Rachel Hachlili's Statement

Posted by admin on January 23, 2008

"A short additional statement:

The East Talpiyot tomb could not be identified with a tomb of Jesus of Nazareth for a significant reason: In all references in the New Testament Jesus is named only Yeshua with no patrononymic (i.e., "son of"). Why then would the name 'Yeshua son of Yehosef' be inscribed on an ossuary of a person known only as Yeshua? More likely an inscription on the ossuary of Jesus would have been 'Yeshua from Nazareth' or 'Yeshua son of Mariame'."

Prof. Rachel Hachlili

Zinman Institute of Archaeology

University of Haifa

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Jane Schaberg's Statement

Posted by admin on January 22, 2008

"My contribution:

In my judgement, the tomb is not the tomb of the family or dynasty of Jesus, but perhaps of important members of the movement.

Various readings of the possible Mary Magdalene inscription were proposed: including mariam he kai mara, mariamne kai mara, and the disputed caritative or diminutive form. Epigraphers have more work to do,hopefully with enhanced techniques. I have argued that it is quite possible, even probable, from readings of NT gospels and the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, that some first century people regarded her as "mara" - master. Thus I am one of the few voices from the conference in favor of serious consideration of the tomb as providing exciting opportunities for rethinking "resurrection" and the importance of Jewish mystical tradition of this time (cf. Knohl).

Jane Schaberg

Professor of Religious Studies and Women's and Gender Studies

University of Detroit Mercy"

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Christopher Rollston's Statement

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

"I have argued in print (in the journal Near Eastern Archaeology) and at the Princeton Symposium that because (a) the names attested on the inscribed Talpiyot ossuaries are all quite common and because (b) just two of the six inscribed ossuaries have patrononymics (i.e., "son of"), it is not methodologically tenable to posit that this Talpiyot tomb can be considered the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.

Note also that although titles and geographica (statements about the region from which the deceased hailed) are attested in the corpus of ossuaries, none is attested in this Talpiyot tomb. Thus, the necessary conclusion, based on the cumulative epigraphic data, is that the proposal that this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth must be considered sensationalistic speculation based on a strained and tenuous interpretation of the evidence."

Christopher Rollston, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University; Toyozo Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitics, Emmanuel School of Religion.

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Fair Representation

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

In case our readership is wondering why these recent statements from symposium members have made their way into this web site, here is the letter that prompted them:

"Dear fellow participants,

Since the last night of the symposium, you undoubtedly heard of a number of media blurbs on the results of our meetings which represented all of our findings in the following ways:

"Although most of those who spoke at yesterday's seminar said it was possible the tomb was that of Jesus, Jacobovici's film was taken with a grain of salt."  Haaretz

"The gathering of world scholars, which some had expected would conclude by dismissing claims linking the tomb to Jesus, wound up inconclusively, but with wide-ranging agreement that the matter required further investigation."  Jerusalem Post

"Until now, international perception of the academic consensus has been that the Talpiot tomb "could not be" the Jesus family tomb. In contrast, 50 of the top scholars in the world now concluded that the Talpiot tomb "might very possibly be" the tomb of the 'Holy family.'" Marketwire

"Experts Split on Supposed Jesus Tomb": "The conference ended with no firm conclusions and with experts divided on the likelihood of the tomb containing Jesus's family. Charlesworth has not made up his own mind."  United Press International

"After three days of fierce debate, the experts remained deeply divided."  Time

Are these statements true? I think we might be able to assemble a fair consensus vote from among members of the symposium by publishing preliminary short individual statements. If you would be willing to provide a short statement (one to 600 words) about your present position on the subject in the light of the symposium (whether for or or against the Jesus Tomb hypothesis) we can combine these as a witness to the present views of the participants. (I would propose to make these statements immediately available on the internet. This can stand in place of the rather varied and often careless appraisals of our positions presented by the media.)

The following is provided by Eric Meyers. Please feel free to add yours.

S. Pfann

Prof. Eric Meyer's statement:

"Here is what I can say:

I was shocked that the near universal scholarly consensus that the Talpiot tomb could not be the Tomb of Jesus was ignored by the press. In a surprise move Simcha Jacobovici addressed the group at the closing session and made special mention of the speech of Jospeh Gat’s widow about his fearing to tell the world about his discovery in 1980. The problem with this is that several Israelis noted that Gat could not have known the meaning of the inscriptions since he did not read epigraphy let alone appreciate their potential significance had he been able to decipher them.”

Eric Meyers

Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies at Duke University, and former President of the American Schools of Oriental Research"

Although these statements will be considered preliminary, this collection of statements will serve as fair representations of the actual positions of the participants at the end of the conference. Final assessments and statements must be reserved for after the symposium papers are full published.

Most of the participants have been contacted, as many email addresses as could be found. Any other participants that have not received this letter should please send your statement to:


Others who may want to go on record with a statement may do so by composing and adding one to the comments section of this posting.

S. Pfann

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James Tabor's Statement

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

"I wanted to add my statement to your collection. The Blog entry today was not my views on the tomb, but some overall comments on the conference as a whole. Here is my statement:

I am convinced that the Talpiot tomb is possibly, and even likely, the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth for the following reasons (stated not elaborated, see NEA for the full exposition)

Historical: Jesus was put in a temporary tomb and would likely be moved to a permanent location in the Jerusalem area where his family took up residence over the next 40 years. If we then imagine who might hypothetically be in a pre-70 CE "Jesus family tomb" we come up with an inner core group of: Jesus, any wife or children he might have, his brother Yose, who likely died before 70, his widowed mother Mary, and any wife or children of Yose.

