Have Nails From Jesus’ Crucifixion Been Discovered?

Just before Easter, Simcha Jacobovici (the “Naked Archaeologist”) produced a TV show on the History Channel about two iron nails that he believes could be from Jesus’ crucifixion. His show, “The Nails of the Cross” airs on April 20th.

Jacobovici is the same TV journalist who narrated a Discovery Channel TV special on “The Jesus Family Tomb” in 2007. In that documentary, which also aired just prior to Easter, Jacobovici speculated Jesus Christ’s final resting place had been discovered. Such a discovery, if true, would have undermined the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

Although it caused quite a stir at the time, the notion that it really was Jesus’ tomb has been refuted by several leading scholars (see http://www.y-jesus.com/jesus_tomb.php).

Let’s look closer at the facts surrounding the mysterious nails in question.


The Facts Claimed:[1]

•  In 1990, workmen accidentally unearthed six ossuaries in a southern Jerusalem burial cave.

•  One of the ossuaries was inscribed with the name “Caiaphas,” another with “Joseph bar [son of] Caiaphas.”

•  Two 3” iron nails were discovered in the cave, but kept secret.

•  The nails date to the first century when Jesus was crucified.

Jacobovici’s theory is that Caiaphas was either a secret follower of Jesus or he was “racked with guilt” about his role in Jesus’ death. (Caiaphas is the high priest who condemned Jesus and turned him over to Pontius Pilate for his crucifixion.)

Stating his case, Jacobovici argues, “Since Caiaphas is only associated with one crucifixion — that of Jesus — the assumption is that these were the nails used. ’If these were found in any other tomb, we would not be here today.”’[2]

So let’s see what scholars are saying about his theory.


Examining the Evidence:[3]

•  Roman nails were “a dime a dozen” in Jerusalem at that time.

•  According to Gabriel Barkay, professor of archaeology at Bar-llan University, “There’s no proof whatsoever that they [the nails] originate in the tomb of Caiaphas….It’s all conjecture.”

•  The archaeologist who deciphered the writing in the tomb states, “We have no evidence it belongs to the high priest.”

•  “The nails that are in Jacobovici’s possession are 3 inches or less and could not hold a crucified man to a cross beam.”[4]

•  Dr. Levi Rahmani (1994), an expert on Jewish ossuaries, suggests the nails were used for inscribing the ossuaries.[5]

Gordon Franz writes, “Ho hum, here we go again. The media should be ashamed of itself for promoting such nonsensical pseudo-archaeology. If they must circulate sensational stories, at least they owe it to their readers to investigate the claim by interviewing scholars in the field.”[6]


Is there Evidence for Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection?

Scholars and skeptics alike have asked questions about the evidence Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Two brilliant skeptics who thought the resurrection was mythical began independent investigations of the evidence. What did they discover? To find out, see: http://www.y-jesus.com/body_count1.php


[1]  Gordon Franz, “Simcha Jacobovici And The Nails From Caiaphas’ Tomb,” Biblicalarchaeology.org, April 14, 2011, http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2011/04/14/Simcha-Jacobovici-and-the-Nails-From-Caiaphas-Tomb.aspx#Article

[2]  Hazel Ward, “Nails Tied to Jesus’ Crucifixion found?” Discovery News (April 13, 2011), http://news.discovery.com/history/jesus-crucifixion-nails-cross-110413.html

[3]  Michele Chabin, “Archaeologist thinks he might have found nails from Jesus’ cross,” The Washington Post National (April 15, 2011), http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/archaeologist-thinks-he-might-have-found-nails-from-jesuss-cross/2011/04/12/AFKrMDlD_story.html

[4]  Franz, Ibid.

[5]  Ibid.

[6]  Ibid.