« Speculations Gone Wild | Main | Bible Verses No One "Claims" »

March 06, 2007

Comments

So is the inscription on the tomb written in Greek or Aramaic? Would that have any bearing on the variations in spelling?

Hi Sam! The inscription on the ossuary is in Greek. "Mariamne" is just the Greek version of "Mary." I would really like to find out if the differences in spelling are significant or not. If you find out something, let me know.

Amy, could you please be more precise: is Mariamene e Mara written in Greek or Hebrew letters? I guess it is in Greek letters since in Hebrew, vowels are
only guessed so that Mariamene would be spelled Mrjmnh, and then it would be pronounced by most Hebrew speaking people as
Mariamne. This may account for the transformation from the Greek Mariamene to the Greek Mariamne.
Is it common that Greek letters were used on Jewish tombs or ossuaries?

Harry, according to the Discovery Channel website, it's written in Greek letters. (Check out the link I have above to the Tomb website. You can even see a picture of the inscription if you enter the tomb and click on "Mariamne.") I don't know how common this is.

The inscription "Mariamene e Mara" is in Greek. The inscriptions on the other ossuaries are in Hebrew or Aramaic. My guess is that it would not be uncommon to use Greek letters on Jewish ossuaries in general, but it would have been uncommon to use them on ossuaries near Jerusalem in the first century.

Chris, are you saying that in the one tomb, one of the ossuaries has Greek writing on it, and all of the others have Hebrew or Aramaic. If so, that's odd in itself. But I agree that it does seem unusual for ossuaries found in Jerusalem to have Greek writing on them. On the other hand, if the family was originally from somewhere else and moved to Jerusalem, I suppose it wouldn't be that unusual.

Amy or Chris, are the dates of these ossuaries fairly certain? I mean do we know for certain that they are from the first century?

Thank you Amy. I went to the site indicated by you and i saw the names as they appear on the ossuaries. What a surprise. Not only is Mariamne written in Greek but but the other Mary is spelled in Hebrew as Maria the latinized version of the Hebrew name Miriam.
Latin and Grek the universal languages of that time in one tomb!
But the most important discovery,the one even Simcha Jacobovichi did not notice is that the Hebrew letter M in Maria is written in closed form. This is absolutely unique. In the whole Hebrew Bible it is found only once:
Isaiah 9:6, in connection with the
Messiah (Christ,in Greek).


I just realized that my previous comment was incomplete and therefore misleading.
The most importantfeature,the one even Simcha Jacobovici did not notice,is that the Hebrew letter M in Maria is written in closed form. This is absolutely unique. For instance the Hebrew letter M on the ossuary of Matia is written in the usual, open form. The closed-form M is called "final M" and appears only at the end of Hebrew words. In the whole Hebrew Bible it is found only once in the beginning of a word, the word Marbe (increase),see Isaiah 9:6. This sentence in Isaiah is written in connection with the birth of the
Messiah (Christ,in Greek). It is obvious that the one who wrote the name Maria in this form wanted to establish, esoterically, a connection between the tombs in Talpiot and Christ.

The case for Mariamene e Mara being Mary Magdalene depends on her being Mariamne of the Acts of Philip. But the Mariamne of Philip is part of a group of missionaries, therfore not someone staying in Jerusalem. Suggesting that this Mary would be buried in a well marked grave next to the well marked grave of Jesus is crazy. It's not like Jerusalem was a calm quiet area at the time of her death and no one was paying any attention to these people. This is logically inconsistant.

Sam, the book claims that ossuaries were only used in the first century.

As for the name, there's more great information about the name on the ossuary here:

http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2007/03/smoking-gun-tenth-talpiot-ossuary_9874.html

An excerpt:

"The conclusion is that the name Mariamenon is unique, the diminutive of the very rare Mariamene. Neither is related to the form Maramne, except in the sense that all derive ultimately from the name Mariam. There is no reason at all to connect the woman in this ossuary with Mary Magdalene, and in fact the name usage is decisively against such a connexion."

Amy, I have seen the great information about the name. Although they seem to be completely aware of the fact that the Greek names are written in Hebrew letters, they simply overlooked the trivial fact that the transition from Mariamene to Mariamne is immediate since both names have identical spellings in Hebrew.

