Church of the Annunciation, Bethlehem.
"For the purposes of worship, the Jewish-Chrsitians of Palestine availed themselves not only of the synagogues, but also developed their ritual in certain "sacred and mystic grottoes" as reported by the ecclesiastical historian, Eusebius of Caesarea. In Their worship in this "Lord's house" in Bethlehem which was carried on until the fourth century, they celebrated two of three mysteries par excellence: Mary's Virginity and her bringing forth the Christ child; ...Hadrian profaned the site by planting a wood over the grotto, but this helped to maintain the tradition of the birthplace of Jesus." (Cornfeld, Archaeology of The Bible. New York: Harper and Row, 1976,p.2779-280)......,,,,,,(2) Nazerath.
excavation of house discovered in Naz. 2009
Back around 2001 when I really made a major commitment of my time and resources to internet apologetic, or whatever this is I do, there was a huge presence of an argument that Nazareth was not inhabited in the time of Christ, so Jesus could not have grown up there, therefore, this lends credence to the idea that Jesus didn't exist. I wrote one of the few major responses, a page backed by my actual contact with the major archaeologist who excavated the stie in that in the late 90s or so (there's a new version on Doxa but no new material). With much publicity of my page the issue sort of faded into the background. Now it's back. There is more Jesus myth propaganda being made of this issue than ever before. The issue is still as hallow and the proof of Nazareth's existence still as obvious as ever.
There are three major atheist arguments:
(1) No historical mention of Nazareth.
(2) Tombs near by Preclude Jewish Habitation
(3) The Geography is wrong.
In this first section I will deal with argument one.
The argument always seemed silly to me becuase if you are going to make up a fictional guy and pass him off as historical, why have him come from a fictional town? To this atheists answer, writers always put fictional characters in real places. That's quite common. Exactly! Why invent the place he comes from? They did it with Superman but he's not being passed off as real. What is the major atheist evidence that Nazareth didn't exist? It's based upon argument from silence of course. No, actually there are two major arguments one is based on silence and the other is positive.
(1) no record of Nazareth being inhabited until the middle of the second century.
from a reader to blog "Facing the Challenge:"
David Couchman (facing the challenge)To say that there is no proof that something does not exist as a way to support the supposed truth of the bible is misleading. The burden of proof is on you, the believers. You say Jesus and God exist. Show us.How about the embarrassing fact that the town now called Nazareth, contains no artifacts to suggest habitation in the area until at least midway through the second century? But wasn't Jesus born and raised there? You'd think we would have found some of their wares lying around. Not only that, but the caves in the area had previously been used as a necropolis, or city of the dead. Jewish law prohibits followers to live adjacent to a necropolis.
summarizes atheist argument:
According to the Bible, Jesus grew up in Nazareth. There is no evidence that the town now called Nazareth was inhabited before the middle of the second century - that is, more than a hundred years after Jesus was supposed to live there.
My foil in this discussion shall be one of the major atheist websites on the Issue: Nazareth the Town that Theology Built." The sight is by a Kenneth Humphreys, it's a chapter from his book Jesus Never Existed. His page is par to of the website of the same title and it's basically his book on the web.
Here's where argument from silence comes in:
Humphreys argues that Nazareth is not listed anywhere as a city in that era. As though there could never be a place so small and obscure that there can't be a record of it. Of cosure just as there are millions of people in first century Palestine we will never know existed, there are probably hundreds of villages we will never know existed. To prove this point he quotes (actually just alludes without even footnoting or documenting) (1) Joshua (as though if it wasn't inhabited before the exile it could never be) the (2) The Talmud (he doesn't document that he even looked at the Talmud--of course he can't show evdience that something it's there, without making us read the whole thing, he should at least foot note the source of the Talmud he looked in so we have some idea that he at least got a copy). (3) Paul doesn't mention it. Then he claims (4) No ancient historian mentions it. This is clearly argument from silence because there's no positive reason to think it wasn't inhabited, the only reason is that the sources are silent.
As we will see the summary of those sources is more than just silent it's inaccruate. It is not true that no ancient historian mentions it.
"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise." Paul Barnett[BSNT], Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:Patristic writer Heggespius, a Jewish-Christian writers of the second half of hte second century writes about it:
(this sorce no longer works) (visisted 2001-04)
Even the judeo-christian historian Hegesippus (late second century) gives witness to these next-of-kin of the Lord when speaking about a persecution of the Christians by Emperor Domiziano (81-96 AD) and whose writings are quoted by Eusebius (IV cent. AD) in his History of the Church (III,19.20,1-6). Jiulius the African (250 AD) mentions how the descendents of Jesus were jealous in keeping alive the memory of their forefathers (a passage quoted by Eusebius in his History of the Church I,7,13-14). During the persecution in Asia Minor of Emperor Decius (249-251) a christian maryr, Conon, is brought to trial and he proclaims in judgement: "I am from Nazareth of Galilee, I am descendent of Christ to whom I give worship since my forefathers". The Apochryphal writings too expand this vision about the next-of-kin of the Lord. They gather the oral traditions of the first Church about Jesus' family, especially his childhood years, Mary's and Joseph's daily life with Jesus amongst them.Notice Humphreys begins dating the habitation of Naz. at late second century. This is in harmony with the standard Myther time table, but it also counters Heggisepius. Although it's not logical to think that the place would have sprang up from nothing in parallel to the life and times of the guy who mentions it.
Now Humphreys demonstrates his incredibly bad logic. He tries to aruge that the NT wirters were somehow biased because they don't mention a major metropolis which is just four miles away (from the PBS website "from Jesus to Christ," linked site by UT professor White discusses the excavations).
