The myth of Nazareth, the invented town of the mythical figure known as Jesus

The recently discovered ‘house of Jesus‘ is part of the scam. Nazareth never existed.

The myth of Nazareth, the invented town of the mythical figure known as Jesus

Rene Salm

“It is very doubtful whether the beautiful mountain village of Nazareth was really the dwelling-place of Jesus.”
—T. Cheyne (Encyclopedia Biblica, “Nazareth,” 1899).

A recent American Atheist column [1] contained surprising results of new research into one of the most important venues of the Christian story: the town of Nazareth. This topic has been contentious for many years, and it is no coincidence that significant research into the dubious origins of Christianity should first appear in this magazine, given what I consider the common sense and scientific acumen indigenous to Atheists. Of course, damaging material such as this puts the very stiff Christian neck in a scientific noose, as it were, and the Christian press has no interest in kicking the chair out from under itself. A nudge by well – intentioned Atheists at this critical juncture won’t hurt… With the knowledge that Nazareth did not exist in the time of Jesus, we have our fingers wrapped around one of the chair legs and are now poised to give it a decided heave.

The column in the November-December issue of American Atheist was aptly titled “Why The Truth About Nazareth Is Important.” This topic is indeed important, but not for the most obvious reason. After all, where Jesus really came from is hardly earthshaking. What must matter to all Christians, however, is the inescapable fact that the evangelists invented this basic element in the story of cosmic redemption. The proof is now at hand that “Jesus of Nazareth,” a long-standing icon of Western civilization, is bogus.

There can be no return to the comforting familiarity of the past, for with the proof that Nazareth did not exist at the turn of the era, the gospels leave the realm of history and forever enter the realm of myth. It is a swift kick to the solar plexus of Christian inerrantism, the scholarly equivalent of a punch sending the opponent to the mat—perhaps even a knock-out.

The Myth of Nazareth boots Christian certitude out the window, and the door is now wide open to ask, “What else did the evangelists invent?” As after the recent power shift in Congress, there will be questions… Up until now the tradition has been able to fend off attacks from the intellectual left because those attacks lacked proof. Now, archaeology has supplied the proof, and with it the balance finally shifts. The Church’s position must fall like a house of cards. After all, Nazareth is mentioned in three of the four four canonical gospels [2] and is neither an insignificant nor a passing element. If the tradition invented his hometown, then who can place faith in other aspects of the Jesus story, such as his virgin birth, miracles, crucifixion, or resurrection? Were these also invented? What, in other words, is left in the gospels of which the average Christian can be sure? What is left of his or her faith?

Scholars can now apply this radical new information to problems that have bedeviled them for three centuries, as they fruitlessly have tried to reconcile contradictions and make sense out of four narratives that obstinately refuse to agree. For example, it has long been known that the birth stories in Matthew and Luke are incompatible (in the Gospel of Matthew the Holy Family comes from Bethlehem, not Nazareth). Again, why is Jesus so often interacting with Pharisees in the Galilee, where they were hardly known before 70 CE? Why does Luke write about a preposterous Roman census in which everyone returned to his birthplace to register for taxation (2:1 – 7)? The Romans were far too practical to mandate such a recipe for instant social chaos. Besides, the evangelist was in error by several years (a different type of census took place in 6 CE). In any case, Galilee was not within the area of direct Roman jurisdiction (it was administered by the puppet ruler, Herod Antipas). To make a long story short, the invention of Nazareth now brings another alternative to the fore: these elements are not historical at all. They, too, are make-believe.

Read the rest of the article here.

And visit Salm’s website here.

Xenophobic Self-Destruction Or, How the Odyssey and the Old and New Testaments Can Predict Our Future

Weird title, huh? How in the world can “fear of strangers”, which is touted by our revered leaders as our best protection, be the cause of self-destruction? And what does it have to do with the Odyssey, the Old and New Testaments?

It’s pretty simple, actually.

One of the dominant themes of the Odyssey, which also appears in the Old and New Testaments, is hospitality and knowing how to treat a stranger if you are the host, and knowing how, as a guest, you ought to respond to good or bad hospitality.

