Book Review: Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence by Craig Evans
In a recent review of Craig A. Evans’ Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence, a blogger condemned the book for not proving that Jesus existed. However, if the critic had read the first page of the work, he would have noted that Evans himself never posited that it would achieve that goal. The author writes that, while archaeology sometimes proves things, “often what archaeologists uncover is not so much proof but clarification” (1).
This is what Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada, offers in his book. He discusses a variety of discoveries that provide the backdrop for a number of first-century New Testament locations, practices and events including Christ’s death and burial. In doing so, he heightens our understanding of the culture of that era and, consequently, our understanding of the Bible.
In a lengthy introduction, Evans presents examples of how archaeology has addressed the arguments of minimalists including those of Canadian author Tom Harpur who, being convinced that Jesus is merely a mythical figure, has taken “the ultimate minimalist position” (4). He offers a bit of information about the discipline of archaeology and how modern technology such as Ground Penetrating Sonar and Neutron Activation Analysis has aided researchers in their work.
Chapter 1, entitled In the Shadow of Sepphoris: Growing up in Nazareth, includes details about agriculture, dwellings, roads and surrounding cities that suggest the town in which Jesus grew up was not a sleepy little backwater village as some believe. Evans addresses the issue of whether Christ was a Cynic as Jesus Seminar pundit John Dominic Crossan maintains. Cynics were an unkempt, rough lot that Crossan referred to as the hippies of their generation. Evans notes the similarities with Jesus are few and superficial, using archaeological information to support his argument…
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