Excerpt: 'The Jesus Dynasty' by James D. Tabor

There is one ossuary in particular from our shroud tomb that caught the attention of Gibson and me. It has a simple incised border running around the edges of the side panels that is precisely the style found on the James Ossuary. Ossuaries come in a wide variety of styles and decorations, and many have borders, but I have not seen another ossuary with that exact style of border. To get a firsthand look, Gibson and I recently visited the warehouse in Bet Shemesh where our ossuaries are stored. This particular one is smaller than the James Ossuary; it was likely intended for a child, but judging from its similarity it may well have been made by the same stonecutter. As we looked through the vast rows of shelves holding the enormous ossuary collection of the State of Israel we saw no other examples matching these two. It seemed to us another piece of the puzzle. It makes sense that a single family might buy two ossuaries from the same artisan -- and thus the styles would be matched.

There is one way this matter might be settled. The James Ossuary had significant bone materials still in it when it was first shown to Hershel Shanks and the filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici. Simcha, an Orthodox Jew, was quoted by the New Yorker as saying, "I looked in the box, there were still some bone fragments. I thought, Oh my gosh, if this is real, then Jesus' DNA is there!"11 Oded Golan later cleaned out these fragments before shipping the ossuary to Toronto, and at one point he showed a Time magazine reporter a Tupperware container that he said was full of those bones. Presumably the Israelis who raided his apartment are in possession of those remains. Since we have already done extensive DNA tests on the skeletal remains of the inhabitants of our Tomb of the Shroud, why not test the bones from the James Ossuary to see if there is any possible match of mitochondrial DNA? That would tell us whether the deceased of the James Ossuary had any sibling relations in the tomb, or perhaps that one of the females was his mother. Or we might come up with no match at all. It would be particularly interesting to look at the DNA sequence of the James Ossuary remains and our "Maria" or Mary from the shroud tomb.

On November 17, 2003, Gibson and I made a formal request by letter to Shuka Dorfman, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, that we be allowed to carry out such DNA tests on these skeletal fragments from the James Ossuary. Our thinking was that whether the inscription on the ossuary is authentic or forged -- and Dorfman is convinced it is forged -- it is nonetheless of scientific value to determine where the ossuary itself originated. Given the circumstantial evidence that it might have come from our Tomb of the Shroud, a DNA match or the lack thereof could help advance our knowledge, no matter what position one might hold about the inscription itself.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...