Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Further Updates to Discovery Tomb Website

On Friday, Joe D'Mello noted changes made on the Discovery Lost Tomb of Jesus website with respect to the statistical case. The site has also added more materials since it first went on-line. First, note the new Related Links page, which features follow-up materials on the internet on the tomb (e.g. Magness's article, Pfann's article, some of Tabor's materials) including this blog. Always nice to be mentioned! Most interesting, though, is a little feature only tangentially linked to the tomb, a beautiful graphic depiction of Israel in Jesus' day, with illustrations and clickable hotspots:

The Land of Jesus

A short blurb explains that information is drawn from Crossan and Reed's Excavating Jesus and the illustrations are drawn by Balage Balogh, "renowned as the finest archaeologist to have worked in Israel". It's a lovely looking sub-site and definitely one to recommend to students.


Anonymous said...

Though I have not encountered a good scholarly argument to identify a Jesus of
Nazareth family tomb, perhaps worth mentioning, in addition to the fine books by
Rahmani on ossuaries and Ilan on names are two quite interesting Ph.D.

Byron R. McCane, Jews, Christians, and Burial in Roman Palestine (Duke. U.,

Dina Teitelbaum, The Jewish ossuary phenomenon cultural receptivity in Roman
Palestine (U. of Ottawa, 2005).

McCane shows that some New Testament passages show awareness of secondary burial
practices. In the dissertation and in Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990) 31-43
he makes a good case that Matthew 8: 21-22, "Let the dead bury their own dead,"
involves a man asking for time to perform secondary burial [for which, I note,
an ossuary is not necessarily involved]. McCane remarked (p.131 n. 67):
"Lest the saying be taken as a Christian rejection of secondary burial, it need
only be observed that it is not employed to that end by either Mt. or Lk.: they
use the saying to emphasize discipleship, not burial practices." Though I would
suggest that one could perhaps reconsider whether there is also any possible
scope for intra-Jewish dispute here, I recommend this work.

Teitelbaum helpfully surveys the ossuary finds and the scholarly proposals
offered to explain why the practice arose (she argues for adapting Hellenic
practice) and why it faded away--a discussion that has not yet reached
consensus. Not all Jews had ossuaries; economics was one factor. Resurrection
beliefs, she argues, do not explain ossuary emergence. A good contribution to

And the discussion of ossuaries proposed as belonging to Jesus of Nazareth or
his early followers has a long history, too. If the Jerusalem Post reporter
reported Simcha Jacobovici correctly, he twice misreported on the earlier
ossuary with the "Jesus son of Joseph" inscription.

By the way, please note, one of the words of caution on Bagatti's proposal of
Christian ossuaries at Dominus Flevit (Revue Biblique 66 [1959] 300) was
from Roland de Vaux, a man often wrongly accused of Christianizing Jewish

At the moment, there is no consensus deciding among the three proposed readings
of the East Talpiot Greek inscription (mariamenu (h) mara; mariam h kai mapa;
mariamh kai mara). Jacobovici reportedly claimed expertise in graphics to
justify his assertion that one hand wrote it. James Tabor in his blog wrote
"The Mariamene inscription is really quite lovely, with a sweeping 'John
Hancock' like flare across the bottom. A most elegant inscription for a lady
of class and means." [And he offered a good photo. Thanks for this, James.]
Later James blogged: "There is a great difference between writing on papyri
where one can have a flowing cursive script and scratching on stone, as any
calligrapher knows, where lines can cross but one does not have diphtong
ligatures, so common in the way one would on papyrus." I suggest that you
cannot have it both ways.

The "official site" of The Lost Tomb of Jesus plainly presents much unreliable
information, as others have noted. One page claims "The Essene Gospels of
Peace" are translations from an ancient manuscript from the Secret Archives of
the Vatican. Rather, they are twentieth-century compositions. E.B. Szekely
claimed he translated from Aramaic and Old Slavonic. He eventually offered a
volume 2 (a play) and 3 (a history). Then he stopped advertising them, and
offered completely different volumes 2 and 3, and said the work was complete.
After his death, his wife issued a volume 4.

