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Reflections of an Epigrapher on Talpiyot Tombs A and B: A Detailed Response to the Claims of Professor James Tabor and Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici - The ASOR Blog

Reflections of an Epigrapher on Talpiyot Tombs A and B: A Detailed Response to the Claims of Professor James Tabor and Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici

Posted in: Archaeology and Bible, Archaeology and Media, Archaeology in the News, Bible and Media, Epigraphy
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Professor Christopher A. Rollston (crollston@ecs.edu) Professor of Semitic Studies, Emmanuel Christian Seminary


Here are the basic claims of James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici: “Talpiyot Tomb B contained several ossuaries, or bone boxes, two of which were carved with an iconic image and a Greek inscription.  Taken together, the image and the inscription constitute the earliest archaeological evidence of faith in Jesus’ resurrection.”  They go on and state that these ossuaries “also provide the first evidence in Jerusalem of the people who would later be called ‘Christians.’  In fact, it is possible, maybe even likely, that whoever was buried in this tomb knew Jesus and heard him preach.” (more…)

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44 Comments for : Reflections of an Epigrapher on Talpiyot Tombs A and B: A Detailed Response to the Claims of Professor James Tabor and Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici
    • Jim
    • February 28, 2012

    And that puts the final nail in the coffin of the 'Jesus Discovery'. Your case is unassailable and should be viewed as the final word on the subject.

    • Matthew Gonzales
    • February 28, 2012

    Prof. Rollston,

    From the photos published on the web so far, I cannot make out if there is another character after the omicron in TAEO/ZAEO. I don't have ready access to many of the publication(s) you list, including Oikonomides. Is alpha gamma beta an abbreviation?



  1. Reply

    Thanks Chris for your response here. We have much to discuss but I look forward to doing it face to face. I particularly look forward to your interpretation of the inscription as a whole. I guess I am very surprised at your characterization of this inscription and the "fish" (sic) image as a totally mundane tomb as that was surely not your reaction in D.C. when we spent a day discussing it with our colleagues. I am not aware of any epitaphs of this type on ossuaries–whatever it says–so that seems to make it less than typical and mundane as we all agreed at that meeting. As for the nephesh interpretation, I find that wholly unconvincing and I assure you I have considered it carefully since it was suggested by one of our colleagues at our consultation. But enough comments for one day on this ASOR blog. I am tempted to jump into the epigraphy questions you raise (e.g., the zeta possibility is obvious and you know of course that zaios is a "fish" in Pliny!), as I think you are overlooking a number of things but will try for another medium plus look forward to discussing when we see one another next. Most of all I look forward to your translation of this interesting inscription, since you find mine so incorrect. P.S. As "non-specialist" as it is, I hope you will read the book, as I think you might find the cumulative evidence is balanced and well presented, not as you have characterized it here…but hey, I am the author, so what do I know.

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  4. Reply

    Great article; many thanks for taking the time to spell out the issues with such clarity (and thanks too to James Tabor for publishing his piece on Bible and Interpretation — it's a great help to have the issues from the horse's (fish's?!) mouth). Minor point: the footnotes are not formatted to anchor / link within the online version of the document — it looks like they are referring to a previous off-line draft of the piece.

  5. Reply

    Thanks for the kind note, Mark…I am very grateful. Also, thanks for the notation about the footnotes…alas, we'll need to try to get that fixed, as I do provide a reference in a footnote to my suggestion that the word "osta" ("bones")is probably present in this inscription (as you know that spelling for the plural is sufficiently attested, as in Diodorus Siculus and Epictetus, etc.), namely, the last two letters of line one and the first two letters of line two. That is, I think this inscription revolves around the treatment of bones…more on that later, I suppose.

    My thanks to you also for the note, James. I'm always happy to converse with you about this. As you know, I find the technology you used to be fascinating, auspicious. As for the tomb…it's certainly a nice tomb (Talpiyot B) and I do not intend to imply something different, but the epigraphic data and ornamental motif(s) strike me as pretty normal, rather than unique or sensational (I use mundane in its etymological sense). As for the nephesh tower…I consider this to be the most cogent understanding of it (I too thought a lot about it after returning from DC…).

    Well, I'm sure we'll have many chances to discuss such things and I shall look forward to it. As I mentioned in the blog post…and I was very sincere about this…I find you to be a wonderful person, and a gifted intellect (I mentioned this to a reporter today as well…hopefully that too will appear in print). You and I just differ about the conclusions that can be drawn from this find…but we've both known this for some time…such is the nature of the scholarly dialectic, of course. The first day or two of these sorts of things is always full of a lot of dust, but the dust clouds will clear and a consensus will develop…and I look forward to doing a post-mortem about it then as well.

