New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham has tackled the so-called "Jesus family tomb" in a guest post on Chris Tilling’s excellent blog. Over the course of his career, Bauckham has done a lot of work on first century Jewish names and the relatives of Jesus, so he is an important voice in this discussion.
I want to highlight two things about his post. First, Bauckham points out that this is a large family tomb—there are many remains here. Yet, the evidence we have indicates that the relatives of Jesus named in the New Testament came from Galilee and probably only remained in Jerusalem for a short while. The upshot is—the number of “family members” here indicates that this was not the “Jesus family tomb”.
Second, Bauckham looks at the inscription that supposedly belongs to Mary Magdalene—the one that reads “MARIAMENOUMARA”. Now right off, this is a strange form of the Hebrew name for Mary in that it has an "n" in it. The documentary claims that Mary Magdalene was known by the name "Mariamne" (note the "n") and that this is a clear reference to her. But Bauckham takes that view out to the woodshed and shreds it up.
His is a meaty contribution, so I’ve summed it up by breaking it down below.
About the name “Mariam” (=Mary)
1. The name in Hebrew was “Mariam”.
2. In Greek, it appeared as “Maria” and “Mariamme” [note the double “m”] (or “Mariame").
3. In the Greek OT [LXX] and in a few cases from Jesus day the Hebrew “Mariam” is simply transliterated into Greek letters as “Mariam” (as in the LXX’s reference to Mariam the sister of Moses).
4. The Greek form of the name, “Maria”, is often found on ossuaries transliterated back into Hebrew characters as “Mariah” (as one of the ossuaries here witnesses).
So let’s break it down:
Hebrew name: “Mariam”
Greek form: Maria, Mariamme/ Mariame, Mariah
References to Mary Magdalene
Bauckham now turns his attention to references to Mary Magdalene in ancient literature. What form did her name take?
New Testament: “Maria” and, a few times, “Mariam”
2nd Century onwards: Mary Magdalene is sometimes identified with other women named Mary in the NT, such as Martha’s sister. She is referred to as “Mariamme” or“Mariame” in Greek works (Celsus, Gnostic sources, and a Coptic translation of the Gnostic work, The Sophia of Jesus Christ).
3rd Century: In a variant reading of a work by Hippolytus she is called “Mariamne” (Refutation of All Heresies). Note the “n” instead of the double “m”. Here is the first instance of an "n" in a reference to Mary Magdalene.
4th Century: The Gospel of Philip: “Mariamne”, with an “n” instead of an extra “m”. Of course, not all scholars agree that all of the references to “Mariamne” are Mary Magdalene—we are just going to assume here that the sister of Martha named Mary is also Mary Magdalene.
--What is important here is this: It isn’t until the 3rd century that we find a Greek form of “Mariam” with an “n” in it. Furthermore, that “n” occurs in literature which arises outside of Palestine, where the Hebrew name was unfamiliar. In other words, no one in Jesus' Jewish circle in the first century likely referred to her as "Mariamne", with an "n".
Now Bauckham turns to the inscription that supposedly refers to Mary Magdalene. There are two names here: MARIAMENOU / MARA.
Let’s look at the first: "MARIAMENOU".
1. MARIAMENOU is the genitive form of “Mariamenon”.
2. The genitive indicates “possession” (probably indicating that the ossuary “belonged” to “Mariamenon”.
3. “Mariamenon” is a diminutive form, a term of endearment, of “Mariamene”.
4. The name “Mariamenon” has never been found before being seen before now.
5. “Mariamene” however has been found elsewhere (in the Babatha archive and in the Jewish catacombs at Beth She’arim).
6. “Mariamene” is an unusual Hellenistic form. It sounds elegant and smooth in Greek.
7. “Mariamene” does not come from “Mariamne” (with an “n”), which was a deformed reading of Mariamme which emerged in non-Palestinian circles where the name was uncommon.
8. Hence, “Mariamene” is not immediately related to the “Mariamne” of the Gospel of Philip.
The second name is “Mara”. “Mara” was used for “Martha”.
There are two names on the inscription. A Greek one (Mariamenon) and an Aramaic one (Mara).
“Mariamenon” is a unique term, coming from “Mariamene”. It is not directly related to “Mariamne” which the documentary claims was how Mary Magdalene was referred to in Christian literature. Of course, a Jew in Jesus' day would not have used "Mariamne". It only occurs much later.
Bauckham argues that the woman in question here might simply have been known by two names, one Greek and one Aramaic, such as “Saul” and “Paul”, or “Peter” and “Cephas”.
Labels: Jesus Family Tomb, Ossuary, Ossuaries, Burial Box, Mariamne, Mariam, Mary Magdalene, Richard Bauckham