Biblical archaeology and the Holy Land with Bob Simon (1941-2015)

The media reported last night that Bob Simon from CBS 60 Minutes, died in a tragic accident in New York. He was one of those rare high profile investigative reporters, that was above and beyond criticism for manipulating the news.

He in fact, was the investigative reporter that first ‘outed’ the Egyptian who was deeply involved in the on-going James Ossuary story, who admitted having worked for years with Israelis indicted over the question of the suspected forgery of biblical antiquities. Unfortunately, the Egyptian craftsman seen here, refused to testify in Israeli court for obvious reasons.

Over the years Bob Simon was interested in the Holy Land, having been posted in the CBS Tel Aviv bureau from 1977-81 and in 2012 ran a controversial 60 Minute segment dealing with the mass exodus of the Palestinian Christian community over the last forty years, which angered Israeli politicians.

Years earlier he had been directly involved in one of those Noah’s ark discoveries which seem to be a never ending myth and at the time apparently believed it actually may have been discovered. For biblical archaeologists here and abroad we were fully aware that most ‘biblical discoveries’ proving the bible, are more in the realm of a cottage industry aimed at those looking for ‘signs and wonders’ often at the expense of science and biblical archaeology. At a certain point I contacted Bob Simon and suggested that maybe it was time for a follow up as we were fully aware that he had been taken in by Turkish locals and fundamentalists trying to prove the biblical flood account as well as the enormous profits which could be gained from such a bogus discovery.

He immediately admitted that he had been duped and agreed that it was time for an additional CBS segment showing how the entire ‘discovery’ had been contrived by those both financially as well as theological involved. However he needed to have it cleared with CBS executives before proceeding with the story. Shortly thereafter he contacted me after discussing the possibility of a follow up story with executives who nixed the idea for fear that religious viewers in the US would view it as mocking their religious beliefs. In short, in the world of biblical and ‘press conference’ archaeology as well as science, there are those who wish to believe and those that wish to know. For ratings don’t anger those wishing to believe. Bob Simon was one of those courageous investigative reporters that fell into the latter category; he dedicated his life and career to ‘knowing’. His investigative reporting will be missed.

About the Author
Joe is a retired curator of archaeology/anthropology with the Israeli government.