from  the  book  by  the  same  name

The Temple Mount

The Temple, which was the central point of importance in Jerusalem throughout its history, was located on the mount in the eastern side of the Old City beside the eastern wall, which ran along the edge of the Kidron Valley. The basically rectangular platform on the mount today represents the identical area of Herod's renovation, which doubled the size of the original temple grounds. The Muslim Dome of the Rock stands in this space today, probably on the very spot where the Jewish Temple once stood. This constitutes an area covering 465,880 square feet (41,930 square meters). Herod was able to do this renovation by extending the platform out on to the slopes surrounding the Temple to the east, south, and west. Huge retaining walls were built to support the fill upon which the platform stood. Only to the northwest did he need to shave off some of the rock, which stood higher than the platform level.

To the south a huge stone platform was constructed, resting on massive arches. The large vaulted area under the pavement is today erroneously called "Solomon's Stables." A number of the Herodian foundation blocks on which the pillars supporting the arches were built are still visible in the vault beneath the pavement.

In the New Testament this corner of the Temple Mount is called the "pinnacle of the temple," the place where Jesus was tempted by Satan (Luke 4:9). 

Underground arches beneath the pinnacle platform

Stone paved walkway along south temple wall, 21 feet (6.5 meters) wide.

Herodian stone and 78-foot (24-meter) tunnel leading north to the Temple platform, which is 39 feet (12 meters) higher, are still well preserved. Since it was still being used until the Crusaders closed it and constructed a building against it, which covers the western half of the gate today, it was obviously not destroyed in the Roman conquest.

Excavations have revealed a 21 foot-wide stone pavement that Herod built in front of these gates. Monumental stairways descended 22 feet (6.7 meters) southward from the gates to a plaza. The largest of the stairways, the section in front of the Double Gates, is 215 feet (65.5 meters) wide with thirty steps made of smoothed stone paving blocks. It has been restored to much of its original beauty and may again be climbed by visitors to the Temple Mount. A passage in the Talmud refers to Gamaliel and the elders standing on top of these stairs.

Between the two gates and south of the street in front of them were found a number of pools, plastered cisterns, and mikvaoth (Jewish ritual baths). These were used for individual purification by large crowds of pilgrims who gathered on the plaza before entering the Temple area toworship. Along with others, these could have been used for the immersions in water of the 3,000 believers on the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:38-41.

Herod built a paved street along the western wall of the Temple Mount. In recent excavations portions of a Herodian street have been found at the southwestern corner of the mount. The pavement, which ran north along the western wall,

Top: South wall and gates.

Below: Jewish Mikveh (ritual bath). 

Bottom: Street beside Western Wall.

The so-called "Ecce Homo Arch" in Jerusalem.

forked at this corner with the western section of it continuing northward to the Damascus Gate and the eastern section terminating at the Antonia Fortress on the northwestern corner of the mount.

Twenty-six courses of the original Herodian stone still stand in the Western Wall, sometimes known as the "Wailing Wall," seven of which are above ground and nineteen under ground. These stones, characteristic of Herod the Great's architecture, are easily identifiable by their boss, the untrimmed, raised face of the stone, which is surrounded on all four sides by a smooth, narrow border.

Josephus wrote that a priest stood at the top of the southwestern corner of the Temple and officially signalled the beginning of the Sabbath by blowing a trumpet at sunset on Friday. Here at this very corner excavators found a trimmed stone block that had fallen from the tower above, on which were carved in Hebrew the words, "To the Place of Trumpeting to declare ..."

The location of the Jerusalem Temple

A highly debated aspect of Herod's building program is the precise location on the mount of the Temple itself. When he rebuilt it, Herod did not relocate the Temple constructed by Zerubbabel, but archaeologists have disagreed on the precise location of the structure. Josephus affirmed that the Temple stood at the top of the mount, and therefore it has been argued that it stood adjacent to the north side of the present Muslim Dome of the Rock where the bedrock was assumed to be higher than that under the Dome.

Jewish men at the Western Wall.

Herodian stone in Western Wall.

Muslim Dome of the Rock. The little Dome of the Spirits is immediately to the right of it in the picture.

Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.

An Israeli architect has discovered, however, that the stone floor under the small Dome of the Spirits, immediately north of the Muslim Dome of the Rock, is not actually bedrock, but is, rather, a large paving slab, and bedrock is at least 8 feet (2.5 meters) below the floor of this little monument. This means that this stone floor is not the highest point on the mount. The rock under the Dome of the Rock is actually 15 feet (4.5 meters) higher than that under the little Dome of the Spirits and is thus the only viable choice for the Temple location.

