JERUSALEM, Mar 14 – An Israeli court is set to rule Wednesday in the case of an antiquities dealer accused of faking a host of spectacular relics including a casket said to hold the bones of Jesus’s brother.
The court will decide whether Oded Golan and two other dealers committed fraud in producing what the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) ruled in 2003 were actually a series of convincing but ultimately fake relics.
“The court is going to decide whether or not he committed fraud,” Israel Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Yoli Schwartz told AFP.
Golan was charged in 2004 with having faked ancient artefacts whose “discovery” in October 2002 was hailed worldwide. He is accused of having tried to sell them for several million dollars to museums or private collectors.
In addition to the ossuary said to contain the bones of Jesus’s brother James, Golan was also charged with counterfeiting a stone tablet he claimed was a vestige of Solomon’s Temple.
The announcement of the discovery of the ossuary, which contained the inscription “James, son of Joseph and brother of Jesus,” was greeted with much excitement as well as scepticism in archaeological circles.
Later examination revealed that while the ossuary itself was ancient, the inscription — which added to both its historical significance and monetary value — was not.
The second artefact which was stripped of its historical bona fides by the IAA was a black stone tablet carrying a Phoenician inscription attributed to the Jewish king Jehoash, who ruled Jerusalem at the end of the 9th century BC.
The 10-line inscription written in the first person mentions “repairs ordered in the Temple” by Jehoash and bears a striking resemblance to a passage in the bible’s Book of Kings, chapter 12.
If it had been authentic, it would have provided the first non-biblical proof of the existence of the First Temple, which has yet to be confirmed by any archaeological evidence so far.
Golan has denied any wrongdoing, and says he bought the ossuary for $200 at an antique shop in Jerusalem’s Old City, although he said he has forgotten exactly where.