Harry, according to the Discovery Channel website, the name on the ossuary was written in Greek letters, not Hebrew.

Ami, that was done because the names Maria and Mariamene should convey a universal message not the local one that would be conveyed by writing Miriam from Migdal in Hebrew instead of the Greek Mariamene, a worldwide known apostolic personality. But of course ossuaries were not the only place where written language was used and the written language in the Land of Israel was Hebrew.

Harry,
I was interested to see where you were going with this, but I have no idea what you are trying to say in your above post. Could you be a little clearer?

Aaron, I'll try.
You can learn from Prof. Richard Buckham (quoted in Ben Witherington's blog,mentioned by Amy,4th post above yours) that the Greek inscription on one of the ossuaries in Talpiot reads, not Mariamene e Mara as stated in the Discovery Channel website, but MARIAMENOUMARA or MARIAMENOU e MARA. Mariamenou is the genitive case of Mariamenon (meaning Mariamenon's), a name found only there. Buckham also says that Mariamenon seems to have been derived from Mriamene, a name attested twice elsewhere. He mentions several sources giving different Greek names to Mary Magdalene but he excludes Mariamene and the derived form Mariamenon. The reason is that he changed his mind about considering Mariamne as a contracted form of Mariamene (as for instance you would consider Aristotle as a contracted form of Aristoteles). He now believes that Mariamne was derived from Mariamme and that it took 3 centuries to make this derivation. My objection is that Mariamne derives from Mariamene immediately because, for local consumption, Greek names were written in Hebrew (as was also noted by Bauckham), and in Hebrew, where vowels are omitted, both names are spelled the same way.
The question now arises: why, quite exceptionally, were Greek letters used on one of the ossuaries to write the unique name Mariamenon? My guess is that the hellenized and latinized name Maria
(in Hebtrew, on one of the ossuaries) and the hellenized Mariamenon (in Greek, on the other ossuary)were written to deliver a universal message from the tomb in Talpiot to posterity. This, in contrast to the message for local consumption that would have been conveyed by writing Mirjam from (the locality of) Nazareth and Mirjam from Migdal in Hebrew. The unique name Mariamenon, written in Greek letters was used to designate a unique,world-wide known apostolic personality, not one of the many Mirjam's from Migdal, but Mary Magdalene, the rock bottom of Christian belief. Note that, according to Church Tradition, Mary Magdalene acted as an apostle, testifying in Rome and in other places that, in conformity with the sign of Jonas the prophet, Jesus had risen from the dead as promised by him.

Errata:in the second and 8th line of the above post read Bauckham instead of Buckham and in the tenth line read Mariamene instead of Mriamene.

It now appears that everybody was wrong: the Greek name is neither Maianeme e Mara nor MaiamenouMara
nor Marianemou e Mara but simply Mariame kai Mara,which means Mariame and Mara, two women in the same ossuary. Mariame is the Josephus Flavius writes the name Miriam in Greek.

Errata: The Greek name on the ossuary is neither Mariamene e Mara nor MariamenouMara nor Mariamenou e Mara but Mariame kai Mara signifying Mariame and Mara, two women in the same ossuary.

Are there any other instances of 2 people being identified on the engraving of the ossuary?

IF Prof. Pfan's critique that the name is two names, Mariame AND Mara (which is Aramaic for Martha!), then according to Magdalene.org, or in the Acts of Philip, Martha is Mary Magdalene's (and Philip's) SISTER !!!!!!!!!!

What if it is a second person and what if it's her sister? Isn't this additional proof that it's Mary Magdalene?

Susan,in Ben Witherington's blog you can find several instances of two names engraved on the same ossuary,even two names very similar to those in the Talpiot tomb. The unanswered question is still: how common are Greek engravings on the ossuaries?

Gerry, if the Acts of Philip connects the Mary in question with Martha, then that's even more evidence that the Mary of the Acts of Philip is not Mary Magdalene. Remember, the Acts of Philip does not identify the Mary it talks about as being Mary Magdalene. In the Bible, the Mary of Mary and Martha is *not* Mary Magdalene.

