Pseudo-Science and Sensationalist Archaeology: An Exposé of Jimmy Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project

Members of the academy must take individual responsibility and make conscious efforts to rebut examples of obvious disinformation whenever and wherever they arise. Likewise, archaeologists must band together and coordinate their efforts to meet these misleading claims as strongly and consistently as possible. For in a world where Wikipedia allows anyone to say just about anything, scholars must move beyond their comfortable arenas of peer-review and professional conferences, where they talk only to one another, and redouble our efforts to reach out to the public directly. We must counter irresponsible claims with measured responses, debunk and discredit them, and offer alternative theories from a spectrum of reliable scholars who, while they may at times disagree, can support their various claims with scientific facts, tangible data, and sound reason.

By Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
UCLA Center for Digital Humanities
UCLA Qumran Visualization Project
August 2009

There is a scourge that has reemerged to plague professional archaeologists and biblical scholars, not to mention a gullible general public. It is powerful, seductive, ubiquitous, and quite media savvy. It is not confined to the realms of logic, sound judgment, peer review, and cogency, but rather exists in the sphere of circular reasoning and preys on the hearts and wallets of the religious, who want to believe the lies this deceiver is spouting. It scoffs at the educated because they possess the power to refute it, and it relies on their apathy and arrogance to move about unhindered. It champions ignorance and promotes dilettantish claims with a populist message of, “You don’t need no Ph.D. to be a scholar.” And it claims superiority over experience, training, and contrary evidence by invoking God-inspired revelation as its motive. The scourge I speak of is sensationalist archaeology.

Sensationalist archaeology is nothing new. As long as there have been objects discovered in the Holy Land, there have been those that insist the objects prove a particular faith claim. A chunk of wood on a mountain is Noah’s Ark. A chunk of wood in Jerusalem is the Cross of Jesus. And a chunk of wood in the Red Sea is proof of the Exodus. Unsubstantiated claims by amateur archaeologists are not new, nor are their direct-to-the-public media attempts to capture eyes and hearts in the age old effort to capture dollars. As P. T. Barnum prophetically said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum are actual scholars. Drab and dirty, bespectacled and bookish, this gaggle of library dwellers and manuscript examiners were never the coolest kids at school. And with the exception of some recent developments in technology, these lifelong nerds appear so old fashioned and matted that they take on the appearance of the very antiquities they study; especially the archaeologists. So lacking in adventure and romance are the archaeologists that they require a fictional Hollywood hero, Indiana Jones, to bring some sense of adventure to their otherwise routine, studious lives.

But with years of study and discipline comes credibility. And despite the fact that people often tease scholars about being boring, the public ultimately look to them for confirmation about the veracity of claims made daily by those around them. Scientists become the judges of claims made by those selling miracle drugs. Mathematicians become the judges of statistical claims and physicists and astronomers arbitrate claims made regarding the origin of the earth. And biblical archaeologists and scholars are charged with the revered responsibility of arbitrating between claims made about the historicity of various assertions made in the Bible whether they like it or not. Thus, the role of the archaeologist is one of careful analysis, exhaustive research, guarded judgment, and the responsible dissemination of their findings through respected outlets that preserve the esteemed credibility of their vocation. Archaeologists are the accepted authorities over material remains and their interpretation; for biblical archaeologists, that includes the Bible and the material remains found in the Holy Land.

While many desire this authority and the prestige that accompanies it, not all are willing to dedicate their lives to the scholarly pursuits required to accumulate the vast depth and breadth of knowledge necessary over one’s lifetime to become such an authority. Many crave the honor and the lifestyle, but few are willing to make the sacrifice. Fewer still are willing to subject their beliefs, their worldviews, and their lives to the scrutiny of the scientific method and to the daily criticism implicit within the scholarly process—a process necessary to hone and sharpen the critical skills necessary to becoming a credible scholar.

Some just want the cameras pointed at them. Others want people to listen to them. Some are seeking to prove their preconceived beliefs, while others are looking to make a buck. And while these are not worthy to be called “scholar,” oftentimes the public cannot tell the difference. Worse yet, the academy does itself a complete disservice when it refuses to call amateur posers onto the carpet for the claims they are making. Many scholars argue that they should not waste time dignifying sensational, unfounded claims with a response, because doing so only lends credence to their otherwise spurious claims. However, the lines between scholarly credibility and dilettantish sensationalism are becoming increasingly blurred. With the rise of the internet, blogging, YouTube, podcasts, iTunes U, and other forms of self-publication making more information readily available to the public, many hacks and pseudo-scientists are using these non-refereed media to make their sensational claims.

