Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Greek Ossuary Inscription in Talpiyot Tomb B – (hopefully) the Final Solution

Richard Bauckham has written the following new piece on the Greek Ossuary Inscription in Talpiyot Tomb B and I am delighted to be posting it here:

The Greek Ossuary Inscription in Talpiyot Tomb B – (hopefully) the Final Solution
Richard Bauckham


3 comments:

Sili said...

I don't know if my comment got lost in moderation, or if I just forgot to press "publish", but here's what I can remember:

Is it really necessary to invoke "magic" that we don't understand?

Is it not possible that what we see is simply 'fraud' but semiliterate craftsmen?

If the bereaved weren't literate themselves, the artist was free to write what he could and them tell the family that it said what they wanted it to.

That way the resemblance to abecedaries is due to that being just about all the artist was capable of.

Ehrman mentions a story of an Egyptian scribe whose literacy consisted of being able to sign his name. Have we any reason to think that the average 1st C Palaestinian was better off?

PS: I'm not sure "The Final Solution" is the best choice of title for any blogpost.

Richard Bauckham said...

Thank you for this interesting comment. I'm glad someone has read my post!

(1) People who were buried in ossuaries in rock-cut tombs in the Jerusalem area were not "the average 1st C Palaestinian." They were the elite, and would be literate enough not be susceptible to such fraud.
(2) Ossuary inscriptions were not done by the craftsmen who decorated the ossuaries. They were scratched on later by family members when they were putting the bones in and for to identify the ossuaries for future reference. These people were not used to inscribing on stone - hence the very poor quality of many of the inscriptions.
(3) I don't know that story about an Egyptian scribe, but he could not be a real scribe - someone you'd get to write a letter or a legal document for you.
(4) Maybe I exaggerated the extent to which we don't understand magical use of the alphabet, but it's the sort of thing we should not be surprised not to be able to fully understand. There's lots of use of combinations of letters in the magical papyri that we can't explain in any detail, but they obviously did have magical use.
(5) I was suggesting that the three ossuary inscriptions I discussed can be understood better if we recognise that the same sort of thing is going on in all three. The other two have inscriptions consisting of just the four letters. These cannot be frauds of the kind you suggest.

Sili said...

Thank you. I obviously need to learn to read for closer comprehension.

Sorry for the inconvenience.