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No Apology To Gospel Writers Yet.

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Posted by John Morgan Powell on April 24, 2001 00:49:35 UTC


I take it you don't agree with the conclusions of Zindler located at

His conclusion that Jesus could not be from Nazareth was based on the available historical and scientific evidence. I'll try to review his conclusions, as I remember them.

Historical evidence: Nazareth was not mentioned by any of the geographers of the time. No geographer mentioned it until something like the 4th Century A.D. It was not mentioned by the Old Testament or the Koran or by Josephus although he did military operations in the area and named nearby cities. Origen, an early Christian apologist who lived in the area, seemed to treat it as if it were merely a mythical place. He should have known the place if it existed.

Archaeological evidence: the pottery and other items discovered in the site (including the example from the early Roman era you mentioned) agree with the conclusion that the place was a burial grounds, a necropolis ("city of the dead") prior to it being made a community sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., possibly not until the 2nd century. When it gained the name Nazareth was sometime before the 4th century.

Zindler's theory of why Jesus "of Nazareth": Jesus was said to be from Nazareth because the Gospel writer Mark confused the idea that he should be of the stem of Jesse, or a nazarite with where he was from.

I'd appreciate it if you would give me a rebuttal to Zindler's points.

> First, let me refer to a Jewish tradition which
> states that the priestly Elkalir family moved
> to Nazareth in AD 135 (after the Jewish revolt
> they supposedly travelled to Nazareth according
> to tradition).

This is a tradition, it's not reliable. Even if the 135 A.D. were true it would not invalidate Zindler's theory since it significantly postdates Jesus. The Jewish revolt migration would pose a problem for Zindler because it would imply that around 70 A.D. there was a community of Nazareth unless the Elkalirs were one of the first families to settle the place.

> Still another excavation was completed in the
> 1950's that showed Nazareth as being unoccupied
> from the 8th through 2nd century BC, but being
> occupied after that period. See Bargil
> Pixmer, "With Jesus Through Galilee" (Israel,
> Corazing, 1992), p.17 which discusses the
> archaeological results of B.Bagatti's work. You
> can see a picture of this excavation at:


Zindler would agree with the 8th-2nd century BC being unoccupied, but he would disagree with "after that period it was occupied", since he believes it wasn't occupied until after 70 A.D.

I'll have to look at Bagatti's work. Thanks for mentioning it.

> And, to top it off, it seems that more
> archaeological discoveries were found behind
> the Nazareth hospital in 1997. Some of the
> pottery and other archaeological remains date
> as early as the early Roman period which would
> predate Jesus.

Items which predate Jesus are no problem for Zindler as long as they fit in with the "necropolis" scenario. What you need are items that could not realistically be considered burial gifts. Are there sufficient numbers of those?

> I might add that from a textual evidence there
> is a hint that Nazareth is in the very earliest
> Gospel traces (i.e., Mark). I believe that the
> tradition is so universal that it would seem
> difficult for the tradition to be invented, but
> although this is not enough of course to
> justify his hometown as Nazareth. Although,
> John 1:46 refers to Nazareth as being sort of
> a 'hillbilly' town which was somewhat
> embarrassing if you were trying to 'sell' other
> Jews on his messaniac connection. Hence, this
> provides ever more evidence that the tradition
> is correct

On the contrary. According to Zindler's theory, Mark could have been the one to start the goof up and the others elaborated upon it. Mark did not talk about the rejection or small-town characteristics of Nazareth like the others did. Maybe by the time these later Gospels were written (2nd Century?) converts had been asking why Nazareth wasn't a recognized location and, so, they added stories that characterized it as being unimportant enough that it could explain why no one in Asia Minor, or Europe or Egypt knew about the place. When a small community finally adopted the name then these stories seemed to match the unimportant character of Nazareth. What I'm not sure about is why a small community around the 3rd or 4th century would adopt the name of Nazareth if they had given themselves another name they were happy with.

Zindler points out that the Gospel events supposedly happening in Nazareth could not reasonably occur in the place which now has that name, at least not how some modern apologists have interpreted those events.

What do you think of Zindler's description?

I'll ask the forgiveness of the bones of the gospel writers if I'm wrong, but your comments indicate that that conclusion is premature.

Should I ask their forgiveness for making up the

- Virgin birth story (Now really, do you believe that?)

- Worldwide tax and census by Augustus requiring everyone to return to their home community so they could explain why he was from Nazareth, but was born in Bethlehem? (Now really, imagine how stupid such an order would be and impossible to enforce today or then)

- murder of the innocents by Herod (Now really, if Herod had done this historians would have included it in their gripes against him)

- miracles (Now really, you don't believe they happened as described do you?)

- etc.

Should I ask forgiveness for being reasonably skeptical about the whole idea: "Yahweh lives, his Son is Jesus the carpenter, and if you get baptized, confess your faith, and pay your dues you'll have a great afterlife"? I'm sorry, but I think they were superstitious men who were willing to fabricate lies to promote their irrational beliefs.

They were as willing to fabricate stories as was Joseph Smith and his "angels and golden plates" story or other religious revolutionaries of the modern era. Do you feel inclined to ask Joseph Smith's forgiveness for doubting him because someone finds a place in the Middle East that sounds like one of the places Joseph Smith made up in his Book of Mormon?

What do you think the Gospel writers were?

Would you trust them if they came to your door selling you insurance, vacuum cleaners, or religious books? "I have seen the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ. Would you please buy something from us today?"

You can buy if you want. I suggest you consider it a donation to a needy charity.

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