When Oded Golan first invited me to his home in April 2002, it was to examine an inscription on a bone box—but not the one bearing the now-famous inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” That one was not even in Golan’s apartment at that time. He showed me only a picture of it; he had already been able to read the inscription with the help of one of Israel’s most prominent paleographers, Ada Yardeni. (Whether Golan yet realized the significance of the inscription is another question; from the way he spoke of it, he did not.) What he wanted my help with when he invited me to his flat was another inscription on another bone box, or ossuary, that was considerably more difficult to decipher.
In the rush to declare the James ossuary inscription a forgery, which to my mind is not convincing,a little attention has been paid to other ossuary inscriptions in Golan’s antiquities collection. It includes not only the James ossuary, but also two other ossuaries. One I shall call the Mother’s ossuary and the other, the Child’s ossuary.