Having now scrutinized the book The Jesus Family Tomb book which accompanies the show there are further things that need to be stressed that are wrong with this whole theory and its varied speculations. I will list them seriatim as bullet points.
1) There is a major problem with the analysis of the names on these ossuaries. By this I mean one has to explain why one is in Hebrew, several are in Aramaic, but the supposed Mary Magdalene ossuary is in Greek. This suggests a multi-generation tomb, not a single generation tomb, and indeed a tomb that comes from after A.D. 70 after the Romans had destroyed the temple mount and Jewish Christians fled the city. This tomb is not in old
2) The argument that the ‘Matthew’ ossuary still works with the theory this is a clan tomb because Mary had ancestors named Matthew does not work. We would need more distant descendants named Matthew, or immediate offspring named Matthew, neither of which we have. Ancestors are irrelevant, and in any case it is disputed whether the genealogy in Luke 3 is Mary's rather than Joseph's. None of the brothers of Jesus as listed in the NT are named Matthew.
3) Mary Magdalene is called ‘Maria’ constantly in first century Christian literature, and indeed well into the second century as well. She is never called Mariamene or the like. It is anachronistic and inappropriate to bring in later Gnostic document evidence from the Acts of Philip or the Gospel of Mary, neither of which date before the end of the second century A.D. to make your case when you have perfectly good first century data to help you. In fact, in regard to the former manuscript what we have is a 14th century manuscript which is theorized to go back to the fourth century A.D. It does not identify Mariamene as Mary Magdalene, rather it identifies her as the sister of Philip the apostle. It is the unproven theory of Francis Bovon, without real supporting evidence that Mariamene refers to Mary Magdalene. There are two problems with this: 1) we have both Mary Magdalene, and Philip in the NT, and the two are never connected at all. Indeed they are from different cities it seems clear. In terms of historical methodology you cannot use later Gnostic documents filled with wild fictional accounts, indeed fairy tales, about talking animals (yes we have that in the Acts of Philip) and like and be taken seriously when you want to make historical claims on the basis of such later and non-historically oriented evidence; 2) the accounts in the Acts of Philip have Maramene evangelizing foreign countries, yet on the argument of the film producers of this Discovery Channel special, she stayed in Jerusalem and was buried there with Jesus. In other words, we have no good historical connection between the sister of Philip, and Mary Magdalene. None.
4) Jesus is never called ‘son of Joseph’ by anyone who knew him intimately in the
5) The second word on the Mariamene ossuary is Mara which is short for Martha another female name. It is not a reference to her being a master or teacher. You need to remember that the inscriptions on these ossuaries are very different in character to the one on the James ossuary. The latter has an honorific or monumental inscription on the side of the ossuary in a clear steady hand. The former all have what I call toe tag inscriptions scrawled hastily on the boxes as they are interred in order to distinguish the ossuaries. All that was required then was names, just names. No honorific additions like we find on monumental inscriptions would be used. So either we have two women in this ossuary, perhaps sisters, or we have one woman neither of which names match up with the first century naming of Mary Magdalene.
6) There is an interesting rosette or symbol over the Talpiot tomb, and from the pictures in the book inside the tomb as well. This is very interesting and it tells us one thing. This was a highly unusual and ornamental tomb meant to be recognized by the symbol. It is not, and indeed was not a secret tomb where a despised split off sect of Jesus following Jews could have hidden the bodies of Jesus or James or other family members. The ornamental decoration is meant to attract attention and draw people to the tomb. Indeed it is meant to distinguish the tomb from others. This is the opposite of what we would expect if this is a pre-70 A.D. Jesus family tomb. Remember we have clear historical evidence that Saul of Tarsus, from his own letters and from Acts was a persecutor of Christians. By the 40s this persecution got so bad that some Christians fled the city (see the sweep and trajectory of the story in Act 3-9). Under no circumstances would these beleaguered early Jewish Christians have been advertising where the bones of Jesus laid, if they knew.
7) No explanation is given as to why we have a monumental or honorific inscription on the James ossuary, but not on these other ones. My view would be that this makes clear that the James ossuary was not originally in the Talpiot tomb, indeed not likely there at any point.
8) Much is made of the fact that the chemical analysis of the patina on the James ossuary and some of the ossuaries in the Talpiot tomb match up. This is not actually surprising at all since you can find terra rosa in various locales in and around
It is incumbant on any historian who wants to dispute a theory about the Jesus tomb to provide some other explanation for the Talpiot tomb. Clearly it is an important tomb, and it may be a Christian one. It would be interesting to know about the Greek inscriptions on the ossuaries or at least in the adjacent tomb which are pictured in the book The Jesus Family Tomb. Since they are in Greek it suggests to me they are not from early Aramaic speaking followers of Jesus, but they could be from later Christian ones, after the profile of who was Christian had broadened considerably with many Gentile Godfearers as converts even within
ADDENDUM FROM PROF. RICHARD BAUCKHAMHere is some additional data from Richard Bauckham on the names on the so-called 'Mary Magdalene' ossuary. He is more of an expert in early Jewish names than I am.
"The form of the name on the ossuary in question is Mariamenou. This is a Greek genitive case, used to indicate that the ossuary belongs to Mary (it means 'Mary's' or 'belonging to Mary'). The nominative would be Mariamenon. Mariamenon is a diminutive form, used as a form of endearment. The neuter gender is normal in diminutives used for women.
This diminutive, Mariamenon, would seem to have been formed from the name Mariamene, a name which is attested twice elsewhere (in the Babatha archive and in the Jewish catacombs at Beth She’arim). It is an unusual variant of Mariame. In the Babatha document it is spelt with a long e in the penultimate syllable, but in the Bet She’arim inscription the penultimate syllable has a short e. This latter form could readily be contracted to the form Mariamne, which is found, uniquely, in the Acts of Philip.
I concur with this conclusion having now looked closely at the inscription on this particular ossuary. There is no word 'or' in the inscription, in fact there is a slash line separating the first name from the name Mara indicating we are most likely dealing with two different people. Prof. Bauckham has suggested to me that since these are all attested and some are very common Jewish names, that it is more probable this is a Jewish tomb but with no connection to Jesus of Nazareth. This may be so.