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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