A few useful historical facts.
According to Dr. S.J.Pfann and other scholars Mara is a shortened form of the Aramaic Martha (Lady). The names Martha and Mary engraved together have been found on other ossuaries, but not in Greek. The biblical Mary of Bethany and Martha are sisters of Lazarus. Mary of Bethany is often identified with Mary Magdalene, giving a talmudic interpretation for Magdalene, not designating a locality.A famous painting of Carravaggio(ca 1598) depicts the biblical sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene. Both Mary Magdalene and Martha are known as missionaries.

Since the whole Mariamene-Mariamenon-Mariamenou-Mariamne-Acts of Philip connection has shown that the way Rahmani-Tabor-Jacobovici read the names on the ossuaries cannot be trusted, it is time to doubt that the name Jesus son of Joseph is engraved on one of the ossuaries. The way it is written is far from being clear and it might as well be Hanun bar Yoseph as Dr. S.J.Pfann claims.

Francis Bovon's letter on the Society of Biblical Literature site

http://www.sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleId=656

François Bovon

As I was interviewed for the Discovery Channel's program The Lost Tomb of Jesus, I would like to express my opinion here.

First, I have now seen the program and am not convinced of its main thesis. When I was questioned by Simcha Jacobovici and his team the questions were directed toward the Acts of Philip and the role of Mariamne in this text. I was not informed of the whole program and the orientation of the script.

Second, having watched the film, in listening to it, I hear two voices, a kind of double discourse. On one hand there is the wish to open a scholarly discussion; on the other there is the wish to push a personal agenda. I must say that the reconstructions of Jesus' marriage with Mary Magdalene and the birth of a child belong for me to science fiction.

Third, to be more credible, the program should deal with the very ancient tradition of the Holy Sepulcher, since the emperor Constantine in the fourth century C.E. built this monument on the spot at which the emperor Hadrian in the second century C.E. erected the forum of Aelia Capitolina and built on it a temple to Aphrodite at the place where Jesus' tomb was venerated.

Fourth, I do not believe that Mariamne is the real name of Mary of Magdalene. Mariamne is, besides Maria or Mariam, a possible Greek equivalent, attested by Josephus, Origen, and the Acts of Philip, for the Semitic Myriam.

Fifth, the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is part of the apostolic team with Philip and Bartholomew; she teaches and baptizes. In the beginning, her faith is stronger than Philip's faith. This portrayal of Mariamne fits very well with the portrayal of Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and Pistis Sophia. My interest is not historical, but on the level of literary traditions. I have suggested this identification in 1984 already in an article of New Testament Studies.

François Bovon, Harvard Divinity School

Hi! Since were talking about texts and Mary Magdalene, I'd like to ask if anyone can tell me what language Magdalene's name appears on www.magdalene.org as my research tells me its not Aramaic. hope someone can enlighten me :) email [email protected] you may also check out some of my works about Magdalene @ www.pbase.com/niccolo/magdalena (photos) thanx!!!

Niccolo, it's in Greek. There's an explanation of the text on their site here:

http://magdalene.org/h_magdalhnh.php

I highly recommend you read the book 'the Jesus Family Tomb'. They go into fine detail of everything from mitochondria DNA testing, to patina testing etc. It is extremely informative not to mention fascinating. They even go as far as to lean on the side of disproving, so as not to be bias. After they did their own tests, they sent samples to the "best in the field" to do blind testing. They had no idea what they were testing, and still their results were identical to the team's. I think the book will answer most of your questions, and certainly send you on a quest for more knowledge.

Follup to Amy's reply of March 16/07 to my post of the same date re: Mary and Martha. (Thank you for your reply)

Amy, I don't understand your point. Are you saying that Mary is Martha, or that Mary of Magdalene did not have a sister named Martha? Is this independently confirmed?

All I'm saying is that if Prof.Pfan says there are two persons named on the 'Magdalene ossuary', whose names are Mariamne AND Martha, then if the Acts of Philip refer to Mariamne who may be Mary of Magdalene herself, and WHO HAD A SISTER named Martha, then perhaps it is these two persons in that ossuary.

