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Rene Salm at the SBL (2)

In my post yesterday I began to explain why René Salm’s claim that Nazareth did not exist in the days of Jesus is dead wrong and is rejected by every recognized authority – whether archaeologist, textual scholar, or historian; whether Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other . Here is my second and final post on the subject, again, with apologies to those who have read it already, lifted from my treatment in Did Jesus Exist?



Salm also claims that the pottery found on the site that is dated to the time of Jesus is not really from this period, even though he is not an expert on pottery. Two archaeologists who reply to Salm’s protestations say the following: “Salm’s personal evaluation of the pottery … reveals his lack of expertise in the area as well as his lack of serious research in the sources.” They go on to state: “By ignoring or dismissing solid ceramic, numismatic [that is, coins], and literary evidence for Nazareth’s existence during the Late Hellenisitic and Early Roman period, it would appear that the analysis which René Salm includes in his review, and his recent book must, in itself, be relegated to the realm of ‘myth.’”

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Rene Salm at the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting



  1. Avatar
    donmax  November 29, 2012

    If anyone is looking for a first rate archeological analysis of Nazareth, check out EXCAVATING JESUS. Crossan and Reed do a splendid job of digging up the truth, not only about the place, but Jesus himself. “Two points stand out,” they say. “First-century Nazareth was a ‘peasant’ village in an agrarian society. And first-century Nazareth was a ‘Jewish’ village adhering to the Temple-orientated Judaism of its day. ‘Jesus, then, was a Jewish peasant.'” I think most of us would be shocked by the appearance of either!

  2. Avatar
    timber84  November 30, 2012

    Would there have been enough people living in Nazareth to support a carpentry business? Would a typical home of the 1st century have much woodwork involved? You also mentioned in a previous blog that the Greek word for tekton could mean blacksmith or some other profession.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 30, 2012

      Good question. Nothing indicates that Jesus ran a business (that sounds a bit modern for what would have happened among rural peasants). If he worked with wood (a possible meaning of tekton), he may have made yokes, and gates, and such rough stuff for the local community, which would have been large enough for at least one person to be doing that sort of thing and still survive.

    • Avatar
      donmax  December 1, 2012

      It seems that the facts of life for first-century hamlets of Lower Galilee don’t appeal to most people these days.

      Odds are he had been a lowly laborer — likely a stonemason — not the misconstrued carpenter capable of stretching out pieces of wood to make them fit together. That notion, as I recollect, first sprouted when foreign fabricators planted Greek words (ho tekton) to express something else in Aramaic (nagar) which either meant some kind of “crafts person” or a “learned man.” After all, wood was a scarce commodity back then found only in forests, whereas rocks were plentiful , and it took lots of them to build commonplace things.

      The popular misconception about what he did for a living was perpetuated by King James who held artisans of his own time in high regard, something ancient aristocrats never did, since manual labor was always associated with slavery and unschooled peasants. In any case, a woodworker back then was not a highly skilled occupation. It could have meant anything from a “hewer of trees” to a framer of windows and doors, to one who fashioned gates with leather hinges. And think about it, we are not talking about a “town” or a “city” as mentioned in translations of the New Testament, but a nondescript hamlet consisting of dugouts, caves and trenches supporting no more than two or three-hundred residents.

      Nazareth could easily have remained undetected except for the fact that it was so close to Sepphoris. It may not have been a “village” in our conception of what that entails. The word itself in Aramaic mean “branch,” which is more akin to an “area” or “local region” repopulated during the Hasmonean conquest and a breeding ground for would-be messiahs like Judas, Jesus, and Simon Bar Kochba.

  3. Avatar
    FrankLoomer  September 13, 2016

    Did Yardenna Alexandre publish her findings of ancient coins dating to the first century which Dr Ehrman mentioned as provided verbally in Did Jesus Exist. I can’t locate anything. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Bart
      Bart  September 14, 2016

      I don’t recall actually! She told me about them in a personal email she sent me, in response to my inquiry.

      • Avatar
        FrankLoomer  September 14, 2016

        Would I be asking too much if you could check if she ever published, or a url reference? It’s being contested as “hearsay” in a discussion group I’ve been involved in. My response so far was she wouldn’t have likely made a comment which would go public without being pretty sure of herself, but if the findings were never published, that would leave the claim high and dry. I did tell them i’d “ask you” 🙂

        • Bart
          Bart  September 15, 2016

          Well, I suppose they could just call me a liar! But it’s easy to resolve the question. Why don’t you or someone else just write her an email? (That’s what I did!)

        • Avatar
          Tim  August 10, 2017

          Contrary to the sneering claims of Salm, Dr Alexandre has published about the first century coins found at the Mary’s Well site. See Ariel Berman, “The Numismatic Evidence,” in *Mary’s Well, Nazareth: The Late Hellenistic to the Ottoman Periods*, ed. Yardenna Alexandré, IAA Reports, 49 (Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2012), 108.

  4. Avatar
    Gerhardt  May 24, 2020

    Hi Bart, after reading the posts “Rene Salm at the SBL,” I came away with a fair understanding of what Rene Salm believes, and why he is wrong, but not on why he was invited to the SLB. Can you elaborate on that?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 25, 2020

      It was a mystery to me too. He would not have been invited per se, but would have applied to give a paper. Why they accepted it is puzzling, but I guess they wanted “the other side”???

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