Monday, March 12, 2007

Stephen Pfann Rules Out Mary Magdalene Ossuary

Dr. Stephen Pfann of Jerusalem University who does a lot of close work on epigraphy and other related fields has now weighed in on the so-called Mary Magdalene ossuary (Rahmani no. 701). His detailed analysis of the inscription with careful comparison to other ossuary inscriptions and textual evidence shows the high likelihood that there were two women in that ossuary, and neither one of them could be Mary Magdalene. Here below is the initial summary of his report, and his conclusions. I thank my friend Richard Bauckham for kindly sending me the pdf link. Pfann is a fine and careful scholar who is respected by the original archaeologists, Amos Kloner and Joe Zias who were originally involved with the tomb. For those wanting to read more, there is bibliography at the end of the conclusions.


MARY MAGDALENE IS NOW MISSING:

A CORRECTED READING OF RAHMANI OSSUARY 701

By Stephen J. Pfann, Ph.D.

SUMMARY POINTS OF DISCUSSION:

*The original transcription of the inscription was incorrect.

*The inscription does not read “Mariamene the Master”nor does the name Mariamene

or Mariamne appear on the ossuary at all.

*The inscription reflects the writing of two distinct scribes who wrote in different forms of

the Greek script.

*The correct reading of the inscription is “Mariame and Mara,” based on parallels from

contemporary inscriptions and documents.

*The ossuary thus contained the bones of at least two different women, interred at two

separate times, one named Mariame and the other Mara.

*No support exists for ascribing the ossuary to Mary Magdalene.

-------------------

The revised reading of the inscription based on contemporary inscriptions and documents

would leave the words MARIAME KAI MARA "Mariam and Mara." Mara, as noted by Tal

Ilan among other scholars, was a common shortened form of the Aramaic name “Martha.”

Due to the fact that (1) an ossuary would often contain more than one individual's bones and

(2) these two names are among the most common personal names of the first century, the

combination of these two names together on an ossuary is not unique.


In fact an ossuary was discovered at Dominus Flevit on the west slope of the Mt. of Olives

that has the Hebrew equivalent of the two names as a pair written three times on the same

ossuary (however, with the order reversed: "Martha and Maria"; Dominus Flevit, ossuary 7):


Multiple burial and DNA

The fact that two individuals were named on the side of an ossuary does not limit the remains

inside to be of those two individuals. There may have been others inside whose names were

not inscribed. To give us an idea as to how many individuals might have been inside a single

ossuary, there was one ossuary, also from the Dominus Flevit tomb complex (Dominus

Flevit, Ossuary 37), which bears the names of five individuals, indicating that the ossuary

contained at least five distinct burials. The named individuals buried in the ossuary were

Zacharias, Mariame, El'azar, Simon, and Sheniit(?).The variety of scripts and character of the

cuts indicate that the inscriptions were written by different individuals with distinct

instruments. There may be the skeletal and DNA remains of at least five individuals in this

box (not accounting for others who went unnamed).


CONCLUSION

The so-called "Mariamene" ossuary contained the names and remains of two distinct

individuals. The first name on the ossuary, “MARIAME.” was written in the common Greek

documentary script of the period on the occasion of the interment of the bones of this woman.

The second and third words “KAI MARA” were added sometime later by a second scribe,

when the bones of the second woman Mara were added to the ossuary. This scribe's

handwriting includes numerous cursive elements not exhibited by the first scribe who wrote

“Mariame.” In view of the above, there is no longer any reason to be tempted to link this

ossuary (nor the ambiguous traces of DNA inside) to Mary Magdalene or any other person in

Biblical, non-Biblical or church tradition.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bagatti, P.B. and Milik, J.T. Gli Scavi del “Dominus Flevit”, Parte 1. Jerusalem. Franciscan

Printing Press. 1981.

Benoit, P., Milik, J.T., and de Vaux, R. Les Grottes de Murabba’at. Discoveries in the

Judaean Desert II. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1961.

Cotton, H.M. and Geiger, J. Masada II: The Latin and Greek Documents. Jerusalem. Israel

Exploration Society/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 1989.


Cotton, H.M. and Yardmen, A. Aramaic Hebrew and Greek Documentary Texts from Nasal

Hover and Other Sites. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XXVII. Oxford. Clarendon

Press. 1997.

Ilan, T. Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part 1: Palestine 330 BCE-200 CE.

Tübingen. Mohr Siebeck. 2002.