Some remarks concerning Gerry's conjecture.
(i)The biblical sisters are not Mary of Magdala and Martha, but Mary of Bethany and Martha, both sisters of Lazarus,not of Philip. Brothers and sisters in the Acts of Philip may have a more general meaning.(ii)There is a historic claim that Mary Magdalene is in fact Mary of Bethany, but then "Magdalene" does not mean "of Magdala", but indicates a profession: the "educator of children", in agreement with a talmudic interpretation. An argument in favor of those who claim that Tradition identifies the biblcal sisters as Martha and Mary Magdalene can be found in a famous painting by Carravaggio (ca.1598)depicting the conversion of Mary Magdalene by Martha. (iii)The names in Greek letters appearing on the ossuary are not Mariamne and Martha, according to Dr. S.J.Pfann, but Mariame and Mara.(iv)Mariame and Mariamme is the way the historian Josephus Flavius writes the Hebrew name Miriam in Greek.(v)According to Prof.Richard Bauckham and other scholars, the name Mariamne in the third century, when the Acts of Philip were written, is a transformed version of the name Mariame/Mariamme.(vi) Dr. S.J. Pfann and other scholars assume that the name Mara is a shortened form of the Aramaic name Martha, signifying Lady.(vii)According to Church Tradition and the Acts of Philip, as interpreted by Prof. F.Bovon, both Mary Magdalene and Martha were missionaries. The universal character of these personalities could explain why their names were engraved in the universal Greek language and not in the local Aramaic. All this does not disagree with
Gerry's conjecture in the post
above this one.

There is one point that is missing in this discussion: Mariamne (the greek for arameic Miriam) was the name given to royalty and aristocrats, well to do families, to their daughters (King Herod was married to two Mariamne and his daughters and grandaughters were also Mariamne). The Missouri University scholar Kerry Wynn once wrote that Mariamne was the name for higher classes, while the middle classes were named with the greek-latin Maria, and the working class or popular name was Miriam. Only two Miriam appear in the original Greek bible: Miriam mother of Jesus and Miriam of Bethany (both working class). This could rule out the mother of Jesus from the tomb. Also there is one simple Maria in the Bible, Maria the spouse of Cleopas (the other is Maria Magdalene but its composed), and Maria of Cleopas is also the biblical mother of many including a Yose and Matthew (also of a James, Simon and Judah, and two unnamed sisters.)
So this points to another hypothesis quite different from Discovery Channel: Maria of Cleopas is in the tomb, and not the mother of Jesus. Yose and Mathew are also from the Maria of Cleopas dynasty.


Hi again this is Herman. About the comments on Martha and Mary I found this very interesting post in the internet:
Proposed Survey of Christian Heritage Sites in Gaza. March 14, 2007
"Mike Heiser reports on finding an online report with references to another set of inscribed ossuaries, these found at Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives, that have lots of names found in the Christian New Testament. Heiser plans to use this material in a study of the tomb at Talpiyot, Jerusalem. For example Ossuary 27 (Bagatti and Milik, 77, fig 19, 3, 4 ,5) has Martha and Miriam (מרתה ומריה in one case) inscribed on it three times on different sides."

The conclusion is that the family of Lazarus (one ossuary), Martha and Miriam(another ossuary) have already been found in a common public cemetery for first century Christians on the Mount of Olives.

Hi Herman. The name Mariamne does not appear before the third and fourth century, royalty and aristocracy or not. The name of the wife of king Herod was Mariamme, which hundreds of years later was transformed into Mariamne. The names Martha and Miriam in Aramaic appear together in other ossuaries. However they are not written in the universal Greek language. This could indicate that the personalities in the ossuary had an universal reputation, in agreement with the world-wide reputation of the missionaries Mary Magdalene and Martha. Concerning the name Maria, written in Aramaic on one of the ossuaries, it should be noted that it is written in an absolutely unique way (see my post of March 08 at 4:15 AM).

Thanks Harry for the precision in detail. But does this Mariamme vs Mariamne topple my previous considerations? Its important to know...I am open for comments against these hypothesis. On the other hand the ossuary with Matthew (Levi) can also be a son raised by Maria (not by Miriam mother of Jesus), since Matthew Levi was heir of Alpheus (along with the other James of Alpheus, which makes them brothers), that could be the Matthew in the ossuary. This places Jesus as cousin of the Matthew in the ossuaries, since Miriam mother of Jesus and Maria of Cleophas were relatives.

