On Yoseh, Yosi, Joseph, and Judas son of Jesus in Talpiot

It may not be the Jesus family tomb, but we judge that the calls for viewing Joseph as the only legitimate name to be used in any calculation concerning the Talpiot tomb are not solidly based. It negates the obvious family preference concerning the name inscribed on the ossuary. It fails to take into account the rare form of Yoseh in the written record. Moreover, it violates the archaeological and sociological context of this burial by denying the family's perceptions and meanings of life and death.

By Kevin Kilty
College of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Wyoming

Mark Elliott
Department of Religious Studies
University of Wyoming
April 2012

Who is Yosi?

At the risk of repeating a number of arguments just one more time and boring those who follow the dispute regarding the names in the Talpiot tomb, we wish to address a few questions on the names Yoseh, Yosi, and Joseph and a short note on Judas son of Jesus. Returning to the issue of the names in the Talpiot Tomb is tiring, but it appears necessary. We have always maintained that "the key to calculating the probability of the Talpiot tomb belonging to the family of Jesus of Nazareth is the inscribed ossuary located in the tomb containing the name Yoseh."1 In 2826 names in all written sources for the Greco-Roman period there are 3 examples of Yoseh in Hebrew (6 are in Greek). The name in Hebrew is only inscribed on one ossuary located in Talpiot, on Jason's Tomb and in the Murabbaat papyri.2 The nickname cannot be considered "common" regardless if it is a variant of Joseph or any other name. Simply stated, the critics of Talpiot continue to insist that the name Yoseh is not rare when all available records indicate the opposite. "We stated a number of times that if we consider the name Yoseh as meaning more than a variant of Joseph, then the probability that this tomb is the Jesus family tomb is 47%. However, if Yoseh is to be regarded as simply Joseph in all circumstances, then the likelihood that this tomb is ‘The Lost Tomb of Jesus’ is only 3%."3 It has now come to our attention that several scholars believe we should also insert Yosi in our calculations regarding the Talpiot Tomb.

In a recent paper, Jack Poirier asks, "Surely Kilty and Elliott would agree that “Jose”[Yoseh] and “Josi” [Yosi] are the same name!"4 On the ASOR blog, Richard Bauckham wrote, "So whereas Kilty-Elliott count only 9 occurrences of Yoseh, they should really be counting about 40 (depending a bit on whether one counts some rather more variant spellings), which would give a considerably higher frequency."5

Concerning Poirier, we do not agree that Yoseh and Yosi should be considered the same name, at least not in the first century. And Bauckhan is correct; if we include Yosi in our calculations, it would dramatically change the probabilities of the Talpiot Tomb. But the evidence is against the use of Yosi in any computation for ascertaining an accurate probability that Talpiot is the Jesus family tomb.

According to Tal Ilan's Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity the Hebrew name Yosi is only found in Mishnaic literature 29 times.6 It interesting to note that the name Yoseh is not referenced at all in the Mishnah, while in later rabbinic times it appears 1209 times.7 Despite the problems with the Mishnah in verifying names, the failure to mention Yoseh in any circumstance seems to affirm the rare usage of the name in the first century. Yet, using the Mishnah for authenticating any name for the first century is a major problem. According to Jacob Neusner, the Mishnah cannot be shown to be reliable document. Neusner warns us that no rabbinic document contains a reliable attribution to a specific individual. We have no way of demonstrating that an authority in the Mishnah "really maintained the views assigned to him--even if not in the actual words attributed to him."8 He further adds that we cannot demonstrate what a rabbi is alleged to have said is in any sense accurate. William Green asserts rabbinic works are anonymous: the literature "has no authors. No document claims to be the writing of an individual rabbi in his own words.... Rabbinic literature is severely edited, anonymous, and collective."9 Moreover, Paul Flesher maintains that the Mishnah portrays an imaginary society and that "no saying by a named authority appears in ipsissima verba or even in the form in which it was transmitted."10

So how do we reconcile the name Yosi in a document that in most cases it is not possible to authenticate what any given sage really said?11 The Mishnah is not the only apparent obstacle in using Yosi in our calculations. The Hebrew name Yosi (Yod, Vav, Samech, Yod) is nowhere attested outside the Mishnah. As far as we know, it is not found on any of the 650+ inscribed ossuaries found in Judea during the Second Temple period.12 It is missing in the entire corpus of the Dead Sea Scrolls. More important, it is not found in the Talpiot Tomb. Obviously, Yoseh did not bury himself; his living relatives buried him. Burials show the interaction among individual family members in a living society, "who used particular burial practices to construct their own social reality."13

The family chose Yoseh as the name to be inscribed on the deceased's ossuary and no other name. This insight demonstrates the relationship between the living and the dead. We find that evidence compelling concerning the name of this individual and are not convinced it can never be used independently or must always be combined with Joseph or Yosi in any computations concerning Talpiot. For a number of critics, only Joseph is a legitimate name to be used in any calculation concerning the tomb, but this would require that we ignore the meaning given by the family members of the Talpiot tomb to the burial of their dead relatives. Consider the solemn aspect of the burial:

The members of the family took part in the funeral and also in the ceremony of secondary burial, gathering the bones in an ossuary after the soft tissues had decomposed. Ritual feasts and speeches about the virtues of the dead were made in a family setting.... Placing the bones in the ossuary was done in accordance with traditional customs, and the members of the family who inscribed the ossuaries with the names of the interred placed additional bones from the same family in the same ossuaries. The tasks of collecting the bones into the ossuaries and inscribing the names created a situation in which more women than men were buried with children and babies; more men had personal ossuaries; more extended male names expressing lineage were indicated in the ossuary inscriptions; and more men were indicated by inscriptions about their public persona....14

The Talpiot Tomb is connected intimately to the private lives of the family. It is unlikely they had the ossuaries inscribed with names other than what the individuals were called during their lifetimes.

On Joseph

Mark Goodacre argues that Matthew uses the name Joseph for Jesus' brother (Matt. 13.55 and Matt. 27.56) and should take priority over Mark's Joses (6:3) for this same brother. In the Gospel of Luke, there is no mention of Jesus' brothers. As far as we know, there is no scholarly objection to Mark's Greek Joses for the Hebrew Yoseh. They are the same names. Goodacre tells us "Matthew clearly regards Joseph as an alternative, preferable way of saying 'Joses'."15 However, we don't agree that Matthew's Joseph should take priority over Mark's Joses. Nearly all of the Gospel of Mark is found in Matthew. Many of the passages were heavily edited, even removed by Matthew who undoubtedly appropriated Mark's work. There are any number of edits Matthew makes to Mark that are obviously suspect or even impossible. Professor Goodacre knows these well, as does every major New Testament scholar. So does Matthew have any insight on the name Joses? What information did Matthew have concerning Jesus' brother? Did he know anyone from Jesus' family? What evidence exists that Joses was ever called Joseph?

Goodacre points to Acts 4.36 where he maintains the same Joseph/Joses variation is found in this verse in Acts as in Matthew. The verse is as follows: "There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’)." This Joseph in Acts is the same spelling as found in Matthew 13.55 and 27.56. More importantly, older manuscripts of Acts do have a form of Joses for this verse, and later the name was changed to Joseph.16 This indicates that a scribe changed Joses to Joseph, whose motives are unknown, at some uncertain time between the 1- 4th centuries CE. Does this mean the name Yoseh in the Talpiot tomb must be considered Joseph also? This scribal change is rather innocuous and could have transpired any time over a 300-year period. This claim lacks the sort of information, such as a date, needed to make any definitive comments on its meaning. It exceeds the limit of a reasonable interpretation to project this puzzling emendation back to first century. It sheds little light on the discussion about the name of Jesus' brother.

Recently, James Tabor has added a new element to this Joses/Joseph conundrum. In some manuscripts of Matthew, a rare form of Jose/Joses exists to indentify Jesus' brother, which supports computations based solely on Yoseh.17 This spelling is so rare that it exists in only two other contexts in Ilan's corpus of names from 300BCE to 200CE. Why is Matthew using a rare Greek form of Joses to identify Jesus’ brother?18 In Matthew 13:55 we have Joses in two 9th century manuscripts whereas in Matthew 27:56 we get the variant Yose for Yosef in two of our earliest and most reliable manuscripts, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Ephraim as recovered by Tischendorf. We have two alternatives here. A scribe working with the Gospel of Matthew changed Joses to Joseph, at a date undetermined. Otherwise, Matthew simply copied Mark and used this rare form of Joses reflecting the unusual name Yoseh; thus he had no reason to use Joseph. The Joseph in the Matthew manuscripts was not original. It appears that the text of Matthew is not entirely trustworthy in this matter. A mischievous scribe has added to the chaos regarding who is in the Talpiot Tomb. If Tabor is correct concerning the interpretation of these Matthew manuscripts, then it is not implausible that Matthew never knew any other name for Jesus' brother but Yoseh Joses.

