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Well, you know how approximately 2 billion people believe that Jesus, a Jewish man, died and then was resurrected?

It seems that a little old lady has just given her husband a re-birth of sorts. And in the process, has brought back to life a little controversy about Jesus and his death.

The widow of the Israeli archeologist who led the excavation of a hugely controversial First-Century burial tomb in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood 28 years ago said on Wednesday that her late husband knew he had found the burial place of Jesus and was afraid the discovery would trigger a wave of anti-Semitism because of the apparent challenge to Christian beliefs.

Ruth Gat unleashed her archeological earthquake when accepting a lifetime achievement award on behalf of her late husband, Yosef Gat of the Department of Antiquities, at the conclusion of a four-day academic conference in Jerusalem, at which leading archaeologists, epigraphers, biblical experts, statisticians and other scholars gathered to evaluate “the Talpiot Tomb in context.”

A small-framed, frail-looking lady, Mrs. Gat told the scholars calmly that her husband knew he had found “the burial tomb of Jesus Christ,” and that he had “serious concerns and fears” over the consequences of his discovery. She noted that Yosef had been a child in Nazi-occupied Poland, and that with his bitter childhood memories still in mind, he had feared “a wave of anti-Semitism” might erupt as a result of the Talpiot find. She said she was relieved that the world had “changed for the better,” and that this feared reaction had not come to pass.

Speaking briefly to The Jerusalem Post after her address, Mrs. Gat said her husband had been “staggered” by the discovery, and that he had discussed it with her “at the kitchen table.”

Gat died soon after excavating the Talpiot tomb in 1980, and left only minimal notes of what had been found there.

Uh oh.

So, like, Jesus was buried?

Well, that’s what Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron claimed in their movie The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Now we don’t always see eye to eye with Mr. Jacobovici (see this and this). Also, we have deep suspicions about any amazing ancient discoveries because some fraudsters tricked the experts for many years.

However, we now have the wife of the Israeli archaeologist who excavated this tomb and who studied it (I’m assuming) at length claiming that her husband believed Jesus was buried in this little ossuary. Jacobovici was at the conference and was overjoyed to hear the news, I’m sure. Not so some of the people who studied the work of Yosef Gat.

The findings were only written up 16 years later by the former Jerusalem District archeologist Amos Kloner, who has consistently ridiculed the notion that the First-Century tomb was related to Jesus in any way. Kloner restated that position to the Post after Mrs. Gat spoke, and said the idea that Gat had believed he had found Jesus’s tomb was “absolutely not the case.”

Uh oh, now I’m really confused.

He’s not the only one to disagree.

At the concluding session of the symposium, following Mrs. Gat’s comments, two of the five panelists – Dr. Shimon Gibson, who was a young archeologist on the 1980 dig, and Eric Meyers, a professor of Judaic Studies at Duke University – indicated that they did not believe the tomb on East Talpiot’s Dov Gruner Street was linked to Jesus. Gibson also said Gat had never told him he believed the tomb was Jesus’s.

But, of course, there are those who agree…

Two others panelists – Israel Knohl, a professor of Bible at the Hebrew University, and James Tabor, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina – said it was very possible that this was the tomb of Jesus.

But another scholar disagreed…

The highly respected chairman of the symposium, James Charlesworth, professor of New Testament language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, rejected the idea that Jesus had been buried at the tomb, but said, “We have to be open to the possibility that [the tomb] is related to the Jesus clan.”

Among his objections to the notion that an ossuary from the Talpiot tomb bearing the apparent inscription “Yeshua son of Yehosef” was that of the founder of Christianity, Charlesworth said, was that the inscription was “graffiti, just scratching,” and that the ossuary was “lousy.” He found it unthinkable that the followers of Jesus would have put “the remains of ‘the messiah’ in such a horrible ossuary.”

Don’t you worry, dear readers, because we are never going to know.

