Defending the Theistic View

Jesus’ lost Talpiot tomb — Part 2

In my previous blog post on Jesus’ Lost Talpiot Tomb I start giving  my reasons for not believing the claim that the Talpiot tomb discovered in 1980 in Jerusalem is the family tomb of Jesus. I remark that according to Judean custom, people from outside Judea that died and were buried in said area were refered to by their places of origin. Hence Jesus’ ossury should therefore say “Jesus of Nazareth son of Joseph” in stead of simply “Jesus son of Joseph.” 

Now I will go into another key point which is presented in the Lost Tomb of Jesus. It is another ossuary with a name written in Greek. The Lost Tomb of Jesus then idententifies the name as “Mariamne,” a form of Mary. But there was another “Mary” found in the tomb with the incription “Maria.” The question then becomes: “Did Jesus have two women in his life named Mary?”

The answer, according to the documentary is “yes.” — That is to say that “Maria” is Jesus’ mother and that “Mariamne” is in fact Mary Magdalene. Simcha Jacabovici takes an interest in this and virtually comes to Ban Brown/DaVinci Code conclusion by assuming that Jesus and Mariamne (a.k.a. Mary Magdalene) were married.

To support the idea that they were married Jacabovici had samples of the human remains taken to Lakehead University’s Paleo-DNA Laboratory for Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing. The results showed that the two were not maternally related and that their being husband and wife could not be ruled out. — Of course the documentary crew jumped at this and presented it as proof that Jesus and Mariamne (i.e., Mary Magdalene) were indeed married.

Here is were the problem comes in: Mitochondrial DNA testing is only to show if two people are maternally related. This by no means shows that they were married because there are several ways that a man and a woman may be related without having the same mother. For example, they could have been half-brother and sister with the same father, or Mariamne could have been his grandmother on his father’s side. 

But even Matheson doesn’t believe this shows they were married because a March 2, 2007 entry on the Scientific American blog reveals that he said, “The only conclusions we made were that two sets were not maternally related. To me it sounds like absolutely nothing.” — At this point, it seems like any attempt to argue that these two were married is futile. A New York Times article reveals Jacabovici’s real basis for assuming that they were married:

[Jacabovici] said there was enough mitochondrial DNA for a laboratory in Ontario to conclude that the bodies in the “Jesus” and “Mary Magdalene” ossuaries were not related on their mothers’ side. From this, Mr. Jacobovici deduced that they were a couple, because otherwise they would not have been buried together in a family tomb.

Of course, as if two people had to have the same mother to buried in the same family tomb. I guess the Jewish attitude would have been “If we don’t share the same mother, Adios! You’re not getting buried here.” Imagine the number of Jewish families this would have torn apart. So his conclusion is basically a baseless over-generalization.

Another weakness with this is that Jocabovici didn’t even further test his hypothesis especially since it would have been very possible for him to do it. — That is because another ossuary from the tomb is inscribed as “Judah son of Jesus.”

Since this was a family tomb, there is no doubt that this Jesus and Judah were father and son. So therefore if Jesus and Mariamne were indeed married then mtDNA from Judah would have been able to confirm the hypothesis. And yet this didn’t happen. The New York Times further reported that:

In an interview, Mr. Jacobovici was asked why the filmmakers did not conduct DNA testing on the other ossuaries to determine whether the one inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus” was genetically related to either the Jesus or Mary Magdalene boxes; or whether the Jesus remains were actually the offspring of Mary.

“We’re not scientists. At the end of the day we can’t wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA,” he said. “We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, ‘I’ve done my job as a journalist.’ ”

Science writer Carl Zimmer, on his science blog, criticized Jacabovici’s attitude on this

It’s up to him to make sure that the DNA has not been contaminated by archaeologists It’s up to him to pass the judgment of scientific experts in the field. And at the very least, it’s up to him to test all the remains–including the ones that supposedly belonged to the son of Jesus. To step back suddenly and say, “I’ve done my job as a journalist” is utterly absurd.

So, now at this point, it has become clear that Jacabovici was to sloppy in his research for the Lost Tomb of Jesus. It is especially apparent now that the scientific community doesn’t seem to support him. To me this shows that Simcha Jacabovici’sbeing overly selective in his research and is therefore not trustworthy. Because of this there is no evidence that Jesus and Mariamne were married and Jacabovici’s hypothesis still lacks any credible support.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus prefers to just assume that Jesus and Mariamne (identified as Mary Magdalene) were married and had a son named Judah. The film goes into a DaVinci Code like conspiracy to suggest that Judah was kept secret from the Romans to hide a “secret dynasty.” — But if you’re a believer in the DaVinci Code then you may not buy into this. After all, Jesus had a daughter, not a son.

However, there are  problems with Jacabovici’s assumption that “Mariamne” can be identified as Mary Magdalene. As emphasized before in my last post, when an outsider died within Judea and was buried there the ossuary was to identify the place of origin. Mary Magdalene was from Migdol which was in Galilee right by the Sea of Tiberias and therefore not from Judea. So therefore the Mariamne ossurary should therefore identify her as “Mary of Migdol” or “Mary Magdalene” as she is called in the gospels. But she is not, so this woman cannot be her.

Second, paleographer Stephen Pfann who appears in the Lost Tomb of Jesus in a paper he wrote argues that the inscription on the ossuary doesn’t even say “Mariamne.” He shows that it is actually inscribed with two names, the first one being “MARIAME” which was written “in the common Greek documentary script of the period.” The next two words “KAI MARA” were written later by a different scribe in different handwriting which “includes numerous cursive elements not exhibited by the first scribe.” — And unlike what the Lost Tomb of Jesus insists, “MARA” is not a used on the ossuary as a title for “master” to emphasize the importance of Mary Magdalene in early Christianity. Rather it is just a variant of the name “Martha,” the second woman buried in the ossuary.

The truth is there is no real evidence that Mary Magdalene was called “Mariamne.” The only “proof” that the Lost Tomb of Jesus cites is the Apocryphal Acts of Philip which is from the fourth century and is therefore from a time too late to be of any relevance. Also, the claim the documentary makes that it is “unmarred by later Christian tradition” is unfounded and is based only on wishful thinking. Not to mention the DNA tests leave out the other family members of the Talpiot tomb therefore leaving any evidence incomplete with too many holes in it.


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