Bruce Louden, in his book Homer’s Odyssey and the Near East, examined the epic to look for clues on how to determine who was violating the rules and the laws of hospitality, aka the rules of life, and thus why this or that person or group was destroyed by the gods.

[T]he three great Odyssean principles that will become virtual constants of the rule-system of classical narrative: that crime brings inevitable punishment, brain is intrinsically stronger than brawn, and trespass on another’s property is an invariably fatal violation . . . any mortal contempt for divine status or authority – invariably brings retribution, whether on the ogre Polyphemus, the beggar, Irus, or even (in his blasphemous final outburst to the blinded giant) Odysseus himself . . . To a great extent, the narrative roles of the human players themselves are straightforwardly defined in terms of these moral laws.

( Bruce Louden (2011), Homer’s Odyssey and the Near East, Cambridge University Press.)

The principles of life governing the action portrayed in the Odyssey would have been well and widely understood at the time the story was being recited in social groupings of the ancient world, and no doubt, the listeners would nod in agreement as each episode unfolded and then concluded in justice being served.

So, basically, there was a time when the universal law of reciprocity was more widely and clearly understood. Unfortunately, the people of today have lost sight of this cause-and-effect relationship, but are still doomed to suffer the consequences. The law is inescapable and ignorance is no excuse. It doesn’t matter how solitary or non-materialistic a person is, they will always be a part of some kind of exchange as long as they exist. From impressions and breathing to social interactions and material exchange, only the scale differs. At the moment we are both hosts and guests, to other individuals, groups, the earth and the universe.

An Indo-European linguistic echo of this relationship is preserved in the similarity between the English words guest and host, as explained by David Anthony:

The two social roles opposed in English guest and host were originally two reciprocal aspects of the same relationship. The late Proto-Indo-European guest-host relationship required that “hospitality” (from the same root through Latin hospes ‘foreigner, guest’) and “friendship” should be extended by hosts to guests in the knowledge that the receiver and giver of “hospitality” could later reverse roles. The social meaning of these words was then more demanding than modern customs would suggest. The guest-host relationship was bound by oaths and sacrifices so serious that Homer’s warriors, Glaukos and Diomedes, stopped fighting and presented gifts to each other when they learned that their grandfathers had shared a guest-host relationship. …

This institution redefined who belonged under the social umbrella, and extended protection to new groups. It would have been very useful as a new way to incorporate outsiders as people with clearly defined rights and protections, as it was used from The Odyssey to medieval Europe….

The guest-host institution extended the protections of oath-bound obligations to new social groups. An Indo-European-speaking patron could accept and integrate outsiders as clients without shaming them or assigning them permanently to submissive roles … the spread of Proto-Indo-European probably was more like a franchising operation than an invasion.

(David W. Anthony (2007), The Horse, the Wheel and Language, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Pp. 303, 342, 343 excerpts, emphases, mine.)

The same theme runs like a thread through the Old Testament, ancient Near-Eastern stories gathered together much later, under Graeco-Roman influence, to be compiled as a fake “History of the Jews”. (There are a growing number of scholars who are convinced that the Bible ripped off Homer and other Greek – and some Mesopotamian and Roman – literature in order to create their history.)

OT myth’s relevance is evident in the close parallels three well-known myths offer to the Odyssey. Joseph, separated from his brothers and father for virtually the same length of time Odysseus is away from Ithaka, meets with them unrecognized and submits them to various painful tests, before revealing his identity to them. The recognition scenes serve as the climax to his narrative, as do Odysseus’ recognition scenes with Penelope and Laertes. The parallels suggest a highly developed form of romance, with intricate recognition scenes; it is a mythical genre common to both Greek and Israelite culture …

Odysseus’ crew, confined on Thrinakia for a month, in revolt, sacrificing Helios’ cattle in a perverse ritual, offers extensive parallels to the Israelites’ revolt against Moses, and perverse worship of the gilded calf in Exodus 32. The myths of Jonah and Odysseus suggest that Greek and Israelite culture both have a genre of myth we might think of as the fantastic voyage.

The fantastic voyage is life, individual or collective, and these stories hold the clues on how it works and how to navigate.

Many of the genres of myth in the Odyssey, such as theoxeny (hospitality), challenge usual assumptions of what constitutes an epic. For the greater part of nine books (14-22) Odysseus, to all outward appearances, is a beggar, associating with lowly slaves, abused, unrecognized in his own kingdom. This is unexpected behavior for an epic hero.