Until we get the whole picture complete after more evidence unveils (DNA studies would be great), we do not have theories, we have hypothesis. Here goes my hypothesis:
I suspect the Discovery team got in wrong in the following:
1.- Matthew in the ossary is in fact the apostole (not a brother of virgin Mary) which was one of the brothers (all sons of Mary of Cleopas and Alpheus)
2.- James in the ossary is in fact a son of Joseph with his first wife (he had three more sons and two daughters). Half brother of Jesus, and NOT the well known apostle which was buried close to the walls of Jerusalem.
3.- Yose is also a brother of Matthew and the others (Taddeus, Simon etc).
4.- Maria in the ossuary is the name for the wife of Cleopas (she was the mother of a third of the apostles).
5.- Miriam mother of Jesus died elsewhere, maybe Turkey maybe Pakistan...still to determine.
They got it right in the next

1.- The Mariamene/Mara ossuary contains the remains of Mary Magdalene, but has her original infancy name as she came from wealthy royalty.
2.- Judah son of Jesus ossuary is evidently son of Mariamne and Jesus, or else why would she be there in the first place if she is not blood related.
Two final comments:
Mary of Cleopas is indeed a relative (not sister, for there would not be two Marys in the
family)and thats why she has an ossuary there. It seems Joseph and Cleopas were brothers. This makes the 4 apostles cousins of Jesus.
- Miriam mother of Jesus only had one child. We are not sure who the father was.
- Mariamene/Mara owned the tomb, her parental family was the only one who could afford such a construction, and they always supported the holy family and the apostles.
This is a view of a searcher of truth, not of merit, faiths or beliefs.

Here goes a slightly corrected version: Mary of Cleopas raised half of the apostles.

Until we get the whole picture complete after more evidence unveils (DNA studies would be great), we do not have theories, we have hypothesis. Here goes my hypothesis:
I suspect the Discovery team got in wrong in the following:
1.- Matthew in the ossary is in fact the apostle Levi son of Alpheus (not a brother of virgin Mary) which was one of the 6 brothers (all sons of Mary which raised children of Cleopas and Alpheus in different marriages)
2.- James in the ossary is in fact a son of Joseph with his first wife (he had three more sons and two daughters), this James was half brother of Jesus, and NOT the well known apostle James which was buried close to the walls of Jerusalem.
3.- Yose is also a brother of Matthew and the others apostles (Thaddeus, Simon, Matthew, Judah and James the lesser).
4.- Maria in the ossuary is the name for the wife of Cleopas (she was the mother of half of the apostles).
5.- Miriam mother of Jesus died elsewhere, maybe Turkey maybe Pakistan...still to determine.
They got it right in the next

1.- The Mariamene/Mara ossuary contains the remains of Mary Magdalene, but has her original infancy name as she came from wealthy royalty.
2.- Judah son of Jesus ossuary is evidently son of Mariamne and Jesus, or else why would she be there in the first place if she is not blood related.
Two final comments:
Mary of Cleopas is indeed a relative (not sister, for there would not be two Marys in the
family)and thats why she has an ossuary there. It seems Joseph and Cleopas were brothers. This makes the 6 apostles cousins of Jesus.
- Miriam mother of Jesus only had one child. We are not sure who the father was.
- Mariamene/Mara owned the tomb, her parental family was the only one who could afford such a construction, and they always supported the holy family and the apostles.
This is a view of a searcher of truth, not of merit, faiths or beliefs.

Hi Herman,
You seem to identify Mary Cleophas with Mary Alpheus. Some scholars believe this to be true. Now,Tradition turns all these different Mary's and their Apostle sons into one big family.
So, why does it matter if one of the Mary's in the Talpioth tomb is Mary Cleophas? The problem according to the Israeli scholars is that the names in the Talpioth tomb were extremely common, making a statistical approach, as used by Jacobovici, very doubtful. The only puzzling fact is that the names Mariame and Mara on one of the ossuaries are engraved in Greek. These names also appear on other ossuaries but only in Hebrew or Aramaic. Note however that names written in Greek letters form a large fraction (about 40%)of the names engraved on the ossuaries.

