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Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts: Revised and Updated

Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts: Revised and Updated

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by John Dominic Crossan, Jonathan L. Reed

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The premier historical Jesus scholar joins a brilliant archaeologist to illuminate the life and teaching of Jesus against the background of his world.

There have been phenomenal advances in the historical understanding of Jesus and his world and times, but also huge, lesser known advances in first–century Palestine


The premier historical Jesus scholar joins a brilliant archaeologist to illuminate the life and teaching of Jesus against the background of his world.

There have been phenomenal advances in the historical understanding of Jesus and his world and times, but also huge, lesser known advances in first–century Palestine archaeology that explain a great deal about Jesus, his followers, and his teachings. This is the first book that combines the two and it does it in a fresh, accessible way that will interest both biblical scholars and students and also the thousands of lay readers of Biblical Archaeology Review (150,000+ circulation), National Geographic, and other archaeology and ancient history books and magazines. Each chapter of the book focuses on a major modern archaeological or textual discovery and shows how that discovery opens a window onto a major feature of Jesus's life and teachings.

Editorial Reviews

Historical Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan teams up with Galilean field archeologist Jonathan Reed to investigate the ten most significant archeological digs and the light they cast on the historical and biblical record. The sites explored include: the house of the apostle Peter at Capernaum, the location of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the "Crucified Man" of Jerusalem, and the fishing boat from the Sea of Galilee. This unique approach to the study of the historical Jesus is both a fascinating tour of his world and a testament to the ordeal he faced at the hands of Rome.
Karen Armstrong
This is a fascinating and exhilarating study, which breathes new life into the quest for the historical Jesus.
Eric Meyers
Linking ground and gospel, archaeology and exegesis, Excavating Jesus offers a unique glimpse into the world of Jesus.
Michael Coogan
An original, nuanced synthesis of archaeological finds and textual exegesis, one that is rich in insights and in provocative interpretations.
William G. Deever
Comprehensive, expertly integrated, and powerfully illuminating...in keeping with the best of current archaeological theory and method.
Publishers Weekly
In his monumental The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, Crossan brilliantly challenged conventional historical Jesus scholarship. Using social-scientific and literary critical methods, he uncovered the layers of the Jesus traditions in the Gospels, excavating not an eschatological prophet preaching a future divine kingdom, but an itinerant Galilean peasant preaching a kingdom based on "commensality," or the just distribution of food. Many critics disagreed violently with Crossan, contending that his book was full of outlandish assertions. Now Crossan partners with archeologist Reed to demonstrate the material basis of his earlier textual arguments. With exceptional skill, the authors weave a spellbinding tale of the ways that recent archaeological finds support the rich textual layers of the Gospel stories. For example, Crossan and Reed show the radical nature of Jesus' kingdom of itinerancy and commensality by using the archeology of Herod's palace to demonstrate that his meals, far from the all-encompassing feasts associated with earlier temples, had become elite affairs. Jesus' invitations to the marginalized and outcast to sit at the table flew in the face of this social and political structure. Like any other book that uses archeology to support its claims about biblical texts, this one will be criticized for using material remains to read the Bible in a particular way. However, Crossan and Reed's book provides a fascinating, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the life and times of Jesus, providing readers with one of the richest glimpses into Jesus and his world now available. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
“First-century Palestine comes alive here...another winner for Crossan.”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“Lucid arguments, elegant prose, beautiful illustrations and skillful weaving of academic disciplines...will edify everyone who reads it.”

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Chapter One

Layers upon Layers upon Layers

Modern Nazareth is a thriving tourist and pilgrimage city. Known as the hometown of Jesus, tourists flock there to see where Jesus grew up and to eat the best falafel in Israel. Sightseers haggle with vendors hawking trinkets and crafts in the market, and pilgrims stream into the church that commemorates the spot where the archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary Jesus' divine conception. Inside the modern church complex, in Franciscan custody, contemporary mosaics from around the globe portray Mary and the infant Jesus in the native dress and with the facial features of the country that commissioned them. Those representations surround the austere and imposing Basilica of the Annunciation, built in the 1960s atop an ancient grotto, presumably where Gabriel spoke to Mary. Inside the Basilica, stone walls and stained glass protect orderly chant, quiet meditation, and fragrant incense from the scenes outside, scenes not always serene or irenic.

Nazareth is a loud and noisy city, chaotic and bustling, a mix of Palestinian Christians and Muslims in a large lower city, and Jews of Russian, Ethiopic, and other origins in the upper city, called Nazeret Ilit. Earlier a remarkable model of peaceful coexistence, after the broken peace process Nazareth was marred by violence and arson. A year earlier the construction of a new mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation spurred tensions between Christians and Muslims, conflicts exacerbated by accusations of Israeli mismanagement and daily protests. Israel's Ministry of justice justcompleted a large glass, metal, and concrete structure to administer judgments and render verdicts. Built in modern architectural style on top of a knoll, it overlooks the lower city's rooftop clutter of antennae and satellite dishes, drying laundry and water tanks.

Jackhammers pound and drills hum at construction sites everywhere, although the new megahotels anticipating a surge in visitors following the year 2000's papal pilgrimage stand mostly vacant today. John Paul II's visit did stimulate municipal action to allocate funds for the expansion and repavement of the main street that winds through downtown Nazareth so that, where cars once double-parked and choked traffic in exhaust and bottlenecks, cars and vans now triple-park and do the same.