Later on, the same theme comes up with doubled force in the bible in the tale of the three strangers entertained by Abraham, a very good host, who announced the coming destruction of the cities of the plain: Sodom and Gomorrah. In this little tale, the principle of the rules of hospitality is plainly revealed: one should treat others generously because they could be gods in disguise. Abraham washed their feet and prepared a meal, so he was okay; there was even a little arguing going on between him and the gods, which is a curious twist on certain Odyssean dramas where gods argue with one another over whether or not to destroy this or that person or group of people because they have insulted the gods. (Insulting the gods could be done in any number of ways, the main one being violating any of the rules of hospitality). In any event, because of his scrupulous hospitality, the angels/gods reveal to Abraham their plan and promise him a reward: a child, despite the fact that he and Sarah are now pretty old and decrepit.

Louden writes:

As I will argue, the parallels are far too frequent and close (differences in tone and narrative agendas notwithstanding) for coincidence. The similarities between Greek and Near Eastern myth suggest some form of diffusion. I assume that each tradition, Homeric or Near Eastern, learned or acquired a “template” of the respective genre of myth, to which each culture then made some modifications, added more local details, to make it fit into the specific context in which that culture now employed it. The Odyssey, for instance, uses theoxeny as episodes in the lives of warriors, Odysseus, Nestor, and Telemachos, whereas OT myth employs theoxeny as episodes in the lives of patriarchs, Abraham and Lot. Because of the different type of characters featured, the respective instances have different modalities. The warrior Odysseus himself carries out the destruction of the suitors, as demanded by Athena, whereas in Genesis 19 destruction rains down from the sky.

It is altogether likely that the plagues that afflicted the Egyptians when Abraham was told to take his wife and go, and the blast that smote Sodom and Gomorrah as Lot and his family were fleeing, were originally a single story event later separated and then later still recombined with added elements to create the Exodus story. The possible real historical event that these stories were wrapped around could have been a Tunguska-like overhead cometary blast which, as current cutting-edge science reveals, apparently happens a lot more often than our revised and sanitized histories admit.

In the New Testament, the character Jesus also gives repeated examples of the Cosmic Law of Hospitality, even going so far as to explicitly say that whenever a person is kind and giving to anyone in real need, they are demonstrating hospitality to the gods, the life principle. He also gave a vivid demonstration of the right of the host to defend his home against violations of hospitality by the guests when he went on his rampage against the money-lenders in the temple.

The same types of stories, probably drawn from the same Indo-European exemplars, were told in Norse sagas with Odin or Thor playing the part of Jupiter, Mercury or some supreme male god or psychopomp. One of the oldest written sources on the Scandinavian legends is Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (1080 AD), which he claimed was based on first-hand accounts.

Odin was known to travel about in disguise and test the hospitality of his people, so, in that sense, he was more like Odysseus. Odin is also associated with trickery, cunning and deception, just as Odysseus was. Icelandic historian, poet, and politician Snorri Sturluson obviously noticed the similarities and felt compelled to give a rational account of the Æsir in the prologue of his Prose Edda; he speculated that Odin and his peers were originally refugees from Troy (surprise, surprise!) as the Greeks, Romans, Goths, British and others claimed also. In other words, the stories of the Norse gods were just the Northern version of the Odyssey. The point of this is that the ideas and principles conveyed in the Odyssey, the oldest form of the stories extant, were part and parcel of the way humans evolved to survive in ancient times, and I would like to suggest that they weren’t necessarily a superstitious bunch who danced naked in the moonlight or smeared bear grease in their hair.

The ancients were quite certain that human behavior could attract or repel the wrath of the gods. Most often, it was the behavior of the priest-king that was the crucial element. It was his job to figure out what the gods wanted in respect of human behavior and to ensure that this was how things were done so that the kingdom would be safe. There were a few good examples of this principle, where the king was “righteous” and took care of his people like a tender parent, conducted his own life so as to set a positive example for all, and things were fine … until … a pathological type would get into power in one way or another and begin to pervert the entire system. When that happened, scape-goating became the rule of the day and “sacrifice” was declared to be what the gods wanted: witch-hunts began. Such times always and ever preceded large-scale destruction of the society.

