Verdict in the James Ossuary Trial: Not Guilty on All Counts

Verdict in the James Ossuary Trial: Not Guilty on All Counts March 14, 2012

The news is circulating that the judge in the James ossuary forgery case found the defendants Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch not guilty.

Do note the nature of this conclusion. It is not a scientific, archaeological or epigraphic assessment of the authenticity of inauthenticity of the ossuary or some or all of the inscription on it. It is an assessment of the evidence for specific persons having forged it. To simply continue to assume it is inauthentic, or to assume that the acquittal indicates authenticity, is to misunderstand the nature of the situation and of the trial.

Here’s a quote from the IAA response to the ruling (HT Jim West):

Because a person’s guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, Golan was acquitted. However, the judge did emphasize that it was not possible to determine that the finds presented in the trial – including the ossuary and the “Jehoash inscription” – are not forgeries.

It would be nice to have a re-examination of the inscription by credentialed and impartial experts to try to draw some clearer conclusions about the significance or otherwise of these artifacts. Unfortunately, it sounds like the police inspections of the ossuary may have contaminated it in such a way as to render further study unable to settle the matter.

See further the reactions and commentary from Christopher RollstonEric MyersMatthew Kalman, James Tabor, Paul Barford, Hershel Shanks and the Biblical Archaeological Society, Jim Davila, Jim West, and many others that will surely follow.

UPDATE: Blog posts on this topic have since appeared by Claude Mariottini, Todd Bolen, and John Bergsma.

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  • Eldad

    “. . .That the finds . . . are not forgeries”? Well said; It’s the softest way to slap the right face. The experts of the IAA declared “it’s a forgery”. What methods they employed to conclude the “forgery”?
    I believe that the sheer accusation will soon be regarded “a huge mistake”. Time will tell.

  • Michael Wilson

    I’m a big fan of better safe than sorry, so if the IAA doesn’t think their legit or even suspects they aren’t I feel compeled to ignore them as evidence. Its a pity as a lot of material that has come though back alley channels is now suspect due to the high quality of the forgeries. Hopefully though the conclusion by the IAA thatthese are forgeries will drop the market value of unauthinticated antiquites and dry up the market for this stuff and thus result in less spurious “evidence” popping up. I’ll have to poke around to see if their is a source that describes the the suspect artifacts.

  • The IAA has yet to explain how the Yaacov ossuary landed in Oded Golan’s possession when it had been in the possession of the IAA.  Those elemental analysis tests prove it was taken from the Talpiot Tomb, no other conclusion.  That was 1980.  The pictures Golan took were on photographic paper that was still available in 2006,   So his story that he had “pictures” to prove he received the ossuary before 1978 is simply not true.
    Who from the IAA “lost” it and who did they lose it to?  

    Thank heaven Farkash, the judge in the trial was honest, even though his verdict as quoted in most releases makes him sound very naive concerning the science of archaeological dating, microscopy, and elemental analysis.  

  • Eldad

    Eliyahu, I do agree with you. Yet how can we prove that this ossuary is really James’? If you and ohers really want to know who lost it, all you have to do is: read Gibson’s article in NEA 69.