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Regarding Magness and Talpiot

Whether Jesus was buried in a common criminal tomb owned by the Sanhedrin as required by the Mishnah or in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea has no bearing on the Talpiot tomb. All the Gospels agree that Jesus’ body is missing from the initial burial tomb. The tomb is empty in all the Gospel versions. And there is no record of anyone witnessing the resurrection. We have no records from the first century that indicate whether Jesus’ final burial tomb is known or unknown.

By Kevin Kilty
College of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Wyoming

Mark Elliott
Department of Religious Studies
University of Wyoming
January 2012

Jodi Magness has written an important work titled Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, which combines the study of texts and archaeology. It is a work that makes important contributions to understanding Jewish life during first-century Palestine.1 In this paper, we examine her comments, though brief they are, on the alleged Jesus family tomb at Talpiot and the James Ossuary.2

Some of the reasons Magness rejects any connection of the Talpiot tomb to the family of Jesus are as follows:

  1. The family tomb should be in Nazareth, not in Jerusalem.

  2. Rock-cut tombs were used by the upper classes in Jerusalem. The family of Jesus could not have afforded this type of tomb.

  3. Jesus of Nazareth and not Jesus son of Joseph would be what we expect inscribed on Jesus’ ossuary. His ossuary should reflect his Galilean origin.

  4. The early Christian community was too poor to assist in purchasing a rock-cut tomb for the family.

  5. The names on the ossuaries from Talpiot were very common.

  6. James most likely could not have been buried in a rock-cut tomb.

Owning a Rock-cut Tomb

Magness seems surprised that Jesus’ family would have been able to afford a rock-cut tomb or that it would be located in Jerusalem rather than Nazareth.3 She argues that the “…family did not own a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem--for if they had, there would have been no need for Joseph of Arimathea to take Jesus’ body and place it in his own family’s rock-cut tomb!” We have addressed this assertion and others regarding the Talpiot tomb previously (see notes below).

Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. There is no literary evidence that Jesus’ family had a tomb in Nazareth or that Jesus was buried there. Later Jewish law requires that the deceased be buried and not moved to the family tomb in a remote region (Semachot 13,7). There was no opportunity to move the body to Nazareth after his death. The Gospels are all unambiguous about Jesus being placed in a tomb in Jerusalem. There was no attempt to move the body to Nazareth for burial. Furthermore, many of Jesus’ family members lived in Jerusalem after his death (Acts 1:4): his mother Mary, other brothers including James, the leader of the Jesus movement. According to Josephus, James died in Jerusalem (Antiq. 20.9.1) and there is no evidence that he was taken to Nazareth to the hypothetical family tomb.

Joseph of Arimathea

Magness states a Jesus family rock-cut tomb would not make sense since Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body “in his own family’s rock-cut tomb!” This argument is a conflation of New Testament sources. Only in Matthew does Joseph of Arimathea “own” a new tomb (27:60). The other Gospel sources do not support Matthew’s contention that the tomb of Jesus was buried immediately after his death in the tomb of Arimathea’s family tomb. If Joseph somehow devoted a tomb to Jesus’ family, we believe this was done at a later date. It is a bit too convenient to have a new tomb ready at Jesus’ crucifixion. In fact, Matthew’s depiction of Joseph of Arimathea is the least reliable in the Gospels: this version of Joseph of Arimathea portrays him as a rich man and a disciple of Jesus. A concept at variance with Mark and Luke, Joseph is described as a “respected member of the council” in Mark (Mk 15: 43), where at the trial of Jesus all the members of the council condemned Jesus to death. Luke softens the condemnation by Joseph by stating that he was a righteous man, a member of the council and “had not agreed to their plan of action” (Lk 23:51). Undoubtedly this is an attempt by Luke to sanitize Mark and clear Joseph of any charge of participating in Jesus’ death. Both Mark and Luke agree that Joseph was a member of the council. If Joseph was a disciple, why does he disappear from the Gospel accounts? This episode caused the early Christians some angst over Joseph’s role concerning Jesus’ death. Matthew goes further in editing Mark. He removes any hint of Joseph’s connection to the council and the subsequent condemnation of Jesus. Matthew’s version of Joseph as a rich disciple of Jesus who readied a new tomb for Jesus’ death is simply a rewrite of an embarrassing state of affairs in early Christian history.