    With all my best wishes to you both,


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  7. Reply

    If the inscription has not yet been satisfactorily deciphered–as seems to be the case (note James' words "whatever it says," above)–then it seems premature to make significant claims about it.

  8. Reply

    Thanks Chris. We offer in my paper multiple possibilities on the inscription. I think you are wrong about the iota/zeta/tau…I look forward to your transliteration and translation. I don't follow how this could be mundane or ordinary. What would be a parallel on any ossuary of the period? I know of eight "epitaphs" about "don't move the bones." Nothing like this…

    Surprised you are going for the nephesh idea…so the image would be up-side-down? With little fish swimming around it…Quite a few art historians, which I am not and you are not, have agreed it is a fish, but yes, in time this will get sorted out. I hope you got the copy of the book I had sent to you.

    Let's discuss soon. You are overdue for a trip to Charlotte.

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  10. Reply

    Hello, James,

    Thanks for the note. As for the absence of the iota…the morphology of that letter is nicely documented on lots of different media from this period, so I'm confident that the first letter of line two is not an iota. As for ordinary or mundane…well…as you know, I'm a pretty sober fellow about such things…e.g., I'm about to present and soon publish on a new Moabite inscription…9th century…many will find it sensational…I think it's nice…but not earth shattering…perhaps I've collated so much that I'm inured! :).

    As for art historians…indeed, I am not…but Robin Jensen is, of course, and she's now articulating her position on this find. Well, I'll sign off for now.

    With all best wishes,


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    • Kevin Kilty
    • March 1, 2012

    We are not qualified to comment on any of the new claims; however, we do take exception to some of Rollston's claims made in "Old News: Talpiyot Tomb A".

    Here Rollston claims that "The names Yehosep, Yoseh, Yeshua‘, Yehudah, Mattiyah, Maryah, Maryam, Mariamne, Mara and Martha (or the variants thereof) all have multiple attestations in the multilingual corpus of ossuaries and some are very common (Rahmani 1994, 292-297; Ilan 2002). In fact, even the name and patronymic “Yeshua‘ bar Yehosep” (i.e., “Jesus son of Joseph”) is not unique in the epigraphic corpus. After all, some eighty years ago, Sukenik published an ossuary inscribed “Yeshua‘ son of Yehosep” (“Jesus son of Joseph”) and the names Yeshua‘ and Yehosep (“Jesus” and “Joseph”) are predominant in the family of Babatha’s first husband. In fact, the father of Babatha’s first husband was named Yeshua‘ and his father was named “Yehosep,” so this is yet another “Yeshua‘ son of Yehosep” (i.e., “Jesus son of Joseph”; see Sukenik 1931; Lewis 1989, 35-40; cf. Yadin 1971, 233-234; Kraeling 1946, 18-19). Thus, even with the small corpus of epigraphic attestations of personal names, the Talpiyot Tomb A occurrence of “Yeshua‘ bar Yehosep” (“Jesus son of Joseph”) is not unique!"

    If we take the word unique to mean literally a single occurrence, then yes, the combination "Jesus son of Joseph" is not unique. But "not unique" does not mean so common that the combination is without interest. In arguing for non-uniqueness as the equivalent of "common and not interesting", Rollston points to the only other documented occurrence of the combination of Yeshua/Jesus and Yehoseph/Joseph on an ossuary. When we use Ilan's compilation to expand inquiry on this question, a compilation that includes 231 examples of the name Joseph, we find only one more example; Joseph, Joshua's brother. The combination of these two names occurs with a frequency that is consistent with drawing two names independently and randomly from the distribution of names in First Century Palestine, which also leads one to believe the combination is not common in any sense of the word.

    Moreover, focusing on "Jesus son of Joseph" ignores that the collection of inscriptions also includes "Yoseh" and "Mary". To decide what the observation of additional known names from the family of Jesus might mean, we have reasoned as follows:

    If we assume that the Jerusalem area does contain a tomb of the Jesus Family, and considering that the inverse of the number of such tombs represents a neutral probability that the Talpiyot Tomb A is that of the Jesus Family, then we and other investigators place this a priori probability at about one in a thousand–a probability low enough to render most tombs as being uninteresting to the search for the Jesus Family Tomb. However, we view the combination of names as evidence about the family in the tomb. Likelihood ratio is a measure of power of evidence and the likelihood ratio of this name combination, relative to random occurrence in the population, is about 30, if one assumes that "Yoseh" is as common as the name "Joseph", or rises to 470 if one considers "Yoseh" as a rare name in its own right. Even a likelihood ratio of 30 is significant, but a ratio of 470 is very powerful evidence of rareness of such a combination of names, and evidence in favor of being able to identify the specific family in this tomb.

