"Yoseh, can you see?": checking the sources (updated)

Posted by shoshiepfann on February 05, 2008

Throughout the year there has been an emphasis by supporters of the "Jesus Family Tomb" hypothesis as to how very rare the name "Yoseh" was during the Second Temple Period, based on the following assumptions.

1) The name "Yehosef" is seen as the predominant form of the name.

2) It was also assumed and asserted that when the shortened form Yose was used during that time, it was far more likely to be spelled YWSY than YWSH.

3) Thus YWSH/Yoseh was very rare indeed.

However, after having rechecked the sources and having reassessed the frequency of Yoseh during that time, a different picture began to appear.

Any student of ancient Jewish literature realizes that the proper evaluation of one’s sources is absolutely essential to the discipline. Such an evaluation yielded the following observations.

1) Utilizing the best manuscripts of early Jewish sources written in Hebrew or Aramaic, the name applied to living individuals during the Second Temple Period was often YWSH and not YHWSF. (As in the case, for example, of Yoseh b. Yo'ezer and Yoseh ben Yochanan, the first of the zugot from the second century BCE.)

2) According to Ilan (p. 159 note 96) YWSH is correctly listed as the predominant form used in Galilean synagogue inscriptions (10x), over against YWSF (1x) (cf. Naveh’s corpus in On Stone and Mosaic, p. 152).

If this is the case, then why do we find so many individuals named "Joseph" in Second Temple funerary inscriptions?

It is clear that among the Jewish Hebrew ossuary inscriptions, the use of the formal name YHWSF "Yehosef" (17x) by far predominates over the informal, familiar form Y(W)SH "Yoseh" (2x). However, this is to be expected in funerary inscriptions. In any individual's lifetime he would be called one of the two alternatives depending upon the formal or informal context in which the name was used. On an ossuary or a grave stone during the first century, like today, the formal name "Joseph" was almost certainly more appropriate than the deceased's informal name "Joey" or "Joe" (which he might have been called while he was still alive). This does not mean that there are some people running about named "Joseph" and a separate group of individuals named "Joey"! Parallel to this are the formal and informal forms of the names Mariam/Maria, Yehoshua’/Yeshua’, Matitiyahu/Mattiah, Yehochanan/Choni, etc. (See "How do you Solve a Problem like Maria").

The near exclusive use of the informal "IOSES" (Greek for "Yoseh") among the Greek inscribed ossuaries.

One should be careful to note that among the Greek inscribed ossuaries, the familiar form "Ioses" is used nearly exclusively (5 occurrences over 4 ossuaries). The formal name IWSEPOS is found only once. This is a fact that was not brought to the attention of the audience by the filmmakers.

greek-joses.jpg

This is astounding, since the filmmakers also did not point out that the New Testament occurrences of this name IWSHS "Joses", limited to the Gospel of Mark, are also in Greek. This name is used once in a list of Jesus' brothers.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3)

<>It is found twice referring to the brother of "James the less", the son of Clopus and Mary.

¶ There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, (Mark 15:40) . . . Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. (Mark 15:47)

Then why are these same individuals called by the formal name IWSHF "Joseph" in Matthew's Gospel?

Of Jesus' brother: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” (Matt. 13:55)

<>Of the sons of Clopas and Mary: among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matt. 27:5)

Whether a historian uses the formal or informal name when referring to an individual may depend upon how familiar the individual was to them or on whether or not the individual was deceased. There is reason to believe that these individuals could be alive 30 years after the crucifixion when Mark wrote his Gospel. However, it is unlikely that that they would still be living 50 years later when Matthew's gospel was generally understood to be written. (It may also be simply a reflection of their own personal style.)

There are so many holes in the film there is no need to add this one to the list. We can, on the other hand, challenge the assertion that was made by the filmmakers that the name Yoseh was so rare. In fact, what comes down to us is in Greek. The Gospel of Mark passage is unique with respect to providing this shortened Greek name for Jesus’ brother. However, in Greek inscriptions, the shortened form “Iose/Ioses” is more popular than “Iosepos”.

YWSY or YWSH?

1) In Tal Ilan’s treatment under YWSF, the sole form of "Yose" in the ossuaries is spelled Y(W)SH, on two Jerusalem ossuaries (cf. T. Ilan, Lexicon, p. 152 no. 89 [Ilan rightly corrects this reading]; p.154 no. 118, 133).

2) In the early second century Murabba’at papyri, YWSH, but not YWSY, is found (papMur 46).

3) In most of the Tannaitic manuscripts, YWSY is simply a minority alternative spelling of YWSH, both pronounced the same. YWSH (pointed "Yoseh" in vocalized versions) is by far the predominant form of the word in the superior Kaufmann manuscript of the Mishna.

[Prof. Ilan (p. 157 note 3) infers that YWSH is the Palestinian form of the name since it is found in the Vienna manuscript of the Tosefta in place of YWSY (found in the Erfurt manuscript). Unfortunately, Ilan’s numerous examples of YWSY come primarily from the handy concordances of Kasowski, which have been the standard source for scholars up until only very recently. The manuscripts that formed the basis for Kasowski’s concordances of the Mishna, the Tosefta, the Mechilta, the Sifra and the Jerusalem Talmud, are today considered inferior and are currently being replaced by electronic concordances which rely upon better manuscripts (e.g., Accordance Bible software now provides the Kaufmann manuscript of the Mishnah).]

