12.22.2009

A house in Nazareth

Interesting news story from Haaretz:
Israeli archaeologists said Monday that they have uncovered remains of the first dwelling in the northern city of Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus.

The find sheds a new light on what Nazareth might have been like in Jesus' time, said the archaeologists, indicating that it was probably a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.

The remains of a wall, a hideout and a cistern were found after builders dug up an old convent courtyard in the northern Israeli city, said archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Some skeptics have insisted that Nazareth was uninhabited in Jesus's time, precisely because no first-century homes had never been found. And, naturally, if none have been found yet, then that means none will ever be found in the future, because, as we all know, everything that could be discovered by archaeologists has already been discovered.

So naturally one of the commenters on the Haaretz article writes,
This should be challenged because there is no evidence in any documentation or serious archeology that there was a town of Nazareth in the first century.
Yes, this archaeological evidence that Nazareth existed in the first century should be challenged because there is no archaeological evidence that Nazareth existed in the first century! Think critically, people!

I sometimes wonder how much evidence people expect there to be of a first-century hamlet with a population of about 200? A hamlet that, by the way, would be now be covered with not only several feet of soil, but a city of over 65,000 people? "But surely Josephus would have mentioned it!" (Really? Why?) Some people have no sense of perspective.

Anyway, here is an AP video about it that was posted on the America blog by James Martin, SJ:



Martin writes,
I've always wondered why some Christians find the search for the "historical Jesus" so uninteresting, even threatening. For me, it's absolutely fascinating. Thus my enthusiasm for books like John Meier's magisterial A Marginal Jew (the granddaddy of the genre, with everything about his life and times that you might wish to know, and now approaching five volumes), Albert Nolan's provocative Jesus Before Christianity and Daniel J. Harrington's judicious Jesus: A Historical Portrait. Any information that adds to our knowledge of the early life and the "hidden life" (between ages 12 and 30, unaccounted for in the Gospels) will help us better understand Jesus of Nazareth, his life, his time and his teachings better. Why would you not want to know as much about Jesus of Nazareth as possible?
I've sometimes wondered that, too.

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5 Comments:

Blogger atimetorend said...

"Some skeptics have insisted that Nazareth was uninhabited in Jesus's time, precisely because no first-century homes had never been found."

I would tender that is a most reasonable position to take, at least up 'till now.

"So naturally one of the commenters on the Haaretz article writes, This should be challenged because there is no evidence in any documentation or serious archeology that there was a town of Nazareth in the first century."

Maybe a reasonable position to take, but it would depend upon their intent. Any new finding should be challenged, especially when it does not conform to prior data. It doesn't necessarily mean the person wishing to see it challenged is unreasonably skeptical (though of course many are).

"I sometimes wonder how much evidence people expect there to be of a first-century hamlet with a population of about 200?...Some people have no sense of perspective."

I agree completely. It sounds like a very interesting find, and it will certainly be interesting to follow the analyses of its importance.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you'd find www.netzarim.co.il central to your search.

1:52 AM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

"I would tender that is a most reasonable position to take, at least up 'till now."

That would only be true if historical evidence was limited to archaeological evidence. It is not. The gospel evidence is quite difficult to explain away on this particular question.

Anyone who wishes to deny that Nazareth was a real place in Jesus's time would have some difficult questions to answer.

For starters, why invent a hometown for Jesus, instead of saying he was from somewhere well known? If they were going to make it up, why wouldn't they have just said he was from Bethlehem, a city that had some actual theological significance?

Of course, the authors of Matthew and Luke created two very different (and obviously fictitious) stories to suggest that in fact he was from Bethlehem. But the very fact that they had to go to such lengths to do so strongly suggests that the memory of Jesus being "of Nazareth" was too widespread for them to simply ignore it.

I could also mention John 1.46, which suggests that being from Nazareth held something of a stigma -- something that the early church is not likely to have invented.

2:31 PM  
Blogger atimetorend said...

Fair enough, thanks for the response, those sound like solid points. Would you then say the default position should be that Nazareth existed? I would add "until proven otherwise," but it seems unlikely other evidence could prove a small ancient town did not exist.

9:37 PM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

I think the evidence, as meager as it is, indicates that Nazareth existed in the first century, yes. It seems to me that the people intent on denying it's existence do so out of a desire to debunk the historical reliability of the Gospels. Against the believers who insist on every detail being true, there are skeptics who insist that every detail is false. Well, there are things in the Gospels that are historical, and there are things that are not. Each has to be considered individually. The existence of Nazareth, as far as I can tell, is one of the things that is very likely to be historical.

1:58 PM  

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