    Frankly, we do not expect to see such a combination of names in any other tomb, found or remaining to be found; a conservative estimate would be that one might see one other such combination of names in one-thousand tombs. If there truly is a Jesus Family Tomb, Talpiyot A is likely the best candidate. Of course this evidence may all be a coincidence, but Jacobovici and Tabor ought to be commended for bringing such an unusual find into public view, and for persevering to look for additional evidence by such extraordinary means.

    Kevin Kilty

    Mark Elliott

  15. Reply

    Kevin and Mark,

    (1) Yes, I am using the word "unique" in its standard sense, that is, "only one of its kind" (sui generis). I supposed that this was very clear. (2) Thus, as I said, even within the epigraphic corpus, the name and patronymic "Yeshua son of Yehosep" is not unique. I referred to the attestion on the ossuary and to the attestation in the Babatha Archive. (3) Also, the mere presence of the PN Maryah proves nothing in and of itself. That is, to attempt to draw some significant conclusion about her without further prosopographic identifiers is simply too tenuous of a venture. And the same thing applies to the rest of the names which are without furter identifiers (i.e., without reference to father, husband, son, daughter, etc., etc.). This is the way prosopography works. I understand your desire to attempt to use stats to bolster the case…but I see things quite differently…I prefer hard evidence, as I have noted in my NEA article several years ago and as I argue also in the forthcoming volume arising out of the Princeton Symposium in Jerusalem.

    All best wishes,

    Christopher Rollston

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  18. Reply

    Chris in the rush of things last Tuesday I only had time to skim this major piece of yours. Now that I have had time to read it I have much to say, but more than would be practical on this comment feature of the blog. I will prepare a response and post it either here or on my own blog, whatever you prefer. It should be done early next week. Needless to say I think you have a lot of things wrong here, i.e., your assertion about the form of the iota, the clear adjective DIOS, quite common in Greek, etc. I cover a lot of this in my paper which I know you had not read when you wrote this. So yes, we have a lot to discuss. On the "garden" tomb, likewise, you don't seem to have kept up with some of the latest work but again, I will cover that in my article as well. Thanks so much for giving our work the attention you have. It is appreciated as ever and I am very glad to see you have moved away from you "nephesh" idea, as I was utterly amazed that you had taken that up in such a strong "bold print" way. All best, as ever, James

    • Simcha
    • March 3, 2012

    I have had a chance to peruse the responses to our press conference and book launch (The Jesus Discovery, Simon & Schuster) for the first time. I am preparing a longer article, but in the meantime I just wanted to contextualize the discussion.

    I am not surprised by the quick and personal attacks by various scholars i.e., accusing us of “hijacking” archaeology, “sensationalism” etc. We’ve heard it all before and I guess some people can’t get off that track, including the accusation that we released our book to coincide with Easter – nevermind that it was released in February and Easter is in April. Frankly, what surprises me is how quickly the negative tone was diffused and how the discussion is veering towards scholarly debate instead of ad hominem slander. The reason I’m surprised is because, generally, there is an iron rule that applies to Jesus related archaeology: everyone is wrong, about everything, all the time. Some would like to portray the controversy over the “Jesus Family Tomb” in Talpiot as one between serious scholars and sensationalists such as myself. But let’s put this into a historical context.

    Prof. Tabor and I are not the first people to connect Jesus to Talpiot. In 1945, Eleazer Sukenik, who was the first to identify the Dead Sea Scrolls as being authentically from the Second Temple Period, discovered a tomb off Hebron Road in Talpiot, approximately 1,000 meters from the now famous “Jesus Family Tomb”. In the tomb, there were two ossuaries with the word “Jesus” inscribed on them in charcoal. According to Sukenik, one inscription read “Jesus Woe” and the other “Jesus Aloth”, which Sukenik interpreted as lamentations for the crucifixion of Jesus. Immediately, the scholarly and Christian community was up in arms. It turns out that Sukenik was wrong on both counts. The ossuaries were not referring to Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, there were two guys named Jesus buried right next to each other. And the first ossuary did not say “Woe”, it said “Ju” which was an unfinished version of “Judah”. Moreover, “Aloth” did not refer to lamentation but to “Aloe”. Maybe the person interred in the box was in the Aloe distribution business. As for why a scholar of Sukenik’s stature got it so wrong, just recently I heard a top scholar say in a room full of other scholars “Sukenik’s wife needed a refrigerator”. So I guess he just sensationalized for the purpose of making money.

