Richard Carrier on the Existence of Nazareth and the Movie Zeitgeist

Carrier argues that Nazareth probably existed in the time of Jesus and that the movie Zeitgeist is "absolute garbage." Don't fall for the arguments to the contrary, especially when it comes to that movie.

Amenhotep had commented:
Current "Nazareth" only seems to have acquired this title following the visit of the Empress Helena, and probably wasn't even inhabited at the time of Jesus (IIRC it's not even mentioned in Josephus, despite his extensive coverage of events in the region).
Carrier responded:
Josephus says there were hundreds of cities in Galilee. He names only a fraction. The last argument is therefore a non sequitur (typical of Nazareth ahistoricity nonsense circulating on the web, don't fall for this stuff). The first argument is refuted by an inscription of the 3rd or 4th century A.D. establishing the existence of Nazareth as a haven for refugee priests after the Jewish War (and that can only mean the first war, since the temple was then destroyed and unmanned, not later). This inscription was erected by Jews (not Christians) decades before Helena, and certainly reflects data from the 1st century (I can't imagine where else it would have come from).

Your middle claim could be true (some peer reviewed discussions of late seem to concede the possibility that there is no definite evidence of an early 1st-century Nazareth), though there is a difference between not having evidence and the town not being there. Personally, I find it hard to believe the town would suddenly appear and get that name just in time to take in priests after the first Jewish War (entailing a narrow window between 36 and 66 A.D. for its founding or renaming, but if it could happen then, why not earlier?).I know Salm has arguments against all this, but they don't seem that strong to me (in his book, in fact, all he has are mere possibilities, and some quotations of Schürer, a long-dead historian whose assertions were often vague and speculative and whose work has been rendered largely obsolete by more recent scholarship on the 1st century and Judaism). I leave it to the experts to debate the matter. Until there is a consensus against an early 1st century Nazareth, we should be skeptical of claims to the contrary.
Amenhotep had commented:
There is of course the slight issue that Nazareth is not built on a hill with a cliff, making it tricky for the locals to throw Jesus off anything, without trudging a mile *outside* the town to the traditional site.
Carrier responded:
Another example of an ill-informed argument that you may be falling victim to. The Mishnah establishes that what this narrative would mean by a "brow" is a gallows ramp that must be built for the purpose if no natural one was available. And it didn't need to be very high, just enough for an uncontrolled fall to be commonly lethal. Nazareth is also in fact built on a hill, making such a ramp even easier to assemble. Yes, the "traditional" site is far away and totally implausible (it's not even traversable). But that's ignorant Christian pilgrims for you, not having any idea of Jewish law or practice, and having wild fantasies in their heads about what the Gospel stories were about. In reality, for town stoning Jesus would have been led to the town gallows ramp, and Nazareth could easily have had one, and we would have no reason to expect any evidence of it to survive.

Link.
About the movie Zeitgeist, Carrier wrote:
Zeitgeist: The Movie...has been thoroughly debunked as absolute garbage by several knowledgeable commentators...I wouldn't recommend Zeitgeist at all.

Link.
Carrier also linked to Jim Lippard's blog which contains the best critiques of that movie, so be sure to check it out.

First posted 4/14/09

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