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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land » User review

Asks interesting questions . . .

  • Jul 27, 2008
  • by
. . . but many questions remain.

I'll be honest. I've never considered Nina Burleigh as anything more than a second-rate (at best) writer -- one whose credibility was seriously compromised by her untoward suggestion toward the former President, because of her approval of his "choice" policies. Further, her writing over the last several years has exhibited a decided "trend" toward a political and social point of view . . . whether realistic or not.

In other words . . . I have long questioned her legitimate objectivity.

THIS BEING SAID . . . as a professional in the field, I thought that Burleigh had a number of important things to say, and has clearly blown the lid off of what is (arguably) the greatest fraud since the "Piltdown Man". She has certainly done her homework. I give her full marks for that.

HOWEVER . . . Burleigh describes herself as "nonreligious". This is a disingenuous position. Actually, she is "anti-religious" and this position comes through in a number of places in this book -- greatly to its detriment. She tends to over-categorize religious believers (Jewish, Christian, OR Muslim) as fundamentalist fanatics . . . regardless of the actual facts of the matter. She also makes some key "definition" mistakes which would lead the non religious reader to suspect that ALL religious persons believe position "A" or position "B" -- based on her own non (anti) religious views.

Burleigh is to be commended for a number of things. She is clearly trying to do good research. This is evident. She has made efforts to contact and observe primary sources. This is also commendable. BUT . . . her own non(anti)religious bias is far too clear.

For the record, I am a Roman Catholic; a convert to Catholicism; trained on both the undergraduate and graduate level in history. No one who knows me, or has listened to my lectures, can call me either a "fundamentalist" OR someone completely consumed by modern "higher criticism". I have never believed - and this belief predates my conversion - but not my academic training by an excellent professor/archeologist (who was neither a conservative, nor a fundamentalist) that the "James" ossuary was EVER legitimate.

I do have to make a few other comments. I realize that that the copy of this book which I received as a VINE contributor was an uncorrected proof . . . but I also respect that the professional editors read these reviews! To that end, I need to point out that the Roman destruction of Jerusalem took place in AD (CE) 70 -- NOT in 63, as is suggested at least two times. The editing is not consistent. Neither is the spelling of of the King of Judah Jehoash/Joash. Whatever spelling is used . . . it needs to be consistent.

To summarize . . . the book was far better than I expected . . . being far more of an expert on the subject than the author.

BUT . . . this book needs TREMENDOUS editing before being ready for the general public.

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More Unholy Business: A True Tale o... reviews
review by . August 17, 2008
In the hands of another author, this could have been a very different book -- a sort of "C.S.I. Jerusalem" in which teams of scientists pore over the James Ossuary and other artifacts in a race to determine their authenticity, while theologians and journalists argue over what that authenticity might mean for Jewish and Christian history and faith.    That's not the book Nina Burleigh wrote, however. Indeed, you don't even have to crack the spine to know the James Ossuary is a …
review by . August 04, 2008
Though Unholy Business has the potential to be a riveting read, it falls far short with its disjointed approach to storytelling. The author bounces back and forth through time and introduces a dizzying array of similarly named characters in the process. In the beginning, I found myself flipping back to previous chapters just to track the chain of events and people involved. The complicated story of this massive fraud often seemed to take a back seat to the author's opinion of the reasons behind …
review by . August 03, 2008
I obtained this book because I am interested in the controversy surrounding the James ossuary, the inscribed limestone box that may have held the bones of James, brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem Christians after Jesus' death on the cross. I remember when the bone box came to the Royal Ontario Museum I considered going to see it, and, like millions of other people who found the box highly significant, I wondered if it really was genuine. I later learned the man who owned the box, Oded …
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David Zampino ()
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I am a 44-year-old historian and theologian.
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Starred Review. In November 2002, the public display of an ossuary (an ancient burial vessel) inscribed James, the brother of Jesus, sent ripples of excitement, doubt and consternation through both the religious and scholarly worlds. But when scholars took a close look, they declared the inscription a forgery based on the lack of provenance and a tremendous disparity between the physical writing of the word James and the rest of the inscription. In her captivating chronicle, veteran journalist Burleigh (Mirage) enters a dark world full of shady dealings, illicit collectors and monomaniacal archeologists. Along the way we meet an improbable cast of characters, including Oded Golan, the ossuary's owner; André Lemaire, an epigraphist who early on testified to the authenticity of the ossuary's inscription; Shlomo Moussaieff, a billionaire collector with a warehouse full of artifacts of uncertain value; and Israel Finkelstein, a maverick Israeli archeologist who questions the historicity of many biblical events. Burleigh draws readers in from page one and brilliantly captures the compelling debates about archeology's relationship to narratives of faith.(Nov.)
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ISBN-10: 0061458457
ISBN-13: 978-0061458453
Author: Nina Burleigh
Genre: Arts & Photography, Science
Publisher: Smithsonian
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