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The "Lost Tomb of Jesus" and Textual Criticism

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  • James Snapp, Jr.
    Greetings. This coming Sunday evening, The Discovery Channel will broadcast a movie called The Lost Tomb of Jesus. The main idea of the movie is that a tomb
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2007
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      Greetings.

      This coming Sunday evening, The Discovery Channel will broadcast a
      movie called "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." The main idea of the movie is
      that a tomb discovered in 1980 in southern Jerusalem (at a place
      called Talpiot) is the actual tomb of the family of Jesus (THE
      Jesus), and that ossuaries found in the tomb contained the bones of
      Jesus' corpse, as well as the bones of Mary Magdalene, Mary the
      mother of Jesus, and Jesus' son (!) Judah.

      I've written a refutation/review of the movie's main points; it is
      available online in two parts at
      www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombOne.html and
      www.curtisvillechristian.org/TombTwo.html .

      There is a small overlap between textual criticism and the topic of
      the Talpiot tomb: the promoters of the movie try to make a case that
      Mary Magdalene was known as "Mariamne." That's not the case;
      "Mariamne" is not a New Testament name. The only references I've
      been able to find to "Mariamne" in patristic sources are in Origen
      (where he mentions that Celsus has heard of a group claiming Mariamne
      as a guide), a fleeting reference in Hippolytus, and the fourth-
      century "Acts of Philip," where "Mariamne" is the name of a sister of
      Philip. The presence of the name "Mariamne" does not significantly
      help the case that the Talpiot tomb is the tomb of Jesus of
      Nazareth. False assertions to the contrary contaminate a lot of the
      argumentation used by the movie's promoters, including some
      statistics. (Of course, writing this on Saturday, I haven't seen the
      movie, but the argumentation is already online at the movie's website
      and at the Discovery Channel's site.)

      Anyway, here's that overlap: it seems possible that someone is going
      to claim that the term "Magdalene" means "the queen," or "the great
      teacher," or something other than "from Magdala," in an attempt to
      associate Mary Magdalene with the Greek ossuary-inscription
      "Mariamene e Mara." (In the inscription itself, the "e" is more like
      a vertical stroke.)

      Although L.Y. Rahmani interpreted that inscription as a double-name
      -- "Mariamne, a.k.a. Mara" ("Mara" being a contracted form of
      "Martha") -- Dr. James Tabor (one of the scholars involved in the
      "Lost Tomb of Jesus" project) interprets it to mean "Mariamne the
      Master." If "Mariamne" is seen as another name for "Mary," and "e
      Mara" is seen as the equivalent of "Magdalene" (i.e., so that both
      mean "the teacher" or something like that), then both names can be
      interpreted to have the same meaning, and to refer to the same person.

      There's a little data-nugget in some copies of Mark that tends to
      work against that idea. In Mark 8:10, where most copies refer to
      "Dalmanoutha," some witnesses (including the Gothic Version and the
      Sinaitic Syriac) have "Magdala" or "Mageda," replacing the obscure
      name "Dalmanoutha." Augustine wrote (in Harm. 2:51), "Most codices,
      even of Mark's Gospel, give no other reading than that of Magedan."

      This evidence shows that Magdala was a geographical location, and
      thus, that "Magdalene" is an ordinary geography-based surname, with
      no connection to the inscription "Mariamne e Mara."

      Also, promoters of the "Lost Tomb of Jesus" argue that the ossuary-
      inscription "Joseph" (it's in Aramaic) uses a diminutive form of the
      word, and that this implies that it is the body of Jesus' brother
      Jose.

      However, in Matthew 13:55, the Nestle-Aland text uses "IWSEF" to name
      this brother of Jesus, adopting the text of Aleph2 B C N Theta 892
      mae, etc. Only 700* and a smattering of other witnesses support
      IWSE, while K L W, etc., support IWSHS.

      In Mark 6:3, the Nestle-Aland text uses "IWSHTOS" to name this
      brother of Jesus, adopting the text of B D L Delta Theta 565 700,
      etc., instead of the IWSHF found in Aleph or the IHSH in A C W and
      the Byzantine Text.

      (The Nestle-Aland text also has IWSEF at Mt. 27:56, and IWSHTOS at
      Mk. 15:40 and 15:47.)

      So, is there really a parallel between the Aramaic ossuary-
      inscription and the Greek name(s) for a particular brother of Jesus
      in the Gospels?

      Perhaps the promoters of "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" are trying to steer
      viewers away from the idea that the Joseph whose bones were placed in
      an ossuary at Talpiot was the husband of the woman whose bones were
      placed in an ossuary at Talpiot with the inscription "Mary," in order
      to avoid having to deal with the point that if Saint Joseph was
      buried in Galilee, this could not be his ossuary in Talpiot, and if
      it is not Saint Joseph at Talpiot, then the wife of the Joseph at
      Talpiot is not Mary the mother of Jesus.

      (L.Y. Rahmani expressed his suspicion that the "Joseph" ossuary
      contained the remains of the husband of the individual in the "Mary"
      ossuary. The scholars involved in "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" will be
      polite enough and honest enough to point that out in the movie, I
      hope.)

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
      Curtisville Christian Church
      Indiana (USA)
      www.curtisvillechristian.org/BasicTC.html
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