Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Indictment: The James Ossuary

The following is the section of the forgery indictment that pertains to the James Ossuary (translated on the fly from Hebrew, so excuse any infelicities). The numbers are those of the document.

1. In the course of the year 2001 or shortly before, the Accused No. 1 [Oded Golan] formed a plan to forge an inscription on an ossuary (ossuary: a stone box for preserving the bones of the dead in ancient times), in order that the ossuary should appear to be the ossuary in which the bones of James, brother of Jesus of Nazareth, were preserved. The accused did this for the purpose of monetary gain and other advantages gained by fraud, as detailed below.

2. For the achievement of his plan, the accused used an ancient ossuary from the time of the first temple on which was incised the inscription "Yaakov bar Yoseph." To this ossuary the accused, either by himself or with the aid of others, added the words "brother of Jesus," in such a way that these words appeared to be part of the original inscription that was written on the ossuary about 2000 years ago. With the addition of the aforesaid words, the inscription on the ossuary read "Yaakov bar Yoseph, brother of Jesus."

3. After the addition of the words "brother of Jesus," the accused disguised, by himself or with the help of others, the fact that part of the inscription had been added later. The accused did this by spreading different materials on the ossuary, so that on examination the inscription would appear to be an inscription that had been wholly written in the time of the Second Temple, in that it was covered with a patina that was, to all appearances, from the era of the Second Temple.

4. After he forged the inscription on the ossuary, the accused took care that the ossuary should be publicized throughout the world. The accused did this by showing the ossuary to experts, some of whom were deceived into thinking that they were looking at an ossuary with an original inscription, and these wrote their opinions on the matter.

5. As a result of the aforesaid activity of the accused, the ossuary was indeed publicized throughout the world, and was considered to be the ossuary in which were preserved the bones of James, brother of Jesus. Articles about the ossuary were published in specialist periodicals, as well as in other media in Israel and the world.

6. After the publicizing of the ossuary, the accused sent it for display in the Royal Museum in Ontario, Canada, where it was displayed before thousands of spectators and the world media.

7. During the months of world interest in the ossuary, the accused kept up a false front, continuing to maintain that the ossuary and the inscription on it were ancient, and that the ossuary was in his possession in the same form for over 25 years, all the while knowing that this was not the truth.

8. During the time in which the accused was in possession of the ossuary, the accused made it known that he possessed pieces of bones which had been in the ossuary, and that it might be possible to perform DNA tests on them.

9. The accused did all the aforesaid in full realization of the enormous religious, emotional, and economic significance of his actions, his possession of the ossuary and the bone remnants in it, with the purpose of gaining international attention and the large sum of money that would be paid to the owner of the ossuary or to the possessor of the bones inside it.

10. The actions of the accused were halted after the investigation by authorities in Israel began and the ossuary was taken from the accused.

11. In his actions the accused falsified the inscription on the ossuary with the intent to receive something by means of it, under aggravated circumstances; he received something fraudulently under aggravated circumstances, and attempted to receive something fraudulently under aggravated circumstances when he maintained, under false pretenses that the inscription was written more than 2000 years ago, all the while knowing that the inscription was written according to his own plan in the year 2001 or shortly before. Likewise the accused damaged an antiquity.

12. The aggravated circumstances are these: that the accused did act in a premeditated and methodical manner for the purpose of creating a forged artifact, and the accused did by these false pretenses cause harmful effects to the fundamental division between different sects in Christianity, and was likely to deceive hundreds of millions of believing Christians worldwide, as well as researchers in history and archaeology. In addition, on account of these false pretenses the accused was likely to make a fraudulent profit of sums estimated in the millions of dollars as well as the realization of other advantages.
The indictments are then specified to be (1) falsification with intent to receive something under aggravated circumstances, (2) receiving something fraudulently under aggravated circumstances, (3) attempt to receive something fraudulently under aggravated circumstances, (4) damaging of an antiquity. Each is an offense under a named statute of Israeli law.

A few comments. One remark above is certainly an inadvertent error, when the unforged ossuary was said to be from the First Temple. Obviously "Second Temple" is meant. Also, I'm not sure exactly how to translate the words nesibbot machmirot, which I translated as "aggravated circumstances." I could well have gotten the legalese wrong. Also note that only Golan was named in this activity; none of the others named in the indictment are accused in connection with the ossuary.

This marks the last translation I will post from the indictment for a while. I'd like to discuss other things!

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