Paul’s got a fine essay in Bible and Interpretation today- on the trial of the century’s ossuary.
The supposedly ancient inscription on the Jewish ossuary (an ancient burial box for bones) was only five Aramaic words long, “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus,” and even Bob Simon on Sixty Minutes could see the that last two words, “brother of Jesus,” had been added by a different hand. How hard could it be to prove in court of law that those two words were a modern fake?
So true. Except the Judge in the case couldn’t. Flesher continues-
Too hard. That was the view of an Israeli judge when he released his 475-page verdict last week after a seven-year long trial. Judge Aharon Farkash concluded “the prosecution failed to prove beyond all reasonable doubt…that the ossuary is a forgery.”
Enjoy the rest as I did- especially these paragraphs-
Let me make one last observation. The James Ossuary is a supposed antique object without provenience. Because the state of Israel allows the sale of some ancient objects according to a tight set of regulations (usually impossible to enforce), there is a widespread trade in looted and forged antiquities. The buyers of these items range from tourists seeking a souvenir to take home to wealthy, dedicated collectors willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an object.
Looting robs true ancient items of all information concerning their historical context and prevents all humanity from using them to learn about our shared past. Forged objects and inscriptions mix with authentic looted items in this shadowy trade and can fool even the most dedicated and learned of experts.
Many of the scholars who have promoted the James Ossuary inscription as authentic, such as Andre Lemaire and Robert Deutsch, have published unprovenienced inscriptions. Non-scholars such as Hershel Shanks, repeatedly argue for the publication of unprovenienced objects and inscriptions. They say, how can we let all of this material be ignored? The James Ossuary makes clear why it should be ignored, because you never know when it is forged or authentic. Even if you are fairly certain of authenticity of an unprovenienced item, its date and geographic location remain unknown. If the item is published and then used in scholarship, it can distort the historical record.
Amen and amen. It’s a shame many of our colleagues ignore such sage advice.
- Matthew Kalman’s Report on the Trial Verdict (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)