Since the early 4th century, Christian pilgrims and visitors to Judea and Galilee have worshipped at and been inspired by monumental churches erected at sites traditionally connected with the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. This book examines the history and archaeology of early Christian holy sites and traditions connected with specific places in order to understand them as interpretations of Jesus and to explore them as instantiations of memories of him.
Ryan's overarching aim is to construe these places as instantiations of what historian Pierre Nora has called “lieux de mémoires,” sites where memory crystallizes and, where possible, to track the course and development of the traditions underlying them from their genesis in the Gospel narratives to their eventual solidification in the form of pilgrimage sites. So doing will bring rarely considered evidence to the study of early Christian memory, which in turn helps to illuminate the person of Jesus himself in both history and reception.
In this informative study, Jordan J. Ryan analyzes a number of Christian sites in the Holy Land, paying special attention to how, with the construction of the early commemorative churches, the memory of Jesus was transformed into 'a kind of experiential gospel'. A frequent visitor to the Holy Land and someone with a deep appreciation of these sites, the author writes from experience and puts his mastery of the relevant literary sources to good use. What could have easily ended up as a collage of personal experiences and disjointed observations is given a strong and coherent framework, with the author maintaining focus on the reception and interpretation of 'key life-of-Jesus events' [...] This monograph is a labor of love, written by someone with a deep investment in the subject. In the introductory chapter, Ryan sets out the principal agenda: to examine the commemorative churches 'as instantiations of reception and memory'; to consider how these spaces 'were experienced by worshippers and pilgrims'; and to pay attention to the roles they 'played in Jewish-Christian relations and in the intersection of Jewish and Christian traditions and concerns'. All of these objectives, and much more, are accomplished in this remarkable book. * Olegs Andrejevs, Loyola University Chicago, USA, for John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. *