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Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   368
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.26" Width: 6.12" Height: 0.95"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 25, 2003
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0060616342  
EAN  9780060616342  
UPC  099455019958  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The renowned biblical scholar joins an expert on Middle Eastern archaeology to peel back the layers on the search for the historical Jesus, analyzing the archaeological discoveries of the past centuries that have shed light on this vexing question. Reprint.

Publishers Description

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.

Buy Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts by John Dominic Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780060616342 & 0060616342 upc: 099455019958

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More About John Dominic Crossan & Jonathan L. Reed

John Dominic Crossan John Dominic Crossan is the author of The Historical Jesus (T&T Clark, 1991). He chairs the Historical Jesus section of the Society of Biblical Literature. Luke Timothy Johnson is Woodruff Professor of New Testament at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. The author of a number of best-selling books, he is also editor of the Anchor Study Bible. Werner H. Kelber is Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University.

John Dominic Crossan currently resides in Clermont, in the state of Florida.

John Dominic Crossan has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Biblical Scholarship in North America

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A Helpful Contribution, But Beware  Jul 27, 2007
Perhaps the most exciting development in western religious thought in the past twenty years has been the rise of what is sometimes termed "a new quest for the historical Jesus." The last one, centered in western Europe and America in the early twentieth century, attempted to use archaeological discoveries to "prove" the historicity of Biblical narratives. Given the times, when the piety that had dominated the last half of the nineteenth century was encountering a rising scientific secularism, this is understandable. As secular universities established departments of religion, the form-critical approach to Biblical texts arose. Now that secularism is firmly in the saddle and, while it puts enormous pressure on established religion, it also offers the opportunity to look at the archaeological and textual records through new glasses. In recent years, John Dominic Crossan, along with Marcus Borg, Walter Wink, and others, has led the effort.

What makes the work of Crossan, et al, compelling is their attempt to understand the cultural, religious, political, economic, and philosophical currents that flowed through the time and place of Jesus. Just as archaeologists need to examine artifacts in situ, they attempt to examine Jesus the same way, to the extent that's possible. Excavating Jesus represents the first attempt I've seen to apply archaeological methodology to the Biblical and extra-Biblical texts. The approach is basically this: What conclusions can we honestly draw from the archaeological evidence, and how do those affect our reading of the texts? The most immediate answer is that, just as archaeologists excavate several layers of a site, we must excavate the layers of the texts. At this, Crossan and his collaborator, Jonathan L. Reed, are mostly successful. They should be. It seems to me nonsensical to assert, as many Christians do, that the Biblical writers produced the texts while God guided their hands. The gospels, the epistles, the noncanonical books like Gospel of Thomas all were produced by and for particular communities in particular places at particular times with particular concerns. While this is faithful to human experience, it doesn't deny that a historical Jesus lies behind the texts. Given what we know of the times, he was a Galilean peasant who lived in a country dominated by Greek cultural forms and Roman imperial power. Crossan and Reed ask: Given that reality, what sort of ministry would Jesus have had? Their answer: He would have been an itinerant preacher who proclaimed the Kingdom of God, in contrast to the kingdom of Rome. It was this that: distinguished him from John the him killed by the Romans.....meant that none of his followers were similarly killed.

Makes sense to me. Where the rubber hits the road for anyone trying to understand who Jesus is (or was): The witness to his resurrection. C/R take an approach I have never seen before. They argue that when Constantine located the Church of the Holy Sepulcher over the traditional site of Jesus' death and burial in the fourth century C.E. he got it right. (I agree with them. While in the cemetery below the church, I was overcome with the feeling that this was indeed the spot, something that seldom happens to me.) The question is: Why does the resurrection make any difference? The answer: Because Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of the advent of God's reign of justice and peace. This claim, by the way, makes no sense if we use the traditional meaning of apocalypse: An Armageddon-style end of the world. As they use it, apocalypse is merely the advent of God's Kingdom in the here and now. Jesus' resurrection is the opening act in the apocalypse that fascinates Mark, Luke, Daniel, and Revelation, not to mention countless conservative Christians of our own time.

As is true with many novels, the ending is ultimately a letdown. Apocalypse or no apocalypse, God's Kingdom of justice and peace has obviously not come. James-Christians, Peter-Christians, Paul-Christians all argued with each other to such an extent that Christian communities could not even manifest the Kingdom in their life together. No wonder, they say, pagans turned away and Jews headed back to the synagogue.

