Friday, March 31, 2017

No, Jesus was not the warrior-king of Edessa

NUMISMATICS (ETC.) FAIL: Historical analysis of coin said to bear true image of Christ: 'Wildly irresponsible' and 'crackers.' The thesis is described as being as wacky as claims that aliens built the pyramids (Martha Henriques, International Business Times).

This is in reference to the Daily Mail's article by Dave Burke yesterday: Is this the first true portrait of JESUS? Historian claims coin from 1st Century AD is the only lifelike image of Christ, which told us that "British biblical historian Ralph Ellis argues Christ and King Manu, ruler of Edessa, are actually the same man" and that "[h]e says a 24mm-wide coin from the first century AD shows the only lifelike image ever made of Jesus." The Mail sometimes has pretty good coverage of stories about ancient history, but they tend to believe anyone who comes along claiming to be a "biblical historian" or the like, without cross-checking the story with actual specialists.

This is an especially odd case, because back in November the Mail published a breathless article (on which more here and here and links) which claimed that "the earliest portrait of Jesus Christ" was on a completely different (supposedly) ancient object. How many earliest portraits of Jesus are we allowed?

While the Mail is publishing these things without even cross-checking their own files, it is heartening to see that some journalists are still doing investigative journalism. Ms. Henriques took the prudent (and one would think obvious) course of consulting a couple of prominent British specialists in biblical studies (Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou and Dr. Simon Gathercole) concerning Mr. Ellis's notions about Jesus. Good for her. You can read the results in the IBT article above.

Mr. Ellis's book was originally published in 2013, but it seems to be being published again somehow now. A number of bloggers posted detailed reviews cataloguing its errors back in 2013. You can find them with Google if you're interested. I ignored it at the time, but this time it seemed useful to highlight the evaluations by Professor Stavrakopoulou and Dr. Gathercole.