'Jesus Burial Box' Trial Gets Thorny

Judge skeptical after witnesses seemingly contradict own testimony
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2009 4:18 PM CDT
A lamp illuminates the inscription carved into a stone ossuary said to have once contained the bones of Jesus' brother James.   (Getty Images)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – The public is already frowning on a Tel Aviv man accused of forging the burial box of Jesus' brother James, but the judge in the case has hinted that the case is weak, Matthew Kalman writes in Time. Two scientists, witnesses for the prosecution, have testified that geological conditions could not have produced a thin crust, or patina, on the box—making it a fake. But their testimony is apparently contradicted by their own later research.

At issue is ancient rainfall. In a later paper, studying a stalagmite, they concluded that Roman era–rainfall was double what scientists had thought—perhaps enough to create the patina after all. One of the witnesses, Miryam Bar-Matthews, calls the later research "irrelevant," saying, "It's like comparing tomatoes and gloves." Gushes one defense expert: "I think this is amazing—it blows my mind."