Monday, January 21, 2008

The Talpiot Tomb Controversy Revisited

The folllowing statement, which also appears on the Duke University Religion Department Blog, is posted here at the request of my colleague Professor Eric Meyers, and Professor Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the list of signatories. Note: slightly revised on 24 January 2008:

The Talpiot Tomb Controversy Revisited

A firestorm has broken out in Jerusalem following the conclusion of the “Third Princeton Theological Seminary Symposium on Jewish Views of the Afterlife and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism: Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context.” Most negative assessments of archaeologists and other scientists and scholars who attended have been excluded from the final press reports. Instead the media have presented the views of Simcha Jacobovici, who produced the controversial film and book “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” with Hollywood director James Cameron, and who claims that his identification has been vindicated by the conference papers. Nothing further from the truth can be deduced from the discussion and presentations that took place on January 13-17, 2008.

A statistical analysis of the names engraved on the ossuaries leaves no doubt that the probability of the Talpiot tomb belonging to Jesus’ family is virtually nil if the Mariamene named on one of the ossuaries is not Mary Magdalene. Even the reading of the inscribed name as “Mariamene” was contested by epigraphers at the conference. Furthermore, Mary Magdalene is not referred to by the Greek name Mariamene in any literary sources before the late second-third century AD. An expert panel of scholars on the subject of Mary in the early church dismissed out of hand the suggestion that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus, and no traditions refer to a son of Jesus named Judah (another individual named on an ossuary from the Talpiot tomb). Moreover, the DNA evidence from the tomb, which has been used to suggest that Jesus had a wife, was dismissed by the Hebrew University team that devised such procedures and has conducted such research all over the world. The ossuary inscribed with the name “Jesus son of Joseph” is paralleled by a find from another Jerusalem tomb, and at least one speaker said the reading of the name “Jesus” on the Talpiot tomb ossuary is uncertain. Testimony from archaeologists who were involved in the excavation of the Talpiot tomb leaves no doubt that the “missing” tenth ossuary was plain and uninscribed, eliminating any possibility that it is the so-called “James ossuary.”

The identification of the Talpiot tomb as the tomb of Jesus’ family flies in the face of the accounts of Paul and the canonical Gospel, which are the earliest traditions describing Jesus’ death and burial. According to these accounts Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb of a prominent follower named Joseph of Arimathea. Since at least the early fourth century Christians have venerated the site of Jesus’ burial at the spot marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In contrast, not a single tradition, Christian or otherwise, preserves any reference to or recollection of a family tomb of Jesus anywhere in Jerusalem.

The smoking gun at the conference was the surprise appearance of Ruth Gat, the widow of the archaeologist who excavated the tomb in 1980 and has since passed away. Mrs. Gat announced that her husband had known about the identification all along but was afraid to tell anyone because of the possibility of an anti-Semitic reaction. However, Joseph Gat lacked the expertise to read the inscriptions. Jacobovici now says that Mrs. Gat’s statement has vindicated his claims about the tomb.

To conclude, we wish to protest the misrepresentation of the conference proceedings in the media, and make it clear that the majority of scholars in attendance – including all of the archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers relating to the tomb - either reject the identification of the Talpiot tomb as belonging to Jesus’ family or find this claim highly speculative.

Professor Mordechai Aviam, University of Rochester
Professor Ann Graham Brock, Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver
Professor F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Princeton Theological Seminary
Professor C.D. Elledge, Gustavus Adolphus College
Professor Shimon Gibson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Professor Rachel Hachlili, University of Haifa
Professor Amos Kloner, Bar-Ilan University
Professor Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Professor Lee McDonald, Arcadia Seminary
Professor Eric M. Meyers, Duke University
Professor Stephen Pfann, University of the Holy Land
Professor Jonathan Price, Tel Aviv University
Professor Christopher Rollston, Emmanuel School of Religion
Professor Alan F. Segal, Barnard College, Columbia University
Professor Choon-Leong Seow, Princeton Theological Seminary
Mr. Joe Zias, Science and Antiquity Group, Jerusalem
Dr. Boaz Zissu, Bar-Ilan University


Randy Ingermanson said...