The academic community must combat these unscholarly claims. Members of the academy must take individual responsibility and make conscious efforts to rebut examples of obvious disinformation whenever and wherever they arise. Likewise, archaeologists must band together and coordinate their efforts to meet these misleading claims as strongly and consistently as possible. For in a world where Wikipedia allows anyone to say just about anything, scholars must move beyond their comfortable arenas of peer-review and professional conferences, where they talk only to one another, and redouble our efforts to reach out to the public directly. We must counter irresponsible claims with measured responses, debunk and discredit them, and offer alternative theories from a spectrum of reliable scholars who, while they may at times disagree, can support their various claims with scientific facts, tangible data, and sound reason.

The academy has fallen too far behind in the area of modern media. Television documentaries, blogs, and other self-produced vehicles of information dissemination have nearly been monopolized by entertainment brokers and scammers, who are all looking to make money by peddling popular misinformation. Scholars must venture into these less comfortable waters and begin to engage the public on their terms, for indeed, the winds have shifted and the environment of learning has shifted from the classroom to the living room. With wireless internet and satellite television pumping more information than a person can handle into homes around the world each day, an increasing number of people are getting their news and information from the internet and television rather than university campuses. At some point, the academy must relinquish its notion that the public will come to them for verification of facts and must take their message to the people. Scholars must work with university media relations personnel and technologists to maximize the reach of their research and instructional materials. And as always, scholars must publish their findings in a timely and credible manner, or they will indeed perish. Or, far worse, the truth will.

Therefore, in an effort to practice what I preach, I shall address the most recent group to make sensational and unsubstantiated claims: Jimmy Barfield and his Copper Scroll Project.

I have previously addressed the nonsense coming from the Copper Scroll Project in an essay for Bible and Interpretation entitled, “On the Insignificance and the Abuse of the Copper Scroll.”1 In this review, I shall update that essay by addressing here the most recent claims made by Jimmy Barfield on his website,2 in his radio interview with Tamar Yonah,3 and in the Jerusalem Post article written by his supporter, Shelly Neese.4

For those not yet familiar with it, the Copper Scroll Project ( is directed by Jimmy Barfield, a retired arson investigator from Apache, Oklahoma, who claims to have won an “International Investigator of the Year” award.5 He is a Torah-observant Christian6 who says that he has “broken the code on the Copper Scroll,”7 despite the fact that he possesses a “limited knowledge of Hebrew” and “no archaeological experience,”8 and is, by his own admission, “not qualified to do the translation” of the Copper Scroll.9

In a radio interview earlier this week with Arutz Sheva’s Weekend Edition host Tamar Yonah,10 Barfield makes some downright outrageous and unsubstantiated “archaeological” (and I use the term very loosely) claims. A transcript of Tamar Yonah’s interview with Jimmy Barfield can be found on my blog.11 There you will also find a link to a downloadable version of the interview, which will allow you to read the transcript as you listen to the interview.

First and foremost, according to his website, his multiple YouTube updates,12 the Arutz Sheva interview,13 and the Jerusalem Post fluff piece14 written by supporter and fellow Christian Zionist Shelly Neese, who also runs the Christian Zionist Website “The JerUSAlem Connection,”15 Barfield claims:

I can tell you this: I’ve, I’ve broken the code on the Copper Scroll.”16

However, there is no code! The Copper Scroll is not written in code. It is written in Hebrew. The Hebrew used in the Copper Scroll most closely resembles the Hebrew used in the Mishnah, the Jewish law code compiled around 200 CE. Despite the linguistic similarities, Barfield further claims:

The scroll, uh, was, uh written sometime around the time of Jeremiah.”17

If the Copper Scroll were written “around the time of Jeremiah,” it would have been written in the seventh century BCE. No scholar accepts this dating, and there is abundant evidence to the contrary that refutes this absurd claim. Barfield offers no archaeological, palaeographical, or philological evidence to support his claim that the Copper Scroll was written in the time of the prophet Jeremiah.

