Jesus Is Betrayed With A Kiss

There are several interpretations relating to the Trial of Jesus. The key here is to sift through the information available and try to figure what actually happened.

Late one Thursday night as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the silence of the night was disturbed by the sound of marching soldiers. When Jesus opened his eyes he could see soldiers of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas approach him. Leading the soldiers was one of Jesus’ apostles Judas Iscariot.

Location Of The Garden Of Gethsemane

Most people agree about the general location of the Garden of Gethsemane. However its exact location cannot be established with certainty. All the same Garden of Gethsemane is said to be located near the present day Greek and Roman churches situated on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives, more or less opposite to the St. Stephen’s Gate on the eastern side of the city. (1)

Garden of Gethsemane1

The Mount of Olives which lies across the Kidron Valley is made up of a row of three hills whose average height is about 2,700 feet. The drop to the Dead Sea from the Mount of Olives some twenty-five miles to the east, is about 4,200 feet. As a consequence of this great difference in altitudes, the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab that lie beyond are clearly observable from the Mount of Olives.

The three hills that comprise the Mount of Olives are, from the north, Mount Scopus on which were located the houses of priests during the time of Saul, Mount Olivet and the Mount of Offense, or the Mount of Scandal where it is said that King Solomon built houses for his pagan wives.

Mount of Olives2

The central portion of the Mount of Olives was the desired resting-place for Galileans who came to Jerusalem for the feasts. It was for this reason that this section of the hill was called “The Men of Galilee.” It is said that this is where Jesus and His disciples often came to rest and to meditate and discuss the events relating to his ministry that were unfolding. (Luke 21:37; John 8:1; Luke 22:39). (2)

Judas walked up to Jesus and kissed him. That was the signal that was agreed between him and the soldiers of the high priest for identifying Jesus.

“You betray me with a kiss?” Jesus asked without any trace of surprise.
Judas Iscariot just hung his head in silence, probably feeling guilty already.

Judas Betrays Jesus3

The Soldiers Of The High Priest Took Custody Of Jesus

The soldiers of the high priest took custody of Jesus and began to lead him away. Just then one of the disciples drew a sword and cut off the ear of the soldier nearest to him. Jesus told the disciples to remain calm and is said to have healed the soldier whose ear had just been severed.
In an instant the courage of the disciples gave way to fear and they all fled with the exception of one: Jesus’ disciple Peter. Quickly the soldiers of the Jews led Jesus to Annas who was the father-in-law of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest.

Taking of Christ by Caravaggio4

The narratives in the Gospels about the execution of Jesus are consistent with what is known about the crucifixion. Not only this, the whole judicial procedure, from the very confrontation between Jesus and the ruling priests and other spiritual authorities of the temple (Mark 11:15–12:44), his capture (14:43–50), interrogation (14:53–65), his finally being handed over to the Roman governor (15:1–5), and the calls for his death (15:13–14) are all consistent with the tradition of that time. (3)

Jesus is taken to Annas

In spite of the fact that Annas was not the high priest, it was evident that he wielded a lot of power. Not only was he the high priest from 6 to 15 C.E (till he was removed from that position by Valerius Gratus), he was also the head of the family from which most of the high priests of the first century C.E. were selected. It is quite probable that Annas every now and then sat by the side of his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas in the Sanhedrin to help him to resolve intricate trials like the trial of Jesus. And in all likelihood Annas did this at the request of Joseph Caiaphas. It is quite probable that it was he who really exercised the powers of the high priest.

According to some accounts of the Trial of Jesus, since the bazaars of Annas were situated on the Mount of Olives it is quite probable that his house was also situated there and that it was in his house that the Sanhedrin met.

When Jesus was first taken to Annas, he questioned Jesus for almost an hour. Information of this questioning is mentioned in the Bible. John 18:19-24.

Annas Questions The Teachings Of Jesus

Annas questioned Jesus about his teachings and his followers. But Jesus was uncooperative and refused to answer Annas’ questions. Instead all that Jesus said was that there was nothing secretive about his teachings and that he always taught in public places. He asked Annas to check with witnesses if there was anything objectionable in what he taught.

“I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.” Jesus is supposed to have answered.

Christ is questioned by the high priest5

During this questioning John writes that an official who stood near Jesus struck him, probably for his apparent insolence. John also states that when this happened Jesus turned to this man and said “If I have done something wrong, say so. But if not, why did you hit me?” (John 18:23). (4)

Trial of Jesus by Annas was a mere sham. He knew he did not have the authority to take any formal action against Jesus. He probably conducted this charade of a trial to give his son-in-law Caiaphas time to convene the Sanhedrin. According to John when Jesus did not respond to the questioning of Annas, he sent Jesus to Caiaphas. However it is quite likely that this was one of the instances when Annas sat at the side of Caiaphas as this was a matter that has significant bearing on the future of high priesthood.

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.

The Sanhedrin

According to gospel accounts, Jesus was brought before the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, presided over by high priest Joseph Caiaphas.

The word Sanhedrin is derived from the Greek that literally translates to “sitting together”. The term was used to refer to the Jewish council. The Sanhedrin is the Jewish judicial as well as an administrative body. The Sanhedrin was made up of local big-wigs that included members of the high-priestly family, religious authorities, and lay elders. It is quite likely that it functioned under some sort of Roman supervision – especially Sanhedrin functions such as taxing, law enforcement, and general administrative work. (8)

It was generally understood that the Sanhedrin was dominated primarily by Sadducees drawn from the ruling elites. (9)

Trial By The Sanhedrin

During the trial by the Sanhedrin, the high priest is supposed to have said to Jesus “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Jesus replied to him saying “You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then according to Mark 14:63-64 “Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned him to be deserving of death.” (10)

Another reason that the Temple priests sought the death penalty was because of Jesus’ claim that he could forgive sins. This according to the priests was the prerogative of God and that Jesus was trying to usurp the powers of God and in other words claiming to be God himself. Jesus is also supposed to have said that often sinners would be given a place in heaven even before the righteous. This was unthinkable to the Jews and amounted to blasphemy. (11)

Trial of Jesus was blatantly political. If the Temple priests were to retain their prestigious positions they had to safeguard the cordial relations with the Romans. Jesus’ claim of being able to destroy the Temple, reinterpreting Jewish religious laws and his claim to be the king of the Jews were all considered be to acts of heresy by the Temple priests. (12)

The Greek language is such that the word “Christ” could be interpreted to simply mean an anointed person and a son of God or it could mean Christ the son of God. The two interpretations are totally different and with completely dissimilar implications. The former interpretation is almost inconsequential in that it simply means that Jesus was an anointed person and a religious leader. Such persons are commonly referred to as sons of God – meaning that they were very religious. Since Jesus was anointed at Bethany because a woman poured expensive perfumed oil on him. However this is not the interpretation that the Sanhedrin wanted as this was an innocuous understanding. They wanted the far more serious interpretation – that Jesus was claiming to be the son of God – as this would amount to blasphemy.

The Son of Man would be seen sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

According to Synoptic Gospels Jesus’ claim is that the Son of Man would “be seen sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Christians interpret this as meaning the second coming of Jesus in accordance with Daniel’s prophecy regarding the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13). The Gnostics however interpret it as the enlightenment that everyone will attain and as the son of man would “spiritually escape the earthly realm and rejoin the world of the monad (mighty one).” (13)

The Synoptic Gospels say that these responses of Jesus were enough for the Sanhedrin to conclude that he was guilty of blasphemy. (14)

The Trial Of Jesus Was Both A Farce And Illegal

The trial of Jesus was both a farce and illegal. It was a farce because his punishment was determined even before the trial. The mood of the Sanhedrin is reflected in the statement “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:48. Caiaphas’ response to this was “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (15)

According to Mark and Matthew the trial of Jesus conducted at night was illegal since the Mishnah Sanhedrin 4.1 prohibited trials involving capital punishment at night. (16)

Both the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John state that early in the morning the Sanhedrin reached its conclusion, and Jesus was bound and taken to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. (17)

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, for fear of being defiled, but instead they just wanted to eat the Passover.

