After building a career and religious following on the apparent remains of Jesus’ brother James, an antiques dealer is in court, accused of forging the most important artifact in the history of Christianity.
The controversy surrounds an “ossuary,” a stone box containing the bones of the dead, that Israeli antiques collector Oded Golan claimed once housed the remains of the Bible's Apostle James, according to TIME. The “James Ossuary,” inscribed with the inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” was held to be proof of Jesus’ existence.
The discovery electrified the faithful and faithful archaeologists alike. But skeptics began to dig deeper into the mysterious find, and Israeli police started investigating.
They found the box was authentically old, dating back to 60 A.D., the biblical date of James' death. But the inscription, they found, was a forgery.
The investigators took Golan to court, accusing the dealer of turning believers' faith against them to rake in his millions, TIME reported.
"The faithful — those who believe in a higher, supernatural power that leaves a material record of itself for man to literally hold and behold — must also confront and grapple with the painful presence of doubt," writes Nina Burleigh, whose book Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land tells the story of the ossuary and its shady past.