Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans is a captivating collection of up-to-date essays on a number of archaeological discoveries related to the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In this book, Evans helpfully exposes the misuse of archaeology in relation to claims about Jesus and early Christianity, and rightly seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of archaeology within the discipline of biblical studies. Evans is an accomplished scholar and his work here is consistently well-documented and easy to read—the latter being one of the most surprising aspects of the book given the typical flavor of similar works.
Jesus and the Remains of His Day begins with an excellent discussion surrounding some of the most recent archaeological work at Bethsaida and Magdala. The reader will find the discussion both engaging and enlightening, and it sets the stage well for how the book will function throughout. For example, speaking of Peter’s hometown of Bethsaida, Evans writes, “The heights of Bethsaida rests on a rocky ridge of volcanic basalt . . . Indeed, the original name of Bethsaida may have been Zer (“rocks”) . . . Simon the disciple of Jesus was named the “Rock,” for Jesus planned to build his new community on rock” (p. 13-14). It is here that Evans guides the reader through the archaeological discoveries, detailing and engaging with various sources and opinions, only to eventually land within a sphere of immediate application—something the reader is able to recognize and remember from the ministry of Jesus.
As the book unfolds and each essay independently testifies to the world of the New Testament, the reader is continually confronted with a host of relevant material insight and application as mentioned above. While it would be beyond the scope of the present review to detail everything that I found to be helpful in the book, there are a few essays that I found especially interesting, and thus, will be worth mentioning here. First, in chapter 3, Evans provides a compelling and up-to-date engagement with the ossuary that has been attributed to Caiaphas, the High Priest during the time of Jesus. The evidence points to the authenticity of such claims, and the implications of such prove to be colossal. It is also here that Evans discusses the historicity of Pontius Pilate and Simon of Cyrene, both verifiable through recent archaeological discoveries. Second, in chapters 6-8, Evans provides fascinating insight into the practice of crucifixion, burial, and specifically the execution of Jesus. All three chapters, accompanied by chapter 9, are well-worth the price of the book alone.
It is hard to put into words the usefulness of this volume. As one familiar with the work of Craig A. Evans I thought that this volume would be worth the read. But, admittedly, and I assume like many readers, the world of archaeology is unfortunately a bit foreign and characterized as somewhat dry and unhelpful. I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading this volume, and it was difficult to set down. In fact, the above review doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but I trust the usefulness of this volume is transparent. If you are in the market for an up-to-date engagement with the archaeological work being done in the Middle East, specifically in relation to the world of the New Testament and the person of Jesus of Nazareth, then Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans is a must read. It comes highly recommended!
I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.