According to the Gospel of John Jesus was handed over to Pilate by the Sanhedrin. When Pilate objected telling the members of the Sanhedrin to try Jesus according to Jewish laws and hand him a punishment in accordance to those laws. But the Sanhedrin members told Pilate that they were not empowered to sentence anyone to death. This is however incorrect as the Sanhedrin had the requisite powers to impose the death penalty. According to the Mishnah that was in force until about 200 CE the Sanhedrin had the powers to impose death penalty under certain circumstances. The Mishnah is “The Jewish commentary on the Torah with all of the interpretations of the various laws for different situations. It is comprised of the oral commentary on the Torah that was in effect from a few hundred years before Christ until it was written down in 200 AD.” (18)

For instance the Mishnah Sanhedrin 6.1 to 6.4 stipulates the procedures for stoning. Although the oral commentaries on the Torah were written in 200 CE there is no proof that they were not applicable in 30 CE. Besides at most times the Romans preferred to keep out of tricky situations and preferred to leave it to the Jewish authorities to deal with religious crimes. (19)

(1) Jerusalem – location profile. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(2) Jerusalem – location profile. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Evans, Craig A. (n.d.). Jewish Burial Traditions and the Resurrection of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from

(4) Jesus Is Questioned by the High Priest. (2006). Retrieved 2011, from

(8) The Sanhedrin. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011 from

(9) A place to discuss the works of Peter F Hamilton. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(10) Schwager, Don. (2002). Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation. Retrieved 2011, from

(11) Aiuto, Russell. (n.d.). The Trial of Jesus Christ and The Last Supper. Retrieved 2011, from

(12) Aiuto, Russell. (n.d.). The Trial of Jesus Christ and The Last Supper . Retrieved 2011, from

(13) Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(14) Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(15) Who Killed Jesus? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(16) The Sanhedrin. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(17) Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(18) Tverberg, Lois. (n.d.). Glossary of Hebraic & Jewish Terminology. Retrieved 2011, from

(19) The Sanhedrin. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:
1) Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane….0…1ac.2.64.img..0.1.117.aDs-z4B2bd0#q=Garden+Of+Gethsemane&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbs=sur:fc&imgrc=8350tbPuw_T20M%3A

2) Mount of Olives where the garden of Gethsemane is said to be located….0…1ac.2.64.img..0.1.117.aDs-z4B2bd0#hl=en&tbs=sur:fc&tbm=isch&q=mount+of+olives&imgrc=4OPodBMM71X1zM%3A

3) Jesus is betrayed by Judas,_The_Judas_Kiss.jpg

4) Jesus is taken into custody by the soldiers of the high priest

5) Trial of Jesus – Jesus is questioned by the high priest,_Christ_before_Caiaphas.jpg

Why Was The Ossuary Of Mary Magdalene Inscribed In Greek

If the ossuary in the Talpiot tomb is that of Mary Magdalene and if she was indeed the wife of Jesus, scholars wonder why her ossuary is inscribed in Greek while that of Jesus is in Aramaic. “Surely a husband and wife would share a common language, even in death.” (1)

The reasons for the Greek inscription on the ossuary are more than one. Mary Magdalene is from Magdala (Migdal) because of which it is quite likely that she spoke fluent Greek and after the crucifixion of Jesus it is quite likely that she preached chiefly to Greek speaking Jews. (2)

It appears that between 60 and 80 CE Hellenist Jews made up a sizeable portion of the population. This is recorded in the book of “Acts” in the Hellenized NT. During that period Greek was not as rare as it was made out to be. Of the 233 inscribed ossuaries in the collection of the State of Israel as of 1994, two thirds are in Hebrew/Aramaic, whereas approximately one third is in Greek, or a combination of Greek and Hebrew. (3) Besides this it may also be mentioned that: the earliest existing versions of Mark and Matthew were originally written in Greek. (4)

However Prof Eric M Meyers – Duke University – is of the opinion that “in Galilee, Greek was uncommon, if not rare, among first-century Jews.” Nevertheless others have countered this claim saying that Meyer’s opinion is probably backed by evidence that is “sparse and unconvincing”. Yirmәyahu Ben-David states that “Whatever Jewish communities were Hellenist spoke Greek and in whatever communities Pharisaic Jews lived they spoke Hebrew and Aramaic.” (5)

Ostensibly, as Mary Magdalene was not of the same lineage as the rest of Jesus’ family it is not odd that the inscription on her ossuary should be in Greek. Besides this could be the proof that the ossuary in the Talpiot tomb is indeed the ossuary of Mary Magdalene. Of the 74 Mariams known to us, the Greek inscription of Mariamne on the ossuary is the “closest fit” to Mary Magdalene.” (6)

DNA Test To Check For Any Relationship Between Jesus And Mary Magdalene

Analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the bone fragments taken from the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary and the “Mariamne” ossuary done at Lakehead University showed that these two individuals were not blood-relatives on their mothers’ side. This prompted the makers of the documentary to suggest that the two were husband and wife. Their principal reason: Otherwise the two would not have been interred in a family tomb. (7)

Craig Evans suggests that one reason for the absence of a match could be that since ossuaries contained the bones of more than one individual there was no certainty that the fragments selected were that of “Jesus son of Joseph” and “Mariamne.” (8)

Although tradition has it that only family members are buried in such tombs there is always the possibility that non-members may also have been buried there. Besides, there was no recorded DNA test of the fragments from any of the other ossuaries. As such we cannot even be certain that the other individuals buried in this tomb belonged to a family. The other possibility not considered is that the individuals tested could have been related in any of a number of ways “that do not include a matrilineage line.” (9)

From what has been seen it would appear that the odds are stacked in favor of Mary Magdalene being more than just a disciple and companion of Jesus.


(1) Lusk, Steve. (2008). Ossuaries. Retrieved 2011 from and

(2) Fienberg, Stephen E. (2008). Editorial: Statistics And “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”. Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Fienberg, Stephen E. (2008). Editorial: Statistics And “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”. Retrieved 2011, from

(4) Fienberg, Stephen E. (2008). Editorial: Statistics And “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”. Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008) .Talpiot Tomb Disputations. Retrieved 2011 from

(6) Fienberg, Stephen E. (2008). Editorial: Statistics And “The Lost Tomb Of Jesus”. Retrieved 2011, from

(7) The Lost Tomb of Jesus. (2012) Retrieved 2011, from

(8) Evans, A. Craig. (2006-2012). The Tomb of Jesus and Family? Second Thoughts. Retrieved 2011, from

(9) The Lost Tomb of Jesus. (2012) Retrieved 2011, from

Was Mary Magdalene The Wife Of Jesus?

Factors That Indicate She Was Not

There is no record anywhere of Mary Magdalene being married to Jesus or of having a child. Asbury Theological Seminary Bible scholar Ben Witherington III states “”There is absolutely no early historical evidence that Mary’s relationship with Jesus was anything other than that of a disciple to her Master teacher” (1).

