s neglect of the context and of the relevant primary texts is laughable, as you repeatedly ignore the context and the historical data in the interest of your naked assertions. You’re attempting to talk down to him and his methodologies, but you’ve yet to show a single instance of respect for professionalism or the standard methodologies of biblical studies, historiography, or anything related. Youre primary concern is quite clearly whatever methodology you naively believe will support your presuppositions.

Now, getting on to what I actually asked you to come here to address. You claim Caruso is ignorant of the “true” history that Josephus was hiding. You go on to state the following:

 you cannot apply the rules of grammar and syntax on sentences that were written as ‘in jokes’ for a privileged few.

This is the most ridiculous claim you’ve provided to date. Basically, you’re saying the standard exegetical and historical methodologies cannot hold in instances where you believe someone is masking the details in pseudonyms in a way that only the initiated will understand. In this way you attempt to insulate your argument from actual informed scholarship. No matter what anyone says, you just have to point out that they’re not initiated, and so no matter what they don’t know what’s going on. You are the sole arbiter of the truth, and the sole proprietor of the exegetical keys to the text. This is amateur nonsense. Obviously, the claim that an author is cryptically hiding details underneath the text requires quite clear and definitive evidence, yet you can provide none. The lynchpin for your entire claim is the notion that Josephus could not possibly have omitted Abgarus from his texts. You can provide nothing to support this claim except the strength of your own assertion. I’ve already addressed the fallacy of asserting an ancient historian had to have included this or that figure. The additional fallacy here is the argument by assertion. Your entire claim quite literally comes down to “because I say so.” You obviously can provide nothing beyond your own word. Josephus’ comment about Adiabene being “beyond the Euphrates” doesn’t support your argument in the least. It’s not a clue of anything. Adiabene was located beyond the Euphrates.

Your claim that Queen Helena of Adiabene was living in Edessa and married to Abgar, the king of Edessa, is equally without merit of any kind whatsoever. Numerous historians have addressed the separate identities of the rulers of Adiabene and Edessa, particularly because the two locales were so important to early Christian proselytizing. The confusion of historical figures in later histories is quite widespread in antiquity, including within Syriac sources like Moses of Chorene, whose testimony you so naively prioritize. You are now the one cherry-picking sources by ignoring what the chonologically much closer texts have to say in order to assert the accuracy of some writing 400 years later. Several other authors from that period conflated Helena of Adiabene with Helena, the mother of Constantine. Are you going to write another book claiming they’re all the same Helena?

You’ve also obviously not considered the contemporary concerns with the text of Moses’ history. The oldest extant manuscript comes from the 14th century, and it appears to be based on heavily edited editions from the 7th and 8th centuries. For instance, Moses refers to four different Armenias that were not established until Justinian I organized the provinces in the 6th century. Moses claims the Iranians advanced into Bithynia, but that didn’t happen until a war from the early 7th century CE. Moses has also been criticized precisely for conflating figures and altering historical texts in the interest of his rhetorical aims. Some scholars defend him, however, pointing out that that was how history was written back then. In short, your dependence upon a much later and very tendentious historian is misguided. The propping up of your entire thesis on the legitimacy of that historian’s claim is pseudo-history.

The worst methodological mistake you make throughout all of your texts, however, is your insistance on synthesizing select data from various different disparate sources, while dismissing data that conflict with your preconceptions. You refuse to acknowledge errors where errors are beyond doubt, while asserting errors where the texts are clearly accurate, all in an effort to manipulate the sources in the aid of your presuppositions. Then you bark about people not being in the know, and not understanding because they’re trying to do history instead of acknowledging that the truth is cryptically hidden underneath the surface of the text. This is pseudo-scholarship, pure and simple. You don’t really defend any of your claims, as far as I can tell, you just hide behind rhetorical contrarianism that amounts to little more than “Nu-uh!” I’ve yet to see you respond legitimately to a call for references or for argument. Most commonly, you just reassert your original thesis without further argument. And this despite the fact that you accuse others of not providing direct evidence, or not providing scholarly support. You ignore all the standards of historiography only to prop up asinine claims on your naked assertions. Your research contributes nothing to history or religious studies.


