Saturday, January 31, 2004

ADOLFO ROITMAN'S LECTURE in Billings, Montana, (mentioned earlier here) is summarized in "Dead Sea scrolls curator draws crowd at RMC" (Billings Gazette).

Friday, January 30, 2004

ON LINK EXCHANGES: Recently a few people have e-mailed to ask me to "exchange links" with them, i.e., put a link to their blog in my links section in exchange for their putting one to mine in their links section. Sorry, and I do appreciate the interest, but I don't do that. If you find PaleoJudaica worth reading and it would be appropriate for your blog roll, by all means please add it. I do keep track, via Technorati, of who is linking to me and I'm glad to have every link. And if you have a site or a blog that you think might interest me, again, please let me know about it and I may add it to my blog roll. For me to do this, the blog or site would have to have something to do with ancient Judaism or at least ancient history in general. But I prefer to add links on the basis of relevance rather than in exchange for getting a link somewhere else.

Also, a suggestion: if you want to get people to notice your blog and to come back, include something more than your name or a cryptic title as introduction. It's very helpful to have a paragraph or a page somewhere easy to find telling readers three things: who you are, what the blog is about, and why you are the right person to be blogging on that subject. "John Smith's Blog," with no explanation, and apparently on whatever John Smith happens to be thinking about, is not likely to be interesting to anyone but John Smith and perhaps his family and friends. And even if the blog has a specific topic, your readers are likely to ask who you are and why they should be reading you on the subject when there's so much competition out there.
DAVID FOX SANDMEL, Rabbi and Professor, has seen the latest draft of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and reports to the Ioudaios-L discussion list. Excerpt:
From my perspective (note the disclaimers above), the movie is much less concerned with historical or scriptural accuracy than it is with portraying the passion in as painful, brutal, and emotionally affecting way possible. This is Gibsons' stated goal. All other considerations (historical accuracy, scriptural faithfulness, potential anti-Judaism, criticism of Vatican II, etc. etc.), take second place.
"TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE." Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University surveys some recent dubious and forged antiquities in "The Jerusalem Syndrome in Archaeology: Jehoash to James" (Bible and Interpretation website) and he suggests that biblical archaeologists and epigraphers have been suffering from a mild form of "Jerusalem Syndrome": "a temporary state of sudden and intense religious delusions brought on while visiting or living in Jerusalem." Excerpt:
�� It is only due to the limits of space that I do not go on and on with similar narratives. A hundred and thirty years after the exposure of the na�ve and crude biblical forgeries of Moses Wilhelm Shapira, it seems that biblical archaeology did not learn the lesson and has completely forgotten its implications. Recently, I had the dubious pleasure of examining a seemingly endless line of fake biblical texts of various kinds. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of such forgeries referring especially to the time of the First Temple. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the disciplines of biblical history and archaeology have been contaminated to such an extent that no unprovenanced written source seems to be reliable anymore. To put it even more bluntly, the sciences of Hebrew epigraphy and philology are nothing but a fool�s paradise. The question arises: are we playing here with science or with science fiction? Is it possible that, as in the popular movie �The Matrix,� we all live in a virtual world that was programmed for us by aliens and operated by a well-organized system of na�ve scientists, media tycoons, and other messengers, who manipulate us so we can live calmly in the virtual reality that they created for us?

��� Is it possible that over a century after Sir William Mathew Flinders-Petrie established the scientific methodology of biblical archaeology, the discipline is still controlled by dilatants and charlatans? As we all still hope that most of the scientists involved in this saga were motivated only by true scientific purposes, we must ask how could some of them be so na�ve, ignore any sense of objectivity and be trapped in the crude pitfalls set by the forgers? Considering the nature of the fakes in question, the answer to this question may lie in the domain of psychology. The forgeries discussed here are not merely fakes of ancient artifacts. They are relics, intended to manipulate the emotions of scientists and the public alike by using the attribution to biblical events.[35] These forgeries were intended to infect collectors, museums, scientists, and scholars with the Jerusalem Syndrome in order to boost their market price and attract public attention.

