The Ossuary Of Mariamene, Who Is (Also Called) Mara
The first of the six ossuaries that were inscribed was numbered IAA 80-500. Rahmani numbered the same ossuary as 701 in his catalogue of ossuaries in the possession of the State of Israel. This ossuary was decorated and had the name “Mariamene, who is (also called) Mara” inscribed in Greek (See fig. 2).
New Testament scholar James Tabor and his associates try to explain away the fact that this ossuary was alone inscribed in Greek by claiming that the small Jewish town of Migdal/Magdala/Tarichaea on the Sea of Galilee (Mary Magdalene’s hometown “an important trading center” Greek was the common language of communication. This contention, some claim is incorrect, since in those days, only the upper classes were familiar with Greek, whereas the common people used only Aramaic (1).
Amos Kloner commented that “The name Mariamene [is] a variant of the name (Miriam, Maryam) and (Marya). [This name] is inscribed on more than twenty ossuaries in the Israel State Collections.” These names “are the most common feminine names of the Second Temple period.” Kloner and Rahmani translate the inscription on this ossuary as “Mariamne, (who is also called) Mara” (2). Tal Ilan also endorsed the commonness of this name saying that Mariam is used 80 times. Mara, an abbreviation of Martha, is used as a second name. She goes on the say that this name too “is common in the Jewish feminine onomasticon.” Mara is recorded eight times in the onomasticon of names (3).
Ossuary said to be that of Mary Magdalene (Fig. 2)
Of the two Marys whose ossuaries were recovered from the tomb, it may be reasonable to assume that one of them is the mother of Jesus and the other Mariamene is not his sister.
Not everyone agrees that this is the ossuary of Mary Magdalene. Tabor and his associates interpret the word “Mara” on the ossuary they claim is that of Mary Magdalene, as the Aramaic for “master” elevating her to the status of “teacher” and “leader”. They conclude that the inscription on the ossuary actually denotes “The Honored Teacher Mariamne” (4).
Stephen J. Pfann, President of the Board of Directors of the University of the Holy Land, cites lexical problems and “elements of the signum formula” to argue that the Talpiot ossuary cannot be that of Mary Magdalene. “A signum is a term used for an added second personal name, like a middle name or alias.” He claims that the “KAI” on this ossuary is used to connect two different names i.e Mariame and Mara, with the “KA” being used as the equivalent of “AND”. He cites the example of ossuary CJO 490 where KAI is used to do just this.
Pfann argues that the first part of the inscription “Mariame” was written in “the common Greek documentary script of the period” when the bones of the first woman were interred and whereas the second and third part show cursive elements that are not there in the first part. This he claims is the proof that the “Mariame” and the Kai Mara” parts of the inscription were written by two different scribes at different times (5).
Some have indeed interpreted the Mara (Ma/ra) as an abbreviated form for Martha, this fact being borne out by similar inscriptions on other ossuaries. Given that the Greek form of Mariamne (Mariamh/nou) is in the genitive case (of the dimunitive form Mariamh/non), the inscription could be interpreted “Mariamne’s (daughter) Mara (or Martha).” Kloner and Rahmani interpret the inscription on this ossuary to mean “Mariamne, (who is also called) Mara.” Besides this some scholars think that because of her knowledge of the Greek language Mary Magdalene could have possibly been the teacher of Hellenist Jews. However other scholars contend that if she was indeed the wife of Jesus her ossuary would have also been inscribed in Hebrew just as the Ossuary of Jesus. Because of this, these scholars believe that the Talpiot tomb was the resting place of probably unrelated individuals of different ethnicity (6).
Mary Magdalene Was Disliked By The Other Disciples After Jesus Departed
Extra-biblical sources suggest that Mary Magdalene was disliked by the other disciples after Jesus departed. One example of this aversion 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. Some scholars believe that this compelled Mary Magdalene to lead her own Greek speaking group. If this is correct, it would explain the Greek inscription on her ossuary.
Based on the special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and the prominence given to her in extra biblical texts, the makers of the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” concluded that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.
Based on the work of Prof. François Bovon of Harvard University relating to the Acts of Philip, the makers of the documentary state that Mary Magdalene’s name in the Acts was “Mariamne” and that this is the correct name of the historical Mary Magdalene of the fisrt century.
Prof. François Bovon of Harvard University reasoned that there could be a link between Mary Magdalene and the Mariamne inscription on the Talpiot ossuary because the name Mariamne was used in the apocryphal Acts of Philip. However the Acts of Philip is not unequivocal about this. http://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/Pfann.pdf. Subsequently Prof. Bovon has stated that he is not sure that the Mariamne in the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene. (7). In addition to this, Prof. Bovon in a letter to the Society of Biblical Literature stated that his comments were misused (8).
