Box holding the bones of Jesus' brother was stolen, then a steal
The discovery of an ossuary that provides the best evidence that Jesus truly existed makes the front page of many major newspapers today. Most recount basic facts and reaction also found in our story yesterday, but a few more details and reactions have emerged as well, especially regarding the bone box's history.

The discoverer and lead researcher, André Lemaire of the Sorbonne University in Paris, says the owner bought the ossuary 15 years ago from an Arab dealer who said it came from Silwan, a Jerusalem suburb with many ancient tombs. The owner paid between $200 and $700 for what is now being called "the most important find in the history of New Testament archaeology."

Lemaire told The Washington Post that the owner "didn't know about Christian traditions." The reason he asked Lemaire (whom he met by chance at a reception last spring) to take a look was because the inscription on the ossuary seemed extraordinarily long.

After translating the stone etching, Lemaire only told the owner that it was "interesting."

Actually, The National Post of Canada has a bit of a different story of the ossuary: "An Arab villager found the ossuary 16 years ago near Jerusalem. … The villager brought the box to a dealer, who resold it to a collector for about $1,500."

"No one wants an ossuary in their home," says Simcha Jacobovici, a Canadian filmmaker who is making a documentary about the ossuary for the Discovery Channel. "People are creeped out."

While the documentary is due out around Easter, the ossuary may actually be on display in North America as early as next month, reports The Baltimore Sun. The first likely stop? A Toronto gathering of archaeologists.

Reaction among archaeologists not privy to the findings earlier (Ben Witherington, for example, got a sneak peek and is quoted in almost every news story) is generally very positive.

"'It will be extremely important if it's authentic," Harvard University archaeology professor Lawrence E. Stager tells The Boston Globe. "Everything that they've put in this nontechnical article seems to point in that direction. … Of course you'll never prove or disprove the miracles, but to give [Jesus] an actual authentic setting of place and persons is no small accomplishment."

 The New York Times says biblical scholars are particularly happy that the research was headed up by Lemaire.

"Since the research comes from André Lemaire, I take it very seriously," says James C. VanderKam of the University of Notre Dame. "If it is authentic, and it looks like it is, this is helpful nonbiblical confirmation of the existence of this man James."

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James? Isn't the big deal that it's nonbiblical confirmation of the existence of Jesus?

Eric M. Meyers, archaeologist and director of the graduate program in religion at Duke University, shrugs that the ossuary "doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know" about Jesus — namely, that he existed.

Still, there are naysayers. Or naysayer. The only one identified so far is Robert Eisenman of California State University, Long Beach, who tells the Associated Press the discovery is "too perfect" and was likely created by an "extremely clever" forger.

"Jesus' existence is a very shaky thing," Eisenman tells the AP, which rightly notes that "few other scholars would agree."

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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