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Resurrecting the Brother of Jesus

The James Ossuary Controversy and the Quest for Religious Relics

Edited by Ryan Byrne and Bernadette McNary-Zak

Publication Year: 2009

In 2002 a burial box of skeletal remains purchased anonymously from the black market was identified as the ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus. Transformed by the media into a religious and historical relic overnight, the artifact made its way to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where 100,000 people congregated to experience what had been prematurely and hyperbolically billed as the closest tactile connection to Jesus yet unearthed. Within a few months, however, the ossuary was revealed to be a forgery. ###Resurrecting the Brother of Jesus# offers a critical evaluation of the popular and scholarly reception of the James Ossuary as it emerged from the dimness of the antiquities black market to become a Protestant relic in the media’s custody.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book is one of the products of a collaborative teaching and learning e√ort in the Department of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in the spring of 2004. Seeking a way to work interdepartmentally and to provide an upper-level research opportunity for our students, four of this volume’s authors created a seminar course...

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pp. 1-18

Thus ran the cover of the popular newsstand magazine Biblical Archaeology Review (bar) in the autumn of 2002.1 In a private antiquities collection, Sorbonne professor Andre Lemaire had discovered an Aramaic inscription on an ancient Jewish ossuary—a burial box for skeletal remains—that read, ‘‘Jacob [James] son of...

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Archaeological Context and Controversy: The Bones of James Unpacked

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pp. 19-30

The October 2002 issue of the popular magazine Biblical Archaeology Review featured a cover story on the James Ossuary, in which epigrapher André Lemaire asserted: ‘‘It seems very probable that this is the ossuary of the James in the New Testament. If so, this would also mean that we have here the first epigraphic mention—from about 63 ce—of Jesus of Nazareth.’’1 This highly extraordinary claim...

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The Brother of Jesus in Toronto

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pp. 31-58

At the Royal Ontario Museum (rom) in Toronto, Ontario, o≈cials regularly receive ‘‘all sorts of strange inquiries,’’ according to Ed Keall, former head of the museum’s Department of Near Eastern and Asian Civilizations. Thus, Keall initially regarded the call he received in October 2002 from Hershel Shanks, editor and publisher of the Biblical Archaeology Review (bar) as just another...

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Finding True Religion in the James Ossuary: The Conundrum of Relics in Faith Narratives

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pp. 59-72

An ossuary is a religious relic due to its function in a religious ritual involving the domestic care of the remains of a dead loved one by Jews and Jewish Christians in Jerusalem in the first century. Performed on the first anniversary of death, the ritual was a form of secondary burial in which the bones of the deceased were gathered from a temporary grave and deposited into an ossuary that was...

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Christian Artifacts in Documentary Film: The Case of the James Ossuary

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pp. 73-136

On July 4, 2003, I sat in my yard watching fireworks, enjoying food and casual conversation with my neighbors. I had moved into the neighborhood only a week prior, so this block party was a prime occasion for conversations to turn to origins and occupations. ‘‘Where are you from?’’ and ‘‘What do you do?’’ were the inevitable questions. This is a precarious moment. When I answer the occupation question, the ensuing conversation often turns to recent television documentaries...

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Anatomy of a Cargo Cult: Virginity, Relic Envy, and Hallowed Boxes

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pp. 137-186

The box reads, ‘‘Ya¿aqob son of Yosef, brother of Yeshua.’’ The epigraph is a statement and, like most statements, is vulnerable to what Roland Barthes described as the ‘‘death of author.’’ The James Ossuary has entered into our popular lexicon not only for what it says, but also for what its interpreters say it says. When the Royal Ontario...

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Overcoming the James Ossuary and the Legacy of Biblical Archaeology

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pp. 187-206

Like the other archaeologists and biblical scholars, I had to see the greatest archaeological discovery ever on display in the Royal Ontario Museum (rom). We were in Toronto for the 2002 annual meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research and Society of Biblical Literature, and we all made the pilgrimage. Coming up the stairs from the Toronto Transit Commission’s metro station, I saw a throng...

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Epilogue: Objects, Faith, and Archaeoporn

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pp. 207-210

Six years after its display in Toronto, the James Ossuary phenomenon remains a unique case study for scholars of religion, a cautionary tale for archaeologists, and a point of contention among some faith communities. What makes ossuaries resonant as artifacts with potential religious power or insight is not merely the fact...


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pp. 211-215

E-ISBN-13: 9781469604787
E-ISBN-10: 1469604787
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807832981
Print-ISBN-10: 0807832987

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009