Friday, April 06, 2012

The Dating of Talpiot Tomb B: did Jesus have disciples in the first century BCE?

I have recently been reading and greatly profiting from Amos Kloner and Boaz Zissu's  magisterial The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Perod (Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 8; Leuven: Peeters, 2007) and I naturally turned with interest to their brief cataloguing of the Talpiot Tomb B, where I read with interest:
The finds indicate that the cave was used from the first century BCE to the first century CE (342).
Now did I just read that right?   Was this tomb already in use in the first century BCE?  By my reckoning, that makes it a little more difficult for it to have been known as the special burial place of Jesus' disciples.  Tabor and Jacobovici's speculation that the tomb belonged to the first century CE figure of Joseph of Arimathea also becomes unlikely in the light of this important detail.

After coming across this detail, I went to look at James Tabor's Preliminary Report and although he refers to that page of the book, he does not comment on this detail.  It is implied throughout that this tomb is, without doubt, first century CE.

I have also checked through  James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici, The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012) and there is no discussion of the Kloner and Zissu's dating of the tomb there either.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I would have thought that attempting to date the use of the tomb in question would be fundamental to any attempt to associate it with a particular group of people.

14 comments:

Tom Verenna said...

Every source I've checked on this, from Kloner's accounts to CII/Palestine Vol. 1, to the Excavations and Surveys in Israel 1982 (Vol 1) all agree Mark; 1st Century BCE-1st Century CE (until 70 CE).

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

I'm a little cynical about most of Tabor's claims. Any BC date for this tomb of course, would suggest that this space was not EXCLUSIVELY, or from the FIRST, dedicated to only apostles.

Though? It does not rule out the possiblity that it was cleaned out, and/or used for disciples, after say, 40 AD.

robert r. cargill said...

John 19:38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.

John 19:39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

John 19:40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

John 19:41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.

John 19:42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

so a tomb that was in use in the first century bce was the tomb of jesus?

of course, harmonizers will attempt to say that it was a temporary tomb...

robert r. cargill said...

Again, I'm torn.

Is it that they simply missed or overlooked the fact that the tomb was a first century BCE tomb, or did they just not report it? They certainly made no effort to explain why Kloner's claim of a first century BCE dating was in error. I mean, they cited the page elsewhere, correct? They certainly must have read it. And yet, they overlook the fact that the tomb was in use decades BEFORE CHRIST (literally), and yet choose to conclude not only that this is a first century CE tomb, but that it is the tomb of Jesus, his family, and his followers, and that it is somehow the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Go figure.

I have the same question about the measurements of the ossuaries. They have pictures of the laser measuring capacity of their camera, and yet I'm hard pressed to find a single measurement of any ossuary inside that tomb. How tall are they? How wide are they? How far is ossuary 2 from the walls of its kokh?

Keep in mind, Dr. Tabor's report at Bible and Interpretation article was a preliminary archaeological report. He states explicitly: "The camera also had the capability of shooting laser beams to obtain micro-centimeter measurements" on page 11, and yet, absolutely no measurements are given of any of the ossuaries - not in the report, not in the book, not a single measurement!

What kind of archaeological report fails to give a single measurement of a single ossuary - ossuaries that are supposedly central to the authors' conclusions?

Again, is this just amateur oversight, or are they intentionally leaving this information out? I emailed Dr. Tabor asking him for measurements, and he responded and said he'd ask if he can get some from someone. But from whom? Dr. Tabor is writing the report!

It appears to be more of the same: Jacobovici and Tabor are conveniently (or erroneously) leaving out bits of information, any one of which would have ended this sensational speculation in its tracks, but the aggregate of which raises serious questions about whether the authors were following the archaeological evidence where it led, or set out in a predetermined manner to find something to which they were predisposed, silently ignoring, or worse yet, suppressing, or worse still, Photoshopping away and and all data that was contrary to their predetermined conclusions.

Paul Regnier said...

