Vendyl Miller Jones (May 29, 1930 December 27, 2010) was an American Noahide scholar who has directed archaeological searches for Biblical artifacts such as the Ark of the Covenant.
Vendyl was born in Sudan, Texas. He received his Bachelor's degree in Divinity, and a Master's degree in Theology from the Bible Baptist Seminary, although he also spent some time at Southwestern Theological Seminary. He later took advanced studies at the Bowen Biblical Museum under Dr. & Mrs. William Bowen and Biblical Archaeologist, W.F. Albright.
Between 1955 and 1956, Jones was pastor of the Dungan Chapel Baptist Church located on the border of Virginia and North Carolina. Vendyl came to believe that many apparently anti-Jewish statements in the gospels were "omitted in more ancient manuscripts" basing this claim on the "marginal notes" of an unidentified Bible. This prompted Jones to call the nearest Rabbi, Henry Gutman, located in Bristol, Virginia, which resulted in a change in perspective due to many thought provoking facts about the Scriptures.
In October 1956, Jones resigned the pastorate and moved to Greenville, South Carolina where he began his studies in the Talmud Torah (a children's elementary religious school) under Rabbi Henry Barneis. This education was augmented by learning with the late Rabbi Max Stauber of Spartanburg. As his knowledge increased, so did the realization that all of his earlier studies had been very incomplete. He resolved to learn, to know and to understand the Bible objectively, without any prejudices; to know what Jesus actually said in the language he spoke and what it literally meant to the people who heard him. Jones eventually developed a distinctive religious outlook which was based on the Noahide Laws. This stresses the need for gentiles to follow the moral laws that Noah lived by, while Jews should continue to follow the Mosaic Law.
Continuing his studies, Vendyl lectured for the Biblical Research Society from 1964 to 1967. He then established the Judaic-Christian Research Foundation, which later gave birth to the Institute of Judaic-Christian Research (IJCR), which has now become Vendyl Jones Research Institutes.
In 1964, the Journal of Near Eastern Studies reported the 1952 discovery of the Marble Tablets in Beirut, Lebanon. That same year the Copper Scroll was found in Cave #3 at Qumran, Israel, which listed the hiding places of 64 sacred articles which included the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.
Move to Israel
In April 1967, Jones moved his family to Israel to continue his studies in the Department of Judaica at Hebrew University. Here, Jones became involved in the archaeological aspects of Israel. He aided the Israeli army during the Six Day War. After the Six Day War, he was on the Stechool/Haas excavation team at Qumran, authorized by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities before the June war. Shortly thereafter, Vendyl's excavations were continued under Israeli authority through the status quo Law.
In the years following, Jones continued to work in the Judean wilderness with his friend and mentor, the late Pessah Bar-Adon. Jones also worked at Tel Debir (Kiryat HaSefer) with Professor Moshe Kohavi and Anson Rainey; the University of Tel Aviv and the Citadel of Herod the Great in Jerusalem with Professor Hillel Geva.
After 1972, Vendyl conducted eight excavations at Qumran, involving over 300 volunteers and funded by individual supporters of VJRI. There has been no support nor funding from the government, foundations, or grants. Jones's methods, claims and qualifications have been disputed by academics such as Zoe Zias and Robert Elliot Friedman, and Jones has been denied digging permits by the Israeli authorities.
A VJRI excavation team claimed to have found the shemen afarshimon, the Holy Anointing Oil, from the Holy Temple, in April 1988. In the 1992 excavation, the VJRI team announced the discovery of a hidden silo in the bed rock that contained a reddish snuff-looking material that appeared to be organic in nature. When it was analyzed by the Weizmann Institute of Science and two departments at Bar-Ilan University, the tests allegedly indicated that the reddish material was a compound of eleven ingredients in the Holy Incense, although critics claim this was in fact just dirt. Over 900 pounds of the "spices" were removed that year. This Holy Incense, with the Anointing Oil, are two items listed in the Copper Scroll. They were supposedly found in the precise order that they occur written in the Torah.
Jones believed his archaeology to have eschatological significance, and that when he found the ancient religious items he was looking for, God would be revealed to the world, all Jews will return to Israel, and there would be peace in the Middle East. Also, Israeli democracy will be replaced by a Sanhedrin, not unlike the group that was formed by various Israeli rabbis in 2004, and with which Jones was closely associated. In May 2005, it was reported that he had consulted with Kabbalists and that he believed he would find the Ark of the Covenant by August 14, 2005, the anniversary of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. However, as the date approached and passed he claimed that this was a misquote. He then hoped that a drill-hole bore would reveal the Ark's location in September, but was prevented from proceeding due to lack of funds and the need for another environmental study required by the government.
Jones also claimed to have been the subject of a movie script that was circulated in Hollywood, and which he claimed inspired the character of Indiana Jones. According to the story, a certain Randolph Fillmore, who had been on one of Jones's digs, wrote the first draft for Raiders of the Lost Ark; Vendyl became "Endy", then "Indy". However, accounts of the making of the film flatly contradict this. Philip Kaufman and George Lucas came up with the idea of an archaeologist hunting for the Ark, while Indiana was the name of Lucas's Alaskan Malamute. The character was to be named Indiana Smith after Nevada Smith (Steve McQueen's character in the eponymous film), and this was changed to Indiana Jones by Steven Spielberg.
Randolph Fillmore, a science writer, does not feature at all in the background to the story and though he did work with Jones for two weeks in 1977, did not write the first draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark and has requested that Jones stop claiming that he did.
More recently, the FAQ section of Jones's web page has stated that, "It may be hard to believe but Vendyl has no connection with the popular motion picture character [Indiana Jones]. He has never received any money from the producers of the movie. And he's never asked." Other men more frequently identified as the inspiration for Indiana Jones are Hiram Bingham III and Roy Chapman Andrews.
On December 27, 2010 Jones died from throat cancer. His funeral took place in Grandview, Texas. He was buried in Migdal, Israel.