Finally, in John (19:38), Joseph is indeed described as “a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews…’ John is the most virulently anti-Jewish of all the Gospels. He makes this statement to increase hatred towards John’s Jewish community scattered throughout his Gospel. John’s hateful depiction of the “Jews” (never differentiated) is so extraordinary that according to him, Jesus stated that the “Jews” worship the devil--a liar and a murderer (John 8:43-44). None of Johns’ portrayals here should be accepted.4 The most we can say is that Jesus died shortly before sunset on Friday, and Joseph of Arimathea buried him according to Jewish law.

In our opinion, the unlikelihood that Joseph of Arimathea owned a tomb is irrelevant to this story. Whether Jesus was buried in a common criminal tomb owned by the Sanhedrin as required by the Mishnah or in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea has no bearing on the Talpiot tomb. All the Gospels agree that Jesus’ body is missing from the initial burial tomb. The tomb is empty in all the Gospel versions. And there is no record of anyone witnessing the resurrection. We have no records from the first century that indicate whether Jesus’ final burial tomb is known or unknown.

Where is Jesus’ Family Buried?

Magness rules out the possibility that the family of Jesus was buried in a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem. Another alternative would have been trench/slit graves-- rectangular shafts sunk into the ground where the body would be laid out horizontally at the bottom of the shaft. Were Jesus and his family buried in a trench grave/slit grave? That appears to be unlikely regardless of the economic status of Jesus’ family. Trench graves are atypical in the Jerusalem area for the Second Temple period. Rock-cut tombs are standard. Shimon Gibson argues that trench graves are rarely found in Jerusalem. The only cemetery in the area with trench graves was discovered at Beit Safafa a few kilometers south of Jerusalem. According to Gibson, it was the only one discovered, and the uniqueness of this burial site has lead Boaz Zissu to propose these tombs were an Essene cemetery.5 Zissu points out that “Unlike the hundreds of Second Temple period burial caves that have been found in Jerusalem, Beit Safafa’s deep shaft graves are extremely rare…. The shaft graves are the graves of individuals, while family tombs are the norm in Jerusalem.”6

Zissu believes only the poorest families would be buried in the fields. Were Jesus and his family buried in the fields outside of Jerusalem? One can hardly comprehend that the early Christian community allowed the family of Jesus to be buried like paupers in the fields near Jerusalem. For Magness, the nascent Christian community could not have contributed to a purchase of a rock-cut tomb. Magness depicts the early Christian community as one that lived in “communal poverty.”7 This again is contrary to the New Testament’s depiction of the financial situation of the disciples and the early Christian community. We find no evidence that the early Christian community could not have provided financially to building, donating, or buying a tomb for Jesus’ family. We have suggested a number of scenarios to explain how this was accomplished. Though we have strong doubts about Joseph of Arimathea donating a rock-cut tomb immediately after Jesus’ death, we did suggest in a previous article he might have done so later. This would explain the acquisition of the Talpiot tomb at a later date.8

The Early Christians lived in “Communal Poverty.”

The early Christian community had skilled artisans among their members to build a tomb. They could have easily raised the necessary funds to purchase a tomb. Acts portrays the early Christians’ financial circumstances contrary to Magness’ narrative. It is profitable to read the entire verses in Acts:

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encourage-
ment”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:32-37).

The incident concerning the unfortunate Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who sold a piece of property and kept back some of the profits, also supports our contention this was not a community in dire need (Acts 5). Furthermore, Acts informs us that a number of priests were part of the early movement, “The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Certainly some of these priests had financial means and increased the movement’s economic capability. The early Christians do not appear to be a community that was in “communal poverty.”

We still maintain that

The ossuary could have been moved from several modest tombs until this final resting place. Furthermore, several wealthy benefactors who were impressed with Jesus’ message could have donated money for the purpose of a dignified tomb shortly after his death. We believe that it was possible early on that early followers of Jesus did have the financial means to purchase a tomb after his crucifixion. Luke (8:1-3) indicates that a small group of women provisioned Jesus and the Apostles: ‘Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza and Susanna and many others, who provided them out of their resources.’ These women apparently followed Jesus to Jerusalem, and we are informed that ‘Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of Jesus and the other women’ were at the empty tomb (Lk 24: 1-10). These women could have pooled their resources with other followers of Jesus and purchased a tomb. It is likely that the collective wealth of the community could have easily purchased a tomb for Jesus or his family early in the movement’s history.9

Preserving the Memory of the Tomb

Magness adds that had the family “owned a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem, presumably some of his followers would have preserved the memory of its existence… and venerated the site.”10

