Five items appear below:
1 Biblical Inerrancy Anon #16 2 No Nazareth in Jesus' Time Dr Bob Potter #19 3 Nazareth Anon #19 4 Nazareth Dr Bob Potter #22 5 Reply to Dr Potter Anon #22
(Investigator 16, 1991 January)
I was in the Luther Library at the Lutheran Seminary in North Adelaide and browsing through some books on the Recent Acquisitions shelf.
In a book about WOMEN IN ROMAN BRITAIN I was surprised to learn that ancient Roman doctors were uncertain how long human pregnancy lasts. Some said 11 months, some said 8 months. "Here's a test for the theory of Biblical Inerrancy," I thought to myself.
Biblical Inerrancy is:"The doctrine that the Bible, in all it teaches, is free from error."
(COMPACT DICTIONARY OF DOCTRINAL WORDS 1988 T. L. Miethe)
The Bible makes many references to pregnancy. If any such references include a statement on how long pregnancy in humans lasts there is potential for error. If the Romans were wrong why shouldn't the Bible be wrong too?
The Bible in Luke chapter one discusses the pregnancy of the mother of John the Baptist. Verse 36 mentions Elizabeth's "sixth month". Next elapsed enough time for Mary (Jesus' mother) to travel from Nazareth to Judea where Elizabeth lived – about 150 kilometres. (Luke 1:39) That may have taken about a week. Then followed 3 months. (Luke 1:56) And: "Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered." (1:57)
Obviously, Elizabeth's pregnancy was about 9 months.
The book THE HUMAN SPECIES (1961) by Anthony Barnett presents a study of 537 pregnancies of white American women. The percentages giving birth in certain numbers of days were:
Before 266th day 12.7%
266-272 days 12.3%
273-279 days 22.0%
On 280th day 3.7%
281-287 days 24.2%
288-294 days 15.6%
After 294th day 9.4%
Elizabeth's term of pregnancy was clearly well within what modern research reveals to be average.
How did the oceans originate? Carl Sagan thinks most of the water came on comets. (COMET 1985) The more popular theory is that the water was "outgassed" from beneath the Earth. (CONTEMPORARY PHYSICAL GEOLOGY 1981 by H. L. Levin p. 344) Another idea is that 10 million 100-ton snow-balls drop in from Space every year. (NEW SCIENTIST 1988 May 12 p. 38)
The Bible explanation is that: "It burst forth from the womb." (Job 38:8) The Bible uses lots of figures of speech. I suggest that the womb is a better metaphor for the subterranean Earth than for the sky. The phrase "burst forth" suggests that most of the water arrived fairly quickly onto the surface. Compare this idea to a theory about Mars: "the water is deep below the present surface, occasionally it bursts out onto the surface and carves out channels." (NEW SCIENTIST 1986 December 18 p.13)
The Bible, throughout, speaks positively about breast-feeding. Yet, by 1970 breast-feeding was so discouraged that only 18% of mothers did it. Since then the pendulum has swung again as more and more benefits of the natural way are discovered. e.g.
Breast is betterThe Bible date for the destruction of Jericho has since 1930s been considered wrong by almost everyone. Now it seems the Bible is right after all! See Time Magazine. Australia 1990 March 5 p. 55.
LONDON: Breast-fed babies have more active immune systems after a year than babies fed formula milk, Canadian researchers reported in the journal, The Lancet. University of Alberta researchers vaccinated 81 infants for meningitis and severe pneumonia at two, four and six months. They found no significant differences in antibody levels between the two groups up to seven months. But after that, the antibody levels were significantly higher among the breast-fed infants.
(From a newspaper, unidentified and undated)
Is the Bible inerrant? If a hypothesis is tested and survives the tests and is unfalsified then it's rational to retain it!
No Nazareth in Jesus' Time
Dr Bob Potter
(Investigator 19, 1991 July)
In the discussion on Bible Inerrancy (INVESTIGATOR January 1991) it is argued that Mary would have travelled 150km from Nazareth to Judea.
There is just no reason to believe that there was, at that time, in Lower Galilee, a place called Nazareth.
The town receives no mention in the work or any contemporary historian. Josephus is very thorough in detailed descriptions or all towns and villages – yet he knows nothing of Nazareth. Nor is Nazareth referred to in the Old Testament, the Talmud or any other text apart from the New Testament.
Clearly, in the early days when the Jesus myth was being formulated, a hypothesized town was invented from a play on words. It was expected that the future Messiah would be Nazarean (or "Rod of Jesse" – see Isaiah 11:1 – "Nerzer" = "rod").
