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Updates on the Ossuary of Ya'acob bar Yosef and the Temple Tablet


[1] From the beginning, it was not clear when the second half of the inscription on the ossuary was added. (See Paul Flesher, "The Experts and the Ossuary" ; J. Rivera, Baltimore Sun, Friday, Nov. 29, 2002).

[2] See Paul Flesher (President of the International Organization for Targumic Studies; Editor of the Newsletter for Targumic and Cognate Studies) on the dialect.

[3] See Rochelle I. Altman, Official Report on the James Ossuary.

[4] Xenographic exchange, the use of Font B in a text written in Font A, depends upon strict adherence to the body of a text being in one font. This has always been true from Akkad on down the millennia to this day. The use of italics to designate "foreign word" or "book title" is a modern application of the ancient xenographic exchange technique. A conglomerate script renders the exchange meaningless.

[5] In the mid-twentieth century CE, thus a very modern phenomenon, artists at advertising agencies sometimes played around with conglomerate fonts. This was usually for "shock" value. As such fonts are annoying to a literate person and difficult for a semi-literate person to read, the technique has largely been abandoned.

[6] One of the persons holding a vested interest in the authenticity of the ossuary has been quoted as stating that mixed scripts are "normal." They are not; xenographic exchange is a very well documented and ancient use that is dependent upon strict adherence to the same font design in any given text. Nor would there be any reason to use xenographic exchange in the phrase "his brother of Yeshua." Conglomerate fonts are a sure sign of forgery. (See Altman, Report on the Temple Tablet).

[7] Mr. Shanks continues to promote the ossuary as authentic (and his "free the antiquities dealers" agenda) in BAR, in his book, and with the help of his media friends (e.g., "Bones of Contention," by Charlotte Allen in the Washington [DC] Times, Apr. 20, 2003; Lemaire and Witherington are on lecture tours).

[8] The assertion that this form, "achuid" was "common" and was "in popular use" has been made several times in print. (See, for example, the article on the ossuary in the Nov.-Dec. 2002 issue of BAR and the book by Mr. Shanks and Witherington, p. 22, footnote 2). This assertion is based on the inscription on ossuary number 570 in Rahmani and ONE appearance of "achui" in one scroll from the DSS. See RAHMANI 570. The all-important “d,” "of," has miraculously disappeared in the recent book by Mr. Shanks and Witherington.

[9] Professor Jeff Chadwick's position that we were dealing with a modern forgery is correct.

[10] That Rahmani 570 was the model for the forgery was clear in January 2003. As of that date, the ossuary had not yet been returned to Israel and was not in safe hands. A "mole" was planted on the scholarly lists, specifically on the list where a report on Rahmani 570 was requested. Until the ossuary was safely out of danger of further "improvements," the proof that "achuid" was copied from Rahmani 570 could not be given. Scholarly ethics required that the fact there was no “dalet” in the inscription be mentioned. The mole reported on the lack of a “dalet”; Mr. Shanks goes to great effort in his book to avoid any mention of the “dalet.”

[11] See Rahmani 570 for a full explanation.

[12] Andre Lemaire, stated at the Toronto conference, "When you look at the inscription, there are not two parts," he said. "In the second part, you also have formal script. Only two letters are cursive. .... That mixture of cursive and formal script is well known from other inscriptions." (J. Rivera, Baltimore Sun, Friday, Nov. 29, 2002.) First, the entire second part is in cursive scripts, five different cursive scripts. Second, Lemaire's examples of "mixtures" (conglomerates) are Rahmani 15 (one font, the name of the deceased, “Yo'ezer,” written larger than “son [ben] of Yehosef” in the same font); Rahmani 520 (two hands, one font); Rahmani 783 (two hands, two separate inscriptions -- one on the side and one on the lid, each one written in a different coherent font). There are no "mixtures." In sober fact, not one of the inscriptions in Rahmani is a mixture of fonts: none.

[13] Script equals identity. The fonts in use at one location are not the same as those used in another locale. All Hebrew scripts are mutations of the same class model, but there are very clear distinctions among them from area to area. Lest anyone think this state of affairs has changed, we can still tell where someone learned to write from the script that he or she uses. The scripts and fonts taught at a private school and a public school are very different. We can also tell whether someone learned to write English in Oxford or in New York, Paris, Rome, or Jerusalem. On the ossuaries and among the DSS, scripts delineate: a) a professional scribe; b) a literate person trained at the equivalent of a private school; and c) someone taught at home or by a "village" school. We can also tell whether someone is accustomed to writing on a regular basis.

[14] Fonts go in and out of fashion, being popular at point X and unpopular at point Y. This angular cursive script design follows the usual historic pattern of a change of font along with a change of power structure. In this case, it should be a strong indication of a repudiation of Herod and what he represented. The post-destruction reversion to designs re-incorporating components of the BCE period is another very common historic pattern called "archaization." These post-destruction calls on the past are a reflection of the political situation during the second and third centuries CE.

[15] For the amateur carving technique, see Paul Flesher's "Observing the Ossuary".

[16] Fitzmyer on the "last two words" p. 22, footnote 2, in James the brother of Jesus, by Mr. Shanks and Witherington.

[17] See Paul Flesher.

[18] Fitzmyer, cf note 16.

