“Brother of Jesus” Proved Ancient and Authentic

Biblical Archaeology Society Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. (June 13, 2012)—A new analysis and new evidence proves that the controversial “Brother of Jesus” inscription on an ancient bone box, or ossuary, is authentic, according to the July/August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), the world’s largest circulation magazine devoted to Biblical archaeology.

After a 5-year trial, Jerusalem judge Aharon Farkash recently acquitted the defendants of all charges of forgery. But his verdict doesn’t mean the Aramaic inscription on the bone box, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” is authentic. It only means that the prosecution failed to present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the inscription is a forgery.

In a post-verdict analysis, former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer and BAR editor Hershel Shanks explains why it can be said beyond reasonable doubt that the inscription is authentic, and he presents new evidence not available at the trial to support this conclusion.

In the latest issue of BAR, Hershel Shanks argues that the "brother of Jesus" inscription on this bone box is authentic.

First and foremost, two world-acclaimed script experts, known as paleographers, have analyzed the inscription and pronounced it authentic. They are Andre Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Ada Yardeni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Several other prominent scholars have supported their findings. More importantly, not a single paleographer of repute has challenged their analysis. Paleographically, there is no other side.

The government’s case was based on information provided by Joe Zias, a now unemployed anthropologist formerly employed by the Israel Antiquities Authority, who claimed he had seen the bone box in Mahmoud Abushakra’s antiquities shop without the final phrase, “brother of Jesus.” This became the basis of the government’s case; the government admitted that the bone box itself was ancient, as was the first part of inscription. Only the last phrase, it claimed, was a forgery.

At the trial, however, Zias admitted that he had seen the inscription for a few seconds at most, and even if he had seen it, he wouldn’t have been able to read the ancient letters. That was not his expertise, he said.

Since the trial, BAR has located the bone box that was in Mahmoud Abushakra’s antiquities shop. It looks much like the James/Jesus bone box. It even has an inscription of similar length and includes three names. To anyone who does not read ancient Aramaic it looks much like the inscription on the James/Jesus bone box. But the names are “Joseph, Judah and Hadas,” not “James, Joseph and Jesus.” This bone box with the names “Joseph, Judah and Hadas” is published for the first time in the July/August issue of BAR.

Moreover, the government’s chief scientific witness, Professor Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University was forced to admit on cross-examination that there was original ancient patina in the word “Jesus.”

Whether the “Jesus” on the bone box refers to the founder of Christianity is a separate question. Jesus, James and Joseph were all common names at the time. Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University has made a little-known statistical analysis of the occurrence of these three names in ancient Jerusalem and concluded that at the time there were 1.71 people named James with a father Joseph and a brother named Jesus; and Professor Fuchs says he can say this with 95 per cent assurance that it is a statistically accurate conclusion.

Professor Fuchs also points out that it is very rare to find the brother of the deceased named in a bone-box inscription. In fact, in only one other case of the thousands of recovered bone-boxes is the brother of the deceased listed. In one other case the son of the deceased is named. Fuchs concludes that “there is little doubt that this [naming a brother or son] was done only when there was a very meaningful reason to refer to a family member of the deceased, usually due to his importance and fame.”



Read the full article online as it appears in the July/August 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.



After five years, the “forgery trial of the century” has concluded. In our free eBook James, Brother of Jesus: The Forgery Trial of the Century, Hershel Shanks provides behind-the-scenes analysis of the trial and its key players alongside the essential scholarly articles discussing the artifacts from the trial.

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  1. Kathryn says

    I wonder how this verdict will affect the Christian community. It is on faith alone we believe the ressurection. This separates us form all other faiths, doesn’t it?

  2. Eldad says

    Thanks, Hershel and BAR! At last, more reason, based on accurate scientific works, not whims. As always, truth wins, it only takes time.

  3. SRQTom says

    This is a great discovery, but I can’t see that it will have any “effect’ on the Christian community. It does validate independently from Scripture that Jesus had a brother named James, which is good, but that is about all it does. It doesn’t even put to rest the ever-virginity of Mary dispute since only Joseph is listed.