On Ralph Ellis

I recently had a comment posted to my blog’s About Me page that I think merits a bit of attention. The comment was posted by a Mr. Ralph Ellis, and it reads as follows:

I note you extensively quote from Tom Verenna.
I would not believe a word Verenna says. Verenna makes reviews without reading the book, and writes with an agenda rather than with balance. And then when he is caught out with errors and lies, he hides behind censorship like a little child, and will not debate his mistakes.

Tom Verenna biography:
http://thomasverenna.blogspot.nl

I very rarely delete comments, and I don’t plan to delete this one, but I’d like to briefly respond to Mr. Ellis’ concerns. First, this is a direct personal attack on Tom that I don’t find particularly informed or accurate. In my dealings with Tom I’ve found him to be a quite balanced and self-aware student of the ancient world. I’m broadly aware of his academic and non-academic background, and I see no reason to judge his contemporary contributions to the academy by a past zealous tendentiousness that he has directly addressed and moved beyond (here).

Second, I am generally well enough informed about the issues on which I comment on this blog to know when someone’s contribution is valid. I don’t need to be told that my endorsements are misguided.

Next, the link in the comment takes one to a website entitled “Thomas Verenna Is A Lying Idiot.” Obviously such an insulting and unprofessional attempt to undermine Tom’s credibility does more to expose Mr. Ellis’ own lack of scruples, but it gets worse. Ellis’ accusations of dishonesty are incredibly ironic in light of his rather transparent habit of posting multiple anonymous and/or sock-puppet comments on his and others’ blogs in an attempt to make it seem like his claims have broad support. This kind of childish and petulant behavior flatly undermines any and all claims on his part to objectivity or scholarly erudition. Mr. Ellis is apparently submitting comments like these all over the internet, and as the link above shows, he’s starting blogs to personally attack Tom.

Finally, in trying to find some kind of academic expression on the part Ellis I came across a series of self-published texts that assert simply impossible connections between Jesus and other historical figures (see a Google Books preview of his most recent one here). Ellis’ flagrant lack academic training and discipline is put on display in his tendentious syntheses of astrology, folk etymology, reductive symbology, and parallelomania. I began to put together a brief response to some of his linguistic claims about Izates and his family, but it appears that’s already been taken care of for me, so I will just defer to other analyses here and here. In sum, the etymological connections he makes are utter nonsense, and he stumbles naively over every inch of the linguistic and historical contexts he tries to navigate. He’s basically squinting at transliterated names until they are similar enough in English for him to just nakedly assert that one is just a poor pronunciation of the other. He has absolutely no evidence whatsoever for these connections beyond his mere assumptions. These wildly speculative links are then used as a foundation for manipulating and altering other historical data until they fit his theoretical presuppositions. Everything is then couched in academic-sounding vernacular, giving it a stale air of erudition and sincerity that would only fool those uncritical enough to ignore the atrocious cover artwork, the shameless self aggrandizing, and the conspiracy-theorist framework (“this book really does overturn all our preconceived ideas about the New Testament and the history it was trying to tell [or sell]”). This qualifies as scholarship only when that word carries the prefix “pseudo.”

As a result, I must condemn Mr. Ellis’ personal attack against Tom Verenna. Not only are such attacks unwarranted by anyone presuming to assert academic respectability, but his criticisms ignore the significant personal paradigm shift to which Tom has attested, and fail to even acknowledge (much less engage) real concerns with the academic value of Ellis’ work.


