James and The BAR Crowd - I Cons or just another Amazing Dis-Grace?
When we presented a paper on the Tomb of Absaloms inscriptions at the 2003 ASOR conference in Boston, we felt a professional obligation to inform Shanks and one of his associates that the ossuary [James ossuary] which Golan claimed had been in his possession since the mid 70s was actually with a Jerusalem dealer decades later.
By Joe Zias
On the cover of the latest edition of Biblical Archaeology Review, 38:04, July/Aug 2012, the BAR Crowd1 declares the inscription on the James son of Joseph Brother of Jesus ossuary is authentic! Shanks claim reappears on page one and again on page 26 in the articles title . However, tucked away in the 4th paragraph Shanks concedes , The court held only that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the inscription was a forgery. Is there no consumer protection law in the world of biblical archaeology? Much like the tabloids, readers will purchase the article on newsstands not because of a sentence on page 26, 4th paragraph down, but because of the large, attention-grabbing marketing caption on the cover thus, caveat emptor. Paired with the misleading introduction are photos of the individuals involved: Oded Golan, Shanks, and an antiquities dealer, Mahmoud Abushakra, standing at the entrance of his antiquities shop on the Via Dolorosa. On the dealers right is the author, Joe Zias. This third and most important photo has been in Shanks possession since around 2003/4/ when he received it from Professor Kempe. The photo later appears in Shanks Lying Scholars? article, 2004, in which he accuses Meyers, Puech, and me in particular of lying.2
What follows shows the duplicity of those involved, especially those who were on trial, wrote the book/film, or worked behind the scenes.3
Shanks published in a recent blog4 excerpts from my court testimony. These were translated, carefully edited, excluding my request to the judge that I testify in English, which was denied. Additionally, the judge reported in his summation that he felt I was being truthful despite Golans lawyers allegation to the contrary. Admittedly there were some minor problems in my court testimony regarding my reports to the police department years earlier.5
- Prior to BAR and the Toronto Museum making the story public, I have never met nor spoken to Oded Golan, nor was I even aware of his name; this is also the case with Simcha Jacobovici to whom Shanks sold the film rights regarding the James ossuary. A journalist working with Simcha on the film called to ask if he could give him my name for a meeting, to which I agreed. We then met for the first and only time; Simcha asked for a short on- screen interview in exchange for an offer of a very substantial amount of money. This proposition immediately drew my suspicion, especially when these interviews required the signing of a Non-Disclosure Agreement. I refused the generous offer, which after ca. 30 years of appearing in documentaries, advising, consulting, and presenting, was by far the highest amount I have ever been offered; I reported it to the relevant authorities covering the case. In regards to occupation, Simcha assumes many different guises: journalist, investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, Naked Archaeologist, and now Professor Jacobovici.6 By calling oneself an investigative reporter, one is exempt from paying naïve academics because the reporting is in the framework of news, whereas in reality his films are pure commercial television with multimillion-dollar budgets
- Sometime thereafter, I remembered where I had once seen the ossuary. Free from both Simchas Non-Disclosure Agreement and generous cash payment, I informed authorities and agreed to testify in court that I had seen the ossuary with a Jerusalem dealer in the 1990s. This contradicted Golans claim, evidently believed by Shanks, that he had purchased the ossuary prior to 1978 when the antiquities laws were changed.
- Believing that little was being done by Israeli authorities, I discussed the issue with one of archaeologys most eminent Dead Sea Scroll scholars, Professor Emile Puech, who mentioned that he too had seen the ossuary, independently of me; the exact same day and venue were noted in his diary. He did not see the inscription on the opposing side, as he went to the same dealer to see a chancel screen the dealer was proposing for sale. When we presented a paper on the Tomb of Absaloms inscriptions at the 2003 ASOR conference in Boston, we felt a professional obligation to inform Shanks and one of his associates that the ossuary which Golan claimed had been in his possession since the mid 70s was actually with a Jerusalem dealer decades later.
- We took them aside and informed Shanks discretely so as not to embarrass him in front of his BAR Crowd; he was running a session on the ossuary the following day with Golan as the star speaker. The question now was what would Shanks do? I expected Shanks reaction to be one of shock, awe and gratitude toward us simply being archaeologists with no intentions other than saving him further embarrassment. His immediate response resembled that a tourist receives when placing a note in the Wall. For us, this was the moment of truth which would determine who Shanks believed: two scholars with nothing to gain, or a dealer who had fled the country sans children, house, business, with his second wife previously arrested for trying to smuggle two suitcases of antiquities from Israel.7
- With little action taken by the authorities, I gave an interview to Duke Universitys Prof. Meyers, one of the leading archaeologists of his generation and former head of ASOR, carefully explaining the situation.8 Shanks ignored this vital information, likely for the sake of protecting his investments, especially the book The Brother of Jesus and film rights which had been sold to Simcha Jacobovici. In apparent retaliation, he penned the infamous and unforgivable Lying Scholars? article. For Shanks, it was just another day in BAR Paradise.
