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Mark D. Smith - Witness Interview

Mark D. Smith is Professor of History at The College of Idaho and has long served on the Board of Directors for the Bethsaida Excavations Project in Israel. He holds a Ph. D., in Ancient/Medieval/Reformation History from the University of California, Santa Barbara; an M. A., in Ancient/Medieval/Reformation History from the University of California, Santa Barbara; an MDiv. in Church History from the Denver Seminary and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Westmont College. Mark began teaching at The College of Idaho in 1989. His scholarly interests include ancient/medieval Western civilization, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, the reformation, history of Christianity, ancient Greek and Latin. In The Final Days of Jesus: The Thrill of Defeat, The Agony of Victory: A Classical Historian Explores Jesus’s Arrest, Trial, and Execution, Mark brings his experience as a classical historian to bear on the life of the historical Jesus, piecing together the volatile political context of first-century Judaea, as well as the lives of Pontius Pilate, Annas, and Joseph Caiaphas.

The claim that 'the Jews crucified Jesus' has spawned a long and tragic history of Christian anti-Semitism. Smith challenges this claim through detailed exploration of Roman, Jewish, and Christian written sources and a broad range of archaeological evidence, such as the ossuary of Caiaphas, the 'Hidden Gate', and the rich vein of research devoted to the archaeology of ritual purity. The result is an earthy and nuanced portrait of Jewish life under Roman rule. From his discussion of the multiplicity and brutality of Roman executions to the intricate personal relationships among elites that provided the means of collaboration and redress, Smith details the complex push-pull of forces between Rome and the Temple as they collided in one history-changing week. His book is a rare achievement: a new angle of vision on the trial and death of Jesus. It is the scholarly work of a classical historian of Rome with insight as well into Jewish and Christian history and Biblical scholarship. Scholars will appreciate the convincing analysis, and both scholars and lay readers will find the style clear, sensitive, and pleasing.