Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Fraud

“For as long as man has worshiped a god, there have been forgers, crafty hucksters who seize on a believer’s desire to possess material proof of the divine. In Jerusalem, it is a bountiful trade. The old adage is that if all the splinters of the True Cross were gathered from across Christendom, it would yield a wooden crucifix the size of a Manhattan skyscraper. Even back in the Middle Ages, pilgrims visiting Jerusalem told of hawkers who sold counterfeit bones and relics of saints. But indisputable historical evidence that Jesus Christ, or any of the other Biblical prophets, truly existed is something that eludes religious scholars. There was therefore much excitement in 2001 when a reclusive Tel Aviv collector, Oded Golan, announced that a stone reliquary had come into his possession inscribed with the words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The discovery of the ossuary was hailed in some quarters as a spectacular archaeological find — solidly circumstantial proof, at last, of Christ’s existence. For it would have held the remains of the Apostle James, who was killed in A.D. 62 and is described in the Bible as Jesus’ brother. When the James ossuary toured Canada in October 2002, it attracted thousands of the curious and faithful. Some visitors knelt in quiet prayer. But back in Israel, police detectives, along with a growing posse of biblical scholars, were growing skeptical of the ossuary’s authenticity. After a two-year investigation, police in December 2004 charged the antiquities collector and four others of forgery, alleging that the James ossuary was a clever fake and that Golan had masterminded an international ring of thieves that over the past 20 years had duped major museums and collectors out of millions.”

(TIME, 16 October)


nina burleigh said...

For more on this fraud, and the murky proof-for-faith industry, have a look at my book Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land, published last week by Collins.

Nina Burleigh


Itamar Bernstein said...

The James ossuary is likely a fake. But this one is probably real Jesus' Ossuaryx