Biblical Archaeology Review 30:3, May/June 2004

First Person: Rumor Mill Goes into High Gear

By Hershel Shanks

Imagine! Imagine that I had not had what seemed at the time like a casual conversation with two well-known Jerusalem scholars at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta last November. Imagine that therefore I did not know the identity of the two unnamed sources in the story Eric Meyers put out on the Internet.

Eric Meyers—professor of Judaic studies at Duke University, former president of the American Schools of Oriental Research, former editor of Biblical Archaeologist magazine, excavator of numerous sites in the Holy Land, author of an untold number of books and articles and book reviews—publishes an article on the Internet that is soon picked up by the Associated Press and then summarized in Artifax, a joint publication of four evangelical societies, and from there beamed around the world: On separate occasions in the mid-1990s, Meyers reports, two Jerusalem scholars saw the same controversial ossuary, or bone box, now inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” in an antiquities shop in the Old City, but at the time they saw it the inscription read only “James, son of Joseph.” And they are “certain” that it was the same ossuary. One of them has even given a sworn statement to this effect to the Israeli police, so it must be true.

There’s only one hitch, Meyers tells us: They don’t want their names used! They insist on anonymity. So Meyers protects them.

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