Jesus the Patriarch and Talpiot Tomb A

See Also: Tombs at Talpiot

By Claude Cohen-Matlofsky
IUEJ Elie Wiesel, Paris
October 2013

Jesus moved to Jerusalem with his mother and followers. On one hand, one could expect that Joseph’s bones/remains would have been transferred to the family tomb in Jerusalem, a practice very well known from the Old Testament era. But on the other hand, apparently the father’s remains were not transferred to this tomb; he would not (or could not, according to the more strict Jerusalemite Halakhah regarding adultery and burial practices[1]) be buried with his adulterous wife. Mary, who died after Jesus, found proper burial in his tomb, as did the rest of his family. However, it was a fatherless tomb because it was the tomb of Jesus himself, the first born of Mary,[2] the mamzer, (illegitimate child in Hebrew),[3] posing as the patriarch of the family. His adulterous mother Mary was buried in it along with at least his half-brother Yoseh, who likely died before 70 CE, his wife Mary Magdalene (Mariam), his son Yehudah, and one of his followers,[4] Mathiah.

If this tomb is that of Jesus as the patriarch, then this explains the filiation only on his ossuary, Bar Yehoseph,[5] and on his son’s ossuary, Bar Yeshua. Furthermore, it explains the absence of filiation on the Yoseh ossuary. Moreover, there is also every reason to believe that Jesus was married when he died at age 30.[6] If Paul could have used Jesus’ name as an example for the celibate life-style, he surely would have. But in the end, the only example Paul had to share was that of himself. Moreover, unless he, or whoever his wife was, would have been infertile, there is every circumstantial reason to believe that Jesus had a child, given his age at marriage and the purpose of marriage at the time. Flavius Josephus himself had five sons by approximately age 35 (cf. Vita, 426-427).

The tomb of Jesus is an atypical, fatherless tomb: Jesus, the eldest son, became the patriarch by “replacing” the "husband” of his adulteress mother.

In this case, Jesus would have to have had his wife buried there, as well as his unmarried sons and daughters, his married sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. In addition, he would have to have included his adulterous mother and his brothers along with their immediate relatives according to the model described in the lines above.

Does this match the findings in the Talpiot tomb? It does in the sense that the findings according to ossuary inscriptions do not contradict this theory. So we are dealing with a fatherless Jewish family tomb. How many tombs of this type do we know of from the same period? More research needs to be done in this field concerning Jewish Halakhah relevant to burial practice and many other aspects of social life. Such research needs to identify how laws and customs were applied in Jerusalem as opposed to other parts of early Roman Palestine, especially Galilee.

What are possible alternative identifications of the Talpiot tomb?

The first alternative is that this tomb was not at all Jesus’ family tomb and would have been that of YOSEH (Rahmani 1994: No. 705) as the patriarch, especially because there is no filiation in his ossuary inscription, his wife MARIA (Rahmani 1994: No. 706), their children MATHIAH (Rahmani 1994: No. 703) and YESHUA` (Rahmani 1994: No. 704), and their grandchild YEHUDAH (Rahmani 1994: No. 702).

Although appealing and I agree with Rahmani’s comments regarding the epigraphic similitude between the ossuaries of YOSEH, MARIA, and MATHIAH, the problems I see with this theory are as follows:

1- Rahmani fails to notice the epigraphic disparity between the ossuaries of YESHUA` BAR YEHOSEPH, YEHUDA BAR YESHUA`, and the previously mentioned ones.

2-What do we do with the MARIAM H KAI MARA (Rahmani 1994: No. 701) ossuary, the only one inscribed in Greek?

3-Whether a hypocoristic of the name YEHOSEPH or a nickname, the form YOSEH should have been used consistently in the inscriptions on the tomb; we must bear in mind that the latter has a familial character. We cannot have two ossuaries referring to the same person with two different names/forms of the name in the same family tomb (cf. especially the Goliath family tomb in Jericho). Therefore, if YOSEH and YEHOSEPH are the same individual, inscription No. 704 of Rahmani’s catalog should have read: YESHUA` BAR YOSEH instead of YESHUA` BAR YEHOSEPH. Thus, when Kilty and Elliot identify YOSEH with YEHOSEPH in a non-Jesus family tomb scenario, they are incorrect.[7]

Yet, an alternative would consist of assuming that the Talpiot tomb was that of YOSEH, Jesus’ brother. Yoseh could have named his son, Yeshua after his slain brother, Jesus. However, this was not common practice at the time.

Prosopographists like myself are able to identify the custom of patronymy, the naming of a son according to his father’s name; and paponymy, the naming of a son according to his grandfather’s name. Metronymy, the naming of a daughter after her grandmother is also, to a certain extent, attested to as a practice of the time. In the meantime, it is indeed interesting to note that this very practice of patronymy/paponymy/metronymy, by its repetitive nature, leaves the sample of names quite narrow and refutes in essence the argument of “very common names” put forward by a number scholars that the Talpiot tomb was not that of Jesus’ family.

