Location: KS, USA
Subject: Mara inscription
How do you think the inscriptions are marked on the wall of the ossuary? I'm wondering if the variations in the alpha characters might have been the result of difficulty with the inscribing instrument. I am trying to imagine a person sitting facing the box holding it at an angle with his left hand and trying to gouge in the letters with a knife or with a sharpened piece of metal, something that could dull or break at any moment, interrupting a stroke.
I finished reading The Jesus Discovery this morning. I think the authors respond to the objections well. If one stripped out all the religious angst related to these names, this discovery would be generally considered a solid identification. IMHO, the Patio Tomb seals the deal.
My first thought on reading (in The Jesus Discovery) the points made about this inscription immediately reminded me of your discussion of the meaning of "Magdalene" in Herodian Messiah. Looks like you deduced it without knowing about this development.
Subject: reply to Peter
>>How do you think the inscriptions are marked on the wall of the ossuary? I'm wondering if the variations in the alpha characters might have been the result of difficulty with the inscribing instrument. <<
It's my understanding that the standard method was to scratch the inscription into the side of the ossurary with a nail as the stone is quite soft. Whatever writing conditions existed for the creation of the first two alphas should have also existed for the last two. It's difficult to account for the close uniformity of the first two alphas then the extreme variation in the fourth. I personally believe there are only two possibilities: (a) two different individuals wrote the two words that comprise the inscription or (b) the last letter in the inscription is not an alpha.
On the inscriptions taken as a whole, I think the soundness of the statistical conclusions are oversold in the book based on the assumptions. That's unfortunate as there was no need to oversell. The tomb is interesting. The potential Christian connection in the Patio Tomb is very intersting but I think it needs to be excavated before any conclusions can be drawn. I'm not clear on how connected the Patio Tomb is to the main chamber at Talpiot. Did they go through a wall to a completely separate tomb? Were the two rooms of a single connected tomb complex? The book says the Patio Tomb is "a couple of hundred feet away". That seems too far to be part of the same tomb complex. If the Patio Tomb with the Christian markings is a completely separate tomb that just happens to be close by the Jesus Tomb then I don't really think one can apply evidence found in the Patio Tomb to interpret the names at the Jesus Tomb.
>>My first thought on reading (in The Jesus Discovery) the points made about this inscription immediately reminded me of your discussion of the meaning of "Magdalene" in Herodian Messiah. Looks like you deduced it without knowing about this development.<<
Yes, I was advocating Mary as a woman of royal birth from 2005, I believe, and adopted the argument I read elsewhere that "Magdala" = tower, with the suggestion that the meaning was "towering one" much like the appelation "the great". The interpretation put forth by Dr. Tabor of the 'Mariamenou Mara' inscription as being Lady Mariamne (a royal designation) is consistent with my theory. It's also interesting that this inscription is the only one in Greek. Legend has Mary Magdalene going into exile in southern Gaul. Massila (present day Marseilles) was an independent Greek city prominently used as a location for exile by Roman nobility. Under my theory Mary Magdalene was the older sister of Herodias, who was sent into exile in Gaul with Herod Antipas in 39 CE. Antipas died shortly after going into exile. Did the two sisters reunite in exile? Does the Greek inscription indicate that 'Mariamenou Mara' died in the diaspora in a Hellenized city and her remains were returned to Jerusalem after death? I think that is a fair inference but still speculative. The problem is that I don't quite understand how 'Mariamenou Mara' in Greek translates to Lady Mariamne. Mara is not a greek word to my knowledge, which made me wonder whether the inscription really reads 'Mara' (Μαρα).
One part of the evidence put forward in The Jesus Discovery that I found odd was the arugment that DNA testing showed that individual in the 'Mariamenou Mara' ossuary was not related to the person in the 'Jesus son of Joseph' ossuary. First, they only had bone fragments / residue found in the ossuaries to work with. Quite often the bones of multiple individuals were placed inside the same ossuary. For instance, the ossuary found in the Abba Tomb contained the bones of four individuals. Secondly, if Jesus and Mary Magdalene were both Hasmonean royals, I would have expected them to be related to one another. I'm not certain the degree of sanguinity detected in DNA tests. First cousins? Second cousins? So I'm uncertain what this DNA test shows in regard to degree of relation.
