Rollston on the Misprision of Mara at Talpiot

Chris has a useful post at the ASOR blog today titled


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.

One thought on “Rollston on the Misprision of Mara at Talpiot

  1. Jo anna Wail 20 Mar 2012 at 3:36 pm

    when it comes to gender issues, I’m not at all surprised at their misinterperting or misreading the name. When Simcha did the so called ‘Jesus Nails’ doc (Easter 2011) claiming that he, yes he, found the nails used to crucify Jesus in a tomb in which I helped excavate and did the anthropological research, he claimed that we, after decades of experience actually were mistaken in which ossuary the nails should have come from. He then with his yrs of experience, like the James ossuary which they U-Hauled from tomb to tomb, decided that the nails of Caiphias should have come from an adjacent ossuary.Perhaps so as he even had a press conference to announce this important finding. So giving him the benefit of the the doubt I then turned to my published anthropological report I saw that the High Priest Caiphias, according to Simcha’s ‘research’ actually was an adult female, as no other adult remains were recovered from the ossuary. I therefore was forced to assume that he (Caiphias) may actually may have been a she, cross dressing.


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