I am no fan of the Talpiot tomb, but I do not agree with this part of the statement: "A statistical analysis of the relatively common names engraved on the ossuaries leaves no doubt that the probability of the Talpiot tomb belonging to Jesus’ family is virtually nil if the Mariamene named on one of the ossuaries is not Mary Magdalene."

I have studied Andrey Feuerverger's statistical analysis in great detail and have done several computations of my own. It is not correct to say that the probability is "virtually nil" if you get rid of the Mary Magdalene hypothesis. (Almost everybody agrees that you should eliminate it.)

The fact is that if you read the Mariamenou inscription as "just another Mary," then Feuerverger's calculations lose "statistical significance." But they most likely still lead to a fairly high probability for the authenticity of the tomb. (To my knowledge, Feuerverger has not done this calculation, although Jay Cost and I have, and likewise Kevin Kilty and Mark Elliott. Depending on assumptions, you can get as high as 49%, or you can get very close to 0.)

From a mathematical point of view, the key issues are these:
1) Should "Yoseh" be regarded as a rare form of "Yehosef" or should it not?
2) What is the relative probability that Jesus had a son, as compared to other Jewish men of Jerusalem?
3) What is the relative probability of Jesus being buried in a rock-cut tomb, as compared to other men of Jerusalem?

These are issues of archaeology and history, and so I leave them to experts in those disciplines. I am just a math guy and all I can do is point out which points in the calculation affect the probability the most strongly.

Nehemias said...

I agree with you.

In fact, I think that a better statement would say:

"A statistical analysis of the relatively common names engraved on the ossuairies leaves no doubt that the probability of the Talpiot tomb belong to Jesus' Family is very low, if the mariamene named on one of the ossuaries is not Mary Magdalene, and Yoseh regarded as a common shortened form of Yehosef,"

In fact,

(Kilty & Elliot):
"If we consider Yoseh as meaning more than merely finding the inscription \Joseph" on a ossuary, how does this change arguments based on probability? (...) the name Yoseh is so rare that it changes probabilities and expectations by a factor of about 29. if we repeat the calculation using Bayes' Theorem
that we made in Equations 4 through 6 using the name Joseph rather than
Yoseh, the probability P(B) becomes 0.0010025 and the a posteriori proba-
bility falls to around 6%. This is only one-eighth the value (49%) obtained
using Yoseh in the calculation"


Anonymous said...

What a silly statement. This is the best a group of "scholars" could come up with?

To translate: "If you make all the same assumptions we do, and throw out any fact we don't like, then there is no chance we could be wrong! Take that! Thbbbweww!"

Can these people be serious when they say that finding a tomb of Jesus "flies in the face of canonical accounts" is actually cited as a piece of evidence? Can the belief of the inerrancy of scripture be considered "evidence"? By "scholars?"

These people should be ashamed.

The gospel accounts are the earliest traditions? For sure? Or just the earliest we know of? Given the contradictions in the four gospels as they relate to the resurrection/discovery of the empty tomb, can any serious scholar cite them as "evidence" about the fate of the body of Jesus?

Not to mention that only one gospel says that Jesus was placed in Joseph's tomb, another gives a different account, and certainly none of the gospels say he was never moved. How could they, given that they said he was resurrected? This is "evidence" in the same way that the Shroud of Turin is evidence of the resurrection.

300 years after Jesus' death, quasi-pagan tradition developed about a site, and that is "evidence?"

These people need to get over the fact that there was a film they don't like made about this topic. Boo hoo hoo. Grow up.


John C. Poirier said...


I'm afraid you've seriously misread the statement, and that your reaction is rather misinformed.

First of all, the reason for *this* group of scholars (and not another) is that this group represents those who participated in the meeting. That, of course, is the correct group to sign this sort of statement, as the statement's purpose is to contradict the media reports about what participants at this meeting said. And, in spite of what you seem to imply, there are certainly no slouches on the list. (I'm not sure what more you want, or what "heavyweight" you think might weigh in on the opposing side.)

Your translation of their statement leaves a lot to be desired. All of the assumptions that they ruled out of court they did so for compelling reasons. Can you name one that wasn't?

The reference to the canonical accounts has nothing to do with a "belief in the inerrancy of scripture". It has to do (as the statement makes clear) with the shape of the earliest traditions, and of the lack of any tradition supporting Jacobivici's alternative story.

I think that just about all the signatories are open to the possibility that the earliest traditions we have might be wrong. They're just concerned that the shape of the extant evidence be given its proper weight.