Additionally, Barfield believes that the Copper Scroll can only be properly understood when seen alongside the, “Second Book of Maccabees, as well as a lesser known seventeenth century book called Emek Hamelech (“Valley of the King”).”18 In his blog, Dr. Richard Bartholomew has noted that Barfield’s claims depend not upon archaeological evidence, but upon the Emek HaMelech, a highly mythological seventeenth-century Kabbalistic manuscript.19 The Emek HaMelech tells the story of five holy men that helped the prophet Jeremiah hide the Temple treasures from the invading Babylonians. Somehow, in Barfield’s mind, a medieval manuscript, a legend about Jeremiah, the non-canonical book of 2 Maccabees, and some construed messianic prophecies result in the Copper Scroll being dated not to some time between 50 and 100 CE as nearly all scholars conclude, but to the time of the prophet Jeremiah.

It also appears that Barfield dates the Copper Scroll to the seventh century BCE on the basis of his “other research:”20 namely, the “Timeline of the Messiah.”21 And what is this timeline? According to the Copper Scroll Project website:

The timeline is a Microsoft Excel document that depicts Biblical dating from the creation of Adam to the year 2040 AD…The timeline can be used to see a graphic depiction of many Biblical Prophecies that are dated, such as Jeremiah’s seventy year exile prophecy and Daniel’s prophecies for the coming of the Messiah and many others. A point of interest is the three dates given in the Dead Sea Scrolls that prophesy the year of the birth of Yeshua and John the Baptist, the year of the crucifixion, and the year of the destruction of the Temple based on the crucifixion.”22

If Barfield is dating the Copper Scroll, and his understanding of it, based solely upon his own fundamentalist, literal interpretation of a biblical timeline, which begins in 3988 BCE and works its way forward, highlighting periods of Jubilees and multiple Messianic prophecies, one might well ask, what training or qualifications does he possess that enabled him to “crack the code” of the Copper Scroll? How did he do it? He tells us himself, stating:

I utilized a, uh, translation by a gentleman by the name of Martinez. Uh… he’s um, he is qualified to do translations. I am not. I’m not qualified to do the translation.”23

So, not only does Barfield fail to offer any evidence in support of his sensational claim that the Copper Scroll dates to the time of the prophet Jeremiah, but he admits during the interview that he did not read the Copper Scroll in Hebrew, that he used an English translation [by Florentino García Martínez], and that he is, “not qualified to do the translation.” Therefore, one is left to ask: what can Barfield possibly contribute to Copper Scroll research? According to him, quite a lot.

For example, Barfield has recently made several rather startling claims about the nature of the treasure described in the Copper Scroll. Barfield claims these items potentially include:

Vessels from the Tabernacle, possibly from the Temple.”24

This claim is nothing more than pure sensationalistic speculation designed to rouse individuals of fundamentalist, Christian Zionist, or other religious persuasions to take interest in his project. When asked by Tamar Yonah if he believes treasures from the Temple, “including, you believe, the Ark of the Covenant,” are mentioned in the Copper Scroll and are buried in hidden locations, Barfield responds, “It’s very possible.”25 This is the epitome of sensationalist speculation.

The Copper Scroll is an intentionally ambiguous list of locations that purport to be places where caches of treasure are buried. Many scholars think the Copper Scroll is a modern hoax, while others think it is an ancient hoax. Some believe it is a list of treasures that belong to the Essenes, but many dispute this because some ancient sources state that the Essenes lived austere lives that shunned great wealth. Some scholars believe it is a list of items from the Second Temple in Jerusalem that were hidden in the desert before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. This theory keeps with the palaeographic dating of the text of the Copper Scroll, but the absence of any evidence whatsoever in the form of treasures from the Temple casts much doubt on even this somewhat plausible interpretation. Joseph Patrich’s discovery of a Herodian period juglet wrapped in palm fibers and containing the remains of a viscous oil26 that may have been balsam oil (this is disputed) in a cave near Qumran should not be considered one of the “treasures” of the Temple, despite fellow Torah-observant Christian and friend of Jimmy Barfield, Vendyl Jones’ claim that the juglet contained, “Holy Anointing Oil made by Moses himself” and the purifying “ashes of the Red Heifer.” Jones’ interpretation has been categorically dismissed by all credible scholars.27

