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How Important Are Biblical Artifacts?

Ossuary_1 JERUSALEM – Four Israeli antiquities collectors and dealers were indicted Wednesday on charges they ran a sophisticated forgery ring that spanned the globe and produced a treasure trove of fake Bible-era artifacts, including some that were hailed as major archaeological finds.

Police said the ring forged what were presented as perhaps the two biggest biblical discoveries in the Holy Land in recent years - the purported burial box of Jesus' brother James and a stone tablet with written instructions by King Yoash on maintenance work at the ancient Jewish Temple.   via

The above newspaper article goes on to list some of the more spectacular forgeries and "deals" people fell for:

The James ossuary, a burial box bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

The Yoash inscription, a tablet from about the ninth century B.C., inscribed with 15 lines of ancient Hebrew with instructions for maintaining the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The tablet was offered for sale for $4.5 million.

Shards of clay pots bearing inscriptions linking themto biblical sites and biblical temples. Some of them sold to private collectors for up to $100,000 each.

A stone menorah inscribed with depictions of plants and said to belong to the temple high priest, offered to private collectors for $100,000.

A gold and stone royal seal said to be that of Menashe, King of Judah, offered to a private collector for $1 million.

A quartz bowl, bearing an inscription in an ancient Egyptian script, claiming that Egyptian forces destroyed the ancient town of Megiddo, a subject of intense academic debate.

An ivory pomegranate purported to be that of the temple high priest. The Israel Museum bought the pomegranate from an anonymous collector for $550,000 in the 1980s, with the money deposited into a secret Swiss bank account.

An ancient clay vase with an inscription said to be part of an offering at the temple.

Numerous wax seals, said to belong to biblical figures, some selling for $90,000.

Scholars told reporters "the forgers were exploiting the deep emotional need of Jews and Christians to find physical evidence to reinforce their beliefs."  Do you agree?  Do Jews and Christians have such a deep emotional need?  And how might the breaking of this story impact the religious community at large?


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I think that artifacts are important, but not as much as they were in the bygone era. In the modern setting, they were really important b/c we wanted facts and logical reasons to back up our belief structure. This just isn't the case as much anymore. As you pointed out in the post though, obviously it is still important to some.

I don't have much knowledge about this, but I will say that back decades ago when I was in a more conservative church, the artifacts were important. Instead of being important to the believers as proof to themselves that they were believing the right thing, the artifacts were embraced by the believers as validation of their faith to the world. It was like "Ha, World! Here's proof! I'm a logical person for believing. See?" It was like something to help win an argument, oftentimes the purpose of the argument being to save someone's soul. The artifacts made no difference at all as far as strengthening the believers' faith because they had no doubts anyway.

Great thoughts there, Jennifer.

I think you're right. It wasn't "our" faith that needed evidence, it was in hopes of convincing an otherwise skeptical world.

Do you think though, that artifact evidence is related to our selves in that we don't want the world to think us outlandish or wacky? Something you said made me think of this:

"Ha, World! Here's proof! I'm a logical person for believing. See?"

Hmmm. If that's the case, then it may be a bit of an indictment against us I suppose -- concerned about our reputations. ??? What do you think?

The Torah and the Bible have served as the primary source of history for thousands of years and it was only until the mid 19th century that anyone dared to question their veracity as a combined historical document. The forgeries are exploiting a need to support our beliefs, but the source of the need is not our insecurities about our faith, but to counter a persistent movement to discredit the Bible. It amazes me that some archaeologists state there is no evidence to support that the Jewish people roamed the desert for 40 years when there is such huge area to search.

I recently researched the history of archaeology as a scientific field, with a specific look at the influence of the Bible as literature on its development. Persons interested in this post might find it of interest. It can be accessed at under credentials, under Mary D. Paramore, under academic samples, under Rhetoric of Scientific Literature link.

Good to hear from you, Mary!

And you raise a very good point. So then, you view archeological evidence as primarily apologetic in purpose, right? It defends what we already believe rather than grant credence to what we hope to believe - is that what you're saying?

P.S. How's Joseph and the boys?

You asked if we were concerned about our reputations. I think that we are for sure, without a doubt. I was in a more conservative church up through part of my 20s, and that's a time for sure when kids are worried about their reputations. I couldn't speak about adults. I think it may be more about power, though. I keep trying to think back to how I felt and the power or strength of certainty keeps coming up. When a person seems "right" (correct) in their beliefs then they are given more power by society (are "listened to" more). Also, they would feel more power within themselves even if no one was listening. Like, it doesn't really matter when fighting a war whether you are right or wrong... if you feel right then you'll have more power and might than if you don't feel completely right deep down about what you're fighting for. It's the same sort of thing with the artifacts... feeling right would increase your sense of power. So in one way, I'm seeing now that it really would increase a modern person's faith, but not in terms of what they believe as in which beliefs, but in magnitude or the power of it. It might increase the risks they'd take in sharing their faith and in criticizing others who don't believe the same way.

As for me, I think I question everything in the media so much that artifacts don't make a difference.

My experience in the church is that many take news of things like the James ossuary and trumpet it from the rooftops.

If these findings are disproven then thse same people pay little attention. The trumpets do not sound as loud, shall we say. What I find is that this approach does much harm to us in the "secular" world.

Non-believers, especially agressive non-believers, love to throw these episodes back at us. When we spend so much time trying to "prove" our faith based on archeology alone we are doomed to failure.

Of course Apologetics are vitally important and I study the subject deeply. In the end, the best "proof" of our religion is us! How we live, how we love, how we exist in community.

Jars, wax, ossuaries, relics, these are not our God, these things do not cntain our faith.

I have recognized God as being the way of the truth most of my life, But being as my faith wasn't strong enough I began to question things. My skepticism led me to the internet and the discovery of biblical artifacts. Finding this articles reaffirmed my faith and I threw myself at God with more enthuisiasm than ever before. To me these artifacts were an important step for me to draw closer to God. But now I wonder if that was just how God called to me. I still believe even if the artifacts have been proven to be false, though I do think it rather sad that people would do that. Part of me still hopes that its not true, but I do agree with you when you say
"The best proof is how we live, love and exist." That was the candlelight for my day.

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