Book Review: Jesus and the Forgotten City -- By: Gordon Franz

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 05:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: Book Review: Jesus and the Forgotten City
Author: Gordon Franz

Book Review: Jesus and the Forgotten City

Gordon Franz


New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus.

Author: Richard A. Batey

Jesus and the Forgotten City was published by Baker Book House, 1991, 224 pages. It can be purchased from the Associates for Biblical Research for $20.00 plus $2.00 postage and handling.

Jesus and the Forgotten City describes some of the recent archaeological discoveries at Sepphoris, the first century capital of Galilee which Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, called “the ornament of all Galilee.” It is located just an hour’s walk (four miles) from Jesus’ boyhood home of Nazareth.

Writing in the present tense, Batey, one of the excavators of the site, draws the reader into the world of First Century Galilee and its cultural horizon. Archaeologists are sometimes noted for their vivid and lucid imaginations. Batey is no exception. This reviewer was engrossed with his story-telling as he wove the historical sources, the archaeological finds, and the Gospel narratives together into a very readable account of the discoveries.

The book begins with a description of the excavations and the importance of Sepphoris in Jesus’ day. There is no record in the Gospels that Jesus ever went to Sepphoris. However, using our “sanctified imagination” we can understand how Jesus, as a carpenter, might have worked alongside his earthly stepfather, Joseph, while Sepphoris was under construction. Batey suggests the word “carpenter” had the broader meaning of an artisan, or skilled worker in wood or stone who might have been engaged in this project begun by Herod Antipas in 3 BC.

One large edifice was a theater near the center of the city. Batey proposes that this is the scene suggested by Jesus’ use of the word-pictures “hypocrites,” or “stage actors.” Several parables of the rich and famous may be illustrated by some sumptuous finds made in the excavation at Sepphoris.

J. Robert Teringo of National Geographic has illustrated the book well with paintings and pictures. Although they are excellent renditions, we wonder why several of them are presented (pages 37, 43,108, for instance); the mikveh painting (page 19) and the tomb (page 169) are not discussed in the text. Some of the captions are quite brief and could be more descriptive. Batey’s view of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and our salvation by grace through faith in Christ might be a problem for conservative readers of Archaeology and Biblical Research.

One suggestion for a future edition: a chapter for the tourist who visits Sepphoris, with maps of the site and a “walk-through” gu...

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