I'm listening to Christian radio and one pastor tells me that Nazareth was a tiny, sleepy little town wherein a pious family raised a sweet innocent girl named Mary, and it was the perfect place to raise such a child. Another tells me that Nazareth was a regional cesspit, garrisoning Roman soldiers- a place so nasty, in fact, that Jewish leaders started a story that the "virgin birth" was actually rape from one of those soldiers. So which Nazareth really existed, if any? Answer: perhaps none of the above.
One site I looked at told the story of this particular pastor getting a letter from an obviously atheist commenter who alleged a)there is no archaeological evidence for Nazareth existing until 200 years after Jesus' death; b) that the presence of burial caves in the area from that time suggest that, by Jewish law, no "pious" Jews would have lived there. The pastor refuted him fairly well on both points, but his discussion is neither here nor there. Why?
Because this is what I call "the black and white" attack. In order to prove the Bible, one must present black-and-white evidence, while the disprovers can bounce about from one standard to another. And here is a good example. Nazareth in Jesus' day was too small to be listed by any chronicaller besides the Gospels. No complex of ruins (possibly) have been found to that date (other than the tombs that the commenter already admitted were of the right date and area). Does this mean Nazareth didn't exist?
Look up any old city of central Europe. What you will almost invariably see is: "(Fill in the blank) was habited from at least the early (3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) century, but first was mentioned when King (whats his name) granted a charter in (name your middle ages year)." In other words, just because YOU don't have a record of it doesn't mean it wasn't there. (The tombs, by the way, the pastor refuted that they meant a village couldn't be there closeby by actually reading what the Jewish law SAID, rather than what the commenter WANTED it to say.
Another page delved into the "truth" of the rape of Mary allegation. Among the claims found therein:
- that certain Bible passages (when misread, for example John 8:41) allege to Jesus' bastard status;
You are doing the works of your own father." "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself." (the inference being "illegitimate children like YOU")
- That the Jewish leaders constantly referred to Jesus as "ben Panthera" in reference to His alleged rapist-father, a centurion named Tiberius "the Panther"- a name that some early Church fathers actually accepted;
-That they have archaeological evidence of this- From the site:
Panthera's existence was confirmed by the discovery of a mysterious tombstone at Bingerbrück in Germany. The engraving etched in the headstone read:
Tiberius Julius Abdes Panthera, an archer, native of Sidon, Phoenicia, who in 9AD was transferred to service in Rhineland (Germany).
- That there was a girl whose name was mistranslated as Mary, who if you dig in enough spots was actually a daughter of Herod the Great (and apparently a sister or half-sister to Joseph of Arimathea), and she had been raped/slept with Tiberius the Panther and had twin sons, Judas and Yeshua (Jesus), and this was the Jesus who died on the cross;
All of which led the author to this conclusion:
The scriptural and historical data being presented in this work shows that the New Testament was never an authentic record, but was, in its entirety, a corpus of corrupted documents specifically constructed to induce a particular belief (John 20:30-31). This conclusion rests firmly on known facts and the ensuing chapters analyze ancient Roman, British and church reports that support this assertion.
Which really opens the door to my big finish, but first:
Truth number one- anything can be misrepresented if you want to bad enough. The verses he pulls out to "prove" Jesus was a bastard he views with assumptions and hidden meanings much like he does on the alleged gravestone of Tiberius the Panther:
The date, nevertheless, was curious for locating the tombstone at Bingerbrück at all, because it did not say that Tiberius Julius Abdes Panthera died and was buried there, only that he was on service in the Rhineland. The evidence of the assertion was supposed that this time of 9BC was a coded message revealing the year the twin boys were born to Mariamne Herod. At that time she would have been fifteen years of age.
|C'mon, boy stre-e-e-e-e-etch that truth!|
Truth number two- look at the legend on the headstone. A pretty particular amount of Tiberius' resume to be put on a tombstone- and in Germany, no less!
Truth number three- I left out the more incredulous stuff from his "genealogy of Mary" (Yes, it gets worse).
|Bring yer checkbook...|
Finally, let us get to the POINT of this post, a point this author elegantly states:
...a corpus of corrupted documents specifically constructed to induce a particular belief ...
As in Matthew 28:
12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
So let me ask you, you who struggle with your faith when you read the reports of man. I admit, I can get sidetracked by these things too, until I bring to mind my personal experience with Christ, my salvation, and the moment He freed me from my chains. But here's the question- who had more reason to twist the truth? Atheists who dedicate their life to disproving something they claim doesn't exist? Jewish leaders anxious to keep their tenuous hold on power? Or Luke And Paul, who tell the story of the road to Damascus and Paul's conversion? Why would you lie about the resurrection of a man in order to go out and build a cult that only got them persecuted and executed?
Maybe if they found Paul's tombstone...