THE BROTHER OF JESUS: The Dramatic Story & Significance of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus and His Family

Hershel Shanks, Author, Ben Witherington, III, Author . Harper San Francisco $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-055660-0

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 James's 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 box's 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 book's 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 ossuary's 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.

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
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