Friday, November 15, 2013

"Tomb of Jesus" Volume from Eerdmans - Charlesworth Interview & Errors in the Blurb

Over on the EerdWord blog, there's a new video interview with James Charlesworth (on Youtube here) in which he discusses the forthcoming volume The Tomb of Jesus and his Family, the proceedings of the conference in 2008 in Jerusalem relating to the Talpiot Tomb.  Regular readers will know of my own interest in this tomb and my scepticism about the claims of Simcha Jacobovici that this tomb can be identified as the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

Charlesworth himself is non-committal in the interview.  He mentions the range of views covered in the volume and although he includes among the possibilities that it belonged to "Jesus' clan", he does not associate himself with this view as he has done on previous occasions (James Charlesworth on the "Jesus Family Tomb" and James Charlesworth on the "Jesus Family Tomb": follow-up).

Charlesworth also mentions the controversy that surrounded the Jerusalem conference in 2008 (see The Talpiot Tomb Controversy Revisited, Simcha Jacobovici responds to his critics and Charlesworth on the Talpiot Tomb Symposium) and he counsels greater co-operation and friendliness in the future.  He does not mention Simcha Jacobovici in the interview.

The interview was presumably filmed at SBL last year.  It looks like the same room as for my interview on Thomas and the Gospels.  The book itself is due to come out in December this year, after several delays.

I do want to quibble with the book's blurb, which features a couple of errors:
About twenty-five years ago archaeologists discovered a tomb near Jerusalem that contained a family's ossuaries — limestone bone boxes commonly used in ancient Near Eastern burial customs — inscribed with some familiar New Testament names: Mary, Joseph, James, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus. The Discovery Channel produced a film investigating "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," raising interest among the public and specialists alike. Could this actually be the tomb of Jesus and his family? [emphasis added].
The blurb appears on EerdWord, Youtube and the Eerdmans Website.  Quibbles:

  • Minor quibble: the tomb was excavated in 1980, which is 33 years ago, a little more than "about twenty-five years".

  • Major quibble 1: the tomb does not feature the name "Mary Magdalene".  If it did, it would have been a really remarkable find for the study of Christian origins.  The name is not there.

  • Major quibble 2: the tomb does not feature the name "James". Although Jacobovici and Tabor have argued that the James ossuary came from the tomb, this is a controversial and problematic claim that cannot simply be stated as fact.

The list of (Anglicized) names should really be given instead: Jesus? Son of Joseph, Mary, Mariam (or Mariame) and Mara, Joses, Matthew, Judas son of Jesus.


Jim said...

Quite right. On all counts.

Anthony Le Donne said...

As per usual, great work.


James F. McGrath said...

Thanks for catching these and blogging about them!

Stephen Goranson said...

It's a shame that the publisher printed that misleading blurb.

Skeptic said...

It's a shame that the publisher even dared to publish it after so many well known colleagues pulled their contribution as a form of protest.

Skeptic said...

It's a shame that the publisher even dared to publish it after so many well known colleagues pulled their contribution as a form of protest.

Anonymous said...


Thanks again for helping us identify and correct the factual errors in our descriptive copy for The Tomb of Jesus and His Family? We have now posted an updated description of the book on EerdWord, at, and elsewhere. If you (or your readers) happen to discover any further errors in our online copy, please feel free to let us know. We are always grateful for your feedback.

Best regards,
Rachel Bomberger
EerdWord Editor
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.