Intense scholarly disagreements are common in archaeology. Cases of deliberate lying, however, are rare. Is this such a case? If so, what is the motive? When I returned from the Annual Meetingsa in Atlanta last November, I penned my customary report for publication in the March/April issue.b (I have been doing this in the March/ April issue for 22 years.)
For this year’s report, I described a conversation with two scholars who told me that they had seen the controversial James ossuary, now inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” in the shop of a Jerusalem antiquities dealer named Mahmoud in the mid-1990s or earlier. Butwhen they saw it, on separate occasions, it bore only the inscription “James, son of Joseph.” No reference to Jesus!
One of the scholars was Joe Zias, a physical anthropologist and archaeologist who formerly worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) but was let go during a budget squeeze in 1997. He has been without a full-time job since that time. I will not name the other scholar because he asked me not to.