But let us return to the Talpiot Tomb. It may not be the Jesus family tomb, but we judge that the calls for only viewing Joseph as the only legitimate name to be used in any calculation concerning the Talpiot tomb are not solidly based. It negates the obvious family preference concerning the name inscribed on the ossuary. It fails to take into account the rare form of Yoseh in the written record. Moreover, it violates the archaeological and sociological context of this burial by denying the family's perceptions and meanings of life and death.

Jesus would never name his son Judas

Mark Goodacre's most insightful argument against the Talpiot Tomb is

...there is simply no evidence that Jesus had a son called Judas. (As a commenter on this blog once facetiously said, "How likely is it that Jesus would have named his son Judas?!"). This might sound like a simple point, but I am afraid that it needs to be taken seriously. The whole case for the identity of the Talpiot Tomb with Jesus' family is based on the idea of an extraordinary positive correlation between clusters of names. It is unacceptable when calculating probabilities to ignore contradictory evidence like this.19

We are concerned with the biblical inferences among those scholars who rely on the silence of Christian tradition as evidence that Jesus could never have married. What is troubling about this observation is that Christian tradition is complicated. It is not just what Christian tradition does not proclaim about Jesus that is the bulwark against the son Judas, but it is what Christian tradition does proclaim that every critical biblical scholar knows to be false. The Gospels and Christian tradition are most certainly not literal truth. No matter how critics parse the issue of Jesus' celibacy, the NT is simply silent on this question. Silence could indicate Jesus had no wife, or one died years before his public ministry. We just don't know, and why should we expect Jesus to describe his celibate life? This argument that Jesus' marriage was impossible because it is missing from the Gospels is questionable and not enough to overturn Talpiot.20

We believe percolating just beneath the surface of this debate is the recognition that an ossuary and a post Calvary body of Jesus would cause enormous difficulties for such treasured theological truths as the resurrection and the veracity of the New Testament. We are not accusing Goodacre of defending doctrines of inspiration and the authenticity of the scriptures. However, when we read that faith oriented scholars argue that Jesus would never name his son Judas because this is the name of his betrayer, or that this is similar to "Churchill naming his son Adolf," then the discussion has now moved to articles of faith and revelation. Though we do regard Jesus as visionary, we are more than doubtful that he would have avoided naming a son Judas because in the future he would be betrayed by a disciple with the same name. This is reminiscent to the biblical literalism found in the Fundamentals and not what one would expect to encounter from 21st-century biblical scholars.21 This cannot be sanctioned by any critical biblical scholar. This heroic rescue attempt of Jesus' celibacy is not creditable and as inspired as it might be: it should be discarded.


1 Kilty and Elliott, “Probability, Statistics, and the Talpiot Tomb.” and Elliott and Kilty, “Inside the Numbers of the Talpiot Tomb.”

2 Ilan,Tal, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part 1: Palestine 330BCE-200CE. JCB Mohr, P.P. Box 2040, D-72010 Tubingen, 2002, 150-68.

3 See note 1.

4 Poirier, Jack, “A Response to Kilty and Elliott on the Talpiot Tomb,” http://www.jerusalemperspective.com/default.aspx?&tabid=27&ArticleID=19….

5 http://asorblog.org/?p=1842&cpage=1#comment-171419.

6 Ilan,Tal, 150-68. Also see James Tabor's chart on name frequencies of Joseph, Yoseh, and Yosi in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. http://jesusdynasty.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/JosephChart.jpg.

7 This statistic was provided to us by Eldad Keynan

8 Neusner, Jacob, Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (Doubleday, 1994), 15-17.

9 Green, William S. "Storytelling and Holy Men," in J. Neusner, ed., Take Judaism, For Example Scholars Press, 1992), 30.

10 Flesher, Paul V.M., Oxen, Women Or Citizens? Slaves in the System of the Mishnah (Scholars Press, 1988), 3.

11 Neusner, 15.

12 Cotton, Hannah M. et al. Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palestinae, Volume I: Jerusalem. Part 1:1-704 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010).

13 Peleg, Y. (2002). “Gender and Ossuaries: Ideology and meaning.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, (325), 65-73. http://search.proquest.com/docview/198721944?accountid=14793.

14 Ibid.

15 http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/returning-to-talpiot-tomb.html.

16 Nestle, Eberhard, Erwin Nestle, Barbara Aland, and Kurt Aland. 2004. (Novum Testamentum Graece. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft), 332.

17 Ibid, 37.

18 Tabor's helpful chart regarding Yoseh http://jamestabor.com/2007/09/02/the-name-yoseh-on-the-talpiot-tomb-ossuary/

19 Goodacre, http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/returning-to-talpiot-tomb.html.

20 We have discussed this issue in The James Ossuary in Talpiot and Inside the Numbers of the Talpiot Tomb.

21 See The Fundamentals, Higher Criticism and Archaeology.

Comments (55)

Thanks, Kevin and Mark! At last, Yoseh gets the weight he deserves.
Only one small, insignificant correction: the other form should be spelled "Yosey", not "Yosi". Still, in Hebrew, both are spelled the same.
As for Neusner and Green: their attitude to rabbinic sources as historical sources is debatable. This particular debate should be dealt with elswhere. Yet whether or not they are right, the fact remains that the older the rabbinic sources are, the lesser the name Yoseh occurs in them. If we follow Neusner & Green's attitude, then we conclude that the Mishna editor\redactor simply didn't know the form Yoseh, just like the Babylonian Talmud editor\s, while the Tosefta and Jerusalem Talmud editor\s knew this form and mentioned it hundreds of times. This gap is indicative, and the epigraphic find supports it.
Again - thanks!

#1 - Eldad Keynan - 04/24/2012 - 18:55

Thanks for the responses to my blog posts on the topic. There are some problems here with the representation of my argument, and I will respond to that as soon as I get a moment.

#2 - Mark Goodacre - 04/24/2012 - 19:52

Thanks again for the article; response on my blog at http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/returning-to-talpiot-tomb.html .

#3 - Mark Goodacre - 04/24/2012 - 21:51

Thanks again for your article. Comments on my blog here:


#4 - Mark Goodacre - 04/24/2012 - 22:02

children "betraying" parents is not unusual. Why Judas had responsibility for the donations becomes understandable if he is Jesus' son. Assuming Jesus was in his early thirties, his son would be in early to mid-adolescence and his irresponsible behavior would be typical. That Jesus' son was the betrayer would be expurgated as would any reference that Jesus would have had normal male lust for a female. I admit this is entirely hypothetical.

#5 - Tim Solon - 04/25/2012 - 02:06

Excellent, Tabor, Charlesworth and Simchas idea about about Judas having a son named Judas is on par with the Shroud of Turin people who believe that they can see two coins covering the eyes of the deceased on the shroud. Not only did Jews not practice this, but the coins cited by the pro shroud folks are the coins of Pontious Pilates who was one of those responsible for his tragic death. When it comes to Talpiot tombs, not a whole lot different between the two groups way of thinking, other that one group really believes in it, sans literary agents, marketing agents etc.

#6 - Joe Zias - 04/25/2012 - 02:46

This is an exceptionally worthwhile article.

And wouldn't you know after you make such an elegant description of the non-scientific communities propensity for tossing out red-herrings, that this Joe Zias fellow drops another one with a "shroud of Turin," ridiculous comparison.

#7 - Eliyahu Konn - 04/25/2012 - 15:18

Our friend Joe Zias appears to be dismissing the possibility that Jesus could have been married and had a son. Perhaps this is the reality of Jesus' life, However, we remind Joe that there is no evidence that Jesus was not married. No Gospel indicates that Jesus was celibate for his entire life. If we interpret Jesus' celibacy in the context of first century Judaism, then his behavior is very unusual. Celibacy as a Jewish lifestyle would have been contrary to Jewish religion and tradition. The image of Jesus as a dedicated celibate is a theological construct of later Christian theology. The NT sources cannot tell us if Jesus was married or not.

