|The James Ossuary|
“So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” (John 6: 30)It was bound to happen. After I posted seventeen reasons why any evidence for a Historical Jesus should be rejected, a person who calls himself “MrEveryman” left several comments with evidence he claimed proves that at least two ossuaries (bone boxes) carried the bones of St. James and St. Peter, thus vindicating the Gospels.
This should have come as no surprise since the only extra-Biblical statement by Josephus is highly questionable and the fact remains that we have totally nothing to support a Historical Jesus in first century Roman Palestine. For Christians (who have been running on faith and not evidence) anything that might at least offer some credibility to the Bible, especially the Gospels accounts, is critical. But the sad reality for modern Christians is that the Bible is constantly losing ground due to a lack of evidence leaving Christians mentally starved for anything tangible form “the time of Jesus”.
The James ossuary (so named due its Aramaic inscription “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”) is still used by conservative Christians a proof that at long last, we have evidence which supports the New Testament, especially the Gospels accounts for a real Jesus. As such, both Hershel Shanks (who publishes the popular Bible tabloid Biblical Archaeology Review and Ben Witherington (Professor of New Testament at Asbury Seminary) joined together in 2003 to publish a book (having now fallen to a 2009 kindle only status) claiming to offer evidence for a Historical Jesus: The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus and His Family
This issue raised a point that needed to be addressed, especially due to the fact that two well known professors for the University of North Carolina have taken opposite stands on these ossuaries as my comment made clear under my post on the myth of Jesus:
“What I find odd is that both James Tabor (UNC Charlotte) PHD University of Chicago in New Testament and Bart Ehrman (UNC Chapel Hill) PHD Princeton University in New Testament almost totally ignore each other even though James Tabor has written extensively on the Historical Jesus and his family, most recently in his major book, The Jesus Discovery: The Resurrection Tomb that Reveals the Birth of Christianity.
Accordingly, one would think that Bart Ehrman would have jumped at the chance to have used Tabor's text extensively in his 2013 book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, but Ehrman used totally nothing as going over the end notes (in both Tabor and Ehrman’s books) and the index in Tabor’s book, I noticed Ehrman doesn’t reference Tabor’s text once (or any of Tabor’s books for that matter on the "Historical Jesus"), while Tabor only gives one passing notice to Ehrman’s The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.
What gives? Is Ehrman ashamed of Tabor’s work or is there an academic rivalry between these two University of North Carolina scholars?”
The question of ossuray credibility well expressed by another professor at Bart Ehrman’s university (UNC at Chapel Hill), Jodi Magness:
"For archaeologists, the court decision doesn't really change anything," says University of North Carolina archaeologist Jodi Magness, author of Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus. "There is no way to tell where the ossuary came from, and without that context, the ossuary is worthless."
Adds Magness: "In Biblical archaeology, there are all these things tied up with faith that people want to see evidence for, Exodus, Noah's Ark and especially, Jesus, just him, that people want physical evidence for. And that's never going to happen. Finding physical evidence for Jesus (as an individual) is just not something that archaeology can supply."
Will archaeological science ever advance enough to determine whether the inscription on the ossuary was real or not? Magness says it's not likely. "What we do know is that only the wealthy were buried in ossuaries, not people like James," who reportedly lived in communal poverty, she says."
Secondly, as a case being made for an ossuary of the Apostle Peter having been found in Jerusalem 1953, the author of the wiki article addresses this well: Possible ossuary for Peter in Jerusalem
“In 1953, two Franciscan monks discovered hundreds of 1st century ossuaries stored in a cave on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. The archaeologists claimed to have discovered the earliest physical evidence of a Christian community in Jerusalem, including some very familiar Biblical names. The name inscribed on one ossuary read: "Shimon Bar Yonah" - Simon, the Son of Jonah, the original Biblical name of the Disciple Peter. However, several scholars, both Protestant and Catholic, disputed that the tomb belonged to Peter, one of the reasons being that there was no inscription referring to him as "Cefa" or "Peter".
The 43 inscriptions discovered in the Dominus Flevit cemetery between May 1953 and June 1955 were published with photographs by P. B. Bagatti and J. T. Milik in 1958. The inscriptions on the ossuaries also included the names Jesus, Joseph, Judas, Mathew, Martha, Mary and Mariame - with the inscriptions of the latter two names being written in Greek.”