Yoseh/Yosey – Heavyweight Names at Talpiot*

After all, the effort to show that Yoseh and Yosey were in fact one and the same in Jesus' time fails completely when we take another look in Ilan's יוסף [Yosef] entry. Amazingly, there is no Yosey (יוסי) on any ossuary! Moreover: this particular form does not occur in any pre 70 written sources (Dead Sea Scrolls, NT, ossuaries). Therefore no comparison of Yoseh to Yosey can be made when Jesus' time is under discussion. There is no way to compare a rare form (or any other form) to a form that did not exist at the relevant time.

By Eldad Keynan
Bar Ilan
October 2012

Among the Talpiot Tomb A (henceforth - TT) names, one name draws wide scholarly attention: the Aramaic\Hebrew יוסה (Yoseh), which the synoptic gospels tell us is the name of one of the brothers of Jesus. It is for that reason that Yoseh, a Jewish name of the Second Temple Era, has taken on a pivotal role in the debate over the TT. Is such a central role justified? My answer is yes and this article will summarize my reasons for taking this stance. I am not a statistician; nonetheless I understand the importance of Yoseh through the existing textual and archaeological evidence.

Statistical analysis of the TT Yoseh reveals this name was very rare in the Second Temple Era (henceforth – STE). Yoseh was so rare in the first century as to make it a virtual singularity. If the name was a common name it would simply be one more name in the cluster of names found on the ossuaries within the TT. However, such is not the case, and Yoseh is therefore a sort of litmus test for determining the authenticity of the TT and crucial for determining the significance of the names contained therein.

One of the claims made by TT detractors is that Yoseh is not rare at all and therefore not unusual. Another claim made by these same detractors is that Yoseh and Yosey are actually the same name and the variation in spelling is due merely to the differences between Hebrew and Aramaic, which are close cognates. It is these assertions by the detractors of the TT that I will address.The following article includes material from the lecture I delivered during the proceedings of the Princeton Theological Seminary symposium which focused upon the Talpiot Tomb. The symposium was held in Jerusalem in January of 2008 and the proceedings of the symposium will be published in the near future by Eerdmans Publishing House. I have added new insights and sources regarding this particular subject for this article.

It is a well-known fact--according to Ilan's Lexicon--that the name יוסה (Yoseh) does not occur in the Mishna, while the form יוסי (Yosey) does, and there is only one יוסה (Yoseh) inscribed on an ossuary.1 However the credibility of the Mishna is debated as to historical issues and as a witness to facts and events related to the Second Temple Era; but even if we accept this question of credibility as problematic we cannot on that basis ignore the simple glaring fact that Yoseh doesn't occur in the Mishna; it implies that the form Yoseh was rare not only in the Second Temple Era but also when the Mishna was complied in 200-220 CE.

Moreover, Ilan counted 231 occurrences of the Biblical יוסף\הוסף (Yosef\Yehosef) and the derivatives thereof as one homogeneous group.2 Her method is helpful when discussing the influence of foreign languages on the Jewish contemporary onomasticon, but not when we discuss individual names discovered in a specific site and context. The rarity of the form Yoseh is evident when we look at the later rabbinic sources such as the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud. The numbers are, according to the Bar Ilan computerized Responsa Project (=BIRP, Ver. 11) as follows:

Yosey – 11, 289 occurrences
Yoseh – 1209 occurrences (this form doesn't occur in the B. Talmud)
When we look at the Henkind Talmud Text Databank (= HTTD), the numbers are astonishing:
Yosey - 20,312
Yoseh – 20 (!)

Here it must be stated that the HTTD project includes later versions and manuscripts, all of them of the Babylonian Talmud only and no Palestinian sources. Both projects include multiple occurrences of the same name when related to certain sages. However, the numbers demonstrate that throughout the entire corpus of rabbinic literature Yosey is the preferred form of all the derivatives of the Biblical names Yosef\Yehosef. Another fact regarding these numbers is that the earlier the rabbinic sources, the less the Yoseh form occurs.

