Additional Comments by Cohen-Matlofsky

“Jesus Tomb” Controversy Erupts—Again

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More on the “Mary Magdalene” Inscription

Let me be more precise regarding the chronology of the spelling of Mary Magdalene’s (MM) name in the Gospels. It is true that in Mark, MM is four times called MARIA (Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1, 9). By the way it is also interesting to notice that in this earliest source, out of the four references Mary Magdalene is three times at the side of Jesus’ mother and sister at the time of his death and burial, buys the spices to anoint his corpse, and enters his tomb. Who else other than a spouse or a close relative should it be in these circumstances? Matthew, using the passages from Mark as his source, twice changes the name to MARIAM (Matthew 27:61; 28:1). In any case it is agreed that the name MARIAM is indeed used for Mary Magdalene in the Gospels.

I assumed in the above that the “other Mary” in these particular passages is indeed Jesus’ mother (who is also mother of James and Jose(p)h) and that Salome is Jesus’ sister.

What Bagnall says is that he does not know what the warrant is for Rahmani to believe that MARA is short for MARTHA’. More likely is that MARA is short for MARIA (cf. interpretation of the name in SEG 33, 1281), with omission of the iota. The same phenomenon is found in the name KYRA/KYRIA. In this case we would have “MARIAM H KAI MAR(I)A” (MARIAM also known as MAR(I)A) on this Talpiot tomb inscription. I do not see why the inscriber could not have omitted either the (TH) or the (I) in his carving of the inscription in Greek characters.

The Akeldama Tombs are my source for the KYRIA question. See my book (2001) notice no. 351. KYRIA is indeed the equivalent of the Aramaic MARTHA’ and of the Latin DOMNA. It means lady/mistress (feminine for /lord/master/teacher). KYRIA, MARTHA and its hypocoristic MARA, and DOMNA are all used as proper names in these three languages. KYRIA in its Hebrew transliteration is known to the Jewish onomastic of Second Temple period Jerusalem (cf. A. Kloner: “A Burial Cave of the Second Temple Period at Givat Ha-Mivtar,” Jerusalem, 1980).

Moreover in the course of time certain names lose their historical significance and a different pronunciation eventually changes their rendition. It was the case for the Semitic name MIRYAM which became MARIAM with the influence of the Aramaic, and then Hellenized or Latinized into MARIA/DOMNA. Christian tradition present MM as a preacher/teacher, therefore the Aramaic hypocoristic MAR(TH)(I)A on this inscription could very well refer to her preaching/teaching ability.

Stephen Pfann (see University of the Holy Land blog discussion in the comments section of “an eye for form”) argues that when a signum formula such as H KAI is used on an inscription it always links two names but not a name and a title. This may very well be. However I can still read this inscription: MARIAM H KAI MAR(TH)(I)A.

Both MARIAM and MAR(TH)(I)A (the significance of the second being: lady or teacher, a title of distinction in any case, or possibly used as her nickname referring to her particular ability) could have identified Mary Magdalene.

Resurrection in Context

Jesus and his family were originally from Nazareth in Galilee. Then why would there be a Jesus family tomb in Jerusalem? For two reasons. One being practical: they had moved to the capital of Judea. The other having to do with the belief in resurrection. However not in the later Christian sense of the concept but rather in the Early Rabbinic one: Techiat Hametim (vivification of the dead).

In his book Life after Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion, Alan Segal argues that the rabbis could have chosen the technical, more explicit term Hakamat Haneveilot (raising of the corpses) rather than Techiat Hametim when dealing with resurrection in their texts. First of all the two terms are taken from Isaiah 26:19. Both terms are in the same sentence in this Old Testament passage. Therefore in my judgment it really does not matter which one the rabbis chose since the concept of vivification of the dead (Techiat Hametim) along with raising of the corpses, more precisely “dressed again dried bones” (Hakamat Haneveilot) is very well developed in Ezekiel 37:4-10. Moreover, I do not see why the rabbis would have based their discussions on resurrection only on one part of verse 19 of Isaiah 26.

