This article was published in a three-part series in the magazine Secular Nation, at the suggestion of Dr. Robert Price, who called the series "fine articles. In the week of October 21, , headlines around the world screamed that evidence of Jesus Christ had been found in the form of an ossuary, or bone-box, supposedly once containing the bones of "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," as was inscribed on the box in Aramaic.
The original scholar who reported this spectacular find, the Sorbonne's biblical expert Andre Lemaire, "born a Catholic," concluded it was "very probable" that the inscription referred to Jesus of Nazareth, i.
The ossuary, therefore, would supposedly be that of the biblical "James the Just," who is referred to as Jesus's "brother" at Matthew Naturally, Christian apologists and fanatics rubbed their hands together, and gleefully and smugly bombarded nonbelievers with the news via email.
But was there really some wondrous "new proof" of Jesus that would set the record straight once and for all, or was it all another bit of faithful flotsam? In actuality, it seems to be time once again for the world's religious handlers to pull out another holy relic in order to bolster up the flagging faith. Such shenanigans have been behind the incessant news releases regarding the Shroud of Turin a more bogus relic there never was , the recent "depiction" of what Jesus would have looked like a Neanderthal , and the never-ending slew of books concerning the "real Jesus," who invariably resembles the authors of said books.
To those who have been around a while and have developed a jaundiced eye, this latest "find" is yet more of the same "evidence. Oldest Evidence of Jesus? However, in the initial sentence Lorenzi says, "The first archaeological evidence of Jesus' existence has come to light Moreover, Dan Rahimi, the "director of collections" for the museum where it is being housed, stated, ''A lot of people accept the reality of Jesus as a historical figure but don't accept him as Christ, and to use the words 'before Christ' is really quite ethnocentric of European Christians Such an assertion is quite astounding, considering that Jesus Christ was supposedly a man who shook up the world and purportedly has been supernaturally in charge of the cosmos for the past 2, years!
What these remarks regarding the "only New Testament-era mention," "first-ever archaeological discovery," "first archaeological evidence," "oldest evidence," and "first proof" reflect is that there has previously been no direct evidence that Jesus Christ ever existed. Moreover, the comment that "a lot of people accept the reality of Jesus as a historical figure" implies that many people recognize this dearth of evidence and do not accept him as "historical figure.
Although the faithful believe that this astonishing pronouncement was rooted in science, Lemaire's precise dating is based on the a priori assumption that the find is indeed the bone-box of James the Just, the disciple whose death is assigned by Christians to the year 62 CE. Nevertheless, it is not the case that the ossuary contains an inscribed date or is conclusively dated by other means to exactly 63 CE and must therefore represent the burial box of James the Just.
In other words, the dating is based on circular reasoning: Since James died in 62 CE, and since this is apparently his ossuary, it must date to 63 CE, when his bones would have been placed in it. There is no proof, however, that James died in that year or that this is his ossuary. Yet, triumphant apologists will falsely claim that this ossuary has conclusively been proved to be that of James and to date to exactly the right time!
As is well known to those who have scientifically investigated so many previous Christian claims, apologists constantly use this type of flawed logic. To repeat, even though news reports make it seem the box itself contains this very date, in reality the dating of 63 CE attached to this particular ossuary is based on the tradition of James's death, not because the box possesses a dated inscription or there is some other precise dating method.
According to CNN, the "Israeli government's geological survey test" concluded that "the object is more than 19 centuries old," but the author cites BAR as the source, and this particular statement does not appear on the BAR website article. Hence, such "scientific" tests are questionable; even if the entire inscription were genuine, electron-microscope dating could not pinpoint the exact year.
Hence, this limestone box, which is nevertheless apparently fairly old, based on the fact that it cracked severely during transport, could date from another century altogether, particularly the two to three following Jesus's purported advent. Supposedly also the box was heavily damaged specifically by a crack in the inscription. In "First Proof of Jesus Found?
She states that during the first century these ossuaries were used in "the second of a two-stage burial process, when bones of the deceased were transferred from burial caves. Although these enthusiastic newsbites make it seem otherwise, the James ossuary is not unusual, nor is it necessarily dated to the convenient year of 63 CE. In giving his contrived date a professional flourish, Lemaire also claimed the box must date from the first century because it fits in with when "Jews" used ossuaries, between 20 BCE and 70 CE.
While it may be argued that "Jews," i. The site of Hederah in northern Israel, for example, yielded numerous fragments and complete ossuaries, some of which were in the exact square shape as that of James's. There were other shapes as well, including one that resembled a house, with a peaked roof.
These finds were dated by their discoverer, E. Sukenik concluded that these house-shaped vessels were akin to the "soul-houses" of the Egyptians and "house urns" of the Europeans. As we can see, this type of vessel is not uncommon and does not necessarily date to the first centuries BCE-CE. In other words, even "Jews" used ossuaries well beyond the fall of the Temple, i. Based on findings from the Jerusalem necropolis of the Second Temple Period 6th cent. Numerous laws in the Mishnah and Talmud deal with the modes of burial and the form and size of tombs.
These burials refer specifically to ossuaries, which were used once the flesh had decayed, leaving the bones alone. Obviously, the ossuary-burial did not end in 70 CE, so Lemaire's terminus a quem is erroneous, as is his terminus a quo. Hence, this ossuary and its inscription could date from any of several centuries, including the Constantinian era, when bogus relics and forged texts were all the rage. As can be seen, ossuaries in Jerusalem were fairly common as well, so that, if the James ossuary is bogus, its creator would have plenty of examples upon which to draw.
Furthermore, as Avi-Yonah states regarding the numerous bone-boxes found in the Tombs at Dominus Flevit, which contained " ossuaries of the usual type [square]," common names included Jeshua or Yeshua Jesus and Maria Mary. In one of the surviving family tombs in Jerusalem are 18 ossuaries with Greek inscriptions, one of which contains the names "Joseph" twice and "Maria.
By the typical media and religious standards this tomb should have been exalted as that of Jesus's family. In another example, in the "Tomb Cave in the Talpiot Quarter, discovered in ," are found large charcoal crosses on one of the ossuaries, while "two other ossuaries had Greek inscriptions reading IhsouV iou. IhsouV alwq," a phrase that contains the name Jesus twice. If this Jesus tomb had dated to a few decades later, no doubt the media and faithful would have had a field day in presenting it as the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, thus "proving" the biblical fable, although these two tombs mentioned herein would certainly infuriate the keepers and believers in the "Holy Sepulchre," yet another profitable tourist attraction.
It would be surprising that no such incautious and mirthful rush to judgment has occurred concerning this particular Jesus tomb. In reality, at least one sloppy sensationalist author has claimed this tomb to be that of "Jesus of Nazareth," asserting that the tomb also contained the ossuaries of not only a Jesus, but also a Joseph, two Marys and a Jude.
The excavation report, however, does not mention these other burials, leaving the question as to whether or not this particular author is prone to fiction, as is suggested by his other writings as well. As is evident, looks can be deceiving, such that caution should be utilized in regard to artifacts.
In Jerusalem there is even a "Tomb of Jason," complete with an ossuary and a scratched image of a warship, which could lead to the conclusion that this is the tomb of the Jason of Greek mythology. Although it is evidently the tomb of a real person of that era, true believers in the demigod Jason of Argonaut fame could attempt in the same manner as Christians to "prove" the existence of Jason and his Argonauts, such as Hercules, as "real people.
As stated by Bronsen Wickkiser, fellow of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Asklepios was "known as a healer since Homer," and his cult spread rapidly at the "beginning of the late fifth century B. A healer associated with these gods might be called a "brother of Jason" or a "brother of Jesus," long before the Christian era.
Indeed, all roads point to Christianity as an expose of the secret Pagan rituals that concerned a healing god with long curly hair who rose from the dead, etc.
