Engaging, but doesn’t meet the expectations it raises. More archaeology, please.



An attempt to add archaeology’s voice more forcefully to the conversation about who Christ was and how he came to be crucified.

Gibson (Archaeology/Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte), a research fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, argues that “archaeology tends to play second fiddle” in efforts to discover the historical Jesus. He calls upon scholars to turn toward archaeological evidence in addition to relying on textual and literary criticism. Though replete with interesting tidbits and archaeological tales, his book does not entirely fulfill its potential. Gibson begins by examining the routes Jesus would have taken toward Jerusalem and then discusses his dealings at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in nearby Bethany. The author’s tortured attempt to explain the raising of Lazarus (“he must have been in a trance or a state of catalepsy”) is not particularly convincing. Gibson goes on to describe the rituals of cleansing and foot washing as practiced and understood in first-century Jerusalem. He’s at his best when attempting to pinpoint the locations of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, an effort in which archaeological evidence plays a crucial role. Material on the practice of crucifixion is riveting and horrifying, giving readers a grim understanding of the agony such a punishment inflicted. Finally, Gibson discusses burial practices at the time and surmises what sort of tomb Joseph of Arimathea would have owned. Gibson takes for granted many modern heterodox views: that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist and that supernatural claims are generally invalid, for example. Yet he also asserts that Jesus may have had healing powers and even allows that resurrection could be a tenable explanation for the empty tomb. Overall, despite his exhortations for new methods of scholarship, the author leans upon prior literary criticism and fills his book with too many of other people’s ideas.

Engaging, but doesn’t meet the expectations it raises. More archaeology, please.

Pub Date: March 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-145848-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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