Archaeology and Jesus Studies

Millar Burrows writes, “By the aid of archeology the study of the Bible ceases to be, as it were, suspended in the air, and gets its feet upon the ground.”[1] Archaeology and historical background helps one understand the sitz im leben of the life and ministry of Jesus; however, Burrows explains that archaeology specifically related to Jesus is often viewed as limited because Jesus was “a wandering preacher who writes no books, erects no buildings, sets up no organized institutions, but leaves to Caesar what is Caesar’s, seeking only his Father’s kingdom, and who commits his cause to a few fishermen…leaves no coins bearing his images and superscription.”[2]

Archaeology and historical background are the earthy stuff that heaven permeates through the incarnational in-breaking of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, it is the theatrical backdrop stuff that the Divine playwright uses in his Theo-drama, which ultimately peaks and contextualizes during the first century A.D. Understanding the theatrical setting of the drama and its main character will cause the directors, other performers and the audience to more fully grasp, participate in and experience the drama.

Some claim that recent archaeology and historical background information contributes little or nothing to one’s faith, but this is to say that the Divine playwright’s unveiling of new theatrical backdrop stuff is useless and adds nothing to one’s understanding, participating and experiencing of the drama. Can we really make such a statement? Can we really ignore and claim the uselessness of the theatrical backdrop of the drama and its main character?


[1] Millar Burrows, What Mean These Stones? The Significance of Archeology for Biblical Studies (New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1941), 115 quoted by James H. Charlesworth, “Jesus Research and Archaeology” in Green and McDonald, The World, 440.[2] Burrows, Stones, 283 quoted by Charlesworth, “Jesus Research and Archaeology” in Green and McDonald, The World, 441-442.