Thursday, June 2, 2011

Was there a Jesus of Nazareth?

Interesting conversation about mythicism, Nazareth and such I had with TGBaker at

I included my comments so that the context would be available when I reference this in the future.  The issue of was there an inhabited Nazareth in the time of Jesus is an interesting one.  I have read a bit on the subject but I haven't had the time to delve into this topic further.    Of course, this is basically useless knowledge for someone who lives in the middle of nowhere.  What will I do with it?  Still. there is the internet where I can discuss useless knowledge in depth with numerous others.  Fun!  There is so much to know about Christianity.  I wish I had started sooner with this topic.  Oh, well, you don't know you are going to enjoy something until you try it for yourself, I guess.  There are some references here that I want to read further like James Strange and others.


I certainly understand that some of the mythicists are irritating and that they often want to pick a fight. I'm not sure I understand why it is so important to some people.  I surely don't think the topic is worth being nasty over. I lean towards the Jesus is myth position but I don't believe it is helpful to be dogmatic.

 Is it really all that important if Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic preacher, a wise man of the first century, a legend that grew out of proportion or a complete and total myth?  That guy in the Bible that did miracles and rose from the dead and was born of a virgin, magical Son of God, Jesus Christ, that guy never existed. How exactly it all came to what was written into the Bible is an interesting field of study.  The conclusions are basically a matter of opinion, albeit well thought out and learned opinion, as the answers are not clear cut.  Otherwise so many nimble minds who have actually researched thoroughly for many years would literally know the answer to the question "Was Jesus a real person and who was that real person if he existed."  IMHO


I think all of your definitions of Jesus in your question shows that it is important what he was.  Some answers are clear enough in biblical criticism and are held by a majority of biblical scholars and historians.  Not that I am arguing that democracy is the methodology for truth.  But it does indicate that the norm for historical critical biblical research is a historical figure whose actions effected a group of people who in turn effected a course in history. Thus it is of historical importance. The fact that most conservative evangelical christianities believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and/or infallibility of scripture which entails its historical propositions evidences that the certain facts of historical conclusions are defeaters of that belief. It is not the question of simply whether Jesus was a myth or in some sense a historical person.  It is the obvious observation that the elements of christianities for which we are concerned are grounded in the truth claims that their scriptures are accurate historically.

When a comparison of these texts are made the inaccuracies do not reflect a design of mythological failure. They reflect texts written awkwardly and apologetically in an attempt to diminish the fact that Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.  Thus Matthew and Luke drop the statement that the baptisim was into a remission of sin as they edited Mark to remove such problems.   This one example of many alterations just in the opening verses of the Synoptic Gospels indicates that the historian is faced with a community trying to revision its history rather than create it.  Jesus no longer follows the Baptist, the Baptist confesses a need to be baptised by Jesus. These plagaristic changes when looked at from a redactiongeschichte (editorial changes) perspective build up into convincing evidence of communities of followers who reflect some historical information that was not in their interest, antithetical to their beliefs or an embarrassment. We can thus see the changes and define the intent


Well, TG, you have some valid points but..:)   the gospels seem to have been written in Greek originally, not Aramaic.  Very interesting.  There apparently was no Nazareth at the time of Jesus.  No Arimethea for Joseph of Arimethea to come from.  It is generally agreed that the miracle stories were add ons.  The story of the adultress an add-on.  The rising from the dead, an add on.  So many additions to the "original" gospel story that it does seem that it is indeed far more myth and fabrication than fact, in any case.   In fact, once all the additions are stripped away there seems to be very little left of the gospels.

Paul is claimed as the earliest writer and yet he seems to have never met Jesus and instead had a vision of some sort.

So, I am no expert and this is probably neither the time nor the place to discuss all of the issues at hand with the Jesus story.  I think it was Dan Barker that said Jesus - liar, lunatic or Lord.  There is a fourth possibility - legend!

