Israel's Antiquities Authority unanimously calls James Ossuary inscription a forgery
A committee of archaeological experts organized by Israel's Antiquities Authority has unanimously concluded that the inscription on the James Ossuary is a forgery.

The inscription on the bone burial box, which says "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," "appears new, written in modernity by someone attempting to reproduce ancient written characters," the Antiquities Authority said in a statement. In addition, the archeologists said the stone of the box is more likely to have come from Cyprus or northern Syria than ancient Israel.

"The ossuary is real, but the inscription is fake," Shuka Dorfman, director of the Antiquities Authority, told Reuters after a Jerusalem press conference yesterday. "What this means is that somebody took a real box and forged the writing on it, probably to give it a religious significance."

Gideon Avni, one of the archaeologists, told CBS News that he believes "this forgery was done sometime in the last decades, maybe in the last years." (A recent Jerusalem Post review runs down other ossuary problems.)

Oded Golan, owner of the ossuary, stands by its authenticity. "I am certain the ossuary is real," he told the Associated Press. "I am certain the committee is wrong regarding its conclusions."

But Golan probably isn't the person to listen to on this issue. First of all, he's admittedly a collector and amateur, not an expert. Second, his dealings with the ossuary have been very secretive. Third, he has treated both the ossuary and another of his supposedly priceless artifacts, a small tablet corroborating the biblical account of Solomon's Temple, so shabbily that both items were significantly damaged. And fourth, according to Jerusalem television news stations (via Canada's CTV), Israeli police found possible forgery tools in Golan's warehouse. Israeli police are still investigating whether Golan's acquisition of the ossuary was illegal.

And more bad news for Golan and his supporters—the Antiquities Authority says that the tablet, known as the Joash Tablet, is a fake, too. Biblical language professor Avigdor Horowitz says the inscription's wording is anachronistic. "The person who wrote the inscription was a person who thinks in modern Hebrew," he told reporters. "A person thinking in biblical Hebrew would see it as ridiculous." (The Geological Survey of Israel had earlier said it was authentic.)

We're really waiting to hear from Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks, and, more importantly, Asbury Seminary New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III. The two have been the biggest cheerleaders for the ossuary, recently publishing a book on it.

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Homosexuals will soon be allowed to marry in all of Canada
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said yesterday that they will not appeal last week's Ontario Court of Appeal ruling allowing homosexuals to marry.

"Not to appeal means that we have recognized the definition that has been developed by the courts," Cauchon said.

In the next few weeks, the federal government will draft a bill extending gay marriage to the rest of the country. Chrétien promised that the bill will exempt religious groups  from having to perform same-sex weddings, but it's unclear what the law will mean for religious organizations where employment law is concerned.

"What is important for me is the freedom of the churches to interpret according to their faith," said the Prime Minister.

Still, religious groups aren't happy.

"The Court unilaterally has altered an institution of vital social significance, and the government apparently has conceded the issue to the Court by not appealing," Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said in a press release. "It is not the role of the Court, nor an appropriate use of the Charter, to redefine pre-existing social, cultural and religious institutions. Despite the existence of bills of rights in most Western countries, not one has ruled that the recognition of marriage as being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others is unconstitutional or in violation of any norm of human rights."

Focus on the Family Canada Vice President Derek Rogusky called the decision " an abdication of responsibility and a huge blow to democracy."

Both religious groups expressed dismay that Canada's courts, not Parliament, have been the driving force in redefining marriage. And leaders of both groups, along with several others signed a letter this week asking the government to find a compromise other than marriage. "The commitment of Canadians to fairness, equality, and tolerance may entail the extension of legal recognition to various kinds of relationships beside that of marriage; indeed it has already done so," said a letter published in Toronto's Globe & Mail. "But that commitment will not be served by expropriating and reconfiguring an historic institution designed to meet the unique challenges and complexities of opposite-sex conjugal relationships."

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More on gay marriage in Canada:

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American Medical Association backs human cloning for research:

Southern Baptists meet:

  • Southern Baptists announce initiative on gays | At the denomination's annual meeting, which ends Wednesday night, leaders asked their 42,000 churches to reach out compassionately to gays, focusing on how Christianity can save them (Associated Press)

  • Baptists begin to open hearts to gays | God loves you but hates your sin. The message was repeated time and again along sidewalks of downtown Phoenix on Tuesday morning (The Arizona Republic)

  • SBC puts families in forefront | This is the Southern Baptist Convention's least attended, least controversial and least newsworthy annual meeting in decades. And yet it may turn out to be one of the SBC's most important annual meetings. (David Waters, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)

New Senate chaplain:

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Church abuse scandal:

  • Groups blast Catholic reform efforts | Roman Catholic bishops' yearlong campaign to drive sexual abuse out of the church and rebuild credibility is failing, said leaders of two groups—one supporting victims, the other advising accused priests (USA Today)

  • Catholic lay board finds limits to power over bishops | As a recent dispute with the chairman of a board of lay Catholics makes clear, the bishops still have all the power (The New York Times)

  • Without candor, church reform doesn't have a prayer | Certainly, the church has made progress setting up safeguards, apologizing for coverups and reaching settlements with abuse victims. Still, too many church officials appear more focused on protecting church assets and defending suspected priests than protecting children and healing wounds (Editorial, USA Today)

  • Church is making progress | The Catholic Bishops of the U.S. have taken serious steps to make sure that considerable progress is made and that the public has evidence of it (Francis J. Maniscalco, USA Today)

  • Faith in the bishops put to the fire | Mr. Keating's sudden, regrettable resignation— after venting his complaints in a decidedly bad choice of words—is far more a blow to the bishops' believability than to his own (Editorial, The New York Times)

Phoenix bishop resigns after hit-and-run charges:

Crime and persecution:

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  • An unfulfilled promise? | After a 1995 apology for racism, Southern Baptists say they're making progress toward including blacks in decision-making, but some complain it's not fast enough (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Methodists apologize to native tribes | In an emotional ceremony of "reconciliation and hope," leaders of the regional United Methodist Church apologized yesterday to Native Americans and to God for the "savagery" with which their ancestors treated Indian tribes (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

  • Bishop: 'We must preach against racism' | Bishop T. D. Jakes pastor of the 28,000-member Potter's House in Dallas, came to the National Conference on Racism in the Church with a reputation as one of America's best preachers, and he didn't disappoint (The Cincinnati Post)
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Dead Sea Scrolls:


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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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