Lewis, N., Yadin, Y., and Greenfield, J.C. The Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period in the

Caves of the Letters: Greek Papyri; Aramaic and Nabatean Signatures and

Subscriptions. Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Society/The Hebrew University of

Jerusalem/The Shrine of the Book. 1989.

Rahmani, L.Y. A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel.

Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authority/The Israel Academy of Sciences and

Humanities. 1994.


40 comments:

Peter M. Head said...

Ben,

I haven't seen a picture of this inscription to check this proposal out. Anyone know of a link?

José Solano said...

Well, this Discovery show is beginning to look more and more like the Geraldo Rivera Al Capone’s crypt “discovery."

Ben Witherington said...

Peter: Richard Bauckham has the pdf file with the pictures which I could not figure out how to link properly to this post... it kept bouncing. Check with him. But I will tell you it appears to check out from my point of view.

Ben

M.W.Grondin said...

... there is no longer any reason to be tempted to link this
ossuary ... to Mary Magdalene or any other person in Biblical, non-Biblical or church tradition.


This seems an odd conclusion, in light of the Mary-Martha sisters in the NT.

Daniel Davis said...

I would think that if Dr. Pfann's argument catches on, those insistent on proving this tomb to be that of Jesus of the Gospels will contend these are the bones of his close followers, Mary and Martha of Bethany. Some believe these two sisters are the same person. Any guess who? Yes. Really it is code for none other than Mary Magdalene! Much practice at intellectual contortion can produce the amazing ability to reach any desired conclusion.

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Tabor's next exercise in historical reconstruction acrobatics would be to concede that the correct transcription is "and Martha" and then procede to link Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene (as per Bovon on Acts of Philip) and then claim it is Martha & Mary of Bethany (AKA Mary Magdalene) in the bone box.

He reminds me of the black knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail: "It's only a flesh wound!"

Ben Witherington said...

Hi M.W.-- except that the Bethany girls are neither one called Mariame or any variant there of. And besides, we already know where the Lazarus tomb is. You can visit it in Bethany. Its near the church of Mary and Martha. I've written a novel for fun about the discovery of that tomb, entitled the Lazarus Effect. I will post a couple of chapters of it just for fun.

M.W.Grondin said...

Hi Ben,
Fair enough, but Pfann didn't make that clear. In fact, he points to another ossuary which he claims has the same two names:

... an ossuary was discovered at Dominus Flevit on the west slope of the Mt. of Olives that has the Hebrew equivalent of the two names as a pair written three times on the same ossuary (however, with the order reversed: "Martha and Maria"; Dominus Flevit, ossuary 7)

Jay said...

This documentary seems to me to be strung together on three different types of non-sequiturs.

1. Factual mistakes. Mark Goodacre has been blogging about these over at ntgateway.com. Their reading of the "Mariamene" ossuary is now to be counted among these.

2. Possibilities that turn into probabilities that turn into facts. Their inference that "Mariamene" is "Mary Magdalene" is such an instance. Why? Because they do no more than hypothesize that this is the case. And rather than test this hypothesis, they turn right around and plug their hypothesis into Feuerverger's equation! In other words, the thesis suddenly becomes a piece of evidence for the thesis. No wonder the "odds" are 600 to 1.

3. Ad hominem attacks. This is something that has not been much discussed, but it has been bothering me the last few days.

This regards the James ossuary. Their argument on this matter is not just an argument from silence that requires one to ignore about a half dozen falsifying instances. It is also an argument that requires one to attack the good name of the dead.

To wit, their website claims the following:

“One of the ten ossuaries went missing from “The Jesus Family Tomb.” Its hastily scribbled, rounded-out dimensions generally match the James ossuary.”

What they have done here is accuse a dead man, Yosef Gath, of either fraud or neglect. For either he made a grievous error on both the measurement and the inscription, thus missing the most important achaeological find of all time, or he stole the ossuary, sold it for profit, and then falsified his research to cover his tracks.

This is not an idle inference on my part, either. Consider: if we knew for certain that the "James ossuary" did come originally from Talpiot, by way of the antiquities market where cash was exchanged for it; and we knew for certain that at all points Joe Gath said that the "James ossuary" was blank, then we would HAVE to investigate Joe Gath's actions. And, for that matter, we would HAVE to investigate Kloner and Zias as well. For either they were involved in the theft/sale of the "James" ossuary, or they were so incompetent that they did not notice that it had been stolen and then sold on the market.