Likewise there had been an association with the Nazarites ("nazar" = "consecrate"), referred to in the Old Testament as individuals consecrated to Yahweh zealots for the national religion, abstaining from wine and women, allowing their hair to grow uncut, and avoiding any contact with corpses. Samson and Samuel were Nazarites. Jesus the Nazarean, or Jesus the Nazarite, was destined to become Jesus of Nazareth – and hence the need to create the town.
Often examples of this kind of word confusion can be found in the New Testament. Jesus raised the newly deceased daughter of Jairus with the Aramaic phrase: "Tabitha cumi which translates as 'Maiden, I say to you, arise.'" (Mark 5:41) A later writer (Luke?) described a similar incident in Acts 9:40, where presumably the first word of the ritual phrase Tabitha or Dorcas (the equivalent phrase in Greek) came into existence.
(Investigator 19, 1991 July)With this rather useful prophecy about Bethlehem to apply to Jesus it would seem silly to then risk refutation by inventing a non existent town called Nazareth.
"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days... And…he shall be great to the ends of the earth." (The Bible Micah 5:1-4)
Or did the disciples of Jesus have to invent Nazareth in order to account for the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1?
Nazareth – as known to history aside from the Bible – lies in a high valley (370 metres above sea level) running SW-NE. Steep hills rise up to the North, East and West of the valley. Nazareth is slightly North of the Plain of Jezreel and about half way between the Mediterranean Sea and the Southern tip of the Lake of Galilee
Nazareth is not mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus (37 AD - 100 AD), nor in the Old Testament, nor in the Talmud (the Jewish law code), nor in the Apocrypha. It is, however, mentioned 29 times in the New Testament:
From: Analytical Concordance To The Holy Bible R Young. Eighth Edition p. 689
A city in Zebulun, in Lower Galilee, seventy miles N. of Jerusalem, six miles W. of Mount Tabor, and twenty-four S.E. of Accho or Acre. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but still exists under the name of el-Nazurah.
Matt. 2:23 became and dwelt in a city called N.. th.
4.13 leaving N., He came and dwelt in Capern
21.11 This is Jesus the prophet of N. of Galilee
26.71 This (fellow) was also with Jesus of N.
Mark 1. 9 Jesus came from N. of Galilee and was
1.24 what have we to do with thee J of N
10.41 when he heard that it was Jesus of N he
14.67 And thou also wast with Jesus of N.
16.6 Ye seek Jesus of N., which was crucified
Luke 1.26 was sent unto a city of Galilee, named N
2.4 out of the city of N., into Judea, unto the
2.39 returned into Galilee, to their own city N
2.51 came to N., and was subject unto them
4.16 he came to N., where he had been brought
4.4 what have we to do with thee, Jesus of N
18.37 they told him, that Jesus of N. passeth by
24.19 Concerning Jesus of N., which was a pro.
John 1.45 have found.. Jesus of N. the son of Joseph
1.46 Can there any good thing come out of N.?
18.5 They answered him, Jesus of N. Jesus
18.7 Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of N
19.19 writing was, Jesus of N. the king of the J.
Acts 2.22 Jesus of N., a man approved of God among
3.6 In the name of Jesus Christ of N. rise up
4.10 by the name of Jesus Christ of N., whom
6.14 Jesus of N. shall destroy this place, and
10.38 How God anointed Jesus of N. with the
22.8 I am Jesus of N., whom thou persecutest
26.9 thing contrary to the name of Jesus of N.
According to the New Testament Nazareth was large enough to have a Synagogue. (Luke 4:14-30) The town/village was however apparently small enough so that everybody knew everybody. (Matthew 13:53-58) We might guess therefore that the population of this hypothetical Nazareth was a few hundred at most. Maybe then, Josephus did not mention Nazareth because it wasn't worth mentioning.
In the first century Lower Galilee was outside of the mainstream of Jewish life. Major roads and traffic of Roman legions and trading caravans passed a kilometre or so around the site of Nazareth rather than through it. Josephus does not mention the towns of Galilee as thoroughly or exhaustively as the towns of most other areas of Israel. Japhia, a big fortified village of Galilee, gets a mention. Sepphoris – very close to the site of Nazareth – and the major fortified town of the area also gets only a "mention" although being large enough to host a district court of the Sanhedrin (Jewish court of justice).
The prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 has no connection with any place named Nazareth and therefore it would have been unnecessary for Jesus' disciples to invent such a place-name to fulfil the prophecy.
The disciple Matthew wrote: "And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene." (2:23) "Prophets" is plural. Isaiah, however, is the only Old Testament prophet to apply the word "branch" (Hebrew = Nezer) to the future Messiah/Judge. Therefore, Matthew apparently did not have Isaiah 11:1 in mind when claiming the prophets predicted, "He shall be called a Nazarene."