Evidently this did not happen. We presume Jesus and his family, including James, were buried in Jerusalem. It is highly unlikely they were simply buried in unknown graves in a field somewhere in the city. All the Gospels are unequivocal that Jesus’ body is missing from the first tomb. It is logical to assume his body was moved at a later date and was buried in another location. Why there is no historical source or memory of a venerated Jesus family tomb is a matter of speculation. As we have indicated elsewhere, “the early followers of Jesus had a need to keep the location of the tomb silent; its existence contravenes the movement’s theological claims to resurrection. A publically revered tomb containing an ossuary of Jesus’ bones would have compromised early Christian doctrine. As the Gospel of Matthew states, “He is not here; for he has been raised” (28:6). Such a tomb would have been antithetical with early Christian belief. A secret tomb was not.”11 It is likely that “The final resting place of Jesus’ body could have easily been a secret among his family and one or two followers, all who wished to continue the movement based on the teachings of this remarkable individual. Preserving the memory and deeds of a charismatic figure was not unusual in the ancient world.”12

Common Names

Magness supports the claims from other scholars that the names on the ossuaries are common.13 We have tried to dispel this misperception in a variety of ways in several publications. The most common male name found on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb is Joseph, and even this name occurs with a frequency of only 83 times out of every one thousand men. The central question, though, is not how common are the various names individually, but rather how common would be this association of names? Here we will offer a variety of calculations to show that the combination of names is not common at all.

Let us first discuss the name Yoseh, which is a name we believe to be central to identifying the occupants of this tomb. Is Yoseh an unusual name in its own right, which occurs in the pertinent time period with a frequency of about three per one thousand men; or is it, as a number of people suggest, merely a variant or nickname for Joseph, and should be then associated with a frequency of 83 per one thousand men? What do we do about the names Matthew and Mariamne? We have no data about either name, and so we will treat Matthew as any male name and Mariamne as any female name. This is a very conservative way to handle these two names. Mary is obviously an important name among the Jesus family, and is a name that occurs with a frequency of about 21 times per one hundred women. What do we do about Judah? We can consider Judah as an unknown person, and treat this name as we did Matthew. However, Judah is also the name of someone in the Jesus Family.

Group of names in addition to Jesus Son of Joseph Yoseh as Common as Joseph Yoseh as a rare name Posterior probability of unique association among 1000 tombs.
Mary, Yoseh 30 470 3% or 47%
Mary, Yoseh, Judah 200 860 20% or 86%
Mary, Yoseh, James 310 920 31% or 92%
Mary, Yoseh, Judah, James 770 990 77% or 99%

Table 1: Likelihood ratios. These are a measure of the power of evidence derived from name association about the Talpiot Tomb being the Jesus Family Tomb. We included the name James in several instances in order to assess how including the James Ossuary in the tomb would change our beliefs.

Let us assume, as we have argued, that the Jesus Family is buried in a tomb in the Jerusalem area. Table 1 shows calculated likelihood-ratios which one should interpret as a measure of the power of evidence in this name association. By multiplying our a priori belief (probability) that this tomb is that belonging to the Jesus Family by these ratios, we arrive at the probability after considering this name evidence. As one may see, the interpretation of Yoseh has a strong influence on the calculations, but in all cases the likelihood-ratios are significant and suggest that a further examination of the physical evidence from this tomb is warranted. Table 1 includes the possibility of James also having been inscribed on an ossuary in this tomb. We wish to point out that no tomb in Jerusalem has ever been discovered that includes Jesus son Joseph, Mary and Yoseh, our smallest subset of Jesus family names in the Talpiot tomb. We believe it is unlikely that anyone would uncover another tomb in the Jerusalem area with this association of names. To underscore this point even further, one could note that of all tombs in the Jerusalem area that do contain the name Jesus on an ossuary, no other contains anything like a similar cluster of pertinent family names.

Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus son of Joseph?

Magness considers the lack of ossuary inscriptions that indentify the origins of the deceased as another strike against the Talpiot Tomb. She states, “If the Talpiyot tomb indeed belonged to Jesus’ family, we would expect at least some of the ossuary inscriptions to reflect their Galilean origin, by reading for example, Jesus [son of Joseph] of Nazareth (or Jesus the Nazarene)….”14

This claim has been repeated by a number of scholars.15 We have previously demonstrated this claim is not supported by the evidence available.16 The assertion