Even if Jesus did have a wife, instead of being an embarrassment, it would have been something to be celebrated. And if he did have children they would have held positions of honor in the church. There is nothing in the second century Gnostic Gospels of Mary and Philip that endorse this claim (2).

Even if these Gnostic accounts allude to a relationship that was more than just teacher-disciple these claims cannot be relied upon as they are said to have been written by people at conflict with orthodox Christianity and discarded as heretical (3). Besides, these Gnostic allusions are in no way supported by the Canonical Gospels or Josephus (4).

According to some sources Judah is said to be the son of Jesus with Mary Magdalene. That son was referred to as the “Beloved Disciple” at the “Last Supper” and he was also said to be the young boy who ran away naked from the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:51). Judah was said to be 10-13 years at that time. Let us suppose that this is true and that Jesus was crucified in AD 30. This would mean that Judah was born around AD 17 and AD 20. If this is so then Jesus and Mary Magdalene would have been married some time between AD 16 and AD 19. This would mean that Mary Magdalene would have been about 16 and 18 years old at the time of her marriage and that she was born around 1BC and 4 AD.

As per the Acts of Philip which is generally thought to be authentic, the episode relating to the martyrdom of Philip, the brother of Miriamne, would have taken place in the 8th year of Emperor Trajan. This would mean that the martyrdom took place around AD 104. Eusebius states that the burial of Philip at Heirapolis took place around AD 100. If Mary Magdalene is the Miriamne of this story she would have been between 100 and 106 years of age when she went away to the Jordan River.

While some scholars assume that she died and was buried in Jerusalem, others think that she would have proceeded to Galilee and then onto her hometown Magdala. The argument here is that if Miriamne of the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene then this is not her ossuary since ossuaries ceased to be used from AD 70 (5).

If as some scholars contend, Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus, the Romans would have executed her when she was there at the cross during the crucifixion of Jesus since the Romans were known to have executed the heirs of anyone who tried to usurp the throne of the emperor in Rome. Even if she was not executed at the spot of the crucifixion she would have been executed by one of the host of Roman emperors through whose reign Mary Magdalene would have lived – if she is the Miriamne of the Acts of Philip she would have lived for 75 years more after the crucifixion of Jesus. Her execution by the Romans was highly likely considering that they “were very good at hunting down sons, daughters and wives.” (6)

Factors That Indicate She Was The Wife Of Jesus

The claim that Mary Magdalene was Mariamne is not totally without basis. In the 4th century Acts of Philip a woman who many think is Mary Magdalene is consistently referred to as Mariamne. So much so François Bovon, Research Professor of the History of Religion wonders if she is the sister of Philip. This version of the Acts is claimed to be “the earliest and most complete one known and is also one of the earliest known historical sources explicitly citing Mary Magdalene’s name.” According to these Acts Mary Magdalene died in Palestine, making it possible for her to have been buried in Jerusalem.

It appears that James Tabor has recently come across an even earlier source – Refutations 5.2 by Hippolytus, a second century Christian writer. He wrote “These are the heads of very numerous discourses which the Nassenes assert that James the brother of the Lord handed down to Mariamne.” This was written around 175 CE some 100 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and suggests that “Mariamne” was, at one time, the head of a ministry thereby entitling her to be addressed as “lord” or “honorable lady.” (7). Hippolytus also mentions that a group Jewish-Christian Nassenes taught “that James the brother of Jesus had handed down the secret traditions of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, who presumably carried on the mission after the death of James.” (8)

Last Supper

John 20:1 then names Mary Magdalene in describing who discovered the tomb to be empty. Mark 16:1 says she was accompanied by Salome and Mary the mother of James, while Matthew 28:1 omits Salome. Luke 24:10 says the group that found the empty tomb consisted of “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them”. Mark, Matthew, and John say that Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance was to Mary Magdalene. Because of this and her later missionary work she was also referred to by the title “Equal of the Apostles.” (9)

Esther A. de Boer author of the book Mary Magdalene, beyond the Myth compares the role of Mary Magdalene and concludes that “in the Gospel of Mary it is Peter who is opposed to Mary’s words, because she is a woman. Peter has the same role in the Gospel of Thomas and in Pistis Sophia. In Pistis Sophia the Mary concerned is identified as Mary Magdalene.” The last scene of the Gospel of Mary shows Levi coming to the defense of Mary telling Peter “Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.” (10)

Fragments of bone from the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary and the “Mariamne” ossuary were tested and the results showed that the two were no blood relatives. From this finding the makers of the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” draw the conclusion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife. The probable reasoning could have been that otherwise the two would not have been buried together in a family tomb. Opponents of this reasoning argue that the finding only showed that the two were not born of the same mother. They further argue that “the remains were not dated using radiocarbon to further sustain this supposition, neither was any announced DNA testing done on the other ossuaries to see if any familial relation existed there.” The other reason for disagreement with the makers of the documentary is that the two individuals tested could have been related in any of a number of ways including father/daughter, cousins or half brother/sister (11).

In his book Simcha concedes that there is no mention in any of the gospels or elsewhere of Jesus being married and fathering children. However based purely on the ossuaries of these two individuals and their contents, he insists that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were husband and wife and that details of this must have been recorded in code (12).

Mitzwâh Be Performed Only By Women Who Are Mother, Sister Or Wife

If there was no special relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, why would the two have been interred in the same family tomb (is there any law or tradition that requires this?). Besides this “Pharisaic rules of modesty” require that mitzwâh be performed only by women who are mother, sister or wife. One of the women performing mitzwâh in Mk. 16.1 was Mariamenou Mara. How would she have been allowed to do this if she wasn’t the wife of Jesus or perhaps even his sister? (13)

The fact that the Gospels of Matthew, John and Mark state that it was Mary Magdalene that Jesus appeared to first, is considered to be significant for several reasons. While she was considered a principle figure in Gnosticism, she was also considered to be the next most important teacher only to Jesus. Some scholars believe that Jesus chose to appear to Mary Magdalene first because of a special relationship.

The Nag Hammadi Texts Tell Us Jesus Loved Mary Magdalene More Than All The Disciples

The Nag Hammadi texts tell us that Mary Magdalene was the companion of Jesus and that he loved her “more than [all] the disciples, and used to kiss her [often] on her [mouth]”. We also learn from these texts that the other disciples were offended because of this and asked Jesus “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you as (I love) her?” (14)

In further support that Jesus was a family man, it may be mentioned that it was a “Pharisaic expectation that a Ribi be married.” (15)

As it was expected of Jewish ribis to marry, why would there be any mention of Jesus being married, unless there was special reason to record it. And those who argue against this have the burden of proving their point and the onus is not on those who endorse what was customary to Judaism (16).

In Sept 2012 Harvard University released a photo of a fourth century fragment of papyrus that quotes Jesus clearly referring to having a wife. According to divinity professor Karen L. King this is in all probability the only ancient text on this subject.

Carbon dating of this so called “Jesus Wife” fragment dates it to the 8th century, some five hundred years after the contents of the official Bible was agreed upon. While many of us think of the Bible as one “cohesive book” its contents were chosen from hundreds of texts.

While these hundreds of texts do not from part of the scriptures they at least tell us “about how communities worshiped and what was important to them.” (17)

Jesus wife fragment

“Jesus Wife” fragment


(1) Mary Magdalene (2012). Retrieved 2011, from

(2) Craig Evans, Craig & Feldman, Steven. (2007). The Tomb of Jesus? Wrong on Every Count. Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Price, Randall. (n.d.). Jesus Family Tomb Fact Sheet. Retrieved 2011, from .

