Vendyl Jones on the Verge Again

From the BBC News, July 1998 (link added):

An American archaeologist says he is close to unearthing the lost Ark of the Covenant, the ancient casket believed to contain the Ten Commandments.

Vendyl Jones - a Texan archaeologist who believes he may have been the inspiration for the film character Indiana Jones – says he has located where it is buried.

The Jordan Valley near Qumran is the lowest place on earth – a desolate wilderness, baking under the summer sun. But it is here that Vendyl Jones says he is on the verge of making one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

On the verge, no less! Jones claimed that the Copper Scroll, a unique document from among the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains coded directions for digging up the lost treasure from Solomon’s Temple. So, what happened? Let’s catch up with Jones a mere seven years later, courtesy of a recent Arutz Sheva article:

An unnamed Kabbalist has granted blessing to famed archeologist Dr. Vendyl Jones to uncover the Holy Ark of the Covenant. Jones plans to excavate the Lost Ark by the Tisha B’Av Fast this summer.

…The Talmud says the Ark is hidden in a secret passage under the Temple Mount. Jones says that the tunnel actually continues 18 miles southward, and that the Ark was brought through the tunnel to its current resting place in the Judean Desert.

Tisha B’Av is August 14, the traditional date for the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as other significant Jewish disasters. So, Jones is again “on the verge”:

As recently as last month, the rabbi, who only communicates via messenger, told Jones that the time was not yet right to discover the Temple vessels.

Last Thursday, however, Dr. Jones received a communication from the rabbi reading, “The time is right.”

Arutz Sheva is a rag for the Israeli far-right, so there’s not going to be much criticism of Jones, who is a leader within the Noahide Movement (also known as The Sons of Noah). This is a curious new religious movement made up primarily of ex-Christian fundamentalists, and can be summed up as “Gentiles for Judaism”. Members believe that Christianity misunderstood Jesus’ teachings and that anti-Judaism in the Gospels can be rejected as late interpolations. In fact, God wants Jews to continue to keep the Mosaic Law, while Gentiles should keep the seven moral laws of Noah.

However, a 2000 profile in the Dallas Observer reveals Jones to be the Kent Hovind of archaeology: a man whose methods and claims cannot be taken seriously. Here’s a taste:

In three decades of digging in caves in Qumran, a region near the border of Israel and Jordan, Jones has made several discoveries–some of them dubious–that he links to the temple built by King Solomon, where the Ark was once supposedly kept.

These are: a jar of anointing oil, and the supposed discovery of sacred spices (He’s still looking for ashes from the Red Heifer, which will be needed to purify the priests for the next temple). But:

In academic papers published a few years [after the discovery of the oil], however, two Haifa university professors stated that the oil found inside resembled what is extracted in modern times from date stones. “No such oil was known in antiquity,” the professors wrote.

Four years later, Jones, who was spending his summer in Israel and winters in Texas, made another discovery. He held a news conference in the Qumran desert to announce he had excavated 900 pounds of red dirt. Standing beside Jones, a chemical analyst who produced a paper on the stationery of Israel’s famed Weitzmann Institute of Science, identified the compound as very likely having eight of the 11 spices that supposedly constituted the holy incense used in Solomon’s Temple to purify worshipers.

When reporters later called the Weitzmann Institute, however, they were told that Jones’ effort had no connection to the school. The scientist who had stood by his side at the news conference was merely a consultant, the Weitzmann officials said.

As the BBC noted, Jones has also made the claim that his story inspired Indiana Jones, “Vendyl” becoming “Endy” – the Observer reports that this has been denied by Spielberg. Other critiques of Jones are enumerated here; there is also an article by Daniel C Browning called “The Strange Search for the Ashes of the Red Heifer”, which appeared in Biblical Archaeology in Spring 1996, but which I have not been able to see.

Also worth noting: perhaps because he was talking to a right-wing Israeli newspaper rather than US or UK media, Jones felt able to express his extreme racist views as he explains the importance of the August deadline:

“At Kadesh Barnea, [the Jewish Nation] sent in those [twelve] spies who gave the evil report, and because they believed the evil report, they were sentenced to wander for 38 years before they could come into Gilgal” – an ancient city near Jericho.

The “evil report” was the spies’ opinion that the Canaanites were too strong to be defeated, as recounted in Numbers 13. Jones believes that the narrative of the Hebrew Bible reveals certain divine laws of history:

“1967 was a repetition of Kadesh Barnea,” Jones says. “If Israel had come in and taken this place [the Temple Mount], the Arabs would have fled like they did in 1948. But no, because of the evil report of Golda Meir and Motta Gur and Moshe Dayan, who said ‘We cannot do that, world opinion will be against us.’ So Israel was sentenced to 38 years more – and June the 7th [2005], Jerusalem Day, will be the 38th year.

Yes, “the Arabs would have fled like they did in 1948″. That’s when 85% of the Palestinian population of Israel proper were forced to leave their homes and become refugees – a tragedy insignificant for the likes of Jones because merely human. Clearly, and unsurprisingly, Jones supports the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the name of Greater Israel and Jewish theocracy (like Hal Lindsey, he’s also a fan of the Kahanist “Sanhedrin”).

UPDATE: Apparently the 14 August deadline was a “misquote”. Now it’s on for September, if “funding” permits. See my entry here for further details.

19 Responses

  1. I have believed for some time that Vendyl Jones was on the verge of something but surely not on the verge of finding the Ark of the Covenant. I now think he is on the verge of go off the deep end and taking lots of people with him.

  2. “Jones has also made the claim that his story inspired Indiana Jones, “Vendyl” becoming “Endy” – the Observer reports that this has been denied by Spielberg.”

