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.
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."
More on gay marriage in Canada:
- Don't kiss off marriage | (Many signers, The Globe and Mail, Toronto)
- Government to legalize gay marriage | Impending bill would permit churches to opt out: 'We have recognized the definition that has been developed by the courts,' Cauchon says (CanWest News Service)
- Same-sex marriage and Parliament's duty | Expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is the right thing to do (Editorial, The Globe & Mail, Toronto)
- Canada to recognize same-sex marriages (The Times, London)
- Canadian leaders agree to propose gay marriage law | The decision paves the way for Canada to become the third country to allow same-sex unions (The New York Times)
- Hundreds protest court's ruling on same-sex unions | 'SARS will cease when AIDS parade cancelled' (The National Post, Canada)
American Medical Association backs human cloning for research:
- AMA backs cloning for research purposes | The policy, adopted without debate at the AMA's annual meeting, says cloning for research purposes is ethical. But the policy allows doctors who oppose the practice to refuse to perform it (Associated Press)
- AMA abandons medicine's most vulnerable patients | Focus on the Family decries embryo-destroying research (Press release)
- Concerned Women for America reminds AMA: A clone by any other name is still a clone! (Press release)
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:
- Rear admiral to fill Senate chaplain role | The choice for Senate chaplain will bring many firsts to the position: the first black man, first military chaplain and first Seventh-day Adventist (The Washington Times)
- First black named U.S. Senate chaplain hails from Baltimore | Seventh-day Adventist grew up in public housing in city's Cherry Hill (The Baltimore Sun)
- Navy admiral new Senate chaplain (Associated Press)
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:
- Pope accepts Ariz. bishop's resignation | Statement didn't mention accident or abuse controversy (Associated Press)
- Pope accepts resignation of bishop after accident (The New York Times)
- Bishop is questioned on his use of alcohol | Ariz. prelate faces hit-and-run charge (The Washington Post)
- Diocese employs strategy of silence over bishop crisis | Priests, teachers, social workers and even cemetery groundskeepers in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix have received instructions to make no public statements about the hit-and-run case involving Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien (The Arizona Republic)
- Faith remains strong among Valley Catholics | But a few are questioning their faith—if not in God, then at least in their leaders (The Arizona Republic)
Crime and persecution:
- Official cites religion in grenade attack | A U.S. soldier told superiors moments after a deadly grenade attack on his comrades in Kuwait that he did it because he feared American troops would rape and kill Muslims, an investigator testified (Associated Press)
- Also: Muslim sympathy said to prompt Kuwait camp attack (Reuters)
- Kony's rebels to kill 'all priests' | Rebel leader Joseph Kony on Thursday ordered his troops to destroy church missions and kill all priests in northern Uganda (The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)
- 'Dara was asleep 15 km away on night of killing' | A defense witness in the Graham Staines murder case today told the designated CBI court here that Dara Singh, the prime accused was sleeping in a village club 15 km away on the night the Australian missionary and his two sons were burnt to death at Manoharpur (PTI, India)
- No opening statement for defense in church slayings | Lawyer wanted to argue mental illness, but defendant Peter Troy refused, saying they could build a defense based on witnesses testifying to his good character (The New York Times)
- More hostages taken in Solomons: report | Many of them are feared to be members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (AFP)
- Kidnapped seminarians still missing | Around 30 of the 40 seminarians kidnapped last month are still in the hands of the LRA rebels, Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Archbishop of Kampala, has told Missionary News Service (Catholic Information Service for Africa)
- Tracking device tracks down burglar | Milwaukee man is suspected of more than 50 burglaries to churches throughout southeastern Wisconsin (Lake Country Reporter)
- Handwriting sample sought from suspect in Bethel College hate crime | Police say Thomas C. Glander, who is also a Bethel seminary student, has admitted to some instances, but not all (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- Earlier: Student charged in graffiti case | A Bethel Seminary student who reportedly confessed to scrawling a racist message on his own pickup truck was charged Wednesday in connection with one in a string of eight racist incidents on the Arden Hills campus (Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.)
- Also: Bethel student accused of terror threat (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- 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)
Dead Sea Scrolls:
- Dead Sea Scrolls unrolled in Montreal | But the other objects on display in the new exhibit are important, too (The Gazette, Montreal)
- Miracle of the Dead Sea Scrolls | Some of the world's oldest biblical material is about to go on display in Canada for the first time and prove that tattered, 2,000-year-old fragments can still draw a crowd (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)
- Ancient treasures visit Quebec (Canadian Press)
- New Harry Potter will outsell Bible | By 50 to 1, say projections (Financial Times)
- Conspiracy of dunces | Bonkers religion replaces cold war paranoia on the US bestsellers list—but where does the Mona Lisa fit in? (John Sutherland, The Guardian, London)
- Left Behind books bring bishops' retort | State's Catholic prelates say series gives wrong interpretation of the Second Coming of Christ (Chicago Tribune)
- Lost sheep can flock to new guide | Author shares her church-search experiences (The Toledo Blade)
- The heresy that saved a skeptic | What was it, Elaine Pagels wondered, that made Christianity so compelling, despite the obstacles of doctrine? (The New York Times)
- Also: 'Beyond Belief': Another gospel truth | The reward in Nag Hammadi, Elaine Pagels believes, may be a truer knowledge not only of Christianity, in whatever institutional form, but also of the other great religions (The New York Times)
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