James Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici have posited that Talpiyot Tomb B is a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (i.e., the “Joseph of Arimathea” mentioned in the canonical gospels), and that this tomb also contains the actual ossuary of Joseph of Arimathea himself. Here are some citations of Tabor and Jacobovici’s views: Talpiyot Tombs A and B “are most likely located on the rural estate of Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin who according to all four New Testament gospels took official charge of Jesus’ burial” (Tabor and Jacobovici, 2). But he is framed as wealthy and so they believe they have to account for the modest nature of this ossuary, thus, they suggest that there may have been “something about his faith or piety as part of the Jesus movement” that led him to “prefer such a modest bone box” (Tabor and Jacobovici, 89). Then they conclude that “it is not hard or even overly speculative for us to posit that the Talpiyot Tombs are a tiny but amazing glimpse into the life of Joseph of Arimathea” (Tabor and Jacobovici, 128).
The ossuary in Talpiyot Tomb B which they consider to be that of Joseph of Arimathea is one they also refer to as a “humble ossuary” (Tabor and Jacobovici, 89). Along the same lines, they query: “might Joseph of Arimathea have chosen a…modest ossuary for himself and his most immediate family—but one that boldly proclaimed their faith even in the midst of opposition and conflict?” (Tabor and Jacobovici, 90). It should be noted that the reason they refer to this ossuary as “boldly proclaiming their faith” is because the ossuary they believe to be that of “Joseph of Arimathea” is the one with the ornamentation they understand to be “Jonah and the Big Fish.” Of course, most scholars consider this ornamentation to be a nephesh tower or an unguentarium, not “Jonah and the Big Fish.”
In any case, the main point that I would emphasize at this time is this: The known inscriptions in Talpiyot Tomb B are (1) a four line inscription which has no reference to someone named “Joseph,” and certainly no reference to someone named “Joseph of Arimathea,” and (2) an inscription consisting of a single word, namely, “Mara” which they consider to be a reference to a woman, not a man (Tabor and Jacobovici, 127). They suggest that there is “circumstantial evidence,” namely, they suggest that “Arimathea” means “high” and Talpiyot is a “high” place. Of course, I would suggest that just being a “high” place is pretty circumstantial evidence indeed! Moreover, I would note that “Arimathea” is called a polis (Luke 23:51), that is, a “city,” rather than just a “high” place. Thus, I would suggest that most scholars will not consider the evidence to which Tabor and Jacobovici refer to be considered sufficient for their claim.
I would propose that for a historian to make a credible argument that this is the land, tomb, and ossuary of Joseph of Arimathea there must be solid evidence, such as the name “Joseph of Arimathea” inscribed on the ossuary. But, since these words are not there, it is really not convincing to posit that this is the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Tabor and Jacobovici may believe that it is not “hard or overly speculative” to say that this is the land, tomb, and ossuary of Joseph of Arimathea, but I think most epigraphers, prosopographers, and historians would find it to be quite speculative.
James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici, The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeological Find that Reveals the Birth of Christianity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012