There have been a couple late additions to the Jesus/Talpiot Tomb debate in this month’s SBL Forum (see my previous post here).
First, there is a lengthy response by James Tabor to the articles by Jodi Magness and Christopher Rollston. Tabor’s article, Two Burials of Jesus of Nazareth and The Talpiot Yeshua Tomb, primarily deals with Magness’s criticisms, though he also addresses Rollston’s questions surrounding the identification with the family of Jesus of Nazareth.
Tabor also helpfully offers some comments about the nature of the debate and some suggestions for future research:
The nature of the question, with its theological and emotional overtones, coupled with the way the issue was put before the public and the academy (i.e., through a documentary film and a trade book) has understandably galvanized the responses into “yes” or “no,” (mostly “no”), when reasonable alternatives might be “possible but uncertain,” to even “probable but not certain,” but in any case a call for further investigation. I will make some suggestions at the end of this piece regarding directions for future research.
Taken as a whole it seems to me that this tomb and its possible identification with Jesus and Nazareth and his family should not be dismissed. The evidence from the gospels I have surveyed, coupled with the cluster of significant names that fit our hypothetical expectations for a posited pre-70 Jesus family tomb, is strong, and should be further tested. Of course, if the ossuary inscribed “James son of Joseph,” is added to the cluster, and the evidence for that possibility is unresolved at this point, the correspondence would be all the more striking. What is needed is further work on the epigraphy, expanded patina tests, further DNA testing if that is possible, and since the tomb in 1980 had to be excavated so quickly, but now has been located, a fuller archaeological examination of the site itself.
Tabor also has a response to the letter to the editor by Jonathan Reed.
The other article added to the SBL Forum is by Stephen J. Pfann. In his article, “Mary Magdalene is Now Missing: A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701,” Pfann offers an alternative analysis of the “Mariamene the Master” inscription. He argues the inscription reads “Mariame and Mara” and suggests the ossuary contained the bones of at least two different women — neither of being Mary Magdalene.
James Tabor has a response to Pfann’s new reading of the inscription on his Jesus Dynasty blog. Tabor consulted noted epigrapher Leah Di Segni and she writes: â€œI well remember that, while here and there I had some suggestions about interpretation of a particular form (for instance, Mariamenon being an hypochoristic form of Mariam), I could not but confirm all his readings. I have not changed my mind now.â€? I encourage you to read his whole post, “Leah Di Segni on the Pfann â€œCorrectionâ€? of Rahmani.”
Now that the initial buzz surrounding this “Jesus tomb hypothesis” seems to be dying down a bit, I hope that there will be some more fruitful academic debate surrounding the tomb and ossuaries — and I think that these Forum articles are a good start.