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Journalist claims to find nails from Jesus’ cross
Michele Chabin, Religion News Service
April 28, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

Journalist claims to find nails from Jesus’ cross

Journalist claims to find nails from Jesus’ cross
Michele Chabin, Religion News Service
April 28, 2011

JERUSALEM — 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 aired 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.”

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