Caiaphas’ Ossuary, Funerary Nails, and Mr. Zias

A response to Nails in Jewish Tombs: Three Minutes with L.Y. Rahmani Discussing Simcha’s 3-Year Research

The Caiaphas ossuary on display at the Israel Museum exhibits no signs of nail holes on the lid or on the ossuary. The photo is incontrovertible; nails were not used for sealing the lid.

By Eldad Keynan
Bar Ilan
August 2011

Simcha Jacobovici has written that the two nails discovered in the Caiaphas’ tomb could be the nails the Romans used to “fix” Jesus to the cross

In order to refute Mr. Jacobovici’s proposal, Joe Zias consulted Prof. L.Y. Rahmani (ret.). According to Zias, “Rahmani, as many of you know, a man of integrity, intellectually brilliant, now 92 years of age, had written the standard reference for Jewish ossuaries, a work that will remain a classic for generations to come.” Zias is correct and Prof. Rahmani deserves this praise. Zias’ conclusion of his meeting with Prof. Rahmani is: “Had Jacobovici and Tabor, who quoted freely from the catalog of Jewish ossuaries, read the short (61 pages) introductory remarks of the catalog, they would have been able to see that A), the finding of nails in Jewish tombs is not all that rare; B), that’s the most obvious reason why; and C), while the nails in question are from an unknown context, they were most likely to have come from a Jewish funerary context.”

Following his distinguished mentor, Zias contends that nails were used to fix ossuary lids to the ossuaries so as to protect the remains inside the ossuary and prevent the remains from mingling with the remains of other humans. There is no reason to reject these notions. Yet, if we are discussing Caiaphas’ ossuary, why does Zias use an unrelated example of ossuaries as his evidence? Zias wrote, “On page 94 of the catalog, we find ossuary number 70 (36.1867) with an iron rivet sealing the lid with the chest, along with a note that ossuaries Nos. 77 and 196 also present the same type of sealing.” In note 4, Zias presents his source as E.L. Sukenik [A Jewish Hypogeum Near Jerusalem. J. Palestinian Oriental Society V. VIII pp.113-121; (1928)]. These illustrations do testify to sealing ossuary lids by nails, but they simply have nothing to do with the Caiaphas’ ossuary or his tomb. We may also wonder what disturbed Prof. Rahmani’s serenity to present such irrelevant data. Zias’ attempt to connect Prof. Rahmani to untenable evidence appears curious.

The photo at- tached shows Caia- phas’ ossuary.The photo at-
tached shows Caia-
phas’ ossuary.

The photo clearly demonstrates that the lid could not have been “fixed” to the ossuary by nails whatsoever. The Caiaphas ossuary on display at the Israel Museum exhibits no signs of nail holes on the lid or on the ossuary. The photo is incontrovertible; nails were not used for sealing the lid.

Zias contends that “The two small nails in question which were removed by me from the lab of Professor N. Haas . . . are most probably nails which were used to seal Jewish ossuaries.” These nails may have been removed from Hass’ lab and may have come from the Caiaphas’ family tomb, but there is no evidence that any nails were used on the Caiaphas ossuaries.

Where do these nails come from? There are no existing reports concerning these particular nails. Jacobovici claims that proper documentation or preservation of archaeological evidence has been a problem for Zias. For years, Zias and others vehemently denied the possibility that the James ossuary originated from the Talpiot Tomb. Nevertheless, there was a missing ossuary from the Jesus family tomb at Talpiot that Zias cannot account for. In a recent article on Bible and Interpretation, the authors maintain that lab reports concerning the patina on the James ossuary appear to place this ossuary in the Talpiot tomb The Connection of the James Ossuary to the Talpiot (Jesus Family Tomb) Ossuaries. I am unaware of any contradictory evidence concerning these reports. The embarrassment concerning this report is palpable. If Zias or any other scholar has any information that can shed light on this issue, I think they would do a great service to present it.

What are we to make of all this? On the one hand, we have Jacobovici’s assertion regarding the nails’ source and use. On the other, we have a rebuttal made by Zias who uses irrelevant evidence that adds nothing to our understanding regarding these nails. It also seems that using Prof. Rahmani’s reputation does not support Zias’ disclaimer.

Comments (4)

Father, forgive them, for BAR (usually) knowth not what they do ( Apologies to Mk)
It was a dark, cold and rainy night when the editor and Jim West drew my attention to the above article by Kenyan, I was somewhat confused by the title and if I were really the Zias, the author was referring to. Here it’s clear that he and I are not reading from the same page, nor the same one page article as there is no mention of Caiphias whatsoever in the article that he was referring to. Though he must be given credit for getting the attribution correct. It became all the more ludicrous when to prove his point he adds a photo of the ossuary now on display in the Israel Museum, apparently unaware that there were actually two ossuaries with the family name Caiaphas in the tomb. So deciding until they get around to reading the one page article of mine, I drifted back to sleep with the sound of falling rain…

#1 - Joe Zias - 08/30/2011 - 09:57

So now it's sleeping Joe. No, Joe, You did not mention the Caiaphas ossury indeed. But a professional with your knowledge and experience should see the point: the nails under discussion were not used to fix Caiaphas ossuary lid to the ossuary body. I'm sorry you've missed that point, and it's probably my fault. This is why the Caiaphas ossury is rellevant here. In any rate, it's much more rellevant than both ossuaries you used in your article. Go to, and role down. There they are - the complete group of ossuaries next to Caiaphas' ossuary. NONE of them shows any sign of nails whatsoever. I still wonder what rain are you talking about - we had no rain here, in the Land, for the last 4 months. It sounds that you are abroad, hibernating. Keep it up, Joe. The coming November will surely end up your hibernating. BTW, Joe: could you tell us all who was the driver of the truck that transfered the ossuaries from Talpiot tomb to the Rockefeller Museum? Could be interesting, you know.

#2 - Eldad Keynan - 08/30/2011 - 17:24

Joe Zias,
When will you acknowledge the elemental analysis of the patina places the Yaacov ossuary in the Talpiot Tomb?

#3 - Eliyahu Konn - 09/04/2011 - 00:06

Mr Kohn I may have something to say when we see something serious, from folks non-alinged to the BAR Crowd and that includes geologists and other 'wanna be archaeologists' For starters however, the ossuary which is probably from Jerusalem as most are, has been moved by the BAR Crowd ednlessly, depening on the book, film, lecture where then can make a fast buck. Prior to the Talpiot tomb, present stop, they claimed that if was from their so-called Tomb of the Shroud, one valley over. They needed this for book/film sales, as they were trying to tie their tomb up with the Jesus Family and after this was played out they moved it to Talpiot so as to up the odds of folks believing the hoax there. The BAR Crowd was challenged over this moving it around to fit their need$ and Tabor later admitted they 'got some bad advice' question is from whom ? Any ideas ?

#4 - Joe Zias-Jerusalem - 09/09/2011 - 17:18

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