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Journalist Claims to Find Nails from Jesus’ Cross

JERUSALEM (RNS) An Israeli-Canadian journalist believes he may have tracked down two of the iron nails used to crucify Jesus to the cross. Or at least objects that “could be” the long-lost relics.

While researching a segment for the History Channel series Secrets of Christianity, host and producer Simcha Jacobovici learned something that startled him: In 1990, Israeli archeologists excavating a 2,000-year-old burial cave discovered two nails crafted by the Romans, but kept the discovery quiet.

They did, however, publicize the discovery of two ossuaries — stone burial boxes filled with human bones — with the inscriptions “Caiaphas” and “Joseph son of Caiaphas.” The latter intricately carved ossuary toured the world and is now prominently displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

According to the Gospels, Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest who handed Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion.

“There’s a general scholarly consensus that the tomb where the nails were found likely belonged to Caiaphas. Nails at that time were a dime a dozen, but finding one in a tomb is exceedingly rare,” Jacobovici said outside the high stone walls of the Old City, where Jesus spent his final days.

When Jacobovici found a brief reference to the nails in the official archeologists’ report, “my jaw dropped,” he said.

“It would be as if, 2,000 years from now, archaeologists uncovered the cave of Muhammad Ali but neglected to mention the pair of boxing gloves found there. Sure, boxing gloves are common, but perhaps those particular gloves had special significance to the boxer?”

Jacobovici also hosts the Naked Archaeologist series on History International and collaborated with filmmaker James Cameron on the controversial 2007 documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus.

In the segment “Nails of the Cross,” which will air on April 20 on the History Channel, Jacobovici attempts to discover why the researchers felt the nails were unimportant.

“Everything else is so meticulous, yet there are no photos or drawings or measurements of the nails. When I inquired at the Israel Antiquities Authority, I was told they had gone missing.”

“Caiaphas is known for one thing only: the trial and Crucifixion of Jesus,” Jacobovici said. “He may have felt compelled to take these nails with him to his grave.”

There was also the belief among some ancient Jews that nails had healing powers “and were a ticket to the afterlife. Other items found in the tomb show that this was a superstitious guy,” he added.

The history detective searched the IAA’s vast warehouses and then tried to find the location of the long-sealed tomb, which now lies beneath a public park.

Finally, on a hunch, Jacobovici approached Israel Hershkovitz, a forensic anthropologist at Tel Aviv University, who is also expert on crucifixions.

“When I asked Hershkovitz if he’d received two nails about 20 years ago, he knew exactly what I was talking about and located them within minutes,” Jacobovici recalled.

Hershkovitz could not say where the nails had been found because the original packaging lacked the information. He could not be reached for comment.

While Hershkovitz knows for certain the nails came from the IAA, there’s no conclusive link that they came from the Caiaphas tomb. Israeli archaeologists seem as reluctant to comment this time around as they were back in 1990.

When the anthropologist showed Jacobovici an ancient heel bone impaled with a nail — the only such crucifixion specimen ever unearthed — “I realized that the Caiaphas nails were similar, though shorter. The tips appeared purposely bent to keep them from falling off the wood.”

Jacobovici asked Hershkovitz whether the nails could have been used to crucify a person’s hands to a cross. Hershkovitz said “yes.”

The limestone residue on one of the nails clinched it for Jacobovici, “because one of the nails was found in the ossuary, the other on the ground” of the burial cave, where it would be exposed to limestone.

Gabriel Barkay, a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, called Jacobovici’s investigation “very challenging, very interesting, very intriguing, but it’s a TV show and not a scholarly study.

“There’s no proof whatsoever that they originate in the tomb of Caiaphas,” he said. “It’s all conjecture.”

Nails were used for “many purposes,” Barkay noted, “from fixing iron gates to wooden doors and coffins.”

And for crucifixions.

Ronny Reich, a Haifa University archeologist who deciphered the writing in the Caiaphas cave, believes the cave “belongs to a member of the Caiaphas family, but we have no evidence it belongs to the high priest.”

Jacobovici, however, is certain his research will withstand scrutiny, even if it seems largely circumstantial at first glance.

“Skepticism is good. As with the Shroud of Turin, you can’t be 100 percent certain, but believers don’t need 100 percent certainty. They need a solid ‘could be,’ and that’s what we’re offering.”

- MICHELE CHABIN, Religion News Service



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David E. Connolly, Jr.

