Just wanted to check in regarding the new Talpiot tomb discovery (referred to most often it seems as Talpiot B). I’m caught up with all the reading available online, beginning with James Tabor’s description of the discovery and sketch-analysis (“A Preliminary Report of a Robotic Camera: Exploration of a Sealed 1st Century Tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem“). It’s the place to start. Here’s what you’ll learn: (a) there is an inscription on one of the ossuaries that Tabor believes to contain the divine name (Yahweh) in Greek, and that contains the word for resurrection; and (b) there is an image of a great fish / whale spitting out a man — i.e., the sign of Jonah, a symbol in the gospels for resurrection.
I have to say I’m disappointed. I was expecting more. The earlier Talpiot tomb (the so-called “Jesus family tomb”) was not only more interesting, but the issues just seemed to require more analysis. I’ve now read Rollston’s response on the inscription, and if it is correct (and Rollston should know; he’s an epigrapher) that the “I” of the presumed divine name can’t be that letter (it would be anomalous in shape), then there is no divine name. It would be nice to have an example of two contrary to Rollston before we allow Tabor’s reading to be valid. And it doesn’t seem to matter, since resurrection wasn’t a distinctly Christian idea. I have to agree with Eric Meyers who doesn’t think there’s anything to fuss about. As for the whale / fish, the blob at the end of it simply doesn’t look *anything* like a man. Just zero resemblance (maybe to Picasso it would be clear). The two other options offered by art historians are that the symbol is either a drawing of a nephesh tomb monument (see Cargill’s response for examples) or an unguentarium, a small receptable for perfumed oils used for anointing the dead for burial (e.g., Mk 14:3; Jn 12:3). I have to agree with Tabor that the nephesh option seems weak. I find the unguentarium option fairly compelling, though, especially for the blob at the top (example 1 and example 2, courtesy of Thomas Verenna).
So, I’m currently at “no fish, no Jonah, and very likely no divine name.” It just feels vacuous. And even if Tabor is correct on all these counts, there is nothing that actually connects this tomb to the other — it’s just a hunch or supposition. I’d sooner go back to the first tomb and have another round of research there than spend any more time on this one. It would be more stimulating.
The most disturbing piece I read on Talpiot B was easily that of Dr. Robin Jensen — Prof. Robin Jensen Refutes Any Claim that She Concurs with the Interpretation in “The Jesus Discovery”. If there’s any piece that all of you should read it’s this one. She describes her trip to Rome to participate in the filming of the National Geographic special on this tomb. It can only be described as a deliberate attempt to manipulate her status as an art historian for the sake of pre-determined conclusions. James Tabor responded to her piece in the comments: “Nothing was twisted. You appear in the film totally out of connection with the Jerusalem tomb, only the catacombs.” I’ll give James the benefit of the doubt there, that he’s being forthright, but his response misses the point. It’s ultimately not about where she appeared (in the final version) in the film. It’s about the fact that Jacobovici tried hard to get her to say something (or sound like she was saying something) she didn’t believe. He was looking for a sound bite, pure and simple (presuming she is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt her either). Perhaps I’m a bit sensitive to this, since I have lived this scenario myself with the History Channel. The facade put forth is that truth is the first goal; her anecdote says otherwise.