In fact, naming followed the pattern of paponymy, patronymy, and metronymy even though Jesus himself apparently named his son, YEHUDA (after his brother Jude?). In any case, the inconsistency in the use of the name forms of YOSEH/YEHOSEPH in the same family tomb applies here again, as explained in alternative number one.

In light of the above, one has to accept the very likely probability that Jesus was married, that he had a child, and that they all had a secondary burial in Jerusalem in the first century CE in a family rock-cut tomb.

*No part of this article may be reproduced in any format, electronic, print, or otherwise, without the express written permission of the author. Express written permission has been granted to the on-line journal, Bible and Interpretation. The article will be reproduced in its entirety, with express permission, in a forthcoming book.


[1] Even though Joseph had not repudiated Mary in Nazareth while knowing that she was pregnant by another man, the sub-question here indeed arises: how much Jewishness was there in Galilee? As opposed to Schaberg (1987), rather than analyzing Mary’s rape/adultery and Jesus’ illegitimacy from the Christian theological angle, I propose to develop research in trying to reconstruct what in the Jewish Halakhah applied in Galilee at the time.

[2] Mt. 1: 24-25 states that Joseph and Mary did not have a sexual union until Mary gave birth to Jesus, her first born son. Herein one learns that: 1- Joseph, who could have repudiated Mary according to Jewish Law (although one has to verify if this law applied in Galilee at that time), did not even though she was an adulteress pregnant with another man’s son. 2- Jesus was the first born of Mary’s children. 3- Mary had other children, probably with Joseph.

Here is more relevant information on adultery: about a year typically passed before the woman moved from her parents’ house to her husband’s house (M. Ket. 5.2; Ned. 10.5; Babylonian Talmud Ket. 57b). During that time, although the marriage was not yet consummated, the woman was “wife” (Deut 20.7; 28.30; Judg 14.15; 15.1; 2 Sam 3.14), and she could become a widow (M. Yeb. 4.10; 6.4; Ket. 1.2) or be punished for adultery (Deut 22:23-4; 11QTemple 61). Thus, betrothal was the legal equivalent of marriage, and its cancellation was divorce (M. Ket. 1.2; 4.2; Yeb. 2.6; Git. 6.2).

Following courtship and the completion of the marriage contract (Tob 7:14), the marriage was considered established: the woman had passed from her father’s authority to that of her husband. Again the question is how much of this legal content was applied in Galilee at the time.

[3] This is well expressed in Mishnah Qiddushin 3:12: "And in any situation in which a woman has no right to enter betrothal with this man but has the right to enter into betrothal with others, the offspring is a mamzer." A considerable literature on the subject of Jesus, the illegitimate child, has emerged. See for instance: J. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, New York, 1991; B. Chilton, Rabbi Jesus. An Intimate Biography, New York, 2000; M. Bar Ilan, "The Attitude toward Mamzerim in Jewish Society in Late Antiquity", Jewish History, 2000, pp. 125-170; S. D. Cohen, "Some Thoughts on ‘The Attitude toward Mamzerim in Jewish Society in Late Antiquity,’" Jewish History, 2000, pp.171-174; B. Chilton, "Jésus, le mamzer (Mt 1.18)," New Testament Studies, 46, 2001, pp. 222-227; S. McKnight, "Calling Jesus Mamzer," Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, 2003, pp. 73-103; C. Quarles, "Jesus as Mamzer: A Response to Bruce Chilton’s Reconstruction of the Circumstances Surrounding Jesus’ Birth in ‘Rabbi Jesus,’" Bulletin for Biblical Research, 2004, pp. 243-255.

[4] There are a number of possibilities for identifying this Mathiah with one of Jesus’ followers; I am not going to enter that discussion in this paper. Nevertheless, for exceptional burials of not immediate relatives buried in these familial rock-cut tombs, Eric Meyers, a participant at the symposium, mentioned the example of Yehudah Hanassi’s disciple, who was buried in his master’s tomb.

[5] Even though Joseph was not his biological father, since his mother had not been repudiated, he was to be identified as “bar Yehoseph” on his epitaph.

[6] The Mishnah Avot 5:21 sets the age of marriage at 18 for men. Moreover, for instance, the funerary inscriptions along with the archaeological material found in the rock-cut tomb of Jericho, especially the anthropological analysis, lead me to think that Yeho`ezer, son of ‘El`azar Goliath, was a grandfather of 10 if not of 14 at the age of 35 when he died in the year 10 CE. See C. Cohen-Matlofsky (2001: No. 633). It seems that Flavius Josephus had been married four times by the time he was in his thirties, cf. C. Cohen-Matlofsky (2001: No. 312).