Things get Interesting
Following Meyer's article in Bible and Interpretation,9 Shanks found himself in a predicament as he had been publically outed by scholars with only scientific rather than financial interest in mind. According to Shanks he contacted the dealer living in Germany and reported the facts as told by Puech and me in Boston. The articulate and sophisticated dealer whom I had known and respected for 25 years told Shanks he had never heard of Zias nor Puech!10 Shanks, the Harvard educated lawyer turned editor owner and publisher of BAR, now faced a dilemma:11 whom should he believe? This would likely be an easier decision for an academic interested in science and archaeology alone, but for a Harvard-trained lawyer interested in archaeology with a book, film, and magazine at stake, the line between right and wrong blurred.12
Over the past 25 years, BAR has been consistent; their so-called updates are usually out of date if even published. For instance, they made no mention of Golans arrest for witness tampering and his house arrest for an extended period of time at his eighty-year-old parents house.
In hopes of cleansing his tarnished image and restoring credibility, Shanks published his detailed seven page article Lying Scholars?13 in which he now accuses Puech, Eric Meyers and me of deliberately lying about the ossuary.14 In order to prove this claim, Shanks published a color photo of the antiquities dealer standing in front of his shop seen here, next to Joe Zias, whom he never had known nor had heard of! Rather than a retraction and/or apology, the entire Lying Scholar? article centered on the question of whether or not Puech or I had seen the James ossuary in his shop, not the wording of the inscription. However, in the following issue Shanks simply conceded that apparently the dealer knew Zias. Nothing more. This raises the question as to why Shanks ran the photograph of the dealer and me standing together in the first place. Assuming that he did not recognize me proves difficult to believe as the photographer and Neurosurgeon Dr. Kempe, who sent him the photos, told Shanks and his assistant by phone that I had introduced the two of them in 1993.15 Furthermore I had known Shanks personally since the late 1970s when he first started publishing BAR as well as publishing an article or two in BAR.
The Photographic Evidence- Smoking gun?
I asked Dr. Kempe how, after all these years, he had just now become involved in the James ossuary affair. Much to my surprise, as I had not been in contact with him for almost ten years, he related that as a BAR subscriber he was aware of the controversy. Furthermore, he was still in contact with the dealer now living in Germany who sold ancient coins to him and his twin brother. Recognizing my name, from ten years earlier, Dr. Kempe now phoned Shanks in DC to tell him that I had introduced him and his brother to the dealer and would forward proof of this meeting by sending photos along with additional details of the photos seen here.
Why had I introduced Dr. Kempe to the dealer? Was I hustling antiquities as some of the BAR Crowd mentioned here frequently do?16 No, the dealers second wife claimed that she too had been a neurosurgeon in Germany prior to moving to Jerusalem. Unable to pass the Israeli licensing exam for linguistic reasons, she was now retired, helping her husband Mahmoud in his antiquities business. I believed her story, occasionally dropping off reprints on ancient diseases which I had published at the shop seen here. She was always gracious but never discussed the articles with me, which I found somewhat surprising as several dealt with cranial surgery (her specialty) in antiquity. Sometime later, she was arrested at the Ben Gurion airport attempting to smuggle two suitcases crammed with valuable antiquities out of the country worth thousands of dollars.17
When I introduced the two German neurosurgeons to one another inside the shop in December 1993, the conversation switched to German. Minutes later, while we were outside posing for the photo seen here, Dr. Kempe quietly remarked, Joe, if she is a neurosurgeon, then Im a nun. When I inquired after his remark, he replied that while she was a Landsman, her German was so poor, at best, she may have graduated from high school but definitely was not a physician.
In addition to sending photos and speaking by phone to Shanks, he submitted copies with a page from his personal diary. This is crucial in determining the central question: who is being truthful and who is lying?
Timing of the ossuary purchase- 1970s or 1990s?
Golan has long maintained that he purchased the ossuary in 1976, two years before the new antiquities law came into effect. However, he could not remember where he made the purchase, whereas James Tabor claimed that the James ossuary, purchased by Golan, actually came from their Tomb of the Shroud, looted in 1998 and again in 2000.18
The crucial evidence in determining who is being honest is as follows: Golan, the owner, maintained that I could not have seen the ossuary in the dealers shop in the early-mid 1990s because the shop was not opened until the late 90s and then only for a short time before the dealer ran off to Germany. I enclose here a page from the personal diary of Professor Kempe dated Dec. 10, 1993, the day of our visit.
So we now have here a Dec. 1993 original photo of the dealer standing next to me, who according to Shanks and the dealer, knoweth not Joseph, the photographers personal diary dated Dec. 10, 1993 along with a document from the owner Golan (2004) stating that I could not have seen the ossuary as the shop was not operating until the late 1990s! In short, no one knows which Jerusalem tomb the ossuary was looted from or when but sometimes it pays not to know when one has a film/book, court case riding on it.
The Antiquities Shop, The Way of the Cross No.14
The Joseph, son of Judah, son of Hadas ossuary published by Shanks (July/Aug 2012) which he claims the author may have mistaken for the James ossuary. The ossuary is sitting in the same place where the James ossuary once sat.
Shanks recently published19 a plain inscribed ossuary from a collector who claims (pg 32-33) that he purchased it from the same dealer Mahmoud Abushakra, who knoweth not Joe Zias. Shanks now claims that this ossuary may have inspired Zias false claim that he had seen the James ossuary there without the words brother of Jesus. Why? Ludicrous as it sounds, this second ossuary was inscribed Joseph, son of Judah, Son of Hadas. Shanks graciously mailed me the magazine so that I would be aware of his new claim. Upon reading the long article, I e-mailed Shanks asking for the new ossuarys date of purchase and dimensions to prove that it was not the James ossuary that was in the shop in the early 90s which we had seen. Shanks never provided me with the details but twice asked why I needed the information.