Some scholars believe that both of these forms are actually one and the same name,3 and argue on that basis that the numbers make no difference. This argument might have been plausible if the chronological effect was not so clear and compelling. It is highly probable that not until the mid third century CE that both spellings became forms by which Jews named Yosey or Yosef were addressed in day-to-day life. In the time of Jesus Yoseh was virtually nonexistent. People did not address one another by this form according to existing evidence which includes the New Testament, the Mishna, and the ossuaries. Moreover, even Prof. Bauckham (a detractor of the TT ) stated: "Ilan mentions . . . that there are ten cases of Yose (final he) on Palestinian synagogue inscriptions (post-200 CE). They would also have to be part of the evidence for or against a chronological difference in the spelling of the name".4 We agree with Bauckham and judge this as epigraphic evidence that Yoseh was a rare name in the first century.

Bauckham's comment raises yet another question: what sorts of names are included in synagogue inscriptions? The answer is - probably formal birth names. Therefore we may safely conclude that those Jews were named Yoseh upon their circumcision. In most cases Jewish names in funerary inscriptions are formal birth names. This fact is supported by rabbinic rules which address the subject several times. The quotation below is material regarding Levirate marriage. The specific situation is one in which a Jewish male has died and left behind no sons; his younger brother should marry the widow.

מדרש תנאים לדברים פרק כה, ו':
". . .יקום על שם אחיו לנחלה אתה אומר לנחלה או אינו אלא שמו יוסף קורין אותו יוסף יוחנן קורין אותו יוחנן"

Trans. Midrash Tanaim to Deuteronomy 25:6:
". . . will be after his (dead) brother's name for (the purpose of) property; do you say "for the purpose of property" or only (to preserve) his name? If the name (of the deceased) is Yosef, (the son the younger brother and the former widow will have first) will be named Yosef, if it was Yokanan, (the son's name) will be Yokhanan." This rule occurs also in the Babylonian Talmud Yebamot 24a with the same names. One of the parallels, Sifrey to Deuteronomy, Ki Tetze, 289 (6), is both interesting and relevant:

ספרי דברים פרשת כי תצא פיסקא רפט (ו):
"והיה הבכור אשר תלד, יכול אם היה שמו יוסי יקרא שמו יוסי היה שמו יוחנן יקרא שמו יוחנן תלמוד לומר יקום על שם אחיו מכל מקום"

Trans.: "And the first that she will give birth to, if the (deceased's name) was Yosey, the (child) will be named Yosey, if Yokhanan, (the child) will be named Yokhanan; our teaching states: after his brother's name anyway."

Whether it was Yosef or Yosey, or Yokhanan, funerary circumstances require formal birth names. This rule has two purposes: 1) preserve the deceased's name; 2) keep family property under family control and ownership. Both purposes cannot be achieved unless a formal birth name is used. Land ownership is a necessary precondition of tomb ownership. The Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) takes this as obvious as Isaiah 22:16 makes clear:

ישעיהו כב, טז:
"מַה לְּךָ פֹה וּמִי לְךָ פֹה כִּי חָצַבְתָּ לְּךָ פֹּה קָבֶר ". . .

Trans.: "What do you have here and whom do you have here, that you carved yourself a tomb here?" In other words "does this plot of land belong to you? Do you have any relative here thereby giving you the right to locate your tomb here"?

How did the Rabbis understand this? Vayikra Rabah (Margolis Ed.) to Leviticus, 5:5:

ויקרא רבה פרשת ויקרא פרשה ה, ה:
"א"ר אלעזר צריך אדם שיהיה לו מסמר או יתד קבוע בבית הקברות כדי שיזכה ויקבור באותו מקום"

Trans.: "Said R. Elazar: a man ought to have a nail or a stack affixed in the graveyard so as to be entitled to be buried in the same place." "The graveyard?" What do tombs have to do with graveyards? This is nothing more than an example of two terms being used interchangeably. Every Jew has a right to be buried in a public cemetery. He does not need any nail or stack affixed in a public cemetery to be entitled to be buried in such a cemetery. The Mishna Sanhedrin 6:5-6 shows how intermingled are the Hebrew terms for grave and tomb. In rabbinic literature tombs are termed "graves" many times. Even the Biblical question by the prophet Isaiah implies a private tomb, not a public cemetery (tombs ownership doesn't need to be dealt with here: that tombs were privately owned is well known.)