Simply stated: either they are frauds or their poor job performance induced them to overlook the most important find of all time.

I find this thesis utterly noxious. It is always inappropriate to pin one’s hypothesis upon the grievous mistakes and/or sins of the dead when there is no positive proof that this person made any mistakes. The reason should be clear: when you accuse a dead man, you accuse one who cannot defend himself. To accuse the dead is to be a bully -- it is to pick on one who cannot stand up for himself.

This unseemliness is compounded by the necessary extension of their thesis of Kloner and Zias, who seem to be above reproach (they certainly could have “cashed in” on the so-called “Jesus Family Tomb” after the Sunday Times took notice back in 1996!). If they are correct about the "James ossuary," the reputation of both of these men will be ruined. Thus, to offer this thesis about the "James" ossuary is also to impugn these two men.

What I find most infuriating is that Jacobovici et al. either do not recognize or will not acknowledge that this is what they are doing. They are accusing Gath, Kloner and Zias of either fraud or incompetence. Why won't they admit this? I find this to be solipsistic and cowardly. If your thesis requires you to accuse somebody, and you accept the thesis, at least have the awareness and courage to accept the accusation, too!

When you accept a hypothesis, you take the bitter and the better. If you do not like the bitter, maybe you should not accept the hypothesis in the first place!

yuckabuck said...

James Tabor's blog also has a link to Pfann's paper:

http://jesusdynasty.com/blog/2007/03/11/the-mariamene-ossuary-at-talpiot-a-technical-note/

To peter m. head- You have got to check out Pfann's paper. The visuals are very good and bring clarity to the whole issue.

I was convinced by Pfann that there is a "kai" in between the two names, but I wasn't as convinced that the two names were written by different people, though it is not impossible.

yuckabuck said...

Re: m.w. grondin and "Mary and Martha"

Ben, does an identification of "Mary and Martha" hurt or help the case that this is the ossuary of Jesus of Nazareth?

While it perhaps helps the case in providing more names that line up with the Biblical story, I have to think it really hurts the theory more. The theory is based in this being a family tomb, not just a tomb that happens to include random biblical characters. If we say that this one ossuary is the tomb of the sisters Mary and Martha, then it is no longer a family tomb, and all the calculations of how rare this cluster of family names are goes out the window.

This is the same argument that was made against the tomb when some of us thought that the Matthew in the tomb was supposed to be Matthew the disciple. We were wrong in that Tabor et al were claiming that the Matthew was a brother of Jesus. But now, the argument has a little force when made regarding Mary and Martha.

(Unless someone were to argue that the Beloved Disciple was Lazarus, and that Mary and Martha were made members of Jesus' family when Jesus named the Beloved Disciple as the son of Mary in John 19:27....)

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

JAY WROTE:
""Ad hominem attacks. This is something that has not been much discussed, but it has been bothering me the last few days.

This regards the James ossuary. Their argument on this matter is not just an argument from silence that requires one to ignore about a half dozen falsifying instances. It is also an argument that requires one to attack the good name of the dead."

Jay, where is all of this from which you are drawing these implications? Have they started making this case in earnest? Can you provide a link or address to the actual statements they've made?

Jay said...

Benjamin --

No, they have not made a case in earnest that Gath, Kloner or Zias are liars and/or incompetents. My point is twofold:
(1) Their claim about the James ossuary implies it.
(2) They will not admit this outright either because they do not realize it or choose not to.

Jay said...

Benjamin --

I hate to quote myself, but:

***
This is not an idle inference on my part, either. Consider: if we knew for certain that the "James ossuary" did come originally from Talpiot, by way of the antiquities market where cash was exchanged for it; and we knew for certain that at all points Joe Gath said that the "James ossuary" was blank, then we would HAVE to investigate Joe Gath's actions. And, for that matter, we would HAVE to investigate Kloner and Zias as well. For either they were involved in the theft/sale of the "James" ossuary, or they were so incompetent that they did not notice that it had been stolen and then sold on the market.

Simply stated: either they are frauds or their poor job performance induced them to overlook the most important find of all time.
***

The point is that their claim that the 10th ossuary is the James ossuary necessarily implies a criticism of Gath, Zias and Kloner. This is the case even if they do not think it is.

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

“One of the ten ossuaries went missing from “The Jesus Family Tomb.” Its hastily scribbled, rounded-out dimensions generally match the James ossuary.”