In conclusion, we really don’t have any compelling evidence for the predominant use of YHWSF, as opposed to YWSH during the Second Temple Period, but rather the occasional use of both depending upon the formality of a situation. Also there is no evidence for the use of YWSY, as opposed to YWSH during the Second Temple Period, but rather, the contrary. In the case of the Talpiot tomb, YWSH should probably be pronounced “Yoseh” following the contemporary Greek pronunciation of that name (which preserves no examples of “Yosah”).

Also of interest: see Preliminary Autopsy of CJO 703 (80.502) and CJO 705 (80.504) Mattiah and Yoseh

Bibliography:

Hachlili, R., Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period. Brill: Leiden and Boston. 2005.

Rahmani, L.Y. A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authority/The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 1994.

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"Do you know the way to San Jose?"

Posted by admin on February 04, 2008

With the ossuary of Mary Magdalene generally accepted as a pipe dream of only a few, certain of the remaining Jesus Tomb theorists are willing to place their bets on this ossuary inscription,"Yoseh/Joseh".

yoseh.jpg

"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." From James Tabor's statement.

Although the abandonment of the Mary Magdalene for Joseh reduces the odds of the Talpiot Tomb being that of Jesus and his family from 1:1600 (previously 1:600) to 1:2, maybe the world will warm up to Joseh after growing cold on Mary Magdalene! However, if we try to follow the logic of the theorists, we may end up just as lost in the web of their logic as before. To arrive at this 1:2 probability (in other words, a 50-50 chance) that the Talpiot tomb is the "Jesus family tomb", one must allow for another unfounded, a priori assumption to be introduced as real evidence.

More to come.

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UHL Degree Programs and Spring Courses

Posted by admin on February 02, 2008

DegreePrograms07.jpg

 

Degree Programs

www.uhl.ac/en/academics/programs-of-study

a. UHL’s student body is international, interdenominational and intergenerational. Students from diverse backgrounds can celebrate their graduation in first century dress in the authentically built, first century synagogue at Nazareth Village, a showcase for UHL’s archaeological and New Testament degree programs.

b. Degree offerings include the Master of Theological Studies and the Master of Arts in the History & Culture of Ancient Israel, New Testament & Early Christianity, Archaeology, Judaic Studies or Cultural Anthropology. UHL offers a research Ph.D. program, focusing on majors best studied in the land of the Bible.

c. Getting down and dirty is a daily experience for students of archaeology at the University of the Holy Land. Dig opportunities throughout the country take the study of archaeology out of the realm of the theoretical and into the real world. The archaeology student becomes equipped to understand the field, literally from the ground up, beginning with the basics of field archaeology and culminating in the final phases of the publication of field reports.

d. Distance Learning. The rich resources of UHL’s curriculum travel from Jerusalem to your living room through UHL’s Distance Learning courses. The use of the Internet, with its powerful graphic and data tools, brings the world of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period, Historical Geography, Cultural Anthropology, Theology and other subjects, alive, linking students from around the world in a “virtual” classroom. www.uhl.ac/en/academics/courses

 

* Cooperative Programs. UHL offers the student the opportunity to experience the finest that Jerusalem has to offer in both Jewish and Christian scholarship. Sister-school relationships with the Hebrew University’s Rothberg School for International Students and the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Française open an unparalleled door of opportunity to study with the finest “consortium” of scholars and utilizing the finest library resources in the Middle East.

University of the Holy Land

POB 24084, Mt. Scopus

Jerusalem 91240 Israel

Website: www.uhl.ac

E-mail: info@uhl.ac


Spring and Summer courses are up!

Posted by admin on February 02, 2008

The Spring and Summer 2008 Course offerings

Graduate Seminar this Spring 2008:

Archaeological and Literary evidence for the Gospel Story

siloam-pool-avenue.jpg

Graduate Seminar participants on the ancient avenue to the Siloam Pool


Forensic handwriting analysts look for distinct diagnostic features to identify or distinguish various individuals, including slant, size, overall form and shape of letters; the consistency of space and slope between adjacent letters and words on a line; the apparent fluidity of writing, and the pressure of the pen.

A number of these diagnostic features have already been dealt with in previous posts. The following image can help to clarify the distinctive features related to line formation.

The Linearity of the Inscription

The baseline of MAPIAMH is horizontal and virtually straight (with the exception of the bottoms of the second A and M, each of which appears to be avoiding a blemish on the ossuary's surface).

The line of letters of KAI MAPA was initiated noticeably above the baseline of MAPIAMH and its letters form a shallow U-shaped or garland-shaped line (or chain). The garland shape is even more prominently featured in the draped underscore which was added to combine both stages of the inscription.

mariame-kai-mara-metrics2.jpg

Metrics of the Inscription

SPACE between words: MAPIAMH and KAI: 10 mm, but between KAI and MAPA: 5.5 mm. The wide space between MAPIAMH and KAI indicates that these two words are well separated with no such space provided before the H eta, (providing further evidence, besides the change in script, that the inscription is not to be read MAPIAM H KAI MARA "Mariam who is also called Mara".

SPACE between letters of MAPIAMH = 6, 4, 11, 14, 9, 3.5 mm; KAI = 4 and 0 mm; MARA = 0, 2.5, 3.5 mm. Although both the beginning (MAPIAMH) and the end of the inscription have the same number of letters (KAI MAPA), the end (KAI MAPA) is only 3/4 the length of the beginning name (MAPIAMH).