According to the tractate Middoth 2:1 in the Mishnah (a third-century compendium of Jewish regulations and beliefs), the platform of the Temple was 500 royal cubits square (861 feet, 262.5 meters). Investigations of key points around the Temple Mount have revealed that the Dome of the Rock stands on the precise 1,640-foot square area (500-meters-square) where the temple would have stood. Thus for the first time all the factors—topographical, archaeological, and historical—seem to agree on its location.


The place where Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate

Another place of archaeological interest on the Temple Mount is at its northwest corner. Herod built a fortress into the northern wall of this mount and named it Antonia in honor of Mark Antony. It has been argued that the pavement beneath the modern Notre Dame de Sion Convent on the so-called "Via Dolorosa" was the floor of this fortress and was the "pavement" on which Jesus stood before Pilate (John 19).

It has been shown, however, that the pavement is contemporaneous with the huge vaults of the Struthion Pools underneath it. The pavement above the pools could not have been built before the Roman siege in A.D. 70, if Josephus is correct, because he states that the Romans built a ramp "through" the pools to bring their siege machines against the north wall of the Antonia Fortress. The pools, therefore, must have been open at the time, rather than covered by a stone pavement, and must have lain outside the fortress. The massive construction of the walls, arches, and ceilings seen today came later. Jesus could not have stood on a nonexistent floor.

Furthermore, excavations in 1966 revealed that the "Ecce Homo Arch," which spans the modern street called the Via Dolorosa in front of the Convent and extends inside to the chapel, rests its northern pier on bedrock rather than on the fortress pavement on which Jesus supposedly appeared before Pilate. The pier would have rested on top of the stone pavement had

Stone pavement beneath the Notre Dame de Sion Convent.

Stone inscription from balustrade wall around the Temple.

Court of the Gentiles in Jerusalem model of the Temple.

that pavement been standing when the arch was constructed. It is more likely that Jesus stood before Pilate on the pavement of the Praetorium discovered by an Israeli archaeologist south of the Jaffa Gate and adjacent to the eastern side of Herod's Palace (Herod's palace, page 191).

The balustrade wall

A discovery relating to the courtyard on the north side of the Temple sheds light on Acts 21:27-40 where Paul is accused of taking Greeks into the forbidden areas of the Temple. The two inner courts, the Court of Israel and the Court of the Women, were restricted to Jewish men and women respectively. This area was surrounded by a small partition wall called the "balustrade." Outside this wall, the rest of the Temple area consisted of a huge stone platform called the Court of the Gentiles into which Gentiles could come and worship the God of all nations. This is the area Jesus had cleansed during his last week in Jerusalem, impressing upon those present the words of the prophets, "Even those I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17). This passage was meant to declare that both Jews and Gentiles could worship at the Temple. They were, however, to respect the designated areas for each.

Josephus wrote that the Jewish section was "surrounded by a stone balustrade with an inscription prohibiting the entrance of a foreigner under threat of the penalty of death" (Antiquities, 15.417). The Jews were allowed by the Romans to put to death anyone—even Roman citizens—who crossed this boundary wall. Josephus described the wall as being three cubits (4.5 feet, 1.3 meters) high, and stated that "slabs stood at regular intervals giving warning, some in Greek, others in Latin characters, of the law of purification, to wit that no foreigner was permitted to enter the holy place ..." (War, 5.194).

Two of these stone slabs containing the inscriptions described by Josephus have been found and published. The text was republished in 1989. It reads:


Thus it seems that Paul was erroneously assumed to have taken Trophimus the Ephesian (a Gentile) beyond this wall into the inner Jewish courts.

Siloam Pool at south end of Mount Ophel in Jerusalem.

Sources of water in Jerusalem

Archaeological remains of water sources in Jerusalem show that the city had a number of facilities available in the New Testament period. The entire Temple Mount is honey-

Tourists walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel.

combed with thirty-seven underground chambers cut into solid rock. Some of them are passageways, but most are reservoirs that would hold ten million gallons of water. Combined with the ever-flowing Gihon Spring, they were still not adequate to meet the needs of the city so Herod built huge public pools and cisterns to remedy the problem. The double Struthion Pool was built near the Antonia Fortress at the northwest corner of the Temple area. The Pool of the Towers (Pool of Hezekiah) was constructed north of Herod's Palace by the Jaffa Gate. The Pool of Israel (now a parking lot) was built adjacent to the northern wall of the Temple Mount. Large underground pools cut into rock have recently been found in the excavations just south of the Double Gate in the southern wall of the Temple Amount.

