Biblical Archaeology Review 34:4, July/August 2008

First Person: Help Me! I’m Desperate!

By Hershel Shanks

The truth is that almost everyone—scholar and layperson—believes that the James Ossuary inscription (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”) is a forgery.

And no wonder. A committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has declared it a forgery. The alleged forger, a Tel Aviv collector named Oded Golan, is now on trial in Jerusalem for forging it. Last Easter, “60 Minutes” broadcast a segment devoted to the James Ossuary that seemed to confirm this conclusion. They even found the missing Egyptian who helped Golan make his forgeries!

So what’s to argue about? True, BAR first exposed the inscription to the public in a cover storya that made the front-page of The New York Times and practically every other paper in the world the next day. Isn’t it about time to just admit we made a mistake? After all, nobody’s perfect.

I’m no expert in ancient inscriptions. But I can reason. All I want is for somebody to meet me on the ground of reason, not hunches. And not by silence—just reason.

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