A few months ago, I wrote about finds that establish, contrary to the views of some sceptics, that Nazareth did indeed exist in Jesus’ day – as a small agricultural village of (probably) just a few hundred inhabitants (Did Bethlehem and Nazareth exist in Jesus’ day?).
I obtained the information for that blog from searching the internet and reading news reports. I do not have good access to more academic libraries. So it seems that I understated the evidence.
Tim O’Neill is a fellow blogger (see Armarium Magnum), an atheist and a keen and well-read amateur historian. He and I have crossed swords many times on aspects of christian belief on which we disagree, but on historical assessment of the New Testament, we both agree that we must be guided by those who have done the research and published their results in peer-reviewed articles. In a recent posting on the Quodlibeta forum, Tim has outlined more of the evidence, using quotes from papers written by the archaeologists.
What the archaeologists have found
There are apparently three separate locations that have been investigated – agricultural terraces, tombs, and a house. In these locations they have found coins, pottery and a lamp.
These artefacts, including the tombs themselves, can all be dated, and the dates are consistent. The archaeologists conclude:
- The artefacts can be dated from a century or more before Jesus through to several centuries after him. The greatest number of artefacts were late Roman – somewhere in the second to fourth centuries.
- “The earliest occupation seems to have occurred in the late Hellenistic period of the first and second centuries BC.”
- The village was apparently small and poor at the beginning, but began to grow in size and wealth after the middle of the first century – as shown by the types of graves as well as the coins and pottery.
The inescapable conclusion
Nazareth was indeed settled before, during and after the time of Jesus. He would have grown up in a very small rural village with probably only a small number of children his own age. There appears to be nothing in the Bible or archaeology that contradicts this.
Sadly, it seems that the sceptics will not accept the conclusions of the archaeologists working at the site.