The Skeptical Inquirer

Pseudohistory in Jerry Vardaman's magic coins: the nonsense of micro graphic letters.(Critical Essay)

An archaeologist claims to find hundreds of microscopic letters on ancient coins and inscriptions that completely rewrite history. Conclusion: bogus.

Jerry Vardaman, an archaeologist at the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University, claims to have discovered microscopic letters covering ancient coins and inscriptions conveying all sorts of strange data, which he then uses to assert the wildest chronology of ancient events imaginable, particularly for Jesus. For instance, these "microletters" allegedly prove that Jesus was born in 12 B.C. (instead of 6 A.D., which is the most credible year to date), Pontius Pilate actually governed Judaea between 15 and 26 A.D. (instead of 26-36 A.D.), Jesus was crucified in 21 A.D. (instead of in the 30s according to mainstream scholarship), etc. Vardaman's evidence is incredibly bizarre and can best be described as pseudohistorical.

Certainly, his "evidence" is not accepted by any other expert in ancient coins to my knowledge. It has never been presented in any peer-reviewed venue, and was totally unknown to members of the American Numismatic Society until I brought it to their attention. Several specialists there concurred with me that it was patently ridiculous. Nevertheless, Vardaman's conclusions keep turning up matter-of-factly in mote mainstream sources, so an investigation is warranted.

Vardaman's chronological arguments, and the use of his pseudo-evidence, appear in print in only three publications. The first, Vardaman's "Jesus' Life: A New Chronology," appears in Jerry Vardaman and Edwin Yamauchi, eds., Chronos, Kairos, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies Presented to Jack Finegan, published in 1989 by the small biblical studies press Eisenbrauns of Winona Lake, Indiana. The second is Vardaman's own Chronology and Early Church History in the New Testament, a series of typed and photocopied lectures delivered to the Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998. Only a few cheaply bound copies of this exist. Though I am based in New York City, I had to acquire mine on loan from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Kentucky. …

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