- There is good evidence that this Jesus son of Joseph cannot be Jesus of Nazareth
- The identification is inconclusive, or even unlikely; there is not enough evidence to draw a solid conclusion.
- Such an identification is possible, even likely, though not conclusively proven.
- There is evidence that such an identification is probable or even highly probable.
First, some will complain that Tabor unfairly excludes the view that "this could not be the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth since he ascended bodily to heaven." But since historians can only trade in probabilities and since the bodily ascension of Jesus surely qualifies as an extremely improbable historical event, I'm not sure Tabor's exclusion can be faulted, given the context of an academic debate. Moreover, he seems to be excluding only the view that says, up front and without concern for possible physical evidence, that historical and archaeological data are irrelvant to questions about the historical Jesus.
Second, Tabor suggests that "the only scholar who has argued the 1st option in print is Jodi Magness." A key phrase here is "in print," the meaning of which is becoming increasingly opaque in our digital information age. Evidently Tabor would include articles published in academic e-journals and posted on e-bulletin boards like SBL's Forum,where Jodi Magness' piece appears. But what are we to make of the negative verdicts handed down by generally respected academics who, only since the Jacobovic documentary and thus not yet "in print," have posted on websites and blogs, or spoken out on television, radio and in the press? I'm thinking of Richard Bauckham, Eric Meyers, Craig Evans, Ben Witherington, Stephen Pfann, Jonathan Reed, Joe Zias, Byron McCane, Darrell Bock, Randy Ingermanson, Chris Heard and others, all of whom reject the link between the Jesus tomb and Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps I need to re-read their statements more closely, but my sense is (a) that many statements are effectively "in print" and (b) that these statements lean much more toward option one than Tabor implies.
UPDATE: Thanks to James Tabor who clarifies his meaning in the comments section below. By "in print," he had in mind what he calls "solid and sustained academic treatments."Third, the wording of option two may create confusion. Some of those who adopt it--Christopher Rollston, for example--may actually be much closer to position one than Tabor allows. Take Rollston as an example:
Based on the prosopographic evidence, it is simply not possible to make assumptions about the relationships of those buried therein, and it is certainly not tenable to suggest that the data are sufficient to posit that this is the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.Tabor is technically correct--Rollston doesn't say the identification is impossible--but I wonder if Tabor's position two would be more accurate if it read as follows:
2. The identification is inconclusive, or even unlikely; there is not enough evidence to draw a solid conclusion and plenty to warrant profound skepticism.Fourth, the phrase "even likely" in option three all but removes the distinction between three and four. How are we to distinguish betwen position three (the identification is "likely") and position four (the identification is "probable")? Perhaps the four views should simply be: essentially impossible, unlikely, possible and probable.