National Geographic : 2017 Dec
the search for the real jesus 41 As a man of faith, Father Alliata seems at peace with what archaeology can—and cannot—reveal about Christianity’s central figure. “It will be something rare, strange, to have archaeological proof for [a specific person] 2,000 years ago,” he concedes, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms over his vestments. “But you can’t say Jesus doesn’t have a trace in history.” By far the most important—and possibly most debated—of those traces are the texts of the New Testament, especially the first four books: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But how do those ancient texts, written in the second half of the first century, and the traditions they inspired, relate to the work of an archaeologist? “ Tradition gives more life to archaeology, and archaeology gives more life to tradition,” Father Alliata replies. “Sometimes they go together well, sometimes not,” he pauses, offering a small smile, “which is more interesting.” and so With father alliata’s blessing, I set out to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, retrac- ing his story as told by the Gospel writers and interpreted by generations of scholars. Along the way I hope to discover how Christian texts and traditions stack up against the discoveries of ar- chaeologists who began sifting the sands of the Holy Land in earnest some 150 years ago. But before I begin my pilgrimage, I need to probe an explosive question that lurks in the shadows of historical Jesus studies: Might it be A bejeweled icon, or encolpion, worn by Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine, venerates the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.