The Bottom Line

Written by Michael Moore

January 29, 2008

On the “Jesus Dynasty Blog”, James Tabor had some issues with the Duke University Statement, one of which bears upon the epigraphy panel:

2. In fact, epigraphers at the conference contested the reading of the inscription as “Mariamene.” Furthermore, Mary Magdalene is not referred to by the Greek name Mariamene in any literary sources before the late second-third century AD.

It is the case that two epigraphers at the conference disagreed with L. Rahmani’s reading of Mariamene, but it should be pointed out that those two, Stephen Pfann and Jonathan Price, also disagree with one another in significant ways.

Actually this is not at all true. Jonathan Price and I agreed on the reading of every letter in the inscription: M-A-P-I-A-M-H-K-A-I-M-A-P-A.

Prof. Price has since emphasized, “the ‘Mariamene’ ossuary does not say Mariamene at all; I thought that was clear from my own presentation, and the correct reading is supported by the editors of BE and SEG, who are among the most experienced Greek epigraphers in the world”

He explained that the reading could be either MARIAMH KAI MARA or MARIAM H KAI MARA. “Mariame and Mara” or “Mariam, who is also Mara”.


“Whichever reading, MARIAMH KAI MARA or MARIAM H KAI MARA is accepted, both of which are extremely common first century names, neither is MARIAMHNOU, with an ‘N’ (said to be the typical name of Mary Magdalene by the filmmakers).” (Price and Pfann)

MARIAMH is by far the most common Greek form of the name “Maria” found inscribed on the ossuaries. There is therefore no reason to suggest that the ossuary had any connection with the Mary Magdalene of either the canonical Gospels or the Gnostic traditions.



SEG 46 1996 — Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum.

BÉ 1998 — «Bulletin épigraphique», in Revue des études grecques (Paris).

S. Pfann, “A Reassessment of CJO 703: Mary Magdalene has left the Room” Near Eastern Archaeologist 70 (2007).

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