��� We biblical archaeologists must now decide whether we are ready to remain in a fool�s paradise or fight back in order to bring back science into our discipline. For my grandfather, who was a very orthodox Jew, the question whether there was a temple in Jerusalem or not was completely irrelevant to the depth and sincerity of his faith. He never needed a dubious ostracon, written in dodgy biblical Hebrew and coated by a layer of modern lime and wax, to make his belief stronger. I am confident that the discovery of the James Ossuary has not served to bring more people into the belief in the historicity of the Gospels. Perhaps the opposite is true. But for those of us who care about the future and integrity of biblical archaeology and history, the Jerusalem Syndrome in archaeology is a question of life and death -- either we fight against it, or we lose any trace of scientific dignity.

He also responds to the criticisms by James A. Harrell of the IAA report on the "James Ossuary" and "Jehoash Inscription."
HERE'S MORE FROM DAVID KLINGHOFFER on Daniel Matt's Zohar and on the Kabbalah Centre. Klinghoffer thinks, or at least hopes, that the first may provide something of an antidote in popular culture to the second. He is quite critical of the Kabbalah Centre but he also makes an effort to put it in a fair historical context. The article, "Into the Mystic," (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles) is worth a read and it's difficult to excerpt. Here's just one passage:

Matt also has mixed feelings about the Kabbalah Centre. While deploring accounts of people being fleeced, urged to buy $415 Zohar sets in order to ward off dangers, he puts the center in the historical context of Jewish mysticism.

"You have to admit that there are phenomena like this in earlier stages. It's not unheard of."

He points out the long-established popularity of amulets, said to give the same protections that the Kabbalah Centre claims for its strings and Zohars.

It?s not the price of the Zohar set that's troubling. A standard Aramaic/Hebrew edition costs around $345. Matt?s Zohar, when its projected 12 volumes are completed, will run about $540. Rather, what rankles is that most of the people buying it from the Kabbalah Centre can't make head or tails of it, or put it to any real use at all.

Professor Pinchas Giller at the University of Judaism serves on Matt's academic advisory committee. He too puts the Kabbalah Centre in context, pointing out that it's not as if the enterprise was invented by Berg out of thin air.

"It began about 70 years ago in Jerusalem. Their 'mission to the gentiles' goes back as early as the writings of the founder, Yehudah Ashlag. So they have a long history and have generally been true to themselves." Berg claims he received his mission in 1969 from Rabbi Yehuda Brandwein, Ashlag's successor as head of the original Kabbalah Learning Centre in Israel � a claim Brandwein's family denies.

"Unfortunately," Giller allows, "their present business model has been adapted from Scientology," which is also known for its hard sell.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

TECHNORATI had been so far behind lately as to be effectively defunct: last I had checked it was running twelve and thirteen days behind. But now there's a new beta version up and it seems to be updating in realtime. (For those of you unfamiliar with it, Technorati is a site that allows you to enter a URL and see which blogs have linked to it and when. Bloggers use it a lot to keep track of who is linking to and dialoguing with them.)
ROGUE CLASSICIST DAVID MEADOWS comments on the megasites discussion. I like his idea of a group conference blog. Any volunteers for, say, the SBL meetings or the British New Testament Conference?

He has other good ideas and some useful history concerning the now defunct Argos search engine.

Aramaic, language of Jesus, lives on in Cyprus

A Maronite village, isolated by the island's division, struggles to carry on the tongue.
By Michael Theodoulou | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

KORMAKITI, CYPRUS � If the people of this remote village were to travel back to Jesus' time and hear him preach, they wouldn't need an interpreter to understand the Sermon on the Mount or the parable of the prodigal son.

That's because they speak the same language as the Son of God. Literally.

Spoken in the Middle East during Jesus' time, Aramaic is still used in everyday life by most of the 130 elderly Maronite Catholics in Kormakiti, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

This could be good news for Mel Gibson. If the megastar has trouble finding an audience for "Passion," his upcoming movie about the final hours of Jesus' life on Earth with dialogue mostly in Aramaic, due to be released next month, the folks here should have no trouble with the original biblical tongue.

Still, Kormakiti's unique diluted version of Aramaic, called Cypriot Maronite Arabic, is in danger of extinction. Once the thriving center of the island's Maronite community, Kormakiti now has the eerie atmosphere of a ghost town.