#8 - Mark Elliot - 04/25/2012 - 15:34

Who are the "non-scientific communities" you are speaking about here, Eliyahu? My point has been consistently to stress the requirements of a case that is solely built on statistical correlation.

#9 - Mark Goodacre - 04/25/2012 - 15:46

A non-scientific community is one that rejects or ignores science. Clearly Joe Zias is of the non-scientific community making a comparison of the "shroud of Turin" found to be upon carbon 14 dating, 1260-1390CE, http://www.shroud.com/nature.htm Everyone says Talpiot Tomb (A) is 1st century. It is a red-herring to compare the two.

It is clear that Joe Zias is still playing to the non-scientific community and they will continue to quote him as an expert because he serves their purpose to discredit objectivity. Yuval Goren could say he made a mistake on his initial assessment of the Yaacov ossuary, but after the evidence and examination at the trial, if he says this CANNOT be an ossuary from the tomb of the 1st century Yeshua bar Yoseph, that Torah observant Jewish man, then he also is of that non-scientific community.

#10 - Eliyahu Konn - 04/25/2012 - 20:47

Mark, the case is not built on statistical correlation. It is built on the fact that there is a first-century tomb with the names of people in Jesus' documented family inscribed. That is a hard scientific fact.

What is statistical is the odds that one puts on the correlation. One could argue there is a low probability or a high probability that this could be Jesus. But there is a probability that is based on hard evidence.

(And of course that is totally unlike the ridiculous Shroud comparison.)

Like with the Talpiot tomb argument, which also is based on hard evidence, you seem to want to pretend that no evidence exists and turn the issue into something that you either believe or don't.

#11 - Jim Mason - 04/25/2012 - 22:31

On the historical question of whether Jesus was married or not, and the likelihood or unlikelihood thereof, I think there are some historical things we can say that weigh in favor of the former. We cover these in chapter 5 of our book in great detail, but among the strongest is that Paul, who strongly advocated celibacy, does not use Jesus as an example, though he appeals to him for other things in the same context, see 1 Cor. 7. There is quite a bit more.

#12 - James D. Tabor - 04/25/2012 - 23:09

Like it or not, Jim, the case is based on the claim of extraordinary correlations between two sets of names, early Christian literary sources on the one hand, and names found in Talpiot Tomb A on the other hand. I don't know where you have seen me attempting to "turn the issue into something that you either believe or don't". It is a great shame that Mark and Kevin concluded their essay with material about Biblical literalism that does not deal in any meaningful way with anything I have written on this topic. In fact, I find it quite baffling.

#13 - Mark Goodacre - 04/26/2012 - 00:41

Mark (E.): "The NT sources cannot tell us if Jesus was married or not." Why do you say "cannot"? In fact we know that Peter and Jesus' brothers were married and made a big deal about taking their wives with them on mission (1 Cor. 9.5). But once again, by reducing the discussion to the abstract one of whether or not Jesus was married does not deal with the fundamental problem that we know of no son called Judas.

#14 - Mark Goodacre - 04/26/2012 - 00:49

In our last paragraph we wrote "We are not accusing Goodacre of defending doctrines of inspiration and the authenticity of the scriptures." That is pretty clear. We are not accusing Mark of biblical literalism. Our comments were pointed at any scholar who attempts to discount the Talpiot Tomb for the reason that Jesus would never name his son Judas because this is the name of his betrayer. This is practicing fundamentalism. We have encountered that comment several times on the net and a variety of other fundamentalist/theological arguments. This is not the only apologetic declaration we have detected on Talpiot. We have read Talpiot must be rejected because a Jesus ossuary denies the bodily resurrection. This was from some rather important biblical scholars. We have also noted faith oriented attempts at calculating the probabilities of the names in the Tomb. Our disagreement with Mark is over the use of the names Yoseh and Joseph. We don't believe they are interchangeable in the first century. Arguments using NT manuscripts are not dependable or datable and are tenuous to say the least. Furthermore, the name Joseph violates the sociological and anthropological aspects of the burial. The family most assuredly knew the name of the person inscribed on the ossuary and it wasn't Joseph.
Mark Elliott

#15 - Mark Elliot - 04/26/2012 - 01:35

To Mark G: The NT sources cannot tell us if Jesus was married or not, because they don't. The NT is neutral on Jesus' marriage. It would not be surprising if Jesus indeed had been married. We don't know. As we mentioned in our other comment, "The image of Jesus as a dedicated celibate is a theological construct of later Christian theology." Of course, we have explained appealing to Christian tradition on this issue is not all that helpful. Christian tradition and the NT have been demonstrated to be false in a number of occurrences. I will repeat what we have written previously " No Gospel indicates that Jesus was celibate for his entire life. Paul’s letters never mention celibacy regarding Jesus. The Gospels are silent concerning Jesus’ marital status. They have nothing to say about whether or not Jesus had been married previously or had a son....the Gospels rarely reveal any information on the marital status of Jesus’ apostles. There is a brief mention of Peter’s (Simon’s) mother-in-law but nothing on his wife or possible children” (see Mk 1:30). Can we suppose that all the original disciples excluding Peter were not married simply because their marital status remains unmentioned in the Gospels? If it weren’t for Paul’s brief comment concerning the wives of the other apostles and the brothers of the lord and Cephas (I Cor 9:5), we would have no credible information concerning the wives of the apostles. As for Jesus' marital status and the inscribed ossuary Judas son of Jesus, we suggest that the Gospels and Letters of Paul cannot provide the evidence to discount the possibility Jesus had a son."
Mark Elliott

#16 - Mark Elliot - 04/26/2012 - 01:57

Thanks, Mark. Fair enough, but you don't name any other scholars in this section except me, you speak of what you "believe percolating just beneath the surface of this debate" and you go on to talk about Biblical literalism. I am afraid that the implication is there, and I think it distracts from the discussion of the issues. I think I'd say that if there are those who make arguments that are based on apologetics, then call them out on it.

On the NT manuscripts, they are all we have and it's always important to take the textual data seriously. But my point is not just text-critical but also synoptic. If one wishes to disparage Matthew's witness, in comparison with Mark's, on the names of Jesus' family, then one loses the name "Joseph" of Jesus' father (Matt. 1-2, absent in Mark), which is not too helpful for the desired correlations between the Talpiot Tomb A names and the early Christian literary texts.

#17 - Mark Goodacre - 04/26/2012 - 01:58

To Mark G:
We didn't name the individuals because exposing them was a bit embarrassing. However, those who dig in the net and in our previous writings can uncover them. Sorry, you saw this as a swipe at you. As for disparaging Matthew and his use of Joseph, at least Luke also knew the name of Jesus' father. Furthermore, the name Joseph is inscribed on the ossuary. It is a very nice link to Jesus.
Mark Elliott

#18 - Mark Elliot - 04/26/2012 - 02:20

Thanks, Mark.

Brief comment on Joseph: it's "a very nice link to Jesus" if one takes the evidence from Matthew seriously, the thing you are less keen to do in relation to Jesus having a brother who was known variously as either Joseph or Joses. I agree, of course, that Joseph is also mentioned in Luke (and John).

On the issue of Jesus' being married, I see this as an interesting discussion that in the end distracts from the lack of evidence that he had a son called Judas. Jacobovici's theory claims extraordinary correlation but admits that one of the names contradicts the literary record.

#19 - Mark Goodacre - 04/26/2012 - 03:34

This article is full of errors and misunderstandings. You have ignored what I said in the rest of my comment on the ASOR Blog: "More on Yose: I see now that James Tabor and Kilty-Elliott (I presume because he gave them their data) are supposing that there are two different names: Yose(with final he) and Yosi(with final yod). This is a mistake: the latter should be vocalised Yose (long e) (see Jastrow p. 570). They are just variant spellings, using a different vowel letter (he or yod) but pronounced the same." You have also ignored James Tabor's comment in the same series of comments that I am right about this! He admits it was a mistake to think there were two different names. They are simply two different spellings.