However, according to other sources, based on the Acts of Philip, Professor Bovon is said to have stated that “I do not believe that Mariamne is the real name of Mary of Magdalene. Mariamne is, besides Maria or Mariam, a possible Greek equivalent, attested by Josephus, Origen, and the Acts of Philip, for the Semitic Myriam.”
Professor Bovon was also of the opinion that Mariamne of the Acts was presented as the sister of both Philip of Bethsaida and Martha of Bethany and that this Mariamne later evolved as the Gnostic sage and evangelist who was represented as Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and the Pistis Sofia. It is these apocryphal stories that allude to a close liaison between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and which give her importance in the nascent church. Although Professor Bovon did not categorically state that Mariamne of the Acts is the historical character of the first century, the makers of the documentary concluded that Mariamne of the Acts of Philip and Mary Magdalene of the first century are one and the same. It was also on the basis of apocryphal sources that they concluded that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and even produced a family (9).
In addition to this, the Acts of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, depict Mary Magdalene as an apostle, a teacher and a master “in her own right”. Some interpret the Greek inscription on her ossuary as “Mary, known as the master” (10).
Some Scholars Claim That Two Names Were Inscribed On The Ossuary
Some scholars claim that the two names inscribed on the ossuary should not be read together as “Mariamne Mara” but instead as “Mariamne and Mara”. This claim they say is supported by “similar even identical, forms in Greek papyri (for example, P.Oslo 2.47; P.Oxy. 2.399; 4.745; P.Columbia 18a; and, from Palestine, 5/6Hev 12; 5/6Hev 16; and XHev/Seiyal 63 and 69). And, in fact, there is another ossuary, at Dominus Flevit, in which the names “Martha and Mary” are inscribed, thus providing an example where the names of two women are given” (11).
As for the claim that Mara means “Master” or “Teacher” these scholars refute this saying that there is no other example where the word Mara is used to denote a title. It is also claimed that “Mariamne Mara” actually refers to the names of two different women indicating that this particular ossuary contained the bones of two women as was sometimes the practice. Besides, there is no other corroborative artifact where “Mara” is used to refer to a title. Even the Aramaic Mara is normally used in the masculine (12).
Craig A Evans of Acadia Divinity College is of the opinion “given that the Greek form of Mariamne (Mariamh/nou) is in the genitive case (of the diminutive form Mariamh/non), the inscription could be interpreted “Mariamne’s (daughter) Mara (or Martha).” Kloner and Rahmani translate the inscription on the ossuary as: Mariamne, (who is also called) Mara” (13).
Please also read my blogs:
The Talpiot Tomb – An Accidental Discovery at bit.ly/1mrgdgQ
Jesus And Mary His Mother – Are These Their Ossuaries? at http://bit.ly/1mF9sbx
Judah – Was He The Son Of Jesus And Mary Magdalene? at http://bit.ly/1Z4LNO0
(1) Magness, Jodi. (2007). Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered? Retrieved 2011, from http://sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?articleId=640
(2) Freeman, David Noel. (2007). Burning Issues: Ya•aqov Ossuary. Retrieved 2011, from, http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Yaaqov%20Ossuary.htm
(3) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/04/04/so-called-jesus-tomb
(4) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm
(5) Pfann, Stephen J. (2007). Mary Magdalene Is Now Missing:, A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701, Retrieved 2011, from http://www.uhl.ac/MariameAndMartha/
(6) Magness, Jodi. (2007). Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered? Retrieved 2011, from http://sbl-site.org/publications/article.aspx?articleId=640
(7) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm
(9) Pfann, Stephen J. (n.d.). Mary Magdalene Is Now Missing: A Corrected Reading of Ossuaries Cjo 701 and CJO 108*. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.uhl.ac/MariameAndMartha.pdf
(10) Younker, Randall W. (2007). The Jesus Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/documents/Jesus%20Tomb.htm
(11) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm
(12) Evans, Craig & Feldman, Steven. (2007). The Tomb of Jesus? Wrong on Every Count. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bib-arch.org/scholars-study/jesus-tomb-02-b.asp
(13) Evans, Dr. Craig. A. (n.d). The Tomb of Jesus and Family? Second Thoughts. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.craigaevans.com/tombofjesus.htm
(Fig 3) Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married? https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=639&q=Migdal+on+the+Sea+of+Galilee+&oq=Migdal+on+the+Sea+of+Galilee+&gs_l=img.12…2260.11797.0.29218.104.22.168.0.0.0.93.222.214.171.124….0…1ac.1j2.64.img..3.0.0.eRLbK4761_Q#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=Jesus+and+Mary+Magdalene+were+husband+and+wife&imgrc=OwTPH21DbRP1SM%3A