An air-conditioned portal to the promised land will soon open beside a Dallas multiplex, starring a controversial artifact once presented as the  first archaeological link to the historical Jesus. “Feel the hot air of the Judean desert and the cool breeze of the Jordan River. Witness miracles and betrayals,” teases the website touting “The Nazarene.” “We will open a window in time as you travel back to experience the events of 2,000 years ago.”

Visitors who purchase the $69 tickets will experience an hour-long simulacrum of ancient Israel, telling “the most important story of mankind” through interactive technology, 3D sets, and panoramic sound. The show’s headliner is a yellowed limestone box the size of a large bread box, billed as evidence of Jesus’s existence. Yet most experts on antiquities of the Middle East agree that there is no evidence that the box, known as the James Ossuary, has any connection to the central figure of Christianity.

During the first century, Jews often would bury the bones of the dead in such ossuaries, which were sometimes inscribed with names. The James Ossuary has the Aramaic letters for “Jacob [James], son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” carved into one side of the box. These names were common in Jerusalem at the time, but believers have seized on the combination of all three as proof that the ossuary once held the remains of Christ’s brother James (that Jesus had a brother is not accepted by all Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church).

None of the “Nazarene” promotional materials mention that the exhibit’s most ballyhooed object was the centerpiece of a long-running trial in Israel regarding allegations of forgery and dealing in illicit antiquities. The existence of the ossuary was first announced at an October 2002 press conference in Washington, D.C., that was attended by journalists from the BBC, CNN, and other major news outlets. Leading archaeologists were skeptical, and the Israel Antiquities Authority opened an investigation that ultimately led to charges against the ossuary’s owner, Israeli industrial designer Oded Golan. Prosecutors alleged that many of the ancient objects that Golan bought and sold were high-end fakes—often genuinely old objects altered with inscriptions that would appear to connect them to biblical characters.

The criminal trial played out in Israeli courtrooms for more than seven years, beginning in 2005, and racked up 12,000 pages of transcripts of testimony. The prosecution’s 74 expert witnesses—archaeologists, chemists, epigraphers, and historians—were pitted against the defendants’ 52 witnesses and a public cohort of Christian and Jewish believers eager to promote any emerging evidence that supports the historical accuracy of stories in the Bible.

Golan was ultimately acquitted of forging artifacts, and the judge refused to rule on the authenticity of the ossuary. But Golan was convicted of lesser offenses: possessing objects suspected to have been stolen and selling antiquities without a license. He was fined 30,000 shekels (about $8,000 at the time) and sentenced to a month in jail, which he avoided due to time served after his arrest.

The upcoming seven-week show in Dallas, which begins August 25, marks the first time the James Ossuary will be displayed in the United States. Organizers chose Dallas because the area’s large and active Christian community “made this a strong location for this attraction,” the Los Angeles–based publicist for “The Nazarene,” John Tellem, said in an email to Texas Monthly. The ossuary has only been to North America once before, in late 2002, when thousands waited outside in freezing winter weather for a chance to see it at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum.

Tellem confirmed the show will not mention the object’s controversial legal history. “The inscription has been authenticated by many art historians and archaeologists,” he said. Golan and the show’s executive producer, Robert Bagdasarov, did not reply to my inquiries. Neither did Vladislav Lavrinovich, the CEO of Icon Productions, the show’s promoter.

The Israel Antiquities Authority confirmed that the ossuary and unspecified other objects are being legally sent to Texas and will be returned to Israel following the exhibition. Under Israeli law, shipping cultural-heritage items abroad requires a license. Tellem said Golan owns the ossuary and all of the other objects that will be on display, but he wouldn’t describe the other artifacts because the show’s collection has not been finalized. He declined to say how much Golan was paid for the items on loan. “We do not disclose financial details,” he said.

Yuval Goren, a Tel Aviv University expert in microarchaeology—that’s the instrument-aided study of the archaeological record not visible to the naked eye—was among the many experts that prosecutors in Golan’s criminal case brought in to study the box. He detected a modern adhesive substance in the lettering on the inscription. He puckishly nicknamed the substance “James Bond.” Along with a committee of five others appointed by the IAA, he concluded that the inscription had been carefully carved into a genuinely old ossuary and antiqued with a patina concocted of hot water and ground chalk. Because of this, dozens of other respected experts have also deemed that part of the inscription a forgery.

The police alleged that Golan had employed an Egyptian craftsman to make fakes and that he had sold billionaire collectors other doctored objects. One scholar who verified the ossuary as likely connected to Jesus—both prior to and during the trial—had previously verified an object that the Israel Antiquities Authority later determined to have a forged inscription, and for which the Israel Museum had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars before removing it from display.

During the trial, Israel Finkelstein, former chairman of the Tel Aviv University archaeology department, told me that he expected an acquittal for Golan on the forgery charges—which is indeed what happened—after which he predicted more fakes would emerge. “You’ll see, you know, inscriptions from the time of Solomon, from the time of David, the T-shirt of Moses, the crown of King Solomon, the sandals of Abraham, and so on and so forth,” he joked.

His prediction turned out to be somewhat true. For example, the billionaire family of David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, went on a Holy Land buying spree to fill the Museum of the Bible it opened in Washington in 2017. The Greens sent Biblical archaeologists from theological schools and other emissaries to the Middle East and spent millions of dollars buying artifacts related to the time of the historical Bible. The museum later acknowledged that among these purchases were looted Iraqi cuneiform tablets (which it was forced to return) and a plethora of what turned out to be fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

As for the artifact that Texans will soon have the opportunity to view, biblical scholar Robert Cargill, an associate professor at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about the ossuary, said it has no archaeological value beyond being an ancient box for burying bones: “This unprovenanced object sells tickets and magazines, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it is once again being paraded about in an effort to make money.”

Nina Burleigh is a journalist and the author of a book on the ossuary case, Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land.