Unholy Business (Burleigh)

“Imagine a trial in which the issue was whether Jesus of Nazareth actually existed!  The United States Constitution, as well as the laws of most western societies, does not allow courts to enter into religious or theological debates.  But the trial described in this book was not about theology: it was about archeology.  The issue at the core of the trial was whether a burial ossuary bore the name of Jesus’ brother James the son of Joseph.  The inscription on the ossuary said the following:  Ya’akov Bar Yosef Achui Yeshua.  It was written in Aramaic and the name Ya’akov, though generally translated as Jacob, is also translated to mean James, so the names were translated as James, Son of Joseph, brother of Jesus…

The ultimate lesson of this legal proceeding is that a criminal trial is not an appropriate forum in which to resolve scientific disputes.  Notwithstanding the clique, a criminal trial is not “a search for truth”. If it were, there would be no exclusionary rules and no requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  A criminal trial is a quest for justice, and justice requires balancing truth with other values, such as privacy and resolving doubts in favor of the defendants. No one should ever confuse the outcome of a criminal trial with the outcome of a scientific inquiry. The issue of whether the ossuary and the inscriptions were real or fraudulent, in whole or in part, may never be resolved in the court of scientific inquiry.  All a criminal case can do, and all this criminal case did, was to conclude that based on the evidence presented to the judge, there was a reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt.” (Take from our exclusive introduction by Alan Dershowitz)

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