Seeker of the Lost Ark

Vendyl Jones says he's a crusading archaeologist searching for long-lost biblical treasures. His critics sya he's more worried about self-promotion than science.

Jones too expects to try a third time to unearth the Ark of the Covenant from a Qumran cave. This summer, he received a permit from Israeli authorities to drill into one of the underground caves in Qumran. He was, however, explicitly barred from excavating or even moving stones. He planned to drill down into the cave, drop in a lipstick-sized camera, and determine if the cavity was worth pursuing further. Israeli authorities insisted that Jones only reach his drilling site by helicopter--to reduce ecological damage--and the whole effort became an unbearably expensive affair, Jones told supporters, amounting to about $2,500 a day in costs. Moreover, he found nothing.

"I was distressed because of the political jeopardy that the pagan Gentile nations have forced on Israel at this hour," Jones writes in another missive to his followers. "Opening this chamber...would shock Israel and the world into a new mode of thinking."

He also noted that the effort put him $42,000 in debt and that the summer had caused a slump in donations.

Mark Graham
Really old-time religion: Vendyl Jones leads a gathering of Ben Noahides at his Grand Prairie home. Members of the sect say they follow religious laws handed down by Noah, of Noah's ark fame.
Mark Graham
Really old-time religion: Vendyl Jones leads a gathering of Ben Noahides at his Grand Prairie home. Members of the sect say they follow religious laws handed down by Noah, of Noah's ark fame.

"This is a solemn call to arms," Jones said at the end of the letter. "Our work, and eventually our survival and our future, depends [sic] on your prompt response."

To academics like Friedman, who see money that could go to his graduate students wasted on Jones' efforts, the Grand Prairie former preacher proves just one precept: "You can fool the public for quite a long time."

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