Well, maybe. While tensions have always existed between Christians, it's easy to understate or overstate those. C/R overstate them, I think, perhaps blinded by their desire to make a statement about the so-called James Ossuary in this second edition. Given the normal arguments that defined first-century Judaism, most Jews would have felt right at home. Aristocratic pagans had no reason to embrace a faith that was gaining adherents from among the lowest classes of Roman society--slaves, women, the poor. Since C/R love to pose questions and attempt to answer them, here's another: What if Jesus' resurrection were a surprise to HIM? By extension, what if God were up to something greater than even Jesus could fully comprehend until after his resurrection? Far from decrying the negative response of most Jews to Christianity, there is textual evidence that suggests that Christianity supplants Judaism in God's dealings with humankind. It does so because Christianity has the ability to transcend Judaism and appeal across cultures and ethnicities. I don't mean to be anti-semitic, because Judaism can and should exist. But Christianity, it can be argued, did what Palestinian Judaism never could: Embrace all kinds of people in that apocalyptic hope and vision. Even with all of its many, many flaws.
Like any book on the subject...  Mar 6, 2007
Like any book on religion, people's views on the message of the test will be based mostly on their prior notions. In Chapter 1, the book says as much when discussing the James ossuary. Crossan and Reed seek to excavate the archaeology and the text of the Gospels. Crossan is a founding member of the Jesus Seminar, so his interpretation of the Gospels is predictably liberal (theologically). He also quotes from the much-debated Gospel of Thomas and other non-canonical sources. The basic thesis is that the Gospels reflect the biases of the authors (the four evangelists as well as the epistles) retrojected onto the life of Jesus and the early church and that some of the events may not have happened exactly the way that they are written about in the Good Book. On that basis alone, you might already have an opinion of what you'll read. I dare not step into the argument of whether this is the proper hermeneutic to use, as that one never seems to end.

Instead, let me focus on the layout of the book. To me, it's more of a 3.5 star book, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for being on an interesting topic. The content on archaeology itself is pretty good (a little heavy on architecture and light on material culture, but you can't have everything in life). The content on the textual criticism is well-presented and fairly well-argued. The problem is that the authors promised that the two would be synthesized, and they do not deliver. 20 page treatises on ancient architecture in Jerusalem are followed by textual criticism. It's not quite synthesis, but rather the authors alternating turns. Sometimes, it's not clear why a certain piece of architecture was paired with a critique of a certain passage. At times, the text seems to ramble with no specific point. There's enough in here to recommend it as a thought-provoking read, but there's a lot of clutter to cut through.

You'll have to make up your own mind on theological content, but the presentation leaves something to be desired.
Almost Perfect, but Be Careful of this One  Jun 15, 2006
This book, ironically, is filled with information that verifies the Bible as historical fact despite the authors' sneaky attempt to have Jesus appear as just a wise and controversial man (see page 228 where they claim the ressurrection was a myth.)

If you blacked out all the anti-ressurrection comments you'd have a book that supports the Bible as entirely factual (unless I missed something.) It isn't the most attractive book internally (it's not well laid out), and might actually turn saved Christians off to wanting to get to know the Bible better, but for someone with patience you may pull out some new facts as I did, so it is definitely not worthless.

On a side note, reviewer Readalots claims that there is little evidence to support a synagogue being in Nazereth, but he is wrong because there is a huge amount of indirect evidence (such as the Bible having been shown repeatedly to be historically accurate: see my other reviews, including the one on Noah's Flood.)
A New Look @ Jesus  May 31, 2006
Crossan and Reed (C & R) bring an interesting and unusual study with "Excavating Jesus" (2001 paperback). The subtitle of the book suggests that the authors will attempt to search for Jesus "beneath the stones and behind the texts". Their methodology focuses around their so-called "top ten" archaeological discoveries (page 2) and "top ten" exegetical discoveries (page 7). The book's 330 pages are dedicated to reviewing these findings to the authors' well-sourced (by scientific notation method which offers the source in the text face) satisfactions.