Now the statement made above, that tombs designated land ownership, is much more understandable. Thus, in terms of declaring ownership, formal birth names were crucial and irreplaceable. This is not to say that inscribing nicknames was forbidden in a funerary context; only that the relatives could inscribe nicknames in this context if they wished to do so, but they were obliged to also inscribe the formal birth name of the deceased. Rahmani's catalogue supports this statement compellingly. Rahmani counted and described a total of 895 ossuaries; 235 of them are inscribed in legible inscriptions in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek and a few in Latin.5 Some of the ossuaries have names inscribed that might be considered nicknames. The first is Rahmani No. 44 and the name is Grida (גרידא). The meaning of Grida is "the Dour". In section two of this entry Rahmani cites Sukenik, who considered Grida "an unspecified name or nickname" then adds: "it is most likely a nickname". We may accept this conclusion and thus Grida is a nickname.

Rahmani's No. 62 reads "the amputated" (הגדם). Below that definition Rahmani states "Nicknames of the period were often derogatory, though some eventually became family names". In spite of this statement we consider "the amputated" to be a nickname. Rahmani's No. 80 possibly means "the captive physician" (תרפט הנשבה). However, accepting this combination as a nickname is problematic. Yet there is also no doubt it's not a formal birth name thus we include it in the group of nicknames.

The numbers are striking: only three out of two hundred thirty five names are not formal birth names. That is barely more than a mere 1%. Other ossuaries have the combination of a formal birth name and a nickname. Rahmani's No. 35 is Yehuda Shapira which means "Yehuda the handsome". No. 117 reads יהודה בן אלמא = Yehuda son of Ilma. Whatever Ilma means, the deceased's formal birth name is Yehuda (No. 117 will be dealt with below). Number 421 is Gaius the small (or the dwarf). No. 498 reads Julia Grasshopper. No. 565 has only Niger which is a Roman formal name.6 These examples stress my point: nicknames are allowed, provided they come after, or with, the formal birth name.

Nos. 117, 288, 579, and 821 represent another sort of combination. Number 117 reads as follows: "Yehuda son of Illma"; possibly "Yehuda son of the mute" or even "Yehuda son of the strong". Number 288 is "Eliezer son of Shekhania" (אליעזר בר שכניה). Shekhania was the name of a priestly line, thus Eliezer might have been of high social status. Yet Shekhania might also mean "the beetle browed". Number 579 is "Khanania Zahma (or Zahima)" or "Khanania the son of Zahima". Zahima (or Zahma) means "the fat". So Eliezer was a fat man, or perhaps his father was a fat man. The Aramaic inscription of Number 821 reads מרים אתת העגל. In English it is "Maryam the wife of the calf". All these examples show a combination of the decedent's name with a nickname that might be ascribed to the decedent, or the decedent's father or husband. What they all have in common is the inclusion of the decedent's formal birth name with a nickname or what might be considered a nickname. This group demonstrates the importance of formal birth names in Jewish funerary inscriptions.

It is also claimed by TT detractors that Yoseh and Yosey are the same name. Thus, according to them, Yoseh is in fact Yosey. An effort was made to prove this argument by referring to the Jastrow Aramaic-English dictionary, the יוסי entry.7 It was claimed that the Hebrew/Aramaic letter ה (he) in יוסה is a long e, just like the Hebrew/Aramaic י (yod) on the left end of יוסי is a long י. If that were true then both would be pronounced "ei" like "gate," and thus both would literally be the same name. However, this is not the case. Jastrow’s entry יוסי reads יוסה - Yosa. This entry simply doesn't have the form Yoseh at all. True, the י (yod) on the left end of the form יוסי is a long י, thus the יוסי must be pronounced Yosey. But all these have nothing to do with יוסה, which is a different form. So different – and rare, apparently – that Jastrow ignored it although it occurs in the Jerusalem Talmud which Jastrow included as well. After all, Yosey might have "replaced" Yoseh in later rabbinic written sources (though not in the Babylonian Talmud). For example see Jerusalem Talmud Megila, 2:5, 73b:

ירושלמי מגילה, פ"ב ה"ה, עג ע"ב:
. . ."דרב מתנה אמר דרבי יוסי היא הדא אמרה היא שמע היא שאר כל המצות ומה טעמא דר' יוסה"?

Translation: ". . .Rav Matanah said: R. Yosey said so, thus we learn that it is to be applied to Shema commandment and all the other commandments; why did R. Yoseh say so? . . ."

ירושלמי תענית, פ"ד ה"ד, סח ע"ב:
. . ." אמר רבי אחא ךרבי יוסה היא ךרבי יוסי אמר ". . .

Jerusalem Talmud, Ta'anit. 4;4, 68b: ". . . said R. Akha this (tradition) is R. Yoseh's since R. Yosey said . . ."

