The first definitive account of what scholars and the media are calling the most important archaeological discovery about Jesus and his family.
This is the definitive story of the recent discovery of the first-century ossuary (limestone bone box) with the legend James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, and its implications for understanding Jesus, his family (mother, father, brothers), his followers, the first Christians and the Jewish Christian movement in Jerusalem that James led. This ossuary is the first ever archaeological discovery directly confirming the existence of Jesus, and his relationship to his father, Joseph, and brother, James, who became the leader of the important Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem. No one is as qualified and well connected to recount the discovery and its authentication as Hershel Shanks, whose magazine first broke the story.
Ben Witherington III is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, and is on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University, Scotland. Witherington has twice won the Christianity Today best Biblical Studies book-of-the-year award, and his many books include We Have Seen His Glory: A Vision of Kingdom Worship and socio-rhetorical commentaries on Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Last October, public notice of a limestone box owned by a Tel Aviv collector electrified the small but intense world of biblical archaeology. It is an ossuary, a container just long enough for a thighbone, the longest bone, and roomy enough to harbor all the bones of one body. Between about 20 B.C. and 70 A.D., Jews used to place bodies in catacombs for a year or so to decompose and then move the bones to an ossuary for safekeeping; archaeologists have recovered hundreds of ossuaries from that relatively brief period. Carved in Aramaic on the side of this particular box is the inscription Yaakov bar Yosef achui dYeshua, which translates to "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Some people think it once contained the bones of the eldest of Jesuss four brothers, the leader of the Jewish-Christian community in Jerusalem, a martyr who was stoned to near-death before being finished off with a cudgel.
- The Washington Post
Last October, biblical archaeologists stunned the world with news that a limestone ossuary with the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" had surfaced in Palestine and may have once contained the bones of James, the early church leader and brother of Jesus of Nazareth. While it may seem a startling claim for the unassuming and unadorned 20-inch box, numerous scholars who have examined the ossuary now vouch for its first-century origins, if not its theological significance. Jews employed ossuaries for a relatively brief historical period (approximately 20 B.C. to A.D. 70), which fits with the textual evidence of Jamess martyrdom around A.D. 62. This book is the first full-length treatment of the ossuary, and is written by a couple of big guns: Shanks is the editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review (which first broke the story), and Witherington is a seminary professor and author of a score of books on the Bible. Their collaboration is a well-argued and truly fascinating study of the ossuary and its importance. The opening chapters tell of the boxs discovery and authentication, while the later chapters discuss its potential relevance and describe what is at stake if the ossuary is genuine. Particularly interesting is the books discussion of what the ossuary does for Jewish-Christian relations: James, the bishop of Jerusalem, was known for encouraging Christians to retain aspects of their Jewish heritage instead of jettisoning that heritage as Paul had. This engaging book invites readers to ponder the numerous questions and possibilities raised by the ossuarys discovery. (Mar. 18) Forecast: This is simply a huge story-the first book to cover what is arguably the most important biblical archeology bonanza since the Dead Sea Scrolls. The authors have already made the rounds of major media, including national network news programs and interview shows. Timed to release a few weeks before Easter and Passover, this could very quickly sell out its 75,000 copy initial print run. Major media coverage, including an hour-long special on the Discovery Channel, will help move the title. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
- Publishers Weekly
When an ossuary (a burial box for bones) with the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" in Aramaic was brought to light in November 2002, it received worldwide attention. The possibility that this artifact was the ossuary of a brother of Jesus of Nazareth and thus the first archaeological discovery of a link to Jesus and his family, captured the imagination of many. Now Shanks (editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, where he first published an article on the subject) and Witherington (New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary) have supplied us with a most interesting and helpful book on the subject. In Part 1, Shanks recounts the questions the find brought, the arguments pro and con concerning the genuineness of the box, and the arguments in support of the claim that the Jesus mentioned in the inscription was the Jesus of Nazareth of New Testament fame. In Part 2, Witherington acquaints us with the life of James. He examines legends about him, the argument that he was a cousin rather than the brother of Jesus, and, finally, what impact this discovery might have for the question of the historical Jesus. Both authors do a thorough and balanced job with the subject matter. The enormous interest in the subject, both by scholars and the general public, makes this book an essential purchase for libraries of all sizes.-David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
- Library Journal