Beginning the book by considering the 2002 introduction of the "James ossuary" (with its controversial inscription "James the son of Joseph the brother of Jesus"), the authors declare the small bone box authentic (page 25). The following chapters direct readers to extensive archaeological findings and a general rethinking of the biblical witness at some key points. For example, no Nazareth synagogues existed, they say, during Jesus' life time thus bringing Luke 4:16-30 into question (page 59-63). C & R decide on the evidence before them that the virgin birth means St. Mary maintained virginity only until after Jesus' birth (page 87). These authors are challenging, but not always convincing, in their presentations.

C & R's review of 1st century Capernaum is helpful to their study (pages 119 to 135), but the purpose for their comprehensive examination of Caesarea Maritima (a city that Jesus is never said to have visited) is unclear. Later, the reader is subjected to considerations of "the villa of an aristocrat" (page146) and "houses of the elites" (page 149)- places where Jesus never went. Although such discussion is enlightening one wonders what it has to do with the book's topic. The authors bring a formidable study of Jesus' life and ministry among the poor and socially out cast (page 150 to 160). C & R's suggestion that "Jesus created a Kingdom franchise" is fresh and provocative (page 161).

"Excavating Jesus" offers a multitude of maps, colored photographs, drawings, and a handy archaeological sources section (near the back of the book). The writing style is somewhat technical. The authors assume a certain academic learning level. This book ought to be read with a copy of the Bible in hand (for example, the Paul vs. James controversy, on page 40- 41, should be thoroughly understood from the Scriptural source before attempting to comprehend C & R's potentially controversial position). The book's seven chapters average over 40 pages each. It is not a quick read.

By the book's conclusion the authors seemed more archaeological than exegetical. They simply raise more questions than they answer. (It could be argued, with some accuracy, that this book is an archaeological text with a Jesus title.) Perhaps that's the purpose for compelling history. C & R are often fascinating, sometime unconvincing, but always stimulating. They challenge conventional wisdom to renew itself by reviewing the archaeological and exegetical sources. This is a good read for a new generation of biblical scholars and those willing to test former learning.
A lot of potential unrealized  Mar 9, 2006
I read this book for a class on the Greco-Roman world. The book looks very interesting from the outset, attempting to do what is not done very often: combining the efforts of archaeology and Biblical exegesis to gain a more accurate picture of what is happening specifically in the Gospels. They cover what they believe are the ten most important discoveries (or so, they kind of smudge the lines a little bit by combining certain discoveries together, but they're up front about that, so it's ok) of both archaeology and biblical exegesis. Using these examples and many others, they attempt to show what Jesus was about and how his "kingdom movement" compared to that of John the Baptist's as well as the current empire of Rome at the time. They come to some controversial conclusions, but they attempt to back everything with evidence they give.

There are two major problems with Excavating Jesus. One problem is the form of the book. To put it bluntly, it is a poorly written book. In an attempt to put as much information into the book as they can, they tend to get lost in the information and the point they are trying to make is lost within the plethora of evidence and information. If you're looking for a casual read that will not require much effort on the part of the reader, this is not a book to pick up. The reader is required to sift through a lot of information and sometimes guess at what the authors are trying to get at because their point is not stated clearly enough. The chapters are very large, usually around 80 pages, and though each chapter is trying to focus on a specific point, by the time the reader is finished, they are somewhat lost as to what point the authors were trying to make. The thesis of the book itself is not easily discernible. The method is made very clear, but ultimately overshadows what the authors are trying to do. So the important messages that the book is trying to get across are lost in poor writing and direction.

The other major problem with the book is the conclusions. They are not bad because they are controversial; the authors make it a point to try to back everything they present with evidence. What makes the conclusions problematic is that they are all fairly extreme. If there is any room to doubt something, the authors immediately jump to the farthest conclusion. For example, there is little evidence to suggest that there is a synagogue in Nazareth at the time Jesus would have lived there as Luke records. The authors automatically conclude that the events that take place in chapter 4 of Luke didn't happen. That's a fairly extreme jump to make, and there are other plausible explanations that can be made. The book does this quite a bit.

Overall, the book is not good. It's worth reading if one is willing to take the time to sift through the poor writing, but if you're looking for a simple book about how archaeology and exegesis can work together, I would look elsewhere, though the selection is somewhat thin.

One positive aspect of the book is in the discourse of the first chapter about the James Ossuary. This is a fascinating discussion and I think an important on when it comes to good archaeology and exegesis. However, it'd be better to check the book out from a theological library and read that selection rather than purchase the book for that section.

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