(4) Pfann, Stephen J. (n.d.). Mary Magdalene Is Now Missing:
A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701. Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011, from

(6) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011, from

(7) Feuerverger, Andrey. (2008). STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF AN ARCHEOLOGICAL FIND. The Annals of Applied Statistics, Vol. 2, No. 1, 3-54

(8) Feuerverger, Andrey. (2008). STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF AN ARCHEOLOGICAL FIND. The Annals of Applied Statistics, Vol. 2, No. 1, 3-54

(9) Mary Magdalene (2012). Retrieved 2011, from

(10) Gospel of Mary. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from

(11) The Lost Tomb of Jesus. (2012).Retrieved 2011, from

(12) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from

(13) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

(14) Pagels, Elaine. (1979). The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage Books. New York .pg 17.

(15) Controversy Erupts—Again. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(16) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

(17) Jesus fragment article. Retrieved 31/10/2015 from

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) The Last Supper

(Fig 2) “Jesus wife” fragment

Was Mary Magdalene Just A Disciple Of Jesus?

Let’s try and figure out if the ossuary of Mariamne from the Talpiot tomb is the ossuary of Mary Magdalene and if so why her ossuary would have found a place in the family tomb of Jesus, while trying to establish whether or not the Talpiot tomb is Jesus’ family tomb. As referred to in the Gospel of Philip as Jesus’ koinonos, is Mary Magdalene his “companion” or “partner” and perhaps even the mother of his child? (1).

Ossuary said to be that of Mary Magdalene

Inscription on the Mary Magdalene ossuary

The inscription on the ossuary

Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala was one of Jesus’ most famous disciples but her rise to fame was after the crucifixion of Jesus. In spite of that she could well have been central to the Jesus movement but for what may have been gender bias. Based on available information her true relationship with Jesus may have been more than just another devoted disciple.

Mary Magdalene is said to have come from a place called Magdala, a town 120 miles to the north of Jerusalem. However her fame was achieved after the crucifixion. She was present at the cross while the male disciples went into hiding fearing for their own lives. Mary Magdalene was also present at the burial of Jesus and according to John 20 and Mark 16:9 she was the first to see the resurrected Jesus. The principal canonical sources of information about her are the four Gospels. However this information, with the exception of Luke, is limited to the period after the crucifixion and apocryphal sources that were written between the late 1st and early 4th centuries.

Mary Magdalene 2

Mary Magdalene Was Probably The Only Witness To The Crucifixion, Burial And Resurrection Of Jesus

In the canonical Gospels she is referred by name, though not always by the same name as a witness to three important events: the crucifixion of Jesus, his burial and his resurrection. In Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56 and John 19:25 she is named as one of the few witnesses to the crucifixion. In Mark 15:47 and Matthew 27:61 she is named together with “the other Mary” as a witness to the burial of Jesus.

Magdalene with the resurrected Jesus

Mary Magdalene – Most Mentioned Woman In The New Testament

Among the women specifically named in the New Testament the name Mary Magdalene is mentioned most often. And invariably her name is always mentioned first. This is not a coincidence. This is by design to show that Mary Magdalene held a central position not only as a disciple but also because of her special relationship to Jesus.

Apocryphal texts depict Mary Magdalene as a “visionary and leader of the early movement” and one who was loved by Jesus more than he loved the other disciples. The Gnostic texts, most of which are dated between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, portray a Mary Magdalene who is considerably different from the Mary Magdalene depicted in the canonical gospels. According to these texts she is portrayed as the special disciple of Jesus who knows more about the teachings of Jesus and is asked to impart this to the other disciples.

The Other Apostles Were Jealous Of Mary Magdalene

Because of her greater knowledge about the teachings of Jesus and her closeness to him, the Gnostic texts state that the other apostles, especially Peter, were jealous of her. In the Gospel of Mary she is portrayed as someone who knows more than the male apostles. “Are we supposed to now all turn around and listen to her? Would Jesus have spoken privately with a woman rather than openly to us? Did he prefer her to us?” This jealousy is apparent from Peter’s attack on Mary.

The Gospel of Mary purportedly written around the same period as the Gospel of Philip elevates Mary Magdalene to a position higher even than the male disciples of Jesus. Although some question the identity of the central character of these Gospels, it is generally agreed that it is Mary Magdalene.

In the Gospel of Philip, written sometime during the 2nd and 3rd centuries portrays Mary as the koinônos of Jesus – a Greek word that could mean “partner, associate, comrade or companion”. “There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister, his mother and his companion were each a Mary”

Pistis Sophia portrays Mary Magdalene as being among the chosen of Jesus. Written sometime in the 2nd century it quotes Jesus as saying “Mary, thou blessed one, whom I will perfect in all mysteries of those of the height, discourse in openness, thou, whose heart is raised to the kingdom of heaven more than all thy brethren”.

The Resurrection Of Jesus Was The Turning Point For Christianity

It cannot be denied that the resurrection of Jesus was the turning point for Christianity. This was the singular event that transformed a localized group into a major religion. And the catalyst to the movement was none other than Mary Magdalene.

This gospel also depicts Mary Magdalene as “as a teacher and spiritual guide to the other disciples. She’s not just a disciple; she’s the apostle to the apostles” (2).

It is perhaps because of this that Mary Magdalene went her separate way. There is very little known what happened to her after that. Although there are many theories about her life after Jesus’ crucifixion, all of it is speculation. No one knows for certain where she was born or when and where she died.

Mary Magdalene rose in significance with the crucifixion and resurrection narratives. Actually, the gospels say very little about her until the story reaches the day of the crucifixion. But then she suddenly becomes very prominent. She saw Jesus die on the cross, and she watched to see where his body was taken. She went back to the tomb early on Easter morning and discovered that it was empty. And the Gospel of John indicates that she was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection.

Why Was Mary Magdalene Hardly Mentioned Anywhere Else In The New Testament?

But then, without any explanation, she completely disappears from the story. The Book of Acts never mentions her, nor does Paul in any of his letters. Her sudden entry and exit during the most critical part of the story puzzles many scholars. Since she played such a significant role in the key events, why is she hardly mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament?

Evidence from outside the bible suggests a possible answer. This evidence indicates that Mary was ostracized by the other disciples after Jesus departed. One example of the possible hostility toward her can be found in Section 114 of the Gospel of Thomas, where Peter says “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life”. The Gospel of Mary also depicts friction between her and Peter. All of this suggests that Peter may have led an attempt to drive her out of the original group of believers. These first believers, who became known as the Nazarenes, lived in Jerusalem for a number of years after Jesus’ resurrection, but there is no record that Mary was ever with them.

Some scholars have suggested that Peter wanted to get rid of her because he saw her as a threat to his position as the main leader of the post-resurrection community. She could have also suffered from the general prejudice against women who tried to assert themselves in the male-dominated societies of ancient times.

Although the bible says nothing about her later life, other sources do preserve some stories about her. According to one well-known tradition, she went to southern France and lived for thirty years at a place called La Sainte-Baume. A local church there claims to have her skull and displays it to pilgrims.

During the Middle Ages she became a symbol of the virtue of repentance, due to the belief that she was a reformed harlot. She is the patron saint of Magdalen College, Oxford and Magdalene College, Cambridge. But her name was also used for the infamous Magdalen Asylums for “fallen women” in Ireland (3).

After almost 2000 years Mary Magdalene was again in the news thanks to the discovery of an ossuary with “Mariamne Mara” inscribed on it and a documentary titled the “Lost Tomb of Jesus” co-produced and broadcast on the Discovery Channel and Vision TV in Canada on March 4, 2007. Not everyone agrees with the film makers identifying this Mariamne Mara with Mary Magdalene.

