The Jesus Family Tomb
||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Talpiot Tomb. (Discuss) Proposed since January 2013.|
The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History (ISBN 0061192023) is a controversial book by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles R. Pellegrino (with a Foreword by James Cameron) published in February 2007. It tells the story of the discovery of the Talpiot Tomb and makes an argument that it is the tomb of Jesus Christ and his "family."
The Names in the Tomb
The tomb in Talpiot, excavated in 1980 during salvage archaeology, originally contained ten ossuaries - bone boxes for secondary burial. Of the ten, one has disappeared - presumably stolen. Of the other nine, six were inscribed with names:
- Yeshua bar Yosef - inscription in Aramaic, meaning "Jesus son of Joseph." By itself, it does not constitute conclusive evidence, since there were likely over a thousand men named "Yeshua bar Yosef" in first-century Jerusalem. However, the other five names are all allegedly connected with the New Testament Jesus.
- "Mariamne, also known as Mara", an inscription in Greek. "Mara" could be the Aramaic word for "Lord" or "Master", the Hebrew name meaning "Bitter" (found in Ruth 1:20), or a nickname, a shortened version of "Mariamne."
- Maria - a name apparently in Latin, but written in Hebrew letters.
- Yosa - believed to be the same as Ioses or Joses, the name of one of the brothers of Jesus listed in the New Testament's book of Mark (6:3). Yosa is the diminutive of Yosef similar to Joey being the diminutive of Joseph in English. Such a name has not been found in any ossuary other than this and it is noteworthy that the ossuary was that of an adult. Hence, the book speculates, this would be a strong indication that Yosa would be the son of Yosef, or Yeshua's brother ("Yeshua bar Yosef") just as in Mark.
- Yehuda bar Yeshua - "Judah, son of Jesus." (Inscription in Aramaic). Otherwise unknown. According to the authors, same as Jude, known also as Thomas, the "Twin." Among the several theories presented in the book is that he was the son of Jesus, but was publicly presented as the brother of Jesus, in order to save him from being executed as a pretender to the throne of Israel. He was known as "Twin" (Thomas, Didymus, etc.) presumed to be his brother but really his father.
- Matiah - a name in Hebrew, the original form of the names of the apostles Matthew and Matthias. His presence in the family tomb implies he was also a relative of Jesus, as were some of the other apostles.
The tenth ossuary
The authors present a case for the ossuary of James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus (Yaakov ben Yosef akhui diYeshua). This controversial relic, accepted as legitimate by some, is believed by others in the field as fraudulent. Prominent among those who believe its authenticity is Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review. An ongoing forgery trial in Israel has failed to disprove its authenticity. These doubts are the result of the ossuary being unprovenanced - that is, not found in a legitimate excavation. The book presents what the authors purport to be firm scientific evidence that the James ossuary is the missing tenth ossuary from the Talpiot tomb.
The film makers from The Lost Tomb of Jesus had the outside layer of dirt tested against the other 9 ossuaries that were found in the tomb, and the dirt on the outside of the James ossuary was proven to be made up of the same minerals as the other 9 ossuaries. In the documentary they stated that this was nearly impossible if not from the same tomb.
Not only are some of the names on the bone boxes relatively common names, but no writings of Jesus' life, canonical or apocryphal, reported a marriage or children. The authenticity of the nine remaining ossuaries, and of the names inscribed on them, is under no doubt or suspicion. However, the identities of these people are open to much controversy and debate. They are either nine otherwise unknown Jewish people from first-century Jerusalem, or Jesus himself and, presumably, eight members of his family. Recently, some of the scholars quoted in the Discovery Channel documentary have issued strong clarifications, backtracking on some of the central claims made in the film and book. Namely, University of Toronto statistician Professor Andrey Feuerverger, whose conservative statistical analysis claimed that the odds were 600:1 in favor of the tomb being the burial site of Jesus' family, has clarified his opinion, saying that these odds relate to the chances that these particular names would be found in one tomb, and not to the particular identification of individuals in the tomb.
Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner, who was among the first to examine the tomb when it was first discovered, said the names marked on the coffins were very common at the time. "I don't accept the news that it was used by Jesus or his family", he told the BBC News website. "The documentary filmmakers are using it to sell their film."
Following a symposium at Princeton in January 2008 the media interest in the Talpiot tomb was reignited with most notably Time and CNN devoting extensive coverage, hailing the case as being re-opened. Following the media's portrayal scholars present at the symposium accused Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron for misleading the media in claiming the symposium re-opened their theory as viable. Several scholars, including significantly several of the archaeologists and epigraphers, who had delivered papers at the symposium issued an open letter of complaint claiming misrepresentation, saying that Jacobovici and Cameron's claims of support from the symposium are "nothing further from the truth".
The list of scholars included:
- 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, University of Haifa
- 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, Gustavus Adolphus College
- Discovery Channel :: News - Archaeology :: Jesus Family Tomb Believed Found
- Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack | Jerusalem Post
- Jesus 'Tomb' Controversy Reopened - TIME
- Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com
- Duke University Religion Department: The Talpiot Tomb Controversy Revisited
- Official Site for the "Lost Tomb of Jesus"
- Discovery Channel article
- A paleographer discusses what can and cannot be said about the names on the Jesus Family Tomb ossuaries
- A critical review
- Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus's Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?, Scientific American
- Jesus Family Tomb: The Window Dressing of Science