Stones talk. The ground speaks to us of history and events. So do words. Can the two work hand in hand to combine physical and oral history? What do they, archaeology and the written word, say about the historical Jesus? Excavating Jesus has at its heart this sole purpose: to integrate archaeology and gospel. Two people, one an experienced field archaeologist, the other a scholar of Jesus, attempt tot race the truth of each aspect back through time and stone, through parchment and artifact.
Excavating Jesus digs beneath the surface to reconstruct the time and social environment in which Jesus lived. It attempts to identify, reconstruct and interpret both archaeological and theological data to determine an accurate vision of the world of Jesus and the gospels. Ten top discoveries are heavily relied upon to classify the most important factors in modern endeavors to explore and unveil the mystery of Jesus and his time. Five of these specific artifacts can already be directly linked to the text of the gospels. The second set of discoveries come in what the authors designate as "pairs". These pairs are combined to illustrate visible points of interest to the Biblical and archaeological scholar, and are explored in depth.
One of the first objects mentioned and lectured upon is the ossuary of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas (an ossuary is a box made of soft limestone in which the bones of the deceased were reburied after decomposition took place). The second object discussed at length is what is known as "the Pilate Inscription," discovered in 1962, an inscription that validates the existence of Pontius Pilate in the New Testament. The third artifact commented upon is the house of the Apostle Peter. First discovered in 1906, it is stated as fact that a Byzantine church was converted from "the house of the chief of the apostles." Among other artifacts examined within this highly researched book is the "Galilee Boat" and the crucified skeleton of a man believed to be known as Yehochanan, a man crucified at about the same time as Jesus. From these artifacts to more far-reaching cities, Excavating Jesus takes the reader on a journey to Caesarea Maritima and Jerusalem, the cities of Herod the Great. From there, the reader ventures to Sepphoris and Tiberius, the cities of Herod Antipas. Then on to Masada and Qumran, the relics of Jewish Resistance.
Combining knowledge, artifacts and histories discovered of a physical nature, and documents and writings of an intellectual nature, authors John Dominic Crossan (Who is Jesus?, The Birth of Christianity) and Jonathan L. Reed (Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus) attempt to prove that the written word of both paper and stone combine to illustrate the truth of each. All these discoveries are impressive when studied separately, but when combined, the reader comes away with an extremely in-depth understanding of how the two indeed go hand in hand to authenticate both archaeological and biblical research.
Excavating Jesus is not a book that will read fast; there is much information to digest within its pages. Aided by visual descriptions, photos and drawings, this book is nevertheless a great study in biblical history and archaeological method. While some may not agree with the ultimate opinions of the two authors, the information inside the covers certainly provokes much thought and introspection. Smooth writing styles and interesting narrative take the sting out of much of the research notated within, making for an illuminating and extremely enjoyable read.