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Good Arguments Against Zindler.

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Posted by John Morgan Powell on April 24, 2001 23:44:34 UTC


Thank you for the effort. I must praise you. I've tried to get one of the theist posters to do something like this for several months. You're the first to respond directly to Zindler's points.

You made some very good points. Some of them, I think you're right and Zindler is wrong. Others could go either way in my mind. A few I think you got wrong.

> First, let's make it clear that Zindler is an
> *editor* or journalist. To my knowledge he
> doesn't have any archaeological background
> (neither do I and I'm assuming that neither do
> you).

You're right. This is an important point.

> Another issue that is very disappointing is
> that the Nazareth farm find by Stephen Pfann (a
> well-known and respected archaeologist) was
> discovered by him in 1997. It is strange that
> Zindler never mentions it in his essay. In my
> view, this borders on intellectual dishonesty.

Another good point. I need to know more about Pfann's work. I certainly want to confront Zindler with this if what you say is true.

> We've already speculated as to why Paul might
> have left out historical details of Jesus,

Fine. The theist arguments for why Paul didn't say "Jesus of Nazareth" seem reasonable, but so are the atheist arguments.

> Zindler would probably have Paul non-existent?

Zindler is showing that he doesn't feel obligated to accept even the existence of Paul. I think he is wrong. I think Paul's existence should be accepted.

> Zindler is refering to Bagetti's work were
> there wre about two dozen tombs found about 60
> to 750 yards to the north, west and south of
> the Church of the Annunciation (in Nazareth).
. . .
> What is not mentioned is that Bagetti believed
> that a village also existed at Nazareth.

This isn't the best thing to do, use an expert's work, but then ignore their expert conclusions. It's sort of like me accepting O'Connors conclusions that Luke made up the "Go Home to be taxed and counted" edict, but rejecting his belief that Matthew's account is reliable. I don't know what source Zindler is using. I want to ask him.

> And, incidentally, they found a church had been
> built prior to the Church of Annuciation.

This means nothing in the present debate unless the church was built near or prior to the time the Gospels were written.

> The hospital where the farm was found is on a
> hill. The whole area is hills.

How steep of hills? This means nothing unless there is at least one hill that was part of the ancient city where one could reasonably fulfill the requirements of throwing a man to his death.

>> Nazareth is not mentioned even once in the
>> entire Old Testament, nor do any ancient
>> historians or geographers mention it before
>> the beginning of the fourth century.

> It wouldn't be if the occupation started in the
> second century since this is already when the
> OT documents were all mostly written. In
> addition, Galilee was already the outskirts of
> late Hebrew writings which were centered in
> Jerusalem.

Perhaps. I can't decide whose argument is better.

> He continues the non sequitur argument for so
> many paragraphs that it makes me think that *he
> believes* that he is making a rational
> archaeological argument!

Good point about his arguments being non-archaelogical. I see Zindler trying to show that some of the scholars who try to put it all together come up with some unreasonable conclusions. If the geography allowed for a more reasonable conclusion, why did some theologians propose such outlandish ones? That's part of Zindler's point, I think.

>> Moreover, archaeological excavations at
>> present-day Nazareth -- even though carried
>> out by Franciscan monks and priests who must
>> always be aware of the tourist significance of
>> the real estate owned by their order

> This borders on ridiculous since the
> archaeology was conducted in the late 50's and
> early 60's. This is well before the travel
> industry made it lucrative for any group (even
> airlines) to secure their income from travel.
> The arguments here are very poor John and makes
> you wonder what kind of mind is the editor of
> the atheist's leading magazine.

Here I think Zindler got it right and you are off base. Palestine tourism did NOT begin in the late 50's. One can argue that the Crusades were about tourist rights.

>> [archaeological excavations] have failed to
>> show the remains of a single building credibly
>> datable to the first century B.C.E. or the
>> first century C.E. The oldest buildings found
>> seem to date from the last half of the third
>> century, and there is no information to
>> indicate what the inhabitants of those
>> buildings called their village.

