I sent this out this AM (Tuesday, March 13) to some fellow scholars and bloggers for circulation.
Subject: a new twist in the Jesus Tomb sideshow
Dear Professors and other Bloggers
I’d like to report something of potentially great interest with respect to assessing the Jesus tomb theory offered by Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino (and, by extension, James Tabor).
Many scholars have demonstrated the glaring weaknesses of this theory with respect to the inscriptions, the names themselves, the shaky logic, etc. And despite the clear, coherent response to the statistical framework and analysis offered by my friend Randy Ingermanson, the public continues to be bludgeoned with the “improbability” of it all. Well, it appears that having the names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Matthew, and Martha (“Mara”) on ossuaries at one location isn’t as improbable as Jacobovici, Pellegrino, and Tabor would have the world believe.
I want to draw your attention—and the attention of scholars and interested parties who read your blog—to a SECOND site that has all those names. In 1953-1955, Bellarmino Bagatti excavated the site of Dominus Flevit (“The Lord wept”) on the Mount of Olives. The excavation uncovered a necropolis and over 40 inscribed ossuaries – including the names of Mary, Martha, Matthew, Joseph, Jesus. These ossuaries are not, as far as I can tell, in Rahmani’s catalogue. I’m guessing the reason is that they are not the property of the Israel Antiquities Authority (see Rahmani’s Preface). The necropolis was apparently used ca. 136 BC to 300 AD. Here is a link that discusses the site. A few scanned pages of Bagatti’s excavation report (written in Italian) can be found here as well.
I’ll be tracking down this report (and perhaps buying an Italian dictionary). I found this information last night (actually 2:00am) while working on my portion of a lengthy response to the Jesus tomb theory (to be co-authored with Randy Ingermanson). I didn’t want to wait until that was done to alert scholars to this so we can collectively look at this data. It appears that the statistical odds touted in such assured terms have taken a sound beating – fifty years ago.
There’s one more really intriguing thing about the Dominus Flevit site. It is referenced by Jacobovici with respect to his argument about the cross symbol’s antiquity, and Bagatti’s book is in his bibliography. And yet he and Charlie Pellegrino somehow overlooked the fact that ossuaries were found at that site with all the names accounted for. One can only guess whether the omission was due to careless scholarship or an effort to deceive the public.
Mike Heiser, PhD
Academic Editor, Logos Bible Software