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The Naked Archeologist
TV Show Review
By Gary F. Zeolla
The Naked Archeologist is seen on the TV channel "History International" weekdays at 11:00 am and 5:00 pm. I have been DVRing the show. It is hosted by Simcha Jacobovici. Most of the archeology dealt with on the show is Bible related. Episodes have addressed such mundane issues as ancient Jewish hairstyles, make-up, and clothing (such as what Jesus' sandals might have looked like), to the backgrounds to specific events in the Bible, such as the stories of David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah, and Esther and the Jewish holiday of Purim,
For the most part, the show deals with these issues in a straightforward manner, simply presenting the archeologist evidence without trying to push forward a particular point of view, but not always. Sometimes it is clear the host does not accept the full reliability of the Scriptures and declares the Bible is wrong on a particular point. This is especially the case when miracles are involved. He tries to find a "natural" explanation for miraculous Bible events. And there are times when Simcha pushes a viewpoint that would be at odds with the majority of archeologists, as he himself freely admits.
Exactly what the host's own religious viewpoint it is hard to say. He has what sounds like a Jewish name and always wears a "kippah" which is a Jewish skull cap, so I would assume he is Jewish, but how conservative or liberal is hard to say. But the show addresses both Old Testament and New Testament archeology.
I also have no idea what the "Naked" part of the title refers to. Maybe it refers to something like presenting just the "bare facts" of Biblical archeology.
In this article I will review four episodes of the show.
"What Happened to the J.C. Bunch?"
This was actually a three-part episode. The basic premise was as follows: After Christ's resurrection, Jesus' brother James became the head of the Jesus movement. And that movement ascribed to all aspects of Orthodox Judaism, which includes following all 613 commandments in the Torah, such as circumcision and kosher food laws.
But then Paul came along and changed all of that. He started a new movement that did not require its adherents to follow the Torah, and he threw out circumcision, the food laws, and the rest of the 613 commandments. These two groups thus were at odds. But it was Paul's version that grew into the Christianity that we know today, while the original "J.C. Bunch" withered away.
The most unique idea of Simcha's is that the original J.C. Bunch took final refuge at Qumram and were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The "Teacher of Righteousness" mentioned in the scrolls he equates with James.
It is a common idea that Paul "corrupted" Christianity and that what we have today is more "Paulianity" than Christianity. But that is why I included in my new Scripture Workbook: Volume I a list of 40 parallels between the teachings of Jesus and those of Paul and a list of 34 parallels between the teachings of Paul and those of Peter. These parallels show that Paul was not presenting a different message than Jesus and the original apostles.
Moreover, Simcha's scenario ignores Acts 15 and the Jerusalem council. That council was held to settle this very question, do Gentile converts to the "Jesus movement" need to ascribe to Jewish rituals like circumcision?
Peter was the first to speak, not James. And I am sure that Catholics who believe Peter was the first pope would take offense at the claim that James, not Peter, was the leader of the earliest Church.
But that said, James then does speak, and what he says is that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to become Christians (Acts 15:19). He only wants the Gentile converts to avoid activities that would be particularly offensive to God and to Jewish Christians (Acts 15:20). Thus James was not at odds with Paul's teachings in this regard.
Simcha's scenario also ignores that Paul met with James (Gal 1:19), and James gave to Paul the "right hand of fellowship" (Gal 2:9). As such, the idea that James and Paul were heading in different directions simply does not concur with the Biblical evidence.
As for the attempt to equate the "J.C. Bunch" with the Qumram community, Simcha himself admits that "most" archeologist would deny that claim. In fact, that would probably be the "vast majority of scholars." The article on Qumran in Wikipedia doesn't even mention a possible link to Christianity.
I first heard of Lilith on another show on History International channel. It was during a special titled Angels: Good or Evil? But then Simcha had an episode about her on his show.
Putting together information from both of these two shows, the main idea is as follows: The Bible has two contradictory accounts in regards to the creation of humanity. In Genesis One, you have the man and the woman being created at the same time (1:27). But in Genesis Two you have the man being created first, then the woman being created from the rib of the man (2:7,21-22).
Given this apparent contradiction, in ancient times a theory arose that Eve was actually Adam's second wife. His first wife is alluded to in Genesis One and was named Lilith. But Adam and Lilith had a falling out when Lilith wanted to be on top during sex but Adam wanted it the other way around, so the two separated. That is when God created Eve as Adam's second and more subservient wife.
After being separated from Adam, Lilith became a demon. This she-demon then seemed intent on two things, having sex with men while they slept and killing babies. The first intent was "proven" by "wet dreams" or nocturnal emission that men can have, while the latter was shown by the high infant death rate in the ancient world.
Much fear arose over the centuries around Lilith due to her ability to perform such dastardly deeds. And many superstitious practices arose to ward off Lilith and her attempts in these regards. For instance, Simcha showed bowls that have been discovered in ancient Jewish homes that would be placed upside down in the corners of the bedrooms of children. The bowls were supposed to be able to capture the spirit of Lilith and keep her from killing the infant.
Lilith is usually pictured in ancient statutes and pictures as a very attractive and topless woman, but with talons (bird claws) instead of feet. These were used to "snatch" babies away. In Middle Ages drawings she is sometimes pictured as a half woman/ half snake and is sometimes equated with the snake in the Garden of Eden that tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden tree.
Today, the legend of Lilith is still rather popular. Googling "Lilith" turned up over 14 million hits. She is sometimes used as a symbol amongst women rights groups given the way Lilith stood up to Adam and wanted to take charge.
