Tuesday, February 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Matthew Shugart e-mails to point me to the blog of Jim Davila ( who has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard and who is a Lecturer in Early Jewish studies at St. Mary’s College at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  In his lengthy and interesting post he quotes correspondence from Richard Bauckham, a Professor of New Testament  Studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor (also at St. Andrews).

Among the various things that Bauckham had to say, I found the discussion of names to be especially interesting, given my earlier post:

We have much more evidence about this than was used by the programme makers. We have a data base of about 3000 named persons (2625 men, 328 women). Of the 2625 men, the name Joseph was borne by 218 or 8.3%. (It is the second most popular Jewish male name, after Simon/Simeon.) The name Judah was borne by 164 or 6.2%. The name Jesus was borne by 99 or 3.4%. The name Matthew was borne 62 or 2.4 %. Of the 328 named women (women’s names were much less often recorded than men’s), a staggering 70 or 21.4% were called Mary (Mariam, Maria, Mariame, Mariamme).

It is surely obvious [One would think, but apparently not-Ed.] that, considering the enormous popularity of all the names on these ossuaries, the probability that they refer to the same people as those so named in the New Testament, must be very low.

With regard to the second claim, the programme makers have somewhat stretched the evidence.

The most common Greek form of the Hebrew name Mariam (which would have been Mary Magdalene’s Hebrew name) was Mariame or Mariamme. A less common Greek form of the name was Maria, which is the form the New Testament uses (for Mary Magdalene and all the other Maries it mentions).

The form of the name on the ossuary in question is Mariamenou. This is a Greek genitive case, used to indicate that the ossuary belongs to Mary (it means ‘Mary’s’ or ‘belonging to Mary’). The nominative would be Mariamenon. Mariamenon is a diminutive form, used as a form of endearment. The neuter gender is normal in diminutives used for women.

This diminutive, Mariamenon, would seem to have been formed from the name Mariamene, a name which is attested twice elsewhere (in the Babatha archive and in the Jewish catacombs at Beth She’arim). It is an unusual variant of Mariame. In the Babatha document it is spelt with a long e in the penultimate syllable, but in the Bet She’arim inscription the penultimate syllable has a short e. This latter form could readily be contracted to the form Mariamne, which is found, uniquely, in the Acts of Philip.

So we have, on the one hand, a woman known by the diminutive Mariamenon, in the ossuary, and, on the other hand, Mary Magdalen, who is always called in the Greek of the New Testament Maria but seems to be called in a much later source Mariamne. Going by the names alone they could be the same woman, but the argument for this is tenuous.

If you are interested in this subject, the whole post is worth a read.  Davis also posted on the subject here, which includes some links to some resources of possible interest.

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One Response to “More on the Bones”

  • el
  • pt
    1. Alabama Moderate Says:

      Jesus also had at least two other siblings– James and Jude. Additionally, considering that the family of Jesus was extremely poor, they wouldn’t have been able to afford an expensive family crypt in Jerusalem. (The family also resided in Nazareth, not Jerusalem.) Jesus was reportedly laid in a tomb that was donated from a wealthy man, not in a family tomb. It’s something that seems to be ignored, here.

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