In Response to David Elkington

On his Facebook page, which he continues to pretend he does not author, David Elkington has responded directly to the comments I posted the other day in response to his radio interview and subsequent clarification regarding my concern. Someone found my blog and thought my concerns merited sharing on the Facebook page, so they posted them. Here are David’s comments in full:

Dear Daniel, The question you have raised has already been responded to by David both on the show and posted on this site (before the Dr. Barker posting). It is the academic and linguistic assessment of the Jordan Codices team (including expert Jordanian epigraphers). This is very much a work in progress and more will be revealed in the coming months, but we would be very interested to know who has performed this ‘analysis’ particularly in view of the fact that very few people have had physical access to the Codices as well as all of the images of the large collection of artefacts. One of the world’s foremost professors was also challenged on this point and he was very firm on his view. As for a ‘mish mash’, this simply proves the point that the caller does not know what he is talking about, as our professor can read the codices like a newspaper and much has been translated already. As has already been mentioned, paleo-Hebrew came out of the Sinaitic languages, both proto and western. What question must be asked is why it was used in this form in the first century period – not that this is an attempt at ‘archaizing’ something that is supposedly gibberish to a non-expert eye? The answer to this question resides in the very form the Codices take and in this sense there are certain elements shared with the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this the use of language is specific and offers us a further clue – a reference is being made to the language that emerged from Sinai in the second millennium BC however, it is contemporary in form to the languages used in Jesus’ day: the question to be asked is why it is being used in this form? It is all very well to offer up a google search but the answers to these important questions will only be found in obscure academic journals, not on amateur blog sites, which might be good for initial research but not for the more specific and rarer elements needed for detailed answers to historical and linguistic enigmas. The caller claims not to know of Western Sinaitic, therefore we can recommend him to the Palestine Exploration Quarterly – an excellent journal on this very specific question. We will find him a good reference in due course, as his passion for the subject is to be encouraged. More evidence and analysis will be revealed shortly, though Dr Barker’s work offers a good insight into this. The caller makes some good points; however, he is going around the essential points of ‘why’ and ‘how’ instead of ‘where’ and ‘when’ – as he well knows first century Judea was a mish mash of different opinions, languages and Judaisms. And here it is interesting that he has taken a brief posting and confused it in such a way as to create an argument from out of nothing. In essence these are opinions and naturally he is welcome to them, but as stated on the radio show by David, the caller in this instance will be going against the grain of the world’s leading experts on this particular issue. Bon Courage!

I would first note that David continues with his condescending tone. He refuses to acknowledge that I’m well aware of what I’m talking about, but prefers to presume to speak down to me. This is obviously for the sake of appearance. He can’t have his readers believing that he’s been shaken, when anyone with even a modicum of training cannot possibly be fooled by the ruse. I find this to be the second surest sign that these leading experts don’t exist outside of David’s mind. The surest sign is the fact that nothing he says at all aligns with the relevant scholarship.

Now, David did not respond to my concerns from the show or the subsequent post. On the show he just insisted that I was wrong because the greatest scholars ever said it was the square script and it was paleo-Hebrew, and thus I need to return to the textbooks. When he commented on Facebook, he tried to make the argument  that paleo-Hebrew had by the first century CE developed qualities that turned it into the square script, which is demonstrably false. David has not responded in a substantive manner to either of my concerns; he has simply dodged them and hidden behind the invented experts.

If David and his cohorts are not aware of the analyses that have been performed, then they can search my blog, as well as those of Thomas VerennaSteve Caruso, and others. There are numerous analyses out there that show conclusively that the codices are modern forgeries. We do not need physical access to the codices to be able to read the texts that are visible in the photos. I’ve gathered a rather large collection of those photos, and many of them have visible text on them. Elkington has tried to hedge his bets by insisting some of the codices out there are fake, but of those that have text on them, not a one has a single authentic text. They are all utter gibberish, and between the orthography, the iconography, and the other designs on the codices, they can pretty much all be connected to each other. They were all produced by the same group, if not the same person. The most damning evidence is the fact that the small credit card-sized codex that Elkington showed off on his BBC interview (which he has claimed is genuine) is easily analyzed (see the photo below) and is absolute gibberish, just like the others. His explanation of the item as an identification card of sorts is completely fabricated. In fact, the text comprises the meaningless repetition of a series of letters carved into a stamp and then twice impressed into whatever mold was used to create the codex. Following is the codex and Steve Caruso’s helpful charting of the repetitions:

