- Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans
This collection of revised and expanded essays by renowned Canadian NT scholar Craig A. Evans avoids the Scylla and Charybdis of undue scepticism and the odd mixture between naivety and sensationalism which often characterise the popular discussion of archaeology and early Christianity. Evans combines in a masterful way research on the historical Jesus with recent advances and discoveries in archaeology in the land of Israel. He aims at showing how “the remains of material culture clarify aspects of the world of Jesus and his first followers” (xiii) and how archaeological discoveries, used responsibly and carefully, make biblical writings come alive. The essays were written between 2005 and 2012. Three studies are published for the first time in this volume.
The brief “Introduction” (1–4) describes changes in biblical archaeology, summarises the following essays, and ends with a short annotated survey of important publications in this field (3f.). Regarding the changes, Evans writes:
Archaeology has matured much in the last half century or so. Part of this is due to the great advances in technology that permit archaeologists to acquire and record data that their predecessors could not have imagined. But part of this maturation is due to changes in thinking and method. Today archaeologists are much more concerned with the bigger picture, the fuller context. Knowing well the lay of the land, the routes of travel, the way the ancients built, the food they ate, the clothes and shoes they wore, the records they kept, how they worshipped, how they viewed one another, and the like, are the kinds of things with which archaeologists are now concerned. We don’t ask if we can find this or prove that.(1)
The essays are as follows: “A Tale of Two Cities: What We Have Learned from Bethsaida and Magdala” (5–28, the discoveries from Bethsaida may shed significant light on some disciples of Jesus), “A Boat, a House, and an Ossuary: What Can We Learn from the Artefacts?” (29–48, [End Page 213] the Kinneret boat, the Capernaum synagogue and the House of Peter, and the ossuary with the contested inscription “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” “The principal value of artefacts and of the archaeology that uncovers, contextualises and interprets them lies in their supplying us with the details of material culture that are presupposed in literary texts but are rarely mentioned and even more rarely explained,” 47).
“Excavating Caiaphas, Pilate, and Simon of Cyrene: Assessing the Literary and Archaeological Evidence” (49–66, two ossuaries and a dedication inscription illustrate what is often involved in making direct links between archaeological discoveries and persons mentioned in ancient texts).
“‘Have You Never Read?’: Jesus and Literacy” (67–89, literary evidence for the literacy of Jesus and a survey of the substantial archaeological evidence for literacy in the Roman Empire, there is evidence that many of the uneducated were also literate; in view of this evidence the literacy of Jesus is plausible and probable).
“Shout at the Devil: Jesus and Psalm 91 in the Light of Early Jewish Interpretation” (91–108, the exorcism psalms of Qumran, Psalm 91 in Greek, in Aramaic, in rabbinic literature, in amulets and other magic texts; the psalm from which Jesus quotes in the temptation narrative was clearly understood as having something to do with Satan and evil spirits; this interpretation was widespread and is not only attested in literary sources but also in several artefacts).
“‘Hang Him on a Tree until Dead’: Hanging and Crucifixion in Second Temple Israel” (109–130, Deut 21:22f. and hanging in the OT, first-century interpretations of the texts on hanging, archaeological evidence of crucifixion during the Hasmonean and Roman periods; the stipulations of Deut 21 not only influenced judicial practice in Judea but its interpretation was itself influenced by the practice of crucifixion; there is a noticeable shift in the understanding of...