And Jay, don't forget: "Generally match" and "are precisely the same, to the centimeter," as he claims in the intro to his Jesus Dynasty book seem to be substantially different accounts from the same witness. This kind of contradiction reflects unfavorably on any testimony to issues of fact, or at least it would in a court of law.

Jay said...

The quotation in my initial post was taken from this website:

http://www.jesusfamilytomb.com/the_tomb/james_ossuary.html

“One of the ten ossuaries went missing from “The Jesus Family Tomb.” Its hastily scribbled, rounded-out dimensions generally match the James ossuary.”

This is a subtle response to the fact that the measurements of the James ossuary do not match the 10th ossuary at Talpiot on the X, Y and Z planes.

According to Andrey Lemaire, the James ossuary measures:
Length: 50.5 cm to 56 cm
Width: 25 cm
Height: 30.5 cm

According to Kloner (1996), the 10th Talpiot ossuary is:
Length: 60 cm
Width: 26 cm
Height: 30 cm

If we follow the documentarians, there are "mistakes" on all three axes. And only one the height is reducible to a possible "rounding" error. And, I would note that about half of the Talpiot ossuary measurements do not extend to the half-centimer, but half of them do. Thus, even the height is unlikely explicable by rounding.

So, we return to the word "hastily." That is an attack on Joe Gath, even if Jacobovici et al. do not mean it to be. The inference is clear: Gath rushed the job and got the measurements wrong, and not by a close call.

-Or-

If we accept their hypothesis that the 10th ossuary was the James ossuary, that it went missing and found its way into the for-profit world of the antiquities market -- we must then wonder if Gath's grossly wrong measurements, which by the way are not (so far as I know) wrong regarding the other 9, were not intentionally wrong so as to cover tracks.

Let me be clear: at no point do Jacobovici et al. claim that this is true. The point is that if we accept their claim, we must then begin to question Gath's at worst integrity or at best his competence. Because Zias and Kloner were both involved in the intake and publication of the Talpiot information, if we accept the James ossuary as coming from Talpiot, they would also have to be questioned regarding competence and integrity.

This is why I said that their claims rest, ultimately, on ad hominem attacks. For their thesis to be true, somebody in a position of power must either have screwed up or have pulled a fast one.

Jay said...
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Benjamin S. Lewis said...

Jay:

Don't get me wrong: I agree with you in what these statements seem to imply. I have been expecting any day now Tabor to come up with his historical reconstruction of the excavating and cataloging events so that it supports his James ossuary hypothesis, better than half expecting him to implicate at least Kloner and Zias in dishonesty or incompetence. Tabor posted at Mark Goodacre's blog (March 8) that he just needed time to get his ducks in a row (my interpretation of what he wrote), which seems to support the implications you draw. I'm not saying he will ultimately attempt to make this case explicitly and publicly, but I've been expecting it.

Be sure to read the response there by James Snapp.

http://ntgateway.com/weblog/2007/03/talpiot-tomb-assorted-thoughts.html

Jay said...

Personally, I think this documentary is profoundly irresponsible.

Consider:
(1) This claim, if true, would shock the world and dislodge the faith of 2.1 billion.
(2) The documentary was marketed in a way to take advantage of the previous fact. Viewers were essentially scared into watching and purchasing the book so as to find out whether their faith, their hope, is built on a lie. The marketing campaign itself was incredibly disrespectful and insensitive. I thought we were supposed to be a "tolerant" and "sensitive" society -- why is it that the faith of some 75% of the nation was not tolerated here? Would they have attacked Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism in this way? I do not think so. That would be insensitive. How is it, then, that this was not just as insensitive. Law-abiding, taxpaying people who proclaim the risen Jesus are not owed some sensitivity?
(3) There is not a single claim that they make that has not been utterly demolished. Not only is their strong evidence against every claim, the evidence that they rally for every claim turns out to be ephemeral. Their statistics demonstrate nothing. Their patina testing demonstrates nothing. Their DNA evidence demonstrates nothing. They even misread the names in the tomb. They literally have nothing to offer.
(4) They accuse a dead man of either deceit or incompetence. His name has been muddied, and he lacks the capacity to clean it.

I would like to see somebody take moral responsibility for this. I think it is time that somebody somewhere who green lit this step forward and admit that this was not appropriate to air or to publish. It is wrong to attack the faith of a third of the world, and the good name of the dead, with no evidence. I would further like to see the producers of the documentary donate their renumeration to charity. I find it noxious that they will enrich themselves by a patently false, incendiary claim that is promoted in an incendiary, insensitive manner.

