Cheryl Gress Editor-in-Chief

3 minutes reading time (573 words)

Finding Jesus: Fact. Faith. Forgery.

Thank you St. Martin's press for sending us a review copy of this book!

CNN is doing a six-part series titled Finding Jesus and it discusses prominent figures and relics associated with Jesus and Christianity.  Finding Jesus: Fact. Faith. Forgery. is the companion book written by David Gibson and Michael McKinley.  The book covers John the Baptist's role and remains, The James Ossuary, Mary Magdalene's roles and remains,  the Gospel of Judas, the True Cross, and the Shroud and Sudarium.  

Each chapter discusses the relic or person's history, significance and authenticity.  According to the book, early churches were required to possess a relic in order to be considered credible.   The black market for Christian relics thrived then and it's still alive and well in the twenty-first century.  There are many verified hoaxes when it comes to bones of supposed prophets.  While some churches unknowingly acquired pig bones, other churches like one in Bulgaria, has a bone  from a Middle Eastern man.  Could it really be from John the Baptist?

The James Ossuary is another hot topic for several reasons.  Since Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin, how could Jesus have a brother named James as the ossuary claims? The Catholic author(s?) suggests that Jesus had step brothers from a possible previous marriage of Joseph's.  The relic itself is a bit questionable since the inscription has two different authors and writing styles.   While the ossuary is genuine, the inscription on it could very well be fake.  The forgery was taken to court, but the accused forger was acquitted.

The gnostic gospels are brought up on two occasions with the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife.  The Gospel of Judas paints the relationship of Jesus and Judas in a different light and shows them working together on the betrayal instead of it being one-sided as the other gospels proclaim.  The gospel claiming that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife is just as sketchy with many words and context missing from the text used to base this argument on.   While that argument isn't very convincing, the book suggests that Mary Magdalene could have been the woman who had demons expelled from her, and possibly the adulterer that Jesus pardoned.  

The last chapter of the book discusses the mysterious Shroud of Turin and it's accompanying Sudarium from Oviedo.  Both of these burial clothes are cherished relics and believed to be used on Jesus's body.  The Shroud of Turin has a faint image of a bearded man with blood markings matching the wounds of the crucifixion and piercings from scripture.  When combined with the Sudarium from Oviedo, the blood markings match up perfectly.  Forensically, the Shroud of Turin hits a homerun, but when it comes to the carbon dating it's inconclusive.  Some of the carbon dating results show the samples to be from the renaissance.  This can be attributed to mishandling or repairs made to it after it nearly got destroyed in a fire.  One thing that the Shroud of Turin is not, is a photograph or a painting because of the 3D impression left on it.  

Finding Jesus: Fact. Faith. Forgery. is a fascinating read regardless if you have seen the CNN special or not.  I haven't seen it, but i have thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The hard cover edition lists for $26.99 but I have seen it for less than $20 online and even cheaper digitally.

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