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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact and Forgery (Episode 4) – The Secret Brother of Jesus airs Sunday (3/15) @ 9:00 PM ET on CNN.
Synopsis (from a CNN press release): In 2002, an ancient burial box is  unveiled  to  an  astonished  world.  The  casket,  known  as  an  ossuary,  bears a tantalizing inscription ‘James, son of  Joseph, brother of Jesus.’ It is immediately hailed as one of the most important religious relics ever found – the only material evidence of Jesus’ and his family’s existence on earth. But the ossuary is immediately shrouded in controversy: although it is carbon dated to the 1st  century, has Jesus’ name been added in later years or is it authentic? The box also triggers another question among those unfamiliar with the lesser-­-known figures in the Bible: Who was James?

 
Revisiting the pages of the New Testament, we’ll discover the remarkable but largely overlooked story of Jesus’s brother James. Through the eyes of the man who grows up alongside Jesus but who refuses to accept that his brother is the Messiah, we reveal a new perspective on Jesus’s own life, death and Resurrection. Although not one of Jesus’ original twelve Apostles, James himself is transformed into a believer when Jesus appears to him after He has risen. James then emerges as the leader of the fledgling movement in Jerusalem for 30 years, with many now arguing that without him Jesus’ ministry would have died with Him on the cross. James’ devotion to the cause eventually leads him, like his brother, into the hands of the Jewish priesthood, who take matters into their own hands and stone him to death.
 
The  remarkable story  of  James,  and  how  he  came  to  be  hidden  from  history,  paints  a  wider  picture  about  the traumatic evolution of the early Church, whose identity is forged at the dangerous outer margins of the Roman Empire, and subjected to the white-­-hot heat of imperial rule.
Mini-Review: While the question of whether the ancient box in question is really his casket, the provocative title of this fourth episode of the six-part series more or less matter-of-factly states that James was, in fact, the brother of Jesus. That’s a belief of many Protestants and it appears to be held by just about all the experts offering insights during the program. An exception being the Jesuit priest Father James Martin who suggests that James may have been Joseph’s son from a previous marriage — and, therefore, Jesus’ stepbrother. That’s not surprising since Catholic teaching and many Protestants have disagreed on the question of Mary and Joseph had children together after Jesus was born.
While the documentary makes a pretty good case that it’s at least possible that Mary had more than one child, as a Catholic who is far from an expert on such things, I’ll sit out the debate. All I know is that, as believer in Jesus, one way or the other it doesn’t shake my faith. As for the scientific question of whether James’ alleged burial box is a forgery or not, the evidence is interesting but inconclusive.
Regardless of one’s opinion on either question, the documentary’s emphasis on the fact that the early followers of Christ were Jewish makes any historic and/or modern-day anti-Semitism on the part of Christians seem all the more absurd.
As a whole, the whole program is pretty interesting and is Recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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