Skip to comments.Scholar Claims Oldest Jesus of Nazareth Evidence
Posted on 10/21/2002 9:05:57 AM PDT by rface
WASHINGTON- 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 High 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 conference Monday.
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, Lemaire concludes.
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 authenticity."
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.
On the Net:
Biblical Archaeology Review: http://www.bib-arch.org
"James, son of Joseph, BROTHER of Jesus."
Archaeological Jesus bump!
From another article:
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. In accord with church fathers writing after the New Testament era, 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' stepbrother. 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. The new inscription, if authentic, would rule out that option.
So no one can look at it and no one can talk to the owner. I don't think it's real. But I can see both sides of the issue. I could see that it verifies to the world the existence of Christ and that, at least in the world's eye, more of the stories are true. The question would be though is why? Why would God bother? How would this help spread the message of His love for us through Christ? And I don't see that it could. Researchers could uncover every artifact in Jerusalem and it wouldn't change the doubters minds or prove the divinity of Christ.
The ossuary is not quite rectangular, like most burial boxes found so far, but trapezoid in shape. It is about 20 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 12 inches high. The image on top shows the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus".
Lemaire dates the object to 63 A.D.Rather precise. Wonder how Lemaire arrived at that date?
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