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Proof that the Christianity Twisted Details of Jesus

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Archaeological evidence of Jesus?

Scholars say ossuary’s inscription a ‘very probable’ reference

Inscribed on this empty limestone ossuary, a burial box for bones, are the words in Aramaic: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 — A burial box that was recently discovered in Israel and dates to the first century could be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus Christ, according to a French scholar whose findings were published Monday. An inscription in the Aramaic language — “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” — appears on an empty ossuary, a limestone burial box for bones.

Virtually all that is known about Jesus comes from the New Testament. No physical artifact from the first century related to him has been discovered and verified.

ANDRE LEMAIRE SAID it’s “very probable” the writing refers to Jesus of Nazareth. He dates the ossuary to A.D. 63, just three decades after the crucifixion.

Lemaire, a specialist in ancient inscriptions at France’s Practical School of Higher Studies, published his findings in the November/December issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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. The joint appearance of these three famous names is “striking,” he said.

“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 said.

Lemaire writes that the distinct 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 Lemaire estimates only 20 Jameses in Jerusalem during that era would have had a father named Joseph and a brother named Jesus.

The Aramic inscription reads from right to left, "James (lit.: Jacob), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Naming the brother as well as the father on an ossuary was "very unusual," says scholar Andre Lemaire.

Moreover, naming the brother as well as the father on an ossuary was “very unusual,” Lemaire wrote. 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, Lemaire concluded.

However, Kyle McCarter, a Johns Hopkins University archaeologist, said it’s possible the brother was named because he conducted the burial or owned the tomb.

The archaeology magazine said two Israeli government scientists conducted a detailed microscopic examination of the surface and the inscription, reporting last month that nothing undercuts first century authenticity.

Lemaire’s claim was attacked by Robert Eisenman of California State University, Long Beach, who unlike most scholars thinks that “Jesus’ existence is a very shaky thing.” Since Eisenman is highly skeptical about New Testament history, he considers the new discovery “just too pat. It’s just too perfect.”

Who was James?

The Gospels call James the "brother" of Jesus, and other New Testament books say he later led the Jerusalem church. Protestants traditionally read the New Testament as meaning Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin and then had James, three other sons and at least two daughters with Joseph. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics teach Mary's "perpetual virginity," which means she and Joseph never had marital relations. The Orthodox think Joseph had James by his first wife, and after she died he married Mary -- whose only child was the virgin-born Jesus. Thus, James was Jesus' half brother. Catholics commonly hold that James was merely Jesus' close relative, perhaps the son of Joseph's brother Clopas or a cousin on Mary's side.

EARLIEST KNOWN ARTIFACT FROM A.D. 125

Virtually all that is known about Jesus comes from the New Testament. No physical artifact from the first century related to him has been discovered and verified.

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 the inscription would have occurred the following year, around A.D. 63.

Until now, the oldest surviving artifact that mentions Jesus is a fragment of chapter 18 in John’s Gospel from a manuscript dated around A.D. 125. It was discovered in Egypt in 1920.

There are numerous surviving manuscripts of New Testament portions from later in that century. Jesus was mentioned by three pagan authors in Rome in the early second century and by Josephus in the late first century.

OWNER KEEPING IDENTITY SECRET

The ossuary’s owner required Lemaire to shield his identity, so the box’s location was not revealed. Nor is anything known about its history over the past 19 centuries, one reason for McCarter’s caution.

Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks said skepticism is to be expected. “Something so startling, so earth-shattering, raises questions about its authenticity,” he said.

Shanks said the owner bought the box about 15 years ago from an Arab antiquities dealer in Jerusalem who said it was unearthed south of the Mount of Olives. The owner never realized its potential importance until Lemaire examined it last spring.

Lemaire, who was raised Roman Catholic, said his faith did not affect his judgment, since he studies inscriptions only “as a historian — that is, comparing them critically with other sources.”

The archaeology magazine is negotiating to display the box in Toronto during a major convention of religion scholars in late November, and possibly in the United States.

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