[7] See K. Kilty and M. Elliot, “Probability, Statistics and the Talpiot Tomb,” June 10, 2007, figure 1, p. 8. In this same figure, Kilty and Elliot envisage the theory behind this tomb as Jesus’ family tomb without the father, Joseph, but with Jesus and his son Judas, and Yoseh, Jesus’ brother. They believe that Matthew would have been Yoseh’s son. But then we would at least have had MATHIAH BAR YOSEH, especially because there is no filiation on Yoseh’s ossuary inscription.

Comments (33)

Thanks so much for this contribution Prof. Cohen-Matlofsky. In my view this important piece related to the Talpiot tomb, as well as your general work on late 2nd Temple Jewish prosopography has radically sharpened our understanding of onomastics in the period. I just put up a blog post calling attention to your analysis here, some of your previous work, as well as setting this valuable piece in a larger context of work that I and others have done on the probable "illegitimate" birth of Jesus.

#1 - James Tabor - 10/04/2013 - 18:07

Well done, Claude! At last, another loud and confident voice on that matter!

#2 - Eldad Keynan - 10/05/2013 - 05:36

There is a basic premise in Judaism, in the Torah, that an observant Jew wouldn't consider calling another observant Jew an evil person without indisputable evidence? Calling a Jewish man found in a Jewish tomb by the moniker of xtianity according to Torah is inconceivable. The male names in the tomb were Hebrew/Aramaic, not Roman/Hellenist/Anglican.
And the mans mother was an adulteress? That is certainly an easy way to condemn, but again, Judaism seeks to exonerate if possible and not attribute evil unless it is indisputable, Ben Zomah Khagigah 15a.
On the absence of Yehoseph/Yoseph, the father of Yehoshua/Yshua - in logic and science we don't consider as plausible an argument which lacks data. "It might be this, or it might be that," isn't data. So unless one can cite from Rahmani a tomb where the patriarch is missing and the oldest son being present is a known mamzer and also the oldest male in the tomb he has nothing but conjecture.

#3 - Eliyahu Konn - 10/05/2013 - 07:05

Though a mere layperson, I highly commend academics who don't shy away from controversial issues, such as this, in order to establish and otherwise support "probable" truth.

Thank you, Professor Cohen-Matlofsky. I look forward to reading your forthcoming book.

Thank you, as well, Professor Tabor, Kilty and Elliot, Simcha and others, for all of your ever continuing hard work that seeks first the facts of the matters at hand even so that truth might well be established.

#4 - Michal - 10/05/2013 - 11:27

Mr. Kohn, read the NT again, please. Mary and Yoseph left Nazareth for Beth Lehem to avoid the scandal, following her inexplicable pregnancy. This is what the NT tells us. When a Jewess,engaged or married, has sex with other than her fiance\husband, the child is a Mamzer. You might like or dislike it, but it's the law. This law explains the scandal Yoseph was so afraid of, to the degree that they left Nazareth. You may be correct: (quote) ""It might be this, or it might be that, isn't data". If so, God impregnates a woman is data? What is the Holy Trinity? Isn't it that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one and the same? Accepting this means: God impregnated a woman and gave her a human child, which is God's incarnation, then the child became God himself. God is, after all, both God's father and his own son, right? OK, we get it: THIS IS DATA, by all means!

#5 - Eldad Keynan - 10/05/2013 - 19:56

Claude, Jesus and Mary Magdalene didn't have to be married so as to grant Mary the legal right to be buried in the same tomb he was. Moreover: Mamzers had (and still have) serious problems when they want to marry: a Mamzer male couldn't marry any Jewess of full civil status (the status named "Israel"). The only options he had were: a. a female slave. b. a female Mamzer. c. A converted gentile female. Still, in all three cases, the children such a couple would have, are Mamzers for the next nine generations. I guess Jesus knew that. The solution, as I have presented in the 2008 symposium, was to have a gentile woman as informal life partner. She could convert while she was pregnant, and the child would be of "Israel" status after her automatically. The other option was that the child could convert independently. By both options, the child (children) have the complete social and legal status of "Israel".
Am I implying that Mary Magdalene was a gentile, and never married Jesus? Yes I do. At least she was born a gentile. I don't think they were married. Now one may ask: if so, how could she be entitled to be buried in the same tomb with Jesus? After all, Jewish law allows a Jewess to be buried in another family's tomb only if she is married to one of the other family's male members. It's the conventional argument. But it's not the only legal way to grant a woman the right to be buried in a certain tomb, even if she's not married. The explanation will be published soon in one of my chapters in the same forthcoming book yours will be published.

#6 - Eldad Keynan - 10/05/2013 - 20:17

A few questions:

(1) There is some stress here on Mary as an "adulterous wife" and a suggestion that Joseph is not buried here because of this. Yet Jesus is identified as "son of Joseph", i.e. he is declared as Joseph's son. How do you reconcile these claims?

(2) "Mary, who died after Jesus, found proper burial in his tomb, as did the rest of his family." However, only "Joses" finds burial here. There is no sign of James, Judas or Simon. Is that therefore overstated?