Kloner also told the Post last year that when the ossuaries were found nearly three decades ago, most of the bones inside had been badly decomposed. Due to haredi pressures put on the Israeli government, no anthropological tests were ever carried out on the remains, he said, and the bones were transferred to the Religious Affairs Ministry for immediate reburial along with assorted other remains found in various construction projects and digs. The location of the bones, which were then interred by the Jewish burial society, is not known.

Dem old bones are gone for good and the site is sitting under two buildings.

This isn’t a bad thing because it keeps all these experts and filmmakers gainfully employed for years to come as they debate whether Jesus was buried there or wasn’t buried there and whether the tomb included his family or didn’t include his family. Somebody will come along and declare that even if it is Jesus, somehow the discovery doesn’t change anything about Christianity and then another somebody will come along and declare that it can’t be Jesus because, well, because there were no bones. And so on, and so forth.

And in the meantime Mrs. Ruth Gat will go home quietly, tend to her house and the memories of living with her husband Yosef…with perhaps a small smile on her face.

UPDATE: In comment #15 below, CrockonCrock copies what seems to be a letter from a number of scholars who claim the newspaper reports about Mrs. Gat distort the true conclusions of the scholars at this conference. The letter, which appears to be taken from a blog associated with a university where a couple of the signatories work, states that the scholarly consensus at the conference was that there isn’t any connection between this tomb and Jesus.

(image up top is from The Aramaic Blog, copyright 2007)

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22 Comments

  • Ah, that’s old news actually; it keeps re-appearing though. An ossuary / tomb was found bearing an inscription that would in its rareness equal to family constellations where a son is called Mike and the father’s called Steve. Whether or not the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was found is of little consequence, as Christians would likely challenge geneaology tests (who should the samples be compared to anyway?), also noting that more recent studies in transgenics have shown that all men share way more identitcal genetic material than women do and may even, due to evolution, origin from one male ancestor while females provided more genetic variety. To any non-Christians, the discovery of a grave that could have been that of Jesus of Nazareth is irrelevant, too, as they believe him to have been an everyday human. What might be more important to consider is that without a Jewish concept of the possibility of divine revelation in flesh and blood, end-of-day salvation, and physical re-surrection, Christianity could never have come into existence. Vice versa, Christian eschatology greatly influenced the current Jewish concept of moshiach in post-Second-Temple rabbinical Judaism.

  • This isn’t old news. The claims and the movie received prominence about a year ago and that may be old news. This story is, as the Jerusalem Post put it, a recent earthquake. Read the article again and the premise of the movie (see the link above “The Lost Tomb of Jesus) because this old woman’s statement is from wednesday. That was yesterday. News doesn’t get that much fresher than this.

    If you mean that this find is irrelevant, I would dispute that. There are plenty of Christians who care either because it confirms or dismisses their beliefs. As far as I know, this is also relevant in general because I don’t think there is any historical evidence that there ever was a Jesus. If you could prove this claim, you’d now have evidence of a Jesus. I would guess that’s meaningful. I’d be interested if somebody found Moses’ burial site.

  • If anyone is looking for conclusive evidence pro or con, this seems on the face of it unpromising.

  • Those news have been around since the 1970s and have repeatedly been re-heated (they were also were brought up when “The DaVinci Code” hit the cinemas). I already heard about them back in the day at university in exegesis and historical religious studies classes (sort of a mix between history and archaeology of religion(s) as well as respective religions’ popular history). Historical proof of a Jesus? Tacitus, a Roman historian, reports in his “Annales” about a Jewish splinter group following him. That’s the only non-Christian contemporary giving account of his existence – way more than there’s about many people named in the Torah. But no serious Jewish historian ever rejected the idea that “Yeshuah” was a very common name back in the day – people feared the end of the world afterall, and there were messianic preachers on every street corner of Jerusalem. As for Moses’ burial site, that would give more evidence to anything (unless found on Egyptian or former Egyptian soil) as the name’s of Egyptian origin (compare Tutmosis, Ramose etc.).

