It is interesting how quickly a bombshell announcement about the James Ossuary has faded into obscurity after serious challenges to its authenticity arose. Perhaps most scholars and commentators have decided that it is simply best to wait and see how the criminal trial concerning the authenticity of the James Ossuary, among other artifacts, turns out. I reported on the basics of the trial here.
But despite the lack of coverage I suspect there is no lack of interest and believe how the trial unfolds is interesting not only for what it may tell us about the authenticity of the James Ossuary but also as an education on "biblical archeology." My last update discussed a report by renowned geologist Wolfgang E. Krumbein that defended the authenticity of the James Ossuary. His testimony would play an important part of the defense's effort to refute the Israel Antiquities Authority's determination that the Ossuary is a fraud.
A Prosecution Expert Supports Authenticity
Since my last post, I have learned that another expert, Israeli paleographer Ada Yardeni, testified that the Ossuary was authentic -- after being called by the prosecution:
Some people began to claim it was not real [authentic]...I did not see anything indicating it was not real [authentic]...After all the deliberations that were conducted regarding the matter, they did not convince me [that it was not authentic]. To this day, I think that it is authentic.
Yardeni went on to testify that she was so sure of its authenticity that she would leave the profession if the Ossuary turned out to be a fake.
A Picture of the Full Inscription Dating Back to the 1970s?
Perhaps the most notable development is the report that Oded Golan, the owner of the Ossuary accused of perpetuating the fraud by adding the reference to Jesus to an existing ossuary, has a picture of the James Ossuary from the 1970s. Though apparently overlooked by most, the claim that a picture of the Ossuary exists from the 1970s was made back in 2005. The picture supposedly has the "full inscription" in view.
If the picture is authentic (and its authenticity will no doubt be carefully evaluated at trial), then it would tend to support Mr. Golan's case. Mr. Golan claims he bought the ossuary as is back in the mid-1970s. Why would he wait 30 years to perpetuate a hoax like this? Such a picture would also, in my opinion, tend to support the authenticity of the full inscription. Why would someone go through the trouble of perpetuating such a fraud only to get $200 bucks for it (as the person who sold it to Mr. Golan is believed to have received)? All told, this raises questions about motive and opportunity to commit fraud. If the scientific evidence was undisputed, this kind of evidence would probably not mean much. But given that some leading experts with no apparent bias are still claiming the science supports the authenticity of the full inscription, this kind of evidence may have a role to play in the trial. So, it would be suggestive but not determinative in resolving the issue of authenticity.
But What is the Status of the Trial Itself?
There is a helpful article about the status of the trial in the Toronto Star. According to that report:
*The trial was delayed for a month but was scheduled to resume on July 4. The first witness will be the IAA's Avner Ayalon, who concluded that the part of the inscription on the Ossuary that refers to Jesus is a fraud.
*The prosecution has only called 1/4th of its 124 witnesses. The defense plans to call roughly the same number. The trial will take years.
Additionally, the Star article gives a good overview of the nature of the dispute and the arguments of scholars on both sides.