Tag Archives: James Ossuary

A Sciency Paper on the Patina on the James Ossuary and the Jehoash Inscription

A technique used to determine the authenticity of artifacts that compares the oxygen isotopic composition of speleothems to the carbonate included within the patina of unprovenanced artifacts is of questionable value. The unprovenanced Jehoash Inscription Tablet and James Ossuary are of potentially immense historical and cultural importance. Nevertheless, they both were rejected by workers based on the oxygen isotope technique which provided the major foundational evidence of forgery in the longest running archaeological trial in Israel. Nevertheless, both these artifacts were determined not to be forged. The initial incongruence between the oxygen isotopes of the speleothems of the Soreq cave (Israel) purported to represent the unique composition of Jerusalem rainfall, and the patina on the artifacts, can be readily explained by the accretion of materials and geo-biochemical processes expected in normal patina formation in the Jerusalem region. The patina formation involves sporadic events in disequilibrium kinetic processes that are opposed to the equilibrium formation of speleothems in a sealed cave. Moreover, 23 of 56 patina samples (41%) on well-documented ancient artifacts from Israel yielded oxygen isotope values greater or lower than the expected speleothem values of -4 δ18O ‰ [PDB] to -6 δ18O ‰ [PDB]. Thus, the speleothem-patina correlation is invalid and the applied oxygen isotopes technique for determining the authenticity of patinas on artifacts is not a useful tool in the authentication of artifacts.

Via (with thanks to Mark Elliott mentioning it on the twitter.  You should follow Mark there.  I look forward to the science people weighing in on the merits of this argument.  I have no way to evaluate it’s accuracy.

Elkington’s Claims Concerning the ‘Lead Codices’ Under Fire

If you’re following this strange sage of bogus artifacts peddled as the real deal, you must read this essay:

David Elkington, from Gloucestershire, has raised tens of thousands of pounds to support his work proving the authenticity of the Jordan Codices.  A BBC investigation found that academics have cast doubt on Mr Elkington’s claims the Codices date back to the 1st Century AD.  Mr Elkington insists the Codices are genuine and he will pay back any loans he has received. Among his backers was Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, who funded his work and trips to the Middle East.  She now believes the Codices are not authentic and has asked for the return of her funding.

She could have saved her money had she simply asked around.  At any rate, read the whole piece.  With thanks to Danny McClellan for pointing it out on the twitter.

And in a related bit of fun-ness, just the other day Jim Aitken related on facebook-

From the Jordan Codices page. Intriguing:

It is with considerable regret that we must inform you that we will be shutting down the Jordan Codices Facebook Community page for the foreseeable future. We have appreciated your support and interest more than you can know in our earnest quest to protect these sacred artefacts against smuggling and being sold on the black market. We have done our utmost; however, we cannot go further without public support from Jordan herself. The British Team has been compromised in its efforts by the lack of an announcement revealing the nature of the scientific data. Out of respect for the Kingdom of Jordan, we are not at liberty to reveal these results ourselves. The British Team has made significant progress in both translation and scientific and historical analysis; however, we cannot continue to subject this discovery, nor its defenders, to biased media reports with hidden agendas and malicious allegations via internet and twitter trolls, whose reprehensible behaviour would see this hoard disappear into private hands or even destroyed. Again, our most sincere thanks for your support, from our large Coast-to-Coast radio followers to local support from Jordan and the Middle East – please do not give up hope.

Evidently the Lead people knew that the BBC was on their trail and they wanted to do damage control before the report aired. Too late. No one, except those with a particular financial interest in promoting the bogus pieces, will stand by them (in much the same way that certain people CONTINUE to insist the ‘James Ossuary’ is as advertised). Show me the money, and 9 times out of 10, I can show you the motive.

