Zev Radovan/Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology

A priestly tomb? “Elisheba the wife of Tarfon” is inscribed in Aramaic on this ossuary, from the same cave-tomb as the Yehosah ossuary; “Elisheba” is also inscribed in Greek. In the Hebrew Bible, Elisheba is the wife of Aaron (Exodus 6:23), from whom all priests descend. In the Gospel of Luke, Elisheba (or Elizabeth), the mother of John the Baptist, is “a descendant of Aaron”—that is, from a priestly family.

Most of the names found in this cave-tomb are associated with contemporaneous priestly or Levite families. One of the names is that of Tarfon, Elisheba’s husband. The Talmud tells of a priest named Rabbi Tarfon, who once heard a High priest utter the name of God in the Temple. The Tarfon mentioned on this ossuary, and on another ossuary from the same cave-tomb, may be from the priestly family referred to in the Talmud.

If this cave-tomb belonged to a family of priests, who alone were permitted to perform Temple functions, it is all the more likely that the structure depicted on the Yehosah ossuary is the Temple itself.