Bible Archaeology

The James Ossuary May Be Destroyed?

The Jerusalem Post:

A Jerusalem judge will announce on Wednesday whether he has decided to order the destruction of a burial box that could have held the bones of the brother of Jesus and an inscribed tablet that could have come from the First Temple.

At a Jerusalem District Court hearing in April, Judge Aharon Farkash said he might exercise “the judgement of Solomon” and order both items to be destroyed.

The stone burial box, or ossuary, dates to the first century CE and has an Aramaic inscription that reads “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The black tablet is inscribed with a passage recording repairs by King Jehoash around 800 BCE. Its surface is spattered with sub-microscopic globules of gold that suggest it might have survived a fire in which golden items melted into tiny airborne particles.

If genuine, the items are the only artifacts yet recovered that can be linked directly to the family of Jesus and the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem and could be of considerable historical significance.

Last March, at the end of a trial lasting nearly seven years, a Tel Aviv collector was acquitted of faking the two artifacts and other antiquities by Judge Farkash, vice president of the Jerusalem District Court.

But Judge Farkash reserved judgment on whether the ossuary or the stone tablet were authentic because of disagreements between the world’s leading experts.

On Wednesday, Judge Farkash will pass sentence on the defendant, Oded Golan, who was acquitted on 41 charges of forgery, fraud and other serious crimes, but found guilty of three minor misdemeanors of trading in antiquities without a license and handling goods suspected of being stolen.

At a hearing in April, the prosecution demanded a tough sentence including jail time and said that the ossuary, the tablet and many other items should be confiscated by the court, even though Golan had been acquitted of all charges related to them.

“Maybe I’ll order them to be destroyed and neither side will have them,” said Judge Farkash in comments that were not recorded in the official court transcript.

It would be “the judgement of Solomon,” said Judge Farkash.

“Neither of you will have the ossuary or the Jehoash tablet. They broke once already, they can be broken again. Just destroy them,” he said.

The ossuary cracked into two pieces 2002 while it was being shipped to an exhibition in Canada and was repaired by restorers at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The Jehoash tablet broke along an existing crack in 2003 while it was being handled by investigators at the Israel Police forensic laboratory.

The judge also suggested that the items might be put on display for the public.

“Maybe they should be exhibited at the Israel Museum as items from this trial suspected of being fakes,” he said.

Experts who gave evidence for both sides last night urged Judge Farkash not to destroy the items.

Andre Lemaire, the Sorbonne scholar who published the first analysis of the ossuary in 2002 and has stood by its authenticity, said its destruction would be “scandalous” and “a manipulation of historical evidence.”

“It would be necessary from a scientific point of view to start a new suit, on a real basis this time, for voluntary destruction of historical evidence and tentative manipulation of history,” Professor Lemaire told The Jerusalem Post.

Christopher Rollston, professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Emmanuel Christian Seminary who appeared as a prosecution witness, said “it is never prudent to destroy antiquities, regardless of the controversy surrounding them.”

“I would certainly not wish to see the Ya’akov (“James”) Ossuary destroyed. Indeed, to destroy the ossuary would only fuel the controversy, effectively turning this ossuary into an archaeological martyr of sorts. I wish to see it returned to its legal owner,” he said.

Prosecution witness Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, agreed that the ossuary should not be destroyed, but said it should not be returned to Golan. “The Israel Antiquities Authority has a place for alleged forgeries in their storehouses – why not put this item there too for posterity?” Finkelstein suggested.

Defence counsel Lior Bringer said the items should be returned immediately to Golan, who said he has not yet decided what to do with them.

“The prosecution is asking the court to punish the defendant for crimes for which he was acquitted,” said Bringer. “Golan admitted to the three minor charges he was convicted of in the first police interview. On these charges there was no need for a trial at all.”

“He spent more than two years under house arrest and was in prison twice. He has suffered enough,” said Bringer.



