Reading the Outside of the Box

Reading the Outside of the Box

According to the National Geographic News web site, a major archeological discovery, referred to as “Jesus’ Brother’s Bone Box,” has moved closer to authentication than when it first appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review (2002). This find represents the oldest scientific evidence for the historical Jesus of Nazareth.  It’s a limestone “ossuary,” a box in which ancient people (including first-century Jews) stored the bones of the deceased, once the corpse had decayed and dried.

This particular ossuary carries an inscription in Aramaic: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” Archeologists say it dates back to 62 A.D. Not only is the language that of Jesus’ era, but the inscription’s cursive writing style was used only briefly, from about 10 to 70 A.D.

What’s especially remarkable is the mention of a brother. Most ossuaries reference the deceased’s father but rarely other relatives, unless they were somehow significant. The son of a Jewish carpenter who died by Roman crucifixion certainly would not have warranted mention—apart from some amazing circumstance. The Resurrection comes to mind.

Although the names James, Joseph, and Jesus were relatively common in ancient times, the statistical probability that these three names would appear together and in this specific family relationship seems extremely remote. All these factors combine to increase archeologists’ confidence that the ossuary truly belonged to the biblical (and maternal) brother of Jesus.

According to Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review, “The James ossuary may be the most important find in the history of New Testament archaeology… It has implications not just for scholarship, but [also] for the world’s understanding of the Bible.”

For further reading see RTB Seattle Newsletter – October 2002 and also

Greg Moore

RTB apologist Greg Moore received his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Washington State University in 1975, and currently serves as a program manager for the City of Everett in Everett, Washington.