There’s something fishy about a new documentary that claims to solve the mystery surrounding a major new biblical archeological find.
The relic is the alleged burial box for a 1st century C.E. Jew named Jacob. He was the son of Joseph, and the brother of Yeshua, that is, Jesus of Nazareth. Jacob is also known as James, a leader of the nascent Jewish movement that believed his late brother was the Messiah. He lived in Jerusalem during the last years of the Second Temple. Some say the bone box is the first piece of physical evidence about the existence of Jesus, possibly one of the most important finds in history.
The new documentary, "James: Brother of Jesus," to air Sunday on the Discovery Channel (in time for Passover and Easter), concludes that the small limestone box and the Aramaic inscription on it ("Jacob son of Joseph, brother of Yeshua") is likely the container for the bones of James, who the film says was thrown from the Temple Mount to his death by political rivals in 62 C.E. Since, James has been ignored in Jewish history and largely forgotten in Christian theology.
Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici also presents the fantastic story of ossuary owner Oded Golan, an Israeli antiquities collector who claims he bought the item from a Jerusalem antiques dealer 30 years ago. This is where the film gets slippery.
There are disjointed scenes where the viewer is told that Golan does not remember who sold him the ossuary, but suddenly, without explanation, he does. Next, we are introduced to a Palestinian dealer who claims his now-retired father sold it to Golan, but the father declines to come on camera. Then we see Golan and his new dealer friend pretending to sift debris in an empty tomb. The sequence strains credibility.
Yet Jacobovici does offer a detective from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) who says he doesn’t believe Golan’s tale. Not mentioned is that Israeli authorities are currently investigating Golan about the veracity of his story.
"What I tried to do is get every aspect of the story, behind the scenes and up close," said Jacobovici, who believes Oded.
Also disconcerting is how badly the ossuary was damaged when it was shipped to Toronto for an exhibit last November. It is now revealed that the damage was deliberately kept from the public, an incident that should raise major concerns for archaeologists, the IAA, and Jews interested in the artifacts of their history.
The film also shows how the ossuary has already passed several cutting-edge scientific tests, and offers the views of contrarians who question the results.
Jacobovici believes the ossuary has much significance for Jewish history. James tried to keep the new messiah sect a movement within Judaism, advocating the continued observance of all Jewish commandments, as opposed to rival leader Paul, whose rejection of Jewish ritual wins the day.
"We don’t talk about the early years when Christianity was only a Jewish sect, but this ossuary shows us Christianity was Jewish," said Jacobovici, an Orthodox Jew. "What’s amazing is that the ossuary has no symbols on it differentiating this man from any other Jew: No crosses. No fish."