The entire cosmos seems to be made of information and mirrors. The living system and the cosmos interact constantly, receiving and transmitting. As above, so below. But there are also choices.

We all receive impressions from our environment and react to them in different ways: rebelling, ignoring or just copying what we perceive. Whatever the reaction, we react based on our personal understanding, our past experiences, our feelings and our sense of morality. We are influenced, but we also have the ability to influence. Our capacity to contemplate the past, present and future in a connected way, to feel deeply about others and to judge and choose either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is what makes us human.

It really is down to us collectively. We are the power source and the authors, whether we allow a leader to represent and direct us or not, we are ultimately responsible for our world. If that’s really the case, seeing that we have a choice in how things turn out and learning how to direct our course seems rather important.

It appears that in earlier history, man understood that he had some control over his own destiny and the fate of society through his righteous behavior. Theoxeny was a moral standard. Every person was seen as having the potential to either help or hinder prosperity and health for all. Even if some could give more than others, everyone had the privilege and the duty to contribute their best. Every person’s actions counted and their actions were responded to with justice through other people and the universe.

But a pathology took hold, and though it could not completely change the nature of man or take away his ability to choose, it influenced society and altered humanity’s course because of our acceptance of it. As awareness declined, good intentions were subverted and our integrity as a species diminished. Humans have become a species tuned in to entropy, and what we choose and express will become our fate. We have given up our personal responsibility to each other as hosts and guests and therefore will end up being our own destruction.

When reading history, over and over again the same cycle can be seen. The point that I would like to emphasize is that human beings do have some control over their destiny as individuals and groups, nations and civilizations. But that “control” is rather more like putting oneself into alignment with universal principles and activating them in practice. But obviously, one has to be careful and find out what those principles actually are! Obviously, those ancient civilizations that believed the lies of the evil masters who declared that sacrifice of their enemies, or war against this group or that group, was what the gods wanted, didn’t do that. Thus we see that relying on the rules of anthropocentric religions can be deadly: witness the destruction of the Roman Empire that came with Christianity.

The ancient literature on these topics can be mined for knowledge and wisdom. Indeed, it appears to be the case that taking assertive action against violators of Cosmic Hospitality oneself can prevent the gods from having to do it. And one can notice that when the gods do it, the action falls not only on the corrupt elite, but also on those who would choose to do nothing, those who permit the evils and corruptions to continue and perpetuate: witness Lot’s wife. Abraham pleaded for Sodom “if there were just ten righteous men”. There weren’t. And, apparently, the righteousness of Lot and his family wasn’t enough, though they were saved out of the destruction.

Jesus went after the corrupt bankers in the temple and warned the entire society of coming destruction which, in 70 AD, wiped out the city of Jerusalem. Of course, this is credited to the Roman army, but there are indicators in Josephus and Tacitus that there very well may have been another Tunguska-like event involved there as well, which was later edited out and the destruction was attributed to the actions of men. And here, I’m not concerned about who Jesus was or whether the texts were written after the fact; what is important is that they followed story norms, borrowing from other similar tales, which were based on ancient principles of Cosmic Hospitality.

Ignorance of these laws is no protection. In fact, ignorance of them might be seen as a deliberate flouting. The Cosmos exists to be loved and you cannot love what you do not know. Thus, it is the duty of every self-conscious creature to exert all their efforts, within their inherent capacities, to know and thus to be able to love the Cosmos. Those creatures that cannot or will not do this are considered by Nature to be failed experiments and they or their lines will be extinguished.

The point is made near the end of the Odyssey, that silence is assent. Eurymachus attempts to plead with Odysseus, saying, “He who was most to blame is already dead. It was Antinous who was behind all these doings … Now he has received his just punishment, give up your anger against us! Spare your equals in rank! Every one of us shall bring you twenty bullocks in recompense for what we have eaten, and you shall have all the bronze and gold it will take to win back your favor.”

“No, Eurymachus,” said Odysseus, scowling at him. “Even if you offered me everything you have inherited from your fathers, I should not rest until all of you have atoned for your misdeeds with death. Do what you will, fight or flee – not one of you shall escape me!”