Ironically, I had in my possession for ten years a photo of the this new Joseph ossuary which clearly appears in the Dec. 1993 photo by Dr. Kempe. Here one can plainly see the Joseph ossuary sitting on a lower shelf in the exact spot where I told authorities I had seen the James ossuary. Dr. Kempes (20/5/ 2004) affidavit states the following:
The ossuary I saw was to the right of the entrance to the shop, protected by a table20 under which it was standing on the floor. I also recollected my conversation with Mr. Abushakra asking who would buy such heavy items. His answer was that buyers of such items (are) usually persons from foreign services who purchase the items prior to moving along with their belongings.21
The - Joseph, son of Judah, Son of Hadas inscribed ossuary
For over two decades, I was one of the curators responsible for the IAA ossuary collection. I knew the collection well, having physically lifted, examined, described, curated, and moved from place to place for LY Rahmanis catalog22 consisting of hundreds of ossuaries. I often joked I never needed to join a health club because I worked with Rahmani, a perfectionist if there ever was one. Aside from Rahmani and myself, I doubt there are any archaeologists in the world who knew the collection better than the two of us.
The difference between the Joseph, son of Judah, Son of Hadas ossuary which Shanks now claims I may have mistaken for the James ossuary is patently absurd. There is no similarity whatsoever between the two; they are totally different in size, weight, shape, façade, cover, and color. Moreover, what is important to point out is that the James ossuary which Puech and I had seen was not only inscribed but bore two faintly inscribed rosettes on the front. Are there any rosettes on the Joseph, son of Judah, Son of Hadas ossuary pictured here, or are we missing something?
The Dealers Pension
In my testimony to authorities and in court, I mentioned that the dealer, upon hearing my cynical remark over "the ossuary would be his pension," approached me and slid the James ossuary from the wall so I could briefly see the inscription. This was an easy accomplishment as I doubt it weighed more than maybe 10-20 kilos, whereas the ossuary on the balcony is larger and heavier; the triangular lid alone probably weighs more that the James ossuary, which I could easily lift as I had been moving/lifting ossuaries for over two decades with the IAA.
This is definitely not the James ossuary that I and others23 had seen: same dealer, the same floor position, yes, but not the James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus ossuary. Moreover, I remember the dealer telling me the James ossuary was his future pension. The ossuary shown here, according to Shanks was purchased for $5,000 (p. 33) scarcely enough for ones future pension.
One can see here that the ossuary is not only very heavy but occupies a lot of space due to its size and is almost in contact with the shelving to its left. If this were the ossuary that Shanks suggests I may have seen, its positioning would have made it impossible for the dealer to have pulled it from the wall as I testified. If it were the smaller and lighter James ossuary, yes, it easily could have been pulled from its resting place by the dealer as I had claimed. I ask the reader now to look to the right, next to the corner wall; sitting on a lower shelf, one can see what appears to be another ossuary. Unfortunately the object is obscured due to the storage jars, but it seems to be another ossuary with a gabled roof. Thus it looks as if Mahmoud had two or more ossuaries in his small store in Dec 1993, years before it was ever opened according to the BAR crowd!24 In regards to the Joseph ossuarys dimensions, particularly the length, the three stools seen here in the foreground are 37 X 37, meaning the ossuary behind the stools is considerably larger. Twice I asked Shanks for the dimensions of the Joseph ossuary he published, but as of this writing he has not produced the dimensions. On the subject of stools, the James ossuary seen here sits on the throne in Golans building, which metaphorically and visually seems to justify the use of stools to compare the dimensions of the two ossuaries. Are they really that similar in that Professor Puech and I may have confused the two?
Shanks writes in the opening paragraph of the Lying Scholar? article, Cases of deliberate lying (in scholarly disagreements) are rare. Is this such a case? If so, what is the motive? Page 48.
I would reply to Herschel: its actually much simpler since it was basically a win-win situation for BAR that can clearly be observed by the data taken from the 2002/3 public tax record, seen below.25
Documents from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service show that the non-for-profit Biblical Archaeology Society generated just under US$5 million in revenue in 2003. Shanks, whose job is described as a weekly "20-hour" position, received $162,000 in salary, while the organization paid a further $66,000 in rent to a company he owns. The charity, which lists grants to "worthwhile projects in the field of archaeology and the Bible" as one of its principal activities, handed out just $7,109 to such projects in 2003. In 2002, when Shanks made $150,000 in salary and $67,000 in rent, it gave away $8,500. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Lemaire, who received a $1,000 "travel scholarship for James ossuary work." He was one of Shanks/Golans supporters.
It appears from the IRS data that not many worthwhile archaeological projects persisted in Israel during the James ossuary gravy years. Do the math: nearly 5 million dollars in revenue versus $7,109 in grants awarded to colleagues in the profession upon which his highly profitable non-profit was founded.
As for Shanks The Lying Scholars? article, our motives were simply the following: A) Save Shanks from further embarrassment over this affair as we tried in Boston and Duke and B) Prevent further abuse of biblical archaeology from a handful of individuals, mainly biblical scholars and filmmakers posing as biblical archaeologists.
The evidence presented here for the first time, in my opinion, validates our testimony to the authorities, had it been presented as evidence.