The figure 2826 names is Ilan's. It is the sum of all the names born by individuals (male and female) that she includes in her lexicon for the whole period 330BCE - 200 CE and regards as non-fictitious. She does not uncritically accept any name given in later sources as purportedly belonging to an individual of the period. Actually, it is not particularly problematic to trust the Mishnah for the names of personages living before 70. All scholars do for most of them. To say that we cannot trust the sayings attributed to such persons in rabbinic literature is beside the point. This is not a case of trusting what they are reported to have said, but of trusting the traditions to have remembered that there were people of these names. However, if you wish to count only evidence for persons living before 70 and given in sources from before the Mishnah, the figure of 2826 names will have to be radically reduced, because it includes a very large number of people who lived after 70 and before 200 CE, as well as earlier persons attested in rabbinic sources. So all your statistics based on the number 2826 would then be wrong byh a long way..

#20 - Richard Bauckham - 04/26/2012 - 16:47

Goodacre: "I see this as an interesting discussion that in the end distracts from the lack of evidence that he had a son called Judas."

There may be no TEXTUAL evidence, but there is PHYSICAL evidence, which is the names on the ossuaries. One may disagree with the meaning or relevance of the evidence, but I don't see how one can deny that there is evidence.

Before the inscriptions were found, there was no evidence that Jesus had a son. Now we have evidence that someone named Jesus, who had close relationships with people whose names are remarkably similar to the names of people close to the Jesus of the bible, had a son named Judas.

I don't see how we can ever know whether these inscriptions relate to the Jesus of the bible, but it is evidence and it is possible.

And that's what I mean when I say you keep trying to turn this into an article of belief. You reject physical evidence in favor of the evidence of faith-based writings that in any event don't make any reference to the topic.

#21 - Jim Mason - 04/26/2012 - 17:34

A further important point about the two spellings of the name is this. The spelling with final he is Aramaic spelling (since in Aramaic final he as well as final yod can stand for the long e sound), whereas the spelling with the yod is Hebrew spelling (since in Hebrew 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. Since the pronunciation was the same in both cases, there is no reason to think that any individual need have been consistently named in one way rather than the other. Most people rarely, if ever, wrote their own name, while on ossuary inscriptions the name would be written by someone else, not the person concerned (who was dead), and that person would use whatever spelling came to mind.

Another point that others have made before is that since Yose(whichever way spelled) was a short form of Joseph (Yosef), not an independent name, the same individual might well be called both Joseph and Yose on different occasions or in different contexts. The brother of Jesus was doubtless known by the short form in order to distinguish him from his father, much as in a modern family a father might be called James and his son, though James on his birth certificate, commonly called Jim to avoid confusion with his father. Thus it is not surprising that Matthew should prefer the full and more formal form of the name to Mark's Joses.

The variant readings in manuscripts of Matthew are very likely scribal assimilations to the text of Mark, just as there are variant readings in manuscripts of Mark that assimilate his form of the name to Matthew. This is a common phenomenon in the textual tradition of the Synoptic Gospels. The scribes tended to harmonise differences between the Gospels. The dominant text of Mark has only the genitive Josetos, of which the nominative could be either Joses or Jose.

#22 - Richard Bauckham - 04/26/2012 - 19:06

Richard Bauckham,

First of all, we made no error in your quote and the reference is there for all to read in its entirety. We agree here with Tabor over your insistence that Yoseh and Yosi should be considered the same in the first century, when Tabor stated to you "I think you are incorrect about equating Yoseh as written on the Talpiot tomb A ossuary and the more common form Yosi that appears in later times." Second, it is clear you insist all forms of Joseph, such as Yoseh and Yosi to be lumped together without any recognition of the differences in spelling and dating. We would only argue that different spellings are important! My name is spelled Mark and there are others who spell the name Marc. We are not the same person because the names sound alike. And my relatives will not use Marc on my headstone. You also failed to mention that the spelling of Yoseh/Yose is missing from the Mishnah, but appears regularly in later rabbinic writings. This must be evidence that Yoseh/Yose was not known by the early rabbis and was indeed a rare form in the first century.

As for the use of the Mishnah, Neusner argues that the names in the Mishnah must be attested in other documents to be considered authentic. That is one point of view, and we noted it. But our rejection for the use of Yosi is not based on the problems inherent in the Mishnah, rather the name Yosi is nowhere attested in the first century. This a problem Bauckham who doesn't want to acknowledge. The name is not in the Dead Sea Scrolls or in a document dated to the first century, or on any inscribed ossuary. We would expect to find Yosi (Yod, Vav, Samech, Yod) in some document or inscription from the first century to validate its existence as a commonly used name. This is important evidence that Yosi (Yod, Vav, Samech, Yod) was not a name utilized in the first century. However, the most important evidence available that Yosi should not be used in any computations for Talpiot names has nothing to do with the Mishnah. Yosi is not the spelling on the ossuary. Bauckham's persistence in arguing that Yosi and Yoseh/Yose are interchangeable "negates the obvious family preference concerning the name inscribed on the ossuary." It is pretty simple, Yosi is not there.

#23 - Mark Elliot - 04/26/2012 - 19:14

More problems with your evidence:
(1) You say the name Yod-Vav-Samech-Yod is nowhere attested outside the Mishnah. On the contrary, 12 of Ilan's instances are from the Tosefta. 6 are from the Palestinian Talmud. One is from the Mekilta di Rabbi Ishmael. Several are from other rabbinic works.
(2) You say: 'It is missing in the entire corpus of the Dead Sea Scrolls.' Well, how many names (apart from biblical characters) are there in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Very few.
(3) You say that the name with Aramaic spelling (i.e. with final he) appears in post-Mishnaic literature 1209 times. This doesn't mean much unless we know how many individuals are named over how long a period. Later rabbinic literature covers a much longer period than the Mishnah. There were a number of major rabbis called Yose and probably some of these are named hundreds of times in the whole corpus. My guess is that careful investigation would show that one or more individuals called Yoseh in the Mishnah (notably R. Yose b. Halafta) are called Yosey in other rabbinic writings. It is simply a matter of preference for Hebrew or Aramaic spelling.

#24 - Richard Bauckham - 04/26/2012 - 20:20

To Richard #22
There is no evidence supporting the claim that the brother of Jesus was doubtless known by the short form in order to distinguish him from his father, Joseph. In fact, we found no instance of this in Ilan's entire corpus. "Yoseh never appears directly with Joseph. This is extremely important because if Yoseh is a variant of Joseph to be used to differentiate between father and son, we should be able to locate a number of examples. However, there is no example of this combination, Joseph son of Yoseh or Yoseh son of Joseph, anywhere in the written record during the Greco-Roman period in Judea. Thus, Yoseh is never used in the written record to distinguish another member of the same family named Joseph, unless one is willing to admit to such a relationship at Talpiot." See here http://www.bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/talpiot357921#sdfootnote22sym

Bauchham worte, " Most people rarely, if ever, wrote their own name, while on ossuary inscriptions the name would be written by someone else, not the person concerned (who was dead), and that person would use whatever spelling came to mind."
Yes, we agree the dead did not bury themselves or inscribe their own name on their ossuary. It was done by family members or it was done for them. One can hardly imagine that the family let anyone inscribe a name in any fashion that suited the scribe. Were there misspellings on ossuaries, yes. Is Yoseh a misspelling?

Again we have no idea if this scribal assimilation took place in the first century or the 4th century Or if Matthew actually did recognize Joses as a rare form of Yoseh. Bauckham is simply speculating on intentions and dating. We doubt the scribes, much less Matthew, had any intimate family information that Yoseh was really called Joseph.

Mark Elliott

#25 - Mark Elliot - 04/26/2012 - 20:33

Tabor says quite clearly that they are two spellings of the same name. There are not two names. Tabor does claim that the spelling with final yod is a later SPELLING, but this seems to me an invalid deduction from the evidence, which does not take account of the fact that one is an Aramaic spelling, the other Hebrew. If we take, for example, Ilan's no. 37, Yose the Galilean, pre-135, mentioned in the Mishnah, or Ilan's no. 41, Yose the Priest, pre-70, mentioned in the Mishnah - were we to find their burial inscriptions, their names might well be spelled Yoseh. But the compilers of the Mishnah consistently used the Hebrew spelling. That we find a consistent use of one spelling throughout a document does not prove that the individuals referred to actually used that spelling or only that spelling.

