EXCAVATING JESUS: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts

John Dominic Crossan, Author, Jonathan L. Reed, Author, Jonathan L. Reed, Joint Author . Harper San Francisco $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-061633-5

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.)

Reviewed on: 09/10/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-06-061634-2
Mass Market Paperbound - 320 pages - 978-0-06-056726-2
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