Biblical Archaeology Review 40:2, March/April 2014

First Person: Oded’s Other Ossuary

By Hershel Shanks

I recently had dinner in Jerusalem with my old friend André Lemaire. André, who teaches at the Sorbonne, is one of the world’s preeminent authorities on ancient Semitic languages and their paleography. It was at a dinner much like this many years ago that he told me of having seen the now-famous ossuary, or bone box, in the private antiquities collection of Israeli collector Oded Golan inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Naturally, we reminisced.

But what he told me now was that the James Ossuary was only one of three ossuaries Golan showed him that were in his collection. From André’s viewpoint, one of these others was even more important than the James Ossuary. The reason was that the inscription on the James Ossuary (“James, son of Joseph, brother of Joseph”) essentially told us nothing new; if the reference was to Jesus of Nazereth, he had a brother named James. (There was no question then about the inscription’s authenticity.a)

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