A Further Thought on the ‘King Papyrus’ (Or Jesus’ Wife Snippet or Whatever)

Lest we forget, scholars have been duped a number of times – falling for clever forgeries foisted off on them through ‘anonymous’ donors and ‘antiquities dealers’.  Remember the ‘Ivory Pomegranate’?  The ‘James Ossuary Inscription’?  The ‘Jehoash Inscription’?  The ‘Lead Codices’?  The ‘Secret Gospel of Mark’?

It’s past time, again, I would insist, for us to accept as legitimate anything, anything at all, that doesn’t come from a controlled dig.  I think, further, that ASOR is right, as a matter of policy, to refuse to publish such things.  Harvard should refuse to as well.  As should the Biblical Archaeology Review (but of course that won’t happen).

Every time an unprovenanced artifact is published, an angel loses its wings and becomes a homeless beggar on the streets of Calcutta.  If the present trend continues, heaven will be emptied of those poor benighted creatures due to the human quest for novelty and notoriety.

Now if Dr. King has an artifact from a controlled dig, cool.  If not, then why has it become public?

The Folly of Dilettantism and the Unfortunate People Who Believe the Ignorant and Deceptive

via Oded Lipschits on FB

It occurs to me that just as this piece occurred in some ridiculous pseudo-news rag like the National Enquirer or the Star so too should lots of the stuff bandied around these days.  The Talpiot Tomb, the ‘James Ossuary’ and the ‘Jehoash Inscription’ all would find fitting homes on the pages of the Enquirer.  Which is, in some sense, exactly where they did in fact end up.

I used to feel sorry for the unfortunate people who believed the ignorant and the deceptive, but no longer.  It’s just too easy to check these things out and it’s just to easy to look up, locate, and inquire of an actual scholar concerning these matters.

The ignorant are without excuse.  They could discover the truth if they wanted to but their preference is ignorance and falsehood, so they continue to wear their aluminum foil hats and believe that all the world is out to cover up some secret truth which will prove false what sensible and informed people know to be the truth.

Coming Thursday…

Matthew Kalman’s in depth report of the Trial of the Century in The Jerusalem Report.  Knowing Matthew, it will be top notch.

Oded Golan Still Believes…

But of course he does.  Of course he does.  But it doesn’t matter what he believes because 1) he isn’t an archaeologist; 2) he isn’t a biblical scholar; and 3) he isn’t a theologian.

Further, there are lots of tinfoil hat wearing people who believe everything under the sun, from alien abductions to moon landing conspiracies to tiny children who wait for Santa to come down their chimneys at Christmas.  None of them are true but loads of people manage to assert them.

Golan has to believe.  His reputation, and his income, are on the line.  What’s he going to do, take up another trade?  That he believes what he believes just doesn’t matter.  And if he persuades others (like Shanks and Witherington) to believe so what?  He can’t convince people who know the subject.  He has no evidence.  He has no proof.  He has a box without provenance with a clearly forged phrase.  If that convinces people like Shanks and Witherington it’s only because they want to believe it too.

As Nina Burleigh has shown so convincingly, Golan wasn’t found innocent of forgery.

The ‘James Ossuary Trial’ – From the Perspective of the Danes

Er Jakobskisten, der nævner Jesus, alligevel ægte? That’s the question posed- and the essay commences

I sidste uge faldt der dom i den retssag, der skulle afgøre, om Jakobskisten er et falskneri. Dommen lød: Ikke skyldig
Foran rullende kameraer blev en måbende verdenspresse den 21. oktober 2002 præsenteret for en lille benkiste af sten, der på siden har indskriften: ”Jakob, søn af Josef, bror til Jesus”. Dagen efter ryddede den nyhed alverdens forsider om, at der var fundet en genstand, der gik direkte tilbage til Jesus. Ejeren af kisten var Oded Golan, en jødisk antikvitetssamler. Han påstod at have købt den i 1970’erne og havde aldrig tænkt over, at indskriften kunne have noget med Bibelens Jesus at gøre. Som han sagde: ”Jeg vidste ikke, at Guds søn kunne have en bror”.

