“If this is a forgery, I quit,” declared Israel’s leading paleographer, Ada Yardeni, regarding the inscription on an ancient bone box, or ossuary, reading “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”
This ringing testimony to the authenticity of the inscription stands in contrast to one of the most shameful episodes in the history of Israeli scholarship, which began with the appointment of an academic committee by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) that included some of Israel’s leading academics and archaeologists to decide whether the ossuary inscription was to be condemned as a forgery. The committee unanimously concluded that the inscription wasindeed a forgery. The ossuary’s owner, Oded Golan, was arrested in the middle of the night, handcuffed for the benefit of the assembled television cameras and interrogated for 30 hours. A seven-year trial charging Golan with criminal forgery followed—and ended with Golan’s acquittal.