Bible Review 19:3, June 2003
James, the Brother of Jesus


The recently publicized bone box, or ossuary, inscribed in Aramaic, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” has captivated scholars as well as the lay community of Jews and Christians all over the world. The day after it was first revealed to the public by our sister magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, it appeared on the front page of every major newspaper in the United States and abroad, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune. Whether the inscription on the side of the box refers to the James and the Jesus continues to be hotly debated. Whatever the outcome, however, it is bringing Jesus’ brother James out of the shadows.

Until now, James has been little known, even to scholars. Indeed, in the New Testament itself we find only subtle hints of James’s prominence scattered about the text.

In “Bringing James Out of the Shadows,” Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary uses careful detective work to piece together a fuller portrait of James, the first leader of the church. Then, in “Where Was James Buried?,” Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor of the École Biblique et Archéologique evaluates ancient extrabiblical descriptions of James’s death (and afterlife) to determine whether they shed light on how and where he was buried.—Ed.

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