Finding a possible son of Jesus at Talpiot
And also in the New Testament
One of the names found in the Talpiot tomb near Jerusalem, which may be the lost tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, is the name “Yehuda bar Yeshua,” Aramaic for Judah, son of Jesus.*
Wasn’t I excited to realize that this son named Judah may be the same person mentioned in the Book of John chapter 14:
14:18 – Jesus says: “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”
14:22 – Judah replies: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”
But who is this “Judah” or in Greek, “Judas”?
The text tells us it is not the apostle Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.
Many probably assume it is the apostle “Judas-James” – either a son or a brother of a James (NRSV footnote (Acts1:13)).
But maybe the Judas of John 14:22 is not an apostle.
There are three other persons named Judas (other than some of Jesus’ ancestors), and these are: a disciple in Damascus (Acts 9:11); a revolutionary leader (Acts 5:37); and Judas called Barsabbas, a member of the Jerusalem Church and a leader among the brothers (Acts 15:22).
Judas called Barsabbas – looks like the Aramaic words “bar” meaning “son of” and “Abba” meaning “father.” So Judas was the son of which father? Jesus of Nazareth?? Good question. Would Jesus’ heir be considered “a leader among the brothers”? Most likely, if old enough.
And it would seem appropriate for Jesus to be saying, “I will not leave you orphaned” to his own son.
Judah could have been a teen or young man. Remember Jesus was “not yet 50” (John 8:57), and even though Jesus started his ministry at about age 30 (Luke 3:23), he was not necessarily executed at 33. That figure is based on the number of Passovers in the Gospel, not necessarily a complete number. So a man, not yet 50, could very well have a son who was a teen, twenty-something, or even a bit over thirty.
Of course if we did not have the name “Judah, son of Jesus” from the Talpiot tomb, these passages wouldn’t have the same importance for me.
Any other clues?
Acts 8:33: Here I use the NIV – “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
I suppose many would interpret that to mean that Jesus left this world too soon to have any descendants, but the meaning could just as well be that because Jesus was executed unjustly, there was still a danger – danger to his child – who could not be identified or even mentioned lest the authorities decide to kill him also. Thus, no one could speak of the descendants of Jesus.
Related texts in Isaiah 53:7-8 and the Septuagint don’t seem to say “descendants,” but I’ll trust the NIV for now.
But Acts 8:33 says descendants (plural)! Did Jesus have more than one child?
A married daughter of Jesus could have been buried in the tomb of her husband and identified as his, or in the tomb of her son, and so could have been lost to history.
There is another “Barsabbas” in Acts 1:23, and that verse is so garbled it is not possible to know conclusively if he is named Justus, Joseph, or Matthias. But possibly he is another son of Jesus?? This is a different, and better, approach to that verse than what I have in Jesus son of Matthat or Caiaphas. But in that post I had decided that Barsabbas might be Matthias. Now I realize that one of the ossuaries in the Jesus tomb at Talpiot has the name Matya meaning Matthew in Aramaic! Could that Matya be the Matthias (Greek) of Acts, the man called Barsabbas, another son of Jesus?
Who is the naked young man who runs away in Mark 14:50-52? Could it be Judah, son of Jesus?
The young man stayed even when all others ran off and deserted Jesus at his arrest.
“All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”
That the “young man” continued to follow behind Jesus when all others ran off, shows perhaps an unsurpassed loyalty and devotion to Jesus. Like a son to a father.
Peter was a wild man swinging his sword every which way until Jesus told him to stop. Then Peter darted off into the darkness. Suddenly Jesus saw they had Judah. Jesus screamed a scream he did not know he could scream, “Judah, Judah, in the name of heaven, fight, fight, go on! get … away-y-y-y-y!!!” Judah twisted and separated himself from his garment. Then he too disappeared into the darkness, racing back to tell his mother and the others still in the “upper room.” Jesus breathed a huge sigh of relief, “I have not lost this one you gave to me, my Abba.”
Certainly, those doing the arresting would want to take the son along with Jesus, especially if they thought Jesus a pretender to kingship and that the son, his heir, might also have the same pretentions. Only Jesus and the “young man” were grabbed.
While the disciples present are named, “Peter, John, James,” the naked young man is not named or identified in any way. To protect his identity and to keep his very existence a secret from the authorities while he still lived??
Was the naked young man Judah, the son of Jesus?
Of course I can’t know for sure if Jesus even had a son, but I am trying to connect the dots here.
What else? Any other mystery children?
Well, there is the child in John 6:9-11 who just happens to have “five small barley loaves” for Jesus to feed the five thousand. Such a child could be seen to be a small replica of Jesus, symbolically the one who brings the bread of life. From what child other than his own, could Jesus readily take five loaves and not have to ask permission of the parents?
Then there is the child in Matthew 18:1-5, who just happens to be the “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (NRSV) This is always interpreted as just some random kid standing nearby, but is it Judah, and Jesus is saying, love me, love my kid? Jesus “called a child.” Seems like he would be able to call his own child over, knowing its name. Probably Jesus was not trying to make his own child greater than any other, just saying his son was an example of all children.
The DVD, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” has a scene at the cross where Jesus says something like, “Woman here is your son,” per John 19:26, and we see a boy of about ten or twelve standing next to Mary Magdalene. So lots of re-interpretation is possible, once we know there is the possibility that Jesus had a son named Judah.
If I knew something about the child of the “Bride” and “Bridegroom” in first-century Pagan belief, then maybe I could find more clues in the New Testament that point to Judah.
At what age did Judah, son of Jesus, die? Unfortunately, the bones in the Talpiot tomb were lost, presumably handed over for reburial by the Ιsrαεl authorities to those Orthodox Jews who are opposed to excavations of tombs* (and actually I share this opposition); but the bones should not have been lost. The ossuary (bone box) for Judah, son of Jesus, has his name formally carved and is not under-sized,* so may indicate he was full grown when he died.
The mother of Judah was? Unknown. OK, I’ll guess Judah’s mother was the wife of Jesus – the woman with the ossuary in the same tomb with the name engraved, “Mariamene Mara,” a name given to Mary Magdalene by two writers, Hippolytus and the author of the Acts of Philip.* Seems like she might have been the wife of Jesus of Nazareth. (DNA tests* on bone particles from her box and that of Jesus show that she was not his mother or sister, but does not prove she was his wife.)
I really don’t have a problem if the historical Jesus of Nazareth had a wife and a son. I think many Christian believers don’t insist that the Easter resurrection had to be a recycling of used bones – maybe something more glorious than that?
NRSV throughout this post except where noted.
* James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici, The Jesus Discovery; The New Archaeological Find That Reveals the Birth of Christianity, Simon & Schuster, 2012, pages 25-26 (reburial of remains), 106-107 (names on ossuaries), 113-114 (spelling of Mariamene Mara), 186 (size of Judah ossuary), 201 (DNA tests). When I wrote about Mark 14:50-52, I thought I was being very original, and was yet to read what Dr. Tabor said about it on his blog.