Thanks for your response, TG


I agree and i had four year of Greek by which I studied those editorial apologies that developed in the manuscripts.  There are very few Aramaic traces left but there are some in the Greek.   Contrary to what you assume there was a Nazareth at the time of Jesus's birth. In fact that is the scandal of the infancy narratives. The belief was that the Messiah was to come from David's heritage thus the idea of Bethlehem but jesus was known to come from Nazareth.  The apologetics and gymnastics are simple. In Matthew Jesus's parents are from Bethlehem but run to Egypt to get away from Herod. When he died they supposedly moved to Nazareth. Luke has the parents living in Nazareth but coming to Bethlehem for a census. This gets jesus born in Bethlehem but explains Nazareth. Both stories are fabrications but their motivation is to explain away why Jesus was known to be from Nazareth. Why because Jesus historically was from Nazareth contrary to the belief about the Messiah being from Bethlehem. It is even a scandal in John. Look up the passages yourself. As far as Nazareth existence in the first century very few historians support your statement which is a theory based proposition. see WIKI on Nazareth:

James Strange, an American archaeologist, notes: “Nazareth is not mentioned in ancient Jewish sources earlier than the third century AD. This likely reflects its lack of prominence both in Galilee and in Judaea.”Strange originally speculated that the population of Nazareth at the time of Christ to be "roughly 1,600 to 2,000 people", but later, in a subsequent publication, at “a maximum of about 480.” In 2009 Israeli archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre excavated archaeological remains in Nazareth that might date to the time of Jesus in the early Roman period. Alexandre told reporters, "The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth."

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The artifacts recovered from inside the building were few and mostly included
fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period (the first and second centuries AD)... Another hewn pit, whose entrance was apparently camouflaged, was excavated and a few pottery sherds from the Early Roman period were found inside it." Alexandre adds that "based on other excavations that I conducted in other villages in the region, this pit was probably hewn as part of the preparations by the Jews to protect themselves during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 67 AD".

Ancient Nazareth may have built on the hillside, as indicated in the Gospel of Luke  [And they led Jesus] to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.[Lk. 4:29] However, the hill in question (the Nebi Sa'in) is far too steep for ancient dwellings and averages a 14% grade in the venerated area. Historic Nazareth was essentially constructed in the valley; the windy hilltops in the vicinity have only been occupied since the construction of Nazareth Illit in 1957. Noteworthy is that all the post-Iron Age tombs in the Nazareth basin (approximately two dozen) are of the kokh (plural:kokhim) or later types; this type probably first appeared in Galilee in the middle of the 1st century AD Kokh tombs in the Nazareth area have been excavated by B. Bagatti, N. Feig, Z. Yavor, and noted by Z. Gal......
A few authors have argued that the absence of 1st and 2nd century AD textual references to Nazareth suggest the town may not have been inhabited in Jesus' day. Proponents of this hypothesis have buttressed their case with linguistic, literary and archaeological interpretations,though archaeologist Dr Ken Dark dismisses such views as "archaeologically unsupportable"

My very point about Paul is that he is the creator of what became known as Christianity. The original Jewish followers of Jesus were not. And ultimately became the Ebionites. He disagreed with the original followers of Jesus: James, the brother of Jesus, John and Peter.  Galatians 2-5 is a polemic against there authority and teachings. They kept the Jewish law like Jesus!!!!! The historical Jesus was lost in his legend being transformed into a myth ultimately by Paul and those who influenced him. And the fact that I have to write such a standard overview is evidence of my concern about mythicism.


TG - You sound like a very learned person. I am but a simple gardener in the desert who enjoys studying Christianity.  I had looked into the Nazareth issue a bit before spring came.  However, I have been inexorably slowed in my studies since the weeding, planting, transplanting and all the other many tasks of 5 acres and a few pets took up my time.  I hope to get back to this topic in the fall.  I have read much of the information that you gave on Nazareth [though certainly not all of it and not enough in depth] but I like how you summarized it very much.  I remain unconvinced of a Jesus of Nazareth.  I am willing to change my mind should I have a chance to delve into this topic deeper.

There were of course a number of Jesus/Yeshua/Joshua characters in the late first BCE and early first of the CE.  So, shich one is the REAL JESUS? Was there a REAL JESUS? I think it is questionable. Hard to say. Thank you for being respectful in your words and leading me to do some more research as time permits.  I will be copying the information in your comment to my teensey weensy blog for future reference.

In the meantime enjoy the summer sun, the wind on your face and make sure you notice how beautiful the flowers in bloom are. May a hummingbird grace your yard.

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