The reader might rightfully wonder why I hadnt revealed this potentially damaging information earlier. On the contrary, I had done so on two occasions, both to which authorities replied, Golan is basically finished; no need for additional documentation! Now that the trial is over the reader can determine who is being truthful and what are their motives? Remember the BAR Crowd had two main witnesses: the Egyptian forger outed by Bob Simon on 60 Minutes and the antiquities dealer on The Way of the Cross who refused to return to Jerusalem.26 Had they returned, testified, and been cross-examined, things may very well have been different .27
In the end, who should the reader believe? As many academics are neither Christian orthodox, nor religious, we would welcome being described in the words of Seneca, as academics should be lawyers for the masses trying to restore personal accountability to biblical archaeology rather than liars for the masses.
1 The term BAR Crowd used in this context refers more to a state of mind with individuals often, though not always connected with BAR/BAS. Here its used in a cynical sense, actually as a double entendre, which the The Oxford English Dictionary defines as especially being used to "convey an indelicate meaning." It may be used to express potentially offensive opinions without the risks of explicitly doing so.
2 The photos were returned to Dr. Kempe on September 20, 2004 with an apology from B. Mullin (Editorial Department) for the delay. The photo seen here appears for the first time in BAR May/June, 2004 and reappears from time to time in BAR publications.
3 Shanks co-author Professor Ben Witherington III in my opinion gets a pass on this, as brief correspondence with him would seem to suggest that he too may have been misled in this whole affair.
5 I believe his mother tongue is English since he is totally fluent in the language. In order to minimize the chances of any mistakes, I gave Pagin testimony in English, and he then translated it into Hebrew for the court.
7 Word on the street is that when he left he had borrowed heavily; perhaps believing that things would turn out differently and he would return shortly.
8 Eric Meyers, More Evidence: Ossuary a Fraud? www.Bibleinterp.com Jan. 2004.
9 Eric Meyers, More Evidence: Ossuary a Fraud? www.Bibleinterp.com Jan. 2004.
10 H. Shanks, Lying Scholars? BAR May/June 2004.
11 One thing I have to respect Shanks for, aside from one court case involving the Dead Sea Scrolls which he lost, is that Shanks never, to the best of my knowledge, sues or threatens to sue. Despite all my reservations, he still has to date written and published the best article on why we should have the right to excavate and examine ancient burials, discovered accidently, even though it had little impact on the religious extremists here.
12 Over the years, Shanks made a substantial amount of money from antiquity dealers running ads in his BAR magazine. Many, if not most of the unprovenanced objects, were probably looted along with a fair amount of objects of questionable authenticity. The amount of money which Shanks donated from his non-profit to archaeologists in relation to the amount of money he gained from dealers running these antiquity ads was minimal if not outright shocking.
13 H. Shanks, BAR. May/June 2004.
14 Was I surprised, not really since Shanks had earlier posted a front-page photo of Harvard Professor Strugnell, who disagreed with him, with fleas crawling on his face. This is a familiar tactic with some of those involved here: if they cannot convince the public of their position, they will always fall back on such tactics including the A tactic- Anti-Semitism.
15 Signed / legal affidavit of Dr. Ludwig G. Kempe, 20/5/04. Mr. Zias and the owner, Mr. Mahmoud Abushakra, were well acquainted and I was grateful for Mr. Zias having introduced me to Abushakra.
16 A few years back, a FAX was sent from Jerusalem to the US asking if he could find a buyer for 17-19 DSS fragments for 7 million dollars. The FAX however was sent to the wrong person who blew the whistle on the matter and authorities here called for an investigation. Did any word of it appear in BAR. Not one word. Was the FAX intended for someone directly connected to BAR? Yes, in fact, the Editorial Advisory Board.
17 The IAA reported that the dealer was a good dealer which was surprising since his wife had been arrested at Ben-Gurion airport for trying to smuggle antiquities. My feeling is that the IAA hoped that the dealer, like the Egyptian forger, would return to Israel where he would be forced to testify by the court. Unlike courts in other countries, individuals can be forced to testify. As of today, neither the dealer nor the Cairo forger outed by Bob Simon in 60 Minutes, have returned.
18 J. Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty, (2006). p. 20-21. They claim that the shroud tomb was looted in 1998 and then re-looted in 2000.
19 H. Shanks, Brother of Jesus Inscription Is Authentic! BAR July/August 2012 Vol 38 N0 4.
20 Actually a shelf.
21 His reply is very important since ossuaries had long been forbidden to export due to religious concerns. Thus the dealer could probably sell it to someone from the diplomatic corps or the UN without too much trouble as they have diplomatic immunity and no one would inspect their belongings. The James ossuary which they had tried to sell to the Christian Embassy here could easily have been purchased by a diplomat and easily be sent abroad. Nothing illegal I would suspect, morally correct .?
22 LY Rahmani A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries (Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994).
23 Evidently a well-known archaeologist who had an impressive collection of antiquities, prior to his death, was also aware of the ossuary since he visited the dealers frequently to purchase antiquities for himself as well as for collectors, ones who help finance his excavations. There is a definite conflict of interest here; however, he is not the only well-known archaeologist who acts the same. I later learned of a foreign biblical scholar who has been bringing students here for years who also may have been aware of the ossuary since she had been buying antiquities from the tomb from Mahmoud for years. I was able to track her down as she was staying with students at a nearby Christian hospice, but she refused to reply, and then things got worse, so I dropped the story for a while.