Alan Segal states as well that the rabbis were only dealing with matters of resurrection because they were pressured to do so by the intellectual environment in a context of acculturation. It was not at the center of their preoccupations since they were law makers.

Rabbis were not theologians, I agree with Alan on that. However weren’t they first and foremost discussing the written Law? Therefore one has to take into consideration the following:

1. In the written Law itself there is no such a thing as a homogeneous concept of afterlife since this literary source contains also multiple borrowings from neighboring cultures.

2. While it is true that there is no such a thing as a complete tractate of the Mishnah related to issues of resurrection, it does not allow one to say that the concept itself was not at the center of the lay person’s daily life’s preoccupations in early Roman Palestine.

3. Moreover, a similar situation is to be seen with regards to messianism. There is no such a thing as a complete tractate of the Mishnah devoted to messianism, either, and for the same reasons. Therefore to say that it was not at the center of the rabbis preoccupations and not a reflection of the lay people’s belief at the time would be just another big assumption.

In fact, at a time of formative Judaism when rabbis, an elite by intellect as I like to call them, and not by blood, were democratizing religious observance, it is easy to imagine that the concept of resurrection becaming the perfect tool for their pedagogical endeavors, even though they could not devote a significant place to such a subject in the framework of their legal documents.

Therefore, yes, the rabbis could not frame concepts related to the afterlife in a legal context because they were more preoccupied with the “nowalife” (if I may say) issues, but the lay people were very much preoccupied by these concepts in early Roman Palestine.

Ezekiel 37:12-14 states that tombs would be opened and resurrection should happen in the land of Israel, with an implicit idea of transfer of bones to the land of Israel. I maintain that the concept of resurrection is a parameter, not to be neglected, in the custom of ossilegium, bones gathering (Laqut ‘atsamot in Hebrew) along with others: as the concern for space and the continuation of an old practice (see Genesis 50, as well as findings of the Chalcolithic age in Galilee (see the article of Z. Gal, H. Smithline and D. Shalem : “A Chalcolithic Burial Cave in Peqi`in, upper Galilee”, in IEJ, 1997).

L.Y. Rahmani in his article “Ancient Jerusalem Funerary Customs and Tombs”, in BA, 1982, was among the first, if not the first to relate the practice of ossilegium with the concept of resurrection and I agreed with him in my article: “Controverse sur les coutumes funeraires…”, adding to the theory that the manner or order in which the bones were gathered in the ossuaries constitutes another evidence of the link between this practice and the concept of resurrection. Legs were placed at the bottom, then spine and arms, then skull on top: a deceased ready to rise.

Individualization of the deceased became an essential factor in burial practices of Herodian Palestine and is so to be related to the concept of resurrection, well rooted in the Jewish thought of the time, and especially in the period between the two wars against the Romans. This concept is based on Ezekiel 37 as well as Isaiah 26:19. Moreover, every Jew should be buried in Jerusalem and vicinity. This belief, linked to the concept of resurrection which could only occur in the land of Israel, could in fact partially explain the presence of geographical origin other than Palestinian in some ossuary inscriptions found in tombs excavated around Jerusalem. Such is the case for the Akeldama Tombs with people originally from Seleucia in Syria (see my book Les laics en Palestine…, notice no. 351). In other tombs some came from Capoua, notice no. 381, from Chalcis, notice no. 334. It could mean either that they emigrated to Jerusalem or that they were non-residents who were only buried in rock-cut tombs in Jerusalem and vicinity for resurrection purposes.

Moreover, there is no trace or rock-hewn tombs containing ossuaries in Galilee between Herod the Great’s rule and the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. After which the center of Judaism moved from Jerusalem to Galilee in a forced internal diaspora movement. There was no trace of ossuaries in Galilee until the Necropolis of Beth Shearim dating of the 3rd century CE, a much later period.

In light of the above it is conceivable that Jesus had a secondary burial in an ossuary in a family tomb in the area of Jerusalem for resurrection purposes.

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