[19] The only person who answered the question about the frame in any kind of detail is a complete novice who only showed interest in "biblical paleography" once the Interim Report was issued. In his ad hominem pseudo-"rebuttal," Mr. Bryan Cox had, and still has, no idea that the frame is there for all to see -- but he included a “slippery slope,” IF... THEN, to conclude with something that was never said.

[20] The fact that the patina over the second part of the inscription is thicker than over the first part is stated by Mr. Shanks in his book (p. 46-47). It is rather peculiar that only the area of the second inscription on the entire box should have a thicker patina.

[21] The numerous scratches over the second inscription, that were not there in photographs taken of the box in Oct. or upon its arrival at the ROM, may perhaps be explained by the comment by Dr. Daniel Eylon, an engineering Professor at the University of Dayton, that "The inscription would be underneath these scratches if it had been on the box at the time of burial, but the majority of this inscription is on top of the scratches." ("Experts Question Authenticity of Bone Box for `Brother of Jesus'," by John Noble Wilford for The New York Times Dec. 3, 2002.)

[22] Mr. Shanks has gone so far as to hold a "produce-a-fake contest." As Dr.Goren seems to have "hit the nail on the head" on the method used to produce the fake patina on the ossuary, Mr. Shanks chose to slander him along with the 100% correct Dr. Chadwick in his editorial in this same issue of BAR. As Mr. Shanks is known to attack only those "outside" his picked group of experts and those he fears, we gladly welcome Drs. Goren and Chadwick into a select company.

[23] Please note that we do not know why the Shroud was painted. It may not have been intended as more than a mystical painting so typical of the age. Its status as a religious artifact, in fact, may lie in a later misunderstanding -- an all too common state of affairs.

[24] Report on the Temple Tablet

[25] For Joseph Naveh's comments on the mixed fonts. For Dr. Yuval Goren's report.

[26] See Flesher's report on the carving; cf. note 15.

[27] Note: The beitdavid stele from Tel Dan was used as the model for the ostracon, not the reverse. ("First Things," editorial on the Ostracon by Hershel Shanks; BAR Nov.-Dec. 1997) The stele, however, has a provenance and does not exhibit evidence of fakery. The script is a coherent design and is in keeping with the script designs from that general area. Likewise, the triangular shape is correct in the Phoenician-Aramean hierarchies of shape. Incidentally, the use of a sherd for the ostracon is yet another typical error-of-ignorance made by this incompetent forger. The Temple Receipt is not the shape we can expect from a receipt issued by an official site. No official receipts at any time, past or present, are written on "postcards."

[28] Dr. Robert Eisenmann ("Too Pat," Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2002) commmented on the lack of identification of "Jesus" and added that the addition seemed to be aimed at a modern audience. Dr. Emile Peusch, among other things, also commented on this lack of identification. (Le Monde de la Bible no. 149, March 2003, 62-66). In the same article, the statistical analysis was called into question by Jean Bertoin who noted that the population data base was substantially larger than presented. John Lupia, art historian and specialist on antiques, examined the photograph under high resolution and immediately dismissed the inscription as authentic because of the lack of biovermiculation throughout the patina in the inscribed graphs. In other words, the natural "worm" holes in the patina are scattered all over the ossuary, but are lacking in some of the letters in the inscription. Dr. Herbert Basser also noted the two hands ("BONES OF CONTENTION: The ossuary of the 'brother of Jesus' holds unanswerable questions by William Hopper). Dr. Jeff Chadwick had a list of 20 reasons why he thought the second half is a modern forgery (Provo, Utah news journal). The lack of provenance was a major stumbling block and remarked upon by numerous scholars from Eric Myers of Duke University (along with many of his colleagues) to French academics, such as Marie-Francoise Baslez. There were many more, including, of course, Altman's "Official Report on the James Ossuary" (on this site)

[29] The only ad rem response came from a devoted amateur, Mr. Jack Kilmon. While Mr. Kilmon has been interested in the scripts and fonts of the Dead Sea Scrolls for many years, he is, nonetheless, an amateur lacking much of the knowledge necessary to address the issues. Indeed, starting from the premise that there was only one hand and script in the entire inscription, the gentleman ended up proving that there were, in fact, two different scripts, two different levels of literacy, and two different levels of skill (24 Oct. 2002, [XTALK] FW: "James again"; 25 Oct 2002, [XTALK] FW: "James again"). There was one other response; this one was from a complete novice in paleography whose interest, as already noted, dates to the release of the Interim Report. As Mr. Cox is a member of the list on which the Interim and Final Reports appeared and read them there, he asked if your author would place the Report on his brand new list that he was starting. This request is a red flag to anyone who manages a list; items are placed on the archives of a list by the owner, not the author. This fake "Rebuttal" is not ad rem and, as any experienced teacher can tell you, has all the marks of a term paper thrown together at the last minute directly from the textbooks. (See also note 19 on the frame.)

[30] As of the date of the release of the Reports by the IAA that these two artifacts are "hoaxes," Mr. Hershel Shanks gave notice that he is not prepared to cease and desist. "If it's a fake, I want to know it as badly as anyone else," said editor Hershel Shanks Tuesday in a telephone interview from the United States, voicing his confidence that the findings to be released Wednesday will just "open discussion of the issue, and not close it." "'Jesus ossuary', biblical tablet are fake -- Antiquities Authority," by Etgar Lefkovitz. Front Page (contd. page 11), Jerusalem Post, Wed., June 18, 2003.

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