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Maria/Miriam

Ossuary 80/505 -- “Maria”

It was the most popular name among first-century Jerusalem women. As many as 25% of the women of the Second Temple period carried it. Indeed, both women whose ossuaries were pulled from the Talpiot tomb were named Mary. But there was a glaring difference between the two inscriptions. A difference that made all the difference in the world.

Ossuary 80/505 was inscribed “Maria” – a Latinized version of the name “Miriam,” rendered in Hebrew letters. Of all the ossuaries ever found, only eight have this particular spelling of “Maria.” The other Mary’s name was rendered in Greek: Mariamne.

A Latin and Greek Mary in the same tomb? Fascinating. And puzzling.

Unless one considers that being found in a tomb along with a “Jesus, son of Joseph” could mean something. Could this Mary be the mother of Jesus of Nazareth? The woman who gave birth to him only to witness his crucifixion? The sainted, haloed figure that has inspired artists for two millennia?

Isn’t it at least suggestive that the mother of Jesus has always been called “Maria?” In many surviving apocryphal books, like the Acts of Philip and others, the Virgin Mary was distinguished from Mary Magdalene by this very name.

L.Y. Rahmani, who wrote the definitive book on the subject of Jewish ossuaries, believes this Mary is of the same generation as, and likely the wife of, the Joseph who is also buried in the Talpiot tomb.

Further, the very earliest of Biblical traditions say that Mary died not in Galilee or Ephesus but in Jerusalem, at an advanced age. Some have argued that any “family” tomb of the family of Jesus would have been in Galilee, where that family was from. However, the Gospels themselves tell us that Mary had come, with some of her children to Jerusalem to follow Jesus in his ministry.


Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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