Several things can be noted about this text. First, the text is absolutely and utterly meaningless. It is a meaningless jumble of a limited number of letters, and the stamp that made this pattern is used on multiple other codices, as Steve Caruso was so kind to point out:

It should also be pointed out that the date palm iconography and the other patterns on several of these plates are absolutely identical to the iconography of the copper codices that were shown conclusively to be modern forgeries by Peter Thonemann (see here and here, and here for good measure). They all came from the same forger. Additionally, ever since Thonemann’s analysis has been widely regarded as perfectly accurate, Elkington has claimed he was suspicious of the copper codices to begin with (initially he accused Thonemann of being the wrong kind of expert). You wouldn’t know that from reading his email or his initial responses to Thonemann, though, and he continues to attempt to pawn off their brothers and sisters as genuine. Two conclusions are possible. First, these are all fake and Elkington knew it. Second, these are all fake and Elkington did not know it, but does now. Whichever conclusion you draw, Elkington very obviously knows he is dealing with fake codices, and his “experts” are very obviously not real. There is not an epigraphist or Hebraist alive that would insist these are genuine.

Next, the script is neither paleo-Hebrew nor the square script. Now, some of the letters do appear closely related to the script from the Bar Kokhba coins. For instance, the shin, mem, aleph, and lamed on the following coin appears similar to those of the codices:

There are problems with this, though. The text on the codices is still distinct enough that the scrips cannot be linked. The closest match is the shin, but that’s a simple enough shape to not provide much evidence. The mem is similar, but the superior strokes are much larger on the codices than on the coins. The biggest difference between the letters that do seem similar is found in the aleph and lamed, which are reversed on the codices, a bizarre idiosyncrasy of the codices script (see here). Additionally, the inferior strokes on both letters have exaggerated curvatures that are not characteristic of paleo-Hebrew. One of the main reasons the scripts cannot be identified, however, is the complete absence of several of the Bar Kokhba letters from the codices. The script of the codices is limited to about a dozen characters (far too few for a coherent text). The vav is common on these coins, but it appears nowhere on the codices. The he and the het are also common, but they only appear once on the codices, and that’s in a sequence of letters clearly ripped out of context from another text:

Those are the only real legitimate “Hasmonean paleo-Hebrew” letters in all of the codices, and they’re clearly ripped from another text. They do not at all fit into the context of the code on which they appear. To continue, a completely different style of vav is found on the codices, although in the one reading that Elkington offered from the codices, he identifies the vav as a kaph, which it’s very clearly not (see my discussion here).

These analyses are quite conclusive, and do not require physical access to the codices. If Elkington intends to insist the codices discussed above are really fake ones, then we haven’t seen any of the genuine ones, and he needs to give the public some kind of indication that he has anything at all that is actually genuine. To briefly conclude this section of my response: there is not a single codex that has been revealed publicly that shows indications of anything other than modern forgery. If Elkington has authentic codices, he’s never shown them anywhere.

Regarding Elkington’s claim that his professor has been very firm and is so erudite he can read these texts like a newspaper, one need only point out that he is leaning on the authority of anonymous figures he has repeatedly refused to identify for reasons that have nothing to do with standard academic decorum. That can hardly serve as a legitimate response, and it would be no different if I simply said that I am in touch with an authority who knows far more than any of Elkington’s authorities, and she has confirmed that there is not a single word of actual Hebrew anywhere on any of the codices. You don’t need a leading authority to acknowledge the absence of anything even remotely resembling an actual text, here. That is just a fallacious appeal to authority meant to convince a lay audience that those who are criticizing the codices just aren’t informed enough.