…that an ossuary holding the remains of Jesus would not be inscribed with Jesus son of Joseph is not supported by statistics of the ossuaries catalogued by Rahmani. Out of the 227 ossuaries recorded in Rahmani, about half of the inscriptions refer to the deceased and their kinfolk, and there are . . . seventy-three inscriptions that refer to the father of the deceased.17 Very few ossuaries are inscribed with the names of the deceased person’s birthplace or hometown. Indeed, there are only six such ossuaries inscribed with origins or birthplace listed in Judea or its immediate environs. There are nearly twice as many ossuaries that are inscribed referring to women and the names of their husbands than those mentioning local origins. Statistically, ossuaries are far more likely to refer to the deceased person’s nickname than their local origins. Nicknames include ‘the dour,’ ‘the amputated,’ ‘the mute,’ or ‘strong,’ ‘beetle-browed,’ ‘the small,’ ‘grasshopper,’ ‘the fat or stout,’ and ‘one-eyed.’18

It is important to note that “…place names on ossuaries are so rare among observed inscriptions that Jesus son of Joseph is some twelve times more likely to occur as an inscription than Jesus of Nazareth.”19 Furthermore, we could only establish three inscribed ossuaries in Rahmani’s Catalogue “…located in Jerusalem tombs referring to origins from Judea or its environs. The paucity of inscribed ossuaries indicating origins uncovered in Jerusalem tombs does not sustain the claim that only Jews living outside Jerusalem inscribed their place of origin. As we have mentioned above, statistically, an inscription like “Jesus of Nazareth” would have been exceedingly rare. Jesus son of Joseph matches the archaeological evidence uncovered in the tombs of Jerusalem."20

James’ Burial

Magness argues that along with Jesus’ family, James the brother of Jesus could not have afforded a rock-cut tomb, “And finally, James’ opposition to wealth and the wealthy makes it hard to believe that he would have been buried in the kind of rock cut tomb that was a hallmark of the elite lifestyle. James’ conflict with the Jerusalem elite might even have led to his execution….”21 To strengthen her theory, Magness quotes from John Painter, “James’s conflict with Ananus was a result of his opposition to the exploitation of the poor by the rich aristocratic ruling class and in particular the exploitation of the poor rural priesthood by the aristocratic urban chief priests.”22 Painter writes this situation is a “scenario in which to understand the conflict between James and Ananus….”23

James may have opposed Ananus and the wealthy priesthood, but no source indicates he was put to death for being a critic of the upper classes, or a supporter of rural priests. Josephus, our best witness and historical source for this period and who was contemporaneous with James, does not support this “scenario.” Josephus noted that James was arrested and stoned to death for violating the law, and not for protesting the treatment of the rural priesthood:

He [Ananus] assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seem the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done….24

Magness then points to Hegesippus as a source that supports her argument that James was buried in a pit grave or trench grave marked by a headstone.25 The writings of Hegesippus, which are from the early 2nd century, are almost entirely lost. Only a few fragments of his work were preserved centuries later by Eusebius. Hegesippus is a difficult source for the death of James. His account is more detailed than Josephus but contains in our opinion some doubtful assertions.

In Hegesippus, James is depicted as a nazarite who “drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.”26 Perhaps James took a vow to become a nazarite, but nowhere in the New Testament does James explicitly do so or is he called a nazarite. Hegesippus represents James as the High Priest, “He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple…” Only the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. James as the High Priest is fiction. None of this should be accepted as evidence.

As for the death of James, Hegesippus appears to accuse the scribes and the Pharisees as the parties responsible. But this is a difficult story to accept since the Pharisees, as recalled by Luke, were also a sect of believers in Christ who attended the famous Jerusalem Council, which James headed (Acts 15). Hegesippus has them tossing James over the Temple Mount wall. Once on the ground he was stoned and then clubbed to death. “And one of them, one of the fullers, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple.”27

Hegesippus even views James’ death as fulfillment of prophecy, “And they fulfilled the scripture written in Isaiah: Let us take away the just man because he is troublesome to us; therefore they shall eat the fruit of their works.”28

Sadly, on historical grounds much of what Hegesippus writes is improbable. Whether any of what he notes can be viewed as more than confused ramblings in the 2nd century is doubtful. He is indeed a slender reed on which to base objections to the Talpiot Tomb.

James Ossuary and the Patina, the Exceptional Evidence

Magness and the opponents of Talpiot Tomb and the James Ossuary are right to insist as Christopher Hitchens has written “exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.” Let’s consider the following. There are several studies concerning the authenticity of the James Ossuary by a group of scientists that have testified in Israel at the Oded Golan forgery trial regarding the contested ossuary and other objects. They claimed that the patina, a coating of various chemical compounds such as oxides or carbonates formed on the surface during exposure to the elements or weathering process, located on the ossuary and in the inscription is “authentic.” The patina found in the letters of the inscription, and located all over the ossuary is indicative of slow growth over many years. Thus, the inscription is not a modern forgery.

