Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Jesus Box Documentary on Radio 4

I mentioned the Jesus Box documentary the other day. It was broadcast earlier today and you can now listen it archived on-line:

The Jesus Box

The programme is presented by Jerome Murphy O'Connor and produced by Adele Armstrong. It's about 28 minutes long and well worth a listen, especially if you have been following the James ossuary saga over the last eighteen months or so. Murphy O'Connor patiently takes one through the story and the evidence and does not express an opinion of his own at any stage, and finally leaves the question of authenticity open.

He interviews Oded Golan twice, once at the beginning of the programme and once at the end. He also speaks to André Lemaire and Hershel Shanks and gives a good deal of air time to Yuval Goren of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who makes clear that he thinks that the box itself is 2,000 years old but that the inscription is not. He speaks about the ways in which an individual could scan in to a computer ossuary inscriptions, manipulate the chosen ones using photoshop, produce a transparency and then etch the result into the box. At this point, Murphy O'Connor asks if this is what Goren thinks Oded Golan did. Goren says that he does not know if this is what Golan did, but he knows that it is clear that this is what the forger did. However, later in the programme, Goren explains about the items that were found in Golan's apartment and includes among these computer equipment that could have been used in the way described.

Gabriel Barkay also appears as a critic of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and there is also an interview with Amos Bein, director of the Geological Survey of Israel. Murphy O' Connor also speaks to a dealer in antiquities (couldn't hear his name) and there is some speculation on whether the IAA have come down heavily on Golan because they are very keen to clamp down on looting, and see going after antiquities dealers as a good way to do this.

Towards the end of the programme, Murphy O'Connor puts the question to Yuval Goren: what is the evidence against Golan? Murphy O'Connor says that he was shown materials but that the IAA subsequently asked him not to use the recorded material in the programme. But they assert that they think they have enough to put Golan behind bars (their phrase).

Murphy O'Connor then returns to Oded Golan, who says that he is restricted in the answers he is allowed to give. When he is asked, "Did you forge the Jesus box?" he replies, "Of course not." Golan says that he wants to go to court to clear his name. Meanwhile the IAA say that they are only "weeks away" from charging him with forging Jesus box but also whole multitude of other artifacts too, including Jehoash tablet. The programme concludes with some discussion of the politicization of the whole antiquities business.

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