STROKES: Maximum width of stroke of the letters in MAPAIMH = 2.0 mm (both M's, P, I, H); KAI = 2.5 mm ( I ); MAPA = 2.2 mm (2nd A). The looped underscore is 2.5 mm wide and therefore matches the width of the letters in KAI MAPA. Either two different tools were used to inscribe CJO Ossuary 701, or else the hand that made the second part of the inscription pressed much harder.

In summary, at least twenty-five features--epigraphic, syntactic and forma--have been set forth which argue against the suggestion that the inscription is speaking of only one person. In particular, it is no longer prudent to speculate that this ossuary belongs to Mary Magdalene, nor, to the best of our knowledge, to any other known individual from ancient history.

I was sent the following cartoon of the DNA and statistics experts, evidently modified slightly, (Thanks to Tabtoons):

ringo-ossuary.jpg

“Without Mary Magdalene the tomb is like any other tomb with an unremarkable common set of names.”

Andrey Feuerverger, Mathematician, University of Toronto


Different Strokes for Different Folks

Posted by shoshiepfann on January 31, 2008

With or without an "eye for form", it is still possible to distinguish between various scribal hands and forms of script (that is, cursive vs. semicursive vs. standard, etc.). Another way to distinguish scribal technique, script form (cursive vs. semicursive) and individual style, is to simply count up the number of separate strokes that make up each letter. Cursive tendencies produced by various scribal hands lead to varying degrees of cursiveness and, at times, distinctive forms. These forms may be termed as cursive or semi-cursive depending upon the extent to which these tendencies are found. One cursive tendency is to connect consecutive letters without lifting the pen, to form connected writing or ligatures as in the AI of KAI. However, the most common cursive tendency is to execute individual letterforms without lifting the tip of the pen from the writing surface. A letter that might take four strokes in formal or semi-formal script may be inscribed by three or two strokes in a semicursive hand, and by two, or even one, stroke in a cursive hand.

The following version of the MAPIAMH KAI MAPA inscription is colorized, each color representing a separate stroke (i.e., where the tip of the tool was actually lifted from the surface of the ossuary before inscribing the next stroke). blue = the first stroke, yellow = the second stroke, red = the third stroke, and green = the fourth stroke.

mariamecolorstrokessm.jpg

Each letter was analyzed under a binocular microscope, and high definition digital images were procured and analyzed. The first seven letters, MAPIAMH, were executed by 17 strokes, but the last seven letters, KAI MAPA, were executed by a mere 8 strokes.

Below is a comparison chart of letters found in the two parts of the inscription which, though the same letter of the alphabet, were distinctive in the extent of their cursiveness. Letters from other inscriptions of similar scripts and style have been included for sake of comparison and corroboration.

mariame_mara-multicolor-alphabet.jpg

Diagnostic Letter Forms

 

Not all letters of any given script are of equal value when it comes to analyzing the typological character of the "handwriting" of an inscription. The M (mem) is considered a "diagnostic form", being one of the best for determining the "cursiveness" of a script, since its formal or semiformal form can be formed from four independent strokes with no connection between the letters, while its cursive form, especially in later periods, can be formed by one stroke, and connected to letters on both sides (in "connected writing"). "A" alpha, "H" eta, and "K" kappa are also good diagnostic forms, since the letters vary from a three-stroke form (formal or semiformal script) to a two-stroke form (semicursive script) to a single-stroke form (cursive script). Other letters such as "P" rho (= R) and "I" iota often display little distinction between the semiformal and cursive forms of the script.

Formality and Cursiveness of Different Scribal Hands

In all cases, the letters of MAPIAMH display semiformal or semicursive features (four-stroke M's, two-stroke A's and H's), while the letters of KAI MAPA consistently display cursive features (two stoke M's, one stroke A's and K). In the case of the letters of the other inscriptions displayed above, although there is a general consistency as to script form (DF 41, CJO 782 = semiformal to semicursive; CJO 108 = cursive), mixture of the various categories of script can happen when the scribe is not being careful. For example, CJO 782, written in semiformal to semicursive script, has one cursive "one-stroke" A. The scribe of CJO 108 who primarily wrote in cursive script, included two formal to semicursive forms of the letters "M" and "H" within words which are otherwise cursive and which include fully cursive forms of M and H. The fact that the first part of inscription CJO 701 MAPIAMH consistently utilizes semiformal to semicursive letter forms, and the last part KAI MAPA consistently uses cursive forms, illustrates the great care the two inscribers/scribes took as they wrote the names in this inscription. If such a single individual wrote the entire inscription, there would almost certainly have been a deliberate consistency manifested throughout.

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An "Eye for Form" (updated)

Posted by shoshiepfann on January 30, 2008

Although most of those interviewed can quickly see the difference between the two parts of the Mariame kai Mara inscription, it appears that there are a number of scholars, even epigraphers, who cannot see it. The ability to note or distinguish various letters is generally known as having "an eye for form." Not everyone has it. Inability to see distinction in form is similar to color blindness, depth perception or nearsightedness. The individual often does not know that they have this challenge until someone else tells them that they are able to see something that they themselves cannot see. Fortunately, to a certain extent, an "eye for form" can be taught to those who lack it. The other forms of visual challenge mentioned above cannot.

An eye for form has long been known as an essential requirement for being an illustrator:

"Do you like to sketch and draw? Were you one of those kids who spent hours in school doodling in your notebook? Do you have an eye for form, color, and composition? Then you may have a future as an illustrator."

