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Burial box with inscription mentioning Jesus soon on display in Israel

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On Thursday, December 26, Stoyan Zaimov of The Christian Post reported that a 2,000-year-old ossuary, or burial box, said to have held the remains of James the brother of Jesus Christ will soon be on display in Israel. This will be the first time that the general public will be able the see the ossuary since 2002, according to a recent article published in The Guardian.

According to Zaimov, "Oded Golan, the Israeli antiquities collector who owns the limestone burial box, insists that 'this is the oldest evidence that mentions the name of Jesus Christ,' according to a report in The Guardian.

"'There is no doubt that it's ancient, and the probability is that it belonged to the brother of Jesus Christ,' he added."

On Wednesday, December 25, Matthew Kalman of The Guardian explained the significance of the ossuary.

According to Kalman, "The modest limestone burial box, known as an ossuary, is typical of first-century Jerusalem... Chiseled on the side are the words 'James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.'

"James the Just [the brother of Jesus] was the first leader of the Christians in Jerusalem after the Crucifixion. He was executed for apostasy by the local rabbinical court.

"At that time, Jews were not buried but laid in a cave. The bones were collected after a year and placed in an ossuary. Thousands have been discovered, some of them inscribed with names to identify whose bones they contain. One other ossuary mentions a brother."

The ossuary was displayed in a Toronto museum in 2002 and it has generated a great deal of discussion about whether or not it is authentic ever since then. Some experts believe that the part of the inscription that reads "brother of Jesus" was added in modern times by Golan or someone else. From 2003 to 2012, Golan was caught up in a legal battle over the authenticity of the artifact.

According to Kalman, "In 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority seized the ossuary and appointed an expert committee who dubbed it a fake. Golan was arrested and charged with forging the mention of Jesus.

"After a 10-year investigation and criminal trial, Golan was found innocent of forgery in 2012. Despite the verdict, doubts remain."

Zaimov added that after Golan got the ossuary back, he noticed damage to the inscription that he described as deliberate vandalism.

According to Zaimov, "'It's not in the same condition as before the trial. The inscription was defaced, contaminated. They poured red silicon into the inscription and they let it dry and when they took it out they took the patina. It's ruined,' Golan said.

"'I have to evaluate the damage, see if it can be restored and if there is the possibility of carrying out further tests on the inscription in the future that will allow us to show its authenticity. The government said the second half of the inscription was forged – the words 'brother of Jesus' – and that's where the major damage has been done.'"

According to an article posted on Kalman's blog, the red silicon the Israel Police Forensics Laboratory used in 2004 made it extremely difficult for anyone to study the inscription and determine if it is genuine. However, Zaimov said Golan has additional evidence supporting his claims that the ossuary was used for the remains of James the Just and the controversial inscription was made 2,000 years ago.

"Golan will... offer expert opinions from the trial as part of evidence in favor of the burial box, though further details about the public display have not yet been available," Zaimov said.

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