    In 1973, Prof. Morton Smith – arguably the top New Testament scholar at the time – claimed to have found a previously unknown letter of Clement of Alexandria that quoted an unknown version of the Gospel of Mark. Smith had found the fragment years before and had worked on it for over a decade, making sure that he lined up top scholars prior to publication. But that did not help him. His career went down in flames and he was accused of forging the document. As recently as 2010, York University in Toronto sponsored a conference dedicated to the question of Smith’s possible forgery.

    Franciscan archaeologist, Bellarmino Bagatti, pointed to much “Judeo-Christian” archaeology in Jerusalem e.g., at the site of Dominus Flevit, but each assertion was met with universal disdain. Like Sukenik and Smith before him, Bagatti was wrong about everything all the time. Not only that, every reading of any inscription that can be linked to Jesus is retroactively changed once a connection with Jesus is established. So, for example, the ossuary that reads “Shimon bar Yonah” i.e., the disciple Peter’s name, sits neglected in the Franciscan museum at the second station on the Via Dolorosa. After I publicized its existence in a 2007 film, scholars began to debate whether, in fact, it says “bar Yonah” after all. In the 1970s Prof. Pau Figueras published an inscription on a small fragment on an ossuary in the IAA warehouse of unknown provenance. It has the name “Jesus” inside a fish complete with tail and mouth. He was immediately roundly attacked. It turns out the “Jesus” in this inscription is not Jesus of Nazareth but, rather, another Jesus buried in the ossuary. And the fish is not a fish, it’s not even a Nephesh tower or an amphora or even a perfume bottle, it’s merely a carelessly drawn circle. As for Prof. Figueras’ interpretation, well, in Levi-Rahmani’s words “….the inferences drawn by Figueras [are] excessive”.

    When it comes to crosses, the story is the same. No cross is a cross if it’s connected to Jesus. For example, one of Sukenik’s “Jesus” ossuaries had charcoal crosses on all four sides. As it turns out, these are not crosses. They are “mason’s marks”. Nevermind that masons work in stone, not charcoal. Nevermind that a mason’s mark on an ossuary is meant to line up a lid to a box and serves no purpose on all four sides. Sukenik didn’t know the rule. When it comes to Jesus, everyone is wrong about everything all the time.

    Which brings us to our latest discoveries and some of the over the top criticisms. In 2007, when we investigated the “Jesus Family Tomb” we were criticized for doing it in the context of a film and not a proper dig. This time, our investigation was under an excavation license issued by the IAA. We had not one but two sponsoring universities – UNC Charlotte and the University of Nebraska. There was an IAA archaeologist on site all the time. The license was jointly held by not one, but two scholars – Prof. James Tabor and veteran Israeli archaeologist Rami Arav. All under the sponsorship of Prof. Janet Levy, Chair of the Department of Anthropology at UNC Charlotte and Chair of the Archaeology division of the American Anthropological Association. Pretty solid I would say, but not good enough for some of the contributors to this site who continue to accuse us of “sensationalism” etc. Moving on, last time we were accused of not having a peer-review process. This time, Prof. Tabor published a peer-reviewed article on BibleInterp.com and at least 10 academics made formal reports on our findings prior to publication. We incorporated all of their suggestions in our book, upcoming film, website and press material. Not good enough. In fact, some of the very academics that were consulted have revised their opinions and are now attacking us on this site.

    The fact is that what we found is unprecedented whether you call our Jonah image a pillar, an amphora or a perfume bottle. In the words of Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem District Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “there’s nothing else like it on an ossuary”. We also found a statement of faith. But even if you say it’s not about resurrection, but some kind of exaltation or testament to an ascension of some kind, there is simply nothing like it on any of the thousands of ossuaries catalogued so far. Again, those are the words of Yuval Baruch. It doesn’t help to say that many Jews believed in resurrection. They didn’t record their statements on their ossuaries. The statement is unique. Furthermore, the archaeological context is attested. Like it or not, these two tombs are linked and set apart from the rest of the Talpiot necropolis. That’s not my opinion, that’s the opinion of Dr. Natalie Messika, an expert in archaeological mapping often under contract with the IAA. As for the linkage to early followers of Jesus, the fact is that whoever made those pictures and wrote that inscription was sectarian and not normative. Jews did not – and do not – write the Tetragrammaton on a bone box filled with “tumah” or impurity. I know that there is an attempt to re-read the second line in the inscription, but the reading was confirmed repeatedly by major scholars, including Prof. Rollston who is now revising his opinion. It’s OK to change one’s mind. All I’m saying is that the vast majority of scholars see the ineffable name inscribed in the second line.

