Ossuary of Silwan



The ossuary of Silwan is a burial urn, containing bones, found in Israel in 2002. It bears an inscription in Aramaic which translates as “James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” and would date from. Some conclude that these are the bones of James the Just, the own brother of Jesus of Nazareth, first leader of the early Church, but whose existence was later hidden. Since then, they have committed themselves:

In October 2002, the French epigraphist André Lemaire publishes the existence of a limestone ossuary from the first century AD (50.5 cm long at the base, 56 cm at the top, 25 cm wide and 30.5 cm high), which according to him had probably contained the bones of James the Just, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. The ossuary is a small stone urn, commonly used by the Jews of the time to preserve the bones of a deceased one year after his death, when the flesh is gone, and the bones have been purified by the earth. Israel. Such ossuaries have been used at. It contains an inscription in Aramaic, the current language of Palestine at the time of Jesus: “Ya’akiv bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua” which means “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” “. Even if the names of James, Joseph and Jesus were very common at the time, according to the calculations of André Lemaire, during the first seven decades of the year, Jerusalem should not have counted more than twenty individuals called Jacques and simultaneously son of a Joseph and brother of a Jesus. On the other hand, it was very unusual to mention the name of a brother on an ossuary after that of the father (there is only one other case of this practice), which suggests that this brother was an important person. According to André Lemaire, the graph analysis of this inscription corresponds to this period of the first two thirds of the year, the cursive form of aleph, dalet and yod being able to constitute an index in favor of a dating closer to 70 than the very early in our era. The owner of the ossuary, the antiquary Oded Golan, provides several versions of the conditions of its acquisition. According to the latter, it was in 1975 that a merchant in the Old City of Jerusalem sold him the ossuary from the area around Silwan, which is consistent with Hégésippe’s testimony that Jacques was buried in the very place where he died, having been precipitated from the pinnacle of the Temple. Despite some objections and even the opinion of some experts for whom the first part of the inscription probably dated from, but the second (brother of Jesus) had been engraved by another person, one or two centuries later, a large number historians and exegetes were quickly convinced of its authenticity.

In 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority decided to carry out a detailed survey of Jacques’ ossuary, bearing the inscription Jacques son of Joseph brother of Jesus. Two sub-committees are formed: one team studies the text of the inscription, another expertise is on the material. The same experts are at the same time responsible for determining the authenticity of a ten-line inscription of King Yehoash found on the Temple Mount. On June 18, 2003, the Israeli Antiquities Department published the results of three months of work. The sub-committee of epigraphists could not agree on the authenticity of the inscription. Some of the experts in charge of the text’s expertise then lean towards the non-authenticity of the inscription, which appears to have been added later to the ossuary and whose letters seem to be imitated from contemporary inscriptions. One of the experts (Roni Reich), however, does not detect anything abnormal but, considering the results of the expertise on the equipment made by the other subcommittee, he is convinced that it is a question of counterfeit. On the other hand, the conclusions of the other subcommittee were adopted unanimously. In the study of the material, dating with carbon 14 does not allow any conclusion (one knows that the dating must be made from organic materials such as the stones of olives). According to Uzi Dahari, deputy director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, differences in the thickness and depth of the engraving show that the first part of the inscription (“James son of Joseph”) was not engraved with the same chisel as the second part (“brother of Jesus”), the characters also include differences in style. According to Jacques Neguer, expert curator of the Israel Antiquities Authority, an artificial patina made of round grains is deposited on the inscription and in its immediate vicinity, in contrast with the patina that covers the whole of the ossuary. The inscription crosses the initial patina and seems to have been written by two different authors using two different tools. According to Orna Cohen, curator of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the first part of the inscription is added, it goes through the initial patina and is covered with an artificial patina consisting of chalk dust and water applied to the inscription. According to Professor Yoval Goren, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, an expert in petrography and identification of materials, the inscription was recently cleaned or engraved, it was probably coated with a mixture of chalk or dissolved etching powder in hot water. According to Avner Ayalon, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Israel, an expert in rock isotope analysis, the oxygen in the calcium carbonate molecules of the patina has a different isotopic composition in the patina of the entire ossuary and in the registration. While the patina of the whole ossuary is normal given the climatic conditions of Jerusalem, the patina composition of the inscription shows that it is made of a material that has been heated, probably from a mixture of powder and hot water. For Pierre-Antoine Bernheim, a forger probably engraved the inscription long after the formation of the patina, then covered this inscription with an artificial patina. However, André Lemaire maintains his identification and believes that the inscription is authentic. It is based on the findings of Professor Yuval Goren who on 14 March 2012, the Israeli court delivers its verdict in the lawsuit filed by the State of Israel against the Israeli collector Oded Golan and the seller of antiquities Robert Deutsch . After five years of trial, 116 hearings, 133 witnesses, 12,000 pages of testimony, nearly 18 months of waiting for the verdict, which has been called Judge Aharon Farkash’s verdict indicates that

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