    Spielberg has explained that the name Indiana Jones was inspired Michigan J. Frog, a cortoon creation of Chuck Jones who appeared in only one cartoon (“One Froggy Morning”) and is now the mascot of the WB television network. So, it’s a choice between Vendyl or a cartoon frog, I can see why some people might be confused; they have equal credibility.

  3. Ach! I was taken in by the spice story, it appeared in the popular press.

    I still believe in the Copper Scroll. It’s ludicrous to think it had anything to do with the Temple of Solomon, but I believe there is good reason to believe it reflected an actual stash of treasure from Jericho or Jerusalem. I think the first translator’s name was Allegro. He translated it, and the mainstream DSS scholars destroyed his career. He went crazy, and came back and started publishing books saying the whole Jesus thing (specifically the vision on the road to Damascus of Paul who had been Saul) was the product of Amanita Muscaria hallucinations.

    I couldn’t find the Allegro translation online, though.

    Hey, I thought Speilberg named Jones after the dog, Indiana? Yeah, here it is.

    Do Noahide Christians sometimes call themselves Messianic Jews? The MJs I met certainly (for being daft) were on top of the Noahide business.

    The Qumran bookshop is filled with loony books by Tim LaHaye friend Randall Price, who also seeks the Ark of the Covenant.

    I used to hope a meteor would come down and obliterate Jersualem. Now I fear that, if that happened, there would be a new religion centered on the meteor. :(

  4. By the way, it might not be clear, but I don’t believe in any supernatural events or dieties.

    However, I think archaeology is the way to clear up this mess. Perhaps Vendyl Jones will accidentally find the peice of the puzzle that permanently undermines the religious position. :)

  5. The Noahides are not Messianic Jews – I think they see Jesus as some sort of prophet to the gentiles, but no more than that. The MJs are “Jews for Jesus”; the Noahides are “Gentiles for Judaism”.

  6. [...] and who claims to have found various artefacts connected with the temple. I wrote about him just a couple of weeks ago, and it appears that Steinsaltz is a friend of his. Gerard Robins recalls: It is of [...]

  7. [...] don’t worry: if PY doesn’t pull it off, Vendyl Jones has promised us the Lost Ark of the Covenant by August [...]

  8. As we know, it is not uncommon for God to use those of lowest stature, who sometimes may seem to be on the edge of madness (some of the prophets for example?), to execute His will, since the rest of us seem to see ourselves on the higher ground of divine enightenment which enables us to see clearly to do little more than cast aspersions against those “eccentrics” who, with vision and hope, dare to drive toward that which they perceive to be Israel’s destiny. As we all will find out shortly, Temple services will be re-established and the Temple will be rebuilt, as God told us through the prophets. This isn’t a question of “if”, but “when”. So to this end, if God sees that Israel is still entrenched in their stiff-necked unbelief, He may elect to keep the Ark hidden away for yet another generation, until Israel earnestly seeks His face. However, if this is that generation, a few faithless blogs notwithstanding, God may indeed use Mr. Jones (albeit perceived as a poor choice of servants by the enlightened crowd), or someone else, to find the Ark and Temple treasures (if them being found is part of the divine plan). If Mr. Jones has indeed located the Ark and is to be the instrument for revealing it to the world by August 14, 2005 (Tisha B’Av), then Praise God! But if Mr. Jones is simply a crackpot or charlatan, as some may assert, time will tell. Those who look toward the finding of the Ark as an indication of God’s renewed attention toward Israel, they will either be rejoicing with exceeding great joy on that day, or, if not found, they will continue their lamentation, and the faithless will continue to wag their heads in their unbelief. Unfortunately, the rejoicing of finding of the Ark, if that is actually part of the divine plan as a precursor for future events, will be short lived as it will precede only by a short time the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Whatever the outcome of the quest for the Ark of the Covenant is, in terms of the divine plan for mankind – we’re right on schedule. Mankind has an inexorable appointment with destiny for which we will neither be early nor late. Personally, I hope Mr. Jones finds the Ark, either on purpose or in spite of himself. But if he doesn’t, that’s ok too.

  9. [...] I blogged back in May, Vendyl Jones believes that the famous Copper Scroll is the key to finding the Ark. The [...]

  10. [...] best-known of these Noahides is Vendyl Jones, the self-styled archaeologist previously profiled on this blog, who keeps claiming to be on the verge of revealing the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Bar-Ron met with [...]

  11. [...] The fact that the Israel Antiquities Authority has denied digging permits to the likes of Vendyl Jones, even though he has received backing from the Israeli religious right, is also [...]

  12. [...] bit like Vendyl Jones and his quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, an amazing breakthrough is always just around the next corner, if [...]

  13. [...] includes figures ranging from the respected rabbinic teacher Adin Steinsaltz through to clowns like Vendyl Jones (a pseudo-archaeologist who periodically plays the media by telling lazy hacks that he’s [...]

  14. [...] has also touched base with Vendyl Jones, another “arkeologist”, whom I blogged here. Jones gets publicity every few years by phoning up some lazy hack with the announcement that he is [...]

  15. [...] in the 1980s and who wants Christians and Muslims expelled as “idolators”, and the pseudo-archaeologist Vendyl Jones, who, although non-Jewish, is an ex-Christian who holds “Noachide” views. [...]

  16. [...] lazy hacks with easy copy once every few years with dramatic announcements of being “on the verge” of discovering the Ark of the Covenant. Jones is an ex-Christian “Noachide”, and [...]

  17. [...] ways of jim barfield, simcha jacobovichi, ron wyatt, noah’s ark ministries international, and vendyl jones, beck invoked the dead sea scrolls in a nonsensical rant that began with comparing children to [...]

  18. [...] was, though, an effective self-publicist; as I blogged here, he regularly garnered journalistic interest by announcing he was “on the verge” of [...]

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