The Society of Biblical Literature’s Review of Biblical Literature just published a review of James H. Charlesworth’s edited volume, The Tomb of Jesus and His Family? Exploring Ancient Jewish Tombs Near Jerusalem’s Walls (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013). The review is by Jodi Magness, who begins the review this way:
This volume contains twenty-six papers (plus an introduction and conclusion by the editor) presented at a conference that was held Jerusalem in January 2008 on “Jewish Views of the After Life and Burial Practices in Second Temple Judaism: Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context.” Although most of the papers focus on some aspect of the Talpiyot (or Talpiot)tomb and its ossuaries and/or the “James ossuary,” they are written by scholars with widely varying perspectives and fields of expertise, including archaeology, epigraphy and paleography, theology, social history, biology, statistics, New Testament, rabbinics, religious studies, geology, women’s studies, and mathematics.
For those who may not remember, in March 2007the Discovery Channel broadcast a documentary by Simcha Jacobovici in which he claimed that the lost tomb of Jesus and his family had been discovered in Jerusalem (also published in a related book). This was none other than the Talpiyot tomb (so-called after the Jerusalem neighborhood in which it is located), which was excavated by archaeologists in 1980 after it was discovered during construction work. A final report on the Talpiyot tomb excavation was published in ‘Atiqot in 1996. The tomb contained ten ossuaries, six of them inscribed (five in Aramaic and one in Greek), while the remaining four are plain (one is now missing). Archaeologists noted that some of the names in the inscriptions (e.g., Yeshua son of Yehoseph; Marya; Mariam/Mariame; Yoseh [apparently a diminutive of Yehosef]) recall individuals associated with Jesus in the NewTestament accounts but considered this a coincidence, as these were common names among the Jewish population at the time. However, in the documentary Jacobovici claimed that the inscriptions identify this as the tomb of Jesus and his family, marshalling an array of supporting evidence that includes statistical and DNA analyses. The implications of this claim are that Jesus was not resurrected (as his physical remains were placed in an ossuary), that he was married to Mary Magdalene (who supposedly is named in one of the inscriptions), and that he had a son named Judah (as one of the ossuaries is inscribed Yehudah bar Yeshua). Jacobovici also has attempted to prove that an adjacent, unexcavated tomb (the Patio tomb) contains the remains of followers of Jesus and that the James ossuary (which has no archaeological provenience but surfaced in a private collection) is the tenth (now missing) ossuary from the Talpiyot tomb.
The review isn’t long, but it’s informative. Highly recommended.