In 1962 a Hebrew inscription dug up at Caesarea referred to Nazareth as a place to which Jewish priests emigrated after the founding of Aelia Capitolina (the Jerusalem rebuilt by the Romans) in 135 AD. That's only 100 years after Jesus died.
Luke wrote:"And they rose up and pulled him (Jesus) out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong." (4:29)That "brow of the hill" has been tentatively identified as a 13 metre high cliff SW of Nazareth.
Because the New Testament writers had no theological reason to invent a non-existent Nazareth and because of the other evidence discussed above I suggest that Nazareth did indeed exist in the time of Jesus – as stated in the Bible.
Dr Bob Potter (Investigator 22 1992, January)
Some points a serious inquirer should take into account:
1 It is misleading to just say, correctly, that Nazareth is mentioned 29 times in the New Testament. In fact it is mentioned only in the gospels and Acts. The earlier writings in the N T (Paul etc) do not mention Nazareth.
2 The books that do refer to Nazareth do not originate at the time. The earliest book, Mark, was constructed out of the area and the writer had little knowledge of Palestine. There are many places that do not appear in any contemporary text, not only Nazareth, but Cana, Geraza, Chorazin (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13), Bethsaida, Magadan, Dalmanutha (Mark 8: 10; Matthew 15: 38), etc.
3 The mistake of inventing a town named Nazareth was an attempt to make sense of the word Nazarene by a non-Jewish writer.
4 Your picture of Nazareth is also misleading for no scholar would make the mistake of identifying today's Nazareth with the alleged site in the time of Christ.
5 Mark is the best starting point because whoever put together the gospels of Matthew and Luke plagiarized freely from Mark.
6 So, I repeat the earliest writings in the N T do not mention Nazareth. Interestingly the final Gospel (John 7:41-42) makes the Jews reject the Messianic claims of Jesus because he was not born at Bethlehem – and it is indeed possible that the Bethlehem story was fabricated from O T verses to answer such objections.
7 Indeed a good argument can be produced that the entire 'life' of Jesus was constructed in this way. This is best illustrated by running through the book of Matthew where he makes a whole series of references to the O T claiming they foretell the arrival of Jesus – but if you check these sources one by one, you will find not one of them really does refer to Jesus but is made to do so.
REPLY TO DR POTTER
(Investigator 22, 1992 January)
1 There was no intent to mislead. My article included a full list of all 29 occurrences of "Nazareth".
2 To attach significance to the absence of Bible names in other ancient texts is a weak approach since such "silence" many be due to reasons other than the non-existence of the towns at the time. According to recent Bible Dictionaries the locations of Bethsaida, Chorazin and Cana have each been narrowed down to one of several sites as has Gerasa (=Gadara =Gergesa) – the "country of the Gerasenes". Dalmanutha and Magadan may be the same place (Mark 8:10. Matthew 15:39) but the location is in dispute.
3 Dr Potter's point 3 is a guess which follows from his belief that the absence of the name "Nazareth" in non-gospel texts implies the town didn't exist.
"Nazareth" was a byword for contempt. Every O T prophet who spoke of a future despised messenger of God in effect said: "He shall be called a Nazarene (= worthless person)."
4 The picture was labelled "1905". Whether first-century Nazareth was on, near or distant from this site will be determined if/when the remains of the original Nazareth are found. Investigator editors apparently insert pictures they have which nearest fit the theme. Similarly, a picture of a camel in an article on the Bible would not imply that the same camel stood on the same site 2000 years ago.
5 Plagiarism – stealing others' writings and presenting them as one's own – is nowadays a tort although it perhaps wasn't in the 1st century. Perhaps Matthew and Luke copied from and edited Mark by permission!
6 That the Bethlehem story is "fabricated" is another speculation.
7 How to interpret O T prophecies is too different and too big a topic to enter here.
Hundreds of places mentioned in the Bible have already been located and identified including some which skeptics felt didn't exist. Perhaps the turn of Nazareth and Dalmanutha will come.
Dr Potter has expanded a short disagreement about Nazareth into major questions about the dates of writing of various N T documents, the existence or otherwise of five other towns mentioned in the N T, accusations of "fabrication"and interpretations of O T prophecies.
People tend to multiply the questions like this when the first question they began with can't on present evidence be settled.
Our discussion about Nazareth arose from a claim that Luke correctly assigned 9 months to a pregnancy whereas some other ancient writers were uncertain about how long pregnancies last. People who believe the Bible will predict that Luke will win again. Others will side with Dr Potter.
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