Nor did they.

The Politics of History

Today I want to review a book I have recently finished reading: The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel. Let me introduce my subject with a quote from another recent book by Nachman Ben-Yehuda, the Israeli sociologist, who writes:

“How do we perceive our culture? How do we understand ourselves as beings in need of meaning? We are socialized into and live in complex cultures from which we extract the very essence of our identity, but at the same time, we also construct these cultures. How is this process accomplished? What is the nature of those cultural processes…?

“One interesting way of exploring cultures is to examine some of the myriad contrasts that characteristically make up cultures. These contrasts set boundaries, which in turn define the variety of the symbolic-moral universes of which complex cultures are made. In turn, these symbolic-moral universes give rise to and support both personal and collective identities. There are many such contrasts, some more profound than others. There are physical contrasts, such as black/white, day/night, sea/land, mountain/valley; and there are socially and morally constructed contrasts, such as good/bad, right/wrong, justice/injustice, trust/betrayal. The contrast we shall focus on in this book ( Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada) is a major and significant one: that between truth and falsehood. This contrast cuts across many symbolic-moral universes because it touches a quality to which we attach central importance – that between the genuine and the spurious. …

“[T]he demarcating line between that which is truth and that which is not did not leap into existence overnight, but developed gradually in Western philosophical thought over many years. …

“As scientists we must affirm that there are versions of reality which are inconsistent with, even contradictory to, “facts.” The realities which these false versions create are synthetic and misleading. …

“Adhering to social realities which are based on incorrect empirical facts and false information is – evidently – possible, but carries a heavy price tag in terms of a genuine understanding of the world in which we live. …

“…Nationalism requires the elaboration of a real or invented past…

“…Nationalist archaeology has no choice but to be political. …In cases of disputed pasts it has to become manipulative as well. Manipulating archaeology to legitimize specific pasts – real or invented – is a potent concoction to use when one wants to forge a national identity and create cohesion by fostering a strong sense of a shared past…”

This is exactly the problem that Thomas L. Thompson addresses in The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel : the creation of an invented past that was accomplished long ago, for purposes of forging a national identity among refugees. However, at the time it was originally done, the target audience understood that it was not a real “history,” but rather an ideological textbook for the future. The real problems began when another group, some time later, decided to use the same stories (handily already available), for their own imperial ambitions and presented this ideological literature as History. In short, as Thompson and others point out, the “History of Israel” was really created by European elitists seeking to colonize the world and knew a good thing when they saw it.

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The Book of Q and Christian Origins and The Bible Fraud

The Book of Q and Christian Origins by Burton L. Mack

Book Review

Note: Q is short for the German word Quelle (which is source). Q is one of the two sources for Matthew and Luke, the other being old Mark, but the unknown lost source is now named Q. While this subject comes up under the subject heading of Q hypothesis – (synoptics criticism), since the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, it really isn’t a hypothesis anymore. But it looks like that subject heading will stick. But more and more books are indexing Q as Sayings Gospel Q. The first layer of Q is known as Q1.

June 11, 2005: Two years ago I wrote a bit about Christianity based on the research I had done up to that point. In recent months, I have revisited the subject at the suggestion of several people, one of whom promoted the book by Tony Bushby, The Bible Fraud. This book was already on hand in our library, but I had discarded it in disgust at the time I originally began to read it (in 2002, I believe) because I had noted a “twisting” of the facts in the first chapter. However, at the urging of a correspondent, I revisited this book, reading it through to the end. Indeed, there were a number of interesting references, but again I found it to be a frustrating read because these references were often used in a very loose way intended to support the incredible leaps of assumption, and a wholly fantastic story. Bushby, like so many others, began with the assumption that at least SOME of the “facts” of the narrative gospels were true, however distorted or misrepresented.

In any event, reading Bushby’s book started me off on the search for Christian origins again, and that led me to The Lost Gospel by Burton L. Mack. Let me say in advance that I highly recommend this book, and I hope that the excerpts I am going to present here will stimulate interest in the details that Mack presents in his fascinating discussion of the discovery of Q (the theorized source document for the basic ideas of Jesus) and the subsequent analyses that helped to extract the truth of early Christian history.

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