Ossuary of James

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The box itself.
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Devil's in the details

The Ossuary of James is a box (or more specifically, an ossuaryWikipedia) which contains an inscription referencing a James who has a brother called Jesus and a father called Joseph. It is put forward by some Christian apologists as evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ.

The story[edit]

Biblical Archaeology Review Nov/Dec 2002 ran a story claiming the discovery in Jerusalem of an ossuary inscribed יעקוב בר יוסף אחוי דישוע = "Ya'aqov bar Yosef akhui Yeshua'" ("James/Jacob,[1] son of Joseph, brother of Jesus"). This became a major news story around the world.

The inscription was claimed to have been dated to 70 CE. If authentic, this would not have been conclusive evidence, but would have been intriguing to historians, marking the existence of a James who was the son of a Joseph who had a brother significant enough to mention, as it was uncommon on ossuaries of the day to inscribe family names other than that of the person's father.


The Israeli Antiquities Authority published a report in June 2003 concluding that a part of the inscription was added recently and made to match the rest by the addition of a chalk solution.[2] Suspicion fell on Oded Golan and he was arrested. What followed can be best described as a circus, with people claiming to know who had forged the inscription for Golan being prevented from going to Israel for the trial.[3][4]

In the end, in 2012, Oded Golan was acquitted of all forgery charges on the basis that "The prosecution failed to prove beyond all reasonable doubt what was stated in the indictment: that the ossuary is a forgery and that Mr. Golan or someone acting on his behalf forged it."[5] However, this acquittal of forgery charges did not actually authenticate the ossuary itself or the writing on it.

Even though, as documented by Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology Eric H. Cline, the provenience (where exactly the artifact was found) and provenance (an object's complete documented history) were nonexistent,[6] the inscription as genuine argument was trotted out in the pseudojournal called Open Journal of Geology (OJoG), which published an article called "The Authenticity of the James Ossuary" in support of the authenticity of the inscription. However, the publisher of the OJoG, "Scientific Research Publishing," is known for accepting and publishing questionable science, to the extent that academics have been warned that "this could hurt the reputation of your work if you publish in one of their journals."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. "James" and "Jacob" are the same name in Hebrew.
  2. Final Report Of The Examining Committees For the Yehoash Inscription and James Ossuary
  3. The Stone Box And Jesus' Brother's Bones 60 Minutes (20 March, 2008)
  4. Shragai, Nadav (Apr 14, 2008) The Art of Authentic Forgery Ha'aretz
  5. Antiquities collector acquitted of forgery charges in 'James ossuary' case
  6. Cline, Eric H. (2009) Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction, "Fabulous finds or fantastic forgeries?" Oxford University Press
  7. List of predatory publishers for 2014 Scholarly Open Access