Pool of Siloam

Another important source of water for the inhabitants of Jerusalem was the Pool of Siloam (John 9:1-41), which was built by Hezekiah, a king of Judah in the eighth century B.C., at the southern end of a long tunnel cut through 1,749 feet (533 meters) of solid rock to bring water from the Gihon Spring to the pool inside the city walls. It was

Recently discovered large Pool of Siloam.

at this pool that Jesus healed a blind man by having him wash his eyes in its water.

Until recently, only a small portion of the original pool has been accessible, and it is considerably smaller (fifty feet long by fifteen feet wide) than it was originally, when it was probably surrounded by a colonnaded portico which must have been the one described by the Pilgrim of Bordeaux in 333 A.D. as a quadriporticus (fourfold porch). This was presumably destroyed with an associated church during the Persian invasion in the 7th century. After the site was excavated in the late nineteenth century, the people of the village of Silwan (modern spelling of Siloam) built a mosque on the northwest comer of the little pool with a minaret, which still stands above the pool. It is possible today to enter this little Siloam Pool by walking down a stone staircase beside it or entering the Hezekiah tunnel at the Gihon Spring to the north and walking through the long tunnel until it exits at the pool.

However, excavations at the site in the past six months have uncovered the eastern portion of a large pool, fifty meters in length, (its width not yet known) which lies only about ten meters south of the little pool. This small area between them has yet to be excavated and the relation of the two pools cannot at this time be defirmtively stated but they are possibly a part of one complex called the Siloam Pool (like the Pool of Bethesda which had two sections). It has a series of stone steps on all four sides for entering the pool, which, being fed by fresh running water from the Gihon Spring through a small channel discovered on the north side of the pool, was probably a major facility for ritual purification before entering the temple. A stone pavement has also recently been discovered, leading from the pool up Mt. Ophel to the Temple Mount.

Pool of Bethesda

Chapter 5 of Johns Gospel tells of Jesus healing an invalid at another pool: "There is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew, Beth-zatha [or Bethesda] which has five porches." It should be noted, however, that the Greek text of verse 2 is ambiguous and has been rendered differently in various translations: "there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool" (NRSV, NlY GNB, REB, etc.), "At the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a place [or building]" (NEB, Jerusalem Bible), and, "There is in Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool" (KJV). A gate called the Sheep Gate was built by Eliashib the high priest in the time of Nehemiah (3:1, 32; 12:39).

Excavations have revealed a twin pool with porches in the exact area of the story in John 5:1-15. This pool, which was probably fed by rainwater and underground springs, may still be seen by visitors near Jerusalem's eastern wall, about 300 feet (92 meters) west of the Stephen Gate (also known as the Lion's Gate).

At the turn of the century, the two large pools were excavated about 300 feet (92 meters) north of the Temple Mounts northern wall near the Church of Saint Anne. Cut into rock and plastered, these pools lie close to the church on its west side. The larger southern pool is estimated to be about 215 feet (67 meters) wide at its southern side and about 190 feet (58 meters) across the northern side. The east and west sides measure about 160 feet (58 meters) in length. The smaller northern pool is estimated at about 175 feet (54 meters) on its southern side, 165 feet (51 meters) on the north, and 130 feet (40 meters) on the east and west. They may have provided as much as 5,000 square yards (4,050 square meters) of water surface.

The pool was probably fed by rainwater and underground springs. The northern pool has over its southeastern corner a cistern with a vaulted chamber about 50 feet (15.5 meters) long east to west and 20 feet (16 meters) wide north to south. Water continually stands in it today, but it is only about a foot (0.3 meters) deep and stagnant. In the excavations many fragments of column bases, capitals, and drums were found. These probably belonged to the five porches (that is, porticoes or colonnaded walkways) of the pool that John mentions. There is no good reason to deny the probability that these two pools are the Sheep Pool referred to by Eusebius and the "twin pools" mentioned by the Bordeaux Pilgrim, both in the early fourth century.