Professor Wolfgang E. Krumbein of the University of Oldenburg, Germany, recently argued that he

…found traces of natural patina inside the ossuary inscription in at least three different sites of the inscription (in the first and last sections of the inscription)…. Although the ossuary inscription was recently contaminated by the IAA and/or police who, perhaps inadvertently, recently removed almost all the material inside the letters of the inscription, we found miniscule traces of the natural patina inside some of the letters.30

The Israeli Antiquities authority has declared the inscription a fake. However, it appears several of their experts contradicted themselves at the Golan trial, or admitted that they had mistakenly identified the patina as modern. We have verified a comment in Oded Golan’s essay submitted to this site31 on the witnesses and evidence at his trial. A scientist who testified at the trial substantiated in a personal email the following with some minor changes:

Neither the prosecution nor the IAA presented even a single witness who was an expert on ancient stone items, or patina on antiquities and who ruled out the authenticity of the inscription or any part of it. The inscription was engraved by a single person. The findings of all the tests, including those of prosecution witnesses Goren and Ayalon, support the argument that the entire inscription is ancient, and that several letter grooves are covered by the natural patina that developed there over centuries. The inscription was partially cleaned and contains probably traces of detergent/s (cleansers) that mislead the results and the interpretations of Goren and Ayalon.

Magness brings up an interesting point, “Even if the inscription of the James Ossuary is authentic, it does not refer to James the Just, the brother of Jesus.”32 This proclamation does provide certain advantages over the perceived chaos regarding the scientific battles emanating at the Golan trail in Jerusalem. However, let’s examine the probability of an ossuary like the James Ossuary. If one were to take names of men in First Century Palestine at random and apply three to an ossuary inscription, the probability of having Joseph, Jesus, and James be the three is about 47 in one million. That is a very small probability indeed. Even if we located as many as, say, ten thousand such ossuaries with three names on them, an inscribed ossuary with James, Joseph, and Jesus would still qualify as an unlikely find. Since there is one historical association of these three names in a family that we know of, we would say, contrary to Magness’ claim, that this ossuary is that of the James the brother of Jesus. Again, to underscore this point further, Camil Fuchs at Tel Aviv University33 has calculated the likely number of deceased men named James in the entire population of 1st century Palestine from 3 C.E. to 70 C.E. that would have had a brother named Jesus, a father named Joseph, and the wealth or social standing to have warranted such an ossuary. He finds that this expected number is less than two, and, though the true number is uncertain, even at 96% confidence it would not exceed four. This ossuary probably points to a unique individual— there are not many such ossuaries waiting to be found.

Shrouded in the debate on the James Ossuary and Talpiot is an extraordinary paper published at Bible and Interpretation, mostly ignored by biblical scholars, by A. Rosenfeld, C. Pellegrino, H. R. Feldman, and W.E. Krumbein.34 The authors advanced a theory that the “…patina of the unprovenanced James Ossuary exhibits geochemical fingerprints consistent with the patinas of the Talpiot ossuaries. This strengthens the contention that the James Ossuary belong [sic] to the assemblage of the Talpiot ossuaries.” Fourteen burial caves were examined including the “Talpiot cave.” It is instructive to read the following from their paper:

The patina of the unprovenanced James Ossuary was analyzed by three different laboratories: by the SEM-EDS method (Rosenfeld and Ilani (2002) in the Geological Survey of Israel; Pellegrino (op. cit.) examined in Suffolk crime Lab. NY; and by Prof. Vertolli, of the Royal Ontario Museum. The results were consistent in all labs. The characteristic elements of the James Ossuary patina are silicon, phosphorous, titanium, iron, aluminum, and potassium. The only tomb including the ossuaries’ patinas with which the ‘James’ Ossuary patina fingerprints appeared to be consistent is the Talpiot Tomb…The phosphorous peak originates from the dissolution of the bones whereas the titanium and aluminum peaks can be linked to clay particles and the silicon peak originates from quartz grains that come from atmospheric exposure to dust and soil…The James Ossuary is very similar in size to the missing 10th ossuary (Kloner 1996). The measurements of the width and the height are identical, but the length falls short by 3-4 cm. Dimensions of carved stone ossuaries are not typically identical on parallel sides; moreover, the length of JO has changed between measurements as a result of having been broken and repaired along its length. Based on similar size and the elemental fingerprints it is possible to conclude that the James Ossuary is the missing 10th ossuary from the Talpiot cave….35