(3) The general possibility that Jesus may have been married says nothing about the specifics of an alleged marriage, nor is there anything (is there?) to link the MARIA (H) KAI MARA ossuary to the Jesus ossuary. Could you explain how the possibility that Jesus was married impacts on the alleged identification of this ossuary as belonging to a specific wife?

(4) You mention "Mary Magdalene". I don't know of any good evidence that a woman called "Mary Magdalene" was buried in this tomb. Do you have any?

Many thanks and best wishes
Mark Goodacre

#7 - Mark Goodacre - 10/05/2013 - 21:16

We are all dealing with very hypothetical data here, when it comes to the rabbinic literature or the Gospels and I warned the readers often enough in all my works on the Talpiot tombs about the nature of such sources. Indeed we all know that these sources are to be taken with extreme caution. However, even though the Mishnah was compiled more than a century later, we assume that it reflects discussions of some rabbis who lived at the time of Jesus. Moreover, in terms of Halakhah we do not even know what applied in Judea versus what applied in Galilee for instance at that time. Most importantly, one has to keep in mind that the Mishnah include prescriptions of what people were supposed to do and not necessarily what they were actually doing in their daily life.
Hence the issue of Jesus mamzerut is a huge one. Joseph did not repudiate Mary. As for Mary Magdalene I assumed that her family was one of the many gentile families of Galilee who were "judaised" by the Hasomean leaders (Cf. Flavius Josephus' works). Therefore I do not see a problem for her and Jesus to have been married, following your argument above.
My methodology is such : using the archeological data in our possession included in Hannah Cotton's volumes, which are now completing Rahmani's; included also in Kloner and Zissu's compilation of rock cut tombs and make sense of it in the case of the Talpiot tomb A in light of prosopography, epigraphy, onomastics, statistics..... and Halakhah. Therefore, from a strict archeological point of view the model of the Talpiot tomb is atypical hence the title of my contribution in the long awaited forthcoming volume at Eerdmans is: "The Imperfect Tomb of Jesus and Family".

#8 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 10/05/2013 - 22:00

Claude, I do agree with you almost entirely. Since my field is the Halakha, I will concentrate on that here. Indeed, we do not know what Jewish laws were applied in the Galilee Vs. Judea. We do know that there were some regional differences in marriage practices. But there is no evidence whatsoever that there were any such differences in Mamzerut (Mamzer status). This legal issue is so important and strict in Jewish legislation that no differences could be introduced in. Of course, the Mishna, like any law compilation, tells us what people should do, not what they do or did actually. We can suggest what people did in accord or in contrast to the legislation, while using the legislation as starting point for the discussion. Fortunately, in the case of tombs, we can discuss the finds and the degree they match the legislation. Talpiot Tomb is quite a perfect opportunity to do so.
"Judaised" Idumenas (by the Hasmonean Kings) is a convention, following Josephus. As for the Galilee, even Josephus' report is quite obscured (except for the Lebanese Itureans). Anyway, we may assume Galilean syncretists. The point of marriage is not crucial: they could have children whether or not they were married.
As for the tomb its self: in my view, which is based on the Halakha, the Talpiot Tomb is atypical in that it belonged to someone else before it became Jesus and his family tomb. Such a switch of ownership was allowed by Jewish legislation, but it didn't occur frequently, for obvious reasons. In my view, then, the Talpiot tomb Matiah is indeed an outsider. But I don't think he was a disciple or follower of Jesus, unless he was a relative - close enough to be entitled to be buried there. We don't have any evidence for such a relation. Thus we may suggest that this Matiah was in fact a first degree relative of the probable original owner of the tomb - Joseph Arimathea.

#9 - Eldad Keynan - 10/06/2013 - 05:59

To Mark Goodacre: I am not trying to reply on behalf of Prof. Cohen-Matlofsky. The following are my own ideas.
1. Joseph, Mary's husband, is not buried in the Talpiot Tomb since he died before the last trip to Jerusalem, and has been buried in the Galilee. Think of the time: can you imagine a Jewish wife leaving her husband in the Galilee and taking pilgrimage trip to Jerusalem (no less than two weeks back then)? If he's dead, it's possible. Only if he's dead. Thus he's not buried in Jerusalem.
2. Lab reports, published here on this very site, proved that the James ossuary was in the Talpiot Tomb before it has found its way to Oded Golan's hands. Yehuda and Simon might well have died elsewhere. We may also ask: where Jesus' sisters are buried? We do assume that they were married at the time, but we don't have any evidence. By the way: we have very limited evidence that any Jewess, who was a sister of a prominent Jew, was married (even Josephus testifies only for prominent Jewesses marriage. But other Jewish sources generally ignore the life of women). These sources were written by men, in a patriarchal society. They had little or simply NO interest in the life of women, whether or not these women were the sisters of this or that prominent Jew.
3. True - there's no evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene or any other woman. I believe the reason is that he actually was not married. Now one may ask: so how could he be a father? The answer: single parenthood is not forbidden by Jewish law
4. In a later Gospel, The Gospel of Philip, she is called, consistently, Mariamne. It fits very well in Jewish burial law and custom, that required a formal birth name under funerary circumstances. She was born a gentile or semi-gentile; it makes no difference: she had a formal gentile birth name.