All of this fear and superstition arose over a supposed contradiction in the Bible. But as I demonstrate in my *Scripture Workbook: Volume I, there is no contradiction between the creation accounts in Genesis One and Two. But more so, this fear and superstition arose because people were going beyond what is actually written in the Scriptures and attempting to "read between the lines" so to speak and to fill in details where there are none.
The name Lilith does not appear in the Scriptures. The Bible does not say that Adam had two wives. The Bible does not talk about a she-demon having sex with sleeping men or killing babies. This is all extra-biblical speculation with no actual Biblical support.
As such, it was interesting to learn of this legend, but disturbing that people would allow themselves to be so misled so as to allow unbiblical ideas to cause such fear.
Given that I have written two books on nutrition and the Bible (Creationist Diet and God-given Foods Eating Plan), I was very much interested in an episode of The Naked Archeologist titled "Biblical Food."
The episode began with Simcha learning how olive oil was made in Biblical times by making some himself. The olives were placed in a circular pit, and a large stone was pushed around the pit to squash the olives into a paste. This paste was then squeezed with a "vice" and strained to separate the oil. But the important point is that this is the only processing the olives and oil would undergo. There was no heating involved and this pressing process would only be done once.
Today, such oil would be call "extra virgin, cold-pressed" olive oil. And I say in my books that such is the type of oil one should consume as it is most natural. Thus the show verified what I said in my books.
Wheat then was mentioned as being a very important food in Biblical times. And that also verifies what I say in my books that whole grains played an important role in Biblical diets.
But what was most interesting was when Simcha visited the remains of ancient Jewish homes, especially the kitchens. Very often, near the kitchens have been found the bones of birds like geese and chickens and the bones of sheep and goats. This showed that such animals played an important role in the diets of ancient Jews.
This verifies a point I expresses very strongly in my Eating Plan book that the Bible does not teach vegetarianism as early Jews were meat eaters. In fact, the show emphasized how important a part of the diets of ancient Jews such animals were.
Simcha then tried to duplicate the bread recipe that is given in the Book of Ezekiel (4:9). But the problem is, what you have is not really a "recipe" but just the ingredients; the exact amounts of each to be used or method to utilize them is not given. So what Simcha created looked more like porridge than what we today would call bread. It was a far cry from the Ezekiel Bread that can be purchased at health food stores and that I mention in my Eating Plan book.
Also mentioned in the episode was that milk played an important role in the diets of ancient Jews. This verifies what I say in my Eating Plan book that milk is a Biblical and healthy food. This is an important point as there are many who try to denigrate milk's value as a food.
An interesting tidbit though was the mention that Biblical cows were much smaller than today's cows and are now almost extinct. Only about 100 are still around today in Israel.
Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem
An event mentioned in three books of the Bible is the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem. The story can be found in 2Kings 18-19, 2Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-37. Basically, at the time (c. 715 B.C) Assyria was the most powerful nation on earth, conquering one nation and city after another. The Assyrian army came to Jerusalem and besieged the city. But in the middle of the night an angel of the LORD slew 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers. As a result, the Assyrian army retreated.
Simcha presented archeological evidence of this siege. It is mentioned on ancient tablets outside of the Bible. And the tunnels that Hezekiah dug to bring water to the city before the siege that enabled its inhabitants to be sustained during the siege have been discovered.
But Simcha cannot bring himself to accept the Biblical account that Jerusalem was saved by what was a miraculous intervention of the LORD via an angel. So he interviews person after person looking for some alternative explanation as to how a small city like Jerusalem could have held out against the powerful Assyrian army. The conclusion he comes to is that the Cushite army came to the aid of Jerusalem and scared off the Assyrians.
However, the only evidence he can offer of this claim is that the in the Bible the Cushites and Israel seem to have a "cozy" relationship and the Cushites are mentioned in earlier chapters of the books the siege is mentioned in. There is no archeological evidence and no true Biblical evidence given. And it is not explained how the most powerful army of the time was scared off by the inferior forces of the Cushites.
This is just one example of how many times Simcha rejects a Biblical miracle and tries to insert an alternative "natural" explanation, regardless of whether there is archeological evidence of this alternative or not.
The Naked Archeologist is an interesting show. A lot can be learned about the Biblical culture and background to Biblical events. However, given Simcha's rejection of miracles and apparent non-belief in the full reliability of the Scriptures, it is hard to give it a full recommendation. To try to find an explanation of Biblical events without the acceptance of miracles inevitably leads to having to accept theories with little basis. Simcha also sometimes presents theories that most other archeologist would disagree with,
Simcha Jacobovici was mentioned and pictured recently on Fox News Channel. The reason was Simcha claimed to have found the actual nails used to crucify Jesus!
These nails were not a new find. They were found a few years ago in an ossuary (bone box) that had the name "Caiaphas" on it. Given that the box was highly ornamented and dated to the first century AD, many archeologists believe it contains the remains of the High Priest Caiaphas who presided over the trial of Jesus (Matt 26:57-66; John 18:12-24).
That much is sound archeology. But it is to stretch the evidence to say that two bent nails found in the box were the nails used to crucify Jesus. There is no reason to assume that Caiaphas would want to be buried with those nails. And the host (Shepherd Smith) on Fox News said that most archeologist disagree with Simcha's conclusions in that regard. This is just an example of how Simcha is often outside of the mainstream in archeology and why some of his conclusions on his show need to be taken with a grain of salt.
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It was posted on this Web site April 30, 2011.
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