It isn't fair to say that the signatories need to "grow up" about a film "they don't like". What they really "don't like" is the media perpetuating a lie about what transpired at this meeting.

Geoff Hudson said...

I dare say the name of Jesus was not uncommon among aristocratic messianic priestly types who wished for one of their sons to be the next messiah. And doesn't it seem odd if these wealthy aristocrats preserved bones in ossuaries but didn't believe in resurrection? Do not the Scrolls in fact give some indication of such a belief, as Vermes has written? This is seemingly in contradiction to what one reads in the writings attributed to Josephus about so-called Sadducees. I can only think this is later editorial dissimulation. Rich folk never like to miss-out, even if they had to wait a little while for their rising.

Thus I believe that the Talpiot tomb had nothing whatsoever to do with the prophet of the NT. Nor did the prophet have anything to do with any such tomb, regardless of what one reads in the extant NT. I say this because prophetic types, such as 'Essenes' believed that when a person died, the person's cleansed spirit instantaneously rose to be with God. Thus burial in the ground of a corruptible impure body was perfectly satisfactory. Such folk were glad to leave their bodies behind.

Philip said...

There are a few typos in the statement:

First paragraph: "Jaocobovici" for "Jacobovici"

Signatures: "Choon-Leon" for "Choon-Leong"

"Gutavus" for "Gustavus"

Why are Magness and Meyers given the title "Professor", whereas the other professors on the list are not given the title?

Anonymous said...

John Poirer:

Sorry, these people are acting like a bunch of babies. I know they are distinguished scholars, which is what makes it even more galling.

They don't like the stories about the conference? Again, cry me a river, welcome to the real world. Maybe it would be helpful if they CITED SOME ACTUAL STORIES and refuted them specifically.

Was every last story about the conference wrong? It sounds like they are unhappy that anyone dare report anything they did not approve in advance.

Mrs. Gat's statement was indeed noteworthy and extremely newsworthy. Their dismissal of it because it doesn't agree with their preconceptions is really disgraceful. What basis do they have to dispute what a man said to his wife?

I'm not an expert in this field, but there are some who come to different conclusions about the other issues they cite. Even if most of their conclusions are right, that doesn't mean Jesus of Nazareth wasn't buried there. I tend to doubt that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, but I think this statement both distorts and overemphasizes the importance of the married angle to the Jacobovicci documentary (which I saw on TV, but didn't read the book).

My guess is that most of these scholars do not believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus, which means he has to be buried SOMEWHERE. Why not here? The Bible stories, having a theological angle to push, are exactly wrong to cite, since they detail a story that by historical standards MUST BE UNTRUE.

Anonymous said...

The last anonymous response to john p. was by paulf

Mark Elliott said...

As several posts to this article mentioned, we regarded the name Mariamene as neutral in our calculations. We have always maintained that Yoseh/Joseph is a significant name concerning the tomb. If we consider Yoseh, a name located on one of the ossuaries, as meaning more than a variant spelling of Joseph, the difference, as noted by the other posts, changes the probabilities dramatically. Just the inscriptions “Jesus Son of Joseph,” “Mariam,” and “Yoseh” are significant enough as a cluster to suggest that scholars should revisit the entire matter. Those interested our calculations can find our essay here at .

Mark Elliott
Kevin Kilty

Anonymous said...

Readers who are interested in the statistical analysis that Randy Ingermanson and I conducted can go here for a non-technical summary:

They can go here for an in-depth technical review:

-Jay Cost

Geoff Hudson said...

In Mark 12.18, I would see "who say there is no resurrection" as dissimulation with regard to the belief of so-called 'Sadducees' who were in reality the High Priests confronting the prophet. Thus the 'Sadducees' DID believe in the resurrection of the body and in the possibility of the enjoyment of marriage in heaven. They simply posed a tricky question to the prophet that might arise if someone had married several wives. These rich folk thought they were going to have earthly pleasures in heaven. No wonder they preserved their bones in ossuaries and rock-cut tombs! I further suggest that the prophet answered by saying that when men rise from the dead, they are spirits. These can rise instantaeously and are asexual.

