Jesus Era House Found in Nazareth Dec 22 (Expanded Dec 24)

Darrell L. Bock's picture

The initial report on this story can be found here: There has been some significant activity in Nazareth in recent years. Stephen Pfann and Ross Voss had found a farm house in the area in 1997.  There also are buildings across the street from the basilica near where the house was found. We still need some more details on this find, but it does suggest that efforts to limit settlement here to Iron and Byzantine ages may be far too skeptical. It is hard to think early followers would produce gospels pointing to Nazareth as a key locale for Jesus when nothing existed there. All agree it was a small place, so why draw attention to it if it did not have a role. There is nothing gained by seeing a creative detail here. There is no plausible motive for making it a point of reference. Here are some more details from the daily news site at BAR ( A recent Israel Antiquities Authority excavation in Nazareth has resulted in the discovery of a residential building dating to the time of Jesus. The site is located next to the Church of the Annunciation, and was discovered as archaeologists carried out excavations in preparation for the construction of the International Marian Center of Nazareth. During the course of excavations, researchers discovered the remains of an early Roman-period structure, as well as several artifacts including pottery fragments and pieces of chalk vessels. The fragments of chalk vessels that were discovered are particularly important, as these indicate that the residents were Jewish—chalk vessels were only used by Jews in this period because such pieces were unsusceptible to becoming ritually unclean. The discovery of this structure is the first such residential structure to be discovered in Nazareth from this period. Further examination of the structure is expected to shed light on daily life in the Jewish village during the time of Jesus. And from the Israeli Antiquities Authority ( An archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority recently conducted has revealed new information about ancient Nazareth from the time of Jesus. Remains of a dwelling that date to the Early Roman period were discovered for the first time in an excavation, which was carried out prior to the construction of the “International Marian Center of Nazareth” by the the Association Mary of Nazareth, next to the Church of the Annunciation. According to the New Testament, Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived in Nazareth together with her husband Joseph. It was there that she also received the revelation by the Angel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God. The New Testament mentions that Jesus himself grew up in Nazareth. In 1969 the Church of the Annunciation was erected in the spot that the Catholic faith identified with the house of Mary. It was built atop the remains of three earlier churches, the oldest of which is ascribed to the Byzantine period (the fourth century CE). In light of the plans to build there, the Israel Antiquities Authority recently undertook a small scale archaeological excavation close to the church, which resulted in the exposure of the structure. According to Yardenna Alexandre, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period. From the few written sources that there are, we know that in the first century CE Nazareth was a small Jewish village, located inside a valley. Until now a number of tombs from the time of Jesus were found in Nazareth; however, no settlement remains have been discovered that are attributed to this period”. In the excavation a large broad wall that dates to the Mamluk period (the fifteenth century CE) was exposed that was constructed on top of and “utilized” the walls of an ancient building. This earlier building consisted of two rooms and a courtyard in which there was a rock-hewn cistern into which the rainwater was conveyed. The artifacts recovered from inside the building were few and mostly included fragments of pottery vessels from the Early Roman period (the first and second centuries CE). In addition, several fragments of chalk vessels were found, which were only used by Jews in this period because such vessels were not susceptible to becoming ritually unclean. Another hewn pit, whose entrance was apparently camouflaged, was excavated and a few pottery sherds from the Early Roman period were found inside it. The excavator, Yardenna Alexandre, said, “Based on other excavations that I conducted in other villages in the region, this pit was probably hewn as part of the preparations by the Jews to protect themselves during the Great Revolt against the Romans in 67 CE”. In a few of the archaeological excavations that were carried out in this crowded city, a number of burial caves dating to the Early Roman period were exposed that are situated close to the inhabited area. The modern Church of the Annunciation was constructed in the heart of Nazareth, above the Crusader Church of the Annunciation and atop the ruins of a church from the Byzantine period. In the middle of these churches is a cave that was already ascribed in antiquity to the house of Jesus’ family. Many storage pits and cisterns, some of which date to the Early Roman period, were found in the compound of the Church of the Annunciation.The “Association Mary of Nazareth” intends on conserving and presenting the remains of the newly discovered house inside the building planned for the “International Marian Center of Nazareth”. 


Dr. Bock,

You wrote: "It is hard to think early followers would produce gospels pointing to Nazareth as a key locale for Jesus when nothing existed there."

There is a presupposition you hold that led to this comment. I find it intriguing. It is not just with you, but I find this 'presupposition' in most (?) writings by Christian scholars.

