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Finding the Tomb

The First Discovery

In 1980 a tomb was found in south Jerusalem that had ten ossuaries in it. It was one of hundreds of tombs that have been uncovered since the 1970s. Yet only now has it been identified as the Jesus tomb.

Of all the thousands of ossuaries pulled from those tombs, only about 20% bear inscriptions. In the case of the Talpiot tomb, six of them—60%--had inscriptions. This was an elite family. Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, even Latin, were all represented in the burial cave.

Every inscription has been corroborated by the world’s leading scholars in the field, including professors Amos Kloner, Tal Ilan, Frank Moore Cross and the legendary L.Y. Rahmani. The inscriptions appear in Rahmani’s A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collection of the State of Israel published by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

And every inscription bears a relationship to the Gospels. While the names themselves range from the most common to the fairly rare, it is the cluster of names that is unique.

The first inscription, written in Aramaic (an ancient dialect of Hebrew), states: “Yeshua bar Yosef.” Translated, it reads “Jesus son of Joseph.” This is very rare. Out of all the inscriptions catalogued, only one other “Jesus, son of Joseph” inscription has ever been uncovered.

The second inscription, written in Hebrew reads: “Maria.” 25 % of all Jewish women in first century Judea (ancient Israel) were called “Miriam,” in English, “Mary.” As a result, to distinguish one from the other, variants and nicknames were adopted. Through literary sources the name of the mother of Jesus has always come down to us in one way: “Maria”, i.e. the Latin version of “Miriam.” Finding a Latin version of a Hebrew name inscribed phonetically in Hebrew letters is rare. Only eight other such inscriptions have ever been identified.

The third inscription, written in Hebrew, reads: “Matia”. This is the Hebrew original of the English “Matthew”. It is not known whether the writer of the Gospel was one of Jesus’ Disciples, or a member of his family. What is known, however, from the genealogy provided in Luke (3:23) is that unlike Joseph, Mary mother of Jesus, had many “Matthews” in her family. Unlike, say, a “Daniel” or a “Jonah”, the appearance of a “Matthew” in this family’s tomb is consistent with the information provided in the Gospels.

The fourth inscription, written in Hebrew, reads: “Yose”. This is a very rare rendering, a nickname for the Hebrew “Yosef”, like “Joey” to “Joseph” in modern English. The Gospels tell us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Judah, Simon and Joseph. The “Yose” inscription from this tomb is the only such example of this name on an ossuary. In the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, Joseph, brother of Jesus, is not called “Joseph”, but “Yose.”

The fifth inscription, written in Greek, reads: “Mariamene e Mara”, an endearing form of the name “Mariamne.” This is the only inscription found in the tomb written in Greek, and is a second Mary. From the Acts of Philip, a fourth century work ostensibly written about Mary Magdalene’s brother, Phillip, and recently recovered from a monastery at Mt. Athos in Greece, Professor François Bovon (Harvard University) has determined that Magdalene’s real name was “Mariamne.”

The sixth inscription is also written in Aramaic, it reads: “Yehuda bar Yeshua”. Translated, it means “Judah, son of Jesus”. There is no written tradition that Jesus had a son. This small, child’s ossuary may have held the mortal remains of the son of Jesus and Mary.


Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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