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with "paulf." What are these pseudo-elitist ivory tower fluffheads trying to pull here? What are THEY counting as "evidence"? Their probability analysis is completely off-base. They insulted people. They went off half-cocked with this "statement." On a broader perspective, given the fact of evolution, does it makes sense for a "God" to have a "son"? Why was the stone rolled back when Jesus could've walked through the tomb walls, and so on? These so-called "scholars" should write 500 times, "I will not write any more stupid statements." NathanP.

Anonymous said...

Since Randy Ingermanson is a "believer," thus has a deep vested personal interest in pooh-poohing any analysis that might upset his belief applecart. I read some of Randy's website; he has a fantastical imagination and has applied it to his so-called "statistical analysis." NathanP.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Randy just ask Jesus if the Talpiot tomb is his family's tomb, and then tell us the answer. NathanP.

Daniel said...

I’ve always found it curious that we only know about a physical ascension from Luke - and not the other synoptics - as if his body floated into the sky (I heard the air gets thin up there )& that Paul and Peter seem to preserve a different tradition with Jesus ascending as a spirit. I know, there are different interpretations of those passages. Also troubling are those verses in Isaiah that seem to imply Jesus is a family man - Isaiah 53:8 “…and who can speak of his descendants?” Oh, they told me in college, “because he never had a chance to have any,” - but then verse 10 goes on: “…he will see his offspring and prolong his days.” I know, you will just try to explain that away. Good luck with that.

I’m no fan of Jacobovici sensationalism so when this whole tomb thing came out I scored a copy of Rahmani’s “Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries” and transferred the data onto an Excel spreadsheet so I could play with it. I’m still playing with it. I made it into a student exercise at the time and tried to impress my Sunday School class. Look how common their names are, etc. Got mostly yawns as I recall but I figured case closed and lets move on.

Eventually I realized I wasn't moving on, though. It’s still stirring around in my feeble head-bone. What do we really know about the resurrection. Maybe Jesus got out of a heavily guarded tomb because he walked out as a physical man. (I wouldn’t have arrested him either under those circumstances.) Maybe he was around for awhile and even got to see his wife and kids. And then when his time was over he left his physical body to be buried in the family tomb, or the movement tomb – (hmmm, what are they keeping from us in that tomb next door???)

Personally I find a group letter of this sort amusing. Everyone rushing to take a stand – [hey, I even see my old Hebrew professor in that list!] No no no, we can’t find Jesus’ body, this will ruin everything! Not for me, though. For me, finding the body of Jesus would be a real faith boost.

I don’t know who was really buried in that tomb. But a part of me is really pissed that there is a possibility the actual bones of Mary, Jesus and so forth were literally “stolen” by the Orthodox community only to be reburied and out of the hands of the Christian community. Wouldn't that be the mother of all historical ironies.

-Daniel Owen

Itamar Bernstein said...

This book basically describes the making of a TV documentary, during which the Talpiot tomb, discovered in 1980, was relocated and reopened briefly. In my opinion the documentary and the book incompletely, dispersedly, obliquely and sometimes over-dramatically plead the inherently strong case of that tomb. It sometimes relies on anecdotal, long shot evidence (such as the Gospel of Phillip connection) while ignoring direct, compelling evidence (such as symbology) right under its nose. The documentary still deserves much credit for exposing this previously hardly known discovery on a mass media scale to the general public. However, the grand exposure also drew criticism of the magnitude of the find. The critics basically argue:

1. That the Jesus family would be buried in Nazareth, not Talpiot;
2. That the 'Jesus' ossuary would have been inscribed 'of Nazareth';
3. That the Jesus family couldn't have afforded a tomb like the Talpiot tomb;
4. That the "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary is not inscribed "Yeshua" (Jesus) at all;
5. That the names inscribed on these ossuaries were supposedly common;
6. That the "Mariamne" ossuary didn't contain the remains of Mary Magdalene, but of two other women;

I believe the first five of these allegations against the book's premise don't carry much water. The sixth argument actually supports the conclusion that this is the real thing. My comments:

1. Talpiot is the right place for Jesus' family tomb- Per Luke, 2:3-4, the family's LEGAL residence was Bethlehem, not Nazareth. The fact that Joseph and the pregnant Mary could not take the census in Nazareth but had to take it in Bethlehem indicates that Bethlehem was their DOMICILIUM under Roman Law. That basically means that they had no intention to reside in Nazareth permanently. Therefore it would have made little sense for them to have a family tomb in Nazareth, that they wouldn't be able to frequently visit at a later stage in their lives. They would have wanted a family tomb close to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, easily accessible also to future generations of the family. The fact is indeed that Mary and her children moved to Jerusalem around 30 AD.

