The Bone Box

by Bob Hostetler
352 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Kristi

An enjoyable read with a few storytelling shortcomings


Readers should be aware that the summary on the back of this book do not accurately reflect its plot, a disappointment. The actual plot is as follows:

Archaeologist and agnostic Randall Bullock finds himself the sole archaeologist researching the newly opened ossuary (bone box) of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over the trial of Jesus. Even more incredible is a letter contained in a scroll within that same ossuary, which sheds new light on both Caiaphas and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. While working on his evaluation of the find, Rand must try to bridge the gap between himself and his estranged daughter Tracy, and also finds himself attracted to a beautiful Israeli policewoman. But will Randall and his daughter make the transition from believing in the fact of Jesus' resurrection to actually following Him?

In counterpoint to the modern day story is the creative retelling of the life of Joseph Caiaphas, from his appointment as high priest to his death. In many ways the stronger of the two stories, this shows us a Caiaphas tradition has not led us to expect, a man consumed by passion for the Lord and His people and a desire to see Israel restored to righteousness, and to be there to usher in the coming Messiah.


The behavior of all characters is consistent with their natures. Rand is honest and doesn't try to deceive the Hasidic Jews outside the tomb, even when it would be expedient to do so. Caiaphas, while trying to be holy, acknowledges to himself that there have been times when he has been torn between righteousness and expediency. Annas, the former high priest and Caiaphas' father in law, and his sons are largely dishonest, greedy, and manipulative.

Spiritual Content

Characters behave in consistent patterns depending on their beliefs as Jews, Christians, atheists and agnostics.


The Hasidic Jews who come to the Tomb to ensure the proper treatment of the dead threaten violence, and at one point Rand's car is mobbed and a boy is nearly suffocated by the press, only to be beaten afterward by Israeli soldiers. Evidence of the beating of Jesus is also mentioned, as well as blood on the tunic of Malchus, the servant of Caiaphas, whose ear was cut off by Peter and restored by Jesus.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Rand apparently has a history of drinking that he doesn't practice throughout the story, though he thinks a few times that he 'needs a drink'. Plotwise, this issue felt tacked on and unexplored.

Sexual Content

Some kisses, hand-holding and light displays of affection between Tracy and a man who is interested in her. We are told that Caiaphas' wife, after a couple of miscarriages, is no longer attracted to him.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Rand calls himself a jack*** toward the end of the book.


This story could have benefited from a better editor. While there are moments that are interesting, and the story of Caiaphas is well-told and engaging, the present-day plot suffered from loose ends, such as the unresolved relationship between Rand and the police officer, as well as a couple of pages near the end which introduce a controversy about the authenticity of the ossuary, a topic which is never visited again. Additionally, there is the question of whether a devout Christian man should be dating Tracy and considering marrying her without being sure whether she is a believer or not.

The reader must draw their own conclusions about whether this radical reinterpretation of the character of Caiaphas is acceptable or not. In no place does it contradict scripture, but it is definitely not the Caiaphas we 'grew up with' either. Happily, the author provides a plethora of helpful notes at the end of the book, detailing chapter sources. All in all, this was an interesting book which illuminates the difference between believing in Jesus and following Him. While it suffers from some storytelling faults, and more so if you're expecting a thriller as implied in the summary, it is still an interesting and enjoyable read.

Fun Score: 3.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: adult

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