Video: Hershel Shanks Explores the Evidence Before the James Ossuary Trial

BAS releases Hershel Shanks 2004 lecture Case Not Closed


Just before the James Ossuary trial, Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks delivered a public lecture at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem explaining why the Israel Antiquities Authority had failed to make a convincing case that the James Ossuary inscription—reading “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”—is a forgery. Just before the James Ossuary trial began in 2004, Hershel Shanks questioned the accusations and evidence of the Israel Antiquities Authority, prioritizing argumentation for authenticity over the religious implications of archaeological material suggesting Jesus’ brother.

Hershel Shanks states, “It was declared genuine by prominent experts on ancient writing, as well as by geologists. But shortly after I published a story on the ossuary in Biblical Archaeology Review, the Israel Antiquities Authority declared it a forgery. Many people now think it’s a forgery simply because the Israel Antiquities Authority said so. But the IAA never really made its case—and scholars I have challenged on the matter have been unable to defend the IAA decision. The ossuary needs to be studied by a new set of international experts so the truth can finally be learned.”

“While I was able to defend this position in the United States, it was a question whether I could do so in Jerusalem with all the sophisticated expertise available there. So I decided to walk into the lion’s den. I gave a talk to a packed auditorium at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on September 1st 2004. And, mirabile dictum, I walked out unscathed.”

Almost a decade and many debates later, the James Ossuary trial verdict will be released tomorrow, March 14th, and the world awaits the decision of the James Ossuary trial. Is the ossuary that of Jesus’ brother? Does the Israel Antiquities Authority have proof that it is a forgery?

In this lecture, Hershel Shanks criticizes the way that the Israel Antiquities Authority has presented its case. The lecture’s audience included members of the Israel Antiquities Authority as well as soon-to-be defendant Oded Golan.

This lecture composed the Biblical Archaeology Society’s DVD Case Not Closed and is now being released in full in conjunction with the James Ossuary trial verdict. Hershel Shanks’s arguments are necessary to understand the James Ossuary trial as a complex epigraphic, archaeological and political case that has far-reaching implications for scholarly knowledge of the Biblical past. The lecture explains the initial evidence presented in the case, and the biases in the treatment of an object that has captivated the world’s attention with its connection to Jesus’ brother.

Supplement Case Not Closed with free, up-to-date information on the trial from Bible History Daily, including a verdict preview and an authoritative eBook, James, Brother of Jesus: The Forgery Trial of the Century, that will be released later this week after the verdict is announced. These informative resources not only update the lecture with details from the James Ossuary trial, but also explain the case for and against other alleged forgeries, including the Yehoash inscription and an inscribed ivory pomegranate, possibly the only surviving artifacts from Solomon’s Temple. With the DVD Case Not Closed and the resources available from Bible History Daily, you’ll have everything you need to explore the James Ossuary trial from start to finish.

Posted in Artifacts and the Bible.

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