By Morten Hørning Jensen. With thanks to him for pointing it out. It’s interesting that the trial has generated interest around the world.

The Royal Ontario Museum Will Not Display the ‘James Ossuary’ Again

There will not be a 10th-anniversary showing of the James ossuary later this year at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum.  “We’d need something new to say about [the ossuary],” said Dan Rahimi, the ROM’s vice-president of gallery development. “If we have nothing new to say about it, it would just be sensationalism. … I don’t really think we’re in a more advanced position than before so I wouldn’t bring it back.”

Aww… Shanks will be very disappointed.  After all, it was his doing to drag it there in the first place.

Mr. Rahimi, the ROM’s director of collections management at the time, said the museum was first approached as a possible exhibitor of the ossuary by Hershel Shanks, the U.S.-based editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, described by The New York Times as “the world’s most influential amateur biblical archaeologist.” Mr. Shanks was (and remains) an advocate for the ossuary’s authenticity. He felt the ROM would be the perfect place to present it because Toronto was on tap to host conventions of three major organizations, including the Biblical Archaeological Society.

I wonder where Shanks/Golan/Simcha/Tabor will take it since they don’t want it in Toronto.  It will make the perfect companion display for the ‘Jesus Discovery’ ossuary because they’re both bookends.  Bookends of exaggeration and misrepresentation that is.  Two for the price of one!  Come one, come all, see what people can do when they put their minds to it (and there’s money to make from it).

Oded Golan’s Counterclaim

Golan, (or more likely one of his lawyers) writes, in counterclaim to Joe Zias’s insistence that Rahmani testified-

  1. An official IAA document entitled “Summary Report of the Work of the Committees Testing the Inscription Known as the Jehoash Tablet and the Ossuary Known as the Yaakov Bar Yosef Ahui d’Yeshu Ossucary” (the James Ossuary) dated June 20, 2003, prepared by the deputy managing director of the IAA at the time, stated (p. 2, lines 17-18 of the Hebrew report):
    “It has been determined that the committee members shall consult with Prof, Yosef Naveh (expert in ancient Hebrew script) and with Dr. L. Y. Rahmani (expert in ossuaries), as they see fit.”
  2.  Y. L. Rahmani, one of the oldest members of the IAA, examined the ossuary at the Rockefeller Museum (IAA offices) in 2003. Rahmani did not issue any written document on the inscription. There is no report that Rahmani discovered anything suspicious that might indicate that the inscription or part of it is a forgery.  There is also no report from any of the committee members who spoke with Rahmani at the time (and/or from any of the IAA members who spoke with him) of any claim that Rahmani found anything suspicious in the inscription which would indicate that it is forged.
  3. During the trial, the IAA and the Prosecution presented as witnesses all the researchers who they believed might contribute, even slightly, to the argument that the ossuary inscription is a forgery in part (Recall that the charge stated that the first half of the inscription is ancient while the words “Ahui d’Yeshu” were added in modern times). When it discovered that Rahmani could not support this position, the State decided not to call him to the witness stand as a witness for the prosecution. This, in contrast to what Zias states, Rahmani never testified in court. And in contrast to what Zias states, I never stated that Rahmani testified.
  4. I did not call Rahmani to testify since most of the prosecution witnesses (including Dr. Ada Yadeni, Prof. Hagay Misgav, Prof. Ahituv, Prof. Andre Lemaire, Prof. Ronny Reich, Orna Cohen, and others) testified that to the best of their judgment, the entire inscription on the ossuary is ancient, and since I had a long list of additional experts including patina experts, who examined the inscription and agreed to testify  that the entire inscription is ancient (including Prof. W. Krumbein, Dr. Shimon Ilani, Dr. Amnon Rosenfeld, Prof. Yoel Kornfeld, Prof. James Harrell and others).

Whether Golan correctly represents the facts may or may not be the case. One thing is certain, he has a vested interest in insisting that the ossuary inscription is legitimate and with the verdict to be rendered this week it makes sense that he would try to put his own spin on things.