On the night of his arrest, Jesus is recorded as having been taken from the Garden of Gethsemane to appear before Caiaphas, the high priest (Matthew 26:57). At the foot of the Mount of Olives, and west of the Dominus Flevit Church, stands the Gethsemane Church of All Nations, which was completed in 1924. This church, built on the foundations of a prior church, marks the spot venerated since at least the fourth century as the Garden of Gethsemane. In front of the apse of this building there is a rock which is referred to by the Bordeaux Pilgrim in A.D. 333. Tradition holds that before his betrayal by Judas, Jesus prayed on this rock. The Byzantine church, tying directly beneath the modern one, was designed so that the rock would stand in the center of the eastern end of the nave, just as it does in the modern one, which is built upon its foundations.

In A.D. 330 Eusebius identified Gethsemane as a place "at the foot of the Mount of Olives where the faithful now make their prayers diligently." Jerome, in his Latin translation of Eusebius' work in A.D. 390, alters the text to read nunc ecclesia desuper aedificata, "a church has now been built over it" (that is, the place where the prayers were made). It would seem, then, that the church underlying the foundations of the modern one was built between the time these two works were written. This church was destroyed, probably by the Persian invasion of A.D. 614, and was not rebuilt until a Christian presence was again felt. The Crusaders built a new one in the twelfth century, slightly to the north of the Byzantine church and partly overlapping its southern side. It was subsequently destroyed.

The Church of St. Peter of the Cockcrow (St. Peter in Gallicantu)

On the eastern slope of Mount Ophel, which is a southern extension of the mount on which the Temple stood, a flight of stairs has been found that connects the Kidron Valley with the upper section of Mount Ophel. The stairs date to the time of Jesus and run up the north side of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (St. Peter of the Cockcrow). Beneath the church is a large complex of rock-hewn chambers surrounding a central room. These have rings on the walls and stone handles cut out of the walls and above the doors. The rings and stone handles could have been used to tie a person while he was being whipped and some have therefore assumed these rooms to be a prison and the place where Jesus was kept until Caiaphas could see him.

Early Christian authors wrote about a church of St. Peter being built over the palace of Caiaphas and identified this church with that one. As early as 1888, excavations were carried out at the church, and in 1911 ruins of a fifth-century church were found beneath the modern one. The modern church was built here in 1931, and since the older church was assumed to have been the Cockcrow Church the new church was also given this name. There is, however, no clear evidence to connect this fifth-century church with the church of St. Peter mentioned in the early sources. That one must have been located north of this site, nearer the Holy Zion Church, as shown on the Madeba map, a mosaic map of Jerusalem on the floor of a church in Madeba, Jordan, which dates to about A.D. 560 in the reign of Justinian. Thus, the palace of Caiaphas could have stood on or near the present Church of the Cockcrow or farther up the hill near the Holy Zion Church.

Herod's palace

As a part of his western palace, Herod built three large towers, which he named for his friends and relatives: Hippicus, Phasael, and Mariamne. According to Josephus, Titus "left these towers as a monument to his good fortune" when he destroyed Jerusalem (War, 6.409-413). The lower portion of one of them, which most regard as Phasael, dates to the time of Herod and still stands intact at the modern Jaffa Gate.

Herodian foundations of a large podium have been found to the south of Phasael Tower, in the Armenian Quarter, indicating that the original palace of Herod stretched from the Citadel at the Jaffa Gate on the north, along the western modern Turkish wall, to its southern extremity where the wall turns east. This podium, on which a

Top: Phasael Tower in the Jaffa Gate.

Above: Model of Herod's palace, three towers and

Lithostroton (bema).

stone pavement once stood, was approximately 1,100 feet (335.5 meters) long, north to south, and 200 feet (61 meters) wide, east to west. Nothing of the superstructure has been found. The pavement supported by this massive foundation is the more likely one on which Jesus stood before Pilate.

Although it has been argued that Pilate may have been staying in the Antonia Fortress when Jesus appeared before him, this now seems highly unlikely. In the first place, accommodation in the Antonia was scarcely comparable with the luxury of Herod's palace. Moreover, Philo, a contemporary of Jesus, wrote that Pilate was living in Herod's palace during one of the Jewish feasts and he describes it as "the residence of the prefects." Hence Gessius Floras, who became prefect in A.D. 64, lived there just before Titus' destruction of the Temple, beginning two years later. Further evidence comes from Mark, who states in his Gospel that the soldiers "led him [Jesus] outside the palace, which is the praetorium" (Mark 15:16). The praetorium, that is, the residence of the Roman authority, must have been in the Herodian palace, and the large podium foundation discovered east of the palace must have been that on which Jesus stood before Pilate. It is called in Greek Lithostroton (stone pavement) and in Hebrew Gabbatha (elevated place) (John 19:13).