At the publisher's site John Dominic Crossan is quoted: "This discovery is
potentially the last nail in the coffin of biblical literalism." Crossan is a
scholar and has written better sentences, but is that sentence possibly naive,
wishful thinking?

Stephen Goranson

Anonymous said...

Francois Bovon comments on the tomb show:

Stephen Goranson

Stephen Hand said...

I'd be curious to know what people think of all this and what it may mean for his objectivity / scholarship:

Simcha's Tomb, "All-Seeing Eye" and "the Masons" in his own words:

See at Youtube:

Rough transcript (forgive typos)--Quote: In the book I wrote with Dr. [Charles] Pellegrino we follow up more than in the film the symbol on the facade; the reason is in the movie---I didn't want to get too far away from solid facts---maybe we'll do a follow up film---the minute you start getting away to the Middle Ages, the templars, secret societies, it gets a little grey, so we stayed away. In the book we followed it up a little more. What I will say is that I believe there is a connection between this tomb and the pyramids, the Eye, The All-seeing Eye. It's too much of a coincidence that the Crusaders go to Jerusalem, they come back and then suddenly you find in their illustrated manuscripts this symbol, and then they're driven underground and then suddenly it becomes a symbol of underground secret societies like the Masons, so it seems that there was a heresy here.

Maybe the Templars came across surviving a little judeo-christian sect(s). Imagine that at a time of about 1100 (CE) there were still people in Jerusalem who secretly followed kind of... The Nazarene version of the Jesus movement, that kind of first stage. Now they wouldn't have advertised that, because it was a heresy, they would have been killed.

But people say little sects don't survive around for a thousand years like that, but we know that Nazarene's were still around, the judeo-Christians, the people with the early philosophy of Jesus were still around when Queen Helena went to Jerusalem to try to find the holy sepulchre, the true cross, because she says she grabs a bunch of them and tortures one and says "where's that cross?!" So they're there in the fourth century, so when did they disappear in the 5th, 6th, 7th? Could they have survived three or four hundred years beyond what we know?

Well, guess what? There's Mandeans in Iraq---"Google it", they think John the Baptist is the guy; not Jesus, so little groups survived hundreds sometimes thousands of years longer...than people [who] think they are way gone and their still around.

So I think there might be a connection between the surviving judeo-christian group and the symbol, the Templars, the can almost like Hansel and Gretel follow the little trail of breadcrumbs...

Steven Avery said...

Hi blog friends,

A new issue was raised the other day by Nehemia Gordon. Since this blog has a particularly well-informed readership I would like to ask your viewpoints .. re: his viewpoint on Maria.
The Tomb of Yeshua son of Joseph in "East Talpiot" by Nehemia Gordon

I posted on this on IIDB and one Jesus Family Tomb forum without yet having received substantive scholarly feedback. - IIDB

Thanks for your assistance. I am simply offering this for consideration :-)

Steven Avery

JD Walters said...

Hi Steven,

While it looks like his book on the 'Hebrew Yeshua' might be quite sensationalistic (the Hebrew Jesus vs Greek Christ contrast is already obsolete in NT scholarship), Gordon is absolutely right that Yose is/was not a rare nickname at all in the time of Jesus (see R.Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, pp.5-6) and the filmmakers had no right to make this claim. As for the other comment concerning 'Marya'...well, I don't know Hebrew so I'm not qualified to judge this, but if he is right about the alternate reading that is quite a bombshell. Should MRYH, instead of being read Marya be read as Merayah, the man? Oops. That would kind of shoot the Jesus tomb theory right out of the water. We need someone else who can read Hebrew and more specifically the Hebrew on this ossuary to indicate whether that is a likely reading. I'm not going to take sides right now for one or the other, but I find it a salient point that it would be an awful lot of trouble to write a Latinized Hebrew name in Hebrew letters. If there was indeed a Hebrew Mary buried here, the ossuary should probably have read MRYM for Miryam.

JD Walters said...

I just looked at the Marya inscription on the Discovery Channel website (found on p.3 of the Tomb pdf documents, taken from Rahmani's catalog at, as well as Nehemiah 12:12 (in both Hebrew and English, found at As far as I can tell it is exactly the same name, MRYH, in both cases. What I would like to know is whether we know of any other women named Mary who's name in Hebrew MRYM was changed to a Greco-Latin 'Maria' which was subsequently re-written into the Hebrew! Right now it seems that Merayah is a more plausible reading. Can we get some Hebrew experts on this?

