Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The James Ossuary Inscription Is Authentic

Tecumseh, Michigan

In 2002 the discovery of a stone burial box was announced. It made international news because of the inscription on the box which reads, in Aramaic, 'Yaakov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua.' Translated, it reads 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.' This bone box is, uncontroversially, 2000 years old. But is the inscription that old and authentic, or is it a forgery? And, if authentic, did this box contain the bones of James, the brother of Jesus? How very interesting!

I haven't thought much about the James ossuary recently. This changed today when I walked to my mailbox and got my copy of Biblical Archaeology Review (July/August 2012). The lead story, written by BAR editor Hershel Shanks, is: "'Brother of Jesus' Inscription Is Authentic!" Here's a couple of paragraphs of Shanks's reasoning (much of the article is his take on the forgery trial, which ended in March).

Shanks writes:

"Two world class experts in paleography (the art and science of authenticating and dating inscriptions based on the shape and stance of the letters) have expressed their view that it is [authentic]. They are Andre Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Ada Yardeni of the Hebrew University. I would like to see any paleographer of any repute get up and state that Lemaire and Yardeni are wrong in their paleographical judgment in this case and then tell us why they believe Lemaire and Yardeni have erred. I don't think such a paleographer can be found!"

If the incription is authentic, what then? It still might refer to a different 'James' who had a brother named 'Jesus.' Shanks writes: "There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the inscription on the James Ossuary. Whether it refers to Jesus of Nazareth remains a question." Using Tel Aviv University statistician Prof. Camil Fuchs, "the likelihood of someone samed James with a father named Joseph and a brother named Jesus in this population is 0.0227 percent."