    The point many people don’t see is that you cannot believe what you know; beliefs are not based on proofs and knowledge – that is a philosophical approach. Beliefs certainly can stem out of historical proceedings as opposed to completely man-made legends (which many newer, and often decidedly dangerous, religious groups have come up with), but if you look into theological reasonings, be they talmudic or those of, let’s say, Augustine, they do not go for physical proofs; they take the belief as a basis for granted and then try to define the beliefs.

  • Well said, froylein. It’s also worth noting that the Resurrection itself is a mystery: no one is said to have seen it happen, and precisely how it took place is not detailed, not even by Jesus during his subsequent appearances to the apostles.

    As for Moses, he, too, was resurrected and assumed into Heaven, per the account of Jesus’s Transfiguration.

  • Indeed, Eliyahu, Jesus is a hellenized version of Yeshuah. At the time of Jesus’ assumed death, people still spoke Aramaic, the Evangelists mostly used Greek though (thirty to seventy years later; the exact figures are not known and subject to a lot of discussion) as Greek had become the language of the common people. Hebrew was confined to religious practice, which then mostly lay with the Temple priests, and there are historians and linguists that make a valid point when they claim that the diaspora situation has helped to preserve the Hebrew language (considering the cultural and sociological effects of a shared language).

  • As a beleiving Jewish person it states quite explecitly in the Bible that no man knows Moses’s burial place. if anyone were to bring archeological evidence to the contrary this would be meaningless because we beleive in the torah as absolute truth, so if no man knows that is because that is what God decreed. To question this or any other precept of a divine law is nonsense or as others would say heresy. but if you dont beleive then everything is up for debate..

    there is a talmudic view on Yeshu, this is clearly documented, but I dont think it serves any purpose to debate it. the only person who ascended to heaven in his earthly body and remained there thus has no burial place was Elijah the prophet. perhaps the Christian faith took its precedent from there. but Moses the Man Of God was buried on this earth. we just dont know where because that is what God decreed

  • AskRabbiShimmi: actually, in addition to Elias, Enoch was also translated to Heaven (see Genesis 5:21-24).

    As for Jesus’ resurrection: this is an absolute point as we see 300 prophecies in the books from Genesis to Malachi which set forth exactly a multitude of detail on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus across dozens of Jewish prophets over 1000’s of years with none contradicted. What are the odds?

    But not for just blind dedication: my life is transformed and I have personal experience confirmations. I know this is received by the world as instability but I would be guilty of hiding His compassion to all not to attest to this. Shalom.

  • Enoch am aware but the description in the bible is only “he is no more for God took him”, jewish sages say that he became the archangel Metat… do not want invoke full name as is forbidden.

    the Biblical description of a chariot ascending is only by Elijah, not to be confused with Elias who was his disciple.

    your statement about 300 prophecies is christian interpretation of unambigious text to suit their beleifs, but please lets not go down that route since I have no interest to save your soul, it is actually against Jewish doctrine to proselityze or misionary work whereas it is the mainstay of your religion, and you aint gonna save my soul cos have no interest to be “saved”

    I am truly pleased for your personal experience of proof in your beleif system and in fact I see that in a very positive light, since any faith or beleif transalates into responsibility. if you are a true beleiver then that beleif makes demands on you to behave morally and justly according to the precepts of your faith.

    its one thing to have an intellectual debate about theological teachings but once you try to convince someone else that yours is the true faith isnt that simply a sign of weakness?…. you are saying look what my beleifs have done for me so you require acknowledgement and justification, if others will follow thats proof unto yourself that you have the truth. if you are a true beleiver then you dont need approval from anyone else. these are just my thoughts am not quoting any scriptures texts or otherwise. just thinking out of the box in a logical fashion (A great sin where I come from!!!)

  • RE: its one thing to have an intellectual debate about theological teachings but once you try to convince someone else that yours is the true faith isnt that simply a sign of weakness?

    On the intellectual debate, you mentioned Enoch becoming an archangel: I couldn’t tell from your response if you agreed that he was translated or if he died? I understood it to be the correct interpretation.

