Israel Antiquities Authority Returns “Jesus Brother” Bone Box to Owner

Ossuary owner Oded Golan with the returned artifact. Photo: Ran Erda, NY Daily News, courtesy of Oded Golan.

“A modest limestone casket could be the first object ever found from the family of Jesus Christ.” So begins an article in the New York Daily News on Sunday, November 10, reporting on the return to its owner of a bone box, or ossuary, inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” marking the culmination of a ten-year unsuccessful effort by the Israel Antiquities Authority to prove the inscription is a forgery.*

The Daily News article continues: “Some experts still maintain the box is a fake. Other experts and [owner Oded] Golan are convinced it is the real thing.” This part of the article is only half right:

No experts maintain the box is a fake. All acknowledge the box, or ossuary, is genuine and from the period when Jesus lived. The inscription is what is at issue—and, even then, only the last part of it: “brother of Jesus.” The government’s criminal complaint itself recognizes that the first part of the inscription is authentic and charges only that “brother of Jesus” has been recently forged.

So what do the experts say? Two world-class experts on inscriptions from this period, André Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Ada Yardeni of Hebrew University, among others, believe the inscription is authentic and not a modern forgery.

After five years, the “forgery trial of the century” has concluded in a Jerusalem courtroom and defendants Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch have been acquitted of all forgery charges. In our free eBook James, Brother of Jesus: The Forgery Trial of the Century, Hershel Shanks explains why he believes the now-famous “James Ossuary” inscription is authentic. Plus, he provides behind-the-scenes analysis of the trial and its key players.

Their expertise is called paleography. So where is the qualified paleographer who says the inscription is a forgery? I know of none, not before the criminal case and certainly not after the evidence adduced in the lengthy criminal trial in which Golan was acquitted of all forgery charges.

The 'James Ossuary' was returned to Oded Golan on November 10, 2013.

What about a scientific look at the inscription? One of the government’s own experts found original ancient patina on the inscription—on the word “Jesus,” the very word that the government alleged was forged. After the evidence adduced at trial, where is the scientific expert who claims the inscription, as the Daily News article says, is fake? If he or she is out there, I wish she/he would identify herself or himself and give us his or her reasons.

There is something else: Oded Golan has owned the ossuary for nearly 25 years. He bought it from an Arab antiquities dealer for a few hundred dollars. He had no idea of its significance; as he says, “I never knew that Jesus had a brother.” The Antiquities Authority agrees that Golan has owned the artifact since sometime prior to 1978. An Israeli law provides that all antiquities discovered after 1978 belongs to the state. If the Antiquities Authority had any indication that Golan had acquired the ossuary after that date, it would never have returned it to him—at least not without a fight, as it is presently fighting to keep the so-called Yehoash Inscription. The Yehoash Inscription was also in Golan’s possession and the prosecution claimed it too was a forgery. Even though he was acquitted of the forgery charge, the government is refusing to return the Yehoash Inscription because, unlike the ossuary, the Yehoash Inscription was a recent acquisition—since 1978. That Golan, as the government now agrees, owned the ossuary for a quarter of a century without appreciating the text of the inscription also speaks to its authenticity.

Although Golan now has possession and ownership of the ossuary, he has no intention of selling it, he told BAS. He wants it to be exhibited so that the public can see what all the fuss is about.

Read the Daily News article.

Get the complete picture of the verdict through Bible History Daily’s “James Ossuary Forgery Trial Resources Guide.



* Shanks, Hershel. ““Brother of Jesus” Inscription Is Authentic!” Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug 2012, 26-33.

Posted in News, Inscriptions.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Add Your Comments

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

Send this to a friend

Hello! Your friend thought you might be interested in reading this post from
Israel Antiquities Authority Returns “Jesus Brother” Bone Box to Owner!
Here is the link:
Enter Your Log In Credentials...

Change Password