    Had we found a cross, we would have been told that the cross is not a Christian symbol in the 1st century. The fact is we found a 1st century cross! Had we found nothing else, we would have been told that we should have found a fish, if we thought the tomb was linked to the early Jesus movement. But we found a fish! If that’s all we had found, we would have been told that we should have found a “Jonah”. We found a Jonah! But for some, the iron rule is the golden rule. When it comes to Jesus; everyone is wrong about everything all the time. So the cross is not a cross, the fish is not a fish, the Jonah is not a Jonah and now even the “Jehovah” inscription doesn’t say “Jehovah”.

    For the record, we spent 5 years and a lot of money and effort to excavate this tomb. Never before have the IAA and the Haredi activists agreed to work together on the excavation of a 1st century Jerusalem tomb. We built a robotic arm that has pushed the envelope of Jerusalem based archaeology. We had absolutely no guarantee that we would find anything, but we did. And now it’s time for a reasoned and scholarly debate. Many top scholars have weighed in stating that this is a very significant find including Prof. James Charlesworth and Prof. John Dominic Crossan. If “scholars” stop attacking each other personally, more will go on record. Furthermore, it’s time to review, in light of the new findings, the archaeology previously dismissed. Maybe everyone’s not wrong about everything all the time. Maybe we actually found something significant this time. And maybe significant archaeology has been hiding, for decades, in plain sight.

    Simcha Jacobovici, filmmaker

    Professor, Religious Studies, Huntington University

  19. Reply

    James and Simcha,

    I certainly understand your desire to attempt to sustain your interpretation, and I understand that you have a book and a forthcoming Discovery Channel special to defend….but your framework is simply too strained. The data do not support your conclusions…and this is the dominant consensus of the field and this will continue to be the case. Dramatic claims require dramatic evidence and the data are simply not there.

    1) Indeed, to suggest that this ornament is a fish with Jonah being spit out is simply not convincing…a nephesh tower or (still better) an unguentarium is the interpretation that will stand the test of time…and even now this is apparent.

    (2) Yahweh is not in this inscription…as I told you months and months ago, it is not there and I think that in your heart of hearts you know this. Indeed, James, not so very long ago you told me that you too were leaning my way and were disinclined to read an iota at the beginning of line two and you mentioned that you were working with someone who specializes in personal names. But it seems you have moved back to reading an iota, and thus Yahweh. That's fine, but I assure you that this reading will not stand. The inscription's key word is arguably "bones" (last two letters of line one, and the first two letters of line two, and I mentioned this in at least an e-mail or two months ago to you). I'm afraid that this is not a very sensational reading of the text, but "bones" are indeed something that are mentioned in burial contexts such as this.

    (3)As for the stats that you often wish to refer to….this will never work. I am sure that you've seen Randy Ingermanson's numbers: http://www.ingermanson.com/jesus/art/stats.php . In short, if you wishing for dueling statisticians, then this too is fine.

    (4) The main point, though, is that your attempt to suggest that these two tombs are those of Jesus of Nazareth, his wife Mary Magdalene, his son Yehudah, and their friend Joseph of Arimathea, and that there is a depiction of a Jonah being spit out of a fish's mouth and that this is a reflection of some sort of Christian resurrection belief is simply far too strained…not based on evidence, but on a long string of "if,", "if," "if," "if," As for me, I prefer to focus on hard data and reasonable interpretations. And, of course, the reason for your full scale internet barrage on all who differ with you is because the academic community (with a crosssection of scholars) is not embracing your conclusions. You're both nice people…on a personal level, I like you both…but this interpretation of yours will not stand…the evidence is simply not there.

    All best wishes,

    Christopher Rollston

  20. Reply


    Thanks for your comment. I do think your insinuation that we have a book and film to push so that our objectivity is out the window is really out of line. The book and film reflect the considered views we have come to, as summarized in my academic piece at bibleinterp.com, not the other way around. They are presentations not special pleading. I have presented my arguments for it being a Jonah image, in great detail (my blog and bibleinterp.com) and neither a tower or a perfume flash. If you want to disagree fine, but you would need to present arguments, not merely assert "this is too strained," "this is just not convincing," as if this image even remotely resembles a tower–and an upside down one at that. I have seen no analysis of yours other than the assertion, first, it is undoubtedly a tower, and now, it is surely a perfume flask.