    On the theology: Judiasm is absolutely true! Sorry if I gave any other impression. I hold entirely to the Pentateuch and prophets (yes, studied it all repeatedly). Why judge the post as weak or proselytizing? I was only sharing the hope and encouragement (to all of us) of the reality of G-d actively working in our lives today: changing lives and truly giving fellowship to those who draw near to Him. I detailed Christ’s resurrection as an absolute matter of our faith as with G-d, there is no error and scripture is clear. I didn’t layout the details of the things we believe confirm our path or share how you can receive what we believe is the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life. THAT would be proselytizing. This was is a religious info exchange.

    BTW: this seems like a good place to mention that any true believer cannot have any enmity w/Judaism but only Brotherhood. As G-d inspired in the Pentateuch: Numbers 24
    1 Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel…
    4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty…
    5 “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
    … 9 …”May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”

    Blessings.
    PS: Some of the ‘life’ and ‘experience’ stuff I’ve glossed over here are clarified at myspace dot com / jflins as well as my email.

  • Christ deviated from Judaism, and to this day his legacy is responsible for world wide antisemetism. Please stop insulting me.

  • RE: Christ deviated from Judaism
    – absolutely, although he held to all the prophets and the law until his time was fulfilled

    RE: and to this day his legacy is responsible for world wide antisemetism.
    – hmmm, I thought it was those who killed him which were the catalysts; no?

    RE: Please stop insulting me.
    Didn’t think I could have been more respectful or sincere. Have you checked the definition of that word? (ok, maybe that was a little push-back on the false accusation, but otherwise, where?)

  • No offence meant, lads, but this is not the place to discuss pseudo-Christian vs pseudo-Jewish doctrine. Jews do not believe Jesus of Nazareth to be “Christ” (the Greek equivalent of “moshiach”), no matter how you bend it. The Roman legal system provided for Jesus’ death, and he was executed by Romans. Romans didn’t consider him “Christ” either, to them he was a person threatening public peace, which was generally punished by death penalty. Indeed, the entire Via Appia leading to Rome was lined with the decomposing remains of crucified people that had been executed on grounds of crimes we’d consider minor today, but in that day and age the rulers obviously were of a different opinion. And apparently people were less smell-sensitive back then, too.

  • The Talpiot Tomb Controversy Revisited

    A firestorm has broken out in Jerusalem following the conclusion of the “Third Princeton Theological Seminary Symposium on Jewish Views of the Afterlife and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism: Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context.” Most negative assessments of archaeologists and other scientists and scholars who attended have been excluded from the final press reports. Instead the media have presented the views of Simcha Jaocobovici, who produced the controversial film and book “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” with Hollywood director James Cameron, and who claims that his identification has been vindicated by the conference papers. Nothing further from the truth can be deduced from the discussion and presentations that took place on January 13-17, 2008.

    A statistical analysis of the relatively common names engraved on the ossuaries leaves no doubt that the probability of the Talpiot tomb belonging to Jesus’ family is virtually nil if the Mariamene named on one of the ossuaries is not Mary Magdalene. 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. An expert panel of scholars on the subject of Mary in the early church dismissed out of hand the suggestion that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus, and no traditions suggest that Jesus had a son named Judah (another person named on an ossuary from
    this tomb). Moreover, the DNA evidence used to suggest that Jesus had a wife was dismissed by the Hebrew University team that devised such procedures and who have conducted such research all over the world. Even the ossuary inscribed with the name “Jesus son of Joseph” is paralleled by a find from another Jerusalem tomb, and at least one speaker said the reading of the name “Jesus” on the Talpiot tomb ossuary was not certain. Testimony from archaeologists who were involved in the excavation of the Talpiot tomb left no doubt that the “missing” tenth ossuary was plain and uninscribed, eliminating any possibility that it is the so-called “James ossuary.”