The Gospels refer to Mary Magdalene as Maria about eight times. They refer to her by the Semitic name Mariam four times. However the Gospels also refer to Mary the sister of Martha and Mary the mother of Jesus using the same variations (4).

In the 51 passages of the NT there are 9 different Maries referred:
Mary, the mother of Jesus;
Mary Magdalene;
Mary, the mother of James;
Mary, the mother of Joses;
Mary, the wife of Clopas;
Mary of Bethany;
Mary, the mother of Mark;
Mary of Rome;
“other” Mary (5)

Sometimes One Mary Has Been Confused For The Other

Sometimes one Mary has been confused for the other. Besides this Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus), and the unidentified repentant woman who anointed Jesus’ feet were all thought to be the same woman. This led to the faulty conclusion that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute before she came into contact with Jesus (6).

It cannot be said with certainty that the Mariamne in the Acts of Philip refers to Mary Magdalene as this Mariamne is not attributed with any of the significant events associated with her in the Gospels – the Mary Magdalene of the Gospels is healed by Jesus, witnesses the burial of Jesus (Mark 15:40-47) and is a witness to the resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:1-8). On the flip side there is no mention in the Gospels of any of the fantastic things that the Mariamne of the Acts of Philip is supposed to have done – “such as converting talking animals and slaying a dragon!” Even if there was any reference in the Acts of Philip that could be construed as referring to Mary Magdalene not every one agrees that reference in the 4th century work written in far away Palestine about a 1st century personality can be accepted as proof (7). However in support of the claim that the Mariamne inscription of the Talpiot tomb refers to Mary Magdalene, it may be said that the only other place where she is referred by that name _ i.e Mariamne spelled with an N – is the Acts of Philip (8).


(1) Time Magazine. (Nov 20 2008). Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Retrieved 2011, from,28804,1860871_1860876_1861032,00.html

(2) Mary Magdalene. 2011. Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Secret Gospels. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(4) Evans, Craig & Feldman, Steven. (2007). The Tomb of Jesus? Wrong on Every Count. Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Layfield, Lavelle. How many Mary’s there are in the Bible? (1998). Retrieved 2011, from

(6) Saint Mary Magdalene, “The Apostle to the Apostles”. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(7) Zacharias, Danny. (2007). Judah son of Jesus, one last time. Retrieved 2011, from

(8) Tabor, James. (2008). There’s Something About Mariamne with an “N”. Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) The ossuary said to be that of Mary Magdalene

(Fig 2) The inscription on the ossuary
inscription mene+e+Mara+&oq=Mariamene+e+Mara+&gs_l=img.12…2183.2183.0.3734.….0…1ac..64 .img..1.0.0.IcoSae6rewE#imgrc=BW1R053pM2X7MM%3A

(Fig 3) Mary Magdalene q=mary+magdalene&gs_l=img.3..0l10.2891.8818.0.11225.….0…1ac.1.64.img..0 .16.1029.VTQcCWNT9eE#q=mary+magdalene&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbs=sur:fc&imgrc=ysrkeJQLIlqZ4M%3A

(Fig 4) Mary Magdalene with the resurrected Jesus q=mary+magdalene&gs_l=img.3..0l10.2891.8818.0.11225.….0…1ac.1.64.img..0 .16.1029.VTQcCWNT9eE#q=mary+magdalene&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbs=sur:fc&imgrc=WRJEuqFOfujDDM%3A

A Better Understanding Of What We Believe

The Bible as Scripture for the Church is undisputed. It is also acknowledged by a majority of the faithful as the inspired word of God. However knowing the other traditions that existed during the early centuries of the church is not a question of not believing the Bible but on the contrary it should give us a better understanding of what we believe.
This understanding comes with the knowledge of how the Canonical Gospels came to be and the reasons why the other texts sometimes referred to as apocryphal did not find a place in the official scriptures of the church.

The Synoptic Gospels

The Synoptic Gospels are so called because they are said to have a “common view”. That is the meaning of the Greek word “Synoptic”.

In the first few decades after the death of Jesus his disciples and other followers went in different directions preaching the teachings of their master. Their preaching was based on their own witness of events and the reports and testimonies – some written some oral – of others
What they preached reflected not only the teachings of Jesus but also their understanding of the unfolding of God’s work in the world, taking into account the expectations of the emerging church. Besides this, the followers of Jesus had to communicate those teachings in the language of their audience. If we assume that Jesus spoke Aramaic, then the message had to be translated from Aramaic into Greek for Hellenistic Jews and Greeks, or Coptic for Egyptians. And that was easier said than done.

In addition to this difficulty the followers of Jesus had to contend with the bigger issues of cultural background. This is apparent from instances in the Gospels where the writers stop and explain Jewish customs for the simple reason that the people for whom they were writing were not familiar with Greek. “Because of their cultural and religious background, Jews would need to hear the message in one way, while Greeks with different interests, background, and concerns would need to hear it in a different way. Even among Jews, traditional Palestinian Jews most likely needed to hear it in different terms than Hellenistic Jews (Jews who had adopted Greek culture).” (1)

Diversity Of The Gospel Tradition

All this simply suggests a diversity of the Gospel tradition even before it was even written down. The demands of the growing and spreading church encouraged, not a change in the message itself, but certainly in how it was communicated. Even if there were “original” written records or notes of Jesus’ teachings, how these teachings were presented “was also a function of both the ongoing theological reflection of the early church as well as the practical demands of proclamation to widely scattered and diverse first century audiences.” (2)

The early preaching of the gospel was quickly reduced to a selected set of core traditions that soon evolved into a rather fixed form in the church because it was repeated so often. The differences arose because that core tradition was preached in different circumstances that required adaptation of those traditions.

The reasons for the differences in the preaching of the followers of Jesus also apply to differences in the actual writing of the biblical texts. Just as the disciples had to speak to certain audiences in a language that was synchronous with their language and culture, the same was expected of the writers of the Gospels. “The Gospel writers had to translate the oral tradition into the cultural and historical context of the audience for which it was written. While we do not know for certain who these audiences were or their location, the very fact that there were a variety of Gospels written in the first and early second centuries suggests that the Gospel message was being preserved in various locations.” (3)

The Gospel writers did not have a ““master” copy of the Jesus tradition.” They instead had an assortment of Gospel messages that were in vogue for 3 to 6 decades after the death of Jesus.

The preface to Luke’s Gospel confirms this:
1 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. Luke 1:1

From this we may conclude that Luke was aware of the oral tradition that had become the core of the teachings of the church of that time. Luke may have also had access to other documents that were already in existence. Both Matthew and Luke are said to have been influenced by Mark and a document generally referred to as the Q document – a hypothetical written collection of Jesus’ sayings.

(Fig 1) Synoptic problem two-source

Differences Between John And The Synoptic Gospels:
The Gospel of John “differs significantly from the Synoptic Gospels in theme, content, time duration, order of events, and style. Only ca. 8% of it is parallel to these other Gospels, and even then, no such word-for-word parallelism occurs as we find among the Synoptic Gospels.” (4)

The differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels are because the Gospel of John represented a different Christian tradition. As a consequence of this the Gospel of John was rejected as heretical by the early Christian movement. However it was used extensively by the Gnostic Christians. Eventually this Gospel was accepted into the official canon and is now a favorite with conservative Christian groups. John was lucky that his Gospel was not axed. Others were not.

