RE: Ossuary with the name of Jesus on it

From: Adrian Teo (
Date: Fri Oct 25 2002 - 03:08:56 EDT

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    Hello Preston,

            You asked:
            The ossuary in question is supposed to be that of "James the son of
            Joseph, the brother of Jesus." In the newspaper account of this, it
            was indicated that the Catholic church maintains that "James, the
            brother of Jesus" means "cousin." Do any of the language experts here
            know if there is any linguistic basis for this claim, or is it just a
            doctrinal necessity?

            AT: As with many newspaper account, the report on the
    Catholic position is inaccurate. The Catholic church has never
    claimed that James was a cousin of Jesus. The only claim she makes is
    that Mary had no other children, which is an ancient tradition as
    attested to by the early church fathers (Luther also concurred, if I
    remember correctly). The suggestion that James was a cousin came from
    Jerome in the 4th century, because there is no word for "cousin" or
    "relative" in Aramiac, and therefore "brother" was used. However,
    there is an older tradition that dates back to the 2nd century, as
    recorded in the Protoevangelium of James, which claims that James was
    a son of Joseph from a previous marriage. This is more consistent
    with the idea that Joseph was much older than Mary and likely died
    before Jesus began His public ministry.

            Another thing is that Jesus, Joseph and James were fairly
    common names, and we have no way of knowing for sure if they refer to
    the ones we are thinking about. I think some people are making too
    big a deal out of this find.



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