Yuval Goren casts suspicion on James ossuary, ivory pomegranate and other Jewish artifacts
Professor Yuval Goren has been the single driving force that found at least three famous inscriptions on Jewish artifacts to be Biblical forgeries. He spoke with authoritative influence because he is not a field archaeologist or a language or writing specialist, but a hard scientist who uses a microscope and scientific jargon. Others relied on his expertise. He led the troops in finding the following inscriptions, among others on Jewish artifacts, to be Biblical forgeries:
1. The well-known James ossuary, or bone box, inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”
2. A small ivory pomegranate inscribed “Belonging to the Tem[ple of Yahwe]h, holy to the priests.” If authentic, this ivory pomegranate may have come from Solomon’s Temple.
3. A 15-line inscription on a black stone plaque ascribed to King Jehoash (Yehoash in Hebrew), who, according to the Bible (2 Kings 12), repaired the Temple in the late ninth century B.C.E. If authentic, this would be the only royal Israelite inscription ever discovered.
Professor Goren has also declared an elaborately decorated stone oil lamp, recently published in Biblical Archaeology Review,* to be among the Jewish artifacts (the James ossuary, ivory pomegranate and Jehoash inscription) he claims are Biblical forgeries.
The discussion begins, however, not with these Jewish artifacts, but with an important new inscription that Professor Goren found to be authentic. Like the James ossuary inscription, the new inscription is on an ossuary. And like the James ossuary and the ivory pomegranate, the new ossuary comes from the antiquities market; no one knows where it was found or, rather, was looted.
The Aramaic inscription is clear and reads as follows:
“Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphas, priest of Ma‘aziah from Beth ’Imri”
In the case of the Miriam ossuary, Professor Goren was able to conclude that the inscription was “authentic beyond any reasonable doubt.”
We have no reason to question this conclusion. What is interesting, however, is that an accomplished scientist can study an ossuary inscription and conclude, without reservation, that it is authentic. How can he do it here but not in the case of the other Jewish artifacts he deemed Biblical forgeries, including the James ossuary and the ivory pomegranate?
The startling relevance of the Miriam ossuary inscription to the other artifacts that Professor Goren had found to be forgeries is that, in Goren’s own view, there is an examination that can establish whether the inscription is authentic. Why, then, did he not perform that examination on the other Jewish artifacts?
* See Hershel Shanks, “Tainted Stone Oil Lamp Authenticated,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2011.
To read more about Yuval Goren’s work with alleged Biblical forgeries such as the James ossuary and the ivory pomegranate, read “Fudging with Forgeries” in the November/December 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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Good point! I would like to know that too. And when does that case finally conclude?
We know now: James ossuary is not a forgery- I am following the data of the court [email protected] arguments of other scholars!
What is his reply to it? Is he an honest researcher?
I think the bigger question is whether or not such a categorically inerrant test as Dr. Goren claims actually exists. It seems to me that there are just too many potential variables in the things that happen to artifacts as they age (location, isolation from air and water, presence of specific microorganisms, deposition of patina, etc). I also don’t think one can simply ignore things like archeology, scriptology, and historical analysis in dating an artifact. Dr. Goren’s assessments may be valid as far as they go, but they are only one piece of the puzzle.
One reason “BAS is a wonderful resource” is that BAR straddles the gap between scientific scholarship and the interested public who’s money ultimately supports scientific scholarship. As a “popular” publication is it not reasonable that it should go beyond a sterile scientific neutrality and employ an appropriate amount of “emotion-and-bias-laden language.” Ultimately all communication reflects the bias of the communicator even when it’s couched in “scientific jargon.”
—- George Brown
BAS is a wonderful resource, but when you slip into emotion-and-bias-laden language like “scientific jargon” I realize anew why many of us read you with a certain grain of salt and care. The academic discipline often isn’t there. Also you must know that contemporary biblical and archaeological scholarship is rich in its own “jargon” and that terminology is an important component of being able to express oneself in a precisely defined way in a well-developed area of expertise. If you can’t understand the science–learn it and make your criticisms specific and well developed and free of insults.