Actually, I doubt that the modern brand of Aramaic they speak would be mutually comprehensible with the first-century Galilean dialect.
"HOW KABBALAH IS LIKE BRAIN SURGERY." David Klinghoffer reviews Daniel C. Matt's new translation of the Zohar for Beliefnet. (For another review, go here.) Excerpt:

Reading along, you get the strong impression that either this stuff is meaningless rubbish, or it was not meant for popular consumption but rather conveys ideas too profound to be understood by amateurs, in language that is appropriately obscure given the unfathomable depth of the subject matter. The latter is the view that Jews who know something about Judaism have historically taken.

It's like brain surgery. Someone who tells you he wants to start cracking open skulls to fix the brains inside but who hasn't yet cracked open a book of anatomy is, obviously, either a lunatic or a fool. So when these obscure secrets are seemingly readily available to all who are willing to shell out the 26 bucks for a red string without investing themselves in the basics of Judaism, namely learning and practicing Torah and its commandments, it's obvious this version of Kabbalah lacks authenticity.

To be sure, there are those in the academic world who would dismiss the Zohar itself as a hoax. It purports to be a record of the conversations of Rabbi Shimon and his disciples, yet the book "emerged mysteriously" (in Daniel Matt's diplomatic phrase) more than a thousand years after they lived, in Spain at the close of the 13th century. The venerated 20th�century scholar Gershom Scholem ruled that the work was entirely the product of the imagination and the pen of Rabbi Moses de Leon, who composed it sometime in the decade of the 1280s.

In his fascinating, lucid introduction to the Matt translation, Professor Arthur Green writes that just because the Zohar is "a work of sacred fantasy," that's no reason "to impugn the truth of its insights or the religious profundity of its teachings." But if the Zohar is a hoax, common sense would suggest that that is a very good reason to impugn its truth and profundity. If Shimon ben Yohai did not conceive these teachings on the basis of earlier traditions, if they were just made up by a guy with a lot of imagination, then they are mere opinions, without any special authority.

What seems undeniable is that the Zohar is a mystery. The rest of Moses de Leon's writings are pale, dry, lifeless, where the Zohar is as brilliantly colorful as it is impenetrably obscure. Some later kabbalists offered the view that de Leon was a reincarnation of Shimon ben Yohai. That would explain why, when the spirit of the ancient sage moved him, he could write in Shimon's name without it being a "fantasy" at all.

It is certainly true that kabbalah is a rigorous, demanding discipline that offers its joys only upon the expenditure of significant effort.
THE KABBALAH CENTRE is taken to task by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in "Keeping Kabbalah Jewish" (Beliefnet) for promoting "superstition as religion" and for presenting a Kabbalah that is not really Jewish. He makes some good points, although I think comparing Madonna to a Mafia boss is intemperate and, frankly, cruel. Excerpt:

The test of Jewish authenticity is a lifelong commitment to tikkun olam, fixing our communities, healing the sick, and offering hope to the dispirited.

But the Kabbalah Centre seems to have placed itself squarely in line with the new-age fad of personal growth and spiritual fulfillment, placing terminology like 'cosmic energy' and 'celestial transcendence' over communal commitment and social service. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a branch of Hasidism, is also a mystical movement. But it has built soup kitchens and orphanages, trade schools, and elementary schools, all over the world. Christian missionaries have built hospitals and hospices in the most remote corners of the earth. The New Age movement has had much success in heightening the spiritual awareness of its adherents, but it does not contribute as much to the communal good.

I have some thoughts on the historical claims on the Kabbalah Centre's website, which I will try to pull together and post one of these days.
"BORROW" OR "ASK OF"? Leonard Greenspoon, in "The Politics of Biblical Translation" (the Forward) meditates on the political effects of an old mistranslation in this week's Torah portion. (The Hebrew verb in question is sha'al, which means to ask or request.) Excerpts:

As the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt, the Hebrew text of Exodus 3:22 records one of the divine commands in words that the King James Version understood in this way: "But every woman shall borrow of her neighbor... jewels of silver, and jewels of gold." Through their actions, the Israelites "spoil" the Egyptians. The same or similar wording occurs twice in this week's Portion, at Exodus 11:2 and 12:35-6. Almost all English translations of the mid- and late 20th century have changed the wording in these passages, from "borrow" to "ask of" (or something similar). Among newer Jewish versions, in which "borrow" is sometimes retained, the alternate rendering is occasionally noted, but not discussed.