Next Elkington states, “As has already been mentioned, paleo-Hebrew came out of the Sinaitic languages, both proto and western.” This is false, though. There are not two scripts, much less languages, in the background here. Also, Elkington has never before mentioned proto-Sinaitic. He only claimed that “Western Sinaitic” was a “proto-language”:

The most egregious error here is his confusion of the proto-Sinaitic script with an actual language. I stated in a recent comment to an interested party that every time Elkington claims to pass on conclusions from his experts, they turn out to be completely riddled with amateurish logical and factual errors. This is one of them. We’re talking about scripts, not about languages. A commenter from Israel stated the same earlier today. No expert, and certainly not the world’s leading experts, would confuse the two. We’re dealing with scripts, which are comparatively basic. This is one of the more ridiculous aspects of his claim that paleo-Hebrew is only understood by four or five people. It’s simply a matter of memorizing less than 30 graphemes. Any idiot can learn the paleo-Hebrew script, and only a decent grasp of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic is needed to work through a text putatively written in the first century CE in paleo-Hebrew. Next, Elkington obviously retreated to Google to try to figure out what to say, which is why he came back with the suddenly accurate notion of a proto-Sinaitic script (although he called it a language). He previously only referenced “Western Sinaitic,” which he called a “proto-language.” The story changes with every opportunity Elkington has to check up on his comments on the internet.

Next Elkington confuses Old Hebrew with paleo-Hebrew in his attempt to speak down to me about my assessment. He states, “a reference is being made to the language that emerged from Sinai in the second millennium BC however, it is contemporary in form to the languages used in Jesus’ day.” No, it’s not. The paleo-Hebrew of the turn of the era is vastly different from the Old Hebrew of the second millennium BCE. The former is an archaizing script. It is intended to look really old in a time period when a different script had become commonplace. It would be like me using “ʃ”today  in place of “s,” only using a slightly different version of it.

Next, we find more condescension in his attempt to flippantly dismiss my claims:

the answers to these important questions will only be found in obscure academic journals, not on amateur blog sites, which might be good for initial research but not for the more specific and rarer elements needed for detailed answers to historical and linguistic enigmas. The caller claims not to know of Western Sinaitic, therefore we can recommend him to the Palestine Exploration Quarterly – an excellent journal on this very specific question.

Notice the warning to the lay audience: the answers are in obscure places to which you don’t have access, so you have to listen to me. Don’t listen to “amateur blog sites.” Note that the “amateur blog sites” that have commented critically are managed by a Harvard-trained scholar of Second Temple Judaism and Old Testament pseudepigrapha, a UCLA-trained archaeologist of Second Temple Judaism, an Oxford-trained professor of New Testament, a Durham-trained professor of New Testamentand many other professionals and students (including me).

Next, PEQ is hardly an obscure academic journal, but the journal in general does not deal unilaterally with “this very specific question” (“Western Sinaitic” as a language?). It deals with Syro-Palestinian archaeology in general. Such a broad reference is hardly helpful. It seems an evasive attempt to allay suspicion and nothing more. Additionally, I have direct access to the last ten years of the journal, and I find no occurrence of the phrase “Western Sinaitic” in any article. I also performed a search of the journal’s entire history on another database and found no occurrences of the phrase. Perhaps instead of speaking in broad generalities, Mr. Elkington can point me directly to an article wherein “Western Sinaitic” is discussed as a language. He says he will find me a reference “in due course,” but why the delay? Now, I would not be particularly surprised to see someone using the phrase “Western Sinaitic” 75 years ago (although I’ve been unable to locate such a usage), but it certainly never became a standard designation, which would only further corroborate, in my mind, that much of this information is being drawn from an uninformed perusal of the internet, and not from actual experts who are aware of the modern academic vernacular. Mr. Elkington is certainly welcome to prove me wrong.