As stated above, the Copper Scroll is not written in code. However, Barfield claims to have “cracked” it nevertheless. And according to Barfield, the Copper Scroll is quite difficult to understand. He states:

The Copper Scroll is not something that someone can come in and just figure out.”28

And yet, Barfield, with no archaeological or biblical training and a very, very limited knowledge of Hebrew, claims to have done the unthinkable:

Uh… i- in the length of time it took me to figure it out was just incredible. It was amazing how soon and how quickly I figured this thing out.”29

Working from an English translation of the Copper Scroll, Barfield claims to have walked up, sat down, read the Copper Scroll, and done what scholars have not been able to do in fifty years: identify the locations listed in the Copper Scroll. Barfield claims, “After looking at the scroll for five minutes he deciphered the first location, and twenty minutes later he identified the next four locations”.30

Barfield’s claim is problematic on several levels. For one, exactly what haven’t the scholars “figured out?” Scholars translated the Copper Scroll fifty years ago. There is no “code” to “crack.” By, “figured this thing out,” does Barfield mean that he has located the treasure? How did Barfield do this? Barfield explains his methodology:

Now here’s what I did: I identified the first, second, third, and fourth, and I, I took a, uh, satellite map, took a nee-, took a pin, a needle and I poked holes in this satellite map for each one of them. And then I drew a line through each one and they lined up in uh, like I said in a perfectly straight line, and they crossed over a location that I had already identified utilizing only the description on the Copper Scroll. Lori and I, my wife and, uh, and I, went to the location, uh, testing to make sure that all the information that I was looking at was correct, and the description led me to a point very near Qumran, and there eh, was a, it, and you can see a place that very much looks like the opening of a, uh, where a cave used to be. Of course remember now, it’s been buried. Not only does it, it’s described that way in Second Maccabees, but it’s also described that way on the Copper Scroll. It [coughs] is an entrance that is in buried, so that’s ho-, that’s how I know this.”31

Barfield claims to have read the locations from (one must assume) the García Martínez English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls,32 and poked little holes in a satellite map. Does Barfield not think that scholars before him obtained a satellite map and tried to determine the locations of the place names mentioned in the Copper Scroll? What is additionally problematic about Barfield’s so-called “methodology” is that Barfield assumes he knows where to begin. Following García Martínez’ translation, which Barfield claims to have used, the legible portion of the Copper Scroll begins:

1:1 In the ruin which is in the valley of Acor, under

1:2 the steps leading to the East,

1:3 forty long cubits: a chest of silver and its vessels

1:4 with a weight of seventeen talents. KEN

The Valley of Acor33 has been associated with everything from a valley to the north of Jericho,34 to Wadi al-Qelt south of Jericho,35 to the Buqei’a plain south of Qumran.36 Given that all subsequent locations are relative to the ambiguous “ruin in the valley of Acor,” and that there are as many ruins as there are candidates for “the valley of Acor,” Barfield’s location is nothing more than uneducated guesswork

Perhaps even more amazing is where Barfield locates the treasure described by the Copper Scroll. Barfield states:

All of those in between, now remember there’s approximately sixty locations, there’s, uh, fifty more that can be easily identified within the building complex of Qumran.”37

So, Jimmy Barfield claims that fifty of the locations mentioned in the Copper Scroll are located beneath the structures at Qumran. Qumran was first excavated by Roland de Vaux from Feb. 15 to Mar. 5, 1949,38 and underwent four more seasons of excavations through 1956. De Vaux excavated through the floors of the Qumran settlement, which was established during the Hasmonean dynasty.39 De Vaux concluded that the site was the residence of some sort of ascetic Jewish sect because with the exception of a few hoards of Tyrian half-shekels and a few pieces of fine wares, the settlement was devoid of compelling remains of wealthy residents. Ten years of subsequent excavation were conducted by Magen and Peleg from 1993-2004.40

Does Barfield believe that de Vaux did not dig deep enough? Were ten additional years of excavation by Magen and Peleg, which produced little but clay, not enough? And does Barfield not realize that Qumran and the surrounding area have not only been thoroughly excavated, but have been pillaged for every scrap of manuscript and precious metal for the past sixty years? Again, I am compelled to ask: what has Barfield done that dozens of reputable scholars and legitimate archaeologists (and Vendyl Jones) have not already done? What special tool does Barfield possess that allows him such insight?

