About Done, But a Multi-Scholar Statement Jan 22 08

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Everyone is weighing in now. The following is a statement from multiple scholars about the tomb, decrying the way the media portrayed the event. Here it is in full. Mark Goodacre posted the statment which had several signees. I am about done posting these and blogging on the "revival" of this theory; but this one, with so many signatories, could not be ignored.Here it is: A firestorm has broken out in Jerusalem following the conclusion of the “Third Princeton Theological Seminary Symposium on Jewish Views of the Afterlife and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism: Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context.” Most negative assessments of archaeologists and other scientists and scholars who attended have been excluded from the final press reports. Instead the media have presented the views of Simcha Jaocobovici, who produced the controversial film and book “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” with Hollywood director James Cameron, and who claims that his identification has been vindicated by the conference papers. Nothing further from the truth can be deduced from the discussion and presentations that took place on January 13-17, 2008. A statistical analysis of the relatively common names engraved on the ossuaries leaves no doubt that the probability of the Talpiot tomb belonging to Jesus’ family is virtually nil if the Mariamene named on one of the ossuaries is not Mary Magdalene. In fact, epigraphers at the conference contested the reading of the inscription as “Mariamene.” Furthermore, Mary Magdalene is not referred to by the Greek name Mariamene in any literary sources before the late second-third century AD. An expert panel of scholars on the subject of Mary in the early church dismissed out of hand the suggestion that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus, and no traditions suggest that Jesus had a son named Judah (another person named on an ossuary from this tomb). Moreover, the DNA evidence used to suggest that Jesus had a wife was dismissed by the Hebrew University team that devised such procedures and who have conducted such research all over the world. Even the ossuary inscribed with the name “Jesus son of Joseph” is paralleled by a find from another Jerusalem tomb, and at least one speaker said the reading of the name “Jesus” on the Talpiot tomb ossuary was not certain. Testimony from archaeologists who were involved in the excavation of the Talpiot tomb left no doubt that the “missing” tenth ossuary was plain and uninscribed, eliminating any possibility that it is the so-called “James ossuary.”The identification of the Talpiot tomb as the tomb of Jesus’ family flies in the face the canonical Gospel accounts, which are the earliest traditions describing Jesus’ death and burial. According to these accounts Jesus was placed in the tomb of a prominent follower named Joseph of Arimathea. Since at least the early fourth century Christians have venerated the site of Jesus’ burial at the spot marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In contrast, not a single tradition, Christian or otherwise, preserves any reference to or recollection of a family tomb of Jesus anywhere in Jerusalem. The smoking gun at the conference was the surprise appearance of Ruth Gat, the widow of the archaeologist who excavated the tomb in 1980 and died soon afterwards. Mrs. Gat announced that her husband had known about the identification all along but was afraid to tell anyone because of the possibility of an anti-Semitic reaction. However, Joseph Gat lacked the expertise to read the inscriptions. His supervisor and other members of the Israel Antiquities Authority believe that Gat could not have made such a statement in his lifetime since the inscriptions seem to have been deciphered only after he had passed away. Jacobovici now claims that Mrs. Gat’s statement has vindicated his claims about the tomb. To conclude, we wish to protest the misrepresentation of the conference proceedings in the media, and make it clear that the majority of scholars in attendance – including all of the archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers relating to the tomb - either reject the identification of the Talpiot tomb as belonging to Jesus’ family or find this claim highly unlikely.Sincerely,Professor Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillProfessor Eric M. Meyers, Duke UniversityChoon-Leon Seow, Princeton Theological SeminaryF.W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Princeton Theological SeminaryLee McDonald, Princeton Theological Seminary, visitingRachel Hachlili, Haifa UniversityMotti Aviam, University of RochesterAmos Kloner, Bar Ilan UniversityChristopher Rollston, Emmanuel School of ReligionShimon Gibson, University of North Carolina at CharlotteJoe Zias, Science and Antiquity Group, JerusalemJonathan Price, Tel Aviv UniversityC.D. Elledge, Gutavus Adolphus College

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