Judge Mulls Verdict in Jesus Forgery Trial





The discovery in 2002 of a limestone burial box with the Hebrew inscription "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus" electrified the world of archaeology. If genuine, the burial box, or ossuary, would be the only archaeological artifact yet found with a possible direct link to Jesus of Nazareth.

Amid international fanfare, the ossuary went on display at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum and swiftly spawned numerous articles, scholarly studies, several documentary movies and at least four books.

But experts at the Israel Antiquities Authority declared it a modern-day forgery. Israeli police seized the burial box and arrested its owner, Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan. In December 2004 he was charged with faking the ossuary and dozens of other items, including an inscribed tablet linked to King Joash, which, if authentic, would be the only physical evidence from the Temple of Solomon.

The indictment leveled 44 charges of forgery, fraud and deception against Golan and 13 lesser counts against a co-defendant, antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch. The trial of Golan, Deutsch and three other defendants opened at the Jerusalem District Court in September 2005.

On Sunday, the defense ended its summing up with just two men left in the dock, bringing to an end five years of court proceedings that spanned 116 sessions, 133 witnesses, 200 exhibits and nearly 12,000 pages of witness testimony. The prosecution summation alone ran to 653 pages.

Yet despite the flood of strong scientific testimony, the feeling in the tiny courtroom, where fewer than a dozen people (including only one reporter) have followed the proceedings, was that the prosecution had failed to prove that the items were forgeries or that Golan and Deutsch had faked them....

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