    On the inscription I look forward to your reading. I have not heard it yet so I can not really comment, other than your point that the first letter of line 2 can not be an iota–which is incorrect. We have consulted with several epigraphers and I can read Greek. Yes, we did indeed consider other options, especially a zeta, which is obvious, but it surely is not a tau. I never told you I had "given up" on IAIO, to the contrary have constantly considered all options and have settled on the variations presented in my paper. You seem to not recognize dios as a common adjective ("wondrous, divine"), which is in the nominative/vocative. Again, I think when you wrote your post you had not read my paper. Your reference to Randy's work just shows you have not kept up Chris. This is all addressed in the papers up on bibleinterp.com. It is not a matter of "dueling statisticians" but evaluating the state of things. Both Lutgen and Kilty & Elliot address Randy's work thoroughly and I think Randy agrees. Strange, Chris, that you would call my responses a full scale internet barrage when I have merely responded professionally and as factually as possible to the posts that have been put here–which is, after all, on our work. If my words sound sharp here I apologize but I think this dismissive summary post of yours is not helpful in terms of anything substantive we have been discussing and it seemed to me we might be making some progress.

  21. Reply

    Thanks for the note, James. As for the significance of these find in "Talpiyot Tombs A and B", we'll just have to agree to disagree. That's fine…such is the nature of the scholarly dialectic. We'll see where everything stands, in terms of the field's take on things, in a few months, or a year or two. As for the term barrage…mostly that is just a reference to the fact that you are commenting everywhere, often (including on this ASOR site)…it seems a rather full scale defense. That's fine too…I understand that as well, as I mentioned. So I wish you well, but I just can't embrace your take on these to tombs. I would very much like to find things associated with first century Christianity…including the figures that you believe these finds relate to….but the evidence doesn't demonstrate that. You may differ…again, as I said, that's certainly fine…we'll have to agree to disagree about this.

    All best wishes,

    Christopher Rollston

    • Mike O'Brien
    • March 4, 2012

    Hi Jim and Simcha,

    The collection of names in the Talpiot A Tomb, certainly ARE startling, however whenever I read about 'Stuff' like this, I'm always reminded of the Words of Jesus (Luke 17 and Matthew, I think) "Men will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them"..

    Applicable?? Maybe, maybe not! I am not a 'Scholar', however it does come to mind!

    Always around Easter time Too…Hmmm! But then again you and Sim simply abhor and eschew 'Sensationalism'….Right?? (wink,wink)

    […section deleted by ASOR editor…]

  22. Reply

    Enough said Chris, and if you ever do care to let me know why you find my arguments regarding the fish vis-a-vis both tower and flask inadequate I am all ears–beyond just saying you are not convinced. As for the inscription, I await your reading as other than the word bones/osta (sic) I have no idea what you think it says. I have been puzzling over it for a year and consulting people like you far and wide and have offered my analysis and the range of readings we have come up with. Apparently you have another but you have never cared to share it with me though I have asked. What I have tried to do as best I can here, on my blog, and in direct response to my article on bibleinterp.com is clarify and respond to questions or misunderstandings. I am happy to leave you all to discuss things the rest of the month.

    • Frederic Yacono
    • March 4, 2012

    Professor Rollston's very in depth analysis of the "Jesus Discovery" so called, is both sound and wholey comprehensive as are his rebutals of said "claims." He is also kind and long suffering in his replies to both Mr. Tabor and Mr. Jacobovici. I will be blunt. I am not convinced either, but for a simple reason, among others. On face, this newest exploitation masquerades as a serious and scholarly research project.Under tighter scrutiny the whole thing falls apart as Prof. Rollston and others examine the findings and articulately and eloquently address them, point by point. We know that Mr Tabor is a Religious Studies Chair at the UNC. and Mr. Jacobovici is a Film Maker. They say they are backed up by a "team" of academics and archeologists.No reason to doubt that. But what of Tabor and Jacobovici. Neither are archeologists or Scriptural scholars. A religious studies professor and a film maker with a team. And with all the dialogue and deciphering of letters and drawings on bone boxes, the motive is the same as it was a few years ago when these same two say they found the physical remains of Jesus and His family, to debunk the the New Testament account of the Physical Ressurection from the dead of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a belief which is Core to the faith of His followers for two thousand years. This is nothing new, however. In generation after generation, Jesus has had his detractors to His clain of Divinity. We saw this with the publication of the "Passover Plot" and other conspiricy theories concerning Jesus. Then, of more recent, "The Historical Jesus," many thesis on the political and revolutionary Jesus and a host of other fanciful dealing with Jesus in the guises of academic revisionist history and pure fiction. Now, Dan Brown and others have Jesus being revived before his burial and secreted off to Scottland or France or wherever, with who else but Mary of Magdala and their unborn or recently born infant son. Hence, the Jesus Line and the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Illuminati and God only knows what else