Barfield tells us:

I’m, I’m gonna be real honest with ya, I’m gonna give ya the non-political, uh, answer to this, or a, the politically incorrect answer: I believe at times that the Father allowed me to see these things.”41

There you have it: the “Father” allows him to see these things. Barfield’s scholarly methodology and the key to his understanding of the location of the Copper Scroll treasure is that, “the Father allowed [him] to see” things that trained scholars could not. Who can argue with that?

I can. Allow me to demonstrate the folly of this statement. First, what has Barfield found? He has found nothing, not a single thing! And, according to his circular reasoning, he has not found anything because he has not been allowed to dig “to the proper depth.” But then Barfield admits that were he allowed to dig to the proper depth:

I cannot tell you that the, those items are still there.”42

That is to say, even if Barfield digs in the places that he claims possess treasure, and he finds no treasure, he is still correct because the treasure was once there, but now is gone. Therefore, according to Barfield’s circular reasoning, his theory is right whether he digs or not, and whether he finds treasure or not. How convenient.

Likewise, how can anyone argue with a claim that some divine entity secretly revealed the location of treasure to him? According to Barfield, “the Father allowed” him to see things. But to what has the Father led him? Barfield has discovered nothing. Perhaps Barfield assumes that by invoking divine inspiration, he immunizes himself from criticism, for what right does anyone else have to tell him what “the Father” has told him or allowed him to see? Again, Barfield’s claim is sheer circular argumentation based on nothing: no facts, no evidence, and no treasure. Again, how convenient.

Barfield makes a series of additional unsubstantiated claims. For instance, referring to the Copper Scroll, he claims:

It was one of the only, uh, Dead Sea Scrolls that was found, uh, by a legitimate, uh, sanctioned, uh, archaeological dig.”43

This statement is patently false. Cave 4, the most productive cave at Qumran in terms of manuscripts and fragments, was discovered in August 1952, and was excavated from Sept. 22-29, 1952 by Gerald Lankester Harding, Roland de Vaux, and Józef Milik.44 In fact, a second season of excavation took place from Feb. 9 to Apr. 4, 1953, followed by a third season from Feb. 15 to Apr. 15, 1954, and a fourth season from Feb. 2 to Apr. 6, 1955. The fragmentary documents produced by Caves 7, 8, 9, and 10 were all excavated during this fourth excavation season.45 Barfield’s claim that the Copper Scroll was the only document discovered during a “legitimate, sanctioned” excavation is simply not true.

Barfield’s redesigned Copper Scroll Project website has a special section dedicated to “Past ‘CS’ Expeditions,”46 which lists the “research” of only two individuals: Vendyl Jones (who apparently continues to claim that he was the personal inspiration behind Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones” movies) and John Allegro. Jones is viewed by just about all archaeologists as a fringe scholar, while Allegro (after parting ways with the Dead Sea Scrolls research team) published a book entitled, “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross,” which his own website admits ruined his career.47 These are the inspirations for Jim Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project.

Jimmy Barfield is not the leader of any archaeological expedition. An Israel Antiquities Authority employee with direct knowledge of Jimmy Barfield, the Copper Scroll Project, and their claims has told me personally that Mr. Barfield and his group are merely observers. They do not possess a permit, they do not dig, and they do not lead. They merely observed an ongoing excavation at Qumran, although they did videotape the dig and posted it on the internet. Because Qumran is in the West Bank, excavations there operate under the auspices of the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria. One will note that Barfield always carefully states that an unnamed archaeologist from the I. A. A. “obtained the proper permits.” That is to say, neither Barfield nor his team ever had a permit; they were merely observers on the digs. Therefore, any claim that he led an excavation is an outright falsehood.