This phenomenon occurred with other sages' names as well. It seems that some Jews had polymorphous names. Thus some Jews called a certain Jew "Yoseh," while others called the same Jew "Yosey." This phenomenon is reflected in the examples above. Scribes might have made such mistakes more than once. That is, in day-to-day life, through direct contact with each other, a few derivatives of the same name, relating to the same person, could have been used. But this has nothing to do with the formal birth names of these Jews, and certainly not in a funerary context, nor in other formal contexts.

Moreover, Hebrew was the rarest spoken language among STE (and much later) Palestinian Jews. Therefore the different spelling יוסה - יוסי doesn't necessarily represent two languages, Aramaic and Hebrew. Naturally, both Yosey and Yoseh were used by native Aramaic speaking Palestinian Jews; therefore both were Aramaic forms. Yet one of them had a י (yod), a long vowel in this case, on its left end. Thus it was the long form Yosey which happened to be the common form, while the other had only ה (he), which was not a vowel. Thus it was the short form Yoseh. The latter happened to be the rarest form within the generic group of the Biblical Yosef\Yehosef and one of the rarest names among STE Palestinian Jews in general. We may also ask: if Yosey and Yoseh were really one and the same name, wouldn't we expect to see both in relatively equal numbers of occurrences on ossuaries and in the written records? Of course we would but the finds don't meet our expectations.

However, it is argued, Yoseh might well be a Hebrew form. Excavators of the smaller synagogue in Bar'am in Upper Galilee have discovered an inscription on a lintel and the name on it was יוסה הלוי בן לוי (=Yoseh the Levite son of Levite).8 The inscription is entirely Hebrew; so one may reasonably assume that a name included in a Hebrew inscription is probably a Hebrew name, not an Aramaic name. Might this suggestion be supported by Bauckham's statement? "The spelling with final he is Aramaic since in Aramaic the final he as well as final yod can stand for the long e sound, whereas the spelling with the yod is Hebrew since in Hebrew the final he would indicate an a sound. Only yod can stand for the long e spelling. Of course, we would expect the rabbis to use the Hebrew spelling".9 This assertion stands in complete contradiction to the actual evidence in our possession. Not only is the Bar'am inscription (mentioned above) entirely in Hebrew and reads יוסה (Yoseh); the rabbis preferred the form Bauckham defines as Hebrew, namely, Yosey – although they were native Aramaic speakers. Moreover even the Babylonian rabbis, native Aramaic speakers who lived in an Aramaic milieu, preferred the so-called Hebrew form. It seems that our expectations of the rabbis regarding their preferences of spelling this or that name simply failed. The rabbis, by their preference of the Yosey form define the rarity of the Yoseh form. In contrast to Yosey, Yoseh was rare indeed in the Jewish-Palestinian onomasticon in the relevant periods and a complete absentee in the Babylonian Jewry at the same times.

After all, the effort to show that Yoseh and Yosey were in fact one and the same in Jesus' time fails completely when we take another look in Ilan's יוסף entry. Amazingly, there is no Yosey (יוסי) on any ossuary! Moreover: this particular form does not occur in any pre 70 written sources (Dead Sea Scrolls, NT, ossuaries). Therefore no comparison of Yoseh to Yosey can be made when Jesus' time is under discussion. There is no way to compare a rare form (or any other form) to a form that did not exist at the relevant time.

This final blow still leaves us with another possibility; that Yosef and Yehosef (יוסף, יהוסף respectively) are the same name. According to Ilan, we have two יוסף and twenty seven יהוסף on ossuaries. This form occurs in the Mishna 11 times, in the Tosefta 42, and in the Jerusalem Talmud 110 times. The intriguing numbers concern the form יהוסף: it does not occur in the Mishna and Tosefta, and only once in the Jerusalem Talmud. This form occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible, Psalms 81:6. A later Midrash explains:

שכל טוב (בובר) בראשית פרק נ':
"אותו הלילה בא גבריאל והוסיף לו אות אחד משמו של הקב"ה וקראו יהוסף"

Sechel Tov (Buber Ed.) Genesis 50:5

"That night (the angel) Gabriel came and added to him a letter from God's name and called him Yehosef".