In Greek and Roman times, a tribunal platform (called a bema in Greek) was built in the open for the purpose of addressing the crowds. There is one still standing in Corinth, and here Paul would have stood before Gallio (Acts 18:12-14). Matthew noted in his Gospel that Pilate was seated "on the judgement seat [Greek bema]" (Matthew 27:19). A bema was thus apparently built by the Roman prefect on the stone pavement for the purpose of receiving his subjects. Josephus wrote that on one occasion the populace "surrounded the tribunal" (War 2:175) where Pilate was seated.

The crucifixion and burial of Jesus

For New Testament studies, one of the most important issues in the archaeology of Jerusalem relates to the question of the place of Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. About a hundred yards (280 meters) north of the Old City's Damascus Gate there is a garden with a tomb commonly called both the Garden Tomb and Gordons Tomb, because of its identification by General Charles Gordon in 1883 as the tomb of Jesus. Since then, it has long been held by the Protestant and Evangelical wings of Christianity to be the actual burial place of

In 1968 an ossified foot was discovered in Jerusalem with a spike in it belonging to a crucified man named Yehohanan. This demonstrates the method of crucifixion referred to in John 20:25, which speaks of Jesus having had nails driven into his hands.

Christ. However, although the Garden Tomb does have the aesthetic appeal of being located in a lovely garden, removed from the rush and noise of a bustling and distracting modern city the method used by Gordon in making the initial identification of the tomb was not the result of careful scholarship. He wrote in a letter published in 1885 that when he visited the Garden Tomb and nearby "Skull Hill" he "felt convinced" that it must be the place of Christ's crucifixion, since it was north of the city, and Jesus would have been slain north of the temple altar, like the Old Testament sacrificial lambs of which he was the type. This is, of course, mere assumption, and archaeological evidence, especially tomb typology, argues decisively against this identification. Recent study has revealed that in the time of the New Testament the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by burials. Scientific analysis of the tombs has revealed a pattern of tomb construction that changed with the passing of time. The Garden Tomb is built on the pattern of Iron Age II tombs (eighth to seventh centuries B.C.) and not on the pattern of tombs of the Roman period. It is cut into a rock scarp (a cliff side) and is part of two large burial complexes near the St. Stephen Church on the property of the Ecole Biblique, the French School of Archaeology. The tombs in this burial ground all date to the Iron Age and the Garden Tomb is undeniably a part of these tombs, lying only six feet (1.8 meters) from one of these major tomb complexes.

About 700 tombs from the second-Temple period—the time of Jesus—have been explored within 3 miles of the city limits of Jerusalem. Tombs from the time of Jesus characteristically were either natural or hand cut caves with small niches (called loculi or kokhim) cut into the sides of the walls in which were placed sarcophagi, small stone boxes, containing the bones of the dead person whose body had lain in the tomb long enough to decompose before the bones were gathered into the box. The entrance to the tomb was often closed by a rolling stone, like the ones still standing at the family tomb of Herod on the south side of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the tomb of Queen Helena in East Jerusalem,

The Garden Tomb in East Jerusalem.

A rolling stone outside the Tomb of the Herods, Jerusalem.

and a tomb in a cemetery west of Heshbon, Jordan. More than sixty rolling-stone tombs have been surveyed in Israel and Jordan.

The tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is most likely the tomb of Jesus. The church, though now inside the modern city walls, has been shown by excavation to have been located outside the walls in the days of Jesus, as was characteristic of tombs at that time. This means that it cannot be excluded from consideration because of its present locality inside the current walls.

Recent excavations at the Holy Sepulcher Church have established that the area where the church is now located had been a huge limestone quarry in the seventh century B.C. This quarry was in use until the first century B.C., at which time it was filled and made a garden. It contains at least four tombs from the early Roman period. Eusebius, the fourth-century church historian, stated that emperor Hadrian, after suppressing the second Jewish Revolt in A.D. 135, built a huge rectangular platform of earth over this quarry, on top of which he constructed a temple dedicated to the Roman god Venus.

In the lifetime of Eusebius, Queen Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine, came to Jerusalem and was shown the site of the tomb. Eusebius wrote:

... on the very spot which witnessed the Saviors sufferings ... the Emperor now began to rear a monument to the Saviors victory over death, with rich and lavish magnificence.