#10 - Eldad Keynan - 10/06/2013 - 06:22

To Mark Goodacre,
The answer to your first question is given in my paper above in note 5: "Even though Joseph was not his biological father, since his mother had not been repudiated, he (Jesus) was to be identified as “bar Yehoseph” on his epitaph".

As for all your other questions: one has to bear in mind that these rock cut tombs of Roman Palestine were of a family type and followed a patriarchal pattern (cf. Hachlili, Kloner and Zissu's works), so again the answers to all your remaining questions are in my paper above (and more in my article to appear in the forthcoming Eerdmans volume): "In this case, Jesus (the patriarch) would have to have had his wife buried there (and Mary so called in the Christian literature Mary Magdalene, on the ossuary in the tomb "maria h kai mara" but indeed the one who with his mother Mary was the first witness to Jesus burial and proceeded to the ritual ointment of his corpse), as well as his unmarried sons and daughters, his married sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. In addition, he would have to have included his adulterous mother and his brothers along with their immediate relatives according to the model described in the lines above". ("the lines above" actually refer to lines above in my complete contribution to be published in the forthcoming Charlesworth volume at Eerdmans. Therefore Yoseh must have been the only one of Jesus brothers to have remained unmarried. The others should have had their own patriarchal rock cut tomb.
Let me refer you further to my stand on Mary Magdalene here: and here:
You may as well read:

#11 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 10/06/2013 - 07:08

Thanks, Eldad, for your comments. With respect to (1), my point is to query whether Mary is known as an adulterous mother / wife given that Jesus is boldly identified as Jesus son of Joseph here. If Joseph declared himself Jesus' father, that would have settled it.

With respect to (2), one of the key elements in Oded Golan's trial was a photograph of the James ossuary in his possession in the 1970s, before the Talpiot Tomb was excavated, which places a major question mark over the claim that the James ossuary came from Talpiot.

With respect to (3), it has been a major part of Jacobovici and Tabor's case that Mary Magdalene was in this tomb and that she was Jesus' wife.

With respect to (4), I think you mean the Acts of Philip. It is worth noticing, though, that the woman in the Acts of Philip is the typical composite Mary character of early Christian texts, combining aspects of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany.

#12 - Mark Goodacre - 10/06/2013 - 21:13

Many thanks, Claude (if I may), for your response.

With respect to the first point, one of the few things we know about the ossuary in question is the identification Of ?Jesus as son of Joseph, so I find the great stress on Mary as adulterous mother / wife problematic. If Joseph declared himself the father, and if those preparing the ossuary regarded him as the father, then it seems unlikely that they were exercised by the idea that Mary was an adulterous woman.

With respect to Yoseh, I think your comment goes some way to modifying your earlier remark, which I was questioning, that "the rest of his family" were buried there.

I am grateful for the links to your reflections on Mary Magdalene. Since you read the ossuary as MARIAM H KAI MARA, I take it that you reject Jacobovici's and Tabor's reading MARIAMNE, and that you reject their attempt to connect this to Mary Magdalene via the Acts of Philip (and Hippolytus). I agree with you on both points, which strike me as real weaknesses in their case. However, once that link has gone, we simply have a woman called Mary, one among many, and no specific connection to a Mary *Magdalene* figure, still less to someone who is married to Jesus.

#13 - Mark Goodacre - 10/06/2013 - 21:22

I would like to bring the reference of our research connecting the James Ossuary to the Talpiot tomb A in The Bible and Interpretation.
This scholarly new overview by Professor Claude Cohen-Matlovfsky again strengthen the contention that we are talking about the Jesus Family Tomb.
Amnon Rosenfeld
Jerusalem, Israel

#14 - Amnon Rosenfeld - 10/06/2013 - 22:03

Mark, I think one indication of irregularity in terms of Jesus' biological father is Mark's reference to Jesus as "son of Mary." This seems to me to be highly unusual and is quickly edited out by Matthew to the legal designation--the "carpenter's son." Jesus obviously had a human father and if it was not Joseph then it seems to me that Claude's line of thinking here is most relevant to this particular tomb and its names.

#15 - James Tabor - 10/07/2013 - 04:06

Mark, Keep in mind that although the Talpiot Tomb A was exposed to view from the street by the construction blast in February, 1981 there is every indication that the opening was exposed, but not readily visible, for an indefinite period, as indicated by the terra rosa soil that had washed in to a depth that covered the ossuaries. There was no blocking stone at the entrance. It is this signature soil, even more so than the patina, that has been matched to the other ossuaries in the tomb.