  4. Judah says

    To 1.:I hope that’s not all that separates us from other faiths! Otherwise the Apostles who saw touched and spoke to the risen lord and the “500 at once” spoken of by Paul are not Christians, for it was their direct experience which they preached, as well as its meaning.
    This very intriguing article, however, doesn’t “prove” the resurrection of the Lord, it only gives very credible evidence that Jesus Christ was a 1st century Jewish man of great importance, and that some central data about him in the gospels is reliable.

  5. Joseph says

    Faith must come after proof, not without or in its total absence. This is because everyone has faith – but they all contradict each other.

  6. G.M. says

    What a shame that a government agency relied so heavily on hearsay to indict people & put them on trial at taxpayers’ expense. I hope that mainstream news media will report this press release to discredit people like Nina Burleigh (who portrayed the IAA as a poor victim) & Robert Cargill (who lauded Burleigh).

  7. joe says

    I have three questions which remain unanswered and my remark about Shanks et al not having a sense of humor was meant in sarcasm.

    1. is the ossuary shown here of hard limestone or soft limestone
    2. In what year was it purchased?
    3. Is the dealer in the photo who claims that this new ossuary was in his shop, the same individual who claimed not to have known nor heard of Joe Zias who is seen here standing next to him?

    Moreover there appears to be some editing here in my testimony as I asked the judge for permission to reply in English for legal reasons and accuracy, permission was denied. Lastly, would $5,000 dollars have been enough for the dealer to retire to Germany or am I missing something as he never rtn to Israel after the story broke, leaving wife, family and house on the Mt. of Olives.

  8. Erik says

    “It is on faith alone we believe the ressurection.”

    No. This is an unbiblical idea. Critics have repeated this misunderstanding for so long and so effectively in the media echo chamber, that even many “believers” and “apologists” have come to take it on “faith” to be so. Certainly there are future promises (things not seen) that we hold on faith, but we believe because we have a firm foundation of trust to stand firm in, and reliability built on tireless investigation, personal study, and verification (or should).

    Acts 1.3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

    1 Thessalonians 5.21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

    The whole of the bible is written in a way to be tested because it is intimately intertwined with worldly, historical, events — not just a laundry list of concepts or proverbs — that we might come to a trust in heavenly things. “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” John 3.12. Does that mean we can test every jot and tittle? No, (not yet at least) but in the areas where we can, the track record is very impressive and builds a well-earned trust for the text. Some of the most hard-to-believe events described in the bible also tend to have the most abundant evidence, I have found. They also tends to have the most controversy and disinformation attached to them. Unfortunately it’s taboo and political suicide for mainstream academics to get behind in most cases, plus actors like Zias will always pop up and attempt to spread what appears to be disinfo for the press and critics to happily latch onto and parrot ad infinitum to reaffirm their biases, thus preventing a true mass spiritual awakening.

    Take the Turin shroud. It has 100s of data-points to argue for authenticity, but the vast majority only know about the C14 dating hyped by the media to disprove it. What is largely unknown and almost never discussed in the media is that the agreed upon scientific protocols for collecting samples of the cloth was violated. A single postage stamp-size sample was taken and split up and sent to three labs. The sample did not represent the whole cloth. Experts who knew that this one test could not possible undue the other evidence, so it was later theorized that the sample was from a medieval rewoven section. In an attempt to debunk this theory, the late Ray Rogers ended up proving it in peer reviewed publications (*). Dr. Rogers had always been staunchly anti-authenticity but ended up arguing for its authenticity, and his last paper before he died was on this subject.

    The disinfo swirling around the shroud is relentless and well organized — in fact, I cancelled my subscription to BAR after a piece they ran on the shroud pretended the C14 tests were actually still valid never mentioning how new peer-reviewed papers published in some of the most prominent journals in the world showed the conclusions drawn from the 1988 C14 tests were based on bad science, highly suspicious, and must be discarded.

    There are countless victims of what I can only described as an ongoing campaign of lies. DailyMail online just ran another propaganda piece on the shroud just last Sunday just there to ‘remind’ everyone that the shroud is fake unquestionably accepting the pronouncements of the perennial charlatan, never daring to go near the new scientific findings or take responses from real experts. So many have thoughtlessly brushed off nothing less than hard, tangible evidence documenting in extraordinary detail the scourging, crucifixion, death, and some believe resurrection* of Yeshua.

