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Theists Sometimes Unwittingly Defend Atheism

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Posted by John Morgan Powell on April 16, 2001 11:00:09 UTC


You wrote:

> Anyway, check out this site and let me know if
> this provides enough evidence for your
> satisfaction. If not, then I suppose you'll
> need more communication with professional
> archaeologists.

> http: //

> Search away evidence for those cities that
> Zindler says don't exist. The archaeologists
> contributing articles to the journal (which
> include Jews, atheists, agnostics, etc) seem to
> assume the existence of those cities as
> completely removed from controversy. In a
> number of instances I think you can find why
> they accept such evidence as such.

I looked at the site. There are quite a few articles I may need to look at. Surprisingly for me, the first one that seemed to be relevant said some things I found very intersting.

"Where was Jesus born? O Little Town of . . . Nazareth?" by Steve Mason.

`. . .'

`To try to establish where Jesus was born, the historian must examine all the relevant evidence—whether material artifacts, such as coins, pottery and stone inscriptions, or ancient literature, such as the Gospels, the letters of Paul and the Roman histories and other extrabiblical texts. '

` In our study of Jesus' birthplace, we can review the archaeological evidence quickly, because there is none: We have no material remains bearing on Jesus' birthplace. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, for example, was not built because of any local memory of Jesus' birth there; it is a much later memorial, constructed on the site of a fourth-century church erected by the emperor Constantine when Christianity received state recognition. Constantine probably selected the spot based on the then-famous stories recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. '

` That leaves us with the texts. '

` Not one of the first- and early-second-century A.D. non-Christian authors who mention Christians in passing—the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, the Romans Tacitus and Pliny—provides us with any helpful information about Jesus' birthplace. We have only the earliest Christian texts, written by the first three generations of Jesus' followers, from the time of Jesus' death in about 30 A.D. to roughly 150 A.D. These writings—and only these writings—are the sources we must examine. '

` The only texts that are dated with some confidence to the first Christian generation (about 30 to 65 A.D.) are the New Testament letters genuinely attributed to Paul. From the second generation, we have the four canonical Gospels. The Gospels are generally dated to between 65 and 100 A.D., with Mark being the earliest and Matthew and Luke dating to the end of that period. John may fall almost anywhere within this range.(3) '

` But what did these writers really know about Jesus' birthplace? And what motivated them to speak of Jesus' birth at all? '

` Let's begin with our earliest source, Paul. '

` In all of the letters that we have, Paul never mentions any geographical location in connection with Jesus. '

` . . .'

Steve Mason goes on to argue that maybe Nazareth was the real birthplace of Jesus. He does this partly by arguing against the reliability of the Gospel accounts. I was interested to see that many of his comments agree with what Zindler had said (for example, that there is no good extrabiblical evidence for the birthplace of Jesus and Herod's slaughter of the innocents is suspicious because it was not recorded anywhere except in the Bible). Mason apparently assumes both Jesus and Nazareth really existed, without specifically showing why. Even so, he ends up doing a pretty good job of supporting some of the atheists' claims.

Why do atheists need friend / supporters with enemy / supporters like Mason?

I didn't completely read Mason's article, so I need to do that and look at some of the other sources.

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