begins the story of Christianity with the birth of Jesus. Like all
traditions, this story reflects a combination of history and legend,
layers of religious interpretation and factual accounts. Virtually
the only sources for understanding the life and personality of the
historical Jesus are the books of the New Testament, which were composed
in the second half of the first century, decades after his crucifixion.
The authors of these works viewed Jesus as the Messiah and believed
in his teachings; their mission was to spread the message of the new
faith. They collected oral traditions and early writings, which emphasized
the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ life, but were not overly
concerned with historical fact.
In attempting to reconstruct the details of Jesus’ life on
the basis of New Testament sources alone, it becomes apparent that
our knowledge of the historical Jesus is full of gaps. Even the
place and date of Jesus’ birth are uncertain. Archaeological
evidence, too, has been unable to contribute much to the little
we already know. Yet there seems to be no doubt that Jesus indeed
lived some two thousand years ago, and that his personality and
deeds were the catalyst for all that was to ensue after his death.
Our knowledge of life in the Land of Israel during the time of
Jesus, the late Second Temple period, and of the major events of
those decisive years is based on the writings of Josephus and on
other literary sources, as well as extensive archaeological excavations
conducted throughout the country, particularly in Jerusalem. This
evidence has enabled us to reconstruct the atmosphere during the
days of Jesus and his disciples, to understand the background to
his sermons and the reasons for his censure, and to grasp the intense
sense of messianic expectation that pervaded Jewish society in those
years. In this section of the exhibition, we have attempted to present
events from the life of Jesus against the backdrop of objects from
that period, which have been unearthed in excavations in this country
and which have an actual or presumed connection to his life story.
The Sea of Galilee in a photograph from the 19th century
Photo: Félix Bonfils, Israel Museum Collection, Gift of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Stone Ossuaries with the names of the Deceased in
Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek
The custom of reburying the bones of the deceased in ossuaries
was widespread among Jews of the late Second Temple period, particularly
those living in Judea. Along the ossuary walls, relatives would
carve the names of the interred in the languages spoken at that
time – Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.
The ossuaries exhibited here bear names familiar to us from the
New Testament, suggesting that the names of Jesus, his relatives,
and his disciples were popular among the inhabitants of the land
during this period.
||Stone ossuary of
"Judas son of Jesus (Yeshua)"
|| Israel Antiquities Authority, 80-501
Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem / by Avraham Hay
Names of deceased carved on ossuaries
Drawings: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem / by Pnina Arad
Jesus son of Alot
the Days of Jesus |In
the Early Church |Pilgrimage
& Symbols |Monasticism
in the Holy Land