Subsequently the original copies of all the four Gospels in the Christian Scriptures were lost. Reliance was then placed on “an unknown number of hand-copied replications removed from the originals. The oldest known surviving part of a gospel dates from about 125 CE. It consists of about 50 lines from the Egerton gospel — one of the 40 or so gospels that never made it into the official canon, and whose author is unknown. Another portion of an ancient manuscript, containing part of the Gospel of John, is also dated to about 125 CE. The remaining manuscripts date to the second half of the second century CE or later.” (5)

According to biblical scholars the differences between the Synoptic Gospels in terms of content and arrangement, chronological order and theological design show that each of these Gospels had their unique theological emphasis. Besides this each of these Gospels were written for different audiences in different locations at different points in time. The word-for-word similarity in the Synoptic Gospels suggests that the writers had one common document from which they copied.

During The Early Christian Era There Were Many Christian Writings
During the early Christian movement there were many Christian writings in circulation. This raised the question: which of these are right and which of them represented the official version of the church? Eventually around 170 CE Irenaeus the leader of the church of France decided that “The heretics boast that they have many more gospels than there really are. But really they don’t have any gospels that aren’t full of blasphemy. There actually are only four authentic gospels. And this is obviously true because there are four corners of the universe and there are four principal winds, and therefore there can be only four gospels that are authentic. These, besides, are written by Jesus’ true followers.” (6)


(Fig 2) Irenaeus

Nevertheless the scholars of today do not agree with Irenaeus for the simple reason that they are not sure as to who wrote the Canonical Gospels just as they are not sure as to who wrote the Gospels trashed as heretical. What is certain is that Jesus was central to all the Canonical Gospels and “they all saw Jesus as the pivotal person, the one on whom everything depends, the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord.” (7)

However the other Gospels projected Jesus differently. He was shown as a teacher, “a figure of enlightenment, a kind of bodhisattva figure …” But the church chose the four Gospels as they show Jesus as a unique figure and this in turn gave the Catholic church the uniqueness that no other church could claim: the only source of salvation. (8)

As regards the differences between the Synoptic Gospels and the differences between them and the Gospel John there is no one answer that can definitely explain the reasons for these differences. In fact we cannot even say for sure that these are the only factual transcripts of the teachings of Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John were chosen as they were the most widely followed traditions and traditions that lasted the longest. The other Gospels – some of which may have predated the Canonical Gospels – were trashed as heretical for several reasons. Some of those Gospel were without doubt the victims in the scramble for the leadership of the emerging church.

We know from non-canonical texts that James the brother of Jesus was chosen by Jesus himself to lead the mission after his death. But he was effectively sidelined because his brand of Christianity did not suit the majority of the faithful. We know from similar texts that Jesus revealed to Mary Magdalene more secrets that he did to any of his apostles. Yet she was systematically removed from any position of significance merely because the other apostles rejected the leadership of a woman.

Some of the other Gospels – the Gnostic Gospels – hold views that are drastically different from the Canonical Gospels.

Early Christian text
(Fig 3) Early Christian text outside the Canon

To know what these other Gospels contain and the different views they hold is not an attempt to question the historical validity of the Canonical Gospels.
We have come a long way since the early days of the church to damn the literature that the church termed as apocryphal merely because they held different views. The infancy Gospels of the 2nd century and later periods though not accepted into the biblical canon are still very popular. Works such as 1 Clement and The Shepherd of Hermas were not included when the canon was formally decided in spite of their general popularity during the early centuries.
There is no harm in knowing more about what the non-canonical texts contain. If nothing else this could only serve to strengthen our faith in the Bible.

Please also read my other blogs:

James The Just – What Was He To Jesus? at 99

James – full Brother of Jesus, his step brother or cousin? at

When Did James The Brother Of Jesus Become A Disciple? at

Death Of James The Brother Of Jesus at

Consequence Of The Death Of The Brother Of Jesus at


(1), (2) & (3) Dennis Bratcher, The Literary Relationship of Matthew, Mark, and Luke

(4) & (5) B.A. Robinson,

(6), (7) & (8) Elaine H. Pagels,

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Synoptic problem two source….0…1ac.1j2.64.img..1.1.114.kTCIz4n9txk#q=Synoptic+Gospels&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbs=sur:fc&imgrc=GfiSDAkv20xYlM%3A

(Fig 2) Irenaeus

(Fig 3) Christian Text outside the Canon

Consequence Of The Death Of The Brother Of Jesus

The Wrath Of God Was So Fierce That He Destroyed The Temple Out Of Anger For What Happened To James

Origen was so totally convinced about the righteousness of James the brother of Jesus that he narrates the reaction of Flavius Josephus in his twenty volume Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus is said to have written that James was held in such high esteem because of his righteousness that people suffered such enormous misfortunes because of his execution. The wrath of God was so fierce that he even destroyed the Temple out of anger for what had happened to James the “brother of Jesus who is called Christ.” (1)


Origen a scholar and early Christian theologian

Josephus had this to say about the murder of James – from a translation by William Whiston pg. 423 “but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, (Josephus probably means the Pharisees here) they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa,] desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified: nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria (Albinus was probably already a Roman official in Egypt when he received his appointment to the governorship of Judea), and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a Sanhedrin without his consent: whereupon Albinus complied with what they had said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest”. In those days “Jesus” was a very common name. Two of the high priests of that time were called Jesus. (2)

In his book James, Brother of Jesus Robert Eisenman, states that James was the leader of the Essenes in Qumran (See fig. 2) and that his death is the main reason for the Jewish Revolt of 66 CE.

Map showing location of Qumran

Showing the location of Qumran

We know from Paul’s letters and the book of Acts that the Jerusalem church held the leadership role and that the Jewish Christian views of Jesus were the more prevalent. However after the death of James the Pauline version of Christianity overshadowed the pro-Jewish adaptation of Christianity. This transformation was so total that today hardly any Christians know that James the brother of Jesus was the leader of the first Christian community. (3)

Jewish Christianity

To distinguish Jewish Christianity from the other forms of Christianity may not be easy. However it can be said that Jewish Christianity differed from the other versions in two significant respects. One: initially all the followers of Jesus were Jewish and two: they were from the Judaea and Galilee areas. However during that period there was no such a thing as a distinctly identifiable form of Jewish Christianity. While the early form of Christianity had a blend of the variety in Judaism, later form of Christianity was more homogenous because of the pressure for standardization. By the end of the first century the majority of Christians were outside the Judaea and Galilee areas. (4)

Early Christians Were Referred To As A Jewish Sect

When the movement began, it could have been referred to as a Jewish sect. But in time Christianity became so complex that to refer to it as such would have been far from correct. On the contrary by the middle of the second century the movement was more a Gentile experience. Over time a significant difference evolved between Jewish Christianity and the more common form of Christianity. This difference was referred to as Ebionism. While Christians in the Gentile form believed that Jesus was not only the messiah but that he was also divine. Jewish Christians on the other hand while accepting the messiahship of Jesus did not accept his divinity. This is perhaps the single most significant distinction between the Jewish and Gentile forms of Christianity. Whatever the differences between the two forms of Christianity, it must be remembered that initially the only Christians were the Jewish Christians. However, the Jewish form of Christianity ceased to exist after the two Jewish wars. (5)

In the Jewish form of Christianity that James the brother of Jesus and his followers intended to promote, they preferred to “maintain the integrity of the Jesus movement”. Painter refers to the argument of Eisenman who says that to understand James better he has to be seen as the “Qumran Teacher of Righteousness”. Eisenman relates the “events and teachings” of the Righteous Teacher referred to in the Habakkuk Pesher to James the Just.

Is James The Just To The Righteous Teacher Of Qumran?