I am outraged.

I'll not one other outrageous element. I am sure many of you have seen the "patina" fingerprint of the James and Mariamne ossuaries. I am sure many of you noted that it does not match on five different elements, where the Mariamne ossuary shows a higher concentration.

In actuality, they fail to match on seven different elements. You do not notice this difference because of the presentation. If you look at the graph they offer at the Discovery Channel, you will see that the green for James is printed over the red for Mariamne. Thus, when Mariamne shows a higher reading, it is easily readable. But when James shows a higher reading, it is difficult to make out. But, if you look closely at the 1st and 9th peaks, you will see that, indeed, the James ossuary contains a higher concentration of those elements than the Mariamne ossuary.

Was this intentionally deceitful? Who knows. But I do know that the way to present this data is NOT this way. This way presents the data in a way that overstates their similarity. The proper way would have been to offer two graphs, or to use three colors -- one for James, one for Mariamne and one for the overlap.

This sort of sloppiness that -- coincidentally! -- overstates their claim is about the only consistent part of this whole affair.

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

"The quotation in my initial post was taken from this website:

http://www.jesusfamilytomb.com/the_tomb/james_ossuary.html

'One of the ten ossuaries went missing from “The Jesus Family Tomb.' Its hastily scribbled, rounded-out dimensions generally match the James ossuary."

Since the statement that they "generally match" is not necessarily that of Tabor, then the contradiction doesn't necessarily come from the same witness (as I previously suggested). But it does show a questionable flexibility among the theorists as to just what the facts are. And Tabor has claimed that he has had this information for some time. I'm curious whether he would now agree with the information on the Jesus Family Tomb website that what used to be a match "to the centimeter" is now rounded numbers that "generally match." In his rejoinder to Poirier (who reviewed Tabor's book), Tabor mentioned some "re-measuring" of the James ossuary. He claimed on Goodacre's blog that the dimensions are "no big mystery," but they are still fairly elusive to many of us.

I don't wish to be snide or disrespectful, but statements are on record and I'm skeptical of yet another, more modern, reconstruction.

yuckabuck said...
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Jay said...
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Joel said...

Ben,

Thanks for continuing to provide good information. I agree with the prior poster, this is indeed "scholarship" on the level of Geraldo's great work...

Joel

Jay said...
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Jay said...

I am guessing that many of you already know this, but I wanted to post it on this thread anyway just so that we can see how tendentious Jacobovici, Pellegrino and Cameron are in regards to the evidence.

You'll recall that they loudly trumpet the independent investigation of Wolfgang Krumbein as evidence that the James ossuary is legitimate.

What they fail to mention is that in that very report Krumbeing also goes on to basically eliminate the James ossuary from contention at Talpiot.

He states:

"Based on a comparison of the ossuary surface to many other ossuaries, it appears that the cave in which the James ossuary was placed, either collapsed centuries earlier, or alluvial deposits penetrated the chamber together with water and buried the ossuary, either completely or partially.

"Further the root or climbing plant marks as well as the severe biopitting on the top and bottom parts of the ossuary indicate that the ossuary was exposed to direct sunlight and atmospheric weathering and other conditions that are not typical of a cave environment, for a period of at least 200 years."

Yes. The James ossuary was outside for at least 200 years.

Could this ossuary belong to Talpiot? Maybe. Put aside (a) the photograph dated to 1976, (b) the fact that "Joseph" is spelled differently on the "Jesus" and "James" ossuaries, (c) Joe Gath's notes indicate a firm no on both a match via inscription and dimensions and nobody has ever contradicted that.

So, with all that out of your mind, let's think about how to place the "James" ossuary at Talpiot despite its 200 years in the bright Jeruaselm sun.

Two possibilities come to my mind:

(A) Maybe somebody took it from Jesus' family tomb, left it outside for 200 years, and then that person's great-great-great-grandchild had the kind idea to put it back in the cave.

(B) Or maybe, if the rest of the ossuaries have these root markings, somebody took the Jesus, James, Jose, and Mary ossuaries from some other place, left them outside for 200 years, and then their great-great-great-grandchild had the bright idea to put them all at Talpiot. (Hey -- that would be a great way to explain the Judah and the Matthew ossuaries! Just say that all of the ossuaries that fit with Jesus' family were placed there later. All of those that are not were there originally and belong to another family that originally owned the tomb at which Jesus et al. were squatting until 1980.)

