This Week in Christian History: James Ossuary, Martin Luther's Bible

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(Photo: Reuters)Statue of Martin Luther.

Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week in Church history. They include the release of a landmark version of the Bible and a major, albeit controversial, archaeological discovery.

James Ossuary Inscription Reported as Authentic — Sept. 17, 2002

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(Photo: Biblical Archaeology Society)The James Ossuary, a limestone box that held the purported bones of Jesus' brother, is one artifact at a forgery case that has spanned a decade in Israel.

This week marks the anniversary of when researchers reported that an inscription on an ancient ossuary speaking of a man who may have been the brother of Jesus Christ was likely authentic.

Known as the "James Ossuary," or a funeral box containing the bones of the deceased, the first century artifact included an Aramaic inscription that read "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

On Sept. 17, 2002, the Geological Survey of Israel concluded that the ossuary and its inscription was authentic.

"We observed that the patina on the surface of the ossuary has a gray to beige color," researchers with the GSI concluded in 2002.

"The same gray patina is also found within some of the letters, although the inscription was cleaned and the patina is therefore absent from several letters."

However, this was not the end of the story. While the ossuary is agreed to be from the time period, debate even within the GSI continues over the validity of the inscription.

"The inscription, reading "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" has been authenticated by two eminent paleographers (specialists in dating, interpreting and authenticating inscriptions): André Lemaire of the Sorbonne and Ada Yardeni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem," the Biblical Archaeology Society reported in January.

"In 2003, however, the Israel Antiquities Authority appointed a committee of scholars to study the "brother of Jesus" inscription and report its findings. The committee concluded that the inscription was a forgery."

Martin Luther Releases German Language New Testament — Sept. 21, 1522

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This week marks the anniversary of when Protestant Reformation founder Martin Luther released a German translation of the New Testament.

For centuries in Europe, the Holy Bible was primarily printed in Latin rather than the common languages of the various ethnic groups.

Drawing from an original Greek translation of the New Testament, Luther worked on the project while under the protective custody of Frederick the Wise of Saxony.

"He completed a translation of the New Testament from the original Greek in a mere four months between November of 1521 and March of 1522," noted the site Christian History for Everyman.

"After his release, he extensively revised it with the help of the learned Philip Melancthon, his friend and co-worker throughout the time of the Reformation."

Luther would later release a revised version of his translation that same year and in 1534 he published an edition that include both Testaments as well as the Apocrypha books.

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