Re: The James Ossuary

From: bivalve (
Date: Tue Dec 03 2002 - 11:54:34 EST

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    Not that I am particularly concerned about the authenticity of the
    ossuary, but Eisenman's arguments, as represented, are terrible.

    >Robert Eisenman is one. He recently wrote a piece for the L.A. Times
    >where he says that the discovery of the ossuary is just "too
    >perfect" to convince him that it's real. For one thing, its sudden,
    >mysterious appearance and lack of any record of its whereabouts for
    >the past 2000 years makes him suspicious of its origins.<

    What documentation do you expect for black market archaeological
    curios? What records of gravesites do you expect to have survived
    the Roman destruction of Jerusalem? Good archaeological
    documentation of the source would be much better as evidence for
    authenticity, but there is noting unusual in not having information
    about some random grave.

    >Eisenman states that ancient sources never called James "the brother
    >of Jesus" -- this is strictly a Biblical reference. <

    Even extreme liberal dating would put the relevant passages no later
    than the 2nd century; however, almost everyone accepts Galatians as
    being one of Paul's earlier letters and thus probably from the first
    half of the first century. How much more ancient does he want?

    >Instead, he would have been referred to as "James the Zaddik" or
    >"Just One," titles given him by other early Christians. He also says
    >that ancient sources are unclear as to James's father, and probably
    >would have called him "son of Cleophas" or "son of Alphaeus" (these
    >names were often interchanged, according to Eisenman), but not "son
    >of Joseph," something a more modern reader would expect.<

    This is mixing up James the lesser, one of the twelve, who is called
    son of Alphaeus (Mt. 10:3, Mk. 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:3), and James
    the brother of Jesus (Mt. 13:55, ?Mt. 27:56, Mark 6:3, ?Mk. 15:40,
    ?Mk. 16:1, ?Luke 24:10, Gal. 1:19), who by implication is not a
    follower of Jesus during His lifetime. No one is specifically
    identified as James, son of Joseph. Traditionally the James who
    headed the Jerusalem church (Acts, Galatians), the James who received
    a post-resurrection appearance (I Cor. 15:7), the James who wrote the
    book of James, and the James who was the brother of Jude are
    identified as James, the brother of Jesus. This is not quite
    explicit but seems strongly suggested by Galatians, etc. James,
    brother of John, is the James mentioned most often in the Gospels,
    but he was executed by Herod relatively early (Acts 12:2).

    >In the end, Eisenman thinks that the ossuary is a little too perfect
    >to be convincing. It seems to please a modern audience, one that
    >bases its knowledge of St. James on the Gospels, not at an ancient
    >audience who would have known first-hand who James was.<

    Most of the information on James is from Acts and the Epistles, not
    the Gospels.

         Dr. David Campbell
         Old Seashells
         University of Alabama
         Biodiversity & Systematics
         Dept. Biological Sciences
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