The analogy, Mark, with your name is not valid because you live in a society that is particular about such things. People in Greco-Roman Palestine weren't. There are numerous examples of individuals whose names are spelt differently on different occasions. (A better parallel might be William Shakespeare: Every example of his own signature that we have spells his name differently!)

There is no 'the obvious family preference concerning the name inscribed on the ossuary".

#26 - Richard Bauckham - 04/26/2012 - 20:43

Relying on Jastrow's Aramaic-English dictionary requires some knowledge in Hebrew voweling method. When one reads Jastrow entry on יוסי (Jastrow p. 570), the amazing fact is that THERE IS NO יוסה= Yoseh AT ALL! Jastrow voweled the יוסה with a Kamatz under the ס (Samekh); that is, he reads and pronounces it: Yosah! A few lines above we find the entry יוסא and יוסה, again, with a Kamatz under the ס (samekh). The only way to read it is YOSA or Yosah!
Bauckham states: "The spelling with final he is Aramaic spelling (since in Aramaic final he as well as final yod can stand for the long e sound), whereas the spelling with the yod is Hebrew spelling (since in Hebrew final he would indicate an a sound; only yod can stand for the long e spelling)". It seems he missed something: Jastrow points at the occurence of the letter ה as long spelling indeed. But in B. Khagiga 9b, the only such occurence (and Jastrow's source!), the ה(He) appears with a י (Yod) on it's left side. Why? Since even the scribes of the Babylonian Talmud knew very well that without the י, the ה will not be pronounced as if it's a long ה, but a short ה, exactly like the Talpiot Yoseh. True, in the Yalkut Shimoni, the Babylonian long ה became a short ה. The Yalkut earliest date of creation is late 12 century CE. Even if we accept Bauckham's claim, that the ה is "long", the fact is that it occurs in the Babylonian Talmud, in which there is no יוסה (Yoseh) at all.

#27 - Eldad Keynan - 04/26/2012 - 21:10

To #24

You misread us. We are talking about first century literature. Is the Tosefta and the Palestinian Talmud now dated to the first century? Are the names in the Tosefta and Talmud attested in earlier literature? That was our point.

The lack of Yosi in the Dead Sea Scrolls is more evidence that Yosi was not used in the first century. I am sure if Yosi was in a fragment in DSS corpus, you would point to its usage.

True, we have no idea how many of these 1209 Yoseh/Yose names that appear in post-Mishnaic literature are duplicate. But the point is that the names are late. They are not representative of the first century.

Mark Elliott

#28 - Mark Elliot - 04/26/2012 - 21:42

Bauckham says: "My guess is that careful investigation would show that one or more individuals called Yoseh in the Mishnah (notably R. Yose b. Halafta) are called Yosey in other rabbinic writings. It is simply a matter of preference for Hebrew or Aramaic spelling." This statement is correct. The number 1209 counts parallels. We also know that a some Yosey's are also called Yoseh, especially in the Jerusalem Talmud. Sometimes, the same person is Yosey in the beginning of a verse, and Yoseh in the middle. Thus we must conclude a scribal error. No doubt, as different scribes did the actual job of the last compilation, this sort of scribal errors occured. Still - it didn't occur in the Mishna; this fact indicates that the Mishna scribes simply didn't know this form. And another fact: as part of funerary inscriptions, the formal birth names were a must. Therefore the Talpiot Yoseh is one person with a rare name.

#29 - Eldad Keynan - 04/27/2012 - 05:48

Wow, just trying to keep up with all this. I have been busy with my "day job" this week and have not seen this fascinating flurry of comments. Since my name has been taken "in vain" a few times :-) I want to clarify my own position on YOSEH (with a Heh). First, see the chart that list conveniently ALL the occurrences of ALL forms of Yoseh based on Tal Ilan--which remember, is 300 BCE to 200 CE. This is my basic statement on Yoseh and I have not changed it since 2007:


When I wrote that Yoseh and Yosi are the same name I meant it in a general sense, i.e., much like Yehosef and Yosef are the same name--but they are not the same spelling. Yoseh, in Hebrew letters, is very rare, Tal Ilan only list three, including the Talpiot A ossuary. Yosi is quite common, but predominates in later texts. The name of Jesus' brother, the only one we know who might have died before 70 CE other than James (who also was likely in this tomb--see our book, chapter 6 and articles on this web site--in Greek is the precise equivalent, whereas we have no Greek Yosi's on ossuaries. Taking ALL the ossuary examples, Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic, you only have 7 of all the names we know, and lots of Yosefs. Yehosefs, etc.

Goodacre's point about Matthew finding the fuller/formal name acceptable is moot. So what. Of course Yoseh comes from the full name Yosef or Yehosef, but when the family came to tag this particular loved one they tagged him with the name we know as the name of Jesus's brother in Mark 6:3. Matthew has other agendas at work here when you follow it through. He does NOT want to call Jesus the "son of Mary" as that means a mamzer...and he does not want the Mary, mother of James and Yose to be the mother of Jesus--god forbid. So he has a real problem with Mark's text. The ossuary inscriptions speak volumes, in just these matters.

As for the marital state of Jesus I have already mention our treatment in the book. I might blog on this next week but I think the case is very very strong that Jesus was married, and this represents a change of view on my part. The evidence contrary is ALL post-70 CE, meaning even the silence. Paul is our earliest and best witness and he implies Jesus is married in 1 Cor 7 by not appealing to his example when he desperately needs to uphold celibacy. He would have said, "as I and the Lord" as he does on divorce. Remember, we know not a single name of ANY wife of any apostle, of the 12 or the extended ones. But that surely does not mean they were not married with children. I think the sensitivity about Jesus being married really, untimely (and I don't mean with Mark G!) goes back to a notion of the son of God having sex, and much less his holy mother!

#30 - James D. Tabor - 04/27/2012 - 18:26

Mark E. you and I are on the same page of this argument, may not have expressed myself too clearly as I believe He very well could have been married, just that this Talpiot family tomb stuff is fiction, nothing more

#31 - Joe Zias - 04/27/2012 - 18:55

A few comments (I haven't much time for this just now).
To James: We agree they are two spellings of the same name. But you are still writing Yosi, when you have in fact agreed that the form with the final you is actually Yose (long e). You need to take on board that the pronunciation of the two forms was exactly the same. This means it is nonsense to claim that "we have no Greek Yosi's on ossuaries". The Greek version would be just the same whichever spelling in Hebrew characters were in mind. There is no way of knowing whether some called Joses in the NT or on an ossuary would have written their name with a final he or a final yod. You have also not taken on board my basic point that the two forms of the name are respectively Aramaic and Hebrew spellings. If YWSH were a Hebrew spelling it would be pronounced Yosah.

To Eldad: You have made the point before about the name in a funerary inscription has to be the formal birth name. I don't know your authority for this, presumably a rabbinic statement. There is certainly no first century evidence. And it simply cannot be true for ossuaries. For example, the several men who are called Mati on their or their sons' ossuaries are very unlikely to have been called that at birth. It is a very informal abbreviation of Mattiyah. Most ossuary inscriptions are actually very informal. They were just so that relatives could identify the ossuary later. It is quite understandable that they would use a short name if that were the one they most commonly used.

The point about the Mishnah and the other rabbinic texts is that they do not really tell us which spelling of the name the individuals in question used. They merely tell us which spelling the compiler or the scribe preferred. The Mishnah's consistent use of the Hebrew rather than the Aramaic spelling simply shows that someone - the compiler, later scribes? - had a consistent policy of preference. That they preferred the Hebrew spelling is not surprising. Variation with regard to the same individual in different sources would not be a mistake, but just a spelling preference. It's no more significant than if I, writing English, were to refer to rabbi Aqiva and someone else rabbi Akiba. We are just using different transliteration conventions. I have to say it, again and again, the two forms of the name were pronounced exactly the same. So it's not actually like the difference between Yosef and Yehosef, which are two forms of the name. The two forms of Yose are MERELY SPELLING VARIANTS, corresponding to ARAMAIC and HEBREW spelling.

Eldad, you did say something that made me suspect you are arguing that the form on the Talpiyot ossuary should actually be vocalised with a short e. If so, this seems to me very unlikely. Greek versions of names are rather erratic about long and short vowels, but most of the Greek examples of this name have the long e. Aramaicizing spellings are common on the ossuaries, as Ilan shows with lots of evidence.


