IN SEARCH OF NAZARETH
Joseph and Mary... returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. Luke 2:39–40
“What's funny is that the evidence now shows that Nazareth—the town where Jesus supposedly grew up—didn’t even exist in first-century Palestine!”
It was a memorable conversation. My coauthor Mark and I were having breakfast with a couple of prominent atheists. These guys didn’t just deny the existence of God; they were out to prove that belief in God is ridiculous.
I left with conflicting thoughts. Part of me knew what was really ridiculous was their claim itself. But the other part of me asked, How do I know for sure? Have I ever really investigated the evidence concerning Nazareth?
So investigate I did. Do you know what I found out? As I explain in The Case for Christ, the evidence for first-century Nazareth is overwhelming—and new data keeps coming in. Scholar Craig A. Evans wrote, “Recent excavations in and around Nazareth—which today is a city of about 60,000—suggest that the village in the time of Jesus may not have been a sleepy, isolated place, as many have imagined.”
Also, in 2006 the Nazareth Archaeological Project began excavating beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent. The director of the project, Ken Dark of the University of Reading, described the remains of a first-century home that were found there. “Taken together, the walls conformed to the plan of a so-called courtyardhouse, one of the typical architectural forms of Early Roman-period settlements in... Galilee,” Dark said.
Archaeologists found doors and windows, cooking pottery, and a spindle whorl used in spinning thread. Fragments of limestone vessels, which Jews believed could not become impure, were also found, suggesting that a Jewish family lived there. “The house must date from the first century AD or earlier,” Dark concluded. “No stratified pottery earlier or later than the Early Roman period was discovered in layers associated with the house.”
In addition, another first-century house, similar in structure, was discovered nearby in an excavation by Yardenna Alexandre of the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2009.
“The evidence suggests that Jesus’ boyhood was spent in a conservative Jewish community that had little contact with Hellenistic or Roman culture,” Dark concluded.
In spite of challenges, the case keeps getting stronger that Nazareth did, indeed, exist at the time of Jesus.
Truth for Today
“In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines,” says Proverbs 18:17. It’s natural to feel intimidated when someone questions an aspect of your faith—but looking deeper will make your faith grow stronger.