The Naked Archaeologist Wins Libel Case

Canadian film-maker Simcha Jacobovici, popularly known as “The Naked Archaeologist” has won a libel case against Israeli archaeologist Joe Zias who accused Jacobovici of falsifying historical evidence for two TV programs dealing with Jesus and the origins of Christianity.

The Israeli court awarded Jacobovici $260,000 in damages against Zias, a former Israel Antiques Authority curator. According to an article published in , “Judge Jacob Sheinman of the Lod District court ruled in favor of Israeli-Canadian Jacobovici, best known as the host of ‘The Naked Archaeologist’ syndicated TV series, bringing to an end a lengthy trial that revolved around a controversial tomb in Jerusalem’s East Talpiot neighborhood.”

In response to the judge’s decision, Jacobovici wrote, “Today, the judge threw the book at Zias. He quoted Israeli law stating that freedom of speech has to be balanced with protecting a man’s ‘good name’. He found that Zias did not prove a single allegation.”

The two documentaries, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” (2007), and “The Jesus Discovery/The Resurrection Tomb Mystery” (2012) deal with the findings of ossuaries discovered in two ancient tombs in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Stuart Winer, who wrote the article for “The Times of Israel,” describes the content of the two documentaries:

The films suggest two ancient tombs discovered in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood in the early 1980s are the likely resting place of Jesus, his extended family, and his earliest disciples. The first tomb contains ossuaries (bone boxes) inscribed with a constellation of suggestive names. These include Yeshua bar Yehosef (Jesus, son of Joseph); Maria, Latin form of the Hebrew name Miriam; Yose, a diminutive of Joseph, the name of one of Jesus’s brothers (Mark 6:3); Yehuda bar Yeshua (Judah son of Jesus); and Mariamene e Mara, possibly Mary of Magdelene.

You can read Winer’s article here.

Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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