Epigraphical: The names Yeshua bar Yehosef, Yose, which is in fact extremely rare despite statements to the contrary, Maria, and Mariamene, correspond remarkably to the hypothetical "group."

Statistical: Even without any a priori inclusion of Mary Magdalene in a Jesus family tomb, just the names we have, based on Kilty's calculations, endorsed by Fuchs, yields a .48 probability. This is far from random, in fact it means if we had two tombs to look at one of them would probably be the Jesus family tomb. Even one in ten would be interesting but .48 I find quite compelling, given the other evidence of history and epigraphy. One can take any other "Yeshua" tomb we have, just as a comparison, and all of them are immediately disqualified or have no names that fit what we might expect in our pre-70 hypothetical Jesus family tomb. Remarkably, this one does.

There are other things I won't include here but this to me is enough to suggest we should consider this site as possible to probable and not dismiss it. I think lots of this comes down to language. It is one thing to say that one does not find evidence to conclude this is the Jesus family tomb, but that is quite different from saying that the positive evidence outweighs the negative.

The only "negative" evidence of which I am aware would be the idea that Jesus was celibate or never had a child. I think this is highly unlikely, given the practice of eliminating women from our accounts (all the apostles, for a start). Also, I think one can make some positive arguments for Jesus being married, but won't summarize them here."

Dr. James D. Tabor

Chair, Dept. of Religious Studies

UNC Charlotte

Charlotte, NC 28223

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The following statements by symposium participants are more lengthy and were produced on the following blogs:

Prof. April DeConick's statement on the conference: forbiddengospels.blogspot.com

Prof. Christopher Rollston's statement: drjimwest.wordpress.com

Prof. James Tabor's statement: jesusdynasty.com/blog

There are still more to come.

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Israel Knohl's Statement

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

This is Israel Knohl's statement:

"Here is what I have to say:

The dramatic recent discovery of the "Gabriel Revelation" tells us that the Christian beliefe in the rising of Jesus on the third day is not dependent on the situation of his body. I am not covinced that the Talpiot tomb is that of the family of Jesus. This is a possibility that should be explored with more evidence.

Please publish all my words including the first sentence.

With best wishes

Israel Knohl"

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André Lemaire's Statement

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

This is André Lemaire's statement:

"Dear Colleague,

Thank you for your message.

The identification of the Talpiot tomb as the tomb of Jesus is mainly based on four arguments:

- the 10th missing ossuary should be the James ossuary

- the Greek name Mariamènon/Mariamènè is typical of Maria Magdalena

- the name YWSH is a rare name

- The DNA test shows that bone of the Mariamènon/Mariamènè ossuary have no family relation with that of the YShW‘ BR YHWSP ossuary.

During the conference, these four arguments were shown to be wrong while other contradicting facts have to be considered.

On the whole, it seems clear enough to me not only that the identification of the Talpiot tomb as the family tomb of Jesus is not probable or even likely but that it is very improbable.

André Lemaire

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Shimon Gibson's Statement

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

This is Shimon Gibson's statement:

"In my estimation what came out of the Symposium is that there is no evidence – historical, archaeological, epigraphic, scientific (in terms of DNA and patina studies), architectural/artistic or otherwise – to support the idea that the Talpiot tomb

was the family tomb of Jesus. Moreover, from my personal association with the excavator Yosef Gath in the 1980s I do not believe that he ever made any connection between the ossuary inscriptions in the tomb and names appearing in the Gospels. I also repudiate the claim made by the film-makers of "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" that the Symposium had in any way vindicated their argument. In fact, the opposite is true and scholars were hard-pressed to find any evidence supporting the notion of a Jesus family tomb at Talpiot."

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Geza Vermes' Statement

Posted by admin on January 21, 2008

This morning I encouraged the members of the Symposium to gain "fair representation" by speaking for themselves. I will post these in the order in which they were received.

Geza Vermes' statement:

" The evidence so far advanced falls far short of proving  that the Talpiot tomb is, or even could be, the tomb of the family of Jesus of Nazareth. The identification of the ossuary of Mariamne with that of Mary Magdalene of the Gospels has no support whatever and without it the case collapses.  The  conference, primarily devoted to the problem of afterlife in  Second Temple Judaism, was useful  in airing the the latest views on ancient Jewish burial practices and modern science. Apart from a handful of participants,  the large majority of the assembled scholars  consider the theory that the Talpiot ossuaries contained the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family as unlikely after the conference as it has been before. In my historical judgment, the matter is, and in the absence of   substantial new evidence, should remain closed.

Geza Vermes

Fellow of the British Academy

Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies

Oxford University"

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The now silent abused

Posted by admin on January 20, 2008

"Science and archaeology are not intended to form, but inform, religion." Prof. James Charlesworth

This is an acceptable view. The input from the specialists is absolutely essential for moving the process forward to better understand the setting and background of two of the world's monotheistic faiths. However, we should still remember that there were a number of scholars who originally participated in the film and, although invited to come to the symposium, refused to participate.

I was one of the more fortunate ones. After some months I was presented with better photos of the Yeshua? bar Yehosef inscription by the filmmakers, and had come to a revised, but non-useful conclusion (to them), that the name "Yeshua?" was not the first one placed on the ossuary. They removed the part of the film where I read from the inscriptions (and suddenly I was renamed as an assistant to Steven Cox, the forensic expert . . . not true, of course).

We should remember the fury of so many who felt that their interviews were mishandled by the filmmakers. Soon after the film was aired, most of those who were interviewed made public statements which "clarified" their positions substantially. See the following article:

"Cracks in the Foundation": How "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" Documentary is losing its scholarly support

The next time that the media wants to publish the new findings of such specialists, will they be willing to give an interview? Unfortunately, in all too many cases that I am aware of, the answer will be "No."


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