#32 - Richard Bauckham - 04/27/2012 - 21:34

Thanks for your comments, James. What puzzles me about your stress on Mark 6.3 is that you appear willing to lean on the Matthean evidence (re. Jonah and resurrection) when it is necessary to the case for the next door tomb, but you stress the Marcan evidence where you require it for this tomb.

I am not sure I grasp your point about Mary mother of James and Joses in Mark; just as it is James and Joses in Mark, so it is James and Joseph in Matthew, so the parallel is even.

#33 - Mark Goodacre - 04/28/2012 - 03:03

To Bauckham: we do have a rabbinic authority according to which formal birth names are a must under funerary circumstances. The purpose is not only to allow the relatives to distinguish the interments from one another (plus that Jewish law permits moving ossuaries from one place to another inside the tomb). There is another "goal" to state a family ownership of a tomb. Family ownership of a tomb proves another thing, family ownership of a plot of ground, which the family tomb is located. A tomb is, therefore, an "ownership document", and a rather formal one. Relatives could add a nickname on an ossuary (the "Goliath" family, Jericho). It's rare, but permitted.
I understand your suggestion about Mati being informal - I just don't agree; moreover, we both know you can not prove it, nor can you connect this suggestion to any authority. What we do know is that burial customs change very slowly. Jews buried in tombs during the 1st century CE, and until the 4th century CE (at least)' including ossuaries (in the Galilee).
Following your next suggestion, why would a compiler\scribe prefer a certain form over another? If you are correct, why, then, the compilers\scribes of a later document change their attitude and preferences? BTW: R. Akiva is correct Hebrew pronunciation, while R. Akiba is Greek pronunciation, just like the Hebrew Avraham became Abraham in the process of translating to Greek. Thus it's not just a preference, but the result of the degree of Greek influence. When it comes to Yoseh, all facts show it was a rare form. The rarity shows its self through the Mishna and the ossuaries.
As for the short or long e, after all, we had a significant journey from comment 20 (above)"They are just variant spellings, using a different vowel letter (he or yod) but pronounced the same." I guess we agree now, that whether Aramaic or Hebrew, the ה (he) is not a vowel. Even in the example you use (Jastrow p. 570), the ה is voweled with a י (yod) on its left side, to make it a long הי. Since the Talpiot יוסה doesn't have a י on its left end, its ה is short, thus different comparing to יוסי (=Yosey).

#34 - Eldad Keynan - 04/28/2012 - 07:18

To Bauckham:
The interchange of Yosey and Yoseh is not only the result of preferences. As I said, scribal errors occurred as well. For example:
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. . ."
Trans.: J. Talmud Megila, 2:5, 73b:
". . .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 said so? . . ."
ירושלמי תענית, פ"ד ה"ד, סח ע"ב: ". . . אמר רבי אחא דרבי יוסה היא דרבי יוסי אמר. . . "
y. Ta'an. 4;4, 68b: ". . . said R. Akha this (tradition) is R. Yose's since R. Yosey said . . ." (my translation).
How can this be explained? Might it support the "nicknames" claim? It does not, since two lines further:
". . . אמר רבי אחא דרבי יוסי היא דרבי יוסי אמר. . ."
". . . said R. Akha this (tradition) is R. Yosey's since R. Yosey said . . ." (my translation).
A sage named ר' יודן קפודקיא (R. Yudan of Cappadocia) is mentioned three times, all of which in the y. Talmud. This sage's name is not mentioned in the RL by any other form. One of these occurrences is in y. Ber. 4;1, 7c, and R. Yudan is mentioned here with R. Yudah ben (=son of) Pazi. In this particular case it is easy to conclude that the form Yudan is a formal birth name. If so, what is the Yudah form? It seems that the y. Talmud provides an answer here too:
ירושלמי שבת, פ"כ מ"א, יז ע"ג: ". . . מדברי רבי יודה בן פזי בדקון ואשכחון דלאו מדעת רבי יהודה בן פזי. . . "
y. Sabb. 20;1, 17c: ". . . They checked up what R. Yudah ben Pazi said and found that it was not the opinion of R. Yehudah ben Pazi. . ." (My translation) When we compare the last quotes, we may conclude that R. Yudan was a formal birth name in the former, but the only explanation for the replacement of Yudah with Yehudah in the latter, referring to the same sage and in a single line, is a scribal error. This kind of errors was so frequent across the y. Talmud that it occurred even with patriarchal figures' names, as follows:
ירושלמי ברכות, פ"ג ה"א, ו' ע"א: "כד דמך רבי יודה נשיאה בר בריה דר' יודה נשיאה דחף ר' חייא בר אבא לר' זעירא בכנישתא דגופנה דציפורין וסאביה כד דמכת נהוראי אחתיה דרבי יהודה נשיאה. . . "
y. Ber. 3;1, 6a: "when R. Yudah the Patriarch the grand son of R. Yudah the Patriarch died, R. Khiya son of Aba pushed R. Zeira in the synagogue of Gofna of Zippori and caused him corps defilement. When Nehorai, the sister of R. Yehudah the Patriarch died. . . " (My translation) The woman, Nehorai, was the sister of the late grand son, R. Yehudah the Patriarch. In any rate, this patriarchal figure is mentioned here by two forms: the Generic Yehudah and its descendant Yudah. Again, like in the case of the forms of Yosef (above) and R. Yudah\Yehudah son of Pazi, the same person is mentioned by two forms of a name, in a single line. And again, the only reasonable explanation is a scribal error, almost certainly not the result of a nicknames system.

#35 - Eldad Keynan - 04/28/2012 - 08:16

Indeed the issue of Yoseh is crucial for the analysis of the "Jesus family tomb". In my contribution to the forthcoming publication of the proceedings of the third Princeton Symposium on the Talpiot tomb I devoted a passage on the onomastic of the tomb, here is an extract on Yoseh in particular:
on ossuaries there is only one other occurrence of the form YOSEH in Hebrew letters (cf. CIJ No. 1249 and Cohen-Matlofsky 2001, No. 703), while on papyri there is only one occurrence of it. According to Ilan’s corpus (2002: 151-155): there are 16 pre-135 CE YOSEY mentioned in the rabbinic sources, of which 7 are pre-70 CE; as for the Greek renditions of the name, Ilan records one IOSH (read Yoseh) in the Gospel of Matthew; two IOSHS (read Yoses) on ossuary insciptions (cf. CIJ II, No. 1283 and CJO, No. 56), and two IOSE on ossuary inscriptions (cf. CJO Nos. 444 and 576). This gives us a good picture of the rarity of the name in the period we are dealing with and it also contradicts S. Pfann’s erroneous treatment of the sources for purposes of onomastics. The Greek version of the Gospel of Mark (Mk 6:3; 15:40; 15:47), our earliest literary source for the history of nascent Christianity, mentions Jesus’ brother consistently as IOSHS. Moreover, if Yoseh is indeed considered as an hypocoristic of the full name Yehoseph then the custom of patronymy was indeed respected in Jesus’ family.
All of the above contributes to identify the YOSEH of the Talpiot tomb inscription with Jesus’ brother.
As for Jesus' marital status, I would like to add to James Tabor's argument that the Mishnah Avot 5, 21 sets the age of mariage for men at 18.
Claude Cohen-Matlofsky

#36 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 04/28/2012 - 16:08

By the way, to respond to Joe Zias, the practice of the coins covering the eyes of the deceased is indeed a Greek funerary custom borrowed by the Jews of roman Palestine. There are number of ocurrences of such in the many tombs excavated in Jerusalem and vicinity.
Claude Cohen-Matlofsky

#37 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 04/28/2012 - 16:15

To Eldad 34:
I don't think we do agree about the name. In Aramaic a final long e is indicated by the letter he. It is a vowel letter - that's the usual English term for the letters that carry long vowels. The he in Yose(final he) has exactly the same function as the yod in Yose(final yod). This is why, as I keep saying, they are simply Aramaic and Hebrew spellings of the same name. If the form of the name on the Talpiot ossuary were in Hebrew spelling it would have to be Yoseh (short e) or Yosah. It really doesn't matter to my case what is going on in that single example in Jastrow.