If we accept this mystical explanation, then the letter from God's name was he (ה) and the angelic act meant to exalt Yosef. The same intention might explain another phenomenon: that the form יהוסף is so rare in the written records, but it's the prevailing form on ossuaries, in terms of the Biblical יוסף and all its derivatives. Possibly, many Jewish families might have preferred the form Yehosef to be inscribed when a family member named Yosef died, in order to exalt and honor the decedent. In other words: in Jesus' times, Jews whose formal birth name was Yosef could have an additional ה in their name after they died. That said, we may assume that under certain conditions, יוסף and יהוסף might be considered the same name. However, this suggestion has nothing to do with the forms Yosey and Yoseh, and their interrelations.

One last point: since only 235 ossuaries are inscribed with clear names, the idea that tombs signified land and tomb ownership seems to lose some validity. Still, land ownership was undoubtedly a precondition for tomb ownership. One should bear in mind the fact that most of the 235 names are male names, and familial possession was transferred by family males. Thus a question remains open: why did many Jewish families give up their relatives' names on their ossuaries?

Conclusions: ancient Jews used names and their forms freely in daily speech. This leads us to another notion: we cannot confidently state that we know what vocalization those Jews employed when they addressed each other. However, we do know that when Jewish contemporary funerary (and honorary) inscriptions are under discussion, formal birth names were a must. We also know that Yoseh was a rare form, one in a group of different forms of the Biblical Yosef\Yehosef, and a part in both Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions.


* I wish to thank my highly educated friend Rev. Nathaniel J. Merritt of West Jordan, Utah, USA, for the useful and inspiring comments that improved this article.

1 Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish names in late Antiquity,
Tubingen (2002): p. 154.

2 Ibid., the entire entry יוסף.

3 http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/kil368024,
comments 20, 22, 26.

4 http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/kil368024,
comment 38.

5 L. Y. Rahmani, A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries, Jerusalem 1994; I have excluded marks that resemble letters but have no meaning when combined.

6 M. Bunson, Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire, revised edition, USA 2002, p. 82, 422.

7 M. Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, New York 1903, p. 570.

8 http://parks.org.il/sigalit/DAFDAFOT/baram.pdf, (Hebrew).

9 http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/kil368024,
comment 22.

Comments (24)

"The Aramaic inscription of Number 821 reads מרים אתת העגל. In English it is "Maryam the wife of the calf"."

That would make this inscription a mix of Aramaic and Hebrew. "The calf" in Aramaic would be עגלא (different det. form).

In JPA orthography, a final "e" was most often represented with either י or יה, as a final ה on its own was most often a terminal "a." Spelling Yose(h) with a ה is therefore more of a holdover from the classical spelling. JPA writers more often spelled very plene and phonetically.

Perfect example: The Emphatic was half the time spelled with א and the other half of the time spelled with ה with little rhyme or reason between them (as they both represented the same vowel quality). 'Galileans' (JPA speakers) were already especially well known for reducing vowel sounds, 'confusing' consonants and being of "sloppy speech" (Erub 53b etc.) and this reflected in their orthography (regardless of the context) too.

As such, I'm not quite sure what your point is, or perhaps I'm just not following you.


#1 - Steve Caruso - 10/19/2012 - 21:09

Yoseh, "which the synoptic gospels tell us is the name of one of the brothers of Jesus". Therein lies a very important issue that is not addressed here, that name appears in Greek in a different form in Matthew (Joseph) and Mark (Joses). The difficulty of method in relation to the identification with Jesus' family is that Jacobovici, Tabor and others look for the spelling or form from anywhere in Christian literature of the first four centuries that best fits the theory. So in the case of Joses, they go with Mark; in the case of Mariamne, they go with the Acts of Philip.

#2 - Mark Goodacre - 10/20/2012 - 13:49

Steve, you say: "In JPA orthography, a final "e" was most often represented with either י or יה, as a final ה on its own was most often a terminal "a.";I guess that when ה meant "a" in Galilean Aramaic, it most oftenly meant a female. Or do you imply that Yoseh was in fact Yosah?
suppose I agree; still: "most often" is not always, right? Besides: you mention B. Talmud Erub. 53b. I've just read this source again. When we disregard the time the B. Talmud has been complied (ca. 500 CE), your argument, again, is not decisive. Tendency is not all-embracing. The B. Talmud, in this case, is not much of an evidence to events and details that occured on Jesus' time, and in the Holy Land in general, I suppose. You can see how I refrain from using it as a source.

