The Jesus Son of Joseph Inscription Part 3

I found posted over on the NT Gateway Weblog a wonderful illustration of how the inscription was broken down by Frank Moore Cross which pretty much agrees, letter for letter, with how I was able to pull “Yeshua” out of the tangle:

Frank Moore Cross’ interpretation
(click to enlarge)

My interpretation
(click to enlarge)

The broken down illustration has been cleaned up to a very large extent and is much easier to read. However, there is one thing that I find myself disagreeing on, and that is the interpretation of bar (“son of”). I’ve noticed three things:

  1. The supposed bet does not have a top. In the illustration, a small swash is added.
  2. What the cleaned up drawing claims as a resh looks too much like an informal Herodian bet.
  3. The downwards stroke has been ignored in the cleaned up illustration.

First, you’ll notice that the cleaned up image has a very small swash added to the top of the supposed bet where none of the other line drawings or photographs of the ossuary do. Again, this may be due to the poor quality of images that are out there, and could be easily cleared up with a small series so little as 3 megapixel images with varying light angles.

Second, what is identified as a resh has been smoothed out in the illustration. In the images of the ossuary and line art drawings there is a part where the stem of the glyph curves inwards. This immediately struck me as a bet. To my knowledge, as informal Herodian script eventually progressed, that particular featured ended up as a characteristic quirk of Rashi script many many years later (much like how the Rashi shin bears similarity to that form of Herodian), to which there is a comparison below:

Certainly not conclusive, but an alternate hypothesis at the very least.

Finally, the downwards stroke seems to be completely ignored, which could also be possibly read as a final nun (a hypothesis that some scholars agree with); however, I must admit that this then raises questions about how to interpret the first character in this grouping.

With these in mind, there is a possibility that this reads ben rather than bar, but I still believe that either interpretation is inconclusive.


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