24 The one-room antiquities store was, if not the smallest in size, one of the smallest among all the dealers in Jerusalem. Despite its size, as one can see from the photo, it was well ordered and the dealer gets high marks for its display. Moreover, there was very little space for anything which prompted my remark as to why he had the simple James ossuary which had little value, taking up so much valuable space. It was then that he rose from his chair and pulled the ossuary from the wall for me to see the inscription and then returned it to its place.
=20050328_102756_102756. Though published in 2005, it ranks as one of the more informative and nuanced articles on the ossuary to date.
26 Shanks made reference in his article that I wrote that he has no sense of humor (which is true) and I was only kidding about the ossuary, two phrases I occasionally use when filmmakers, and others in the BAR Crowd are unable to fool the public and probably lose a significant amount of investors money in the process. I use this in a very sarcastic and cynical manner much in the sarcastic way that Shanks wrote to me recently (June 9th) after the final trial verdict to confess that the ossuary I had seen in the shop, was not the James ossuary but the Joseph ossuary and that I would become a hero. Pro quid pro. I hope hes not holding his breath.
27 See Paul Fleshers article for an overview of the problems associated with the James ossuary. http://www.bibleinterp
In the first part of your article above you write, "I remembered where I had seen the [James] ossuary . . . Professor Emile Puech, who mentioned that he too had seen the ossuary, independently of me; the exact same day and venue were noted in his diary. He did not see the inscription on the opposing side, as he went to the same dealer to see a chancel screen the dealer was proposing for sale."
You refer to Puech (who later clarified that he meant only that he had seen an ossuary but claimed no knowledge of its identification) as having seen the James ossuary the same day you did. How did you know it was the same day? What day was that, the day that Puech had in his diary, that was the same day you saw the James ossuary? Did you know at the time you spoke to Puech the date you saw the James ossuary? Are you certain it was different than the day Dr. Kempe and you visited and Dr. Kempe took the photo?
This is how Zias modestly describes himself in the lengthy article above:
"For over two decades, I was one of the curators responsible for the IAA ossuary collection..... Aside from Rahmani and myself, I doubt there are any archaeologists in the world who knew the collection better than the two of us."
It is strange then that Zias does not know Aramaic, as he testified in the Jerusalem trial. How can one who does not know Aramaic, remember if he saw a specific inscription in that language?
It is odd that he does not mention this point at all.
Personally I have no opinion about the authenticity of this inscription, nor any acquaintance of Hershel Shanks. Had I met him I would have thanked him for all he did to bring the subjects which his magazines deals with to such a wide international audience.
Uri Hurwitz Great Neck, NY
a) the same ossuary with no inscription, or
b) the same ossuary wih the first part of the inscription (without the brother of Jesus part), or
c) the ossuary with the full inscription as today?
A few more comments. It seems Zias isn't answering or saying further. First, Paul Tinkler thank you very much for the human interest background but I think you will find that Dr. Kempe's own photo of the ostracon he saw published by Zias above establishes beyond any question that Dr. Kempe saw not the James ossuary but the "Joseph" ossuary (restudy Zias's article above).
Dr. Kempe thought he saw the James ossuary but was mistaken as his own photo proves. Furthermore Dr. Kempe's legal statement said he did not see the inscription on it at all (see Zias's article above, which also answers Goranson's inquiry).
With Dr. Kempe eliminated, and Punch who says he did not see the inscription and Punch's subsequent statements eliminating Puech, this leaves only Zias himself as a claim to have seen the James ossuary and not the Joseph one.
Now Zias in his court testimony said he visited the Abushakra shop in "winter". It is in passing curious that Zias fails to actually say (in his comment above) that he saw the James ossuary on a different day than the Dec. 10 visit with Dr. Kempe, though he implies it, and this must be the case for him to continue to claim the ossuary he saw in the precise position of the Joseph ossuary in Dr. Kempe's photo was the different James ossuary.
But consider: for what Zias is saying to be true, the dealer must have switched ossuaries between the time Zias saw it (if he saw it) and the time Zias and Dr. Kempe visited the shop Dec. 10. By Dec. 10 there is photographic evidence of the Joseph ossuary in the same position. Sometime later the Joseph ossuary is sold. The solitary basis for supposing the James ossuary in this dealer's shop at all devolves to Zias's uncorroborated testimony. Zias is not a perfect witness, he is colorful, he was in a sort of "he says/she says" conflict of memory dispute with Tabor in which Tabor appeared to be the more credible, and some of his (Zias's) details and storytelling seem to have embellishments. At the same time I do not think Zias was lying, which connotes not simply uttering something factually incorrect but also willful intent to do so. I do not believe Zias was lying any more than Dr. Kempe was lying, yet both were mistaken.
What Zias remembered that was correct was the name "Joseph" and that it did not have the name "Jesus"--check and check (the Joseph ossuary and the ossuary Zias remembered have these two characteristics in common). Winter (Zias sees the ossuary he saw) and winter (Dec 10 Dr. Kempe and Zias there with the Joseph ossuary in place)--check and check. No one including Zias claims to have personally read the ossuary's inscription; only the dealer knew what his ossuary read and Zias's knowledge is from what he remembers the dealer telling him it read.
