Well, this is certainly interesting
- Just popped up on the AOL news section.
AOL News: Scholar says artifact provides evidence of Jesus
WASHINGTON (Oct. 21) -- An inscription on a burial artifact that was
recently discovered in Israel appears to provide the oldest
archaeological evidence of Jesus Christ, according to an expert who
dates it to three decades after the crucifixion.
Writing in Biblical Archaeology Review, Andre Lemaire, a specialist
in ancient inscriptions at France's Practical School of Higher
Studies, says it is very probable the find is an authentic reference
to Jesus of Nazareth.
The archaeology magazine planned to announce the discovery at a news
That Jesus existed is not doubted by scholars, but what the world
knows about him comes almost entirely from the New Testament. No
physical artifact from the first century related to Jesus has been
discovered and verified. Lemaire believes that has changed, though
questions remain, such as where the piece with the inscription has
been for more than 19 centuries.
The inscription, in the Aramaic language, appears on an empty
ossuary, or limestone burial box for bones. It reads: ''James, son of
Joseph, brother of Jesus.'' Lemaire dates the object to 63 A.D.
Lemaire says the writing style, and the fact that Jews practiced
ossuary burials only between 20 B.C. and A.D. 70, puts the
inscription squarely in the time of Jesus and James, who led the
early church in Jerusalem.
All three names were commonplace, but he estimates that only 20
Jameses in Jerusalem during that era would have had a father named
Joseph and a brother named Jesus.
Moreover, naming the brother as well as the father on an ossuary
was ''very unusual,'' Lemaire says. There's only one other known
example in Aramaic. Thus, this particular Jesus must have had some
unusual role or fame - and Jesus of Nazareth certainly qualified,
It's impossible, however, to prove absolutely that the Jesus named on
the box was Jesus of Nazareth.
The archaeology magazine says two scientists with the Israeli
government's Geological Survey conducted a detailed microscopic
examination of the surface patina and the inscription. They reported
last month that there is ''no evidence that might detract from the
The ossuary's owner also is requiring Lemaire to shield his identity,
so the box's current location was not revealed.
James is depicted as Jesus' brother in the Gospels and head of the
Jerusalem church in the Book of Acts and Paul's epistles.
The first century Jewish historian Josephus recorded that ''the
brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, James by name,'' was stoned to
death as a Jewish heretic in A.D. 62. If his bones were placed in an
ossuary that would have occurred the following year, dating the
inscription around A.D. 63.
The Rev. Joseph Fitzmyer, a Bible professor at Catholic University
who studied photos of the box, agrees with Lemaire that the writing
style ''fits perfectly'' with other first century examples and admits
the joint appearance of these three famous names is ''striking.''
''But the big problem is, you have to show me the Jesus in this text
is Jesus of Nazareth, and nobody can show that,'' Fitzmyer says.
The owner of the ossuary never realized its potential importance
until Lemaire examined it last spring. Hershel Shanks, editor of
Biblical Archaeology Review, himself saw the box Sept. 25.
Lemaire told The Associated Press the owner wants anonymity to avoid
time-consuming contacts with reporters and religious figures. The
owner also wants to avoid the cost of insurance and guarding the
artifact, and has no plans to display it publicly, he said.
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