Miriam, granddaughter of Caiaphas

When I was a kid I always said I wanted to be an archaeologist. After a while I gave that idea up because it wasn’t realistic as a career option, so I thought. How ironic that I ended up studying music, theology and philosophy!

Anyway, this is one of the examples of why archaeology is so cool – seeing how it ties into the lives of biblical figures.

Israeli scholars have confirmed the authenticity of a 2,000-year-old burial ossuary bearing the name of a relative of the high priest Caiaphas, who is well known to Christians as a rival of Jesus. The ossuary – a stone chest for storing bones – bears an inscription with the name “Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiapha, priest of Ma’azya from Beit Imri.”
The High Priest known as Caiaphas was an adversary of Jesus (Yeshua) and played a key role in his crucifixion, according to the Christian bible.
The Yeshua mentioned in the ossuary is not to be confused with the Christian bible’s Jesus, as the name was a common Jewish one at the time.
The Israel Antiquities Authority says the ossuary was seized from tomb robbers three years ago. It is believed to have been taken from a burial site in the Valley of Ela in Judea. The IAA says in Wednesday’s statement that microscopic tests have confirmed the inscription is “genuine and ancient.”
Read more about it at Arutz Sheva, Israel National News. An ossuary is a small box containing a piece of bone belonging to the deceased.

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25 thoughts on “Miriam, granddaughter of Caiaphas

  1. Additional testing? What? Is there a reason for doubt here? I’m a little surprised by that, to be honest, Paul.

    Are you suspicious of these Israeli scientists, Paul? There was a find, it was sent for testing, and the testing confirmed authenticity.

    Are you perhaps being more resistant because of the biblical connection?

  2. @ Glenn, no I’d question ANY archaeological ‘find’ devoid of a stratigraphic context.

    I’d also turn the question around – if it was an archaeological find that raised questions about the Bible would you accept it on the basis of the current tests ?

    I wouldn’t.

    ANE fakes are notorious. What have the tests actually shown ?

    Here is an artifact of the right material, of the right age inscribed with markings that match some names from the Biblical text.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaun_Greenhalgh

    Would you like to guess how many “experts” they managed to fool ?

    In archaeology – context is everything.

  3. Paul, minor point: this would not be an ANE artifact.

    More to the point, the Israel Antiquities Authority is the same group that controversially concluded that the inscription on the James Ossuary was a forgery. So it’s not like these guys are prone to confirming Christian bias.

    Perhaps further tests might disprove or further confirm its authenticity. It’s just a neat find that won’t make or break anybody’s faith either way. I don’t suppose that anybody actually doubts that Caiaphas really existed.

  4. @ Ronnie – the Christian bias ? What has that got to do with anything ?

    ######## This is archaeology.########

    If the thing is what it is said the be then it is that thing regardless of whatever baggage that may or may not carry.

    The question is – is it that thing ?

    The track record for artifacts (and the ANE quibble is being REALLY picky – shall we simply call it an ancient Levant artifact ?) that have no stratigraphy is appalling with a known and prolific industry providing fakes.

    Now if this artifact was properly excavated during a bona fide dig on an undisturbed site with good stratigraphy then I’d be more interested, but as it stands it’s one for Fox News.

  5. the Christian bias ? What has that got to do with anything?

    You implied that this is a reason people believe the ossuary to be authentic, twice. First, by saying that these finds “play to the wants of the people” (obviously referring to Christians), second, by implying that Glenn would not accept the find as authentic if it somehow contradicted something in the Bible. Please don’t pretend that’s not the case, Paul.

    and the ANE quibble is being REALLY picky

    I explicitly said that it was a minor point, so don’t be so sensitive. I thought the correction would be helpful, considering that you were at best centuries off. Apparently you can’t stand to be corrected, forgive me.

    Now if this artifact was properly excavated during a bona fide dig on an undisturbed site with good stratigraphy then I’d be more interested, but as it stands it’s one for Fox News.

    I know very little about archaeology, but my crazy suspicion is that IAA has more expertise in determining artifact authenticity than “Paul Baird.” My hunch is also that nobody is interested in your opinion on the matter.

    I could be wrong though.

  6. I don’t really get why Christian bias would lead people to treat this artefact as genuine, since it really doesn’t confirm anything interesting about Christianity.

    I do suspect, however, that the mere connection to biblical people (albeit an unimportant connection) is driving the scepticism of one person here.

  7. I’m a bit shocked that I’m having to do this given Glenns phd and all.

    The area in question has a thriving in industry in providing fakes that ‘people’ want. People meaning Jews, Christians, Muslims, anyone interested in Egyptology or the archaeology of the Levant and being presented with that eureka find that isn’t too blatant and not that expensive. You assumed that I was solely referring to Christianity – talk about being full of yourselves. Other groups are interested in artifacts from the region too.

    The Bibilical connection is important to YOU, hence YOU mentioned the find.

    I’m trying to urge caution, that’s all.

    @ Ronnie – thanks for the genetic fallacy by the way.

  8. “I’m a bit shocked that I’m having to do this given Glenns phd and all.”

