Helena in Nazareth

I have just seen something that made me fall about laughing. I won’t mention the name or source of the poster, as they are a clever and good guy just misled by muppets. Here we go though, they wrote roughly

Those who feel that Nazareth was a thriving town in Jesus’ time need to answer one serious question. How is it that St Helena, the mother of Constantine, discovered only Mary’s well and no other items (no town, no old buildings) when she made her pilgrimage? Had there been a town of Nazareth to find, why didn’t Helena find it?

I replied  –” is this a parody of James Randi being hoodwinked by crap, or do you mean it? If the latter, oh dear. Helena lived in the late third/early fourth century, almost three centuries after Jesus,  when Nazareth is clearly archaeologically attested, as well as mentioned in inscriptions etc, etc.  There is no doubt whatsoever Nazareth was there then – whoever told you this shit is leading you up the garden path. Google 3rd century Nazareth or Fourth Centiury Nazareth and see for yourself.

And this is the whole thing – the myth of Nazareth not existing hinges on a place that clearly existed before and after the time of Jesus mysteriously stopping existing at the time of Jesus, then reappearing again, with the same name, and the Gospel writers who were trying to convert Jews in Palestine inventing a fictitious place for some bizarre reason of their own, that just happened to come back in to existence.
What seems to have  actually happened: an old anticlerical/atheist myth was questioned when the archaeological evidence showed it was nonsense. Rather than relinquish it, a few folks have set about arguing the archaeologists are wrong. Sad but true?”

What makes it worse is that James Randi has endorsed the myth, and claimed effectively that the archaeologists and historians who disagree with him are actually part of some kind of secret Evangelical conspiracy — despite the fact that this is the position of Israeli  Jewish archaeologists as well as secular and atheist archaeologists.  I won’t write more on this just yet, though I keep raising it on the JREF – we need a retraction, before the JREF becomes known as a peddler of woo. If you doubt Randi is uninformed on the issues, you might want to listen to the first few lines of the video, where he mentions Jesus being born in Nazareth according to Christians (er, Bethlehem last time I looked!) and the birth narrative in John’s Gospel – the discovery of a birth narrative in John’s Gospel is certainly a shocking revelation worthy of a Dan Brown novel, as Christians and Biblical scholars have not noticed the existence of one in over two millenia.

See thread here http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=137026 for bizarre Randi promotes  woo unpleasantness.

I sincerely like and respect Randi, but he needs to retract this nonsense. I’ve emailed as have others, so I’ll keep you posted…

cj x

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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6 Responses to Helena in Nazareth

  1. makarios says:

    It’s every where. I had someone on an atheist blog say that there is “absolutely no extra Biblical documentation from antiquity referring to Jesus.”

    When I gave her 23 examples, what they said and where she looked them up, she replied with, “There is absolutely no extra Biblical documentation from antiquity referring to Jesus.”

    It’s just pathetic.

  2. Chris says:

    It is really, really depressing – I have started to deal with ancient sources actually on this blog – only part one up, but it’s here – https://jerome23.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/debunking-the-myth-that-jesus-never-existed-the-historical-sources-for-jesus-part-one/ but it depresses me more as a historian than as a Christian. The good news is there are some incredibly sound atheist scholars and historians out there, indeed a couple of them are fighting this nonsense harder than any Christian is – and why not? It’s a matter of historical truth, not religious faith.

    Now James Randi si an atheist, but always insisted “the JREF is not an atheist organization” but rather a critical thinking one, so his surrender to pseudohistorical woo is the most depressing bit of all I think. Oh well, let’s keep arguing for sanity, and against dogmatic loonies of any persuasion!

    cj x

  3. Mo says:

    This JREF position is new to me and quite depressing — I have been accustomed to holding up Randi as an exemplar of critical thought, as he was quite influential on me when I was younger. I guess need to check in more and reevaluate that.

    Particularly strange that he should make those glaringly obvious errors re birthplace and John. Hmm.

  4. Chris says:

    It is bloody depressing – I think my sceptical hero is Martin Gardner, though I disagree with his thinking on a few issues. Still everyone makes mistakes – Carl Sagan certainly did in Cosmos – but the important thing is to acknowledge them, and where you are pushing woo, retract. So far no one seems to be getting much back from Randi on this. I can’t help thinking the whole thing was an advert, a paid piece, and rand just read the script — I may be wrong, but otherwise it is bizarre he would make such trivial errors about the Bible, and go on to basically claim all archaeologists who have written on the issue are part of a conspiracy. The publisher also believes this stuff, and features the interview prominently on their website.

    Interesting the outrage and criticism of Randi (and the JREF for posting the video) seems to be mainly in the atheist/sceptical community. The few Christian commentators who seem to have noticed have just laughed!

    cj x

  5. David says:

    I must admit that this made laugh, but to make such basic mistakes about the Biblical sources shows very sloppy research (or none at all).

    It also makes the town of Nazareth sound like Brigadoon…

  6. I ask myself why all people ignore the existence of the *real* town of Yafia about 500 meters West of Nazareth and about 300 meters South-West of the so called “Nazareth Village Farm”. This town exists at least since 1500 BCE – it already is mentioned in Amarna letter EA#248a with its Egyptian name Iapu. It also is mentioned in Josephus’ “Jewish War”, where Josephus states that he ordered to build a second town wall to delay the Roman attempt to put down the Jewish revolt. Hence, the second town wall now ended mere 450 meters West of today’s Nazareth. Not to forget: Yafia (with about 12,000 residents) was the second largest town in Galilee, so there was no reason to build a tiny three-houses-hamlet a Sabbath-walk East of its town wall.

    As Josephus tells us, the 10th Legion marched to Yafia via Sepphoris, so there was no other way than to march over the hill where we will find the town of Nazareth today. Today’s “Mary’s Well” was the only water supply for the Roman soldiers and baggage, but Josephus did not mention that the Romans nuked any houses to make room for thousands of people who needed fresh water and to clear the way (and sight!) to the coming battle field.

    Applying some reason might help to distinguish between fairytales and archaeologically attestable facts. We surely cannot know with 100 percent certainty that a historical Jesus existed or not, but it is very unlikely that he came from a town that definitely was founded after the Jewish War if he really existed. The oldest excavated building in Nazareth town was dated “Early Roman”, which spans the time between 6 and 135 AD – no way anyone was born here when Herod the Great still was alive. Same applies to Bethlehem, where the water reservoir for Herodes’ aqueduct to the Herodium is completely missing. There’s evidence for a settlement until the Assyrian occupation and after Constantine (Helena built a lot of stuff mentioned in the Bible which wasn’t there until she created it), but not between both periods.

    Well, that’s what we *know* about both places. Maybe our beliefs are strong enough to believe in the “alternative facts” invented by some clever business men about 1900 years ago? 😉

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