Ossuary Of Jesus' Brother Seriously Damaged
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ANCIENT BURIAL BOX THAT MAY BE OLDEST LINK TO JESUS
SERIOUSLY DAMAGED ON THE WAY TO CANADA
By Merita D. Ilo,
Friday, November 1, 2002
TORONTO - A limestone burial box that may be the oldest archaeological link
to Jesus was badly damaged in transit from Israel to Canada, Royal Ontario
Museum officials said Friday.
Dan Rahimi, the museum's director of collections management, said in a
telephone interview the box -- called an ossuary -- had wide cracks but
"The box was badly damaged, but still intact. It has not broken," Rahimi
said. "It's very serious damage, but not unusual for a limestone box of this
He said impact or vibration during the trip from Israel probably widened old
cracks and caused new ones. Some of the cracks were a millimeter (0.039
inches) wide, enough to "slip a dime in," Rahimi said.
The limestone box, which is scheduled to go on display Nov. 16, is inscribed
in Aramaic with the words "Ya'akov (James), son of Yosef (Joseph), brother
of Yeshua (Jesus)."
If, as some scholars maintain, the box and the inscription are authentic, it
would be the first physical artifact from the first century related to
Israel granted a four-month export license for the ancient burial box, which
belongs to a private Israeli collector.
Museum officials said the owner was responsible for the object's
transportation to Canada and insurance. Rahimi said the company that handled
the packing and shipping was reputable, adding that antiquities such as
limestone boxes always presented a risk during transport.
The museum offered two proposals for treating the damage, and the owner had
yet to respond, according to Rahimi.
"Both proposals involve injecting adhesive into the cracks with pigment that
will fill in parts of the cracks and consolidate the piece," he said.
The box's inscription would fit a New Testament account that Jesus had a
brother, James, and the tradition that James was the son of Joseph, husband
of Jesus' mother, Mary.
However, the names James, Joseph and Jesus were common in the first century,
and it is possible the inscription refers to someone other than Jesus of
The existence of the ossuary was announced last month in the United States
by the Biblical Archaeology Review.
The magazine said two scientists from Israel's Geological Survey also
examined the ossuary and determined it was from the first century and the
inscription had not been tampered with.
Edward Keall, the Royal Ontario Museum's director of Near Eastern and Asian
civilizations, called the box "a tangible artifact from a period rather
pivotal in the history of our civilizations."
He said that although it almost certainly dates from the time of Jesus, it
may never be definitively established whether the ossuary once contained the
bones of James, Bishop of Jerusalem and believed by some to be the brother
"It's something very contentious," said Keall. "As I like to say, it won't
stand up in a court of law. So in the end, it's a spiritual thing, an act of
RELATED NHNE NEWS LIST & JESUS LIST ARTICLES:
MORE ON THE NEWLY DISCOVERED OSSUARY OF JAMES (10/21/2002):
BURIAL BOX OF CHRIST'S BROTHER DISCOVERED? (10/21/2002):
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