Painter explains that Eisenman is able to relate James the Just to the Teacher of Righteousness because both are righteous sufferers. According to Painter, Eisenman also relates James to the Righteous Teacher of Qumran because the two are strict adherents to the law. However Painter contends that these grounds are also comparisons to Jesus himself and perhaps even to John the Baptist. Painter also states that James is definitely not the Qumran Righteous Teacher. However he concedes that the description of the Qumran Righteous Teacher fits the role of James in the Jerusalem church and in Jewish Christianity. (6)

Besides this the Righteous Teacher was supposed to be one who would receive the “secrets and mysteries of God”. This is what Jesus must have meant when he told the Apostles that James was one to whom “heaven and earth are open”. According to Theodor H. Gaster, a renowned Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, “the Teacher of Righteousness was the spiritual leader of the community.” (7) James the Just definitely possessed this quality.

One of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 was the Habakkuk Commentary or the Pesher Habakkuk. It was found in Cave 1 in Qumran and was labeled 1QpHab. It was published in 1951. It is one of the most researched and scrutinized of the scrolls. This pesher is said to have been written sometime during the latter half of the 1st century BCE. The commentary is on the writing of Habakkuk done half a millennium earlier. This was thought of as the prophecies of Habakkuk. The commentaries attempt to relate contemporary persons to the prophecies.

The Habakkuk Commentary

According to the Habakkuk Pesher members of the Essene sect were expected to follow an individual referred to as the Teacher of Righteousness, a figure who is referred to in some of the other Dead Sea Scrolls. According to the pesher Teacher of Righteousness is an individual who is in direct communion with God and has learned the exact meaning of the scriptures. Although it is generally understood that the individual referred to as Teacher of Righteousness may never be identified, Eisenman not only draws parallels between James and Teacher of Righteousness, he believes that James was indeed considered to be this individual. (8)

The Burial of James (Also referred to as Jacob)

The first and most accurate recording of the death of Jacob (according to a New Testament translation tradition James the brother of Jesus was also referred to as Jacob) was given by Josephus which was in all likelihood referred by Hegesippus. But this account does not mention anything about the burial of Jacob. This is to be expected, as the primary task of Josephus was to write the history of Ananus the high priest and not a narration of the execution and burial of Jacob. In his work “The Jewish War” Josephus wanted to show that the perpetrators of the injustices meted out to the Jewish people were the rabble rousers and not the Jewish leadership. However although it is unlikely that someone executed for breaking the law would have been given a formal burial, Josephus explains that Ananus was removed from the office of high priest for what he did to Jacob, thereby laying the circumstances under which Jacob may have indeed been given a formal burial. (9)

The Mishnah Tractate Sanhedrin 6:5b-6a relates to persons executed by the Jewish council:

“They did not to bury him in the burial place of his fathers, but two burial places were kept in readiness by the court, one for those who were beheaded or strangled, and one for those who were stoned or burnt. When the flesh had wasted away they gathered together the bones and buried them in their own place.”

Under this provision it is quite likely that they first buried Jacob in one such place reserved for just such a situation and then later his bones were buried together with his own in a family tomb probably in an ossuary.

Of the different accounts of the execution of Jacob referred by Eusebius the account of Hegesippus alone refers to the burial of Jacob. Hegesippus notes “In this way he [Jacob] suffered martyrdom. They buried him on the spot, by the Temple, and his gravestone is still there by the Temple. He became a true witness to Jews and Greeks alike that Jesus is the Christ”. It is quite likely that Hegesippus’ account of the execution and burial of Jacob is accurate because he writes only about this one execution and no other. (10)

James the Just became a true witness to Jews and Greeks alike that Jesus is the Christ

Hegesippus does not specify as to who buried Jacob, but is instead vague by simply referring to those who buried Jacob as “they” probably because it was obvious that “they” referred to those who executed him. According to Jewish Law even criminals were buried “before the going down of the sun” (Jewish War 4.5.2). (11)

The law regarding the burial of men condemned to death as explained in the Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin is confirmed in three other sources: the Talmud, the Tosefta, and the Midrash Rabbah.

Consider the following two passages:

“And they began to stone him as he did not die immediately when cast down; but turning round, he knelt down, saying, ‘I beseech Thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“Thus they were stoning him, when one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, a son of the Rechabites spoken of and by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, ‘Stop! What are you doing? The Just is praying for you.”

“Thus one of them, a fuller, beat out the brains of the Just with the club he used to beat out clothes. Thus he suffered martyrdom, and they buried him on the spot where his tombstone still remains, close to the Temple. He became a faithful witness; both to the Jews and to the Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. Immediately after this, Vespasian invaded and took Judea.” (12)

Two facts become obvious from this: One that “they” referred to the executioners and that not everyone in the crowd was a rabble rouser. There must have been some in the crowd of onlookers who sympathized with Jacob but were too afraid to show their compassion.

That there were sympathizers is also apparent from the following account of Hegesippus:

When Jacob (James) was questioned by the Scribes and Pharisees as to what the door to Jesus is, he answered them saying that they should not question him about Jesus the Son of Man as he sits in heaven at the right hand of the “Great Power”. Many in the crowd were confirmed, and glorified the testimony of James, and said ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’

And so James was buried in the graveyard meant for those who were burned or stoned to death. It is quite likely that he was buried by his sympathizers with the approval of his executioners who were as keen as anyone one else to adhere to the Jewish law relating to the burial of those condemned to death. The fact that Hegesippus notes that a gravestone was put where James was buried supports the claim that he was buried by his supporters. Certainly a gravestone would not have been erected by his executioners. (13)

Were Essenes the supporters of James the brother of Jesus?

James and the other early believers in Jerusalem still considered themselves as Jews. Like Jesus, James was a Jew and, in line with Old Testament prophecies, he believed that Jesus was an ordinary man chosen by God to lead his people. This was very different to the idea championed by Paul that Jesus was a divine being, born of God himself.

No historical evidence proving a relationship between the Essenes and early Christianity has ever been established. The striking similarities between the two faiths, however, strongly suggest that the earliest Christians were influenced by the Essenes. However scholars have identified similarities in principles, scriptures and religious practices between the Essenes and early Christianity and are convinced that the later evolved from the former. (14)

The early believers of Jesus in Jerusalem continued to think of themselves as Jews. And the early believers were basically Essenes. Like the Essenes they believed, in accordance to Old Testament prophecies, that Jesus was an ordinary man selected by God to lead his people. This was in line with the conviction of Jewish Christians that Jesus was a messiah but not divine. James too – initially at least – held a similar belief. (15)

In addition to this commonality, like the Essenes, James challenged the authority of the “priestly hierarchy of the Sadducees”

What is certain is that the later church took away some of the importance of James in the establishment of the early church. The fact remains that he was the one chosen by Jesus to head his mission after his death and not Paul.

Besides it became convenient for the later church to showcase Paul. However the fact remains that he was the one who added a messianic dimension to the personality of Jesus and caused much of the controversy.

Probably the most seminal of the controversies authored by Paul is the physical resurrection of Jesus. This, in spite of the fact, by his own narration, Paul saw the resurrected Jesus as a spirit and not in flesh and blood. Since Paul made this dogma the basic tenet on which Pauline Christianity was founded and accepted by the later church, there can be no compromise about this claim.

Did The Later Church Take Away The Importance Given To James By Jesus Himself?

So did the later church take away the importance given to James by Jesus himself? Was James the blood-brother of Jesus and then made step-brother /cousin only to be sidelined and give way to Pauline Christianity because it suited the later church better?