I think what drives this way of writing is the scholarly community "on the other side of the Christian worldview." There is somewhat of a default position Christian scholars are forced (?) to hold, and only when there is a preponderance of data to the contrary, do Christian scholars write as if the contents of some religious historical finding are factual/reliable. It is even worse for OT scholars!

I am wondering why Christian scholars do not take the same posture as the secular historians do. The secular scholarly community of historians seem to presume their early sources are trustworthy (since they are supposedly not written by any religious bias), whereas the Christian community of scholars have to presume their sources (the GNT, Church Fathers, etc.) need multiple, independent attestation before they can legitimately be considered as reliable history, and even then, we must accept the very strong possibility that our Christian writers of the first centuries were bias. (In other words, the historical information in the NT is more believable if a secular historian also states it, but if the secular historian alone mentions some historical fact, it is believed without additional attestation.)

Can you tell me what has led to this way of presenting our historical findings to the general readership community? Secular historians just fire away with their historical data, whereas Christian historians have to assume bias and other radical religious motives lie behind the religious writers of ancient times.

Christian historians, in other words, tend to write using an apologetic approach, assuming such is needed due to the nature of our original source material (such as the GNT, Church Fathers, etc.).

Obviously ancient secular writers were just as bias. Can you help me understand what drives our writing style when our readers may be a mixed bag of religious and non-religious readers?


Brett, I agree with Dr Bock that most secular historians do not hold to the historicity of the Bible. Despite validation (over 20,000 early copies of New Testament writings have been found, many dating to within 100 years of the original writing) after validation (the Dead Sea Scrolls confirming the reliability of much of the Old Testament) after validation (many archeological finds that support the biblical record) they continue to dismiss the Bible as a reliable historic record. As you mentioned, they accept the validity of other ancient documents at face value, though those documents have not been vetted as carefully or as completely as the Bible. This reveals the secular historians bias in examining history.

Biblical scholars, on the other hand, often assume the historical accuracy of the Bible -- especially those who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture as I do. However, because of the secular communities irrational denial of the Bible's legitimacy as a source of historic information, biblical scholars must demonstrate how new finds in linguistics, archaeology and other credible historic testimonies align with the Bible.

So to those who hold to the Bible's inerrancy the Bible is always believed, but to those who do not hold to the Bible's reliability the Bible becomes more believable when confirmed by other sources. For this reason the Biblical historian does a better job than the secular historian because we include all sources of historical information and address them, whereas the secular historian often leaves the Bible out of any discussion.

Darrell L. Bock's picture

Brett:The answer is simple. When skepticism over sources runs rampant (as it does with the gospels in much public discourse), then additional standards of appeal are developed to counter it where that can be done.  It is a way of saying: should we really be this skeptical? dlb 

Dr. Bock,

Are you convinced that the raising of the dead and the healing of many people by the hand of Paul (and other Apostles who were given the messianic sign gifts) can be demonstrated to be historically reliable and true?

And if so, would you subsequently presume this in your discussions/debates/articles as if it were a settled fact historically?

I might need a lesson on what is "politically correct" to write/say when it comes to the supernatural. I've not read too much from Christian Apologists who presume in their writings - to skeptics - the rationally established fact (via the Kalam and other arguments) that a transcendent Creator necessarily exists and we can not meaningful assume otherwise if the conversation is going to remain in the rational realm.

I think we need to force secular opponents to accept established facts about the nature of reality. The existence of God and the transcendent reality that necessarily follows from that (not the least of which being the creation of a universe and people) should be found in the secular writers articles and discussions. A rationally proven argument for the existence of God, once proven, should be accepted by all rational people, and such should be common in our speech and writings. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Brett

CAPTCHA: There are much easier CAPTCHA out there now than the one you use. One simply has something like: 3+2= __. Right now, I am answering your CAPTCHA for the 5th time. It is sometimes impossible to determine if the letter is a cap or not.


Darrell L. Bock's picture

Brett:The problem is that historical method often proceeds on the assumption that history cannot deal with supernatural claims.  If you accept Jesus (or other Christians) did miracles, then you have to accept the same claims made by others, such as those who write about Vespasian or Apollonius of Tyana. The impression is left that this does not work well. Of course, historical claims have to be assessed but most do not even try to go here. Three paths are taken: (1) rule it out period, (2) say history cannot speak about such claims either way, or (3) argue that each claim needs to be assessed and some claims possess evidence that makes it unlikely other explanations work (this is what is often done with the resurrection and all the alternative theories). Most historians do not work philosophically, so that Kamal arguments and other such things do not make an impression on them.dlb 

So this house is supposedly adjacent to the place of Jesus' birth? Would that be the home of Brian then? You know, Brian of Nazareth? I think they made a movie about him...

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