Excerpt: 'The Jesus Dynasty' by James D. Tabor

with such an inscription from the very period of Jesus' lifetime. Still, things at this point were fairly routine, since even an ossuary with the name of "Jesus son of Joseph," however fascinating to the public, was not considered particularly noteworthy by the experts because both names were exceedingly common in that period. But then the excitement began. Chris and Ray asked Baruk whether any of the other ossuaries in the collection were related to either of the "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuaries. The catalogue and tags were examined and it turned out five others were shelved nearby that had all been found in the same tomb as the "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary. The tomb was in East Talpiot, just south of Jerusalem's Old City. The tomb had been uncovered when TNT was detonated by a construction crew putting up a new apartment complex. Israeli archaeologist Joseph Gath, now deceased, excavated it quickly so the construction could proceed.

Out of curiosity, Ray and Chris asked about the names on the other five ossuaries. Chris later commented that as Brendel ticked off the names "it felt like the balls of the national lottery coming up and approaching the jackpot." In addition to the "Jesus son of Joseph" ossuary there was a Joseph; a Mary, presumably his wife; another Mary; a Jude son of Jesus; and a Matthew.16

For the crew this was a journalistic moment made in heaven. The traditional tomb where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion is just outside the Old City to the north, the site today of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jesus had been placed hastily in a tomb near the crucifixion site by an aristocratic and influential sympathizer, Joseph of Arimathea, and not in his own family tomb. Even the gospels imply that he was only temporarily put there, due to the rush of the Passover holiday. Although the family was from Nazareth, a town to the north in Galilee, the New Testament indicates that Mary as well as Jesus' brothers and sisters had taken up residence in Jerusalem. Tradition has it that Mary, mother of Jesus, did in fact die and was buried in Jerusalem, not Galilee, and there are no fewer than two sites shown today to tourists that lay claim to being the spot. Needless to say, this Talpiot tomb had not been put on any tourist map.

Was it possible that Jesus' mortal remains were finally buried with those of his father and mother? Might the other Mary be either a sister or his close companion Mary Magdalene? Could the "Jude son of Jesus" be his biological son? The possibilities were as intriguing as they were shocking and heretical.

The producers interviewed various Jewish and Christian archaeologists and historians familiar with the tomb. Everyone seemed to agree that although the names were interesting, they were so common in this period to make even such a grouping as this unique but inconclusive. Several pointed out that the name Mary was the most common female name in the period and the name Joseph the second most common male name, after Simon. Amos Kloner, who subsequently published the official report on the Talpiot excavation, maintained that the "possibility of it being Jesus' family [is] very close to zero."17 Motti Neiger, spokesperson for the Israel Antiquities Authority, agreed "that chances of these being the actual burials of the holy family are almost nil."18

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