The following is a followup article to a previous entry entitled The Jesus Son of Joseph Inscription.
Since I initially published this article, it has done a bit of spreading around the internet in several blogs (including NT Gateway), a link or two on Wikipedia, and has been included in an Editorial piece on RNN.
On NT Gateway, Mark Goodacre (an Associate Professor of New Testament in the Religion Department at Duke University and the Blog’s owner) said some very nice things about my research. He also emphasizes that I am not an epigrapher which is something important to keep in mind as I do not have formal epigraphical training. I am, however, a translator with a deep understanding of the language who deals with typesetting and translating Aramaic in Herodian script 6 out of 7 days a week, so I am intimately familiar with it.
In an update to Mark’s entry, he posted the following comment from Ed Cook:
I don’t think Caruso has divided the letters correctly. He assigns a long vertical shaft to the “shin”, but this vertical is actually (in my opinion) the waw, and the letter he identifies as waw is, conversely, the left shaft of the shin. Also the triangle shape that is part of the yodh (these loops or triangles are common in the ossuaries) he assigns to the shin. In short, I do not believe that Caruso’s site is a reliable source of paleographic information. The reading “Yeshua” looks likely to me based on the published drawing.
To make a few comments in response:
Cook does make a valid observation that the letters can be divided alternatively (as this inscription is quite the rorschach), however I do not agree with Cook’s analysis either. To explain, allow me to illustrate (to the best of my knowledge) what he was describing:
In blue, I’ve outlined how he sees the shin, where in red I’ve outlined where he sees a waw. This is also a valid possibility, albeit a bit squashed. However, his comment on the “the triangle shape that is part of the yodh (these loops or triangles are common in the ossuaries) [I assign] to the shin” I find inconsistent with this entire inscription.
In my reconstruction I didn’t punch out the triangle that appears in what I identify as a shin with how I vectorized the image. I only had poor-quality images from the Israeli Antiquities Authority to work with at the time. Here I have provided a better detail of the inscription, without much reconstruction, as it appears in Amos Kroner’s article:
And here is a closeup of the “triangle” that he is talking about:
In Herodian scripts, yods only have a “triangle” at their top if they are written with serifs. This is apparent in many of the other inscriptions in the Tomb. For example, take a look at “Joses” inscription:
Note how the serifs are applied consistently? Now, take a closer look at the “Jesus” inscription. If you note “Joseph” (the only easy to read word in the entire scrawl) there are no serifs to be seen and the yod and the wau are indistinguishable (which is common in informal handwritten Herodian from the period; it’s textbook). To claim that the entire inscription has one serif when there are examples to compare to for self-consistency is a little more than out of place.
I do have every confidence that I have identified the shin properly (I’d say 95% certain); however, I must admit that other than that, I cannot be even 10% conclusive about anything else in this inscription other than the name “Joseph.”
For the moment, that is all, but in my next update to this article, I will discuss some ideas concerning the rendering of bar (“son of”).