Thursday, January 13, 2005

The James Ossuary: a proven fake.

The James Ossuary has proven to be a fake.

There was a long article about this in the New Yorker late last year. The antiquities dealers who were in possession of it were pretty enthusiastic, and while the New Yorker tried to be as evenhanded as possible, the dealers struck me as shady.

But even if the ossuary weren’t a forgery and did date to the time of Christ, that wouldn’t prove anything. There were hundreds or thousands of guys named Joseph in those times, and there were several dozen Yeshua ben Josephs in Jerusalem alone. Chances are pretty good that more than one of them would have had a brother named James. In other words, the ossuary could possibly belong to some other guy, which wouldn’t indicate whether Jesus Christ ever existed or not. To date, there’s still no such evidence. Anyone who believes has to have faith.

Perhaps the most damning evidence was that the Aramaic inscription was in 20-pica Times New Roman font. I’m no expert, but I’d think that would have given it away. That and the discovery that the ossuary was actually a painted-over “Dukes of Hazzard” lunchbox.

That’s where I give a certain amount of credit to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Unlike the Roman, Protestant and evangelical churches, they allow that man-made icons can be infused with holy power. If you can have a picture of a saint which represents a direct link to God, your need for the Sacred Virgin to appear in the icing of a Boston cream doughnut diminishes considerably. The Eastern Church’s notion that icons are themselves holy is more in line with Thomas the Apostle’s teaching that the Holy Spirit is all around us, that we don’t need a conduit, necessarily. The evangelicals think the same way, but where they come up short is their not having anything they can say is holy at all. Lacking this anchor, their faith is shaken, which is why they’re so hell-bent on discrediting wild notions like evolution and the heliocentric solar system.

Frankly, Eastern Orthodoxy with its man-made icons fills a need. There’s no science to it, but it does offer a tangible way for people to focus their faith, so there’s no need to feel threatened by science. “I’m sorry, Father, but our lab analysis on your icon of St. Cecil indicates no measure of holiness, nor in your icons of St. Cyril and St. Nicholas of Antioch. Are you sure you’re in the right denomination?” The poor Western Christians are stuck trying to dig up the timbers of Noah’s Ark, the Shroud of Turin, splinters of the True Cross and Jesus Christ’s teething ring. If they were smart, like the Eastern Church, they’d just make their own icons and call them holy, rather than listening to the damnation of Darwinism from some iconoclast.

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