This monument was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Jerome wrote in the fifth century:

From the time of Hadrian to the reign of Constantine—-a period of about 180 years— the spot that had witnessed the resurrection was occupied by a figure of Jupiter.

Constantine, in a letter to Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, referred to the discovery of the "monument of his most holy passion,"   which   had   "remained  unknown [apparently the tomb itself, not the general location] for so long a series of years."

Whether the temple of Hadrian had already been destroyed is not entirety clear, but when Constantine wrote to Macarius regarding the dismantling of a building used in idolatrous worship, he may have been referring to that temple and the building of the church:

. . . the dwelling-places of error, with the statues ... were overthrown and utterly destroyed ... both stone and timber ... that sacred spot, which under Divine direction I have disencumbered as it were of the heavy weight of foul idol worship … a spot ... which now appears holier still, since it has brought to light a clear assurance of our Saviors passion.

North city walls of Jerusalem

Constantine's words argue strongly that the memory of the tomb location had persevered through the intenvening centuries, even though Herod Agrippa I had built a new wall on the north side of the city within about fifteen years of the death of Jesus, which placed the tomb site within the city's walls. No one in the time of Helena would have looked for the burial site inside the crowded urban walled city if there had not been a compelling reason to do so. It should be remembered that the succession of Christian bishops in Jerusalem was never interrupted during these early centuries, and even though the first fifteen Jewish Christian bishops were necessarily succeeded by Gentile Christians after the publication of Hadrian's edict expelling all Jews from Jerusalem, the memory of so sacred a place would never have been forgotten. Helena and Constantine found it convincing enough to erect a church on this site.

The tomb of Caiaphas

In 1990 workers constructing a water park in the Peace Forest about a mile south of the old city of Jerusalem accidentally uncovered an ancient burial cave. Carved twice on one of the ossuaries in the cave was the name of Joseph, son of Caiaphas. Inside the ossuary were the bones of six people: two infants, a child between the ages of two and five, a youth aged thirteen to eighteen, an adult female and a man about sixty years old. One of the archaeologists says that we have "in all probability" found the bones of the high priest who interrogated Jesus and then delivered him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Matthew 26:57-27:2).

Inscription on "Absalom's Tomb" Luke 2:25

An inscription, believed to be the first New Testament text carved in stone yet discovered, and one of the earliest New Testament quotations ever found outside the Bible, was discovered in 2003 by Ernile Puech and Joe Zias in the Kidron Valley southeast of the corner of the Temple Mount. It is on the wall of a tomb commonly (but mistakenly) called Absalom's Tomb. The text is Luke 2:25, refer-ring to Simeon, the man who held the young Jesus is his arms when he was brought to the Temple for Mary's purification.

The ossuary of James the brother of Jesus

Another artifact that has generated widespread interest was brought to public attention in 2002 by an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem, who had in his possession an ossuary, or stone burial box, which is 20 inches long by 10 inches wide by 12 inches high (51 centimeters by 25.5 centimeters by 30.5 centimeters), and which has an inscription carved on it in Aramaic. Andre Lemaire, from the Sorbonne in Paris, and one of the world's leading paleographers, dated the inscription to A.D. 63 and translated it to read "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus". It was declared in Time magazine and Biblical Archaeology Review to be the "most important discovery in the history of New Testament archaeology."

This stimulated world-wide interest and leading archaeological authorities evaluated the evidence, eventually disagreeing on its authenticity, some for and others against.

The Geological Survey of Israel tested it and confirmed its authenticity as a first century ossuary that was carved out of Jerusalem limestone. But the head of the Archaeological Institute at Tel Aviv University concluded that the patina on the stone, used in dating the box, had been manufactured artificially.

Israeli police took Oded Golan, the owner of the ossuary, into custody searched his apartment, and found a workshop containing tools, materials and half finished "antiquities." He was accused of forging ancient documents.

Debate continues over the authenticity of this burial box. But even if it is authentic, whether it is the burial box of the brother of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be proven scientifically, and will have to remain a matter of individual belief based on the nature of the evidence presented by qualified scholars in research and debate. Even if it were genuine, this stone box is not capable of proving or disproving the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. That is a matter of faith based on broad historical evidence supporting the authenticity of the New Testament, confirmed by the lives and testimony of those who knew him and left their witness for the world in literary and oral tradition.