Biblical Archaeology Review 33:6, November/December 2007

Strata: Leading Scholar Lambastes IAA Committee

In a recent article, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., one of the most highly respected Aramaicists and New Testament scholars in the world, has lambasted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) for the work of its committee that declared the James Ossuary inscription to be a forgery. The inscription reads “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”; it received enormous publicity when its existence was first announced in an article in BAR by Professor André Lemaire,a whom Fitzmyer identifies as “a well-known and competent French epigrapher from the Sorbonne in Paris.” The IAA committee, as Fitzmyer notes, was composed of “14 Israeli scholars, with no contributions from non-Israeli experts and, strikingly, [the committee’s Final Report makes] no mention or recognition of the competence of ... Professor Lemaire,” who judged the inscription authentic.
Appointing a committee to decide whether or not the ossuary inscription is a forgery, instead of allowing the scholarly discussion to play out, has “politicized archaeology,” Fitzmyer writes.
By appointing a committee that has declared the ossuary inscription to be a modern forgery, the issue “has become a matter of politicized archaeology, advocated by the highest authority on antiquities in the State of Israel.”
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