Steven Avery said...

Hi Blogger friends,

Yes to be clear, let's try keep out Nehemia's other stuff. Some is very good while some is oddball ultra-dubious - in NT issues. Nehemia does have good Hebrew background working with Emanuel Tov with the Masoretic Text and DSS scholarship at Hebrew University.

Above I didn't mention the Jose part because it is reasonably well-known that the Jesus Family Tomb presentation misrepresented by giving the impression that it is a rare name, Nehemia just giving some additional confirmations. The fact that Jose is rare on ossuaries is a minor issue once you realize the name itself is common and closely linked to Joseph.

The Maria/Merayah issue is new in terms of the gender consideration. The so-far-accepted hypothesis is in the film referred to as a "rare Latinized form" of Miriam although that may have been Simcha hyperbole meant for probability manipulation, known for feeding misinformation to his bean-counter

Andrey Feuerverger
"We assume that the Latinized version Marya is a highly appropriate appellation for Mary of the NT."

Your adding the Nehemiah verse is helpful demonstrating Biblically the masculine form of the name.

Nehemiah 12:12
And in the days of Joiakim were
priests, the chief of the fathers:
of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah;

Here is some of the earlier counterpoint related to this name, without offering Nehemia's masculine alternative.
I am not competent to judge whether מריה is in fact a “rare Latinized form,” as claimed in the film, but Mark Goodacre (mote: referencing Richard Bauckham) thinks not, and Amos Kloner (”A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in East Talpiyot, Jerusalem,” ‘Atiqot 29 [1996], p. 17—downloaded from the Discovery Channel web site), says that “מרים and מריה are the most common feminine names of the Second Temple period” (citing additional secondary literature). (Note: perhaps (Hachlili 1984: 189)

Richard Bauckham is at

James Tabor had commented:
It is not really "Latin," but the term "Latinized," was used, meaning it was put into a form we recognize in Greek/Latin/English: Maria. No, she is not the first to use this form, there are quite a few others. It is really more of a shortened form of the name Miriam or Mariam, you can see how the "M" can get dropped, then that passes over into Greek, then Latin, and finally English.

One comment was as follows, James White with an apologetic bent. In respond to the film view, elsewhere noted as:
Roman converts followed Jesus, so her name was Latinized. So, that makes her name Maria a rare one to find.

James White
How do filmmakers know that Jesus's mother was known after his death by a Latinized form of her name "as more Romans became followers" in the context of pre-rebellion Jerusalem in the middle of the first century? (continues)

The new part is the Nehemia view, although he may not be very aware of the NT forms of names.

Steven Avery

Daniel said...

Regarding Simcha's theories (and apparently Pelligrino's, too!) about the link between the Talpiot tomb's "All-Seeing Eye" and "the Masons," I suggest he has watched the movie "National Treasure" one time too many. Of course, there's a lot of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" / "DaVinci Code" in his theory, too.

This week, I read two articles that dealt with ossuaries just to satiate my curiosity about all this. They were, "Ancient Jerusalem's Funery Customs and Tombs: Part Four" by L.Y. Rahmani and "Late Hellenistic and Herodian Ossuary Tombs at French Hill, Jerusalem" by James Strange. While very informative, the articles also have some nice pictures of ossuaries that have the SAME delta or triangle with circle underneath featured on the outside of the Talpiot tomb! I refer to a tomb from "the slopes of Olivet" (Rahmani, 113), "Ossuary at Ecole Biblique" (Rahmani, 117), an ossuary with a triangular lid and an eye motiff underneath this (Rahmani, 112) and two ossuaries with a similar triangular lid with circle underneath (Strange, 51; numbers 7&11). Based on this, it seems safe to state that the triangle/ circle design was quite popular for ossuaries/ tombs in general. Either that or perhaps the Talpiot tomb endured several break-ins through the centuries by a cult of hitherto undocumented ossuary movers and each of the above described ossuaries came from Talpiot! Perhaps I shouldn't give these people any ideas for a future book...