Whether or not he and the others are found guilty is at this point totally irrelevant. No one in the archaeological community is going to have anything to do with any Golan ‘artifact’. His reputation as an honest antiquities broker/dealer is thoroughly undermined. He may be able to sell things in the future, but he will have to do it through third parties.

Oded Golan, And Todd Bolen, and the Misrepresentation of Rahmani’s Reading of the ‘James Ossuary’ Inscription

Antonio Lombatti writes

I asked L.Y. Rahmani’s opinion (via Joe Zias) on the inscription on the James ossuary, considering that the verdict will be issued next week. I did it, because I found out yesterday that he supported in court the authenticity of the inscription. This at least what a certain Todd Bolen wrote, and he quoted a letter by Oded Golan. But this is false. Rahmani had said in court that the ossuary was authentic but not the inscription. I’d also like to check the other scholars mentioned by Golan… One more thing: why didn’t Tabor et al. ask the world leading authority on Jewish ossuaries about the so called “Jonah and fish” iconography?

What won’t people do to appear right?  Rahmani says the ossuary is real and the inscription is fake.  Who benefits from claiming he said otherwise besides Golan, who has more than a little to worry about in the matter?

Antonio illustrates why it’s important to ask scholars their own opinions instead of asking people with a financial interest in a matter what some scholar did or didn’t say.  Ad fontes!   It’s not just important for biblical interpretation.

Elliott and Kilty Respond to Lombatti on the ‘Talpiot Tomb’

They write

We appreciate Antonio Lombatti’s reply. Here are our comments.

The patina issue is crucial. Biblical scholars should allow the geologists to settle this. All we can say on the matter is that one of the scientist who testified at the trial stated that “Neither the prosecution nor the IAA presented even a single witness who was an expert on ancient stone items, or patina on antiquities and who ruled out the authenticity of the inscription or any part of it.” We all need to view the evidence contrary to this.

We recognize that Christians revered the area of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the location of Jesus’ first burial centuries after his crucifixion. However, all that tells us is what Christians believed in the 2nd-4th centuries. Every Gospel account emphatically states that the body is missing from the initial burial. As we mentioned in the article there is no 1st century evidence of the followers of Jesus revering any tomb. As you well know, by the 4th century during the time of Eusebius, Christian pilgrims wrote they visited many revered biblical sites such as Mt. Carmel where Elijah did his sacrifice, the spring of the prophet Elisha, the house of Rahab the harlot, the place where the Israelites placed twelve stones at the Jordan River, the plain where David killed Goliath, and the well where the Samaritan women drew water. They were shown the waterpots used at the wedding of Cana, the vineyard and the rock where Judas betrayed Jesus in the garden, and the tombs of Isaiah and Hezekiah. We hear of Egeria visiting the ‘holy mount of God’ and the cave of Moses. And according to the famous pilgrim of Bordeaux he visited a vault where they laid the lord’s body ‘and he rose again on the third day.’ See Wilken, The Land Called Holy. There were many pious nuns and eager clergy ready to show devout pilgrims a variety of sites related to famous kings, saints, prophets, miracles, acts of God and Jesus. Whether they were accurate is another matter.

As for the missing tenth ossuary, A. Rosenfeld, C. Pellegrino, H. R. Feldman, and W.E. Krumbein claim “Based on similar size and the elemental fingerprints it is possible to conclude that the James Ossuary is the missing 10th ossuary from the Talpiot cave….” They argue that the patina on the James ossuary matches the patina on the Talpiot tomb. We would like to see evidence that is contrary. Where is the tenth ossuary?

We have never used the Mary Magdalene inscription in our computations and as for the names being common, this is a false analogy stated over and over again.