It is also an essential skill which allows individuals to distinguish between various alphabets.

For example:

"The Russian alphabet with its Byzantine Greek letters is easily mastered by those who have an eye for form, while others may have some trouble. ..."

JSTOR: "Hints for Teaching Russian"

In order to actually discern the difference between the beginning and the end of the Mariame kai Mara inscription, one must have an eye for form.

This is one case where it may be more important to have "an eye for form" than to have a background in epigraphy.

MARIAM H KAI MARA: An Alternative Reading?

It now seems incumbent upon me to address this suggested transcription in the body of the article since a few have raised the question. Allow me to do so by presenting several hypothetical, graphic examples. Each is generated using the letter forms of either the first or second scribe. The first example (in blue, below) is the complete transcription generated in the scribal hand of the first scribe who wrote the original MARIAMH.* The letter forms convey a more squared or angular appearance than that of the second scribal hand. The transcription would appear as follows, if the entire inscription had been written by the first scribe:

mariamekmaradocum.jpg

If all words of the inscription were in the standard Greek documentary script (as above) then the inscription could be read either as:

MAPIAMH KAI MAPA: "Mariame and Mara"

OR, alternatively

2) MAPIAM H KAI MAPA: "Mariam who is also Mara"

The second graphic example (in red, below), is how the transcription would appear had the second scribe (who originally wrote KAI MAPA) written the entire inscription. Note how the letter forms are more looped or rounded in form.

mariamekmaracursive.jpg

Likewise, if all words were in the Greek cursive script (as above) then the inscription could be read either:

1) MAPIAMH KAI MAPA: "Mariame and Mara"

OR, alternatively

2) MAPIAM H KAI MAPA: "Mariam who is also Mara"

In particular, note how the eta is formed like a small cursive, rounded English "h", unlike the angular appearance of the one in inscription CJO 701 which is typical of the semicursive/semiformal documentary tradition of scripts. There is also a clear distinction between the kappa ("k") of the the semicursive/semiformal documentary tradition and the kappa of the cursive tradition found in CJO 701 and CJO 108. The space between the eta and the kappa provides the starting point of the decisive change from one scribal hand MAPIAMH and the next KAI MAPA.

If one uses an eye for form, this inscription appears to have been written in two distinct script styles (standard Greek documentary script and Greek cursive script). This being the case, then two scribes were involved in the writing process and, we can assume, on separate occasions. In my judgment, in order not to do violence to the epigraphic evidence, the inscription should only be read as:

MAPIAMH KAI MAPA: "Mariame and Mara"

mariamekmara2scripts.jpg

The overall appearance of cursive writing is that there is a graceful sequence of looping strokes as can be seen

in KAI MARA. This stands in contrast to the triangular, squared and rather jagged succession of strokes in the

more formal script used in the first part of the inscription (i.e., with MARIAME). Also, from the standpoint

of horizontal line space, I argue that although each scribe inscribed a total of seven letters, the cursive style of

the second scribe allowed him to write his seven letters, but within ¾ of the line space of the first.

There are certain occasions when a single scribe will inadvertently insert or mix cursive letters with semicursive or even formal letters in an inscription. However, in the case of CJO 701, the first part of the inscription is written in one consistent semiformal or semicursive scribal hand. The second part of the inscription is written in one consistent cursive hand as can be seen in the alphabet chart below. (Note that the second A and M were malformed, as the scribe apparently worked to avoid an imperfection or blemish on the surface of the ossuary between these two letters.)

mariame_mara-alphabet.jpg

The two alphabets of the inscription alongside related alphabets

Although the now established reading of the letters of this inscription eliminates "Mariamenou" as a possible first name, (thus not in favor of a possible link with the Mary Magdalene of the Coptic tradition), the reading MARIAM H KAI MARA, "Mary who is called Mara" may still be raised as a a possibility. This would allow that one woman and not two would have been named.

For example, one participant at the Symposium felt that the case was not necessarily closed for Mary Magdalene, even if the first name turned out to be a common form for any "Mary". If one translated the last word "Mara" in an extraordinary way as "Master" instead of the normal "Mara/Martha" then the case for Mary Magdalene might still be open.

Jane Schaberg contends:

"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)."

Whether one can actually discern a compelling distinction in scribal hand between the first and last part of the inscription is important for establishing whether to attribute one or two possible meanings to the inscription. Fortunately, other methods can be utilized to test this question, even aside from utilizing an "eye for form". More to come.

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The Bottom Line

Posted by shoshiepfann on January 29, 2008

On the "Jesus Dynasty Blog", James Tabor had some issues with the Duke University Statement, one of which bears upon the epigraphy panel:

2. In fact, epigraphers at the conference contested the reading of the inscription as “Mariamene.” Furthermore, Mary Magdalene is not referred to by the Greek name Mariamene in any literary sources before the late second-third century AD.

It is the case that two epigraphers at the conference disagreed with L. Rahmani’s reading of Mariamene, but it should be pointed out that those two, Stephen Pfann and Jonathan Price, also disagree with one another in significant ways.

Actually this is not at all true. Jonathan Price and I agreed on the reading of every letter in the inscription: M-A-P-I-A-M-H-K-A-I-M-A-P-A.

Prof. Price has since emphasized, "the 'Mariamene' ossuary does not say Mariamene at all; I thought that was clear from my own presentation, and the correct reading is supported by the editors of BE and SEG, who are among the most experienced Greek epigraphers in the world"

He explained that the reading could be either MARIAMH KAI MARA or MARIAM H KAI MARA. "Mariame and Mara" or "Mariam, who is also Mara".

