James Ossuary in the News Again

James Ossuary in the News Again December 27, 2013

The site IO9 posted an article today about the James Ossuary. It shouldn’t be necessary to emphasize that the finding of an accused forger not guilty is not the same thing as the genuineness and authenticity of an artifact being adequately demonstrated. Unfortunately, as a result of cleaning and other things to which the bone box was subjected, we may never be able to answer that question to the satisfaction of experts. And in the absence of such test results, the fact that the artifact is of unknown provenance and came to light not through professional excavation but on the antiquities market, means that we have to assume its inauthenticity.

Some of the commenters on IO9 are discussing whether this could be a reference to some other James and Jesus. Since mentioning a person’s brother on an ossuary is, as far as I am aware, unprecedented, this would mean that the Jesus in question was famous enough – or important enough to those burying James – that they would mention him. And so if the artifact could be shown to be authentic, we could be confident that this was in fact that particular Jesus.

If this doesn’t help you to understand the damage that forgers and the antiquities trade does to our historical knowledge, then nothing will.

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  • It’s ridiculous how the author (George Dvorsky) blithely assumes that if Golan is acquitted of forgery, then the ossuary is not forged:

    “After a 10-year investigation and criminal trial, an Israeli antiquities collector has been cleared of forgery charges. That means the modest limestone burial box pictured above — an ossuary inscribed with the earliest-known reference to Jesus – is the real deal.”

  • Scott P.

    I heard Jodi Magness of UNC lecture on this and she argued persuasively that the ossuary is not of the appropriate date, regardless of the nature of the inscription.

  • James Tabor

    Jim, not sure you realized it or not but the photo you post here is not the James ossuary but one from the Talpiot tomb, inscribed on the plain side mariamne/mar or marime kai mara 🙂 Best in the New Year to you and yours and keep up the good work on your impressive blogging!

  • James Tabor

    P.S. I see the error is embedded with the IO9 post…I won’t even try to go there with a correction as the comments are hopeless! Here’s a nice shot of the James ossuary I took if you want to use it feel free.

    • Yes, I simply used the picture from their post since I was in a hurry. I had meant to come back and get a picture of the actual James ossuary, but didn’t. Thanks so much for doing what I neglected to!

      • James Tabor

        No problem James…after all, the one they posted is much prettier, right!