I have stressed the issue of formal birth name as the form that must have been a part of funerary inscription. The form יוסה on the Talpiot Ossuary is, I believe, much earlier than the Gospels. Fortunately, one of the Gospels preserved the accurate form. It seems to survive the process of translation from Aramaic to Greek. I wish my main point would be addressed - the formal birth names in funerary inscriptions. As for the behavior of others: may we all have an explanation to at least one problem? 1. Why the first Talpiot Tomb a scientific report was published only 16 years after the discovery? I suppose this question doesn't belong here, and so is the answer. It's the same with mentioning Prof. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici here.

#3 - Eldad Keynan - 10/20/2012 - 22:15

In the realm of religion actual facts get shunted aside, ignored, twisted, misrepresented. Beliefs die hard because they are clung to with desperation in an attempt to make sense out of life. Researching the Talpiot tomb with Eldad Keynan has been most instructive. I used to think religious academics are like scientists searching for the facts, but I've learned that is not always so. How refreshing to be able to work with a scholar such as Eldad Keynan who is dedicated to factuality. Thanks bro!


#4 - Nathaniel J. Merritt - 10/20/2012 - 22:55

Mark, I have to beg to differ with you here. At least as I understand things Matthew is rewritten/edited Mark. Mark is our Ur-text. Rather than jumping around, picking and choosing arbitrarily, as you seem to charge here, I am impressed that Mark even knows Yose, this exceedingly rare form of the popular name Yehosef. I want to give that proper weight. Matthew, coming along, edits the text. He removes "son of Mary," which I also think was a more original tradition, wanting to bring in the Joseph story--while Mark never even mentions Joseph, not a single time. He also prefers the popular form of the name Joseph. That should not surprise us giving the ways that Matthew typically edits his source Mark. So rather than looking "anywhere" in Christian literature for the name of Jesus' brother--and there ARE no other references to him anywhere in all of Christian literature than in our Synoptic tradition BTW, I think the correspondence between our earliest source and the Talpiot tomb is indeed significant.

#5 - James D. Tabor - 10/20/2012 - 23:59

I had a scribal error in my post above. I meant: the Yoseh form survived the processes of translating. A point I have stressed in the article may well be stressed again here: if Yosey and Yoseh and all the other forms of the Biblical Yosef are really the same name as argued, why, then, rabbinic literature preferres the form Yosey by far and large? It should be stressed again: this phenomenon occures in the most Hebrew sourcw - the Mishna, as well as in all other, much more Aramaic sources. Another point I've stressed in the article has been ignored just the same: not a single Yosey (יוסי) is inscribed even on a single ossuary. Suppose we disregard the Talpiot Tomb a for a moment: if the Yosey and Yoseh are the same name, and common as claimed, why there is only one Yoseh ossuary and not a single Yosey?

#6 - Eldad Keynan - 10/21/2012 - 06:29

Just happy to see Eldad recognize the diversion. I want you scholars to man up and rid the world of the confusion and only use the historic name Yehoshua.

#7 - Eliyahu Konn - 10/21/2012 - 16:38

You say in your comment, Eldad, that "Fortunately, one of the Gospels preserved the accurate form." However, this differs from your claim in the article that "the synoptic gospels" give the name Yoseh. Unfortunately, details are important, especially when one is looking for impressive statistical correlations.

#8 - Mark Goodacre - 10/21/2012 - 23:34

Thanks, James. I appreciate your comment not least because it takes seriously my point -- and that is a useful basis for dialogue. I am of course with you on Marcan Priority -- I've spent a lot of time arguing for it. But what I am wondering about is the stress on Mark here does for other aspects of the case. If we really want to press Mark's spellings of the names, then do we not need to insist also on his spelling of Mary Magdalene, which is always Maria and never Mariamne? To get Mariamne, we have to go to Hippolytus and Acts of Philip, do we not, and they are much later than Matthew?

In short, if we are going to insist on Joses, should we not also insist on Maria?

#9 - Mark Goodacre - 10/21/2012 - 23:41

"Or do you imply that Yoseh was in fact Yosah?"

It's completely possible (orthographically speaking), and it is a name that exists, but it's not a position I would stand behind without further consideration.

"Tendency is not all-embracing."

This may be true, but we do have evidence that these distinctions were quite active during the life of Jesus and his Disciples (Matthew 26:73, and other potential evidences of transliteration), and through other Western Aramaic dialects (such as Samaritan). It would be an established and informed position to hold.

