The Golan Heights (and Depths)– the Sad Story of Oded Golan

It is story that is tragic in various ways. How would you like to be in jail and then on trial for forgery, theft, fraud, and then exonerated, and then not be given back the property that was taken from you by the antiquities police? Matthew Kalman, who has kept me up to speed on the developments throughout the trial, and is the only reporter to sit through the whole thing now has a couple of articles in the Jerusalem Post, to which he kindly gave me the link (see below). It is a cautionary tale well worth reading, and the long and short of it is just exactly what was said in the last issue of BAR: 1) Golan was not guilty: 2) the James ossuary has a genuine inscription and belongs to Golan; 3) while the desire to eliminate forgery and antiquities theft is laudable, the IAA went about all the wrong way, and never made their case against Golan. Indeed, they botched the analysis of the ossuary and the Jehoash tablet; 4) the James ossuary was in the possession of Golan in the 1970s, who got it from an antiquities dealer BEFORE there ever was a Talpiot tomb opening. The evidence is clear on this matter.

I stand by my original conclusions in the Brother of Jesus book—this is the ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus, and it provides indirect testimony to both the existence of Jesus and the fact that he and his name were vindicated, indeed revered after his crucifixion. Check out

Finding Jesus– Review of Part One
Forward Thinking about “Reading Backwards’ Conclusions
Finding Jesus— Begins Sunday Night at 9 P.M. on CNN
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’–The Interview Part Six
  • Mike Holmes

    Yeah a messed up situation overall. Now that this is confirmed the arguments are coming up again about how its patina matches that of the ones in the Patio Tomb. Just that it was stolen prior to the discovery of that tomb, love it how this always pops up.

  • ben Witherington

    Limestone caves in the Jerusalem area do not have a signature like a fingerprint. They manifest the same sort of secretions etc. So the similarity of patina on the James ossuary and any other ancient ossuaries from Jerusalem is no surprise and does not suggest a common locale that they came from. The James ossuary came from Silwan according to the person who sold it to the antiquities dealer. It was not looted, it was found buried in somebody’s yard. And any way, the picture which on trial was deemed to be genuine showed Golan had the box before the Talpiot or Patio tombs were excavated. End of story despite all the TV hype. BW3

  • Eliyahu Konn

    The story isn’t ended.
    The film used to make the picture of the ossuary was available well past the turn of the century. Did the FBI expert rule out the possibility of dated film being used after the year it was processed? Golan is for sure no dummy. Using film having an earlier date than the Israel Law making antiquities the property of the State is very shrewd. Did you realize that Golan was in fact convicted of the minor charge of “handling goods suspected of being stolen,” as stated by Matthew Kalman here: That charge would fit for this ossuary since it came from Talpiot Tomb A. So how do you know that picture was taken as proof of the time he came into possession of the ossuary. Where is the tenth ossuary? Oh, I remember, it got lost.

    The story isn’t ended,
    until you learn atomic absorption spectroscopy which indeed shows a distinct pattern of the excavation site. Any chemist or physicist or anyone trained on this type of equipment would say you are ignorant of what is going on. Your attempt to dismiss this science is not falling on all untrained ears.

  • ben Witherington

    Thank you Mr. Konn for this. Perhaps you didn’t pay attention closely enough to the verdict— it says ‘suspected of being stolen’. Suspected by whom? The IAA of course who are not trustworthy in this matter since they spent millions of shekels to try and produce a real verdict against Golan. They failed. You also seem to have overlooked the fact that two witnesses said they had seen the ossuary in the 70s in Golan’s apartment, including a former girl friend who doesn’t even like Golan any more. Atomic absorption spectroscopy cannot prove that the James ossuary came out of the Talpiot tomb. It appears to me it can only show that it is possible. But not all possible things are probable or even likely. Shalom alechem, BW3

  • ben Witherington

    P.S. The tenth ossuary, according to the original excavators of the Talpiot tomb was a blank…. no inscription on it at all. Ask Shimon Gibson.

  • Eliyahu Konn

    Mr Witherington,
    אליכם שלום
    The atomic absorption pattern is definitive science for placing the Yaacov ossuary in the Talpiot Tomb. It is objective evidence whereas testimony from over 25 years ago is fairly musty. If you will carefully look at Gibson’s account, he says by the time he arrived on Yom Rishon, “The ossuaries had already been taken out before I arrived.” He described the tomb as being knee deep in terra rossa soil from a “break in,” (but probably more likely an earthquake.) You think those ossuaries didn’t need to be cleaned off to read their inscriptions? But Gibson documented the tomb, not the ossuaries.

    It was Joseph Gat that described the ossuaries.

    The atomic absorption can’t prove when the ossuary came out of the tomb, but it does prove it was in that tomb at one time.

  • Ben Witherington

    Thanks for this Eliyahu. In fact of course this is not what Amos Kloner said either. He said the tenth ossuary was a blank, and it went into storage, along with many other such non-descript ossuaries. Terra rosa is found in various places in the great Jerusalem area, including, I understand, in Silwan, where the James ossuary was found. Furthermore, there was Silwan soil found in the ossuary as well. So, again, I’m not doubting that mass spectometry is a good test to be used. I am doubting it gives us anything definitive considering the fact that unless you could show that that the soil found at the Talpiot tomb is specific to that one spot in all of the Jerusalem area, you can’t draw the sort of definitive conclusion you are suggesting. BW3

  • Tim Collins

    Am I naive in thinking that the IAA’s actions may have been driven by a desire to damage and discredit anything which might lend support to the historicity of the gospel accounts?

    I would hate to suggest an ulterior motive where none is necessary, but I am having a hard time coming up with anything else, aside from sheer incompetence.


  • Ben Witherington

    No Tim, I don’t think you are naive. BW3