Some Very Uncommon Names

“Jesus Tomb” Controversy Erupts—Again

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Eldad Keynan, Ph.D. candidate in Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University

I was invited to the Talpiot Tomb symposium and had the honor to present two papers. One of them was on the commonness of the names found in Talpiot Tomb.

Initially there was a claim that all the names in Talpiot Tomb were common in the Second Temple Era. I have researched this claim and presented my conclusions to the symposium as follows:

1. At least one of the names in the Talpiot Tomb—YOSE (Hebrew ????)—was not common in the Second Temple Era. In fact, it was extremely RARE.

2. The method employed to reach the “commonness” claim was and is misleading.

As I’m going deeper into the “commonness” research, using the correct method, it turns out that another name—MATIA (Hebrew ????)—was quite rare as well, though not as extremely rare Yose. Since the conference I’ve learned that Maria (Hebrew ????) was not common, either; there are no occurrences in Rabbinical sources and it appears only ten times in Tal Ilan’s lexicon of ancient Jewish names (compared to 80 occurrences of Miriam (????) and its derivatives.

Tentatively: not all the names in Talpiot Tomb were so common (a complete article on the subject will be included in the symposium book).

Another point: the title of the symposium included the words “Jewish views.” Some Jewish subjects were indeed under discussion. But a most important point was quite neglected: the Jewish laws and customs in Jesus’ time. Since Jesus was born a Jew, and he lived and died a Jew, the Jewish laws and customs were applied to him. That is, we cannot understand Jesus in general and his death and burial in particular unless we study him in this context.

As a man of wide knowledge in the field of Jewish burial laws and customs, I argue as follows: NO JEWISH BURIAL LAW OR CUSTOM OF JESUS’ TIME CONTRADICTS the possibility that the Talpiot Tomb might or could be Jesus’ tomb. On the contrary, if we follow all available sources, they are correlated regarding Jesus’ death and burial.

Does this prove the Talpiot Tomb was Jesus’ tomb? Can I prove it was? On the other hand, can anyone prove Jesus was taken to the Galilee by his relatives for burial? Of both suggestions, which has more support in Rabbinic literature, in the New Testament and in archaeology?

So, I admit: I cannot prove it. But in historical research and reconstruction there is no room for the word “proof.” There is only “likelihood.” Therefore, if the Talpiot Tomb was not actually Jesus’ tomb, it probably was his family tomb.

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