Balanced examination of famed and infamous relics connected to the life of Jesus.
In the companion book to CNN’s six-night TV series, Gibson (The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World, 2006, etc.) and McKinley (Hockey Night in Canada: 60 Seasons, 2012, etc.) add to the search for the historical Jesus by exploring the stories behind six artifacts of the Christian faith. In the course of their work, the authors strike a difficult balance between secular objectivity and reverence for the gravity of their subject matter. As they explain in the introduction, “artifacts are, in a way, a rare patch of common ground between skeptics and believers, a place where science and religion can come together, not as foes but as pilgrims on a shared journey—wherever it leads.” Their own journey begins with John the Baptist and the myriad relics claimed to be from among his remains, including no less than two separate heads. The authors then move on to the James Ossuary, or bone box, purported to be the resting place of Jesus’ brother. The authors also examine the recently rediscovered, so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, followed by another scrap of ancient text, the Gospel of Judas. Gibson and McKinley finish with a discussion of the “true cross” of Christ (bits of which are purportedly scattered across the globe) and the famed Shroud of Turin, which has elicited controversy since medieval times. In each case, the authors provide complex scriptural background, historical analysis and the facts behind each case, including the often-complex scientific scrutiny each relic has undergone. Their work forms an intriguing, educational read for both believers and skeptics. The authors do not claim to have found any definitive answers, but they certainly raise meaningful and thoughtful questions.
In a mix of engaging scholarship and gripping storytelling, Gibson and McKinley offer a page-turner for a wide audience.