Modern Nazareth is a unique city, a place that must be seen, smelled, and experienced. Its sounds and sights are part Middle Eastern, with Arabic calls to prayer and male heads wrapped in kefilas; part Israeli, with Egged tourist buses, cell phones, and skullcaps; part European and Japanese, with Mercedes taxis and Isuzu pickup trucks, brown Franciscan habits and Fuji film; and part American, with Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants and boys in Lakers jerseys.

Twenty-first-century Nazareth contrasts starkly with first-century Nazareth. Twenty centuries of history separate the former from the latter, and layers upon layers of occupational debris are stacked atop the ancient site. Twenty centuries of architectural construction, renovation, and demolition have obliterated much of the first-century Jewish hamlet. To get a glimpse of Jesus' Nazareth, you have to cut through many layers superimposed on it. But as you get closer, pay careful attention to the complex layering. The closer you get to the first century, the more difficult it is to distinguish earlier from later, but the more crucial becomes that separation, test evidence from the later second, third, or fourth centuries be mistaken for that from the earlier first-century village. An archaeological sketch of first-century Nazareth begins with those later layers not only because that is how the archaeologist's spade and trowel expose them, but also so that they can be clearly delineated from the earlier layers. Later deposits need to be peeled off cautiously, their debris must be sifted carefully for first-century artifacts uprooted from their context, and the later structures' impact on those underneath must be assessed. To expose first-century Nazareth, continuities and discontinuities between earlier and later layers must be discerned in a complex multilayered excavation. We begin therefore, with Nazareth's broader Galilean context and an overview of the historical periods that shaped its archaeological characteristics.

Byzantine Period (mid-fourth to seventh century C.E.). The stratigraphic layers from this period in Galilee were profoundly affected by the emperor Constantine the Great's conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. In subsequent centuries, this fueled a steady influx of pilgrims, imperial finances, and architects, who transformed the Jewish homeland into the Christian Holy Land with churches, shrines, and monasteries. Galilee's Jewish population responded with more elaborate — but mostly internal — artistry in synagogues. But the period is characterized by a gradual decline in the material culture's quality: houses are less well constructed and local pottery is coarser and less well fired.

Middle and Late Roman Periods (second to mid-fourth century C.E.). The layers of these periods are characterized by Galilee's incorporation into the Roman province of Palestina. After the two Jewish wars with Rome in 66-74 and 132-35, numerous refugees from Judea and Jerusalem migrated to Galilee, and Rome permanently stationed a legion nearby to prevent further unrest. Two forces were at work in these layers: first, there was considerable population growth and the synagogue developed as the replacement of the Temple in Jewish religion. And second, Roman policy accelerated urbanization to facilitate control and taxation; as a result, public architecture at larger sites was redeveloped, and international trade increased.

Early Roman Period (mid-first century B.C.E. to first century C.E.). Herod the Great's Roman-sponsored kingdom building (37-4 B.C.E.) dominates this layer across the Jewish homeland, sometimes called the "Herodian Period." His son Herod Antipas urbanized Galilee (4 B.C.E.-39 C.E.) and introduced Greco-Roman urban architecture there with the building of Sepphoris and Tiberias. But there and elsewhere Jewish self-expression in domestic life is common and widespread. Towns and villages share a simple architecture, but well-fired pottery was being produced at several kilns. Some evidence of trade...

Excavating Jesus. Copyright © by John Dominic Crossan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus at DePaul University, is widely regarded as the foremost historical Jesus scholar of our time. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Historical Jesus, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian, God and Empire, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Greatest Prayer, The Last Week, and The Power of Parable. He lives in Minneola, Florida.

Jonathan L Reed is a leading authority on the archaeology of early Christianity and has excavated in Galilee since 1987. He has conducted research at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the American Academy in Rome, and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. He is author of Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus and has co-authored with John Dominic Crossan two bestselling books, Excavating Jesus and In Search of Paul. He is professor of New Testament at the University of La Verne and is on the research council of Claremont Graduate University's world-renowned Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, where he is directing their Galilean Archaeology and the Historical Jesus project.

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Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts: Revised and Updated 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The e-edition is without the images in the hard copy publication. That is unfortunate and detracts from the value of the work. Otherwise the ebook is the same as the hard copy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
EXCAVATING JESUS is a very ambitious book. In order to fully appreciate the depth and seriousness of the effort it is essential to gain a good understanding of the authors' methods of research as described in the book's Introduction. The most important thing I am learning from Crossan and Reed is that there is much more left to be uncovered about the historical Jesus. What I see in Crossman and Reed's studies are the possibilities for futher explorations. However, I am sure they will be the first to admit that their approach may be refined in the future as more progress is made in archaelogical finds and textual exegesis. The authors emphasize the itinerancy and commensality of the earliest Christians. Their theories are based on the existence of the Q Gospel and the independence of the Gospel of Thomas. In the future both of these assumptions may be altered due to additional discoveries. Meanwhile their greatest contribution may be simply in showing us the possibilities that lie in relentlessly digging for the truth.
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