How different it was for earlier Jewish translators, especially those in England! The traditional King James rendering was perceived not only as erroneous, but as pernicious, dangerous, anti-Jewish.


What was at stake, in the view of these translators, was the sanctity of the text and the safety, perhaps even the survival, of their fellow Jews in a society where they still labored under many social and legal impediments. In the hands of their enemies, a shifty Jacob of the Bible could easily foreshadow a shiftless Jacob from London's East End, and Israelites who pretended to borrow from the Egyptians with no intention of repaying could become blood-sucking moneylenders.

We therefore may conclude that a fairly obscure biblical reference loomed larger than we might have expected for British Jews a hundred or more years ago. Beyond its value as a historical and cultural footnote, is this truly relevant to us today? Alas, it is. As reported by the media worldwide in 2003 � see the December 2003 edition of Bible Review, for example � an Egyptian jurist, relying on just these passages, was preparing a lawsuit against "all the Jews of the world," who, in his opinion, were responsible for absconding with the equivalent of more than 1,000 trillion tons of gold during the Exodus. This jurist apparently is willing to amortize this debt over a millennium, so long as cumulative interest is calculated and paid.

For those seeking to discredit the Book, or the People of the Book, there is no concept of a statute of limitations. Mistranslations continue to haunt us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


FEATURE-Yemen hopes Queen of Sheba legend will boost tourism

By Miral Fahmy

MARIB, Yemen, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Whether she was an ancient matriarch renowned for her wisdom or one of the world's most enduring myths, the Queen of Sheba lives on in her reputed homeland Yemen.

The woman who supposedly inspired the admiration and lust of King Solomon remains one of the most important characters in Yemeni history despite the lack of proof that she even existed.

Now Yemen wants to use the legend of Bilqis, as the Queen of Sheba is known here, to draw tourists to the ruins of the Sabean kingdom that once ruled supreme over the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa as far back as 6,000 years ago.

"There can be no tourism without antiquities so we're preparing the sites and we hope that within a year or two, we can welcome visitors," said Sadeq Othman, head of the antiquities department in eastern Marib province.

"We believe that the Queen of Sheba ruled from here and we want the whole world to come and see it."

The Queen of Sheba is mentioned in the Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy books as the woman who stood up to Solomon but who renounced paganism after meeting him.


Keep reading, there's more. And I've blogged some additional information about the Queen of Sheba here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

STEPHEN CARLSON enters the megasite discussion.

Sch�ssler, Karlheinz, ed.
Das sahidische Alte und Neue Testament: Vollst�ndiges Verzeichnis mit Standorten, 3/1: sa 500-520

Reviewed by Elizabeth Penland

Sharpe, John, and Kimberly Van Kampen, eds.
The Bible as Book: The Manuscript Tradition
Reviewed by Ignacio Carbajosa

Haynes, Stephen R.
Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery
Reviewed by Dexter E. Callender

Reiterer, Friedrich V.
Z�hlsynopse zum Buch Ben Sira
Reviewed by Eric Noffke

Reiner, Andy M.
Miracle and Magic: A Study in the Acts of the Apostles and the Life of Apollonius of Tyana
Reviewed by Kimberley Stratton

(There's a typo in this entry: the author's name is Reimer.)

Noegel, Scott B. and Brannon Wheeler
Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism
Reviewed by Aaron Hughes

Monday, January 26, 2004

SOME DEAD SEA SCROLLS are coming to Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Alabama in 2004-05:

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit coming (Mobile Register)

Staff Reporters

In a city where the past and present share living quarters, history will become a religious experience in 2005.
From Our Advertiser

Visitors to the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile will have an opportunity to examine their Judeo-Christian heritage when an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls opens Jan. 20, 2005.

The exhibit will remain on view through April 24 and is expected to eclipse attendance for the museum, according to executive director W. Michael Sullivan.

It will be the most ambitious project that the Exploreum has undertaken since the museum reopened in its $21 million building in 1998.

"Once we heard it was available, how could we not have gone after it?" Sullivan said.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, written more than 2,000 years ago, include some of the oldest surviving texts of the books of the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament, and of Hebrew community laws.

