Joseph A. Fitzmyer reviewed the book The Jesus Family Tomb in America: The
National Catholic Weekly. Perhaps his main criticism of the book concerns its
presentation of the Greek inscription as if it refers to Mary Magdalen.
Fitzmyer, an experienced reader of Greek and Aramaic, gives his reasons:
Fitzmyer also correctly quotes E.L. Sukenik as *not* claiming that the earlier
published (in 1931) "Jesus son of Joseph" osssuary was of Jesus of Nazareth.
Sukenik did claim later (1947) that some other, Greek, ossuary inscriptions
included early Christiamn messages, using the name Jesus. Sukenik's "The
Earliest Records of Christianity" appeared in American Journal of Archaeology
in 1947 (v.51 n.4 Oct. 1947 pages 351-365). Among the factual errors in The
Jesus Family Tomb: the bibliography lists this as Rome, 1952. For millions of
dollars, if they didn't want to read the relevant literature, at least they
could have hired a poor student to get the bibliography right.
The book's bibliography lists an article by F. Bovon; but in that article Bovon
explicitly said what he repeated after the show: he was dealing only with later
literary developments, not first century history.
I suggest that Jacobovici and Tabor may have minimized the significance of the
earlier "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary. If it's not a fake (and I think it's
widely accepted as genuine; apparently no one made money on it), why could it
not have been taken from a tomb that had other equally supposedly "surprising"
names? Names are not randomly distributed; if they were, we would not have two
George Bush presidents.
I'm not a geologist, so this is merely a question. In testing patina, does one
need to consider not only the environment in which patina formed, but also
variations in the elements in the pre-patinated limestone?
The "James" ossuary, if I understand correctly, is thought by James Tabor to be
genuine, and names James/Jacob as son of Joseph, but that Tabor thinks James
was actually the son of Clophas, but was called a son a Joseph. Is that special
I suggest that the book/show gives insufficient attention to traditions that
James was buried elsewhere, near the temple, and no ossuary mentioned.
And another big, prior question: who used ossuaries? Those who could afford
them, of course. But the big question of whether second temple period followers
of Jesus of Nazareth used them at all is, I think, undecided. Put another way, I
think, there is not single case of an ossuary that is, for sure, "Christian."
Possible, of course, but not, so far, proven. Did, e.g., Sadducees use
ossuaries? The book seems out of touch with the history of scholarship, or
history, or scholarship.