After a four-year investigation into the so-called “brother of Jesus” limestone ossuary, a Jerusalem district court judge has urged prosecutors to wrap up or drop their case against antiquities dealer Oded Golan, charged with forgery, fraud and damaging artefacts.
In 2003, the ossuary, a small burial box on which is inscribed “Ya’akov bar Yosef Achui de Yeshu” (translated as “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus), was declared a modern fake by the joint epigraphic-archaeological committee appointed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (The Art Newspaper, July-August 2003, p9). Justice Ministry officials, who have since produced more than 80 witnesses and thousands of pages of documents, said: “We will state our case in court.”
Though all the witnesses agree that the ossuary is an authentic first century artefact, experts continue to debate the authenticity of the inscription.
Israeli experts initially agreed that the inscription was a clever forgery, primarily based on the integrity and composition of the patina on the box when compared with the inscription. But other scholars argued that there was some authentic patina in one of the words.
The inscription itself has also ignited controversy. The names were common during the first century, so some scholars suggest that even if authentic, the inscription could refer to any number of men named Jesus, because it does not specify “Jesus of Nazareth”.
The trial resumes in January.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Judge orders conclusion to “James ossuary” case'