I'll comment again later as I now have some family obligations to tend to. :-)


#10 - Steve Caruso - 10/22/2012 - 15:30

Mark, you say: "You say in your comment, Eldad, that "Fortunately, one of the Gospels preserved the accurate form." However, this differs from your claim in the article that "the synoptic gospels" give the name Yoseh. Unfortunately, details are important, especially when one is looking for impressive statistical correlations." Well, I had to write more: the Greek Joses is the accurate transliteration of the Hebrew\Aramaic Yoseh. So: details are important. As for impressive statistical correlations: back in 2008, one of the Talpiot symposium participants, a statistician, told me that statistically the Mariamene ossuary doesn't exist.

#11 - Eldad Keynan - 10/22/2012 - 16:11

Steve - can you point at a source with a "Yosah"?


#12 - Eldad Keynan - 10/22/2012 - 16:12

Eldad, I think you are dwelling on the YOSEH issue and you have been repeating yourself. The best comments and essays I have read on the onomastics of the Talpiot tomb are the ones written by Claude Cohen-Matlofsky. They are posted on this site and on the Biblical Archeology's, and I am surprised that you are not quoting her work. Cohen-Matlofsky is a real expert on the matter since her Ph. D was on the topic and she published it in 2001 : Les Laïcs en Palestine d'Auguste à Hadrien: étude prosographique. I think it is time to brush up you french.
Here is a list of Cohen-Matlofsky's comments and essays :

http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/kil368024 comment #36





#13 - Francis Caron - 10/25/2012 - 09:02

Thanks for an interesting article. A couple of questions:

You mention that 235 out of 895 the ossuaries in Rahmani’s catalogue are inscribed – i.e. almost 75% are not inscribed. If it was so common for ossuaries to have no inscription at all, doesn’t this undermine your view that formal names were “crucial and irreplaceable”?

Secondly, you point out that nicknames are rare in Rahmani’s catalogue, but isn’t there a clear distinction to be made between a nickname (“the amputated” etc) and something which is simply a diminutive form or variation of a person’s formal name? Is there any evidence to suggest that diminutive forms were not thought appropriate for use on ossuary inscriptions?

#14 - Paul Regnier - 10/25/2012 - 09:50

When you cite statistical results from the Henkind Talmud Text Databank, don't your figures refer to the number of times each form of the name appears, rather than to the number of different people bearing those names?

#15 - John C. Poirier - 10/25/2012 - 12:00

To John Poirier; reply to your last comment, No. 15: "Here it must be stated that the HTTD project includes later versions and manuscripts, all of them of the Babylonian Talmud only and no Palestinian sources. Both projects include multiple occurrences of the same name when related to certain sages". I'm sorry if this was not clear enough. Further, and in clearer ststement: the HTTD project includes about 25% of parallels. This is why it's the last source I mention. Thus we may calculate the results again: about 15,000 Yosey and 15 Yoseh. If we agree that the HTTD includes 50% of parallels, we may also agree on 10,000 and 10, respectively.

#16 - Eldad Keynan - 10/26/2012 - 05:49

to Paul; your first point: again, if things were not clear enough, I'm sorry: when Jews who lived in the relevant time and place did inscribe their relatives' ossuaries they very rarely used nicknames.
To your second: the argument that some of the Talpiot Tomb A names were nicknames is not mine. I only replied to it. Again: we have rabbinic sources ruling for using formal birth names in funerary context. We don't have such, or any other source, for the opposite, namely: permission (or even tradition) to use other names in funerary context.

#17 - Eldad Keynan - 10/26/2012 - 05:59

francis; no doubt, my French needs a very sharp brushup, to begin with. Anyway, all the sources you recommend are in English. I'm happy I met Prof. Cohen-Matlowsky in the symposium; we have discussed the names back then, and found our arguments more completing each other than contradicting. When I read what you have recommended to, this conclusion is enhanced. It is not to say that we agree on each and every point.
The same is true with works of Elliot and Kilty, Tabor and others. We may not agree entirely; yet the point is that from different points of view, relying on different sets of sources, the conclusion is that Yoseh WAS a rare name. Back in 2007, and a year later, in the symposium, distinguished scholars argued that ALL the Talpiot Tomb A names WERE common. In the forthcoming volume I argue, for instance, that Yeshua was not that common. I am pleased that Cohen-Matlowsky concluded the same conclusion. And by the way: I amnot a statistician by profession. I can only practice raw, very low statistical calculations. Interestingly, high statistical calculations, by experts in the field, reaffirm my reliance on rabbinic sources' very simple statistics.