2. The traditional name of Jesus in Hebrew, as reflected also in the Talmud, is "Yeshu Hanotzri." This appellation stems from "Netzer" (Shoot or Branch). It alludes clearly to Isaiah 11:1, indicating the Royal birth of Jesus, to substantiate his claim for Jewish messiahship. Not to indicate the place he comes from.

There's actually no evidence in Jewish sources, such as the Old Testament or the Mishna and Talmud, that a place called "Nazareth" even existed in or before the first century. I'm not disputing the evidence per the NT, that there was indeed a place called Nazareth. But to the best of my knowledge, there's no mention of Nazareth at all in any ancient writings outside the New Testament. So the place existed, but nobody knew about it. And those in close proximity in Galilee who did know about it, obviously thought derogatorily of it , cf. "can anything good come from Nazareth?" (John 1:46.) Therefore there was no reason to call Jesus "of Nazareth." Either in life or on an ossuary. He was called "Jesus the Branch" (of David) in Hebrew/Aramaic.

The line of argumentation detracting this discovery around the supposed Nazareth origin of Jesus' family may therefore be based on a very shaky foundation.

3. Talpiot is located about 2.5 miles North of Bethlehem. Jesus' family, of Davidic descent according to the New Testament, could have held the burial cave there even before it moved to Nazareth. Davidic birth was absolutely the most exalted in Judaism, always. The suggestion that any person of Davidic descent could be of the lowest social echelon, that couldn't fund or get funding for a burial cave, doesn't make much sense, if any. There's substantial evidence to the contrary, e.g. 1. Jesus had some very wealthy active supporters like Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus (known as Nakdimon ben Gorion in post biblical Jewish sources-one of the richest Jews in Judea;) 2. Josephus, A.J. XX, 9:1. Note the prominence of James, brother of Jesus.

4. The inscription on the Jesus ossuary does say "Yeshua bar Yehosef" ("Jesus son of Joseph")to my eye. All letters but one are quite clearly there. The only letter which is somewhat more difficult to discern at first blush is the second letter- "Shin". That's because it's written in a somewhat irregular form (in a regular Shin there are three teeth in the fork, pointing upwards. Here there are two teeth, pointing sideways to the right.) But that particular irregularity appears also on other ossuaries- notably numbers 9 (this one has two "Shin"- one with three teeth pointing to the right, and one with TWO teeth pointing to the right. Exactly like the subject inscription) and 121 in the Rahmani catalogue, which both feature also a "Yeshua."

Still, the name "Yeshua" on this ossuary is among the most, if not the most, difficult to read names of all ossuaries listed in Rahmani's catalogue of Jewish ossuaries. It is almost written as a person's complex signature on a check. Contrast that with the patronymic following the first name. This is written in a simple straightforward fashion, which is very easy to read. There's no other example in Rahmani's catalogue of a first name that has to be deciphered, and a patronymic that's so plain and clear. Is this merely a coincidence?

5. Mr. Huston on 3/13/07 made the following comment to my post:

"The inscription, Pfann said, is made up of two names inscribed by two different hands: the first, "Mariame,'' was inscribed in a formal Greek script, and later, when the bones of another woman were added to the box, another scribe using a different cursive script added the words "kai Mara,'' meaning "and Mara.'' Mara is a different form of the name Martha.

According to Pfann's reading, the ossuary did not house the bones of "Mary the teacher,'' but rather of two women, "Mary and Martha.'"