Pointing out, correctly, that names found in the Talpiot Tomb are common, does not mean that the combination is common. Consider the following, “In 2826 names in all written sources for the Greco-Roman period in Palestine, 330BCE to 200CE, which includes 712 valid persons recorded on ossuaries (Tal Ilan), there are only three occurrences of Yeshua/Jesus linked with Yehosep/Joseph, and one of these instances is Joseph, Joshua’s brother. Three examples linking Jesus and Joseph cannot be considered typical or common for this period in Palestine.”

See our “Inside the Numbers” and “Talpiot Dethroned” in notes above.

Concerning your comment on the James Ossuary, ” IAA epigraphists and paleographers are convinced that at least the second part of the inscription is a fake.” We have not surveyed all epigraphers on this issue or recalculated how only James son of Joseph would change our calculations; however, we found this according to BAR  ” At the trial, not a single expert in the Semitic script of the period testified that the inscription was a forgery.” http://www.bib-arch.org/press-james-ossuary.aspif

If accurate, then we all need to rethink our assumption on the inscription.

Mark Elliott and Kevin Kilty

New in Bible and Interpretation: Regarding Magness and Talpiot

Kilty and Elliott remark

Jodi Magness has written an important work titled Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, which combines the study of texts and archaeology. It is a work that makes important contributions to understanding Jewish life during first-century Palestine. In this paper, we examine her comments, though brief they are, on the alleged Jesus family tomb at Talpiot and the James Ossuary.

And they argue their case very meticulously. Indeed, it’s the sort of essay that has to marinate in the mind before a response can be offered. Nevertheless, it’s worth observing that Oded Golan’s essay on the subject of the ossuary (it’s one of the sources which K and E cite) can’t be received without a more than generous dose of suspicion.

I’d be very keen to see what Jodi has to say in response to this piece. If she isn’t buried in work, I – for one – hope she will respond (and she’s the one who best can, since it’s her work that’s the focus of interest).

K. and E. conclude (I think brilliantly) –

We state plainly, biblical scholars must seek out argument and disputation based on the evidence at hand because the issue of Talpiot will not be settled by focusing on the behavior of Simcha Jacobovici.

This is true enough.  Evidence- good, solid evidence, outweighs personality.  At any rate, read the piece and see what you think.

Breaking News: The James Ossuary

Its promoters are also promoting undergarments (the hat is extra).  Proceeds to benefit the ‘we’re going to prove the inscription genuine if its the last thing we do’ fund.

actual clothing line available... no kidding.

Here’s the front view-

because every scholar needs a thong...

The ‘James’ (Oh for the Love of God) ‘Ossuary’, Again….

American scholar and author Robert H. Eisenman


Robert Eisenman anticipates the end (?!?!?!) of the trial of the century (Oded Golan et al) and rehashes what has been hashed so many times now that it’s been liquified and rendered inconsequential: the ‘James Ossuary’ thing…

After a too long (but what would one expect of the man who wrote over 1000 pages on a New Testament character about which the New Testament itself doesn’t even contain an entire half column on a single page) discourse E. opines

The question is what the inscription itself says and how likely it is (I don’t think AMS Carbon Dating has any application here though, as already noted as well, the “addition,” if authentic, may have been added by a third or fourth century C.E. pilgrim or thereafter; that’s how a similar ossuary might have gotten to Santiago de Compostela in Spain).

I summarized these points in a Oct. 29, 2002, op-ed I was invited to do for The Los Angeles Times about two weeks after “the James Ossuary” suddenly appeared (“A Discovery That’s Just Too Perfect: Claims that Stone Box Held Remains of Jesus’ Brother may be Suspect“). This article was completely done on the basis of “the internal evidence,” i.e., what the inscription itself said, as there was really no “external evidence” available at the time, except for paleography (the second part of which was obviously by a different hand or a different handwriting style, as noted above, or fraudulent. But let’s leave this aside for the moment). This “internal evidence” is just the area of analysis or expertise the Court in Israel did not consider at all; for, had it done so, the verdict would have been open-and-shut from the beginning.