    The identification of the Talpiot tomb as the tomb of Jesus’ family flies in the face the canonical Gospel accounts, which are the earliest traditions describing Jesus’ death and burial. According to these accounts Jesus was placed in the tomb of a prominent ollower named Joseph of Arimathea. Since at least the early fourth century Christians have venerated the site of Jesus’ burial at the spot marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In contrast, not a single tradition, Christian or otherwise, preserves any reference to or recollection of a family tomb of Jesus anywhere in Jerusalem.

    The smoking gun at the conference was the surprise appearance of Ruth Gat, the widow of the archaeologist who excavated the tomb in 1980 and died soon afterwards. Mrs. Gat announced that her husband had known about the identification all along but was afraid to tell anyone because of the possibility of an anti-Semitic reaction. However, Joseph Gat lacked the expertise to read the inscriptions. His supervisor and other members of the Israel Antiquities Authority believe that Gat could not have made such a statement in his lifetime since the inscriptions seem to have been deciphered only after he had passed away. Jacobovici now claims that Mrs. Gat’s statement has vindicated his claims about the tomb.

    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 unlikely.

    Sincerely,

    Professor Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Professor Eric M. Meyers, Duke University
    Choon-Leon Seow, Princeton Theological Seminary
    F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Princeton Theological Seminary
    Lee McDonald, Princeton Theological Seminary, visiting
    Rachel Hachlili, Haifa University
    Motti Aviam, University of Rochester
    Amos Kloner, Bar Ilan University
    Christopher Rollston, Emmanuel School of Religion
    Shimon Gibson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    Joe Zias, Science and Antiquity Group, Jerusalem
    Jonathan Price, Tel Aviv University
    C.D. Elledge, Gutavus Adolphus College

  • I’ve been studying this find for years, long before it became public knowledge following the mass media exposure. I believe that it’s a serious find, which warrants further study.

    The critics of this find’s magnitude basically argue:

    1. That the Jesus family would be buried in Nazareth, not Talpiot;
    2. That the ‘Jesus’ ossuary would have been inscribed ‘of Nazareth’;
    3. That the Jesus family couldn’t have afforded a tomb like the Talpiot tomb;
    4. That the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary is not inscribed “Yeshua” (Jesus) at all;
    5. That the names inscribed on these ossuaries were supposedly common;
    6. That the “Mariamne” ossuary didn’t contain the remains of Mary Magdalene, but of two other women;

    I believe the first five of these allegations against the book’s premise don’t carry much water. The sixth argument actually supports the conclusion that this is the real thing. My comments:

    1. Talpiot is the right place for Jesus’ family tomb- Per Luke, 2:3-4, the family’s LEGAL residence was Bethlehem, not Nazareth. The fact that Joseph and the pregnant Mary could not take the census in Nazareth but had to take it in Bethlehem indicates that Bethlehem was their DOMICILIUM under Roman Law. That basically means that they had no intention to reside in Nazareth permanently. Therefore it would have made little sense for them to have a family tomb in Nazareth, that they wouldn’t be able to frequently visit at a later stage in their lives. They would have wanted a family tomb close to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, easily accessible also to future generations of the family. The fact is indeed that Mary and her children moved to Jerusalem around 30 AD.

    2. The traditional name of Jesus in Hebrew, as reflected also in the Talmud, is “Yeshu Hanotzri.” This appellation stems from “Netzer” (Shoot or Branch). It alludes clearly to Isaiah 11:1, indicating the Royal birth of Jesus, to substantiate his claim for Jewish messiahship. Not to indicate the place he comes from.

    There’s actually no evidence in Jewish sources, such as the Old Testament or the Mishna and Talmud, that a place called “Nazareth” even existed in or before the first century. I’m not disputing the evidence per the NT, that there was indeed a place called Nazareth. But to the best of my knowledge, there’s no mention of Nazareth at all in any ancient writings outside the New Testament. So the place existed, but nobody knew about it. And those in close proximity in Galilee who did know about it, obviously thought derogatorily of it , cf. “can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46.) Therefore there was no reason to call Jesus “of Nazareth.” Either in life or on an ossuary. He was called “Jesus the Branch” (of David) in Hebrew/Aramaic.

