COLUMBIA — The basic tenets of the Christian faith are well-known: Jesus, the son of God, became human, performed various miracles, was crucified, and later rose from the dead — all to absolve humanity from its sins. But what archaeological evidence supports the existence of Jesus?
Katharina Galor will discuss this topic in a lecture titled "Jesus: What is the Archaeological Evidence?" at 6 p.m. Thursday in Keller Auditorium in the Geology building at MU.
Galor, who has spent 20 years working and living in Israel, is an adjunct assistant professor in the department of Judaic studies at Brown University. She received a Ph.D. degree in archaeology from Brown University in 1996 and completed her post-doctoral studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1997.
The lecture will cover archaeological evidence from first-century Jerusalem around the time of Christ. Benton Kidd, associate curator of ancient art at MU's Museum of Art and Archaeology and president of the Central Missouri Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, said Galor will discuss various issues and controversies surrounding Jesus, such as the controversy over Jesus' appearance, the supposed tombs of Jesus' family and sites claimed to be the tomb of Jesus.
"It is important to set the records straight about what we actually know about Jesus and what we can corroborate about Jesus outside of the New Testament," Kidd said.
Galor's area of expertise is in Roman and Byzantine Palestine with "topics related to sacred, civic, and domestic architecture, town planning, water installations and mosaics," according to the Brown University Web site.
"I am going to talk about the impact of later myths that surround the historical facts from the first century and also how the media sometimes falsifies what archaeology can actually tell us about the first century," Galor said.
She cited the James ossuary as an example of a myth that has been created around Jesus. An ossuary is a limestone box used for bones. The James ossuary was discovered in Israel in 2002 and was originally claimed to have belonged to Jesus' brother James. The Israel Antiquities Authority has proclaimed the ossuary a fake, but there are still those who believe it to be real.
Galor said this, and also the supposed tombs of Jesus and Jesus' family are "based on very controversial discoveries and very controversial facts."
"I am going to try, in this lecture, to clarify certain issues, things that historians and, particularly archaeologists are able to tell based on the kind of science we have, and things that create myths that are very attractive to the public but that are just stories," Galor said.
Galor will also discuss the popular Europeanized version of Jesus in light of the reconstruction done by forensic anthropologists of the average Jewish man from the first century.
Even though the topic of the lecture is focused on Jesus, Galor said that anyone should find it interesting, and the information is important for people to hear.
"I think the media loves to pay attention to anything that is connected with Jesus. I also think we know that faith plays an important role in modern day America but there is not always enough knowledge or information for people to judge what is the result of 2,000 years of faith and tradition and what is based on historical and archaeological facts," she said.
Galor said that first-century Jerusalem is very well known archaeologically and that the city can be reconstructed with copious detail.
"I find it unfortunate, despite the fact that we have such detailed sources to help us imagine what the city looked like and what life was like at the time, that there's still this need ... to find the truth that Jesus really existed and lived in the city," Galor said.
She said even archaeologists sometimes let their faith get in the way of the facts. She said these archaeologists are "motivated by faith that sometimes blinds them and falsifies their judgment of the data."
Galor's lecture is part of a series put on by the Archaeological Institute of America, Central Missouri Society. The Museum of Art and Archaeology, the Center for Arts and the Humanities, the Center on Religion and the Professions, the Department of Art History and Archaeology, the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum, and the Department of Religious Studies are co-sponsoring the event.
"There has been a lot of interest in this lecture," Kidd said.