If this connection between the Talpiot tomb ossuaries to the ossuary inscribed James son of Joseph brother of Jesus proves to be accurate, then James was undoubtedly buried in a rock-cut tomb. James son of Joseph is what we would expect to find inscribed on an ossuary uncovered in Jerusalem, and that the names of the deceased person’s birthplace or hometown and an inscription like “Jesus of Nazareth” would have been exceedingly rare. James son of Joseph supports our contention that Jesus son of Joseph matches the archaeological evidence uncovered in the tombs of Jerusalem.

These reports are essential in determining the authenticity of Talpiot and the inscription of the James Ossuary. They are available and not obscure or impenetrable. Regrettably, many of Magness’ assertions on Talpiot began to collapse years ago. Her book contains no information on these scientific results. Perhaps the material was unavailable to her. We are hopeful her second edition will address these issues. We have read no information that contradicts the links of the patina examined on the James Ossuary to the Talpiot tomb. We urge that fair and unbiased examinations of the evidence concerning the patina be replicated. In particular, it would be useful to have some measure of the rate of false association of a patina with a tomb. Critics of Talpiot and the James Ossuary are required to engage this evidence. We state plainly, biblical scholars must seek out argument and disputation based on the evidence at hand because the issue of Talpiot will not be settled by focusing on the behavior of Simcha Jacobovici.


1 Jodi Magness, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011).

2 Ibid., 172-80.

3 Ibid., 172.

4 See Maurice Casey on the “Jews” in John, Jesus of Nazareth (T&T Clark, 2010), 521-23.

5 Shimon Gibson, The Final Days of Jesus (HarperCollins, 2009), 134.

6 Boaz Zissu, “Odd tomb out.” Biblical Archaeology Review, 25(2) (1999): 50-55+.

7 Magness, 176.

8 M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “Inside the Numbers of the Talpiot Tomb.” Mar. 20, 2008,

9 Ibid.

10 Magness, 174.

11 Inside the numbers.

12 M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “Talpiot Dethroned,” January 2010,

13 Magness, 172.

14 Ibid., 173.

15 It is now in a popular textbook by James Hoffmeier, The Archaeology of the Bible (Wilkinson House, 2008), 165. Unfortunately, Hoffmeier recycles the same inaccurate information found on the net and in Magness' work, 164.

16 M. Elliott and K. Kilty, “Probability, Statistics, and the Talpiot Tomb.” June 10, 2007, 24-26,

17 L. Y. Rahmani, Catalog of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel, (Israeli, Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem, 1994),17.

18 “Probability,” 25.

19 Ibid. There are only a few locations outside Judah referred to on other ossuaries such as Berenike in Cyrenaica as a possible location, #404; Ptolemias, possibly Cyrenaica, #99; Hin in Babylonia or near Caesarea, #290. There are a number of ossuaries inscribed with a name that scholars suspect are common to Egypt or Cyrenaica. These place names are too speculative to be regarded as evidence of origins, and cannot be considered in the same category as inscribed place names. See note 34.

20 Ibid., 26.

21 Magness, 176.

22 John Painter, Just James: the Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (Uni. of South Carolina, 2004), 140.

23 Ibid., 141.

24 Josephus, Antiquities (20.200-1).

25 Magness, 179.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 A. Rosenfeld, C.Pellegrino, H. R. Feldman, and W.E. Krumbein, “The Connection of the James Ossuary to the Talpiot (Jesus Family Tomb) Ossuaries,” May 2011,

30 Wolfgang E. Krumbein, "External Expert Opinion on three Stone Items," September 2005,

31 Oded Golan, “The Authenticity of the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Tablet Inscriptions,” April, 2011,

32 Magness, 179.

33 Camil Fuchs, “Demography, literacy, and names distribution in ancient Jerusalem—How many James/Jacob son of Joseph, brother of Jesus were there?” The Polish Journal of Biblical Research, V 4, No. 1, 3-30, December 2005.

34 “The Connection of the James Ossuary to the Talpiot (Jesus Family Tomb) Ossuaries,” May 2011,

35 For the 10th ossuary see James Tabor, “The Talpiot Tomb: Separating Truth from Fiction (Completed),” April 29th, 2007, http://www.jesus
separating-truth-from-fiction/Jesus Dynasty