    The Jesus Tomb Discovery is just more of the same low budget non academic dribble sold to the public like DaVinci Code sensationalism in the name of very questionable science and psuedo scholarship. So every two or three years Simca and Jim will ressurect themselves from the caves of Talpiyot and suffer us more with their unfounded and goofy claims that Jesus was just like them. If they make enough sheckles from their book and TV Docu on Discovery, AGAIN, who knows, perhaps next Christmas, they'll inform us that they've discovered that The Star Of Bethlehem was actually a UFO. "…..BECAUSE YOU HAVE SEEN, YOU BELIEVE. BLESSED ARE THEY WHO NOT HAVING SEEN, YET BELIEVE." […section deleted by ASOR editor… ]

    • Don Owens
    • March 4, 2012

    Professor Rollston, It is always a pleasure to read anything you put forth. Your position is entirely reasonable as it relates here to both the finds and conclusions of Tabor and Jacobovici. Your reasoned and measured approach will stand the test of time. On another note, it brought a little laughter when I read Professor John Crossan's name.

    Simcha mentioned Professor Morton Smith, "arguably the top New Testament scholar at the time". Do tell. Curiously, where is this "previously unknown letter of Clement of ALexandria that quoted an unknown version of the Gospel of Mark."

    The winds of time bring truth.

    • Kathryn B Westbrook
    • March 5, 2012

    Professor Rollston, Might the translation of the second line be refering to the title used for God in the MT many times, the Most High God. Theos Hypsistos. (Θεος Υψιστος) in the dative possibly as Θεω Υψιστω?

    • Nicole
    • March 5, 2012

    Simcha Jacobovici is an Orthodox Jew who wears a head covering. I find it incredible that so many of the comments keep pointing out his hat e.g., the one above that calls it a "head rag" and talks about how it must stink. What stinks are these personal Judeo-phobic comments. [Editorial note: Nicole, thank you for pointing out the inappropriate comment. It has been deleted from the original post. ASOR editorial team.]

  23. Reply

    Kathryn, on the theos hypsistos possibility see my paper at bibleinterp.com where I discuss that and a number of other possibilities. Not sure which word you are reading as theos though…

    • George Grubbs
    • March 5, 2012

    Finally, after much sensationalism from supposed experts, comes a reasonable analysis of some of the propositions made in the book, "The Jesus Discovery."

    Finally, after much hasty and incorrect, knee-JERK generalizations of what the image is (Absalom's Tomb (nephesh tower), medicine/perfume bottle, amphora, etc) and "mind/motive-reading" ("the authors are doing it for money at Easter time"), and the attempts to crucify the authors' reputations, we have a fairly objective and competent basic analysis from which to begin a thoughtful discussion. Well done, Dr. Rollston (well, for the most part).

    One has to ask, "Why couldn't this have been produced from the start, rather than the ugly tripe that spewed forth from unnamed reviewers?" Oh well; such is human nature.

    I believe there is some very interesting finds in both Talpiyot A and B. Why not take the high road and see if there is anything new there rather than taking the low road and continuing to produce ad hominem laced arguments that do not advance anything but hard feelings?

    "Civility costs nothing, and buys everything."

    Mary Wortley Montagu

    • ryan
    • March 5, 2012

    Referring to Tabor's paper and the illustration of the inscription, and considering the quality of the decorative motif, the inscription looks to me more like graffiti than like something original to the ossuary. Is this typical of the time period, that an inscription would be so irregular, even on an object with such a well reproduced decoration?

    • ryan
    • March 5, 2012

    And then just to add to the chaos, I'd mention that the plate of "discoveries from the Judean desert" shown here:

    … does show iotas with a bar at the bottom. Interesting that such a form would be evidenced from Judea! Still no traverse on these examples. Still, it suggests greater variation in form than is being credited here.

    The reference image next to it is of a greek text with paleohebrew characters interpolated for the tetragrammaton, no less.

