Responses to Bismikaallahuma

Jesus' Association with Nazareth

Recently Bismikaallahuma published an article regarding Jesus and Nazareth. In it the writers bring up a host of issues regarding Nazareth. Until some years ago, Bible critics have claimed that there was no town by the name of Nazareth in Jesus' time. [This charge has been proven false some time ago when archaeological evidence of this town was found.] The Muslim writers concede that Nazareth was an actual place of insignificance during the time of Christ, but ponder the question as to why would Jesus be associated with it. They also attack Matthew of inaccuracy citing a prophecy in Matthew 2:23 regarding Nazareth that does not even exist.

Glenn Miller has already addressed these issues here:

Furthermore, there already are two articles on Answering Islam that address the meaning of Matthew 2:23:

The reader may also consult the article "The Sources of the Old Testament Quotation in Matthew 2:23" by Maarten J. J. Menken, published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, VOLUME 120, No. 3 Fall 2001, pp. 451468 and available online here.

There are other issues which we will respond to sometime in the near future. For the time being we simply want to make our readers aware of the already available answers and provide the following quotation from Lee Strobel's interview with leading NT archaeologst John McRay. Strobel brought up the claim of skeptics regarding the alleged non-existence of Nazareth during Jesus' day:

This absence of evidence paints a suspicious picture. So I put the issue directly to McRay: "Is there any archaeological confirmation that Nazareth was in existence during the first century?"

This issue wasn't new to McRay: "Dr. James Strange of the University of South Florida is an expert on this area, and he describes Nazareth as being a very small place, about sixty acres, with a maximum population of about four hundred and eighty at the beginning of the first century," McRay replied.

However, that was a conclusion: I wanted the evidence. "How does he know that?" I asked.

"Well, Strange notes that when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70, priests were no longer needed in the temple because it had been destroyed, so they were sent out to various other locations, even up into Galilee. Archaelogists have found a list in Aramaic describing the twenty-four 'courses,' or families, of priests who were relocated, and one of them was registered as having been moved to Nazareth. That shows that this tiny village must have been there at the time."

In addition, he said there have been archaeological digs that have uncovered first-century tombs in the vicinity of Nazareth, which would establish the village's limits because by Jewish law burials had to take place outside the town proper. Two tombs contained objects such as pottery lamps, glass vessels, and vases from the first, third, or fourth centuries.

McRay picked up a copy of a book by renowned archaeologist Jack Finegan, published by Princeton University Press. He leafed through it, then read Finegan's analysis: "From the tombs ... it can be concluded that Nazareth was a strongly Jewish settlement in the Roman period."

McRay looked up at me. "There has been discussion about the location of some sites from the first century, such as exactly where Jesus' tomb is situated, but among archaeologists there has never really been a big doubt about the location of Nazareth. The burden of proof ought to be on those who dispute its existence."

That seemed reasonable. Even the usually skeptical Ian Wilson, citing pre-Christian remains found in 1955 under the Church of the Annunciation in present-day Nazareth, has managed to concede, "Such findings suggest that Nazareth may have existed in Jesus' time, but there is no doubt that it must have been a very small and insignificant place." (Strobel, The Case for Christ - A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998; ISBN: 0-310-20930-7], p. 103)

The name of Jack Finegan's book which McRay cited from is The Archaeology of the New Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 46. Ian Wilson's book is titled Jesus: The Evidence (1984; reprint, San Francisco: Harper-SanFrancisco, 1988), p. 67.

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