I think Tabor and Simcha are claiming that Talpiot B is the family tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, located on Joseph's family estate?

I don't think there is any real evidence that it is Joseph's tomb, but unless it could be shown to have no longer been in use by the time of Jesus, would pre-Christian use definitively rule it out? I suppose there is a possibility that the tomb was by generations of Joseph's family who lived before time time of Jesus AND later by Joseph and members of his family who were early Christians?

I don't know what the possible dates are for the Talpiot A tomb are? Use in the pre-Christian era would be rather lethal to Tabor's case there.

Jerusalemite said...

The Hebrew version of Necropolis reads: "Based on the finds IT IS REASONABLE TO ASSUME that the use of the cave began in the END OF THE FIRST century BCE and continued throughout the first century CE.

Kloner states in the English edition of "Excavations and Surveys in Israel" (Volume 1, 1982) States (p51):

"The cave was used in the first century CE, PERHAPS going back to the late first century BCE"

Are you examining the sources or busy with interpretations?

James D. Tabor said...

There is nothing specifically in the tomb that dates it to 1st c. BCE. Kloner was making a general comment about tombs of the period, and the use of ossuaries, that are generally put from Herod to 70CE. Kloner says he was only in the tomb for 15 minutes. In terms of the "finds" in the tomb, the only thing that was precisely datable, as I note in my publications, was a 1st century CE cooking pot.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

James Tabor:

Your original accounts seemed to only claim that this was the tomb of "early Christians"; not of Jesus himself. Wouldn't that make much of current speculation irresponsible, about it being specifically Jesus' tomb?

Could it finally be the tomb of Jesus? It is possible perhaps, but not as likely as many thought. Much of the evidence submitted for this, depended on a statistical analysis. That was flawed, I assert, it at least one of its major assumptions.

Specifically? The stats suggested that the likihood of a single related tomb at random containing a "Mary," a "Joseph," and a "Jesus," among others, was very small. As indeed it would be, I should note here... until just a few years after the death of Jesus. When many followers, might have begun giving many of their children such names.

When you know a little background, much of the mystery all but evaporates.

Though to be sure? There is always a remote possibility that there is something useful there, in the tomb. Still? With a famous movie director often standing right behind all this, and potentially millions of dollars at stake, I'm sure it is hard to maintain strict objectivity here.

Tabor? If you'd like to briefly state your preliminary conclusions, and differentiate them from any sensationalistic speculations, many of us would be greatful. For example: is this possibly the tomb of an "early Christian," or of jesus himself, etc..

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for all your comments. Jerusalemite: I think your "perhaps" quotation is referring to Talpiot Tomb A and not B. James: in the "Preliminary Report", you refer to the cooking pot as "early Roman period" and not "first century CE".

Jerusalemite said...

The "Perhaps" quote is from "Talpiot B" ("Another burial cave of the Second Temple Period was discovered...The cave lies 4m below the present surface..."

Mark Goodacre said...

Jerusalemite: I've checked that page and yes, you're right -- thanks. Interestingly, that report only mentions "seven ossuaries" and does not add mention of the eighth being taken out.

Eliyahu said...

What about Talpiot A?

Jesus Is the Lord said...

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Jim Joyner said...

In case you missed it, Jerusalemite might be trying to give you a hint (i.e., misusing the English version of Kloner's report) to be more cautious. Goodacre's and especially Cargill's passionate distrust of Tabor (notwithstanding the gooey claims of friendship) has made them stumble, just a little one this time, but it is a warning sign that they should move back into a perspective of dispassionate skepticism. And, really, who cares about the speculation that Joseph of Talpiyot is really Joseph of Arimathea (or whatever they claimed on the telly). Can't you guys stay focused on the real issues and turn down the heat? Now we see how you await Charlesworth's more detailed comments ... I saw Gorensen's snide-swipe at Charlesworth (ASOR blog) ... is Charlesworth the next intended target?