If you don't like the example of Aqiva/Akiba (English writers don't actually know about the Greek influence; they are just choosing a more phonetically accurate version or a more familiar English version), then we could take the occasions in English where two different spellings of a word are both correct. I by preference use the -ize ending for verbs like generalize, but my computer prefers the -ise ending (because, of course, it's set up like that I can't be bothered to change it) and if I give it a chance will change generalize to generalise. Proof readers do the same thing, because English-speaking publishers have house styles that specify either -ize or -ise. It's just a preference. I'm not saying the scribes never make mistakes in the rabbinic texts, but the 'mistake' could easily arise precisely from such a preference. The scribe has changed one occurrence of the name to his preferred spelling but forgotten to change the other. But I have no expertise in textual criticism of the rabbinic writings, so I won't press that idea. I'm really much more interested in cases where the same individual is called Yose(final he) in the Mishna or Tosefta but Yose(final yod) in later rabbinic writings. That's what I hoped you would provide cases of and that's where the case for spelling preferences comes in.

By the way, Ilan mentions (I haven't looked up her source) that there are ten cases of Yose(final he) on Palestinian synagogue inscriptions (post-200). They would also have to be part of the evidence for or against a chronological difference in the spelling of the name.

#38 - Richard Bauckham - 04/28/2012 - 17:27

To Bauckham,
To my surprise, you claim - again - that the pronounciation of the final he is similar to the final yod. Let me remind you the only example you show is Jastrow p. 570; here, the final he comes with a yod on its left in order to make it a long he; to be oronounced "hey". You write: "It really doesn't matter to my case what is going on in that single example in Jastrow." I find this statement very odd. you quoted it, so I have to ask you why you used it in the first place?
You say that Yosey and Yoseh are Hebrew and Aramaic spelling of the same name. I admit I can't figure out which is the Aramaic and which is the Hebrew. You say "If the form of the name on the Talpiot ossuary were in Hebrew spelling it would have to be Yoseh (short e) or Yosah". So, do you think that Yoseh (יוסה) is Aramaic? You contend that a final he is a vowel in Aramaic. Can you point at the authority behind this statement? I ask this since Jastrow appears to be a "non-authority" in that point.
The question of Akiba\Akiva has nothing to do with what I like or dislike. I just expect scholars of the relevant subjects and time to know that one of them is the result of Greek transliteration.
As there is no יוסה (=Yoseh) in the Mishna, I can only help with the Tosefta and the J. Talmud. There are more than 300 Yoseh's in the Tosefta. Obviously, some are called in the Tosefta or the J. Talmud Yosey as well. So what? It's possible that people called a person in actual day-to-day life both Yosey and Yoseh, thus both corpuses reflect this phenomenon. But when it comes to funerary inscriptions, formal birth names had a decisive priority. And since both corpuses are later than the Mishna, the NT and the Talpiot inscriptions, the conclusion is that Yoseh (יוסה) was a rare form in Jesus' times and the next 150-200 years in the Palestinian Jewish society.

#39 - Eldad Keynan - 04/28/2012 - 19:27

Ilan's Palestinian synagogues inscriptions seem to stand on my side - unless you believe that such inscriptions included nicknames. The prominent point here is Ilan's dating: post-200, as you say. This physical find supports my statement at the end of my former comment.

#40 - Eldad Keynan - 04/28/2012 - 19:31

Eldad. I never cited Jastrow for the pronunciation of YWSH. I cited Jastrow to show that YOSY in the Mishna etc. is pronounced Yose, not Yosi, as Tabor thought until recently and as the article we're all commenting on still thinks.

Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic, p. 8: 'Final long e is indicated by He.' (I can't type Hebrew letters or proper transliteration here, you understand.)

I don't see how I can make myself clearer. YWSH is Aramaic spelling, YWSY is Hebrew spelling. Both have a long e and are pronounced exactly the same.

Aramaized spellings are common on the ossuaries. See Ilan p. 25.

#41 - Richard Bauckham - 04/28/2012 - 21:17

Eldad, you haven't yet given your authority for saying that names on funerary inscriptions have to be birth names. Whatever it is, it will take a lot to convince me that all the short forms used on ossuaries are birth names. By the way, I don't call short forms nicknames. Nicknames are different.

#42 - Richard Bauckham - 04/28/2012 - 21:20

A few points, Richard. When the form is יוסי, then the pronounciation is Yosey, since the Yod on the left end is a vowel that indicates a long e. Thus the Mishna יוסי is Yosey.
I do understand what Rozental states. Yet I still wish to see usage examples. There is also the stressed ה, considered a long form, but one must hear it to understand.
As I thought, you claim that Yosey (=יוסי) is Hebrew spelling, while Yoseh is Aramaic. But I guess you have another problem now since if this is the case, why, then, the Babylonian knows only the Hebrew and doesn't have even a clue regarding the Aramaic form?
The rabbinic authority for the importance of formal birth names under funerary circumstances: 1. Midrash Tanaim to Deuteronomy 25:6; the subject is levirate marriage; a Jew died childless; his younger brother should marry the widow. Their first born must be named after the dead brother for two reasons: 1. to preserve the dead man's name. 2. to keep the dead man's property under the control of the family. The sources states:
מדרש תנאים לדברים פרק כה

יקום על שם אחיו לנחלה...יוסף קורין אותו יוסף יוחנן קורין אותו יוחנן
"...will be after his brother for the purpose of property. . . (if the dead brother's name was) Yosef he will be named Yosef, Yokhanan he will be named Yokhanan".
Parallels: B. Talmud, Yebamot, 24a. The amazing parallel is Sifrey to Deuteronomy, Ki Tetse, 289 (6). Here, one of the formal birth names is - Yosey, the other is Yokhanan. That is Yosey was a formal birth name; this is not to dismiss the possibility that Yosey was also an abbreviation in day-to-day speech.
As I wrote before, when we discuss funerary circumstances, formal birth names were crucial and one of the reasons was to keep family property under the family control.
Last point, you say "I never cited Jastrow for the pronunciation of YWSH. I cited Jastrow to show that YOSY in the Mishna etc. is pronounced Yose, not Yosi, as Tabor thought until recently and as the article we're all commenting on still thinks".
Following this citation you clearly stated that the final ה (he) is a vowel; a vowel means a sound, at least in Hebrew and Aramaic. Thus the Mishna יוסי is pronounced Yosey, not Yose, as long as there is no Yod as a vowel on the left side of the ה (he).

#43 - Eldad Keynan - 04/29/2012 - 07:23

Eldad, I think we're talking past each other about the pronunciation, and it's partly because I thought I couldn't do proper transliteration here. I now find I can. So, in standard English transliteration of Hebrew (e.g. SBL style), YWSY is Yôsê. The yod here functions as a "vowel letter' (that's the standard term in English grammars of Hebrew). (A vowel letter is not a vowel as such, but the letters he, yod, and vav when they function to represent long vowels. The older grammars use the term mater lectionis, and the vowels they represent are 'pure-long' vowels.) I referred to Jastrow to show that YWSY in the Mishna etc is Yôsê, not, as Tabor used to think and as the article we're commenting on still thinks, Yôsî. OK? I think we agree completely. It's just that you're writing the yod as such (Yosey), whereas I am representing it by the circumflex accent (Yôsê), which is what English writers doing accurate transliteration usually do.
Now, I think that you take YWSH to be Yôsĕh (like Moses: Mōšĕh, though Yôsĕh has a pure-long o). I take it to be Yôsê, with the he functioning as a vowel-letter representing a long e, as it can in Aramaic (though not in Hebrew). Jastrow vocalises it as Yôsâ. Whether that's right for the later rabbinic occurrences of YWSH I don't know, but I'm sure it's not right for the Talpiot ossuary.
Have we understood each other?
My guess is that in B. Ḥag. 9b, the text was originally YWSH, and intended to be the Aramaic spelling, but a scribe felt the need to make it clear that the pronunciation is Yôsê, and so added the yod that Hebrew spelling would require. Otherwise, surely ,the addition of a yod to the he would be very strange?