And this brings up another point. (continued)
Zias remembers discussing with the dealer Christian names and "if only it had 'Jesus' [Yeshua]" it would be more valuable. This probably arose as part of Zias's response to the dealer claiming his artifact was valuable (a common claim of antiquities dealers) and Zias's knowledgeable voice of experience telling him it was worth only pocket change (the truth as it turned out being somewhere between these two characterizations of friends debating in a middle eastern shop). In this context Zias would have brought up if the ossuary had a Christian name then it would be worth major bucks, but the ossuary the dealer actually had wasn't worth peanuts (this was Zias's point).
In other words, everything is plausible that Zias saw only the Joseph ossuary and all stems from the mistaken identification. With the independent collapse of other claimed evidence that "brother of Jesus" was secondarily added to the James ossuary, this weighs further against Zias having seen other than the Joseph ossuary. Re Zias's claim of different weights, this lacks force given that (a) Zias never claimed to have held or lifted the ossuary in Mr. Abushakra's shop, nor (b) does Zias show any means of knowing the weight of the Joseph ossuary now; how can he assert the weights are different. Re Zias's claim of remembering a rosette which was on the James ossuary, this was ten years later that Zias was trying to accurately remember an ossuary which he thought at the time was inconsequential. How reliable is his claim, however sincere, to remember seeing a faint rosette ten years earlier, especially when he was under the influence of knowledge of the James ossuary? In his legal testimony Zias seemed not to want to claim that the rosette was the main reason he knew it was the James ossuary.
Finally there is this point: according to Zias's theory, the James ossuary at that point lacked "brother of Jesus" and Zias told Abushakra if it had "Jesus" then it would be valuable. Then, as Zias reconstructs it, the dealer either privately took to heart Zias's suggestion as a bright idea for actually improving its value and therefore was party to a conspiracy and a crime, or else the dealer suddenly sold it as is quite innocently and had nothing to do with someone else, who had not heard Zias at all, by coincidence committing the very crime bringing about the hypothetical that Zias had mentioned. It is not clear which of these two Zias thinks is more likely, but neither has any corroborating evidence, and the second alternative would be quite a coincidence indeed. To this may be added Zias's failure now to respond to questions asked of his own article concerning the date in Puech's diary and how Zias would know Puech saw the James ossuary in the shop on the same day that Zias saw it.
In any matter such as this there are issues of embarrassment. I do not think there is any serious reason now to doubt that what happened was Zias confused the Joseph ossuary with the James one in his memory. Once a story first remembered is told a few times it can become hardened and the memory itself can seem to become firmer. (continued)
But I would like to end this on an actually brighter note, as I see it. I am actually thankful to Zias, and I mean this sincerely, for publishing the photo of the Joseph ossuary in Abushakra's shop (of Dr. Kempe) which to me is 99.9% smoking gun solution to what was previously the puzzle of Zias's testimony, as well as Shanks for getting to the bottom of it with his tracking down Abushakra in Germany and discovering the Joseph ossuary. The reason I am happy about this is because I hate unsolved puzzles, and I like solutions (provided they are real solutions). Given the subsequent retractions and clarifications of Dr. Goren, the evidence appears at this point weighted in favor of authenticity of the "brother of Jesus" on the James ossuary, and this is independently of the legal acquittal. The remaining uncertainties as I see it, which unfortunately are not trivial, are (a) the disconcerting question of whether forgers now can be so good to fool 100% of experts (relevant in any case of a find that "looks too good to be true", which fits the James ossuary), and (b) ossuaries do not normally end with "brother of X". No other parallel to that. That remains a giant red flag to me.
In the end the Zias testimony appears to have a satisfying resolution of how his testimony came to be, an explanation that does not involve conscious lying but rather the fallibility of human memory combined with sincerity. It removes that claim for evidence of forgery of the James ossuary. But it does not ultimately settle the issue of the James ossuary, as distinguished from a conclusion that there is no clear evidence at present known that it is forged. [END]
As for Abushakra denying he knew Zias, no idea why. Sticking to a (false on this point) story previously told would be one explanation, some misunderstanding in communication or reporting another, his understanding of a lawyer's advice a third, animosity toward Zias or wishful thinking might be a fourth, who knows. Bottom line is Dr. Kempe's legal affidavit tells exactly where in the room he saw the ossuary he thought was the James ossuary, and his photo (sent to Zias ten years earlier, at the time) shows it was the Joseph ossuary, because the location is an exact match. Puech backed off from his claim, and according to an article in a publication called Waymarks [Adventist] of April 2005 (the first google listing of search "waymarks james box 2005"), Zias himself in the past backtracked on his claim (accurate? if so then the present article of Zias represents a backtracking of the backtracking): "Since then, both men [Zias and Puech] have backed away from these claims, have gone to the Israeli police, and have retracted their statements. . . . Zias also has expressed strong doubts about having seen the ossuary" (p. 3).
The article he quotes is false. Neither I nor Puech have retracted our claims nor have we gone to the police, it\'s absolutely inaccurate and on par with the original Lying Scholars article by the BAR Crowd.
