The James Ossuary

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Mon Dec 02 2002 - 00:47:17 EST

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    I assume that you all have read or seen on T.V. a news report of the =
    discovery of an ancient ossuary acquired some time ago by a private =
    collector and examined by experts, that has been causing quite a stir =
    recently. The reason is that the outside of the box has the Aramaic =
    inscription "Yaakov bar Yosef adhui diYeshua" - "James, son of Joseph, =
    brother of Jesus." The box has been identified as having been cut from =
    a type of stone quarried in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and the script =
    has been authenticated and dated to between 50 and 70 CE. It is a =
    simple and unpretentious box that might have been used for the remains =
    of any person of the time; the inscription is roughly cut and though =
    legible not the work of a skilled carver working for a wealthy person.=20

    While James, Joseph, and Jesus were rather common Jewish and Galilean =
    names during the first century CE, this combination is rather rare. =
    Usually the remains contained therein are itdentified by name and =
    father's name; when another relative is named, it is thought to have =
    been someone prominent. While there is no conclusive evidence, the very =
    unusual combination makes it quite possible that this ossuary contained =
    the bones of James of Jerusalem, leader of the early church and brother =
    of Jesus. According to the Jewish historian Josophus, James was =
    executed by stoning in 62 CE, which puts him right in the time-frame of =
    the analysis.

    All this is prelude to the fact that my wife Maria and I saw this =
    ossuary last Sunday. It was on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in =
    Toronto, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Academy =
    of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature. The ossuary was displayed =
    by itself in a separate alcove, the walls nicely displaying historical =
    and technical information regarding the ossuary and James. We had all =
    the time we wanted to contemplate the box. I am one of those people who =
    is quite willing to believe the possibility, and so it was exciting to =
    see this box and believe that I had come into contact with an artifact =
    that connects with James himself, and thus with Jesus.

    Bob Schneider

    PS: To satisfy all points of view about James' actual relationship to =
    Jesus, the curators were politick enough to provide three charts on the =
    wall, listing the names of Jesus' brothers and sisters. They indicated =
    that (1) the other children were also of Mary and Joseph (Protestant); =
    (2) children of Joseph by a former and deceased wife (Orthodox); or (3) =
    cousins (Roman Catholic). I presume my Anglican brothers and sisters =
    are divided on the issue, as we are on so many.

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