Baker Academic

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesus and His World by Craig Evans—Chris Keith

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Craig Evans’s Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence, published here in the UK by SPCK and in the USA by WJK.  If you’re looking for a supplementary textbook for a Jesus course next Spring, this has got to be a contender.  I’m not aware of a textbook exactly like it and highly recommend it.  Evans covers the archaeological evidence from first-century Palestine as it relates to the Gospels and so this is not an introduction to Jesus per se or even the Gospels (though there’s plenty of both) but an introduction to the socio-historical context as revealed by the realia of that time period . . . with pictures in tow!  For example, one chapter covers the archaeological evidence for synagogues and synagogue practices and another covers reading, writing, and literacy.  A final chapter covers Jewish burial traditions.  As far as I can tell, the book is aimed at students, but I found myself really enjoying the read.  The chapter on the synagogue, with all its pictures (especially of the Capernaum synagogue), was the best in my opinion.  The chapter I found least helpful was the one on literacy, etc., where Evans agrees with literacy estimates of 5 to 10 percent for Jesus’ world, but then goes on to argue that Jesus most likely could have read.  He cites considerable evidence of literate activity, and this alone is worth reading and interesting, but he ultimately mixes textuality (knowledge and appreciation of texts) and literacy (ability to access texts for oneself) in an unhelpful manner given the complexity of the issues, in my opinion.  But this is a minor quibble with an otherwise really great book.  I’m not teaching a course on Jesus or the Gospels this coming semester, but if I was, I wouldn’t hesitate to put this resource into my students’ hands.


  1. You are doubtless the first to find a "minor quibble" about another's work in handling an issue in one's own area of expertise!

    1. Yes, certainly so. I learned how to understate differences of opinion from an undergrad professor of mine. :)

  2. And I'll be the second :) I thought Evans' appeal to authority of "a number of careful, respected scholars" on p. 9 to demonstrate the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum "minus a few obvious interpolations" was an inadequate treatment of the issue.