One of the main lines of evidence the documentary makers of "The Lost Jesus Tomb" follow is the cluster of names on the ossuaries found together. The names were all common ones in first century Israel, but there is a sort of specified complexity finding this particular cluster of names associated with Jesus that raises the odds. On "Larry King Live" last night, James Tabor said that the odds of finding those names together is 600 to one, which frankly doesn't strike me as too great odds. Maybe coincidence territory. And connecting the names as one family might be a bit of a leap of reasoning, we'll have to wait and hear the whole case.
Here's a question I have about the name Mary found on two ossuaries. Neither ossuary gives any indication, from the evidence I've seen, that refers to Magdala, which would make one of them Mary Magdalene or Mary from Magdala. Yet that seems to be what Simcha Jacobovici assumes. Here's what he said on Larry King last night:
And her name was a variant of Miriam, a Greek variant, Mariamene. So there's two Marys in the tomb, one named Maria, which is -- comes down to, in the Christian tradition, the mother of Jesus; but the other one, Mariamene.
They couldn't have known in 1980 that in the 1990s, the scholars -- New Testament scholars at Harvard, Princeton, and so on -- would conclude that Mary Magdalene's title was Mary from Magdala, the city Magdala. But her name is Mariamene. They didn't know that. So the archaeologists didn't know what the New Testament guys knew and the New Testament people didn't know what the archaeologists knew.
Indeed, Ben Witherington points out that that neither of the Mary ossuaries makes a reference to Migdal. So what leads the filmmakers to assume this is Mary Magdalene and Jesus' wife?
Apparently the nickname Mariamene, which some scholars say Mary Magalene was known by, leads them to think this is Mary Magdalene. But Jacobovici's comments indicates that Mariamene was a variant of Mary or Miriam, which presumably any Mary might have been nicknamed. In fact, Miriam is a biblical variation of Mary. The reason some believe Mary Magdalene was sometimes called Mariamene is based on fourth century apocrypha, written many, many years after the eyewitnesses were dead. Darrell Bock, who has seen the show says:
[T]here is the name Mariamne, a variation of Maria, one of the most common of names of the time. It is like saying every Susan married to a Richard can only be one family and that finding that Maria and Maria are related names is a surprise (a little like calling William, Bill)....
[T]o get Mariamne to match Mary Magdalene and not a host of any other Mary’s, one has to appeal to an apocryphal Acts in a fourth century manuscript. Without that, there is not even a possibility of a connection.
Now if it had mentioned Magdala along with this particular cluster of names, well, that would strike me as surprising and interesting. But absent that, I don't see the connection in their reasoning. I picked up the book yesterday so I'll see what they've got to say. Maybe there's more to it.
And the evidence to support the suggestion that this Jesus was married to one of the Marys in the tomb? Their DNA doesn't match. "They must have been married!" Bock points out:
[T]ere is the DNA showing that Mariamne and Jesus DNA residue do not match. Now with how many women in Judea would Jesus’ DNA not match? Even women named Mary/Mariamne? This proves nothing.
I have to wonder, absent a specific mention of Magdala, whether this leap of reasoning would have occurred to most anyone prior to The Da Vinci Code. Despite how silly that book is and the claims it makes, some people now think that there's a good chance Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. I suspect that book and the recent efforts to resuscitate the Gnostic gospels makes something like this documentary more plausible in people's minds. What we're witnessing is The Da Vinci Code Effect: strands of data connected with conjecture leads to baseless conclusions. We'll see.