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Jesus Dynasty Blog

Follow James Tabor, biblical scholar and archeologist, on his journey to uncover some of the most controversial mysteries surrounding the life and death of Jesus.

Find yourself transported to the past with Tabor’s riveting Jesus Dynasty blog and encounter central figures of the Bible in an unparalleled new way.

The Name Yoseh on the Talpiot Tomb Ossuary

By Dr. James. D. Tabor
April 2, 2007, @ 8:45 am

I want to initiate a series of posts on the names on the six inscribed ossuaries found in the Talpiot “Jesus” tomb. There has been quite a bit of discussion of these on the Web, and more recently in print, and I hope I can offer some helpful discussion on a number of issues that have been raised. I have found the work of Stephen and Claire Pfann to be particularly helpful and provocative, though as readers will see below, and in subsequent posts, their conclusions and my own are quite different. Clearly, any case made for this tomb being that of Jesus of Nazareth, in the end, will turn on these inscribed names, how they are to be read or deciphered, and what possible correspondence they might have to the named family of Jesus as known to us in various textual sources.

Ossuary 80.504 in the State of Israel collection (no. 705 in the Rahmani Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries) is a case in point. It is a plain or undecorated ossuary with the following clear Hebrew/Aramaic inscription, namely the letters Yod, Vav, Samech, and Heh. It is properly read or pronounced in English as Yoseh. It is a shortened form of the full name Joseph/Yehosef, the most common male Jewish name in the period…

To read the rest of this entry, please visit The Jesus Dynasty Blog site.

Imagining A Hypothetical Jesus Family Tomb

By Dr. James. D. Tabor
May 26, 2007, @ 8:37 am

The first time the Talpiot “Jesus” tomb received any public attention was sixteen years after its excavation when a BBC produced documentary titled “The Body in Question” aired in the UK on Easter 1996. The London Sunday Times ran a feature story titled “The Tomb that Dare Not Speak Its Name,” based on that documentary. Both the documentary and the newspaper article called attention to the interesting cluster of names inscribed on six ossuaries found in the tomb: Jesus son of Joseph, two Marys, a Joseph, a Matthew, and a Jude son of Jesus. A flurry of wire stories followed with headlines that the “tomb of Jesus” had perhaps been found. Archaeologists, officials from the Israel Antiquities Authority, and biblical scholars quickly weighed in, assuring the public that “the names were common.”

One lone voice, Joe Zias, an anthropologist with the IAA at the Rockefeller at that time, demurred, stating that the cluster of names considered together was so significant that had he not known they were from a provenanced IAA excavation he would have been certain they were forged. Zias called for further investigation. Within a short time the press dropped the story and no one in the academy other than Zias saw any reason for more to be done. It was in response to that 1996 story, and the attention that it drew, that Amir Drori, director of the IAA, asked Amos Kloner to write up an official report on the tomb, published later that year in ‘Atiquot’.

The current 2007 discussion of the tomb, also prompted by a TV documentary, though heated and passionate in some quarters, has also prompted a few academic responses, though most all who have written on the subject have found the evidence lacking for identifying this particular “Jesus” tomb with that of the historical Jesus of Nazareth and his family, and most consider the hypothesis overly speculative or even academically irresponsible.

My view is quite the opposite. I am convinced that there is a surprisingly close fit between what we might postulate as a hypothetical pre-70 CE Jesus family tomb based on our textual records, and this particular tomb with its contents. Rather than starting with the tomb and its six inscribed ossuaries, and exploring all the alternative possibilities, which given the scarcity of data, are endless, I take different approach. It is true, for example, that a name like Yose, appearing alone without patronym, could be any male of a Jewish clan, whether father, brother, son, nephew, or uncle. But if we begin with our historical records asking a different question—who was the “Yose” in Jesus’ life and is there any reason we might expect him to be in a hypothetical pre-70 CE Jesus tomb?—the answer is specific and singular. Rather than starting with an endlessly open and undetermined set of “unknowns,” my approach, in terms of method, is to begin with the specific “knowns.” Essentially what I want to do is test a hypothesis, something we constantly do when we seek to correlate the material evidence of archaeology within our known textual and chronological “horizons.” It is obvious, no matter what one’s theory might be, that one can always posit other possibilities and alternatives. That is why some can still not agree on whether or not there is a “fit” between the sect described in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the site of Qumran. In terms of method I think what I suggest here can turn out to be quite enlightening and I hope it will contribute to the discussion in a positive way.

What I want to ask here is what one might imagine for a hypothetical, pre-70 CE, Jerusalem tomb of Jesus and his family? Given our textual evidence, what might we reasonably construct in terms of likelihood?

To read the rest of this entry, please visit The Jesus Dynasty Blog site.

The Talpiot Tomb: Separating Truth from Fiction

By Dr. James. D. Tabor
April 29, 2007, @ 9:00 am

With the initial airing of the Discovery Channel documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” in the U.S., Canada, and Israel, and the publication of the book, The Jesus Family Tomb by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pelligrino, the Talpiot “Jesus tomb” has generated an avalanche of media coverage and Internet discussion. A simple Google search for the string “Jesus family tomb” generates a million and a half Web sites. The passions and emotions on this topic have been high, and correct and reliable information has been hard to come by. In this post I want to attempt to sort through a list of the “fictions” regarding the Tomb, its discovery, and its investigation, focusing on things that have been reported or written over the past month that are, to my knowledge, in error.

I should also point out that a consideration of the tomb itself as an historical and archaeological site, and a fair and unbiased examination of the evidence thereof, has nothing necessarily to do with the matter of how one might evaluate the film produced by James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici. Whether the film is judged convincing or unconvincing, good or bad, as a film, that should remain a separate issue. I personally am quite positive about the film in terms of its genre as a film, but what really matters in the end is what the evidence related to the tomb indicates in terms of its possible or even probable identification with Jesus of Nazareth.

The following is a list of what I judge to be the top twenty “fictions” related to the discussion of the Talpiot tomb.

To read the rest of this entry, please visit The Jesus Dynasty Blog site.

Jesus Dynasty Blog Archive

The Name Yoseh on the Talpiot Tomb Ossuary09/02/2007
Imagining A Hypothetical Jesus Family Tomb05/26/2007
The Talpiot Tomb: Separating Truth from Fiction04/29/2007
The Talpiot Jesus Tomb: An Overview04/09/2007
Reading the Names on the Mariamene Ossuary03/16/2007

Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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