A group of Israeli scholars has condemned the findings of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) committee that concluded the so-called Jehoash Inscription, describing repairs to the Solomonic Temple, was a forgery. The IAA committee reached “hasty, premature conclusions,” the informal group of scholars wrote, in a letter to Israel Minister of Education and Culture, Limor Livnat, and made “professional mistakes … in the course of their deliberations.” The IAA committee also declared the James ossuary inscription a fake.

The Israeli scholars also expressed “severe reservations” about the composition of the IAA committee, charging that it was “very one-sided.” The Israeli scholars claim that “scholars who had previously expressed a positive opinion regarding authenticity were disqualified because they had already expressed an opinion and could not be considered neutral, while scholars who had previously expressed a decidedly negative opinion regarding authenticity (i.e., in favor of forgery) were invited without any hesitation whatsoever.”

As a result, “Other expert opinions [other than those previously held by the IAA committee] and interpretations of the same physical data by scholars in Israel and abroad were not sufficiently taken into consideration.”

The group of Israeli scholars also questioned the procedure of deciding issues of forgery/authenticity by an IAA committee rather than the usual uninhibited scholarly interchange: “The acceptance of a single point of view … as an official ruling by an appointed committee with regard to an issue that is basically a matter of scholarly research is an absolutely unacceptable way to arrive at the truth in scientific scholarship,” the group wrote.

The scholars emphasized that they were not certain that the inscription was authentic, “but we are very far from labeling it an unquestioned forgery.”

The group said that “a new professional, independent committee must be appointed who will return the issue to the realm of accepted scholarly discourse.”

The Israeli group included scholars from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University, Bar-Ilan University and Herzog College, geologists from the Geological Survey of Israel, a former member of the Knesset and others. Fear of reprisal led some of the geologists in the group to note that they are “civil servants and will be invited to the meeting with the Minister [Limor Livnat] only in accordance with the accepted rules.”

In our previous issue, three American scholars, including Professor David Noel Freedman, well known as General Editor of the Anchor Bible series, asserted that those who contend that the Jehoash inscription is a fake “have not made their case.”a

Other prominent scholars have taken the same position as Professor Freedman. They include Professor André Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Dr. Ada Yardeni, author of The Book of Hebrew Script.