    The line of argumentation detracting this discovery around the supposed Nazareth origin of Jesus’ family may therefore be based on a very shaky foundation.

    3. Talpiot is located about 2.5 miles North of Bethlehem. Jesus’ family, of Davidic descent according to the New Testament, could have held the burial cave there even before it moved to Nazareth. Davidic birth was absolutely the most exalted in Judaism, always. The suggestion that any person of Davidic descent could be of the lowest social echelon, that couldn’t fund or get funding for a burial cave, doesn’t make much sense, if any. There’s substantial evidence to the contrary, e.g. 1. Jesus had some very wealthy active supporters like Joseph of Arimatea and Nicodemus (known as Nakdimon ben Gorion in post biblical Jewish sources-one of the richest Jews in Judea;) 2. Josephus, A.J. XX, 9:1. Note the prominence of James, brother of Jesus.

    4. The inscription on the Jesus ossuary does say “Yeshua bar Yehosef” (“Jesus son of Joseph”)to my eye. All letters but one are quite clearly there. The only letter which is somewhat more difficult to discern at first blush is the second letter- “Shin”. That’s because it’s written in a somewhat irregular form (in a regular Shin there are three teeth in the fork, pointing upwards. Here there are two teeth, pointing sideways to the right.) But that particular irregularity appears also on other ossuaries- notably numbers 9 (this one has two “Shin”- one with three teeth pointing to the right, and one with TWO teeth pointing to the right. Exactly like the subject inscription) and 121 in the Rahmani catalogue, which both feature also a “Yeshua.”

    Still, the name “Yeshua” on this ossuary is among the most, if not the most, difficult to read names of all ossuaries listed in Rahmani’s catalogue of Jewish ossuaries. It is almost written as a person’s complex signature on a check. Contrast that with the patronymic following the first name. This is written in a simple straightforward fashion, which is very easy to read. There’s no other example in Rahmani’s catalogue of a first name that has to be deciphered, and a patronymic that’s so plain and clear. Is this merely a coincidence?

    5. Some critics make the following comment to my post:

    “The inscription, Pfann said, is made up of two names inscribed by two different hands: the first, “Mariame,” was inscribed in a formal Greek script, and later, when the bones of another woman were added to the box, another scribe using a different cursive script added the words “kai Mara,” meaning “and Mara.” Mara is a different form of the name Martha.

    According to Pfann’s reading, the ossuary did not house the bones of “Mary the teacher,” but rather of two women, “Mary and Martha.'”

    Here’s my thought about that:
    If the Mariamne ossuary indeed housed the bones of Mary and Martha, these are two sisters of NT fame. One of them could have been married to “Jesus son of Joseph.” -Whether or not she was Mary Magdalene (Maybe the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet and then dried them with her hair- very intimate scene.) The other sister would than also automatically belong in the family. It still fits. Actually it increases the statistical odds that this is the real thing quite substantially.
    This is a very intriguing possibility indeed, fitting perfectly with John 12:3. Intimate contact with a man, as described in this NT passage, was allowed only to a woman who was an immediate blood relative of that man, his wife (…or a working woman.) That’s all. Therefore Mary of Bethany was quite possibly by elimination Jesus’ wife or in the process of becoming his wife. In that context, Margaret Starbird already theorized that similar anointing with spikenard oil was part of pre marriage ritual of a Davidic king, per certain passages in the Song of Songs. Note also that intercourse by itself was sufficient under Jewish Law in certain circumstances to constitute valid marriage. That practice, termed Bi’ah marriage, was abolished in the 6th century, but it was lawful in Jesus’ time.

    Mary of Bethany could have become pregnant by Jesus while he stayed at her house, shortly before his crucifixion. In that case it’s quite possible that she bore Jesus’ son posthumously and named him “Judah.” And in that case both she and her sister Martha would have become part of Jesus’ family, which earned them a place in the Talpiot family tomb..