I am however surprised by Zias's response saying Puech has not retracted his claim of having seen the James ossuary in the shop. That is news. For those of us who get our news from public domain sources such as BAR and wire service reports, supposedly Puech did retract. The following is a quotation from Hershel Shanks 7/21/2009 in an article entitled "Has Joe Zias Shown the James Ossuary Inscription to be a Fake?", on the biblicalarchaeology.org website, footnote 2: "The other party, Emile Puech, told a reporter for the Jerusalem Report that 'he had glimpsed…a pinkish bone box…20 years ago. He also says today that he can barely recall the … ossuary, didn’t even notice if it had an inscription, and having seen the Golan box only in photos, he can’t possibly say if they [the ossuary he saw in the antiquities shop and the Jesus ossuary] are one and the same.' Quoted in 'Israeli Prosecutor Repudiates IAA Report on Forgery,' BAR, March/April 2005."
Zias is saying this is a false report concerning Puech? If so, so be it, but what is going on with these conflicting claims re Puech?
First of all I would like to thank colleagues here who edited the original manuscript and invested a considerable amount of time in its preparation. Without their efforts it would still be languishing on my PC here in Jerusalem.
One error which was brought to my attention immediately was the venue in which Emile Puech and I informed Shanks and his assistant that we had seen the ossuary independently of one another, it was not Boston but Atlanta. When one flies in from Israel specifically for a SBL conference, conferences halls - like airports - all tend to look pretty much the same . My error.
In an earlier version of this reply I dealt at length with the very confused postings of Doudna, whom I, as we say in Hebrew, had learned to suspect but respect. His last posting that Puech and I had gone to the police and retracted our statements about seeing the ossuary was totally false. As for the ‘fading memory’ remark by J. Wilson, true, memories do fade in time, but dated diaries, photos, letters, speak for themselves and we have other documents which have not yet been disclosed.
Uri Hurwitz’s remark that he is surprised that I do not read Aramaic in a sense shows how a layperson can misunderstand the profession. I would argue that there is a long list of ancient languages which most biblical archaeologists cannot read, among them: Aramaic, Koine Greek, Latin, which is why there are professional epigraphers. Do you think that DSS scholars need to understand archaeology in order to understand the scrolls?
The response of Paul Tinkler, a layman, is perhaps one of the most important in this discussion in that he was a longtime personal friend and confidant of Dr. Kempe. Furthermore, Dr Kempe kept in touch with the dealer for nearly a decade, both in Jerusalem and Germany, and he was also in communication with Herschel Shanks. It should be pointed out however that in Tinkler’s response that he erroneously believed that Shanks had received the photos in question after Shanks “Lying Scholars ?“ article whereas Shanks had received the photos before the article was written which is why one of the photos appears in the article. By the time the article was written, Shanks had in his possession the photos as well as personal testimony from Dr. Kempe that Dr Kempe had first met the dealer at his shop through the efforts of Zias. Moreover, on the subject of photos, I neglected to mention that in the Lying Scholars ? article in which Eric Meyers, Emile Puech and I prominently appear, along with the photo of the dealer which Shanks publishes over and over, there are actually two clear photos me appearing in the article. Did the editors at BAR not notice that the individual in the first Zias photo was the same individual in the photo a few pages later seen standing alongside the dealer, the dealer who ‘not knoweth Joseph ? Or was this intentional…
As for the response of our Duke colleague , Goronson, Dr. Kempe simply stated that he had seen the James , son of Yakov, brother of Jesus ossuary , not the inscription and in fact, may have a photo of the ossuary somewhere in his vast collection of photographs. This appears in his affidavit as well as having been noted to Shanks prior to the Lying Scholars article.
As for the photograph of the dealers shop taken in Dec. 1993, the reason that I published it in Bible and Interpretation was to show that Shanks, who thought that he would surprise readers with the Joseph son of Hadas photo was that I had a photo, (which Shanks may have had ) ten years earlier. In order to determine if Shanks was serious at getting to the bottom of this, I asked Shanks a few details about this ossuary , however he was not interested in providing detailed information as to its size, and asked instead my motives. His refusal to provide details was telling in terms of answering a few questions as well as his motives, however a short phone call to a colleague provided the needed information that Shanks’ was unwilling to provide.
Rather than prolong my response to readers, let me simplify things. Let’s take a look not at archaeology but at the money trail, something readers may not be aware of.
A.The ossuary which had been looted presumably from a Jerusalem tomb, was seen by one or two others, names which needn’t be mentioned here, including that of a noted archaeologist whose research is funded by a well known collector.
B.When the ossuary first came to my attention in his shop, the dealer maintained that “in the future it would become his pension”. He did not elaborate further aside from showing the inscription to me briefly and reading it for me. This was sometime in the 1990’s.
C.When the ossuary was first brought to public attention, prior to its exhibition in Toronto, it had been heavily insured and arrived broken, having been packed in an improper manner. Two things should be noted here, first of all the IAA shipped ossuaries abroad on numerous occasions and nowhere in the history of exhibitions abroad has an ossuary ever arrived broken. Secondly, the issue of insurance here may be of interest in that the owners’ father established one of the leading insurance companies here in Israel. Thus he knew the ‘ins and outs’ of the insurance business, from this one can draw their own conclusions. I needn’t elaborate other than ‘all bets were covered.
D.Prior to this whole affair I had never met or nor heard of Oded Golan. A journalist called one morning who was working for Simcha Jacobovici the film maker at the time asking if I would agree to meet with the BAR Crowd to discuss the documentary upon which they were working. I agreed and we met the following day.
E.What transpired here should be telling in terms of motives and understanding the money trail. I still had not seen good photos of the ossuary, having been first alerted to it by the media and at that time I only took a passing interest in the story. I was given an offer a day later by the BAR Crowd running into several thousands of dollars for an interview which is unprecedented in the world of documentary film making.
