First, a minor comment on a shorthand that they use. They speak of critics of Simcha Jacobovici's theory as "critics of Talpiot"; and they speak of my "argument against the Talpiot tomb". However, I am not a critic of the tomb. On the contrary, I am fascinated by it. I am a critic of the theory that connects this particular tomb with Jesus of Nazareth and his family on the basis of a alleged name correlations.
But the issue at hand relates to two of the names found in the Talpiot Tomb, what is now known as Talpiot Tomb A in order to contrast with Talpiot Tomb B next door. Talpiot Tomb A has the names in it, "the Jesus family tomb", and Talpiot Tomb B is the one recently explored by means of the robotic arm and which Jacobovici and Tabor think is the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and the early disciples of Jesus.
The two names that Kilty and Elliott discuss are Yoseh (Joses) and Judas son of Jesus. The statistical case benefits from the treatment of Yoseh as a rare name and from not regarding Judas son of Jesus as contradictory evidence, points that I pressed in a blog post earlier this year entitled Returning to the Talpiot Tomb. I noted that:
The difficulty . . . is that the names Joses and Joseph are clearly regarded as similar or the same in the New Testament. Mark 6.3 calls Jesus' brother "Joses" while the parallel in Matt. 13.55 calls him "Joseph". Matthew clearly regards Joseph as an alternative, preferable way of saying "Joses". Likewise, the character who appears in Mark 15.40 and 15.47 is called Joses in Mark and Joseph the Matthean parallel (Matt. 27.56). Moreover, the fact that this character may be a different character than the brother of Jesus also witnesses against the alleged extraordinary nature of the name. The same Joseph / Joses variation is found in the texts too, and not just here in Matthew but also in Acts 4.36, Joses / Joseph Barnabas.Kilty and Elliott's response misunderstands or misreads the point. They characterize my argument in this way:
Mark Goodacre argues that Matthew uses the name Joseph for Jesus' brother (Matt. 13.55 and Matt. 27.56) and should take priority over Mark's Joses (6:3) for this same brother.I do not argue that the name Joseph "should take priority". I argue that the names Joseph and Joses are interchangeable in the NT, both synoptically and text-critically. They write that "we don't agree that Matthew's Joseph should take priority over Mark's Joses". Nor do I.
Kilty and Elliott go on:
So does Matthew have any insight on the name Joses? What information did Matthew have concerning Jesus' brother? Did he know anyone from Jesus' family? What evidence exists that Joses was ever called Joseph?Arguing for Matthew's ignorance of Jesus' family is, however, a risky strategy. If we were to marginalize Matthew's witness, then we would marginalize also the information that he provides that is absent in Mark, that Jesus' father was named Joseph (Matt. 1.16, 18, 19, 20, 24; 2.13, 14, 19, 21), something that is key to the Talpiot tomb statistical argument.
The discussion of the variant in Acts 4.36 is similar. I am attempting to point to the fact that it is not only the evangelists who regarded Joseph and Joses as interchangeable, but also certain scribes. It is not the case that I am calling for "viewing Joseph as the only legitimate name to be used in any calculation concerning the Talpiot tomb"; I am pointing to the importance of including the interchangeability in the calculations.
Moreover, I do not think it unreasonable to suggest taking the evidence from the first century Gospel of Matthew seriously when Simcha Jacobovici asks us to take seriously the fourth century Acts of Philip. To their credit, Kilty and Elliott steer clear of this.
Now, I had also repeated something I had often said before and recently said again, that one of the difficulties with the identification between the Talpiot Tomb and the family of Jesus of Nazareth is the name Judas son of Jesus. In order to make the case, they require extraordinary correlation but what we have here is an extraordinary contradiction.
It is no answer to this point to enter into general discussions about Jesus' celibacy or to say that Jesus may have been married in spite of the silence of our sources. The point is, let us remember, that the case is based on allegations of amazing correlation. There is no other basis for the case. So contradictory evidence simply has to be taken seriously.
I don't know of a fresh way of saying this, so I will simply restate the point by means of the analogy that Simcha Jacobovici and others so like, the Beatles analogy. When our future researchers find a tomb in Liverpool that includes "Ziggy, son of John", we do not say, "Aha! John Lennon must have had a son called Ziggy that we have never previously heard about!" No, we say, "Oh, it does not look like it is the tomb of the Beatles, after all. Those sources that said that he was cremated in New York must be right after all."
There is some nonsense at the end of Kilty's and Elliott's essay about "biblical literalism" that I will ignore except to point out that the comment that I repeated about the unlikelihood of Jesus naming his son Judas was so obviously facetious that I am amazed that anyone would take it seriously.