THE BOTTOM LINE IS:

"Whichever reading, MARIAMH KAI MARA or MARIAM H KAI MARA is accepted, both of which are extremely common first century names, neither is MARIAMHNOU, with an 'N' (said to be the typical name of Mary Magdalene by the filmmakers)." (Price and Pfann)

MARIAMH is by far the most common Greek form of the name "Maria" found inscribed on the ossuaries. There is therefore no reason to suggest that the ossuary had any connection with the Mary Magdalene of either the canonical Gospels or the Gnostic traditions.

 

mapiamh-kai-mapa.jpg

SEG 46 1996 -- Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum.

BÉ 1998 -- «Bulletin épigraphique», in Revue des études grecques (Paris).

S. Pfann, "A Reassessment of CJO 703: Mary Magdalene has left the Room" Near Eastern Archaeologist 70 (2007).

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Statisticians clarify "Without Mary Magdalene . . . "

Posted by shoshiepfann on January 27, 2008

"Another revelation concerned Andrey Feuerverger, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Toronto, who had done the initial statistical study that concluded a 600:1 probability in favor of the tomb being the Jesus family tomb. At the conference, Professor Feuerverger revealed for the first time that his statistical model has now been peer-reviewed and accepted by the leading statistical journal Annals of Applied Statistics and will be published in their first issue of 2008 in February." Marketwire (press release) January 17, 2008

Even the "Yeshua? bar Yehosef" inscription does not help the cause. Feuerverger estimates that statistically, with an average of 25 bodies occurring in each tomb (that's low according to Joe Zias), there should be one "Yeshua bar Yehosef" in every 10 tombs. With a minimum estimate of 1,000 tombs in the area around Jerusalem, there should be at least 100 individuals by that name among the city's tombs. Two of these individuals have been discovered thus far. There must be many more (even among the unidentified bones among the uninscribed ossuaries of the area).

"Without Mary Magdalene the tomb is like any other tomb with an unremarkable common set of names". "This is not my expertise. It is up to the epigraphers to prove that this is or is not the ossuary of Mary Magdalene."

James Cameron:

Mary Magdalene: "the missing piece, the Ringo"

Press Conference at the New York Public Library, March 2007

“Now, the missing piece was provided by Simcha, and I just want to say right now, Simcha is the real live Indiana Jones of this project, and he’s, although he will quite humbly, immediately say that he’s not an archaeologist, he happens to know so much about archaeology and, you know, Biblical history that he can compete with them in a conversation without flagging, for hours on end, and as a documentary filmmaker, he has the instincts of an absolute bloodhound. And when he got wind of the fact that there were these ossuaries with these names, he was able through his research group to find the missing piece of information, which is that Mariamne is, according to certain Christian texts, of the early Christian texts such as the Acts of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mariamne is the name of Mary Magdalene. So that’s the missing piece, that’s the Ringo, and that’s what set this whole investigation in motion. Now, every film is a journey, every investigation is a journey, and this journey took us into places we didn’t think it was going to go – and I’ll let Simcha unveil some of the aspects of that.”

However at this Symposium:

on Maria/Mariame/Mariamenou (repeat)

The epigraphers on hand, J. Price and S. Pfann agreed on the letter by letter reading of the inscription on the so-called Mary Magdalene ossuary, though they did not agree on the presence of two scribal hands (note, however, that Pfann provided evidence from microscopic photos for the two hands). Both Price and Pfann read: MAPIAMH KAI MAPA (or MAPIAM H KAI MAPA). Either way, both agreed that the names are common forms of Mary and that the all-important and unusual form Mariamne (with an “N”) is not to be found in this inscription, as the original catalogue incorrectly reads and the filmmakers insist.

Download "Mary Magdalene is now missing"

mariamekaimarametrics.jpg

Gnostic Gospel expert A. DeConick pointed out that “Mariamne” does not actually begin to be used for Mary Magdalene until the 3rd century CE and even then, not exclusively. The Mariamne of the Acts of Philip, used to support the filmmakers’ claim, is actually a composite of two “Mary” characters from the New Testament: Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) and Mary Magdalene. In addition, she is purported to be the sister of Philip, a designation known only from the Gnostic gospels and in tension with the New Testament accounts. S. Pfann pointed out that the sole first-century historical witness to Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus, the New Testament, provides mixed uses of the two names Mariam and Maria for both characters, since every Mary had a formal name “Mariam” and an informal name “Maria” (like Jennifer/Jenny; Kathleen/Kate; Elizabeth/Betty). In the New Testament, Mary the mother of Jesus is designated Mariam 13x and Maria 6x, while Mary Magdalene is called Mariam 4x and Maria 11x. (Note that the scale tips in the opposite direction toward “Maria” for Mary M.) In all cases, the earliest witness Mark uses “Maria” for both women. If anything can be derived from this, it is that if there is indeed a “Lady Mary” in the ossuary, it should refer to the mother of Jesus, rather than to Magdalene (not seriously!).

Link to "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?"

Ten scribal errors in three words? One Too Many Mariamenes

In layman's terms: The Ossuary of RIKEGŒ ¬ “RICH”

"Without Mary Magdalene the tomb is like any other tomb with an unremarkable common set of names."