#18 - Eldad Keynan - 10/26/2012 - 06:16

Paul is quite right that there is a difference between nicknames (which might accompany a personal name or substitute for it) and hypocoristics (short forms), which of course would only be used in place of a full form. There are many examples of short forms on ossuaries: e.g. Lazar (CIIP 251), Liezer (CIIP 342, 502), Mattai (CIIP 481, 489), Nittai (CIIP 242), Salo (CIIP 134, 589), Shammai (CIIP 87), Yehud (43, 55, 450), Yeshu (547). The reason is that ossuary inscriptions were not all that formal. They would only be seen by members of the family and mostly served just to identify the bones in a particular ossuary. That's why most ossuaries are not inscribed at all.

#19 - Richard Bauckham - 10/28/2012 - 09:27

On the form Yehosef. This is the standard form in all sources actually written in the late Second Temple period. It is not just on ossuaries (35 examples). There are 49 examples on papyrus and parchment, and 16 in inscriptions other than ossuaries, which include very informal examples. This compares with only 13 examples of Yosef. The best explanation is probably that people favoured theophoric names that included the Divine Name, and they assimilated Yosef to examples like Yonatan, which really was short for Yehonatan. It may be that the Yehosef and Yosef were not actually pronounced differently. In any case, the Mishna and other rabbinic sources preferred the biblical form of the name (Yosef), and so they called 2nd Temple period people Yosef who would probably have written their own names as Yehosef.

#20 - Richard Bauckham - 10/28/2012 - 09:37

Bauckham: "That's why most ossuaries are not inscribed at all." Sounds reasonable. Yet in the line before: "They would only be seen by members of the family and mostly served just to identify the bones in a particular ossuary". So: identifying the bones in a particular ossuary was or wasn't important? As for the form Yehosef: the explanation is correct; adding the ה to a name gave it an exalted, theophoric value. Still: why this form is attested to mainly on ossuaries?

#21 - Eldad Keynan - 10/28/2012 - 18:01

Eldad, I meant for you to brush up your french in order to read Cohen-Matlofsky's book which I quote too in my previous comment #13. As a matter of fact in Les Laïcs en Palestine d'Auguste à Hadrien: étude prosopographique, (part of her 1989 Ph.D dissertation from the Sorbonne), Cohen-Matlofsky has statistics charts from which she concludes already in 2001, year of the book's publication, that YOSEH is a rare name and YESHU`A not the most common one and so on and so forth. Her sources for this book are the most relevant chronologically for the Talpiot Tomb. I am just surprised that this book continues to be ignored or very rarely quoted. So I am suggesting ALL of you involved in this research to look into the above mentioned book of Cohen-Matlofsky's.

#22 - Francis Caron - 10/28/2012 - 20:06

Francis - thanks. As I told you, I met Prof. Cohen-Matlofsky in the symposium and we have discussed her conclusions briefly, and found out that we do agree. More over: among the Talpiot a tomb names, none is common as argued, when tested one by one, not as "nicknames" or short-forms, thus part of general counting methods. I show this in my article in the symposium volume. I am really sorry that my French is, in fact, less than poor. I wish Prof. Cohen-Matlofsky will translate her book or, at least, her conclusions and numbers.

#23 - Eldad Keynan - 10/30/2012 - 05:33

A scholar makes a grand discovery which is very clear, crystalline almost. It illumines history and has the potential to lift a large portion of the human species out of it's squalor of ignorance and superstition. Lesser lights, eager to shine in some way, in any way really, begin to fling minor points everywhere to muddy the issue up and leave it lost in a maze of drabble, but having draw attention to themselves. Most people who post here are exactly like that. "To Hades with the broader picture! I want some attention, and muddying the waters will draw attention to me!" Truly, you have your reward.
Jesus is not Lord. Jesus is dead, as dead as any rock anyone ever hefted on the planet. At nearly sixty I am not the Ancient of Days but neither am I a kid. From going to many dozens of funerals I assure you that, except in campfire fables, corpses do NOT get up! Nor do they levitate into the sky. The TT can set Christians free from the Jesus monkey on their backs. A surprising number of Christians email me hoping to be deprogrammed and be free of Jesus and the Bible.


#24 - Nathaniel J. Merritt - 11/19/2012 - 15:58

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