In 2002, the Biblical Archaeological Society and the Discovery Channel announced in Washington, D.C. that an ancient inscription on a 2,000-year-old ossuary with the inscribed Aramaic words “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was genuine. However, controversy and a lawsuit over the veracity of the inscription followed. That’s all over now, and the verdicts are in.

The November/December 2002 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine published the translation, dated at between 6 and 70 A.D. according to paleographer Andre Lemaire.1 A paleographer is an expert in ancient inscriptions.

The ossuary was designed to hold previously-entombed human bones that were later interred. When it was discovered, the ossuary served as a lowly planter box.

Immediately after the Washington announcement, the bone box achieved worldwide attention. Some called it the most important New Testament archaeological discovery, since it verifies exact biblical relationships between Jesus, his brother James, and their earthly father Joseph.2 How amazing to think that this ossuary once contained the bones of Jesus’ brother!3

However, the Israel Antiquities Authority, which was not aware of the ossuary’s discovery prior to the Washington press release, accused the owner of forging the inscription. Years later, “experts” still said that the inscription was a modern-day forgery.4 The five-year trial ended in March 2012, when Jerusalem Judge Aharon Farkash acquitted the accused of all forgery charges, ruling that the prosecution could not show beyond reasonable doubt that the inscription was forged.5

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