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A: An internationally known archeologist, this professor will give clues on 'Jeopardy!' this Friday

McCane on NatGeo
2009-11-11

Q: Who is Dr. Byron R. McCane, professor of religion at Wofford?

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Tune in to “Jeopardy!” this Friday night (7:30 p.m. Nov. 13). You may not know all the questions to the answers posed in this final game of the annual Teen Tournament, but you may see a familiar face.

In the spirit of the answer-then-question format of the show:

Answer: An internationally known archeologist, this professor will give clues on the national game show “Jeopardy!” airing on Friday.

Question: Who is Dr. Byron R. McCane, the Albert C. Outler Professor of Religion and chair of the department of religion at Wofford College?


McCane, also an archeologist, will be offering up the clues – up to three – in a category about an upcoming National Geographic documentary in which the professor also is featured. That documentary – “The First Jesus?” – is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, on the National Geographic channel (Channel 50/Channel 762 HD on Charter Cable).

“Jeopardy!” can be seen on WLOS, Channel 13/Channel 713 HD on Charter Cable.

McCane, who has appeared in other nationally televised documentaries for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, taped three “answers” for the “Jeopardy!” program in May while he was in Israel for 10 days filming for the NatGeo documentary.

“I was having dinner with the producer of the documentary, and quite matter-of-factly, he said they wanted me to do the ‘Jeopardy!’ clues but he wasn’t sure I was interested,” McCane says. “Well, of course, I was interested! Who wouldn’t be? And it was such fun to do.”

McCane says everything was “super secret. I was sworn to secrecy that I had even taped the clues until yesterday (Tuesday), when I was told that it would air on Friday. They handed me the clues right before I taped, and took them back immediately afterward.” He says he can’t remember now exactly what the clues, or the corresponding questions, were, so he’ll be watching himself on Friday.

He wasn’t sure whether all three clues he taped would be used, or just one or two.

McCane also will have to wait until the Nov. 20 airing of “The First Jesus?” to see the finished product. “We did all of the filming in May, but I haven’t seen the full documentary yet. I’ve seen clips and some of the script, for fact-checking, but I haven’t seen the entire program.”

“The First Jesus?” is a documentary about a recently discovered three-foot-tall stone tablet – the Jeselsohn Stone – hailed by some scholars as a “Dead Sea Scroll on stone,” that may speak of an early Messiah and his resurrection – before Jesus. Some say the story of Simon of Peraea on the tablet served as the prototype of a Messiah for Jesus and his followers. “Could this tablet shake up the basic premise of Christianity?” the documentary asks.

McCane says he serves as the skeptic in the program. “We don’t have the archeological context for the Jeselsohn Stone, which severely limits the interpretation of it.”

The stone’s interpretation is “an apocalyptic vision of the end of time which is typical of Jewish apocalyptic literature of the time of Jesus,” McCane says. “The provocative claim that the inscription references a Messiah dying and raising from the dead three days later – before Christ – would be the first reference of such an event before Jesus. The portion of the inscription on the stone that is supposed to refer to ‘in three days rise’ is illegible.”

McCane says the documentary – a mixture of re-enactment, visits to historical sites and interviews or conversations with experts – “does a good job of taking the general public into the world of scholarship and archeology. It shows how we cope with and weigh evidence and deal with especially provocative claims. More generally, it shows how scholars go about our business, and how, when new discoveries appear, we respond to it and arrive at logical conclusions about it.”

Read more about the documentary and view the video trailer.

View a video interview with Dr. McCane.