Here's my thought about that:
If the Mariamne ossuary indeed housed the bones of Mary and Martha, these are two sisters of NT fame. One of them could have been married to "Jesus son of Joseph." -Whether or not she was Mary Magdalene (Maybe the Mary who anointed Jesus' feet and then dried them with her hair- very intimate scene.) The other sister would than also automatically belong in the family. It still fits. Actually it increases the statistical odds that this is the real thing quite substantially.
This is a very intriguing possibility indeed, fitting perfectly with John 12:3. Intimate contact with a man, as described in this NT passage, was allowed only to a woman who was an immediate blood relative of that man, his wife (...or a working woman.) That's all. Therefore Mary of Bethany was quite possibly by elimination Jesus' wife or in the process of becoming his wife. In that context, Margaret Starbird already theorized that similar anointing with spikenard oil was part of pre marriage ritual of a Davidic king, per certain passages in the Song of Songs. Note also that intercourse by itself was sufficient under Jewish Law in certain circumstances to constitute valid marriage. That practice, termed Bi'ah marriage, was abolished in the 6th century, but it was lawful in Jesus' time.

Mary of Bethany could have become pregnant by Jesus while he stayed at her house, shortly before his crucifixion. In that case it's quite possible that she bore Jesus' son posthumously and named him "Judah." And in that case both she and her sister Martha would have become part of Jesus' family, which earned them a place in the Talpiot family tomb..

Reminds me of the reaction to this find of a BBC reporter in 1996- It seems like all balls in the national lottery coming one by one.

On the other hand, if the Greek inscription on that ossuary refers to one woman, not two, another matter raised by the book relates to the meaning of the inscription "Mara" following the "Mariamne" on it. My comments:

Any Jew in the first century would probably know instinctively that "Mara" is a very exalted appellation indeed. The Dead Sea Scrolls in at least two places that I saw have the expression "Mara Alma"- the exact equivalent of "Adon Olam" in Hebrew ("Master of the World".) That is one of the most common substitute names for "Yahwe", the ineffable name of God, in Judaism, to this day. Jews repeat this substitute name many times every day, in prayers.

I have no knowledge of Greek, so I can only discuss the two propositions. Assuming that the ossuary does say "Mary and Martha", here's what I think the names are:
* 1."Jesus son of Joseph"("Yeshua bar Yehosef" in Hebrew/Aramaic script;)
* 2. "Mary" ("Marya" in Hebrew/Aramaic script);
* 3. "Joseph" ("Yose" in Hebrew/Aramaic script. Precise nickname of Jesus' second brother- cf. Mark 6:3);
* 4. "Mary and Martha" ("Mariame kai Mara" in Greek)-they must have been sisters because Jewish law didn't allow burial together of two unrelated women;
* 5. "Matthew" ("Matya" in Hebrew/Aramaic script)- Name of Jesus' first cousin, son of his father's brother Alphaeus/Clophas. As James Tabor suggests in a different context, Matya could also well have been Jesus' half brother, considering a certain specific rule of the Torah (Deuteronomy 25:5-10.) This rule was applied in Jesus time- see Matthew 22:24-28;
* 6. "Judah son of Jesus"("Yehuda bar Yeshua" in Hebrew/Aramaic script.)
* Therefore out of eight names actually inscribed on these ossuaries (including the "Joseph" father of Jesus on the first ossuary) four names undoubtedly relate to Jesus' immediate family, and three other names relate to the same with a somewhat lower probability. In any event, they all relate to Jesus' extended family. Note that first century Jewish family tombs were usually a clan thing.
* The eighth name is "Yehuda bar Yeshua"- must have been the son of Jesus and one of the sisters Mary or Martha. More likely Mary, as explained above.

6. While the full versions of all these names were indeed common in Jesus' time, the derivatives, nicknames and contractions were not. Thus "Yeshua" for Jesus was less common than "YeHOshua;" ditto "YeHOsef" instead of "Yosef" for Joseph; "Marya" for Mary was extremely rare in Hebrew/Aramaic script; "Yose" for Joseph is unique. Therefore out of these eight names, two are irregularities, one is a particularity, and one a singularity.

BOTTOM LINE- Ask yourself inversely a hypothetical question- If the Talpiot tomb hadn't yet been found, how would Jesus' family tomb have looked , which ossuaries would it have contained, to when would it have been dated and where would it have been located.

I would have thought of a tomb just like the tomb we're discussing. It fits perfectly with what I'd have expected Jesus' family tomb to be. Right place, right period, right names. I therefore believe that this matter, delicate as it obviously is, warrants further investigation. This could include opening and examination of the adjacent tomb, and forensic examination of the skeletal remains found in the Talpiot ossuaries, and apparently reburied back in 1980. These could hopefully be relocated by comparison to the mithochondrial DNA samples already taken from two of these ossuaries.