Now - on birth names. Your rabbinic quotations say nothing about funerary inscriptions. What is certainly interesting and striking is that the one from Sifre Deut talks about Yôsê as a birth name. So, yes, I think you have shown that it can be. (I guess it would then be like occasional English usage, e.g. Prince Harry's birth name is Harry, even though Harry is normally a short form of Henry.) But it doesn't have to apply to the Talpiot ossuary, because you have not established the point about putting birth names on ossuaries. I don't think names on ossuaries had anything to do with keeping family property under family control. A very large majority of ossuaries have no inscriptions at all, while many of them are carelessly scribbled as surely they would not be if marking ownership were the purpose. I have not seen a claim like this made by Rahmani or Hachlili who are the experts on ossuary burial. So, yes, Yôsê could be a birth name, but I still think it could just as easily be the name by which this individual was customarily known.

#44 - Richard Bauckham - 04/29/2012 - 19:28

Eldad, I am interested too know what you think about the individuals called YWSY in the Mishna who lived before 70. There are six of them in Ilan's list (and there are another three who are pre-135). Do you think we can rely on the Mishna's spelling and know that these individuals would themselves have spelled their names YWSY?

#45 - Richard Bauckham - 04/29/2012 - 19:36

M Goodacre states, "On the NT manuscripts, they are all we have and it's always important to take the textual data seriously."

Only those manuscripts that have a semblance of not being redacted should be taken seriously. Then, at best the textual data which one is confident hasn't been redacted should be classed as possibly objective or not - not, being fabulous - a contradiction of science.

Objective data within the text could consist of data, that is verifiable within an historical context. Specific to the Talpiot Tomb (A), such objective data would be a name that is found both in the tomb and the manuscript.

Subjective textual data such as turning water to wine, or magically multiplying food, would be of no value except to possibly infer that the other supposedly objective data is suspected of corruption.

#46 - Eliyahu Konn - 04/30/2012 - 10:02


Exactly right, that was my point earlier, and I notice that Goodacre hasn't responded to it.


#47 - Jim Mason - 04/30/2012 - 15:56

Jim and Eliyahu: there is no such thing as "manuscripts that have a semblance of not being redacted". At least I have never seen such. The contrast between "objective data" and "subjective textual data" is too simplistic to be of any use in furthering the discussion. I don't know what the relevance of the feeding stories or the water into wine are in this context.

#48 - Mark Goodacre - 05/01/2012 - 16:13


You didn't answer the question. You keep saying there is no evidence that Jesus had a child based on the word of the New Testament.

But now there is physical evidence that someone named Jesus, whose close relatives had similar names to those who were close relatives to the Jesus of the NT, had a child.

Why do you believe the textual evidence (which by no means was an evenhanded historical account) is more credible than the physical evidence?

And even if you believe the name on the ossuary is not the Jesus of Nazareth from the bible stories, can you at least concede that it consitutes "evidence?"

#49 - Jim Mason - 05/01/2012 - 17:09

Jim: it's not a question of what I "believe"; it is a question of rigorous, critical, historical analysis. Nor is it just a question of "the New Testament" but studying the full range of early Christian texts. Canonical boundaries are not relevant for those of us who engage in historical work on Christian origins.

The Talpiot Tombs are indeed evidence of early Jewish burials and I think it is interesting to study them as such. The move to link them with early Christian evidence requires claims of extraordinary correlation that I and most others working in the area do not find persuasive.

#50 - Mark Goodacre - 05/01/2012 - 17:37


Thanks for responding to my questions. I would point out that:

1) "Analysis" and "belief" unfortunately have turned into the same thing as this issue is discussed.

2) Although the issue wasn't directly addressed in non-canonical texts, which were in any event they were written long after Jesus was dead, there are texts that say that "Jesus kissed Mary on the (something)" and/or singled Mary out as a favorite.

I would not say that those are decisive statements by any means, but they raise the possibility of a relationship between Jesus and Mary. I still place a low probability on the likelihood that Jesus and Mary were married or had a child, but the names on the ossuary certainly in my eyes raise the odds.

In other words, what I used to think of as silly I now think of as a possibility because we have some physical evidence.

3) You say: "The move to link them with early Christian evidence requires claims of extraordinary correlation." Why extraordinary? I think that is a good summary, though, that a lot of people have a default position based on years of ingrained belief (there's that word again) and they won't give it up without a fiery cross in the sky.

#51 - Jim Mason - 05/02/2012 - 16:29

Jim: "belief" has only come into the discussion because it has been brought in by people claiming that it is a factor in the historical analysis. That's why it's important just to stick to the historical analysis.

On the non-canonical texts, you are referring here to the Gospel of Philip. There is little of historical value in this text. Simcha also appeals to the Acts of Philip in discussing the Talpiot Tomb. Neither the Gospel of Philip nor the Acts of Philip are helpful in this context for discussing the first century.

On "extraordinary correlation", that is my attempt to characterize Simcha et al's argument. If the correlation between the names in the tomb and the names in the Christian texts is not extraordinary (or appealing, amazing, surprising, whatever word one chooses), then the case is weak.

#52 - Mark Goodacre - 05/02/2012 - 23:24


But, try as you might, you can't separate historical analysis from belief. When weighing evidence, you choose to believe the NT over possible physical evidence. You believe the gospel of Philip does not refer to an historical relationship. I never did before, either, but is it not rational to adjust one's views in light of physical evidence?

None of this is to say you are wrong, and I understand the weighing process is complicated.

However, I think what is wrong is for people to frame it as "I base my decisions on historical analysis while others base their decisions on beliefs."

On extraordinary, it is a subjective word and therefore not much use in this analysis. I happen to think the collection of names, given the time period and location of the ossuaries, constitutes serious evidence. (Again, serious is subjective, no way to avoid that.)

Therefore IMO it is wrong to casually dismiss the family tomb theory as a publicity stunt, as some have done.

#53 - Jim Mason - 05/03/2012 - 18:19

Mark: Some questions to try to clear up the notion of "historical analysis" (as you use the term). Can "theological belief" (or any other belief) be used as evidence in your "historical analysis"?

Of all the extant texts from 30 to 100 CE, which material is valid for your "historical analysis"?

In your "historical analysis," are canonical texts more "historically reliable" than non-canonical ones?

#54 - Paul Diehl - 09/03/2012 - 01:56


I couldn't agree more with your statement that there's no appropriate role for "belief" in interpreting the early Christian texts and that we should stick to "rigorous, critical, historical analysis". By this, I take you to mean the kind of objective analysis we associate with the scientific method.

But I see a conundrum in approaching early Christian texts in the way you propose. Their authors were not guided by anything like the standards of objectivity that modern historical analysis requires. These texts represent a very complex mix of cross-generational oral history, faith-building, church-building, and prophesy. The authors wrote them for many reasons, among them to communicate Jesus's moral philosophy, establish Jesus's legitimacy as the Messiah in the context of Old Testament prophesy, broaden the appeal of the Jesus Movement to non-Jews, demonstrate Jesus's dual nature as human and divine, and comfort believers with the knowledge there would be life after death and that Jesus would return soon.

Moreover, these texts are not a scientific, random sample of relevant texts of the period. They were hand-selected for a purpose, and other texts of the period were suppressed by those who preferred to convey a particular set of stories and doctrines to us.

All of this suggests that these texts do not come to us through authors and editors who were particularly concerned about maintaining any degree of detached objectivity, a concept that, in fact, would have been alien to them.

So, my question is this: how does one bring objective historical analysis to texts that offer us so little objectivity and nothing like what we think of today as "history"? Analysis requires data. The authors of these texts did not know what data is, and if they had, they probably wouldn't have cared to give us much. They were writing for people of faith, and people who were seeking faith, not to suit the needs of objective historical analysts.

In this light, I find your very high standard (i.e., "extraordinary correlation") for weighing the names in the Talpiot tomb unreasonable. I think you're giving unwarranted weight to an historical analysis built on sand over an hypothesis being constructed empirically, brick-by-brick, according to a rigorous, scientific methodology.

Finally, one other point: By attempting to apply rigorous historical analysis to texts for which such analysis is wholly inappropriate, I think you're creating an opening for "belief" to slip in the backdoor of your work. When analysts work closely and over long periods with very soft "data", they'll sometimes come to see patterns they "want" to see, consciously or otherwise. It's similar to how early observers of Mars came to see the extensive network of canals as evidence of an advanced civilization on the planet. Of course, the illusion was fueled by preconceived notions, a lack of rigor, inadequate technology, the excitement of discovery, professional ambition, wishful thinking, etc.

#55 - Philip Diehl - 09/03/2012 - 06:58

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