Therefore, now that we are on the verge of just such a “verdict” in this matter, it is worth reproducing the arguments and analyses of this op-ed in their totality — almost nothing having changed in the interim and almost every word of which still rings true almost a decade later. So here it is…

Or, in other words, what he thought when the ossuary was found is what he thinks now.  Yippee.  Quite frankly I wish this would go the way of the ‘Lead Codices’ rubbish.  It’s much ado about absolutely nothing (except of course the selling of books).

An Open Letter to Robert Deutsch

Dear Robert,

I appreciated your comment the other day and I’d like to follow it up if I might, with something of a direct question to you.

Since the ‘trial of the century’ is over and you’re free to express your views on the matter, I would be very interested in your answers to the following:

1- Do you think that the inscription on the ossuary is genuine?

2- Do you think that the latter half of the inscription is from the same hand as the first part?

3- Do you think the patina in the latter half of the inscription is manufactured or authentic?

With many thanks in advance for any response,

I remain cordially yours,


Should Robert deign to respond, I’ll post it unedited and in its entirety.

BAR’s Bias- Again

Since H. Shanks and B. Witherington are virtually the only two people on the planet who still insist that the inscription on the so called ‘James Ossuary’ is authentic it is unsurprising in the extreme that their ‘coverage’ of the trial of the century lauds not the report of Yuval Goren and the work of many others who have clearly shown that the inscription is bogus but instead Jack Kilmon’s. In their email newsletter BAR gleefully writes

According to independent scholar Jack Kilmon, the admission of Tel Aviv University’s Yuval Goren that ancient patina was in “Yeshua” (“Jesus”) “shattered the forgery claim and the entire case … The entire case was a hack job fostered by the Israel Antiquities Authority … Someone’s head should roll.

Then the newsletter points to Jack’s take on things. What I find interesting is that they write

Statement of Jack Kilmon, independent researcher, as edited with the author’s permission from a posting on the blog of Jim West: The forgery case will be dropped.

Why I find that interesting is that they a) never got my permission to post Jack’s remarks on the BAR site and even more interestingly, they b) never provide a link to the post where Jack’s comment appears. I wonder why? Well, no, I don’t. I know exactly why: BAR refuses to cite sources as respectable and honorable persons do.

[Do note, however, that I have in fact linked to BAR’s Jack Hijacking because that’s what decent people do. Unlike BAR, I’m not afraid to point readers to other sites. BAR, tellingly, is afraid to. Their BAR-ian Bias is on exhibition for all those who ‘have an eye to see’ and in that respect are very much like several well known bibliobloggers].

Maybe BAR should pay attention to my license requirements which are clearly displayed on the right nav panel-

Creative Commons License
Zwinglius Redivivus by Jim West is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Everything There is to Know About the James Ossuary Trial in One Place

And it’s all put together by Matthew Kalman, who has been covering the trial (he’s a journalist) since the very beginning.  The James Ossuary Trial Jerusalem is very much worth a read.

Exclusive: The James Ossuary Trial is OVER

Oded Golan and his box

And the judge is considering a verdict. After 5 ridiculously long years, the trial of the century, which took almost that long, is over.

The indictment leveled 44 charges of forgery, fraud and deception against Golan and 13 lesser counts against a co-defendant, antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch. The trial of Golan, Deutsch and three other defendants opened at the Jerusalem District Court in September 2005.

Last Sunday, the defense ended its summing up with just two men left in the dock, bringing to an end five years of court proceedings that spanned 116 sessions, 133 witnesses, 200 exhibits and nearly 12,000 pages of witness testimony. The prosecution summation alone ran to 653 pages.

Yet despite the flood of strong scientific testimony, the feeling in the tiny courtroom, where fewer than a dozen people (including only one reporter) have followed the proceedings, was that the prosecution had failed to prove the items were forgeries or that Golan and Deutsch had faked them.

Read Matthew’s entire essay.  All indications are that the verdict will be not guilty and all charges will be dismissed.