Saturday, August 18, 2007

Here's a little light discussion for an opener...

Some thoughts on “The Jesus Tomb Controversy”

In light of some recent discussions people are having regarding the special aired Sunday evening (Mar. 4,2007) on the Discovery channel, I thought I’d weigh-in with my own two cents worth. (I’ll make them two large-cents just for kicks).

In this post I am borrowing (stealing) HEAVILY from (and simplifying quite a bit) an article posted on the discussion board at Discovery Channel's web site. Please check it out for yourself as I am sure I have not done justice to his (Dr. Pfann's) argument. I found his discussion very interesting and immediatly saw the simplicity of his logic with regards to the reading.

Much of the controversy – and a fairly large portion of the overall argument FOR the authenticity of the burial site centers around an inscription found on an ossuary (a small stone casket for the preservation of bones). The scholars in the movie read the text as saying: MARIAMENOU – MARA – which Rhamadi (the main scholar in question) claims should be read – Mariamenou – Master. (Of Mary – Master)

Here is the argument in favor of this reading – and in favor of his interpretation that this piece contained none other than the bones of “Jesus’ wife,” Mary Magdalene.

As evidence, reference is made to the “Gospel of Phillip” which refers to Mary Magdalene – her name which is apparently spelled in this fashion – Mariamne (Or Mariamene) and is said to be a unique "special" term for her. This spelling, along with the occurrence of other “Biblical” names found in this burial site are in his opinion overwhelming evidence which, when taken together, prove with a high degree of mathematical probability that this is indeed the Holy family at rest.

However, there is another possible (more simple) reading - which we will get to later.

Here is the explanation for their reading:

IF we are to take the above reading we would have to believe 3 (three) things initially with the text.

First, that the scribe left a pronounced space between the letters eta and nu. This wouldn’t be unusual since when looking at this script it is plain to see that there are significant gaps throughout which often occur when enscribing on stone objects or pottery shards (ostraca).

(Backwards nu with loopy eta)

This should actually ready - kai - the "backwards nu" is a kappa,

the "loopy eta" is two letters - alpha & iota)

Secondly, we would have to buy into the argument that the aforementioned scribe carved a “retrograde” nu – i.e. – he wrote it backwards in this case! Also not uncommon – although in this case, the letter doesn’t much look even like a backwards nu.

(Straight eta)

Thirdly – we would have to believe that the next letter(s) are a “loopy” eta – not at all similar to the normal “straight” eta just two letters earlier. This coupled with the fact that when scratching on a stone ossuary the act of writing just might be a bit more tedious than when writing with a wood nub and ink, which makes this scenario a bit of a stretch.

What could the reading have been then?

This reading - MariameneMara (Mary, Master) - is found in only the Gospel of Phillip. It is said to be a "Special" term for Mary Magdalene.

How did this "Special term come to light? Surely the scholars who made this great find have carefully researched this information to put such weight and authority on their "find". After all - the other names found in the tomb are all quite common - but to have an ossuary bearing the "Special" name attributed only to Mary Magdalene - along with those other names - this would be irrefutable evidence to support their amazing claim, right?

Let's look at their "evidence" for this "Special" term for Mary Magdalene

The Gospel of Phillip - one of the "Gnostic gospels" uncovered among the Nag Hammadi library contains the only usage of this "Special" term for Mary Magdalene. The gospel itself was probably written around A.D. 300 - some 250 years after Jesus' crucifiction. As well, it wasn't written in Greek - the only extant copy is in Coptic - it may have been originally written in Syriac - not Greek - just an interesting tidbit. Amazingly (not!)- the producers of this expose on Jesus "wife" and his personal tomb place a heavy amount of authority on these claims - and especially this reading of the "Special" term for Mary Magdalene.

So what does the ossuary actually say?

Quite simply - without stretching it any at all, namely:

  • 1. Not assuming that the scribe wrote a letter backwards and
  • 2. That he/she wrote two identical letters in two different ways just a letter apart.

It would read:

Mariame kai Mara = Mary and Martha

Note: It was actually quite common for the bones of two individuals to be contained in the same ossuary - particularly of the same family.