Our request was promptly denied on the grounds that the bones in the ossuary had been added by Golan to camouflage the forgery and have no connection to the original, thus rendering any tests unnecessary. We know that is not the case. But doing DNA tests on the bones of a "James" and a "Maria," particularly if that James had a brother named Jesus, means moving from the realm of science to that of theology. Our hope is that when the trial of Golan is completed and some of the emotions die down, we will still be able to pursue these scientific tests. But there is another intriguing side to this unfinished story.
The Mystery of the Talpiot Tomb
The "James Ossuary" story was not the first to generate worldwide headlines about ancient ossuaries and their possible relation to Jesus. Shortly before Easter in 1996 another dramatic story broke: "Jesus Family Tomb Discovered." It was reported that a tomb discovered back in 1980, but never brought to public attention, contained a significant cluster of names associated with the Jesus family, including a Mary, a Joseph, a second Mary, a Jude son of Jesus, a Matthew, and most significantly, a Jesus son of Joseph. The London Sunday Times paraded the story in a full front-page feature article under the title "The Tomb That Dare Not Speak Its Name" on March 31. On Easter morning the BBC aired a feature documentary on the tomb titled The Body in Question. The Associated Press, Reuters, and Gannett quickly cobbled stories from this initial in-depth treatment, and supplemented them with their own reports filed by correspondents who descended in droves upon unsuspecting officials of the IAA in the Old City of Jerusalem and clamored to know more. As with the James Ossuary, the Israelis were caught in the middle of things.
The questions mounted: When had the tomb been discovered? Why had it not immediately been reported to the public? Was there some type of cover-up due to the shocking contents of the tomb?12
In 1995, the year before the story broke, a BBC/CTVC British film crew led by Ray Bruce and Chris Mann was in Jerusalem filming a documentary on the Resurrection for their upcoming Easter special. Their aim was to bring to the British public the latest and best historical and archaeological evidence related to the reports of Jesus' empty tomb and his resurrection. They intended their program to be provocative and challenging, but they could not have imagined the surprise that awaited them.
They arrived at the archaeological warehouse of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Romemma, a rundown suburb of Jerusalem, where they had arranged for some routine filming of a few 1st-century "ossuaries." Ray Bruce and his fellow producer Chris Mann had done a bit of homework. They had learned from a catalogue published in 1994 by L. H. Rahmani13 that of the thousand or more ossuaries stored and catalogued in various Israeli collections, six bore the name "Jesus" (Yeshu, Yeshua, or Yehoshua in Hebrew), and of those six, two were inscribed with the designation "Jesus son of Joseph."
The first, found in 1926, is beautifully carved and clearly legible.14 The second, found in 1980, is nearly illegible, with the inscription scratched into the stone as if with a nail or sharp pointed object. As luck would have it, both were housed in the Romemma warehouse. The curator, Baruk Brendel, was willing to show the British crew both items.15 The crew was understandably pleased to be able to film an intact ossuary