Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short IntroductionBy Eric H. Cline (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009), 168 pp., $11.95
Jesus: A Very Short IntroductionBy Richard Bauckham (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011), 144 pp., $11.95
Oxford University Press has published more than 300 “short introductions” to almost every imaginable topic (and some, frankly, that I never would have imagined). Among them are the two diminutive volumes under review here. Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether such books are really needed, and for whom, I will briefly (as, I suppose, befits short texts) look at each.
On the whole, Cline’s book is expertly written, covering an amazing amount of material—the history of Biblical archaeology from the 19th century to the present and the wisdom (or, alternatively, lack thereof) of applying the results of archaeology to the text of the Bible—without leaving the reader breathless or puzzled. There are ample illustrations, a good working bibliography, and a helpful index.Throughout Cline also provides some straight and sober thinking about the need to detect and root out the “fantastic forgeries” that so tantalize the public and exasperate the professional.