The rare manuscripts, penned by unknown scribes working in the religious community of Qumran in the Judean desert, were discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd who found them stored in jars in a cave near Bethlehem. Thousands of scroll fragments, representing every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther, were transcribed onto scrolls of parchment and papyrus. Their discovery is considered one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th century.

The Exploreum will feature fragments of 12 scrolls, including pieces from the books of Genesis-Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Others relate to sectarian documents such as community laws reflecting the lives and convictions of the Hebrew sect believed to have written the manuscripts.

Visitors also will see jars, coins, clothing and other artifacts that tell the story of the people who lived near the caves. A final section of the exhibit explains the efforts of international scholars to conserve and translate the scrolls.


Before it travels to Mobile, the exhibit will show at the Houston Museum of Natural History from October 2004 until Jan. 2, 2005.

The Houston and Mobile exhibits will be identical except for the specific fragments on view, Sullivan said. Because of the fragility of the pieces, the IAA limits the display of each fragment to three months in any 12-month period.


THE STORY THUS FAR... (Bible and Interpretation website)

A Review Essay of The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story & Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus and His Family, Hershel Shanks & Ben Witherington III, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 2003

This is a long, thorough, and careful discussion of the current state of the question and you should read it all. Excerpts:

On Shank's section on the "James Ossuary":

Did the ossuary once contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus Christ? It seems not. The first three necessary points that needed to be demonstrated in order for the ossuary to be that of James the brother of Jesus failed to provide any solid support. The fourth point, that of the antiquity of the ossuary?s inscription, demonstrates conclusively that the inscription constitutes a modern forgery. If Shanks, Lemaire and others still wish to demonstrate their claim, these are serious obstacles to overcome.

On Witherington's section on James the brother of Jesus:

Witherington is clearly an excellent writer. He adheres consistently to the level of discussion he has decided upon. He writes interestingly and confidently, bringing his audience along through enticing prose and engaging rhetoric. His discussion by and large sticks to the scholarly mainstream. He is familiar with the scholarly work on James and readily acknowledges his dependence on it through footnotes and appreciations.

One must be careful to realize, however, that Witherington speaks with more certitude than other scholars. As part of the way he addresses his audience, Witherington often leaves out scholarly debates about various points and just states a position. This is most evident in dating. Witherington, for instance, assigns the Letter of James to the year 52 CE, without any discussion of why that date and not some other.

Witherington's main innovation is to incorporate the ossuary as evidence into the analysis of James' life. Taking as a given that the ossuary contained the remains of James the brother of Jesus--without even an argument for that assumption--Witherington brings it into the discussion of several issues, including burial practices, James' relationship to his family vs. the Christian movement, and so on. Unfortunately, given the inability of the ossuary to bear the weight of the claims placed upon it shown above, this one contribution has been rendered essentially worthless.

Flesher's conclusion:

In the end, this experience reminds one of the Cold-Fusion debacle of 1989, when two researchers, Professors S. Pons and M. Fleischmann, claimed that they had been able to produce nuclear fusion in a test-tube. Their announcement was greeted with great fanfare, and the international press spread the story across their front pages. But when other scientists tried to duplicate the experiment, they could not. The scientific requirement that experiments be reproducible failed. This gave the press another field day, during which they trumpeted that Cold Fusion was a lie.

The first part of the Cold Fusion story parallels that of the ossuary, but the second part does not. Apart from studies of the patina, the ossuary is not subject to the test of reproducible results. Paleography, linguistics, and even the statistics cannot be verified in the way that scientific tests can be. Instead those of us in these fields must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We must do our work right the first time, and not rush to publication without due consideration.

