Just ahead of his big press conference tomorrow in New York, the “Naked Archaeologist” Simcha Jacobovici has released a photo and some details of a discovery inside a burial cave south of Jerusalem. The dramatic find is a sketching of a fish swallowing or spewing a person along with a Greek and Hebrew inscription with the words “resurrected” or “arise” and “Yahweh.”
While hundreds of Jonah-type inscriptions have been discovered throughout the Roman empire, this is apparently the first such known from Jerusalem, indicating the early presence of Christians in the city where Jesus rose from the dead. The Jonah-fish symbol was used by early Christians because of Jesus’ prediction that he would be like the prophet: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40).
The information provided to Haaretz is preliminary and intended to stir up interest as more details (and big-time spin) are revealed in the press conference, the book release, and the Discovery Channel TV show.
The article notes that the “excavation” was with a video camera sticking through the floor of an apartment. Apparently the burial cave has not been opened because of ultra-Orthodox objections.
Potentially this provides the earliest archaeological evidence for followers of Jesus in the land of Israel. Though the report doesn’t say so, some archaeologists have apparently dated the inscriptions to about AD 50.
Naturally this brief article raises more questions than it answers. We expect to learn more in the next 24 hours.
HT: Joseph Lauer
Photo: Associated Producers Ltd./Haaretz