by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
October 27, 2002

The stone lid of a burial box has been found near Jerusalem bearing the inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." This lid is estimated to be 2,000 years old. The archaeologist who discovered it is Andre Lemaire, a researcher at the Sorbonne in Paris, and a respected specialist on inscriptions from the Biblical period. Lemaire calculated the statistical probability of these three names occurring in such a combination as "very slim." Lemaire says, "It seems very probable that this is the ossuary [burial box] of the James in the New Testament. If so, this would also mean that we have here the first epigraphic mention - from about A.D. 63 - of Jesus of Nazareth." This discovery is being featured in Archaeology Review, which calls it, "the first-ever archaeological discovery to corroborate biblical references to Jesus."

Dr. James C. VanderKim of the University of Notre Dame said, "Since the research comes from Andre Lemaire, I take it very seriously. If it is authentic, and it looks like it is, this is a helpful nonbiblical confirmation of the existence of this man James."

Dr. Eric M. Meyers, an archaeologist teaching at Duke University, said that the rarity of these names occurring in the sequence they do, especially with the inclusion of the name of a brother, "lends a sense of credibility to the claim."

Ossuaries were used to hold the bones of the Jewish dead, who were first buried in a cave for about twelve months. After the flesh had decayed the bones were then put into a limestone box called an "ossuary."

In 1990 the ossuary of Caiaphas, the high priest who turned Jesus over to the Romans, was discovered. A few years earlier a monument bearing the name of Pontius Pilate, the governor who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus, was uncovered. These are important artifacts because they are archaeological proof of the accuracy of the New Testament. The only reason we don't have "tons" of evidence like this is because Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 A.D. The city was burned and destroyed. This happened again in 135 A.D., under the Emperor Hadrian. Even so, we have ample proof from archaeology that the New Testament is an accurate account of what happened during this period.

The James whose name appears on this lid was in all likelihood the man who was the half-brother of Jesus, who became the pastor of the first church at Jerusalem, and who wrote the Book of James in the New Testament. He called Jesus, "the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). And it was "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" who said,

"He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).