Speaking FRANKly Part 5

Speaking FRANKly Part 5 February 18, 2016

jesus in the stormSpeaking FRANK-ly About Jesus Part 5

Three More Reasons to Conclude that Nazareth is Geographical Fiction

Frank Zindler’s blog dedicated to the thesis that Jesus of Nazareth never existed

Okay, so I couldn’t count very well. I actually had 22, not 19, reasons to conclude that the town of Nazareth did not exist at the turn of the era when “Jesus of Nazareth” should have been living there. With all my repetition of the point, readers doubtless remember that I am writing this stuff to back up and illuminate René Salm’s new book just published by American Atheist Press, “NazarethGate: Quack Archeology, Holy Hoaxes, and the Invented Town of Jesus.”

So, let me finish up my list of reasons why the biblical Nazareth should be considered fictive, so that I can talk about something else in my next posting.

20. Unlike other sites that can be dated with certainty to the first centuries before and after the turn of the era, almost no coins datable with certainty to that period have ever been found at Nazareth before the several controversial claims examined in Salm’s new book. (Remember the terms “Quack Archeology” and “Holy Hoaxes” in his title?) By contrast, hundreds to thousands of such coins typically are recoverable from other sites independently established to have been inhabited at that time. (Scratch this! It just occurred to me: the Holy Family and their friends were too poor to have any money, bartering with carpentry services and the eggs of cave thickens to fulfill their financial obligations. Perforce, no coins of proper dates would ever be found there. If you don’t have something to start with, you can’t lose it. Silly me!)

21. Similarly, the sparsity—indeed, nonexistence—of credibly datable ceramic and architectural evidence at the “venerated areas” is shocking. This contrasts startlingly with nearby sites known to have existed at that time. After all, when you excavate the site of an ancient city, don’t you expect to find the remains of ruined buildings? If this indeed is the biblical Nazareth, shouldn’t we find synagogue ruins on the hill? Residential, commercial, and civic building remains all over the place? (Through the 20th century, the Catholic Church interpreted the absence of residential buildings to mean that the Holy Family and their neighbors were actually troglodytes—living in the caves, tombs, and silos that lie under their sacred sites!)

The venerated sites are operated by the Catholic and Orthodox churches in modern Nazareth, and both Romans and Greeks tightly control all excavations in their little economic empires. If they REALLY thought they were sitting on the ruins of biblical Nazareth, wouldn’t they welcome with open arms independent, scientifically and secularly oriented archeologists? Yeah…

22. If Nazareth did not exist at the time in which the gospel stories are set, we must ask how and why it was invented. Although dating the various compositional strata of the New Testament books is hazardous and necessarily provisional, nevertheless it seems significant that the increase in gospel references to Nazara/Nazareth in later compositional strata appears to parallel the sequence of anti-Docetic interpolations in the gospels.

Docetism is the oldest Christian “heresy” of which we have mention even in the New Testament itself. Docetists (there were several types of them) claimed that Jesus only seemed (Greek dokein, ‘to seem’) to have a body and suffer on the cross. It may surprise readers to learn that the New Testament defines the antichrist as a Docetist. In 2 John 1:7 we read: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

It seems to me that Docetism was the original form of Christianity and had to be overcome by proto-Orthodoxy if the latter were to achieve theopolitical ascendancy. Thus it became necessary for gospel authors and interpolators to invent “Doubting Thomas,” have Jesus eat fish, and so forth. To thwart the Docetists, it was necessary to invent a human genealogy for Jesus, as well as accord to him a miraculous yet quasi-human birth. If he was “born of woman”—as a late interpolator of Galatians 4:4 asserted—he must have had a childhood somewhere.

Where was that? Well, umm… Let’s call it Nazareth. After all, he’s called a Nazarene, isn’t he? No one seems to know exactly what that means, so let’s pretend it denotes “coming from a place called Nazara or Nazareth.” (This would explain why most mentions of Nazareth are found in relation to the nativity tales.)

So there! Take THAT, Docetic swine!

Now I realize that some true believers who have clawed their way through these five postings will simply sum up my argument as argumentum e silentio—an argument from silence. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” they surely will exclaim if they’ve studied enough logic to have a firm misunderstanding of it.

Alas for apologetic would-be logicians! In science, absence of evidence for the existence of a process or material object usually is evidence of its absence—if exhaustive efforts have been made to discover such evidence. If someone were to make the claim that every evening at sunset a rhinoceros comes to roost in his attic, failure to find rhinoceros DNA after sampling dust from every square centimeter of the attic floor is both necessary and sufficient proof that the claim is false. René Salm’s research pertaining to Nazareth archeology is equally exhaustive, as will be apparent to all who read his new book.

For true believers, of course, science and the scientific method have little weight. In testing biblical claims, for them it is only necessary to show that something is possible, however remotely. Probability is of little or no concern.

NEXT TIME: Did Jesus Have a Body?

Dr. Frank Zindler is the past interim President of American Atheists, a member of the American Atheists board of directors, the chief editor of American Atheists Press, and an esteemed academic and activist. 

 


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