Andrey Feuerverger, Mathematician, University of Toronto

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Assessment of the Facts: The Media and Three Surveys by the Tomb Symposium Participants

on

The Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins

"Jewish Views of the After Life and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism

Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context"

Jan 13-16, 2008 in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem

An initial assessment of the results of the recent Symposium which was published by the media was quickly rejected by most of the Symposium participants. Most of the media assessments gave a general statement about the conclusions drawn by the "50" participants as a whole. (See conference list of presentations for the participants.)

“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 Magazine

At times the media became more specific and gave personal statements about the tomb's historical significance made by individual participants, including the symposium's chair James Charlesworth (Time), the Jerusalem district archaeologist at the time Amos Kloner (JPost), the tomb's draftsperson Shimon Gibson (JPost, Haaretz), and historian Israel Knohl (Haaretz).

Simcha Jacobovici's press representative J9 Communications (see Jim West's posting on this) singled out a group of four who, they say, had ascertained the identification of the Tomb with Jesus as being "likely":

"Although some academics continue to deny the possibility, leading New Testament scholars such as Professor Jane Schaberg (Mercy), Professor Claude Cohen-Matlofsky (University of Toronto), Israel Knohl (Hebrew University) and Professor James Tabor (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) all indicated that they thought it was 'likely' that the Talpiot tomb was indeed the lost tomb of Jesus."

(However, the assertions of this report do not at all match the actual statements of Israel Knohl and Jane Schaberg(and not exactly James Tabor) found in the "Fair Representation" survey published in View from Jerusalem).

Three surveys launched by the symposium participants themselves

A large number of participants in the symposium felt disappointed in the media's portrayal of their view concerning the connection of the Tomb on Dov Grunner St. in the East Talpiot district of Jerusalem to Jesus of Nazareth and his family. In response, they decided to speak out for themselves.

The Fair Representation letter solicited and received the personal statements from a number of participants. The value of this collection is that it allowed the participants to provide a more individualized response, free from the interpretation of the media and the limitations of the general statement.

Two general statements have been published by participants of the symposium:

One general statement was drafted by Professors Jodi Magness and Eric Meyers with the participation of a number of the other participants. The strength of this general statement is that it involved a range of issues treated by an overall group of participants and brought together the signatures of a number of participants who did not find the need to publish their own personal statements.

A general statement by the symposium steering commitee was published on the Princeton Seminary web site. This is valuable since it becomes the official statement by the administration of the Symposium, chaired by Prof. James Charlesworth with D. Mendels, M. Aviam, G. Mazor, S. Gibson and D. Bahat.

A number of participants also provided a more lengthy version of their own statements through their own blogs (or as guests on other blogs), including April DeConick, Stephen Pfann, Christopher Rollston, James Tabor and Joe Zias. If the 25 or so statements (both personal and signatories for general statements) of participants thus far, can be taken to be a fair sampling . . .

The experts are not "split" or "deeply divided" over the issue that the Talpiot Tomb is that of Jesus of Nazareth. Let us be clear on this and to which degree the participants would entertain the possibility of being so.

Who believes that the Talpiot Tomb is actually both the Tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and also his family?

The most positive statement for the tomb being that of Jesus of Nazareth and his family comes from James Tabor who is "convinced that the Talpiot tomb is possibly, and even likely, the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth".

Who believes that the Talpiot Tomb is not the Tomb of Jesus of Nazareth but is that of his family or members of the Jesus movement?

According to his public statement at the end of the conference, although James Charlesworth denies that this could be the Tomb of Jesus, he "can't dismiss the possibility that this tomb was related to the Jesus clan."

Jane Schaberg stated "In my judgement, the tomb is not the tomb of the family or dynasty of Jesus, but perhaps of important members of the movement." (including Mary Magdalene)

Among those who remain unconvinced that this tomb is related in any way to Jesus of Nazareth, who would be at least encourage further study of the possibility?

Israel Knohl is not convinced of any of it, since the fact that more evidence is needed encourages further study. "I am not convinced that the Talpiot tomb is that of the family of Jesus. This is a possibility that should be explored with more evidence. "

Others remain pessimistic:

Geza Vermes (Second Temple historian) stated "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.

Shimon Gibson (archaeologist) stated “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. . . . 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.”

André Lemaire (epigrapher) stated "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."

Christopher Rollston (prosopographer and epigrapher) stated "it is not methodologically tenable to posit that this Talpiyot tomb can be considered the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth."

Rachel Hachlili (archaeologist and expert on family tombs) stated "The East Talpiyot tomb could not be identified with a tomb of Jesus of Nazareth for a significant reason ..."

Stephen Pfann (epigrapher and historian): "I don’t believe there is any case, even remotely, that can be convincingly made for this being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family."

The Princeton general statement of the Symposium steering committee (made by J.H. Charlesworth (chair), D. Mendels, M. Aviam, G. Mazor, S. Gibson, D. Bahat) stated: "'Most archaeologists, epigraphers, and other scientists argued persuasively that there is no reason to conclude that the Talpiot Tomb was Jesus’ tomb.' Unfortunately, many of the initial reports in the press following the symposium gave almost the exact opposite impression, stating, instead, that the conference proceedings gave credence to the identification of the Talpiot tomb with a putative family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. As is abundantly clear from the statements to the contrary that have been issued since the symposium by many of the participants, such representations are patently false and blatantly misrepresent the spirit and scholarly content of the deliberations."