#16 - James Tabor - 10/07/2013 - 04:16

To Mark Goodacre,
I am not an expert on Christian literature however many scholars have written on Jesus as illegitimate, some even advancing the possibility of Mary having been raped by a roman soldier : see especially Tabor's
Therefore to me the very likely scenario is that Joseph who chose to or simply did not repudiate his wife, adopted Jesus and the latter became known by his relatives, friends and followers, as "son of Joseph". Moreover, one of his relatives, as was the case for most ossuary inscriptions (see Hachlili, Kloner and Zissu' works), must have inscribed his rather sketchy, I concede, ossuary inscription.
As for the so called "James ossuary" my stand has consistently been to ignore it because of lack of provenance and I still disagree to incorporate it in the Talpiot tomb A : see here and my comment #5 here
As for the Mary "Magdalene" issue although to me it has never been a matter for any of the questions discussed, to "agree or disagree" with Tabor and Jacobovici as I have stressed from the beginning : I am a free thinker, I believe, with all due respect that you misread my links : and
Indeed, even though I have a different reading of the ossuary inscription, I do not reject the probability that Mary so called "Magdalene" was buried in the Talpiot tomb A, as Jesus' wife and mother of his son Judah.

#17 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 10/07/2013 - 07:29

You may be right, James, about Jesus as "son of Mary" in Mark. Mark does not mention Jesus' father, and I agree that Matthew is typically quick to correct any potential difficulty.

However, my difficulty with Claude's paper is that he seems to be stressing simultaneously (a) that Jesus was a mamzer and (b) that Jesus was called "son of Joseph". If Joseph declared Jesus as his son, who would have been able to argue?

Thanks for your comments about the James ossuary. I find the idea that someone took out just the James ossuary in the 1970s, leaving the rest - including Jesus's - somewhat far-fetched. To be honest, it sounds to me like an attempt to reconcile the dating of Golan's photo with the excavation of Talpiot Tomb A.

#18 - Mark Goodacre - 10/07/2013 - 13:51

Thanks, Prof. Cohen-Matlofsky. Yes, I'm familiar with Schaberg's and others' work in this area. My point is simply to underline that one of the few things we know about the character (?Jesus) in this tomb is that he was identified by those who were close to him as "son of Joseph", so as far as the evidence goes, they did not regard him as a mamzer. But I understand that if one associates this tomb with Jesus of Nazareth, it is a question you would want to ask.

With respect to the MARIA H KAI MARA ossuary, I am sure you would agree that the statistical case becomes significantly weaker if one is not able to make the case that this particular ossuary has a close correlation with Mary Magdalene. At least that has always been a key element in Jacobovici's and Tabor's case.

#19 - Mark Goodacre - 10/07/2013 - 20:32


Let me sharpen my point a bit as I might not have made myself clear. I was wanting only to point out what I take to be a non-controversial and simple *fact,* namely that regardless of the James ossuary or anything else being taken out of Talpiot Tomb A before its exposure by the blast in 1981 it was indeed "open" not sealed and soil had washed in to a depth over a meter. It is also the case that the ossuaries in the kokim were covered with terra rosa soil and could not be seen initially whereas the entrance area of the tomb was much more shallow. There were also ossuary pieces in the porch area that had been blown up by the blast. Remember, the entire porch was blown away. Krumbein says the James ossuary seems to have been exposed to the elements--roots, soil, rain, etc. for a period of up to 150-200 years. That does not fit Oded's 1970 acquisition so this weathering must have happened earlier--most likely in a tomb environment that seems to fit the Talpiot tomb. The terra rosa soil tests will be published soon and they should clarify things considerably but Ammon's reference above already is pointing in the same direction as Shimon's soil tests.

#20 - James Tabor - 10/08/2013 - 06:02

As I explained in my responses to you above, If Joseph himself, did not regard Jesus as a mamzer why would you want the ones who were close to him to do so?
As for Mary "Magdalene" I believe that you will finally find the answers to your queries in my contribution to the James Charlesworth volume on the Talpiot tomb A. For I analyzed there the inscription on the Mariam H Kai Mara ossuary from a linguistic point of view corroborated by archeological and literary data in the sources that lead me to believe that it may very well be the one of Mary so called "Magdalene". Let's continue to show patience and hope that the delay will be shortened for the publication at Eerdmans.
Most importantly, it would have been useful perhaps to have found an ossuary inscribed "Jesus son of Joseph" with all the bones and traces of crucifixion on them in this Talpiot tomb A, but this is not the case. Meanwhile, thus far the data of all kinds that I carefully reviewed in my contribution to the Eerdmans volume constitute the best tangible evidence of the existence of Jesus and his movement in early roman Palestine. Yet, as I have always stressed, much research needs to be done especially in the area of prosopography and related subjects as well as halakhah in order to replace Jesus and his movement in the right Jewish context of roman Palestine.

#21 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 10/08/2013 - 07:35

Thanks for the clarification, James. Are you inclined to think now that it's not the missing tenth ossuary but an eleventh ossuary? Am I right to be picking up some uncertainty about this in the Jesus Discovery book (esp. end Chapter 6)?