Why? Because something like the James ossuary matters to people in a way that Cold Fusion cannot. The claim about the ossuary touches on people's faith, it can change their beliefs, it is evidence that demands a verdict from the Christian church. The sensationalism surrounding the James ossuary may have served its promoters well, but it has done a disservice to the believing community. The fanfare that greeted its announcement has not been repeated for the events that seem to have discredited the find, namely, the IAA report and Golan's arrest. As Bruce Chilton observes in the Fall 2003 issue of the newsletter of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College, "The arrest of the owner was reported at the time by the Associated Press, but the popular media in this country � the same media that beat the drum for the authenticity of the piece � mostly let the story pass. . . . In this, journalists understand neither religion nor their own function. A story that is not followed up is just gossip, not news, and unsubstantiated rumor is the stuff of superstition, not faith." The ossuary?s announcement was news because it impacted the faith of members of the world's largest religion, Christianity. The media's failure to continue its coverage will impact it none the less. Scholars will be answering for the false leads of the "James" ossuary for generations to come, since because of scholarly incaution it will probably become part of the discourse for sincere but ill-informed believers.

Perhaps, finally, the question of the authenticity of the ossuary and its inscription will be addressed by the forum to which it should have come first, that of scholarly knowledge and analysis. Only there can the competing judgments of the ossuary?s proponents and its critiques receive a proper evaluation. And that, finally, seems likely.

Let's hope so.

The analogy with Cold Fusion is a good one, especially for illustrating how the press jumps on flashy stories it doesn't really understand and makes much of them and how the real process of evaluating scientific and historical claims is a slow and not very glamorous one. To be fair, my impression is that the press has made an effort to keep up with the story and has reported the major developments fairly widely. Of course my perspective may be skewed because I make a point of digging such things up, often from places outside the mainstream media. If you're curious, try searching the PaleoJudaica archive for "James Ossuary" and see what you think.

Incidentally, had Cold Fusion been real, I suspect it would have mattered to people a good deal more than the inscription on the "James Ossuary." By now we might all be riding around in Doc Brown's flying cars, powered by Mr. Fusion. If only it had been so!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

HERE'S A DIRECTORY of doctoral dissertations in progress in the U.K. and Ireland having to do with "Classics and related subjects." Some of them pertain to ancient Judaism. The site is hosted by the Classics Department of the University of Reading and came to my attention by way of Hypotyposeis. If are working on a dissertation in this area in the U.K., use the form to add your topic to the list.
HERE'S A NICE LIST of some of the bogosities in The Da Vinci Code, complied in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

"8 surprising fictions in the Da Vinci Code"
DR. JAMES A HARRELL, the Professor of Geology at the University of Toledo who has criticized the IAA report on the "James Ossuary," is interviewed in the Toledo Blade. Excerpts:

Dr. Harrell, in an interview this week, said that after examining the available scientific data, he is certain that the IAA's evaluation was flawed.

"Basically what I'm saying is that the scientific evidence is inconclusive. But that is substantial because the IAA, in their report, claim the inscription is a forgery - no ifs, ands, or buts about it."

Dr. Harrell, who has taught at UT for 25 years, said none of the data used in the IAA's report can justify the agency's outright rejection of the box's authenticity.

"It may be that they're ultimately right in their conclusion, but if so it would be for the wrong reasons," Dr. Harrell said. "I haven't made my mind up yet as to whether I think it's authentic or not, but the balance is in favor of authenticity."


He said it is obvious that somebody cleaned the ossuary, possibly with a metallic pad, since it was purchased more than 30 years ago by its current owner, Ogded Golan, an Israeli antiquities dealer who reportedly tried to sell the ossuary for $2 million.

"Whenever inscribed objects are found, perhaps in illicit excavations, they're cleaned up and made presentable," Dr. Harrell said. "An archaeologist would never do that, but an antiquities dealer would."


On scientific standards alone, the IAA report was amateurish, Dr. Harrell said.

"It was a rush job, it was not well written, there were no reasons given for conclusions, no mention of dissenting views," he said. "It was just badly done."

Perhaps, he said, the Israeli government was trying to make an example of Mr. Golan to discourage people from selling archaeological treasures - even though Mr. Golan's purchase was legal at the time.

Dr. Harrell said he thinks Israeli authorities were unprepared for a serious scientific study of the ossuary.

"What I think happened is that they threw this committee together very quickly. It's like a road accident: The first people on the scene are not always the best to help. That's exactly what happened. I think there will be another, better-qualified committee to study it and issue a new report."

As for his argument about the cleaning of the inscription, I think it has been adequately answered by Stephen Carlson: "what reasonable collector permits his mother to ruin his collection?"

The article also has a nice close-up of the name "James" ("Jacob") in the inscription.