Likewise, the Israel Antiquities Authority never sanctioned Barfield’s excavation. They appear only to have met with him to discuss his theories, as they do with thousands of tourists and archaeologists each year. Barfield is always sure to capture these meetings with credible (and some not-so-credible) individuals in photographs, which he then prominently displays on the Copper Scroll Project website, perhaps in order to give the illusion that they all “agreed” with his research.48

Soon after he observed an excavation at Qumran, Barfield fell out of favor with the Israel Antiquities Authority. Once supervisors at the I. A. A. were notified of Barfield’s Copper Scroll Project website and read the claims he was making, and when they saw YouTube videos in which Barfield claims the I. A. A. decided, “Let’s just use metal detectors,”49 which are strictly forbidden by Israeli law, the I. A. A. cut off all communication with Barfield and his group. According to a representative at the I. A. A., Jimmy Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project will participate in no further excavations, even as observers. This much is evidenced by Barfield’s exasperated comment in a June 30, 2009 update to his supporters, where he states:

Information and correspondence from Israel has stopped. Why, I can’t tell you, but my email has not been answered since we left Israel in May.”50

The I. A. A. has disowned Jimmy Barfield. With the I. A. A. no longer interested, and the academic community beginning to take notice of his group and refute his bizarre claims, Barfield is taking his message directly to the public, attempting to set up television and radio interviews where he repeats his eccentric claims, but provides no further evidence.

Barfield has also recently removed his fund raising page from the Copper Scroll Project Website. A cached version of that page reveals that the Copper Scroll Project set up a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax exempt fund for raising $148,000 they claim is needed to carry out their investigation.51 Therefore, we must hold in suspicion Barfield’s claim:

It’s not about money.”52

If the Copper Scroll Project is not about the money, then why did Barfield establish a 501(c)3 fund? Why is there a “Copper Scroll Funding Page” link on the Copper Scroll Project website?53 And why did Barfield remove this fund raising page after it was brought to the public’s attention in July 2009?54

I do not wish to discuss Barfield’s political ideology in detail, but I shall point out a couple of remarks I found rather disturbing. In response to Tamar Yonah’s comment about the possibility that, “this future possible Muslim state would get their hands on [the Copper Scroll] and perhaps destroy it like they destroyed artifacts on the Temple Mount,” Barfield responded:

Because if, if in fact some kind of a ridiculous two state solution were to come about, it would, it’s bad enough to be givin’ away the land of Israel, but for goodness sakes, let’s don’t give away the treasures that belong to Israel as well.”55

I cannot begin to comprehend why Mr. Barfield would make such incendiary comments in the context of an interview about archaeology. I do not believe it appropriate to categorize a two-state solution and a homeland for Palestinians beside Israel as “ridiculous.” I am certain that many Palestinians would dispute Barfield’s categorization of the land-for-peace process as “givin’ away the land of Israel.” Likewise, I resent the idea that Barfield wants to dig up Qumran, a West Bank site, before Palestinians can get to theoretical treasures Barfield believes to be at Qumran. This is nothing more than using archaeology as a political weapon, and I join the archaeological community around the world in condemning this practice outright!

I am equally disturbed by Barfield’s comments about the lack of qualification of Israeli government officials to handle archaeological materials discovered in the course of their excavations. Barfield states:

And, here’s, here’s my thoughts: the government of Israel is, is not qualified, uhhhh, they’re not qualified to handle these items.”56

I am certain that career archaeological professionals working for the I. A. A. and other departments within the Israeli government do not appreciate being told by a retired fire investigator from Oklahoma with no archaeological credentials that they are “not qualified to handle these items.” In fact, if the I. A. A. did not already have enough reason to cut off contact with Barfield and his group, I’m sure this comment more than made up for it.

Jimmy Barfield’s theological and political ideologies, including a desire to see no portion of what he claims is “the land of Israel” given to Palestine, his loathing of a “ridiculous” two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, and his claim that the Israeli government is “unqualified” to handle antiquities found in territory under its administration betrays Barfield’s true mission. The Copper Scroll Project must be judged not as an archaeological project, but as a religious and ideological group raising money for pilgrimages to Israel under the cover of an archaeological expedition.

