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What is the Message of “the Patio Tomb” in Talpiot, Jerusalem?





All of us scholars are disenchanted when archaeological discoveries are presented too sensationally or are used to “prove” the Bible truthful or fallacious. By profession, scholars shun sensationalism and do not feel the need to defend biblical truths. We are dedicated to a means of expression in which certainty appears in a spectrum from “conceivable to probable.” Thus, it is as absurd to claim with absolute certainty that the Patio Tomb preserves the remains of some of Jesus’ first followers as it is unwise to pronounce with equal vigor that such a possibility is unthinkable.



For the official publication of Talpiot I and the definitive research on it by Shimon Gibson and Amos Kloner, see The Tomb of Jesus and His Family? Exploring Ancient Jewish Tombs Near Jerusalem’s Walls. Ed. James H. Charlesworth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012 (expected publication date is 15 Oct 2012). See: The Tomb of Jesus and His Family?

The following is a postscript in that book. Parts of it will appear on my web page.



By James Hamilton Charlesworth
Princeton
June 2012


To read this article in its entirety, we have presented it here in PDF format.





Comments (7)


Thanks for publishing the article. My full response is available here:

http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/james-charlesworth-on-talpiot-tomb-b.html
#1 - Mark Goodacre - 06/11/2012 - 18:24



Thanks for posting this and thanks to Jim Charlesworth for all his hard work on this. I appreciate in particular his analysis of the letters which he takes as likely spelling out YONAH on the image I take to be that of Jonah and the great fish. I find this wholly convincing and offer some of my own observations here: http://jamestabor.com/2012/05/18/professor-james-h-charlesworth-on-the-jonah-image-and-talpiot-tombs/
#2 - James D. Tabor - 06/12/2012 - 09:02



Thank you so much for this contribution James, I could not agree more with you for I raised some of the issues you are raising, in my comment # 28 on James Tabor's essay "A Preliminary Report of a 1st Century Tomb" posted on this site in February 2012. I questioned the fish "upside down" and reiterated the importance of the concept of resurrection in Jewish and Judeo-christian Roman Palestine with an emphasis on funerary customs as evidencing that concept. My attitude has always been to analyse scientifically the evidence as it grows in order to apprehend better the Jesus movement in its righteous Jewish context of early Roman Palestine. In my judgement the Talpiot Tombs both offer good material, not to be declined or neglected, for this search.

I especially agree with the following in your essay above:

".....By profession, scholars shun sensationalism and do not feel the need to defend biblical truths. We are dedicated to a means of expression in which certainty appears in a spectrum from "conceivable to probable." Thus, it is as absurd to claim with absolute certainty that the Patio Tomb preserves the remains of some of Jesus’ first followers as it is unwise to pronounce with equal vigor that such a possibility is unthinkable.....All attempts have so far failed to explain why the drawing is "upside down." But, if the Jewish engraver who made this etching had Jonah in mind, then it seems that some answers to our questions are forthcoming.....Without any doubt, the concept of resurrection (far more than a belief in a coming Messiah) brings into perspective the shared beliefs and hopes within Early Judaism.....Moreover, the concept of a bodily resurrection created and defined the Palestinian Jesus Movement;
Are the inscription and the drawing not to be perceived within Jewish resurrection beliefs? It is as absurd to dismiss the possibility that this tomb has some relation with the Palestinian Jesus Movement as to claim that it clearly must be labeled a “Christian” tomb. Emotions are too inflamed by such unscholarly outbursts....."

Nonetheless, as far as I am concerned, for the drawings and inscriptions of the Talpiot B Tomb so called "Resurrection Tomb" I have yet to see them closely enough. Until then my questions today are: "where the inscriber and the drawer the same person? And if so why would he have to insist on inscribing the name JONH on his drawing? Did he fear that the drawing was not driving enough his message if he indeed had a message and/or an intention? As far as I am concerned research has shown that ossuary inscriptions consisted mainly of the names and filiation of the deceased and in some instances the geographical origin and/or some magical formulae like the one on the ossuary of Eleazar and Shappirah (See Cohen-Matlofsky (2001) p. 198). I do not know of any ossuary with a drawing and a caption for that drawing and I am not sure that at the time captions of drawings would have been written at the bottom (to respond to Rami Arav).
Indeed much more research has to be done for both Talpiot Tombs.
Claude Cohen-Matlofsky
#3 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 06/13/2012 - 05:49



"For the official publication of Talpiot I..,"

Official is not an accurate word. Report of the original excavation would be accurate if Gibson's and Kloner's opinions were left out. They are on record as saying that the tomb is not possibly that of the 1st century Jewish man Yehoshua ben Yoseph ben David. That excludes them from the scientific community that holds that it is possible or even probable. See the below reference.

Camil Fuchs, “Demography, Literacy, and Names Distribution in Ancient Jerusalem—How Many James/Jacob Son of Joseph Brother of Jesus Were There?” Polish Journal of Biblical Research 4, no. 1 (December 2005), pp. 3–30.
#4 - Eliyahu Konn - 06/15/2012 - 12:10



Perhaps I could pull out just one question from my post. Prof. Charlesworth offers measurements for the fish/vessel image (23 x 15 x 9 x 3) and this is the first time that I have seen these. Prof. Tabor will be able to correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think these appear in the book, the Preliminary Report or anywhere else. I'd be interested to hear how the image was measured. I note, for example, that these dimensions differ quite substantially from the CGI picture. Thanks to anyone who is able to help.
#5 - Mark Goodacre - 06/15/2012 - 12:39



Mark, no we did not publish measurements of the fish or even the ossuaries, but the replicas (especially the most recent ones done in Israel) are accurate and life-size, based on laser camera measurement data, so dimensions would be quite easy to estimate, I just have not done it myself. The ossuary itself is "average" size and the image of the fish pretty well fills the left-third from just below the top border to the bottom, which one can see by eye. I would post a photo here but not sure of how to get a photo into a comment on this site...I can send you or anyone who writes me a good photo: jdtabor@uncc.edu
#6 - James D. Tabor - 06/18/2012 - 08:48



Many thanks for the comment, James. I had not considered the possibility that Prof. Charlesworth had taken the measurements from the replica. If his measurements are broadly accurate, that means that the dimensions of the CGI reproduction are off (c. 19 x 9.5), where it is twice as long as it is wide, are off by some way. I wonder why the people producing the CGI image did not use more accurate measurements?
#7 - Mark Goodacre - 06/18/2012 - 11:30






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