Thursday, March 8, 2007

Ground Zero in the Jesus Tomb Debate

Whether due to fatigue or the onset of March Madness, "Jesus tomb" blogging is definitely slowing. The key issues continue to be two:

1. The statistical improbability of the collection of names inscribed on the Talpiot ossuaries.

How significant is it that we would have in one tomb the names Jesus son of Joseph, Maria and Jose, all of which are known to belong to Jesus' nuclear family? [Far less clear is the statistical relevance of the other three Talpiot names: Mariamenou Mara, Mati and Judah son of Jesus. As for James son of Joseph brother of Jesus on the separate James ossuary, the jury is literally out.] Evidently Andrey Feuerverger, Professor of Statistics at U. of T., has been quoted and misquoted, understood and misunderstood. Alas, most of us know just enough to know that we don't know enough to add anything useful to the debate. Meanwhile the beseiged James Tabor, aided by statistical "advisors," continues to find the stats in the documentary persuasive and promises more blog entries to come.

2. The historical improbability of several key claims.
These claims include:
  • that Jesus' family would have had a family tomb in Jerusalem
  • that Jesus' family would have continued to use a tomb (containing Jesus' bones) between 30 and 70 C.E. while the Jesus movement was emerging
  • that Jesus of Nazareth was married
  • that Jesus of Nazareth had a son
  • that Mariamenon was a name applied to Mary Magdalene in the 1st century
  • that Magdala (Mary's home town on the Sea of Galilee) was a center of Greek language and trade (thus explaining why her inscription is in Greek while her "husband's" is in Hebrew characters)

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