Elkington concludes with some confusing statements about ideological pluriformity in first century Judaism, or something along those lines, and then insists I am confused and am going against the world’s leading experts. I don’t believe I am, but as I just said, Elkington is more than welcome to prove me wrong. He can name one or two of these experts. He can have them email me (my email address is on the About Me page). He can produce a discussion of the script that is not riddled with uninformed misunderstandings. He can do any of these things to prove me wrong. I think he will do none of them. He will only continue to try to drum up excitement prior to the publication of his book. This is offensive to me as an academic and a consumer, and because I know there are lots of people out there who feel very strongly about this and are having their emotions manipulated quite callously by Mr. Elkington, I will continue to point out the fraudulent nature of his claims. I suggest anyone else out there with the skills and resources does the same.


Short Video on Jordan Codices

Tom Verenna has a video up on the Jordan Codices that explains a few of the more critical problems with the claims being made by Elkington through Facebook:

Here is a more detailed explanation of the manipulation that has taken place with the Oxford materials report. This is a claim that Elkington made on the Facebook page regarding the Oxford materials report (it is a response to a post that has been deleted):

The metal was re-melted in antiquity. If you read the report carefully, it states this fact. It then concludes that the metal is of ancient provenance and that the corrosion is uniform across the entire surface.

Does the report support this claim? This is the scan of one of the pages from that report that Elkington has placed on the Jordan Codices Facebook page:

Here is his transcription of this page:

The third sentence under the Corrosion section would seem to support Elkington’s claim that analysis suggest an ancient provenance:

Most of the other leaves show a surface which flakes off quite easily and can expose a very clean and just slightly oxidized surface with the characteristic of lead that has been buried where it would be expected that the surface crust would be thicker and that there would be greater penetration of the metal leaving, at least, a pitted surface.

If the syntax of this sentence seems off to you, you’re not alone. The second half of the sentence seems to be describing a situation that is expected but not observed, rather than a situation that has been observed. According to the sentence above the “where” is to be understood locatively, but it seems to be operating as a subordinating conjunction. A closer look at the scan, which has been intentionally made virtually illegible by Elkington, solves the problem:

The highlighted sentence reads:

In the present writer’s view this is not characteristic of lead that has been buried where it would be expected that the surface crust would be thicker and that there would be greater penetration of the metal leaving, at least, a pitted surface.

Elkington’s transcription removes the last portion of the sentence prior to the highlighted text and combines the resulting fragment with the second half of the highlighted sentence. Basically, the word “characteristic” in the highlighted sentence is moved back and replaces the word “characters” in the previous sentence, removing the portion of the report that conflicts with an ancient provenance for the codices. Will Elkington argue for haplography as a result of homoioarcton? Possibly, but it can be no coincidence that the edited text supports a fundamental claim that Elkington highlights and emphasizes elsewhere. Elkington has demonstrably altered the report to support his assertions. This is flagrant and egregious deception, and it shows quite conclusively that Elkington is willing to lie and to openly and transparently manipulate scientific data to make his codices appear ancient. They simply are not. Elkington is a demonstrable fraud and a dilettant (he is monstrously ignorant of basic principles of Greek and Hebrew). His deception needs to be exposed. Too many innocent people have been taken in by this man’s baseless claims, and they will soon begin to line his pockets with book royalties.

PS – A link to the video above was posted on the Jordan Codices page a few minutes ago by Mark Goodacre, associate professor of New Testament at Duke University:

It has already been removed by Elkington, along with the other comment (which Elkington does not seem to understand):

PPS – Since Dr. Goodacre’s post, two more professors, Jim West of Quartz Hill School of Theology and James Davila of St. Andrews University have posted the link, only to have it unceremoniously removed. Dorothy Lobel King, an actual archaeologist, pointed out that Elkington cannot, by law, claim copyrights on photos of the artifacts. That comment was also removed: