The Importance of Checking One’s Sources

Any student of ancient Jewish literature realizes that the proper evaluation of one’s sources is essential to the discipline. The earliest literature outside of the DSS which belong to the Jewish tradition is the Tannaitic literature including the Mishnah, the Tosefta and various halakhic commentaries on the Torah. The student will also tell you that he was taught that the best manuscript for the Mishnah, both textually and orthographically, is by far Kaufman A 50. They would also state that the best manuscript of the Tosefta is the Vienna manuscript. The following is excerpted from my earlier May 12th posting on the subject, referred to in James Tabor’s post of yesterday.

In Tal Ilan’s treatment under YWSF, the sole form 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). In the early second century Murabba’at papyri, YWSH, but not YWSY, is found (papMur 46). In most of the Tannaitic manuscripts, YWSY is simply an 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). According to Ilan (p. 159 note 96) YWSH is the predominant form used in Galileen synagogue inscriptions (10x) over against YWSF (1x) (cf. Naveh’s corpus in On Stone and Mosaic, p. 152).

We really don’t have any compelling evidence for the use of YWSY, as opposed to YWSH during the Second Temple Period (or even for some time later). 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”).

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 of the filmmakers that the name Yoseh is so rare. 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”.

The full text is found at:

“Yoseh” or “Yosah”?

The simple fact is that an individual might be called by either name since every individual bears both names, Yosef and Yoseh, depending on the occasion, formal or casual,. Parallel to this is the formal and informal forms of the names Mariam/Maria, Yehoshua’/Yeshua’, Matitiyahu/Mattiah, Yehochanan/Choni etc. For more on formal and informal use of names during the Second Temple period see the article, “How do you solve a problem like Maria“. Also of interest see:

Preliminary Autopsy of CJO 703 (80.502) and CJO 705 (80.504) Mattiah and Yoseh

Demythologizing the Talpiot Tomb: family unit, group No. 1

A Trip to Beth Shemesh


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