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Finally biblical Aramaic is sexy and in the headlines this month, with the by now famous inscription: "James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus." Many of you know the story of how French Professor of Semitic Studies, Andre Lemaire was invited by a private antiquities collector in Israel to view his collection. What could have ended as another pleasant evening ended up instead as the evening news. Lemaire's experienced eye caught the above inscription; then steps toward authentication led to the Israeli Geological Survey's affirmative nod—"No evidence that might detract from the authenticity of the patina and the inscription was found."

The ever-prescient Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, didn't miss a beat and brought Lemaire's potentially significant discovery to public view in his magazine (BAR). Shanks also secured the freedom of the ossuary to travel— to Toronto no less—so that North America's biggest meeting of bible scholars can make the 2 mile trek to the Royal Ontario Museum to gaze upon the only (dare we say) concrete, tangible, hand-hewn evidence that the Jesus, James, and Joseph of the Bible walked this earth.

Many SBL members spoke to the news media with great poise, clarity, and insight on the box; we commend Robert Eisenman, Joseph Fitzmyer, Daniel Harrington, Patrick Hartin, Kyle McCarter, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, Eric Myers, John Painter, Hershel Shanks, and Ben Witherington, for their work in making a block off the ancient world intelligible to the modern.

The conversation continues at an SBL special session in Toronto, on Sunday November 24 at 1pm in the Canadian Ballroom, Royal York Hotel. Prof. Lemaire himself will speak, as well as presider Adele Reinhartz (Dean of Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo), and experts John Painter (a James scholar) Steve Mason (a translator of Josephus materials), Eric Meyers, (PhD on secondary burials and ossuaries), and Hershel Shanks.

Our thanks to Biblical Archaeology Review for the image of the box.

Directions to the Royal Ontario Museum:

Royal Ontario Museum

100 Queen's Park

Toronto, OntarioM5S 2C6


Citation: Moira Bucciarelli, " James Was Here," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Nov 2005]. Online:


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