#22 - Mark Goodacre - 10/09/2013 - 02:15

Thanks, Claude. I look forward to reading your contribution in the forthcoming Eerdmans volume.

#23 - Mark Goodacre - 10/09/2013 - 02:17

I’m sure you’re all aware that there are exactly a dozen references to Mary Magdalene in the gospels, and none of them gives the least suggestion that she was anything but one of numerous female supporters of Jesus. These references are all derived from Mk. 15:40-41, which says she and others followed and served Jesus when he was touring Galilee, and they – along with “many” others – went with him to Jerusalem. If you’re going to try to add detail to this sparse picture by hauling in gnostic writings or third-century heresy-hunters, you might as well just cite Baigent and Leigh, or Dan Brown.

Also, I’m sure you all must realize that this passage in Mark, and its parallels in the other synoptic gospels, creates a problem in relation to Jesus’ family ties. Because it also mentions “Mary the mother of James the Small and Joses.” And that phrase creates a difficulty in relation to Mk. 6:3-6, which of course is the basis for supposing that Jesus is “the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon.” If the “Mary the mother of James and Joses” at the crucifixion is also Jesus’ mother, why doesn’t Mark (or any of the other synoptics) mention this seemingly rather significant fact? And if she isn’t the same Mary, then we must concede that the combination of names Mary-James-Joses must not be uncommon.

Mk. 6:3-6 also creates a problem because it is of course the famous passage in which Jesus complains that it is only in his homeland and by his own kin that a prophet fails to be honored. This certainly doesn’t suggest that his family was so impressed by his prophethood that they would happily join his movement and pull up stakes and leave their familiar Galilean environs to follow him permanently to Jerusalem.

And let’s not forget that this passage in Mark also refers to an unspecified number of Jesus’ sisters. Why does no one seem to want to speculate about Jesus’ sisters? Come on, guys, get busy! There’s a potential bestseller there!

#24 - MBuettner - 10/09/2013 - 02:34

Many thanks, MBuettner, for your helpful comments. I agree with you about Mary Magdalene as one among several women reported to have travelled with Jesus. It's (the later) John 20 that gives the impression of a special relationship and even there, John lets slip that she was not at the tomb alone (John 20.2, first person plural).

The point about the combination of names Mary / James / Joses in Mark 15.40-41 is an astute one. It is puzzling that Mark identifies this Mary this way if she is the mother of Jesus. If she is not, then that is an important consideration in noticing the relatively common collocation of names.

On the reception of Jesus' family in Mark more generally, I suppose one would have to argue that there is some degree of animus against the family that reflects Mark's situation, especially given that we can situate the family in Jerusalem after Jesus' crucifixion.

#25 - Mark Goodacre - 10/09/2013 - 13:17

I’m sure you’re all aware that there are exactly a dozen references to Mary Magdalene in the gospels, and none of them gives the least suggestion that she was anything but one of numerous female supporters of Jesus.

With utmost respect and most certainly most humbly, the gospel accounts of Mary Magdalene's presence at the Crucifixion as well as her arrival at the tomb, immediately following the Sabbath, in order to anoint Jesus for (implied) his second burial, seems to well indicate that she was far more than a mere female supporter.

That she, even she along with Mary the mother of Jesus, went to the tomb prepared for such an anointing at all suggests that there was a relationship between them that was unlike his relationship with any other female supporter, other than his mother/sister, or any other disciple, for that matter.

Again, with utmost respect, concerning the gospels - if we had anything other than copies of copies, any one of which could have been altered in order to create and maintain a more divine Messiah/Savior rather than to expose a more human Yeshua/Jesus who would seek to marry and bear children, all in keeping with what was expected of such teachers/rabbis of the day, I might not be near as skeptical.

