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Rene Salm at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting

Several people have sent me private emails asking why René Salm was put on the program at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting, given the fact that he is not a scholar and has no credentials in the field. For those of you who don’t know, Salm has written a book claiming that Nazareth did not exist in the first century, so that Jesus couldn’t be there. He argues this in part because he doesn’t think Jesus existed and so wants to discredit the Gospel stories by saying the Christian authors made the whole thing up.

Several scholars (well, everyone who mentioned it to me) were outraged that Salm was allowed to be on the program. This meeting is of a learned society and is to be for scholars with established expertise. It is not to be a venue for people without qualifications to spout their wild theories. Salm claims that those who oppose him have a theological or religious bias against his views, but this simply is not true. EVERYONE who is an expert opposes his views – Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other. There is not a single archaeologist of ancient Israel that gives him the least credit. That doesn’t make him wrong. But it does mean that if he wants to argue that every real scholar is in error, he should get some credentials first.

In any event, I thought it might be worthwhile to reprint here what I say about Salm’s book in my book Did Jesus Exist?   Apologies for those who have read this already.    I have removed the footnotes here, but you can find them in the original.



The most recent critic to dispute the existence of Nazareth is René Salm, who has devoted an entire book to the question, called The Myth of Nazareth. Salm sees this issue as highly significant and relevant to the question of the historicity of Jesus: “Upon that determination [i.e., the existence of Nazareth] depends a great deal, perhaps even the entire edifice of Christendom.

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Rene Salm at the SBL (2)
The Pope’s New Book



  1. Adam  November 29, 2012

    Salm compiled “80 mythicist responses to b.ehrmans did jesus exist” !

    Earl Doherty’s critique linked on that page must be at least 100 pages!!!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 29, 2012

      AS I’ve said before, these guys (they’re all guys, btw) have *boundless* energy!

  2. reedm60  November 29, 2012

    So, how did Salm get invited?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 29, 2012

      My hunch is he submitted a paper proposal and the session organizers accepted it. Rather foolishly.

      • Bill  November 29, 2012

        Well, that might say something about the session organizers…I don’t know what, but odd things happen.

  3. CalifiorniaPuma  November 30, 2012


    Flat or fitted? I read the honest-to-God SBL/AAR meeting bedlam occurred outside in the streets at McCormick Place—the Bed Sheet Battle—with convention boycotters and hoteliers sparring over the ethics of housekeepers using “fitted” sheets vs. “flat” sheets. Wow, we really have come far as a country! I think of how not that long ago, bedlam in the streets near a religious assembly more likely involved people wearing pointed sheets with eyeholes cut in them, carrying ol’ rugged crosses and torches to light The Way.

  4. Jim Joyner  November 2, 2013

    Professor Hector Avalos at Iowa State University had a hand in getting Rene Salm a slot at last year’s SBL. It was an astounding act of anti-scholarship by Avalos to champion Salm’s entry in this session. Salm’s paper was a thinly disguised Mythicist rant. I don’t know Avalos, but in my opinion he discredited himself by enabling Salm to appear in this program.

    Although faith in God is important in my life, I rue the anti-scholarship and gullibility demonstrated by too many “believers;” it is inexcusable. Likewise, the Mythicists’ noise sounds to me like a fingernail deliberately scratching a chalk board.

    The most recent paper I can find on Nazareth comes from Gregory C. Jenks of Charles Sturt University. The paper is a light survey of the issues about Nazareth, entitled “The Quest for the Historical Nazareth.”

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 3, 2013

      Prof. Avalos is a good scholar and a nice guy — but it was a mistake to lend Salm such undeserved credibility. The man is not an archaeologist!

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