From the information gathered about James the brother of Jesus we are given to understand that the leadership of his mission was given to James directly by Jesus. We have also seen that this leadership was hijacked by Paul and the others and the original message of Jesus was modified to suit a predominantly Gentile audience. There is no doubt that James was later sidelined and his leadership of the early church was subsequently trivialized. If nothing else he deserved to be buried together with Jesus.

Be that as it may but we still have to figure out how the ossuary of James landed in the Talpiot tomb, if indeed it did, when he was supposed to have been buried where he fell, which is a couple of miles from Talpiot.

Please also read my other blogs:

James The Just – What Was He To Jesus? at 99

James – full Brother of Jesus, his step brother or cousin? at

When Did James The Brother Of Jesus Become A Disciple? at

Death Of James The Brother Of Jesus at

A Better Understanding Of What We Believe at


(1) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 202.

(2) Ingermanson, Randy. (1999-2012). Retrieved 2012, from

(3) The First and Second Jewish Revolutionary Wars with Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from

(4) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 228.

(5) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 228.

(6) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 234.

(7) Shirts, Kerry A.(1992). Who Was the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Retrieved 2011, from

(8) Habakkuk Commentary. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from

(9) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 315.

(10) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 317.

(11) Jasondulle. (2011) Biblical Archaeology 39: The Crucified Man. Retrieved 2011, from

(12) Hegesippus as quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book II, xxiii

(13) Mock, Robert D. (1999). The Murder of James the Just (62 CE) And the Final Years of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011, from

(14) Shirts, Kerry A. (1992). Who Was the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls? Retrieved 2011, from

(15) Leafe, David. (2006). Did Jesus Have a Secret Family? Retrieved 2011, from
Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Origen a scholar and early Christian theologian

(Fig 2) Map showing location of Qumran

(Fig 3) The Habakkuk Commentary

Death Of James The Brother Of Jesus

Although there is no mention about the death of James the brother of Jesus in the New Testament, there are non-biblical sources detailing the end of the brother of Jesus. The earliest report regarding the death of James is by Josephus (c37-c100) Antiquities; published approximately in 93 CE. Porcius Festus who was the Roman procurator of Judea died around the 60s CE. And in his stead Caesar sent Lucceius Albinus. At the same time Caesar removed Joseph from the position of high priesthood and in his place appointed Ananus, who was the son of Ananus.

According to Josephus, the younger Ananus was said to be very arrogant with a bad temper. The new high priest was a Sadducee who was said to be both harsh and rigid in his judgment of wrongdoers. Knowing that the new procurator was still on his way, he convened the Sanhedrin of judges and accused James and a few of his followers of breaking the law. He decided that these men be stoned to death (1).

James And His Companions Are Stoned To Death

As a result James the brother of Jesus and his companions were stoned to death. But to most of the citizens who were witnesses to the punishment meted out to James, this appeared as a gross injustice.

james is stoned to death

These citizens wrote to King Agrippa about this miscarriage of justice and some of them also went and met Albinus who was on his way from Alexandria. Albinus wrote to Ananus about his displeasure at what had been done and warned him of dire consequences if he should repeat something like this. However King Agrippa took sterner action and removed Ananus from the position of high priesthood (2).

Since the interregnum between Festus and Albinus can be accurately dated, we can to a degree of certainty say that James was executed in the year 62 CE. At this time Josephus was a priest in the temple and his account of the execution of James is probably an eye witness version (3).

The manner of the execution of James has probably been explained in greater detail by Clement. According to him James was first thrown down from the pinnacle of the temple before being stoned and then when his executioners found that he was still alive one of them hit him on the head with a fullers club.

Account Of The Execution Of James By Hegesippus

However the account of the execution of James by Hegesippus who lived a little after the time of the apostles is generally considered the most accurate. In the fifth book of his memoirs he notes that after the crucifixion of Jesus, James his brother was referred to as James the Just to distinguish him from the other James’ who were also involved in the church. Hegesippus states that James took charge of the church in conjunction with the apostles.

Then there came a time when the ruling elite, Jews, Scribes and Pharisees began to feel that there was a mood of uprising among the common people. So they went to James and pleaded with him to address the people when they gather for the feast of the Passover and persuade them not to be carried away because of the teachings of Jesus. They said that they had come to him because he is respected by both the ruling class and the common people. They asked him to stand on the pinnacle of the temple so that everyone who came to celebrate the Passover will see and hear him.

And when James stood on the pinnacle, the Scribes and Pharisees asked him about “the crucified one”. James answered them saying “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven”. When the Scribes and Pharisees realized that this was not what they wanted James to say, they discussed among themselves “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him.’ And they cried out, saying, ‘Oh! oh! the just man is also in error.’ And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah”. Scribes and Pharisees went up to the steeple and threw down James after which he was stoned and dealt a deathly blow with a fullers club. It is said that James was buried at the spot where he fell.

According to Hegesippus the grave and gravestone of James the brother of Jesus were still there by the Sanctuary at the time of his writing his account of the death of James. The site of the grave was identified as a section of the Jehoshaphat Valley, a section of the Kidron Valley. However according to Painter this could not have been the location of James’ grave for the simple reason that according to Jewish law burials were prohibited inside the old city (4). The Talmud states that no tannery, grave, or carcass may be placed within 50 ells of a human dwelling (5). (See fig. 2)

According to Painter, this error in the account of Hegesippus was in all likelihood because while he may have known the Jerusalem of his time, neither he nor Eusebius could have known the old city and its Temple. When Hegesippus describes James being thrown down from the parapet of the sanctuary, he must have meant “the eastern wall of the Temple mount”. If this is what happened then James would have been stoned and hit with the fullers club nearby the burial ground in the Jehoshaphat Valley (6). There is another account of the execution of James and this is by Clement. According to him James was pushed down from the steeple of the temple and delivered a deathblow with a laundryman’s tool. While all the three accounts are a little different from each other, it would appear that the account of Hegessipus may have been written later than purported because he tries to distinguish between the Jews, the scribes and the Pharisees; a tendency to blame all Jews for the tragedies that happened to early Christians (7).

Jerusalem at the time of Jesus

Jerusalem at the time of Jesus showing the Temple. The Kidron Valley is referred to in the Bible as the “Valley of Jehoshaphat”.

Another important difference between the accounts of Hegesippus and Josephus is the year in which James was executed. Hegesippus states that Vespasian captured Jerusalem immediately after the execution of James. Since the siege of Jerusalem occurred sometime during 67 CE, it would mean that the execution of James was also around that year. However as stated by Josephus the execution of James occurred in 62 CE and this is probably the correct date because it has been corroborated by Eusebius (8).

Please also read my other blogs:

James The Just – What Was He To Jesus? at 99

James – full Brother of Jesus, his step brother or cousin? at

When Did James The Brother Of Jesus Become A Disciple? at

Consequence Of The Death Of The Brother Of Jesus at

A Better Understanding Of What We Believe at


(1) Tabor, Dr. James.D. (1999). Essays on James the Brother of Jesus. Retrieved 2011 from

(2) Thiering, Dr. Barbara. (2007). Ananus the Younger. Retrieved 2011 from

(3) Thiering, Dr. Barbara. (2007). Ananus the Younger. Retrieved 2011 from

(4) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 129.

(5) Bava Batra 2:9.

(6) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 130

(7) MacDonald, Kevin . (1998). What are the Origins of Anti-Semitism?
Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism. Praeger Publishers, Westport CT.

(8) Painter, John. (2004). Just James, The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. Columbia. University of South Carolina Press, pg 130.
Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) James is stoned to death

(Fig 2) Map of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus