BAR 29:04, Jul/Aug 2003
Brother of Jesus Ossuary
New Tests Bolster Case For Authenticity
By accident most strange, Shakespeare reminds us in The Tempest, can come bountiful Fortune. So, it might be argued, was the case with the tragic accident in which the now-famous ossuary (bone box) inscribed James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus broke last fall on its way from Israel to Toronto for exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).a It arrived in a cardboard carton encased only in layers of bubble wrap, which, when removed, revealed a soft limestone bone box that had broken into five pieces.
Now restored, the ossuary is more structurally sound than before. And the accident provided our team at the ROM with an opportunity to study the bone box and its inscription in ways that would have been impossible had the box not broken. The studies we conducted have convinced us that the ossuary and its inscription are genuinely ancient and not a modern forgery. This conclusion, of course, is consistent with the findings of leading Semitic paleographers and Aramaic linguists, as well as the Geological Survey of Israel, and contradicts those who assert that the inscription must be a forgery simply because it is too good to be true or because it surfaced on the antiquities market rather than having been found in a professional archaeological excavation.b