    Oh pish, this sort of rhetorical rubbish makes me just switch off – as I did as soon as I reached the end of that sentence. I didn’t even read the rest of your comment. You may as well be John Loftus when you start playing those games.

  9. I wonder if Paul Baird would find some point of disagreement with you if you did a blog post claiming the sky was blue.

  10. I have more patience than Glenn. Or maybe I’m just a masochist 🙂

    You assumed that I was solely referring to Christianity

    Well yes, in this case you obviously were referring solely to Christians. You didn’t say “people,” you said “the people”, referring not to just any individual person, but the Christian public who, in your opinion, desperately “wants” artifacts like this to be authentic, and so hastily accepts any report that the artifact is authentic (without prudentially waiting for the “stratigraphic context” that Paul Baird deems essential).

    It was only when I pointed out that the IAA would have no reason to confirm the Christian bias (and indeed has a record of doing just the opposite) that you started to backpedal and pretend that this was not what you were implying. Yes Paul, the Muslim and Jewish “people” want this artifact to be authentic. The vast majority of them could not care less, and you know it.

    Ronnie – thanks for the genetic fallacy by the way.

    Don’t be silly. I stated, 1. The fact that the IAA has more expertise than you (the obvious implication being people should trust it over you on issues of archaeology) and 2. that people probably don’t care about your opinions regarding the authenticity of archaeological finds.

    I never said or implied that because an idea originated with you that it is therefore false. In fact, in comment 4 I explicitly mentioned the possibility that further tests would show the ossuary to be a fake, which means that I’m open the possibility that your suspicion is in fact well-founded.

    Voice of reason indeed!

  11. @james – no, I wouldn’t disagree with Glenn if he made that statement.

    @glenn – are you likely to do so ? it might start a disconcerting trend of exchanges between us. I’m not in the business of gainsaying your views, although you seem to think that I am. One of us must be right. And in terms of being ‘full of oneself’ let’s remember that good ole humourous post you did a while ago. It’s ok to hurl the brickbats, Glenn, but you’ve also got to field the returns sometimes too.

    @ronnie – in my first post I say “the people” as in people wanting to be handed nice little artifacts, tied up with a pink ribbon that happen to fall within their field of interest. Christians do not have a monopoly on gullibility – it’s very common and I gave a celebrated UK example fraud in the antiquarian market – did you read it all ? They made a great deal of money, without any bias (all money is good money), creating the artifacts ‘the people’ wanted to find.

    I thought you weren’t interested in my opinion anyway ?

    I’ll look forward to Glenns “The sky is blue” post in due course.

  12. in my first post I say “the people” as in people wanting to be handed nice little artifacts, tied up with a pink ribbon that happen to fall within their field of interest. Christians do not have a monopoly on gullibility – it’s very common

    Ok Paul, you weren’t referring specifically Christians in this blog post. “I believe you.”

    I thought you weren’t interested in my opinion anyway ?

    I am indeed not interested in your opinion about the authenticity of artifacts, so what you thought is correct.

    Moving right along..

  13. Paul: Surely you can to find some angle to be contentious about. I have faith in you. I once heard an atheist physicist claim that 2+2 = 5, so finding an angle to be disagreeable on with that whole ‘sky is blue’ hypothesis should be a breeze. Never underestimate the power of an atheist and his bile.

  14. I’m sure there’s an easier way to critique Paul’s strange interjections, without making generalizations. Although the comment about bile does reflect a common experience we have on the internets.

  15. Well, that’s all very interesting.

    Firstly, @Ronnie – believe me or not – I don’t care. My line of argument remains valid. Making sweeping judgements based on one artifact that has no stratigraphic context is dangerous, particularly when it fits your bias.

    Secondly, @James – Glenn is posting stuff on the Web, so are you suggesting that I should let anything that I disagree with just slide ? If Glenn doesn’t want my comments then the answer is simple – disable comments or enable comment moderation, both of which say more about the blogger than any commenter. Care to name the atheist physicist and the context by the way ?

    Thirdly, @Matt – strange interjections ? Please do critique. 🙂

    I’m still waiting for this promised news from Glenn that the sky is blue.

  16. @ Glenn

    “Anyway, this is one of the examples of why archaeology is so cool – seeing how it ties into the lives of biblical figures.”

    That’s the sweeping judgement. Hope that helps.

  17. How is that a sweeping judgement? A sweeping judgement is where one makes a judgement that indiscriminately applies to a whole range of different cases. Saying that this is an example of an archaeological find that ties into the lives of biblical figures is not sweeping in any way at all.

    Hope this helps, now you can use better England. 🙂

  18. Making sweeping judgements based on one artifact that has no stratigraphic context is dangerous, particularly when it fits your bias.

    “the Christian bias ? What has that got to do with anything ?”

    Is this Ken Perrott’s sockpuppet account?

  19. Paul, yeah, it’s a bad time of year, I have two speaking events already lined up in Auckland (one conference in mid July, one other event in August), and couldn’t afford to take any more time off for the one in the city I live in! When it doesn’t rain it pours, it seems.

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