'Jesus' Artifact to Go on Display
By MERITA ILO, Associated Press Writer
TORONTO (AP)_ A limestone burial box that may
be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus goes on public display Friday after
Royal Ontario Museum curators repaired cracks incurred on its trip from Israel.
Israeli Consul General Meir Romem
inspects damage to the James Ossuary during its media unveiling at the Royal
Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada Thursday Nov. 14, 2002. The ossuary, which may
have belonged to Jesus's brother James, was damaged in transit from Israel and
required quick repairs by museum staff. It goes on display Friday. (AP
The 20 by 11- inch box, known as the James
ossuary, has an inscription that reads, from right to left, "James, son of
Joseph, brother of Jesus."
Museum officials unveiled the repaired ossuary
Thursday, giving journalists a view of the artifact that drew global attention
when its existence was made public last month Biblical Archaeology
A beige box sits in a glass case in the center
of a red-painted room on the third floor of the museum. A crack that runs
through "brother" and "of" in the inscription is visible by the lighter beige
Informational text written in black on the
walls contains historical, biblical and archaeological details. For example, the
text notes an inventory of almost 900 ossuaries showed 19 have the name of a
Joseph and 10 of a Jesus, with one known to have the name of Jesus, son of
Joseph, inscribed on it.
"Statistically, the combination of the three
names in the James ossuary increases considerably the possibility that this was
James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth," the text
Dan Rahimi, the museum's director of
collections management, said extensive work on the ossuary left it in "great
shape" for the public exhibition scheduled to run until Dec.
He said the repairs were left unpainted so that
viewers could see them, and were reversible.
Curators said they saw what they believed were
fossils of plant roots and bacterial staining during the repair. They also
discovered an incised star-circle and minute flecks of red paint on the back of
the box, common decorations on ossuaries dating between 50-70
"It was very exciting to make this discovery
when the ossuary had already received such intense scrutiny because of the
inscription," said Edward Keall, the museum's director of Near Eastern and Asian
civilizations. "Others did not see it because they were mesmerized by the
inscription and did not look at the back side."
Experts date the ossuary, a Latin word for bone
box, to 63 A.D. If, as some scholars maintain, the box and the inscription are
authentic, it would be the first physical artifact from the first century
related to Jesus.
Keall said it was unlikely anyone will ever
prove scientifically it held the bones of the brother of Jesus.
"It won't stand up in a court of law," he said.
"Believing is an act of faith."
Some experts have said the box might be a
forgery, or that it might have been the burial box of a different James,
unrelated to Jesus Christ. The names James, Joseph and Jesus were popular during
Museum officials said they expected the ossuary
to be a popular attraction, and additional security was in place. The museum
paid US$25,000 for the exhibition.
The owner of the artifact, a 51-year-old
engineer from Tel Aviv, said he bought the ossuary in the mid-1970s from an
antiquities dealer in the Old City of Jerusalem for several hundred dollars.
It's now estimated by some to be worth millions.
Coordinador General y Moderador de
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