    The official photographer of the shroud, Barrie Shwortz — himself an Orthodox Jew who also tried to debunk the shroud in the 70s as part of the original STURP team who had hands on access to the shroud and ended up becoming its biggest advocate — discusses the new findings in an interview here: youtube*com/watch?v=6dkRiX1Jfk­A (replace asterisk in URL).

    We know from scriptures that there was a real conspiracy among the religious-political establishment against Christ and later his apostles in their proclamations of his resurrection and glorification. Is it possible that today there is no difference?

    - Chemistry Today (vol 26 n4/Jul-Aug 2008), “Discrepancies in the radiocarbon dating area of the Turin shroud,”
    - Los Alamos National Laboratory findings (Ohio State Shroud of Turin Conference report (August 2008),
    - Thermochimica Acta (vol 425 2005) and
    - findings of Georgia Institute of Technology chemist John L. Brown
    From innoval*com/C14/

  9. Krzysztof says

    NT says the same:
    1Cor 15:11 is from 30′s -after Ulrich Victor in Benedict xvi interview with P.Sewald .It speaks about the resurrected nad not the tomb! 1cor 15: 35nn speaks about the resurrected hevenaly bodies nnot earthly; St.Paul calls his ignorant congregation: “fools” (v.36) Thanks BAR@archeologist for cleansing the false interpreatation of past!

  10. Niall says

    I seriously doubt that this ossuary inscription actually refers to the James of the New Testament. James and Jesus and Joseph were very common Jewish names in the1st Century.

  11. Frank says

    Dear Sir,
    I am not a biblical scholar, just interested. However this I don’t understand; “Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University…these three names in ancient Jerusalem and concluded that at the time there were 1.71 people named James with a father Joseph and a brother named Jesus;
    Are you actually saying that the chance of this ossuary containing these three peoples bones was/is so slight, 1.71, (what Number, %) ?

  12. Robert says

    Finally more evidence that is backed up by scripture to clearly show James was the half Brother of Christ! Now prayerfully The Roman Catholic man-made institution will stop calling Mary “ever virgin” and realize as scripture declare she had other children wth Her husband Joseph, Jesus step Dad. Thank God for revealing the truth and exposing lies of roman catolicism.

  13. Lindert says

    to 11:
    The number 1.71 in the quote is not a probability or percentage, but rather an expected value. In other words, it means that if random names were given to all people in Jerusalem at the time (while considering the relative popularity of names), there would on average be 1.71 people called James with a father Joseph and a brother Jesus. In practice this means that maybe there were 1 or 2, maybe more (or none), but it indicates that is unlikely that dozens or hundreds such people existed.

  14. DONALD says

    The marriage of Joseph and Mary was a covenant between them and God to be fruitful and multiply for them not to consummate their marriage would violate that covenant. It is the man made righteousness of the Roman Catholic Church that has altered this truth of Jesus having siblings. He adopted a bloodline to participate in kinship with man Mary was merely the vessel God used for this miracle. The truth has never been hidden only ignored but this is a confirmation for all of us who know the truth.

  15. Ronnie says

    Where did Mahmoud Abushakra obtain the ossury? Did he buy it? If so for how much? Was it in a tomb? There are many more questions that need answers before anyone can say it is genunine!

  16. Jeffrey says

    To me, once there is no counter evidence against the findings. The finding should be accepted as truth unless proven otherwise.

  17. Armand says

    I admit that I’m struggling a bit with these names. When we say, “James, brother of Jesus” are we literally suggesting the name on the ossuary was “Jesus?” I’m sure it’s well known that his name was Hellenized to “Jesus” (Iesus, sp?) and so it is unlikely that it would have had that name on the ossuary. Was is Yoshua or some other Hebrew derivation? I ask because these names were highly, highly popular, like Miriam, or “Mary,” where some 50% of women had such names. I hope we’re not implying that this ossuary actually belonged to THE “James” bother of THE “Jesus?” I’m certain there were many, many families containing such names (in the original Hebrew) and there would be no way we could reasonably assert that these bones did, in fact, belong to James the brother or half-brother of Jesus, known as Jesus Christ.

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