The Northeast Anglican

The June 2012 edition of the The Northeast Anglican (pdf.) is out. It’s by the Diocese of the Northeast of the Anglican Church in America (TAC)  It has news and more – not just of the Diocese, but the Church greater too… there’s plenty to read and enjoy. Click on the link.



Anglican Delegation to Interview Archbishop Tutu on his “endorsement” of Abortion Clinic

A delegation of Anglican clergy has been appointed to interview Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu about a “report in the media that suggests” that he “has given his support to a clinic that offers abortion on request”.

The decision follows a resolution by the Anglican Diocesan Synod in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, to send a delegation to Tutu for his comment on the report which was published in Gateway News on December 14, 2011. The three-yearly Synod met at The St John The Baptist Church, in Walmer, last week, to deal with various church-related matters.

Tutu’s reported endorsement of Marie Stopes Clinic (a chain of abortion clinics) was brought to the attention of the Synod in a motion tabled by Reverend Lawrie Wilmot, in which he proposed that the Synod should publicly disassociate itself from the implied Anglican approval that Tutu had given to the practice of abortion on request. He also proposed that the Synod should reaffirm its 2005 resolution that abortion on request was murder.

Wilmot and Arch-Deacon David Stansbury, who seconded the motion, both emphasised that while they personally respected Tutu they believed it was important for the Synod to distance itself from his stance on abortion. Wilmot showed the Synod a photograph of a billboard that had been taken in the Marie Stopes Clinic in central Cape Town. The billboard featured a photograph of Tutu below the clinic’s slogan “Choice, Not Chance”. It also displayed the following message: “Marie Stopes South Africa is doing invaluable work. Through their programmes they are raising awareness and understanding of sexual and reproductive health. They are empowering people and by providing information and access to sustainable high quality services that are giving people the opportunity to make informed decisions about their future and a choice. –Signed Archbishop Desmond Tutu”

Wilmot said a public relations representative of the clinic had told him that the billboard had been used exclusively at a Marie Stopes strategic planning meeting last year. He said that he had not been able to get comment from Tutu on the billboard issue.

During debate on the motion various speakers expressed high regard for Tutu, and said they were reluctant to support the motion without first hearing the views of the former head of the Anglican Church in South Africa on his reported support for Marie Stopes.

The Synod finally voted in favour of an amended motion which reads: “The Synod takes note of a report in the media that suggests that the Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu, has given his support to a clinic that offers abortion on request


  1. To confirm the resolution passed at its Synod in 1995, relating to our Diocese’s stand on abortion and sanctity of life.
  2. Respectfully to request the Bishop to send a delegation to the Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu, for his comment on the report.”

Wilmot confirmed in an interview that he is a member of the delegation that has been appointed to interview Tutu.


Bible Archaeology

Why Jerusalem’s Old City is Unique

It is holy to Christianity,  Islam, and Judaism – faiths that communally clinch faintly above half of the  human race.

Jerusalem tips & insights

Religion viewpoints

The world’s three major religions view the significance  of Jerusalem in three special ways:


It is where Christ was crucified and ascended to Heaven.


It is the home of the Wailing Wall (remains of the Second  Temple).


It is the site of the Temple Mount where the prophet  Muhammad rose to Heaven.

Best known sites

Jerusalem’s many notable holy sites include the Dome of  the Rock on the Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy  Sepulcher.

Jerusalem preservation

The old city has been preserved to retain much of its  antiquated architectural character. This city in Israel is grandly enclosed by  high, yellowish-limestone walls pierced by eight historic gates. Each of its  four tradition-named residential quarters (Armenian, Christian, Jewish and  Muslim) has a twisting maze of narrow cobble-stoned streets.

History in brief

Jerusalem means City of Peace in Hebrew, but  it hasn’t been exactly like that during its agitated 5,000-year history.  Jerusalem has seen more than its fair share of fighting – by the Roman,  Byzantine and Crusader forces, to name but three. The 20th and 21st centuries  have witnessed the Arab-Israeli conflicts.