Burial box may be oldest link to Jesus
October 22 2002
An inscription on the empty box, called an ossuary, reads "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" in rough ancient Aramaic letters. Photo: AFP
A 2,000 year-old limestone burial box may be the oldest physical evidence of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, according to a French scholar writing in a US journal.
An inscription on the empty box, called an ossuary, reads "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" in rough ancient Aramaic letters.
Although all three names were common in ancient times, the statistical probability of them appearing in that combination is extremely slim, according to Andre Lemaire, a French paleographer from the Sorbonne University.
The mention of the dead person's brother is unusual, suggesting that this Jesus was a well-known figure, Lemaire wrote in the Biblical Archaeology Review, a Washington DC-based journal.
The New Testament mentions James among Jesus's family members. James is also named as the author of the New Testament letter by the same name, written to the 12 tribes of Israel.
Until around 70 AD when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, ancient Jews routinely transferred the bones of their deceased from burial caves to ossuaries, Lemaire writes.
The half-metre long box, which is dated to the year 63 AD, is one of many in a private collection in Israel. Its history prior to the current ownership is unknown.
According to tests that Lemaire ran, the inscriptions had not been etched in modern times.
Hundreds of ossuaries have been found in Jerusalem, according to Lemaire, who acknowledges that "nothing in this ossuary inscription clearly confirms the identification."
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