Chris has a useful post at the ASOR blog today titled
PHILOLOGY, ‘MARA,’ AND THE ‘JESUS DISCOVERY’ BOOK AND DOCUMENTARY
in which he takes apart the argument that ‘Mara’ is Mary. In particular, he shows that Tabor and Jacobovici’s reading of Mara is skewed and inaccurate.
There is no discussion by Tabor and Jacobovici about the fact that mara is also a very fine masculine form of this Aramaic word (especially the determined state, but even in the absolute state).
After meticulously presenting his evidence, he continues
… although the name mara (to use the Greek spelling) might sometimes be used as a shortened form of the name or title martha’, the fact remains that it is not methodologically permissible to assume that mara is always a feminine (i.e., a shortened form of martha’). After all, as discussed above, the form mr’ (mara) is most readily understood as an Aramaic masculine (cf. also Rahmani 1994, #561). Thus, any historical construct built on the assumption that mara is definitively feminine must be considered a tenuous case indeed. For this reason, I find it to be quite problematic that Tabor and Jacobovici assume that the occurrences of mara on these ossuaries must be feminine. The philological evidence demonstrates decisively that mara can readily be a masculine form and so this certainly merited a discussion byTabor and Jacobovici in these recent publications.
In short, it is plausible to contend that in Talpiyot 1981 (i.e., Talpiyot B), the word mara refers to a man, not a woman.
And then there’s more. There’s just nothing left of Tabor’s argument. Not concerning the inscription. Not concerning the iconography. And now, not even concerning the interpretation of ‘mara’. Tabor/Jacobovici have had their entire argument weighed in the balances and it has been found terribly wanting.