F.The question now is: Why would I, an archaeologist with but 25 years of experience handling ossuaries, be offered such an enormous amount of money for a short interview.
G.While I certainly could have used the money, the fact that I would be muzzled raised a red flag and I declined the generous offer and kept the documents for the record. Furthermore in over 30 years of film work, with major networks on everything from Qumran, to the Historical Jesus this was the first and only time that I have been asked to sign such a document.
H.Shortly thereafter, seeing first-rate photos I remembered Mahmoud’s comment ‘this is my pension along with the ossuary’ in the Antonio Fortress shop. Quietly I notified authorities, turning down opportunity after opportunity to go public, believing that something like this could be and should be settled within the academic community which is why Puech and I discretely notified Shanks that we had seen it independently of one another.
I.The question now is: Why would Shanks, the self proclaimed ‘liberator of the Dead Scrolls’, ignore Emile Puech one of the most important DSS scholars of today, Dr. Kempe’s indisputable photographic evidence and myself, in favor of the words of the a dealer, whom he had never met now claiming in a telephone conversation not to know either of us. Was there something else at stake here ? An another motive, perhaps a book, film, seminar, riding on it, in conflict with science? Readers can decide.
As for the trial, we were simply ‘out lawyered’, mistakes were made and as I mentioned in my article , there was and is additional information I had which could have been taken into consideration. The authorities, believing that all would be found guilty on the basis of earlier evidence, were not interested in additional evidence. They miscalculated and the archaeological world paid a heavy price.
Dr. Ludwig Kempe
As a licensed tour guide since 1981, Dr. Kempe had once been a client, one of many medical doctors whom I guided the past 30 years. After our few days together in Dec. of 1993 he returned to the US and there was no reason, as interesting as he was, for us to ever cross paths again. Eleven years passed and while having dinner with colleagues in Chapel Hill, I happened to see the latest BAR and the Lying Scholars ? article. I immediately recognized the name Ludwig Kempe (credited as the photographer) and contacted him. He related that , for the sake of science, he had personally called Shanks stating that he knew the dealer Mahmoud rather well having been introduced to him via Zias and was still in contact with him years later via the regular mails.
If there are any questions regarding the creditability of Dr Kempe who passed away a few months ago he was, in the world of Neurosurgery, similar to what Margaret Meade was to Anthropology - one of those dying breed of scholars for whom science, integrity and dedication take precedence over anything else. Born in Germany, already a physician he, along with his sister were drafted into the Germany army in WW II. Within a short time, seeing firsthand the reality of the situation, both he and his sister deserted the German army, fled to Switzerland and enlisted in the US army fighting against their own countrymen. He remained with the US army following the war eventually becoming the head of Neurosurgery at Walter Reed Hospital as well as holding senior positions at other medical institutions and universities.
Whereas many soldiers deserted during the war, joining the US Forces speaks volumes about the integrity of this man. What I found remarkable over the years after we reconnected was his perseverance, simply for the sake of science, to explain to the folks at BAR that perhaps facts were different than what they were reporting. He was a long time subscriber to BAR. Dr Kempe’s attempts, to solve the problem, as he, his wife and twin brother an avid coin collector had been in contact with the dealer for 10 or more years, had fallen on a deaf ear [or many deaf ears]. Here was a scenario in which the individual (Dr. Kempe) was forced to decide to speak out and perhaps damage his relationship with the dealer, or for the sake of biblical archaeology take a courageous stand by speaking out and informing those closely involved in the case. Personally I feel that had many colleagues reacted over the past three decades in a similar fashion, the crisis we see today in Biblical Archaeology would never have occurred. This is why I suggest that if readers are sincere in trying to understand the conflicting stories surrounding the James ossuary, that you first take a look at the financial motives of the BAR Crowd and contrast those motives with those of Dr. Kempe and the silent majority which has from the beginning questioned the inscription. Remove the financial motives and things should be clearer.
Last but not least, Dr. Kempe was also an avid photographer, with a vast collection of photographs of Jerusalem which he had taken over the years. His wife promised me this week exclusive access to the vast collection of photographs in his archives, if an important photograph exists, I will bring it to public attention, sans agents, Non Disclosure Agreements, marketing and all the rest. Dr. Kempe would have wished it this way. When it comes to conflicts such as this, readers, dealers, collectors, colleagues, take note before it gets worse and take a stand.
What Joe Zias conveniently forgets is that he claimed that he had seen a specific ossuary with a specific Aramaic inscription. Since he admitted in court that he does not know that lanaguage, Aramaic, how can he allege that what he had seen was one Aramaic inscription and not another?
The rest of his response to to this specific point - so central to this allegation - is simply irrelevant to a very legitimate question.
Joe Zias wrote:
Uri Hurwitz’s remark that he is surprised that I do not read Aramaic in a sense shows how a layperson can misunderstand the profession. I would argue that there is a long list of ancient languages which most biblical archaeologists cannot read, among them: Aramaic, Koine Greek, Latin, which is why there are professional epigraphers. Do you think that DSS scholars need to understand archaeology in order to understand the scrolls?
#17 - Joe Zias - 12/07/2012
Use the form below to submit a new comment. Comments are moderated
and logged, and may be edited. You must provide your full name.
Inappropriate material will not be posted.