    • Frederic Yacono
    • March 5, 2012

    One must ask this question. If, indeed, these finds are of such incredably ground breaking proportions in the areas of Bible scholarship and archeological finds, why hasn't the archeoligical community, in the tradition of the late Sir Leonard Wooley and others, world wide, weighed in on these history turning discoveries? Why haven't many more academics inlisted their expertise and added their voices, pro or con to those of the already listed academics currently involved in this debate. I submit unashamedly and unequivically, because the claims are foundless and groundless and nothing more than pure speculation, for whatever motive. There has been no exhaustive scientific scrutiny by teams from the many disciplines as, let us say, in the examinations of the Shroud of Turin and other relics. I have heard of no carbon dating, extensive DNA and/or other forensic proceedures. I do, indeed suspect motives, non of which the least is pure sensationalism and an attempt to substantially undermine, if not destroy the Cornerstone of Christianity, namely the bodily Ressurection of Jesus Christ. Again, what I and many others find somewhat unsettling is the fact that these "discoveries" and others like them are always published at a time coinsiding with Christian High Holy Days and that, quite frankly, is what really stinks.

    • Geraldo M. Souza
    • March 6, 2012

    Sou muito interessado na arqueologia bíblica direcionada na antiga cidade de Davi em Jerusalém; pelo que venho acompanhando com muito interesse os artigos publicados e traduzidos para o português. Gostaria de expor a minha opinião de um leigo sobre a matéria do ossuário que tem a ornamentação da gravura do "grande peixe de Jonas" ser procedente quanto a identificação do animal marinho gravado na estrutura do ossuário se tratar de uma grande ESPONJA MARINHA cuja característica padrão tem no corpo do referido peixe, não seria de barbatanas, e sim, orifícios(porus)no seu corpo esponjoso, direcionando a água com os nutrientes para o interior de sua estrutura concava em forma de um grande vaso. A gravura condiz com a sua interpretação estando correta da posição encrustada na pedra.Este gênero de animal marinho inferior dos mais primitivos multisselulares existente teve sua investigação apurada, sendo confundida com plantas aguáticas, só em 1765 quando se observou pela priera vez a corrente de águas interna é que se estabeleceu claramente a natureza animal das esponjas.Até 1857 restavam dúvidas sobre a sua classificação animal.Dentre as várias classes de esponjas que variam em tamanho de 1mm até 2 metros de diâmetro temos encontrado afinal o que se torna numa prova física gravada identificando a veracidade da narrativa de Jonas e a ressurreição anunciada no grande peixe. Aguardaremos as novas evidências arqueológicas.

    Obs.: Em 2007 escreví um livreto por conta própria falando sobre as minhas conclusões do porque seria a esponja marinha o grande peixe que teria engolido o profeta Jonas?

    Deus seja louvado!

    • Tim Noonan
    • March 6, 2012

    Christopher Rollston weighs in drawing from his playbook the 'mother of all details" debate technique. This 'all hat and no cattle' approach bewilders and mesmerizes those attempting to interpret and summarize his views. And enhances the spirit of those pre-biased to except his premises without understanding that little to nothing has really been said.

    Repeatedly using the phrase "I'm convinced" of this or that is especially meaningless without adding something that is or will be 'convincing.' After all Mr. Rollston was "convinced" that the depiction on Talpiot Tomb B was an up side down Nephesh Tower only the other day. But is said to have since changed his mind.

    Many disagree with him concerning his 'commonality of the names' declaration as concerns Talpiot Tomb A. He tends to forget that commonality of names is not the only variable statisticians look at but also adjacently consider the (cluster) of those names together in one tomb.

    And lastly, if Christopher is so confident concerning his criticisms regarding the 4 line inscription from Talpiot Tomb B. And instead of rambling on with arguments that seem only to seep into areas of grey. Why doesn't he just simply interpret it in his own opinion and with his own words?

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  25. Pingback: PaleoBabble » Update on the Talpiot B Tomb Inscription

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  28. Reply

    Anything based on a lie is a lie.The Holy blood Holy grail pretend that Jesus escaped death and married Mary Magdalene.Then the da vinci code pretend a secret marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the real blood of the grail is inside Mary based on the painting of the last supper by leonardo da vinci.Now some persons pretend finding Jesus tomb and bones and have already linked their discoveries to the above fake stories through similarity of names and DNA.The truth is that the real Holy blood of Jesus is on His forehead and not in the womb of Mary Magdalene.This is revealed in the real and true story the coin of the temple.Those who called themselves scholars should know the future place for liars and deceivers.

  29. Pingback: Update on the Talpiot B Tomb Inscription | Filter_paleo

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