Middle East

Trial on Antiquities Fraud Ends, But Not the Controversy

Judge doesn't rule whether James ossuary is authentic, but acquits antiquities collectors on almost all charges.

For the first time in history, a criminal court has ruled on a case of antiquities forgery. One antiquities collector has been acquitted of all charges and another has been acquitted of all but several minor charges. The verdict is still out on the validity of an inscription that ties an ancient relic to the family of Jesus of Nazareth, although many Bible scholars say they have made their own decision.

In 2002, Christianity Today and other major news outlets carried the announcement of the discovery of an ossuary bearing an Aramaic inscription, "James, the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus." This carved stone box, typical of those used in Jewish burials of the first century, was suggested to be the repository of the bones of the brother of Jesus Christ. After Jesus' death, James led the early church in Jerusalem until his death by stoning in A.D. 62.

The ossuary itself was undoubtedly authentic. But within months the Israel Antiquities Authority charged that the last part of the inscription, ...

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