> This shows a profound ignorance for archaeology
> and the limitations involved in conducting
> archaeological digs. You can't just tear down
> the whole downtown Nazareth to find evidence of
> ancient dwellings. You look for evidence of
> occupation and this is enough to justify that
> Nazareth was inhabited during the first
> century.

I don't understand your criticism. Zindler is saying that among the digs that have been done, none of them indicate habitation during the days of Christ. You seem to be saying that it's ok to assume there was habitation during the days of Christ because habitation has been validated during the centuries after the days of Christ. What buildings HAVE been dated early enough to disprove Zindler and validate your position?

> Zindler doesn't mention Pfann's find with the
> wine press farm. In fact, watchtowers,
> cultivated terraces and wine-presses were all
> found in Pfann's four digs and they are each
> mentioned in Jesus' parables. A winepress
> requires many village feet, and it is unlikely
> that villagers would travel a few miles to make
> wine. This winepress indicates that people
> lived there, plain and simple.

This could be important in distinguishing between Zindler and yourself if the wine press farm, watchtowers, or cultivated terraces can be reliably dated early enough. According to Pfann, when were these structures in existence?

> Most likely Zindler isn't being dishonest when
> he doesn't reference Pfann's work, rather he
> simply doesn't know about it. This is why
> amateur editors who probably have a personal
> vendetta against their childhood religion
> shouldn't be trying to pass themselves off as
> archaeologists.

I'm interested in Pfann's work even if Zindler may not be. You're probably right about his vendetta. He's well-motivated to attack Christianity.

>> But it seems clear that Origen didn't think
>> there was such a town at all.

> I'll research this issue and try to find out
> more details about Origen's 'search' for
> Nazareth.

I hope you will. Arguments like "Josephus probably didn't say that about Jesus because if he had then Origen and others would have used it" are powerful ones in my view. Explaining Origen's words is important, I think, to your argument.

>> Mark, unlike the later gospels, mentions
>> Nazareth only once; in chapter 1, verse 9,
>> which tells us that "Jesus came from Nazareth
>> of Galilee." It is of more than a little
>> interest to learn that scholars suspect this
>> verse to be a later addition just like the
>> last twelve verses of the gospel.

> Not according to the 'two document' hypothesis.
> It says that GMark (Mark 1:9) and Q were
> sources to the other two synoptics. This would
> make GMark the oldest of the NT gospels. It is
> in GMark that there is only one reference to
> Nazareth.

You're probably right. I'm willing to blame Mark or the Q document for the "of Nazareth" blunder. Zindler's idea that someone else did it (Matthew or Luke) and then put it into Mark is an attractive hypothesis for atheists, but probably without adequate support.

> Regardless of whether the biblical tradition is
> confused or not, it doesn't dismiss the notion
> that there was a village where present day
> Nazareth is now standing. And, there is strong
> archaeological evidence to believe that it was
> occupied at least on and off for the last 2,000
> years.

This is what the debate is about. Zindler says it wasn't occupied until after 70 A.D. You say it was sometime before that. I hope the issue can be resolved.

> The name and meaning of Nazareth is not well
> understood. The name could come from 'branch of
> Jesse', but all that means is the villagers
> themselves could have traced their roots to
> Jesse. Of course, a branch or sprout could be a
> coincidence that was later used by Christians
> to find some type of symbolic and scriptural
> significance.

This is an important opposition to Zindler's thesis. He believes that places like "Nazareth", "Bethabara", etc. had mythical meanings originally, they didn't exist as physical places. Your suggestion is that these places really existed, were given names which had these meanings and Gospel writers used the meanings of the places to promote their message.

> There is that name plate inscription that was
> found in a Caesarea Maritama synagogue which
> suggests that Nazareth was a recognized name
> (as I mentioned in my previous post). Hence, I
> think Nazareth has more evidence than this
> purely speculative account alludes to.

I want to know more about this inscription. When it was dated, that sort of thing.

Again, let me thank you profusely for doing that which I've tried to get done by someone for several months, argue Zindler point by point.

You did a fine job.

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