The Duke general statement of participants (signed by M. Aviam, A. Graham Brock, F.W. Dobbs-Alsopp, C.D. Elledge, S. Gibson, R. Hachlili, A. Kloner, J. Magness, L. McDonald, E. Meyers, S. Pfann, J. Price, C. Rollston, A. Segal, C-L. Seow, J. Zias, and B. Zissu) "To conclude, we wish to protest the misrepresentation of the conference proceedings in the media, and make it clear that the majority of scholars in attendance – including all of the archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers relating to the tomb - either reject the identification of the Talpiot tomb as belonging to Jesus’ family or find this claim highly speculative."

About half of the participants responded. In the end, nearly all would agree that the identification of the Talpiot tomb with that of Jesus and/or his family is really little more than unfounded speculation.

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Rushing to Press on Ruth Gat

Posted by admin on January 23, 2008

On the last night of the Talpiot Tomb Symposium, the statement by Joseph Gath's widow Ruth had the archaeological community mystified. She provided the assembled scholars and media with the dramatic story of a conversation with her husband where he expressed his fears that he had excavated the actual tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.

Earlier in the conference, the participants were shown recently revealed receipts for the ossuaries from Mr. Gat, who recorded that only 4 inscriptions in the tomb had been deciphered. With word out among the participants and the media that he had died in the early 1980's, how could he have been able to arrive at that conclusion before Joseph Naveh had the opportunity to decipher the very difficult "Yeshua? bar Yehosef" inscription?

It was thought that perhaps we heard the widow wrong or perhaps her memory was not as clear as it should be.

On Friday, The Jerusalem Post corrected its first, early '80's dating of Gat's death to the early 90's:

"He said Gat, who died in the early 1990s (and not soon after the 1980 dig, as erroneously reported in Thursday's Post)..."

In fact, Amos Kloner clarified to me yesterday, Joseph Gat died on June 14, 1993, only a year before Rahmani's catalogue was published.

Well then, that changes things. Joseph Gat actually died several years after the "Yeshua? bar Yehosef" inscription had been deciphered by Naveh. This means that he could have heard of the decipherment of the names within the Department and arrived at his own conclusions, voicing his apprehensions to his wife, without revealing them to others.

Apologies may indeed be due to Mrs. Gat, with all due respect! (Even bloggers can rush to press. I have changed this part of my posting "One more nail in the Ossuary" accordingly).

Does this tip the balances toward confirming the Lost Tomb hypothesis of the filmmakers? Not at all.

The observation that Joseph Gat had believed that the tomb was that of Jesus of Nazareth only goes to illustrate that speculation concerning the tomb was already alive and well during the early 90's, well before Ray Bruce proposed this in the BBC special of '96. This new piece of history is but a distraction from the current issue since, with the exception perhaps of Joseph Naveh’s tentative decipherment of the “Yeshua? bar Yehosef” inscription, other essential scientific data, available to us today, were unavailable at that time.

Our job as human beings is to treat Ruth Gat's memories with respect. As scholars our work is to continue to scrutinize the data that is available and to evaluate it carefully, being mindful of our limitations.

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Stephen Pfann's Statement: the long and the short of it

Posted by admin on January 23, 2008

"This is my statement:

I believe that there is enough evidence from the papers at the conference to form the following conclusions:

on DNA

Mark Spiegelman, the teacher of the film's DNA expert, denied that the tests could produce trustworthy results. The DNA of the ossuaries was not protected over time from contamination, nor were the samples taken in such a way that they would have been protected them from further contamination. The source of DNA from either ossuary could be from more recent sources, including people and animals. The fact that mitochondrial DNA from two ossuaries does not match means nothing, according to experts on hand.

on Statistics

The mathematician A. Feuerverger has recently produced a paper dealing with probabilities for family groups in antiquity which has been applauded as a major advancement by various mathematicians and statisticians, including the respondent, Prof. C. Fuchs. Using this method, and based upon assumptions provided by the filmmakers, Feuerverger determined that there is a 1:1600 likelihood (previously 1:600), that this was the family tomb of Jesus Christ. However, if the assumed historic figure Mary Magdalene is removed from the list, he then reduces the likelihood to 1:48. Furthermore, if Yoseh proves to be a common name, then Feuerverger holds that there is no case left for this being the tomb of Jesus. Fuchs, a statistician, criticized Feuerverger's methodology in that it does not account for negative features, including missing names and the extra names that are in this family tomb, which should bring the probability down considerably. He does not believe that this could be the tomb of Jesus from a statistical viewpoint.

on Maria/Mariame/Mariamenou

The epigraphers on hand, J. Price and S. Pfann agreed on the letter by letter reading of the inscription on the so-called Mary Magdalene ossuary, though they did not agree on the presence of two scribal hands (note, however, that Pfann provided evidence from microscopic photos for the two hands). Both Price and Pfann read: MAPIAMH KAI MAPA (or MAPIAM H KAI MAPA). Either way, both agreed that the names are common forms of Mary and that the all-important and unusual form Mariamne (with an "N") is not to be found in this inscription, as the original catalogue incorrectly reads and the filmmakers insist.

Pfann showed from some microscopic photos of the so-called "Yeshua? bar Yehosef" ossuary, that the name Yeshua? is written with a different tool from that used in the last part of the inscription. It is scrawled in a cursive style over an earlier name that had been partially erased. Both names utilized the "bar Yehosef" part of the inscription. This indicates that this individual of the hardly-readable name Yeshua? was not the first family member to be interred in this ossuary, and certainly not the first to be interred in the tomb (against the storyline of the filmmakers).