This particular designation of the "brother of Jesus" has been one of four that have been bandied about since early times. The news reports regarding the James ossuary mention only three: James was Jesus's blood brother, born of the Virgin Mary; 2.
James was one of Josephs's children by another marriage; or 3. James was Jesus's "cousin. The fact that James is cited in this inscription as the "son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" creates suspicion since it is by no means agreed within all the Christian sects that Jesus had any blood brothers, despite the assertions in the New Testament.
The wording on the James ossuary, if it is to be interpreted as referring to a blood brother born of Mary, would indicate that of the many sects one particular was involved in its apparent forgery. However, in an article from Believenet. Witherington argues that this word adelphos, as in Philadelphia, "City of Brotherly Love," probably refers to blood brothers. Yet, in the passage at Acts, James is clearly not referring to blood brothers but to "brothers" in the sense of the word as used by the clergy and members of other brotherhoods and fraternities into modern times.
The proper usage concerning James is in reality the fourth interpretation, which is that to be called a "brother" means you are a member of a male-based society, church, organization, secret or otherwise. In another instance, Witherington points out the phrase in 1 Cor. It is quite clear that the phrase " brothers" refers to members of the community, not a family, so why has this meaning been ignored constantly over the centuries? As we know, such Christian communities as the Quakers refer to their female members as "sisters," while their male members are "brothers.
The mention of a character on such a tomb or ossuary does not prove that the person really existed. No doubt many Indians, for example, have recorded the names of their various gods on their own epitaphs--by this "logic," all these gods would have to have existed as "historical characters.
Aramaic for an Orthodox Jew? A scan of the ossuaries dating from the Herodian period reveals that many, if not most, were inscribed in Hebrew and Greek, not Aramaic. It would seem unusual for an orthodox Jew such as James, as he has been shown to have been by Robert Eisenman, et al. Educated Jews may have settled on Greek, but possibly not Aramaic.
The Aramaic inscriptions on the "Jewish" ossuaries seem to be mainly warnings, advising "Do not open it. Having this identification written in Aramaic might also be a bit suspicious, even though there were some ossuaries in family tombs with Aramaic writing.
Yet, again, for an orthodox Jew? It is possible that a forger supposed, as have millions of Christians, that historical Jesus spoke Aramaic, as would his purported sibling, James; therefore, in order for the inscription to appear "authentic," according to Christian tradition, it should be written in Aramaic.
BAR reports that, according to Lemaire, the cursive style of Aramaic in which the inscription appears occurred only from CE.
Lorenzi also writes that the inscription's cursive Aramaic "would date the ossuary to the last decades of 70 A. In any case, it should be noted that epigraphy is an inexact science and that clever forgers have been able to replicate just about any style imaginable. That the style "fits perfectly" with the writing of the era, as stated by Lemaire and Catholic University's Joseph Fitzmyer, proves little, since, again, forgers are often well skilled in reproducing styles.
In the end, Fitzmyer honestly concluded that nobody can show that the box's "Jesus" is really Jesus of Nazareth. The study of such ossuaries reveals that, as is claimed by Lemaire, et al. This fact concerning the James ossuary would actually cast doubt as to its genuineness; indeed, it seems contrived in order to prove a point. Indeed, in an article "Ossuary was genuine, inscription was faked," for Jewsweek magazine, "expert on scripts and historian of writing systems" Rochelle I.
Altman has pronounced the ossuary genuine, as well as the first part of the inscription. However, the last part, "brother of Jesus" is unquestionably a sloppy fake. The bone-box is original; the first inscription, which is in Aramaic, "Jacob son of Joseph," is authentic.
The second half of the inscription, "brother of Jesus," is a poorly executed fake and a later addition. This report has already been distributed on at least two scholarly lists. Altman also notes that the phrase is certainly not written in Aramaic and "You have to be blind as a bat not to see that the second part is a fraud.
She has "a great deal of experience at spotting ancient frauds and forgeries.