A Stopwatch, A Bone Box, and Biased Reporting

Ossuaries on the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem

Looks like CBS / 60 Minutes is up to no good.

Several years ago they did an investingation on the “James Ossuary.” An ossuary is a “bone box” that held the bones of the deceased [see photos of ossuaries from my recent trip to Israel]. In ancient Israel, a dead body would be wrapped in cloth and placed in a grave. A year later, relatives would return to collect the bones of the deceased and place them in a pottery or stone-carved box. This particular box had inscribed on it in Aramaic the words, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” raising anew the issue of the historicity of Jesus. Many believed it credible that this was indeed Jesus’ “brother,” leader of the church in Jerusalem.

In the piece, 60 Minutes suggested that the inscription on the box was a forgery. You can see the video of this at Todd Bolen’s, BiblePlaces Blog, as well as read some of his comments on the reporting [the clip is 13 minutes].

Ben Witherington has pointed out that Hershel Shanks believes that 60 Minutes may be the ones guilty of a forgery here. Shanks has detailed his accusation against 60 Minutes in the newest edition of Biblical Archaeology Review. You can read that article here.

Bolen correctly noted:

“Only a few scholars are interviewed and only one is allowed to give his verdict about inscription’s authenticity. … The story does not give the background for any of these individuals, so it’s worth noting that Silberman is not an archaeologist nor a paleographer.  He is a popular writer about biblical and archaeological subjects.  He has co-written several books claiming that the Bible is a fraud, so it’s not surprising that he thinks that an inscription that supports the Bible is also a fraud.  Unfortunately none of the scholars who specialize in this area were interviewed (or included), and most of them think the inscription is likely authentic.”

Now, in addition to that slant, it may be that 60 Minutes forged the interview with the Egyptian jeweler, Marco. Intriguing! Who would have thought archaeology would be so exciting? 🙂

Ossuaries similar to the "James Ossuary"
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