    No surprise at all the Israelis didn’t mention the nails. They were afraid, as always, that this find would lead to another round of anti-semitism when people are reminded that the Jews had Jesus crucified. Israeli interests are compounding the sin of crucifixion by not making widely available the extra material contained in the Dead Sea scrolls and hiding the 70 codices found in Jordan and forgetting to mention that the high priest’s tomb contained two nails. It’s just an ancient pattern of deceit and self interest which has permeated the culture and no amount of tithing or burnt offerings or philanthropy can make up for the quiet suppression of the evidence, like a family that never mentions the incestuous relationships which abound.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment trawalla winter yellanach

    hogwash they wouldn”t last that long common sense and science

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Fireblazes

    What a coincidence, I was digging through my closet and found Jesus’ sandals.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ihor

    Simcha, Simcha, why jump to the extraordinary when a simple explanation is at hand? Nails being so common in that era, a common source and use is an appropriate explanation. Given the lack of context and documentation makes the find even less significant. Interpret facts and leave out the fantasy.
    I enjoy your program, very imformative and entertaining, especially when the emphasis is on Naked archaeology and history rather than events clothed in fiction.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Joe

    The claims by a journalist in Jerusalem that he has the nails used to crucify Jesus Christ lacks real evidence for their authenticity, but the subject of Jesus being crucified is key to understanding the end of times scenario that can be found in Bible prophecy.

    Jerusalem journalist and documentary film maker, Simcha Jacobovici, has made several claims about the burial site of Jesus Christ and the nails used to crucify Him, claims that have been disputed by world renowned archaeologists. Even in light of this opposition to his claims, Jacobovici moves forward with promoting his so-called archaeological finds and has garnered the attention of those who do want to believe these claims are true even if the evidence is not sufficient to authenticate the claims. However, Jacobovici, an Orthodox Jew, has brought to the table for all to consider the reality of the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion as recorded in the Bible.

    I personally do not believe the recent discovery of the nails used to crucify Jesus Christ are the real thing, at the same time, all four gospels in the New Testament record every detail of this historic events. These same gospel accounts reveal that Jesus Christ did raise from the dead and that He is alive today and has promised to come back to the earth one day. Revelation 1:18 is the personal claim by Jesus Christ of His resurrection. Verse 19 and throughout the rest of the book of Revelation unfolds the prophecies of the end times, many of which are about to be fulfilled.

    The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us assurance that Jesus Christ can tell us the future. Bible prophecy will indeed be fulfilled.

  • http://mooktank.com Pete

    Let’s calculate the error bars on this claim, shall we?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Hans

    People will read this story like it is science. The truth is, this is just another example of bad science reporting infaming a hot button issue. There are so many holes in this story it is difficult to be objective. The line accusing Israeli archaeologists “kept the discovery quiet.” — They found nails in a tomb… contrary to what the author thinks, this is not such a rare occurrence. Come on.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment elza altmann

    To believe or not to believe, THAT is the question.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    So much wishful thinking.

    THIS is why there is the prohibition against Graven Images. Stuff is so distracting that people lose sight of the purpose to faith. Caring, Hospitality, and Justice are the reasons – not more THINGS to stuff in a box and parade around once a year.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Fingers of saints, anyone? or pieces of THE cross? Hair of the dog? Really—nails used to hang Jesus? I don’t think so.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    Aside from the obvious silliness of the whole consideration…
    They would have used spikes, not nails. A nail as short and thin as those in the photos would have never supported the weight of a full sized adult. The flesh and muscle would have torn and the limb would have pulled free. The spikes necessary would have to be substantially larger and longer.

    O what tales we will believe when our faith is lacking but our wishfulness is all that is left.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    Everyone loves a mystery.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment fuckingpeople

    Humans are fucking stupid.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Keyboard John

    To all “opposing parties”: you can jump high and low but you still CAN’T prove that those nails aren’t the ONE as much as it cannot be proved beyond doubt that they are. Which leaves a good **possibility** that they MIGHT be … !!!

    And as far as I can see, so far they are more proofs that sustain the theory than those who could dismiss it.

    Ohh, one other thing: I can’t see how the fact that many nails are discovered could undermine the possibility that these two could be THE ONE.

  • Pingback: Paku salib Yesus ditemukan? | GKJ Wisma Kasih Mangunharjo

  • Pingback: The Nails from Jesus’ Cross | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament

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