The second most interesting inscription, from my perspective, is Matya (a form of Matthias). That is a Hasmonean name not associated with the family of Jesus in the New Testament. Of course, I argue in Herodian Messiah that Jesus was the grandson of King Mattatayah Antigonus and that this was the true birth name of Jesus. Four of the six inscribed names found at the tomb were Hasmonean (Matthias, Judah, and two Mariams).
I haven't reached a position yet on the Talpiot Tomb. It's very interesting but there is no smoking gun in my view. I believe Jesus suvived the cross and went into exile in Parthia, largely supported by my identification of Jesus as the Egyptian of Josephus. His remains could have been repatriated to Jerusalem from Parthia after his death in exile (as was the case with King Antigonus) but it lowers the probability that the Talpiot ossuary is that of Jesus. Another possibility is that this tomb represents a later generation of the family of Jesus. It seems reasonable to me that the name "Yeshua" would have been used with honor by the brothers of Jesus (and their later descendants) when naming their own sons. We'll see what other evidence emerges.
From: Peter |
Date: Monday, June 18, 2012, 17:09:12
>>If the Patio Tomb with the Christian markings is a completely separate tomb that just happens to be close by the Jesus Tomb then I don't really think one can apply evidence found in the Patio Tomb to interpret the names at the Jesus Tomb.<<
Well, I don't know. Fifty meters is a lot closer than people think. Even if it were 200 meters away, I would think it significant. I would think you have to cut into rock where it best avails itself. You are right that it doesn't prove anything conclusively, but I hardly see it as a weakness; quite the opposite. It will indeed be interesting to fully excavate it the Patio Tomb. I think the orthodox probably need to stand aside on this one, and I'm guessing they will eventually.
On the inscription, it's hard for me to imagine a nail used on tuffa rock as anything that will produce consistent results. You may be right, but it looks an awful lot like an alpha to me.
I too thought about the fact that both DNA samples should suggest Hasmonean DNA, so it would be interesting to find out more about sanguinity parameters.
>>I believe Jesus suvived the cross and went into exile in Parthia, largely supported by my identification of Jesus as the Egyptian of Josephus. His remains could have been repatriated to Jerusalem from Parthia . . .<<
Yes--similarly, Eusebius remarks that Judas Thomas's bones were repatriated to Edessa from the far east (India or the Suren Kingdom).
From: jjray |
Date: Monday, June 18, 2012, 20:37:06
Didn't know about the repatriation of Judas Thomas. Interesting that he was sent to Edessa instead of Jerusalem. Had Jerusalem been destroyed when the repatriation occurred?
>>nail used on tuffa rock<<
Tuffa rock is something found in Rome to my knowledge, not Jerusalem. Ossuaries in Jerusalem from the 1 century CE are generally made out of soft limestone. The James ossuary was limestone so expect the ossuaries in from Talpiot to have been as well.
>>Fifty meters is a lot closer than people think. <<
It depends on the spacing of tombs in the area. It is my understanding that the preferred burial location of the period is close to the west side of the Mount of Olives. How many other tombs are in this area? How far apart are these tombs spaced? Are tombs located next to each an indication of some sort of family relation. The book presents no data ... just the bald assertion that the tombs are related due to the proximity. In my view, more is needed. If this area essentially consisted as a city of the dead 2000 years ago where people did not live, 50 meters doesn't really mean much. I really don't know the answers to these questions so I'm withholding judgment.
I went back to reread the section of the book where the Talpiot neighborhood is introduced. The book says a third tomb was 60 feet away from the Garden tomb but was destroyed during construction with only one wall left standing. See page 34. The book gives the impression that these are the only three tombs anywhere near this area. I did see Tabor say in a Youtube clip or somewhere that the book was not intended for the specialist. Thus, he could have a more detailed argument on this issue but didn't present it in the book because of the target audience.
From: Peter |
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 06:42:31
Yes, I recall that from page 34. I had that sense too. What a shame that tomb was destroyed. I should have remembered it was limestone--Somewhere I was reading about tuffa and got the context mixed up. On Judas Thomas, yes--that is the assumption, that the Temple had already fallen and Jerusalem destroyed. Eisenman points out that the district around Haran was an alternate "capital" for Jewish Christianity--the area near Edessa, and oddly enough, Carrhae.