Perhaps Barfield best sums up his qualifications in his own words:

I am not an archaeologist. I want people to understand that very clearly. I’m not an archaeologist. I’m not a historian. I’m simply, a, uh, gentleman from Oklahoma that has figured out the Copper Scroll.”57

Indeed, I could not agree more with the first part of Barfield’s statement. Barfield is neither an archaeologist, nor an historian, nor a palaeographer, nor a philologist: he’s simply a retired fire investigator from Oklahoma, in the same way that Simcha Jacobovici is neither naked nor an archaeologist, but merely a filmmaker. And there is no shame in that. Public servants like firemen and policemen are hard working, honorable men and women that hold noble professions. They risk their lives to protect those of us who cannot otherwise do so. I honor firemen and policemen, and I do not for a moment pretend that I am able to do their jobs, nor do I claim to possess the extensive training that is required to do their jobs. I know my limitations and I am comfortable with letting those professionals be professionals. Barfield should realize that the same is true for fire marshals pretending to be archaeologists and biblical scholars.

No, Mr. Barfield, you have not “figured out the Copper Scroll.” What you have done is claim to have done so, raised thousands of dollars in contributions and support, done numerous interviews and press releases in support of your claims, and sparked the imaginations of countless faithful individuals hoping to see evidence of something—anything—that confirms their faith. However, you have given them something false and misleading; you have made claims you cannot back up based upon theories you cannot support. Your son produces excellent videos and you have a slick website, but underlying it all is circular reasoning and pseudo-science. I suggest you read Dr. Eric Cline’s book From Eden To Exile,58 which discusses pseudo-scientific efforts by those who desire to prove claims made in the Bible by (mis)using archaeology. No, one does not need a Ph.D. to be an archaeologist, but one should have some basic training in archaeology, palaeography, philology, and perhaps a basic understanding of the Hebrew language before one claims to have “cracked the code” on any Hebrew manuscript. Let the archaeologists be the archaeologists, and we’ll let the fire investigators be the fire investigators.

What I have chronicled above is precisely why Jimmy Barfield attempted to circumvent the scholarly process: his findings simply do not stand up to cross examination. Likewise, this is precisely why trained archaeologists must stand up and combat these amateur attempts to mislead the public with sensational claims. The archaeological community must bring the academy to the public so that they will not fall prey to the claims of the likes of Mr. Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project. The academy must take back the public media for legitimate archaeology and better educate the public about real science and archaeology. Finally, the academy must not shy away from insisting that the public media, and those that utilize it for profit, submit to the scholarly process.

So, Mr. Barfield, welcome to the scholarly process. Enjoy.


3 All time stamp references to the Tamar Yonah’s interview with Jim Barfield are based upon the .mp4 of the interview available at….

4 Neese, Shelly, “Cracking the code,” Jerusalem Post, Aug. 19, 2009. (…)

5 5:20, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

6 2:27, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

7 16:15, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

9 7:31. Interview with Tamar Yonah.

16 16:14, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

17 3:23, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

18 Neese, Shelly, “Cracking the code,” Jerusalem Post, Aug. 19, 2009. (…)

19…. Bartholomew and Dr. Jim West ( have chronicled Barfield’s Copper Scroll Project since it began making sensational claims.

20 20:57, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

23 7:22, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

24 3:03, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

25 9:55, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

26 Patrich, Joseph and Benny Arubas, ”A Juglet Containing Balsam Oil (?) from a Cave Near Qumran,” Israel Exploration Journal 39 (1989): 43-59.

27 Jones’ website claims, “On April 1st 1988, his excavation team found a juglet of Holy Anointing Oil made by Moses himself.” (…) P. Kyle McCarter refutes Jones’ claim in a 1992 article by David Margolis entitled, “Finding the Lost Ark: The original 'Raider,' working on faith, is deluding himself - and us.” McCarter states, “No objects from the Temple are named in the Copper Scroll - not the Ark of the Covenant, not the ashes of the Red Heifer, not even the ‘holy anointing oil.’ There is no reason at all to suppose that these objects are meant. The Scroll names only silver and gold. Moreover, what Jones claimed was ‘the anointing oil,’ had been identified only as an oil, manufactured and widely used in the ancient Dead Sea area, of the same type as the Temple anointing oil. Though the find had excited archeologists, Jones took a long logical leap to identify it as the Temple anointing oil.” (

28 5:31, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

29 5:38, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

30 Neese, Shelly, “Cracking the code,” Jerusalem Post, Aug. 19, 2009. (…)

31 11:36, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

32 García Martínez, Florentino, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.

33 Joshua 7:24

34 Eusebius of Caesarea, Onomasticon.

35 Netzer, Ehud, “The Winter Palaces of the Judean Kings at Jericho at the End of the Second Temple Period,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 228 (1977): 1-13.