If its all in greek then they were a family strongly identified with that culture. Philip presented some greek jews to Jesus and translated his message. What if Philips genealogy is right, they were sent to Greece to preach, and there were three brothers: Mariame, Martha and Philip? That might account for the Mara inscription in Greek, after all their parents (or brothers) were still influential and would want a special distinction for their dead kin. I also do believe its all in greek (another mistake in the DC team hypothesis), but either way the strong possibility holds. Two sisters perfectly fit in the same ossuary, more so if the owner of the tomb is Mariame herself. The decoration is quite lavish in her ossuary and her son, but I would believe this is a contribution by Mariame´s loving parents or brothers.

Make no mistake: In the Talpioth tomb only about 29% of the engraved names are in Greek. This is rather low compared to the 40%
in all the tombs.

Im not speaking of the Jesus or Cleopas family being in greek(they did not have the money to construct such a costly cript). The tomb would be of Mariame and Martha. Surely the brothers or parents of Mariame and Martha would watch over the two sisters burial and they would press for a greek inscription on Martha and Mariame. Greek seems a common enough percentage in the totality of tombs, maybe they admired the greek culture? Maybe they reserved greek for inscriptions of very special relatives? I suspect when the sisters died the parents or close relatives were called forth and they supervised the final inscriptions. Mariame or Martha would have taken care of the burials of Maria of Cleophas and her sons Matthew and Yose. After all, Mariame did not have the money, she would have to obtain it off and on from the direct family at Magdala. Wow. you think thats streching it to far?

Was the symbol at the entrance of the Talpioth tomb used by the first Christians? What does it mean?

I believe no one knows, just speculations appear. But there is this same simbol, written in a corner of one ossuary of the christian cemetery at the Mount of Olives. Jacobovichi signaled it when they filmed the ossuary museum. Could it be a vertical fish head with the eye included?

That's right. There is an ossuary at the Dominus Flevit church, which might have belonged to an early Christian and which on one end has markings similar to those at the entrance of the Talpiot tomb. There are however five other known ossuaries with the same symbol, which have not been associated with Christians. Moreover,the same symbol is also found on Hasmonean coins and on coins of Philip, the son of Herod the Great. Nevertheless, it seems that the tomb of Talpiot was traditionally known as the tomb of Jesus. Thus, in the famous painting Supper of Emmaus, depicting the resurrected Jesus, painted by Jacopo Carruci in 1525, there is a triangle with an eye at the center above the head of Jesus. This symbol, which is almost identical to that appearing on the 1$ note, is similar to the inverted V on top of a circle at the entrance of the Talpiot tomb.

I am intrigued that the ossuary of a Matthew is never related to the apostle Matthew-Levi. After all he was part of the family, since Matthew´s father Alpheus-Clopas is known to be brother of old Joseph father of Jesus. So they would be cousins. On the other hand if the two sisters are in the same ossuary, would there be two different sets of DNA? After all the Mariame-M ossuary had sufficient fragments for analysis.

I am sorry--First -- everyone assumes that the name Jesus could only be Jesus of the Gospels. Jesus was a very common name at that time as was Joseph.

Ruth Gat made a sensational declaration on Wednesday January 16th, 2008 when accepting a lifetime achievement award on behalf of her late husband, archaeologist Yosef Gat of the Department of Antiquities,at the conclusion of a four-day academic conference in Jerusalem gathered to evaluate the Talpiot Tomb in context. Mrs. Gat told the scholars that her husband knew he had found the burial tomb of Jesus Christ but had serious concerns and fears that as a result of his discovery a wave of anti-Semitism might erupt. The former Jerusalem district archaeologist Amos Kloner claimed, after Mrs. Gat spoke,that the idea that Gat had believed he had found Jesus's tomb was absolutely not the case. Dr. Shimon Gibson who was an archaeologist at the 1980 dig also said that Gat never told him he believed the tomb was Jesus's.

gqix qfxbpghmr vkzh bmajtcy mpkdhe vcfuntg hwvdtpo

The comments to this entry are closed.