Assume one of these two scenarios. And then go on to assume further that:
(a) Somebody doctored a photograph that an FBI forensic guy could not figure out.
(b) Somebody mispelled Jesus' dad's name on his tomb.
(c) Joe Gath, a man whom everybody seems to hold in high esteem, was wrong about both the inscription and the dimensions of the 10th ossuary.

Now, with all of these assumptions -- if you can still believe that the James ossuary comes from Talpiot, give me a call. I have a bridge in New York that I have been dying to sell to a smart investor like you!

Check out Krumbein's report at:
http://www.bib-arch.org/bswbOOossuary_
Krumbeinreport.pdf

JD Walters said...

Jay,

I actually noticed this too several days ago, and I pointed it out to Dr Tabor over at ntgateway, but all he did was express puzzlement that I would ask if he knew of Krumbein's report. Not a single word on how that affects his theory about the James ossuary. Don't that beat all.

Jay said...
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Jay said...

JD --

I just found your blog and it seems that you and I are on the same page in many respects. Randy Ingermanson and I are working on a comprehensive statistical analysis of Talpiot, and we could use your feedback. Drop me a line at: jay_cost@hotmail.com.

Jay

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

http://jesusdynasty.com/blog/

March 13, 2007
DNA and the Talpiot Ossuaries
Filed under: Tabor's Blog — James Tabor @ 8:51 am

Report coming soon…


-----------------------------------


March 12, 2007
Presuppositions, Methods, and Assumptions: The Tomb
Filed under: Tabor's Blog — James Tabor @ 4:39 pm

Under revision pending breaking news…

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

I'm glad I didn't panic and sell my Bible. It's a good one with a leather cover.

Jay said...
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Jay said...

Benjamin --

LOL. Good one. I thought roughly the same.

Jay

Itamar Bernstein said...
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Itamar Bernstein said...

Very intriguing suggestion indeed. If the names on the "mariamne" ossuary are Mary and Martha, these could well be the famous sisters from Bethany, of NT fame. Mary who ointed Jesus and wiped the oil with her hair per John 12:3 (very intimate scene) could have been Jesus' wife. Martha would automatically belong in the Jesus family too. This actually substantially enhances the statistical probablity that the Talpiot tomb is the real thing. See comments on Jacobovici's book page at Amazon.com

Benjamin S. Lewis said...

Itamar:

Glad to see I'm not the only one who took Professor Tabor's musings seriously.

For an update, see:
http://ntgateway.com/weblog/2007/03/mariamene-and-martha-stephen-pfann.html

Itamar Bernstein said...
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Itamar Bernstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Itamar Bernstein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Itamar Bernstein said...

I posted the comments on Mary and Martha independently of Tabor, at about the same time he posted on it at his blog, independently of my post.

Assuming that Pfann is correct and the Greek inscribed ossuary does read “Mary and Martha”. Here's my take on the cluster of names:

1."Jesus son of Joseph;"
2. "Marya" (Name of Jesus' mother);
3. "Yose" (contraction of Joseph. Name of Jesus' 'father' and precise nickname of his fourth brother);
4. "Mary and Martha" –they must have been sisters because Jewish law didn’t allow burial together of two unrelated women;
5. "Matya" - Name of Jesus' first cousin, son of his father's brother Alphaeus/Clophas. As Tabor writes in a different context Matya could also well have been Jesus' half brother, considering a certain specific rule of the Torah (Deut. 25:5-10);
6. "Judah son of Jesus."


Therefore out of seven names inscribed on these ossuaries three names undoubtedly relate to Jesus’ immediate family, and three other names relate to the same with a somewhat lower probability.
The seventh name is “Judah bar Yeshua”- must have been the son of Jesus and one of the sisters Mary or Martha. More probably Mary.

In addition , the name "Yeshua bar Yehosef" is preceded with a large mark, which is the letter Taw in ancient Hebrew script. That has important significance also to discussion of the full magnitude of the Talpiot find.

jpaustian said...

While I have studied Biblical Hebrew, I have no familiarity with Hebrew script. In both the inscription "Mary" and "Jesus, son of Joseph" I see the letter "heth" not the letter "he." Is or should there be a difference in the written form?

While I'm at it, I would also have read the "resh" in Mary as a "lamed" and ended up with something like "Maliach" which wouldn't have made for much of a documentary.

Is this to be explained by the challenge of cutting the letters in stone?