#26 - Michal - 10/09/2013 - 17:32

To Mark and all. It seems that people make marriage a pre -condition of being a parent in Jesus' time Jewish society. It's not the case. Jesus may well have been married, but whether or not he was, there was no legal barrier in front of him if he wanted to be a father.
The NT reports tell us that the women approached the tomb early on Sunday morning to take care of the body. It's a crucial point: regularly, men took care of male bodies. Only in specific cases they couldn't, so women had to. It was Passover, and all men older than 13 visited the ritual bath (Mikveh) before the Passover to purify htemselves for the holiday. The holiday of Passover is seven days long; that is: touching a body will require another visit in the Mikveh, since corpse defilement is one of the most severe defilements in Judaism. This is exactly the outstanding situation in which women took care of bodies. Yet not every woman could do that - but first degree female relatives: mother, sister, daughter and wife. No women, other than Jesus first degree female relatives, would approach the tomb on Sunday morning.
As for the names statistics: the question is, does one wants to study the Greek or Latin influence on the entire names "pool" of the Jews in Palestine in the relevant time, or to evaluate an individual name, which is also a physical find from a specific site. To the former, wide statistical collection is crucial. To the latter, counting a Generic - Biblical name, like Yehoshua, with all its derivatives as one and single name - is a mistake. Moreover: when we count Yehoshua and all its derivatives generically, the form Yeshua constitutes a very small group within the entire Yehoshua group. My statistics on the Talpiot Tomb A, based on Jewish written sources, confirms that Yose was rare, while Yeshua and Matiah were slightly more common than Yose. The form Mariah occurs in the group of the generic Miriam quite a limited number of times. Yehuda was indeed a very common name, but the combination Yehuda son of Yeshua is rare since Yeshua is not as common as some argued (my calculations will be published in the forthcoming volume as well).
Jesus status as a Mamzer: whether Mary and Josef were married or just engaged, the strict rules against adultery were applied. She has been impregnated NOT by her husband\fiance. According to Jewish legislation, this was enough to declare the child a Mamzer. The rule is: whether a Jewess is married or engaged, if she is impregnated by other than her husband\fiance, the child is a Mamzer. Matt. 1:19 is clear enough: what expected disgrace Josef wished to avoid? I wholeheartedly agree with Prof. Cohen Matlofsky: further study of the Talpiot Tomb must include the Jewish law - halacha.

#27 - Eldad Keynan - 10/09/2013 - 17:49

Thank you Eldad, for your comment. If you will, please, forgive me my ignorance, but wasn't it expected of rabbis too marry and have children all in keeping with "go forth and multiply"? Was this not considered a commandment of God, and would not the laws governing such as fornication not discourage bearing children out of wedlock, and in particular when it came to rabbis?

#28 - Michal - 10/10/2013 - 02:47


Thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m afraid I have to go with the hypothesis that the gospel attributed to your namesake reflects a complete lack of interest in Jesus’ earthly parents and kinfolk among the earliest Christian community.

In addition to Mk. 15:40, there’s Mk. 3:31-35, in which Jesus’ mother and sibliings are again mentioned without any names being named, and in which he shows indifference to his family’s presence and says, “Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

Then there’s Mk. 10:29-30: “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”

If one wants to eliminate Mark’s seeming self-contradiction on this subject, it’s simple to suppose that Mk. 6:3 is an interpolation that reflects Matthew’s and Luke’s efforts to give Jesus a suitably divine birth and biography. Without that verse, there is no mention in the original Mark of any names of any of Jesus’ relatives (even in Mk. 6:3, his father’s name is omitted).

One might hypothesize that for the earliest Christians, anticipating an imminent apocalypse, affinity of devotion was what counted; only after a generation or two, when the world stubbornly refused to end, did it become expedient to formalize church structure, and a legend about Jesus’ family might serve as a useful paradigm.

#29 - MBuettner - 10/10/2013 - 16:36

Michal, who was a Rabbi? Since when? Who called Jesus "my Rabbi"? As far as I know, there's no rule or law against single parenthood in the Hebrew Bible and the Mishna. It's not recommended, of course. But it's not forbidden. Jesus was a Rabbi only in his followers' eyes. Thus any rabbinic rule, whether or not formulated already in his time, could not force Jesus to do anything. On the other hand, as a Mamzer and a former Pharisee student, he knew how to bypass the obstacles and be a father. Just wait for the forthcoming book - it's all in my paper.

#30 - Eldad Keynan - 10/16/2013 - 18:53

Thank you for responding, Eldad. Waiting is difficult.

#31 - Michal - 10/17/2013 - 16:13

Eldad, if you will be so kind as to allow me to comment further, my understanding is that the first Mitzvah in the Torah is "Go forth and multiply." I do not question the legality of single parenting (why would that ever be unlawful) rather, whether Rabbis were expected to marry, with the exception of the Essenes, all in keeping with "go forth and multiply".

Who was a rabbi? Since when? Who called him "my rabbi" other than his followers? I get your point.

There's so much to learn, and I so well look forward to it.

Thank you, again, Eldad.

#32 - Michal - 10/18/2013 - 11:52

#5 Mr Kenan,
If it were so simple to just read the NT, why all the research? Which redacted manuscript would you like me to read first? Somehow making Yehoshua into a mamzer must be to your liking, however that is not necessary. Within the context of laws of purity it is quite conceivable if you will permit the pun that Miriam became pregnant in a mikvah following the purity laws of Torah after a monthly cycle. The halakhah cannot logically make sense for only a married woman to "clean" herself after the bleeding has subsided, after seven days. This would be in the vernacular, a holy act, one motivated by obedience hence by the ruach hakodesh. It has been addressed in numerous articles for example in B Haggigah 14b.
As for the ridiculous "trinity" and "god" sending himself shtick and how you connect that to Torah-Judaism - it doesn't work. We were talking about bones and ossuaries and physical evidence.
But I should have said in my comment the author and those that support this hypothesis libel Miriam more than Yehoshua.

#33 - Eliyahu Konn - 02/15/2014 - 15:58

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