The James Ossuary: The Earliest Witness to Jesus and His Family?

One of the earliest and most important discoveries relating to the historicity of Jesus and members of his family is the limestone bone-box (called an ossuary, a container in which the bones of dead people are placed) made known to the public in October 2002. Ossuaries were used by Israel from about the second-century B.C. until the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Over ten thousand such ossuaries have been discovered but only about one hundred contain inscriptions. Of these, only two have an identification similar to the one etched in the now famous and somewhat controversial “James Ossuary.” The entire Aramaic inscription reads, “Jacob (James), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” (Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua).

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