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Biblical Archaeology Review 3:1, March 1977

Exploring the Life of Jesus

By George Wesley Buchanan

Wendell Phillips, whom Lowell Thomas once called the American Lawrence of Arabia, was the last of the great nineteenth century explorers, although he lived entirely in the twentieth. He lived daringly and dangerously. He knew and loved the Arabs of the desert. He packed a gun and was the friend of desert monarchs. He got money from rich men to explore the ruins of the romantic past, and he wrote about it all with dash and style.

In 1975 Phillips died after a long illness following a heart attack.a He was not yet 55. He barely lived to see the publication of his last book, a labor of love which, he says in his introduction, it took him 10 years to write.

He called his book, An Explorer’s Life of Jesusb.

The title is misleading; those readers who anticipate a careful, analytical study of the historical Jesus on the basis of insights gained from archaeological research will be disappointed. Indeed, only about half of the book deals with the historical Jesus, and substantial portions of even this half are doctrinal, rather than historical.

Phillips’ book is written for the conservative, pious, Christian layman, who, like Phillips, grew up in a fundamentalistic community. The book reflects more the soul of the pastor than the mind of the explorer. The concern and kindness of the counsellor are evident throughout the book. The conservative layman who has not read widely in New Testament studies will find in this book the assurance that most of his fundamentalistic views can be substantiated by the best New Testament scholarship. Those that cannot are not very important, anyway.

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