Gnostic Gospel expert A. De Conick pointed out that "Mariamne" does not actually begin to be used for Mary Magdalene until the 3rd century CE and even then, not exclusively. The Mariamne of the Acts of Philip, used to support the filmmakers' claim, is actually a composite of two "Mary" characters from the New Testament: Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) and Mary Magdalene. In addition, she is purported to be the sister of Philip, a designation known only from the Gnostic gospels and in tension with the New Testament accounts.

S. Pfann pointed out that the sole first-century historical witnesses to Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus, the New Testament, provides mixed uses of the two names Mariam and Maria for both characters, since every Mary had a formal name "Mariam" and an informal name "Maria" (like Jennifer/Jenny; Kathleen/Kate; Elizabeth/Betty). In the New Testament, Mary the mother of Jesus is designated Mariam 13x and Maria 6x, while Mary Magdalene is called Mariam 4x and Maria 11x. (Note that the scale tips in the opposite direction toward "Maria" for Mary M.) In all cases, the earliest witness Mark uses "Maria" for both women. If anything can be derived from this, it is that if there is indeed a "Lady Mary" in the ossuary, it should refer to the mother of Jesus, rather than to Magdalene (not seriously!).

on Joseph/Jose

Similarly, the formal and informal names Yehoseph and Yoseh (Joseph/Joseh) were merely names that were commonly applied to the same person, depending upon the social context (like James/Jim; Robert/Bob; William/Bill). In the Mishnah and Tosefta, Yehosef is rare and Yoseh (Kaufman ms.) is by far preferred (sages of the Hasmonean period onward). [for more] In the NT the same brother is called IWSE (in Mark) and IWSEF (in Matthew). Although there are a few YWSEH Hebrew inscriptions on the ossuaries (2x) the Greek inscribed ossuaries are all IWSH/IOSE (no Josephs). Guess what? The NT manuscripts are written only in Greek (thus, perhaps IWSE should well be expected there).

If one brings this data into the statistical analysis, then the picture changes completely. Concerning name usage in the first century see "How do you solve a problem like Maria".

Meanwhile, I don't believe there is any case, even remotely, that can be convincingly made for this being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

On the one hand, this film has challenged us to consider afresh the methods by which we explore the realia of Second Temple Period History. On the other hand, unfortunately, the true family of this tomb has experienced a kind of “identity theft,” brought upon it in such a way that it is difficult to extricate this family’s story from that of the family of Jesus of Nazareth. In a way, we must now “demythologize” the current story of this tomb in order to allow the actual history of this Judean family to be told through the tantalizing morsels that have been left behind.

Prof. Stephen Pfann

Professor of Second Temple History and Literature

University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem"

Summary form of the statement:

Stephen Pfann's statement:

January 23, 2008

“This is my appraisal of the various panels combined:

1) There is a high probablity of contamination of the ossuaries with foreign DNA and the fact is that Mitocondrial DNA irrelevant for determining family relations. (Spiegelman and Cox)

2) The probability calculations were based upon highly speculative assumptions that Mary Magdalene was in one ossuary and that IOSE is both a surprising name in the Greek New Testament and among the ossuaries. (Feuerverger and Fuchs)

3) MARIAMH KAI MARA or MARIAM H KAI MARA is the correct reading of which are exteremely common first century names, not MARIAMHNOU (said to be the typical name of Mary Magdalene by the filmmakers). (Price and Pfann)

4) A. De Conick pointed out that “Mariamne” does not actually begin to be used for Mary Magdalene until the 3rd century CE and even then, not exclusively.

5) In the New Testament, Mary the mother of Jesus is designated Mariam 13x and Maria 6x, while Mary Magdalene is called Mariam 4x and Maria 11x. (Note that the scale tips in the opposite direction toward “Maria” for Mary M.) In all cases, the earliest witness Mark uses “Maria” for both women.

6) The Greek New Testament the same brother of Jesus is called IWSH (in Mark) and IWSEF (in Matthew). It is likely that this reflects informal and formal spellings of names applied to the same individual. All catalogued Greek ossuaries have IWSH (or IOSE) and not Joseph.

7) The difficult-to-read name "Yeshua?" is not the first name to be written on the "Yeshua? bar Yehosef "ossuary but was overinscribed over an earlier name that was erased. This indicates that the tomb's use was not initiated by the death of this "Jesus" as is asserterted to be the reason for the remainder of his family to be interred in the Jerusalem area.

8 ) Two of the six names Mattiah and Judah son of Jesus are never mentioned in the New Testament. There is no suggestion that Jesus was ever married at all (let alone to Mary Magdalene) in any historical source.

9) All of the "surprising" features of the names on the Talpiot tomb's ossuaries which form the assumptions used in the probabilities calculations are in error or actually not remarkable. The rest is left to speculation.

I don’t believe there is any case, even remotely, that can be convincingly made for this being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

On the one hand, this film has challenged us to consider afresh the methods by which we explore the realia of Second Temple Period History. On the other hand, unfortunately, the true family of this tomb has experienced a kind of “identity theft,” brought upon it in such a way that it is difficult to extricate this family’s story from that of the family of Jesus of Nazareth. In a way, we must now “demythologize” the current story of this tomb in order to allow the actual history of this Judean family to be told through the tantalizing morsels that have been left behind.

Prof. Stephen Pfann

Professor of Second Temple History and Literature

University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem”

Pfann's epigraphic credentials are here

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