Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Talpiot Tomb Various

I must admit that I thought interest in the Talpiot tomb would quickly die away, but I was wrong. Recent developments of interest include Michael Heiser's A New Twist in the Jesus Tomb Sideshow, which was circulated to lots of us today. Here's an excerpt:
I want to draw your attention—and the attention of scholars and interested parties who read your blog—to a SECOND site that has all those names. In 1953-1955, Bellarmino Bagatti excavated the site of Dominus Flevit (“The Lord wept”) on the Mount of Olives. The excavation uncovered a necropolis and over 40 inscribed ossuaries – including the names of Mary, Martha, Matthew, Joseph, Jesus. These ossuaries are not, as far as I can tell, in Rahmani’s catalogue. I’m guessing the reason is that they are not the property of the Israel Antiquities Authority (see Rahmani’s Preface). The necropolis was apparently used ca. 136 BC to 300 AD. Here is a link that discusses the site. A few scanned pages of Bagatti’s excavation report (written in Italian) can be found here as well.
Meanwhile, I've just received an updated version of Jack Poirier's article on the statistics and the tomb. It is to appear on Jerusalem Perspective Online but isn't there yet. As Jim West points out, Stephen Pfann has announced a re-reading of the "Mariamenou Mara" inscription -- see Scholar: 'Jesus Tomb' documentary got it wrong on CNN. And the SBL Forum carries responses by James Tabor to Jodi Magness and Christopher Rollston and to Jonathan Reed. On his blog, he promises breaking news.

I have one more thing to do, to complete my list of Errors and Inaccuracies later today. There are quite a lot still to get through. I am grateful to hear today from James Tabor that these have been reported back to those responsible for the site with a view to making corrections and adjustments.


Bruce Fisk said...

This report of a second cluster of Jesus-family names (now from the Mount of Olives) has me confused. As I note on my blog, James Tabor claims the Tal Ilan catalogue of names mis-identifies the Talpiot ossuaries as from the "Mt. of Offense" (a.k.a. Mt. of Olives). Is he right?

JD Walters said...

Now I remember the only 'new' fact in the documentary which wasn't stressed on the website. Jacobovichi tries to connect the Dominus Flevit tomb complex with our Talpiot tomb, suggesting that both belong to a large stretch of Judeo-Christian burial ground. But the Dominus Flevit ossuaries abound with Christian symbols, whereas those of Talpiot do not. In any case, Dominus Flevit deserves further investigation. I had not previously known that there were suspected burial sites for Simon Peter, Mary, Martha and Lazarus or Sapphira. I will, however, be consistent and apply the same amount of scrutiny to these claims as I have over the Talpiot tomb. It won't do to smoothly claim archeological 'victory' for these other finds and then subject Talpiot to ruthless skepticism.

James D. Tabor said...

Mark and all,

The Dominus Flevit tombs are well known and have been extensively discussed, including their remarkable assemblage of "N.T." names. The best quick survey is Jack Finegan, Archaeology of the N.T., pp. 359-374. In fact, Simcha the film guy is of the view, as was Baggati, Sukenik, and Mancini, that this site, as well as a string of tombs in Silwan, around the Mt. of Offense, and Talpiot, represent a vast swatch of evidence for burials by followers of Jesus. These are the tombs that have yielded the Alexander son of Simon of Cyrene ossuary, the double Mary & Martha, the Simon bar Jonas, etc. See my Jesus Dynasty, p. 235-236 where I survey the theory. Far from "hiding" this Jacobocivi sees it as a strong part of his thesis in terms of contextualizing the east Talpiot tomb. Not all scholars have agreed (see Gibson & Avni, Taylor for demurs). These are also the tombs that have the fascinating graffiti: Jesus woe! And Jesus help!, etc. Actually Bagatti, Sukenik, and Mancini, though supported in part by Milik and Avigad, took tremendous heat for trying to argue that these "Jewish" tombs were somehow "Christian," which is not of course what they were arguing. Now that we are open to an understanding of Jews, as Jews, who were part of the Jesus movement, we can offer a better historical model for the finds. I think Mancini's work, Archaeological Discoveries Relative to the Judaeo-Christians is one of the most neglected works in the field.

As far as the names and the cluster ideas, the east Talpiot tomb stands out and is singularly interesting. What we have at Dominus Flevit is a vast necropolis with hundreds of tombs and burials, and but only 40 inscribed. The names that stand out to our ears are very scattered, not clustered, but still of note, especially the Shimon bar Jonas and the Alexander/Cyrene (which was in Silwan), and maybe the Mary & Martha in the single ossuary, and near Bethany where they lived. There are also some really interesting tombs with graffiti just below Bethany that Gibson and I have explored. He things they are Byzantine scratchings, but I agree with Mancini they might be early, but still, early or later, the tombs are being remembered by very early Christians.

As is often the case in scholarship what was done 50 years ago (most of these were discussed in the 1940s & 1950s) tends to get lost and forgotten by the next generation. Robert Grant at Chicago always told us that...go back 50 years and READ, then come talk to me. Good advise, then and now.

James D. Tabor

P.S. Yes, the Talpiot ossuaries under discussion are listed at Mt. of Offense in Tal Ilan. See my Blog where I give the list. It might be a misprint or mistake, or it might have to do with changing nomenclature, as Talpiot was just getting developed and used as an archaeological "district" around 1980 when this tomb was uncovered.

Since Michael is working on an extensive article on this and just now getting into the Dominus Flevit subject if he cares to write me I can give him an extensive bibliography. Gibson and I are doing a monograph on the tombs of these areas, including the Shroud tomb, with Boaz Zissu, so he and I have collected hundreds of bibliographical references. There is a lot to catch up on here.