36 Beecher, W. J., “Achor,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Rev. ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979.

37 12:40, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

38 VanderKam, James C., The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 9.

39 De Vaux, Roland, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Schweich Lectures of the British Academy, 1959), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 5.

40 Magen, Yizhak and Yuval Peleg, The Qumran Excavations 1993-2004: Preliminary Report, Judea & Samaria Publications 6, Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2007.

41 5:47, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

42 16:17, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

43 3:43, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

44 VanderKam, James C., The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 10-11.

45 VanderKam, James C., The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 11.

49 Note the 4:00 mark on “The Copper Scroll Project Interview with Jim Barfield – April 26, 2009,” where Barfield claims that the I. A. A. decided, “Let’s just use metal detectors.” (

50 Copper Scroll Update June 30th, 2009. (

52 21:00, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

54 See Cargill, Robert R., “On the Insignificance and the Abuse of the Copper Scroll,” Bible and Interpretation, July 2009. (

55 17:54, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

56 18:20, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

57 5:01, Interview with Tamar Yonah.

58 Cline, Eric H., From Eden to Exile: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Bible, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008.

Article Comments

Submitted by Tony Bulchak on Wed, 05/05/2021 - 11:04


I find it a bit humorous (and perhaps a little misleading) when archaeologist, paleontologist, or anthropologist claim that they use "The scientific method". Let's face it. These particular fields cannot strictly test anything that has occurred in the past, they cannot observe it in the present, and they cannot duplicate it. Granted, these fields of study get better over time due to the ever increasing data that corroborates the current hypothesis being developed. The key word "developed". Let's be honest, the vast majority of human history is unknown, and much of it will never be known. You use a "modified scientific method" that is a mix of facts and best guesses. That being the case, perhaps a little open mindedness is needed in the soft sciences? After all, nearly everything we believed in these areas has been revised multiple times.

Submitted by Adam J Meier on Mon, 03/21/2022 - 14:49


Great writeup. I've been leary of this guy for awhile.

My only correction is that Maccabees is actually part of the Biblical canon. At least it was for all of Christendom for 1500+ years

Submitted by Mark S Glasser on Fri, 08/26/2022 - 21:18


Sounds to me the guy who wrote the scathing article is afraid that Barfield is right .
I think Barfield should be given the green light to go ahead with his theories - what is the worst thing that could happen ? Let’s all find out who is wrong and who is right . Start the digging now !
I believe Jim Barfield is spot on .
Dr Cargill just cannot accept the fact that he could very possibly be wrong .

Submitted by Sharon D Bailey on Tue, 03/07/2023 - 10:17


Wow, Dr. Cargill didn’t just give a review—he had an axe to grind. In the recent past, people have speculated that the Copper Scroll represents old treasure from Egypt or treasure buried around Jerusalem. However, Dr Barfield has a different concept and could be correct. I say, “Let him dig”. After all, he has done some metal detecting with positive results. I for one want to know what is in the cave behind the non-contemporary concrete wall.

Submitted by Aaron Kulkis on Sun, 05/07/2023 - 09:00


The above article is simply one long ad-hominem, basically, "Waaaaa! He hasn't gone through our club's initiation rituals!"

The man was a fire department investigator. He's spent a lifetime sifting through debris to figure out what happened, and if criminal charges should be filed, or building and fire codes should be changed, based upon his findings.
In contrast, MUCH of the archeaology community engages in fanciful guesswork, and then decries anyone with different hypothesis.
The comment about how he said he "cracked the code" and then saying the scroll is written in Hebrew is missing the point entirely, and most likely deliberately, due to personal animosity. What Barfield is saying is that the copper scroll is written in an obfuscated way, using indirect references, as a puzzle so to speak, such that the scroll was meant more as a memory aid for those who were already familiar with the general locations of the cached treaure. This way, the leaders could be assured if the scroll were captured, the locations of the caches wouldn't be immediately apparent, giving the leaders time to recapture the scroll OR to dig up and move the caches before those who took the scroll would have enough time to locate the places described in the scroll.

I'm an engineer. We don't judge by credentials, we judge by results. I suggest that the archeology community start to do the same.

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