    Reminds me of the reaction to this find of a BBC reporter in 1996- It seems like all balls in the national lottery coming one by one.

    I have no knowledge of Greek, so I can only discuss the two propositions. Assuming that the ossuary does say “Mary and Martha”, here’s what I think the names are:
    * 1.”Jesus son of Joseph”(“Yeshua bar Yehosef” in Hebrew/Aramaic script;)
    * 2. “Mary” (“Marya” in Hebrew/Aramaic script);
    * 3. “Joseph” (“Yose” in Hebrew/Aramaic script. Precise nickname of Jesus’ second brother- cf. Mark 6:3);
    * 4. “Mary and Martha” (“Mariame kai Mara” in Greek)-they must have been sisters because Jewish law didn’t allow burial together of two unrelated women;
    * 5. “Matthew” (“Matya” in Hebrew/Aramaic script)- Name of Jesus’ first cousin, son of his father’s brother Alphaeus/Clophas. As James Tabor suggests in a different context, Matya could also well have been Jesus’ half brother, considering a certain specific rule of the Torah (Deuteronomy 25:5-10.) This rule was applied in Jesus time- see Matthew 22:24-28;
    * 6. “Judah son of Jesus”(“Yehuda bar Yeshua” in Hebrew/Aramaic script.)
    * Therefore out of eight names actually inscribed on these ossuaries (including the “Joseph” father of Jesus on the first ossuary) four names undoubtedly relate to Jesus’ immediate family, and three other names relate to the same with a somewhat lower probability. In any event, they all relate to Jesus’ extended family. Note that first century Jewish family tombs were usually a clan thing.
    * The eighth name is “Yehuda bar Yeshua”- must have been the son of Jesus and one of the sisters Mary or Martha. More likely Mary, as explained above.

    6. While the full versions of all these names were indeed common in Jesus’ time, the derivatives, nicknames and contractions were not. Thus “Yeshua” for Jesus was less common than “YeHOshua;” ditto “YeHOsef” instead of “Yosef” for Joseph; “Marya” for Mary was extremely rare in Hebrew/Aramaic script; “Yose” for Joseph is unique. Therefore out of these eight names, two are irregularities, one is a particularity, and one a singularity.

    BOTTOM LINE- Ask yourself inversely a hypothetical question- If the Talpiot tomb hadn’t yet been found, how would Jesus’ family tomb have looked , which ossuaries would it have contained, to when would it have been dated and where would it have been located.

    I would have thought of a tomb just like the tomb we’re discussing. It fits perfectly with what I’d have expected Jesus’ family tomb to be. Right place, right period, right names. I therefore believe that this matter, delicate as it obviously is, warrants further investigation. This could include opening and examination of the adjacent tomb, and forensic examination of the skeletal remains found in the Talpiot ossuaries, and apparently reburied back in 1980. These could hopefully be relocated by comparison to the mithochondrial DNA samples already taken from two of these ossuaries.

  • Great comment, thank you Itamar. Also, I love the pictures on your family website. You wife is still quite beautiful but when she was younger, she was stunning. Your boys are handsome as well. Are you all living in the US now or do you still have a connection to Israel?

  • Thanks. We live in the US and frequently visit Israel. Click on “In Memoriam” on the lower left side of my web page and you’ll see who was the best looking person in my family…Take care.

  • Haha. You guys are funny=)LOL. Always arguing and arguing like the guys in synagogs when Yeshuah Christ God was teaching as a boy giving these greybeards hard time. of course it goes on and on and on. Like it is said in the scriptures. Yepp. Yeshuah was a bit radical then and is too radical now. My life was turned around too Jack and I am ever so Grateful Not To Die=). Peace from the Prince Of Peace King Of Kings. Amen

    • There is just ONE King of Kings. And he wasn’t born in a manger in Bethlehem. Just letting you know…

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