by Gordon Franz MA

EXCERPT After a trial of more than five years with 138 witnesses, more than 400 exhibits and a trial transcript of 12,000 pages, Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court cleared the defendants of all forgery charges in the case of the James Ossuary. Still, the trial details leave us with concerns about the authenticity of this artifact. ABR Staff member Gordon Franz interviewed one of the trial witnesses and conservator, Orna Ohen, in 2008.


In the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks addressed the fallout from the verdict in the “forgery case of the century” between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the antiquities dealer and owner of the James ossuary, Oded Golan (2012:26-33, 62, 64-65). The issue Shanks focused on was the authenticity of the inscription: “James the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus.”

Is the Inscription Authentic?

In the article, Shanks asked the question and then gave his opinion: “Is the inscription authentic? The court held only that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the inscription was a forgery. But it surely did not find that the inscription was authentic. I have no doubt, however, that it is” (2012:26). One reason the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt was because the witnesses disagreed whether all, part, or none of the inscription was authentic. Most of the witnesses believed that the words “brother of Jesus” was a modern-day forgery. Shanks, however, pointed out that one of the government witnesses, Orna Cohen, testified that there was original patina in the word “Jesus” (2012:31), but Shanks did not tell the whole story. Orna revealed more….

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