Humphreys on website--(link above)
None of this would matter of course if, rather like at the nearby 'pagan' city of Sepphoris, we could stroll through the ruins of 1st century bath houses, villas, theaters etc. Yet no such ruins exist.caption to picture
No, not Nazareth but Sepphoris, a 45 minute walk away – and which does not get a mention in the gospels!
In short order, Christian apologists fall over themselves to explain 'But of course, no one had heard of Nazareth, we're talking of a REALLY small place.' By semantic downsizing, city becomes TOWN, town becomes VILLAGE, and village becomes 'OBSCURE HAMLET'.
Yet if we are speaking of such an obscure hamlet the 'Jesus of Nazareth' story begins to fall apart.
My evidence for the recent nature of our knowledge on Sepphoris comes from a site, the URL of which has changed. PBS, Frontline, From Jesus to Christ. I visited their site on this point backin 2006.
Tradition pictures the world of Jesus as a peaceful and pastoral place, governed by the ancient rhythms of field and farm. But recent archaeological evidence has revealed a different environment, one influenced by city life and marked by political unrest and protest.
These discoveries began to emerge twenty-five years ago, when a team of archaeologists, including Eric and Carol Meyers, began to excavate a city located less than four miles from Nazareth, easily accessible in an hours walk. The city is Sepphoris. It was destroyed in a political feud in about 4 BCE -- the approximate date of the birth of Jesus -- and it was rebuilt during the time that Jesus was growing up nearby. Known as the "ornament of the Galilee", Sepphoris was wealthy, sophisticated and predominately Jewish. An elaborate system of water works kept residents supplied with fresh water; satellite villages such as Nazareth may have kept it supplied with food.
The quotes are now gone from the site. They do talk about the city, however, Eric Meyers of Duke says he believes it wasn't as developed in Jesus' day. As Jew Jesus would have been excluded from much that the city had to offer. Meyers believes the theater wasn't there and that the city did not reflect a Roman flavor until the time of Herod Antipas, after Jesus.
This is only about half the article
The Museum at Hierapolis where Philip lived,(The evangelist one of deacons chosen in acts not the Apostle). He provide a historical link to Jesus through Papias and the Apostle John.
The Philip Connection
Papias and The Daughters of Philip
Tomb of Philip at Hierapolis
Our understanding of Philip comes to us form four major soruces: Papias, Irenaius, Eusebius, and Polycrates. Papias (70?-155?) was Bishop of Hierapolis (in Phrygia, sort mid southwestern Turkey), where Philip lived. Papias knew the daughters of Philip after their father's time. What we know of him comes to us priarily form his student Irenaeus. Irenaeus is important as the connecting link not only to Philip but to Papias and Polycarp. Irenaeus is a major figure in the chain.
Papias and The Daughters of Philip
Papias had several important connections to the history of Jesus. He studied with his friend Polycarp and they both studied under the Apostle John. There is a controservy about weather it was the Apostel John or another John, I will deal with that on Papias own page. He lived in Hierapolis where he was Bishop there was also Philip and his four virgin daughters. The daughters of Philip were prophetesses, Paul is said to have met them in Acts (8:5-40; 21:8-9. ), and Papias is said to have met them as well. Eusebius speaks of this in the same passage that he speaks about Papias:
The residence of the Apostle Philip with his daughters in Hierapolis has been mentioned above. We must now point out how Papias,
who lived at the same time, relates that he had received a wonderful
narrative from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that a dead man
was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another miracle relating to Justus, surnamed Barsabas, how he swallowed a deadly poison, and received no harm, on account of the grace of the Lord.
Polycrates testifies (AD 190) to existence of these daughters and their
burial and their father's burial at Hierapolis, "Philip of the twelve
apostles who sleeps in Hierapolis and his two druthers, elderly virgins,
and another of his daughters who after living in the Holy Spirit rests
in Ephesos." William Tabbernee documents an inscription from
Hierapolis honoring a public figure which links the burial of Philip the
apostle with the monument in his honor, the "martyrium." It refers to
him as "the glorious Apostle and Theologian Philip. Of
course there are problematic details in these accounts. Other accounts
give four daughters, Polycrates seems to only know of there. There is a
controversy as weather or not this Philip is the evangelist of Acts (one
of the first decons) or the Apostles, one of the twelve who traveld
with Jesus. No one really knows. In a famous debate between a Montanist
(Prokolos) and an Orthox (Gaius) reference is made to the four daughters
of Philip as having resided in that area and being burried there. There is a possiblity that the tomb of Philip has been discovered:
professor Francesco D'Andria, the head of the excavation team at the
Hierapolis ancient city in Denizli, told reporters on Tuesday that
experts had reached the tomb of St. Philip whose name is mentioned in
the Bible as one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.
Professor D'Andria said archaeologists had been working for years to find the tomb of the Biblical figure, and finally, they had managed to reach the monument while working on the ruins of a newly-unearthed church in Hierapolis.
D'Andria said the structure of the tomb and the writings on it proved that it belonged to St. Philip the Apostle, who is recognized as a martyr in the history of Christianity.
The Tomb is near the "martyrium" a structure put around the fifth century to commemorate the death of Philip. The martyruim is probably where he was crucified and the tomb where he was burred. Or it could just be that they didn't put the monument over his tomb because a chruch was there so they put it near by. It's not proof but it lends credence, it at least establishes that the tradition starches back further toward the actual event of his living there.
F.F. Bruce, an Evangelical Scholar, highly respected in all circles, tells us: "Eusebius tells us on the authority of Papias and other early writers that at a late date Philip's four prophetic daughters were famed in the church for authorities in the history of its earliest days."  That's probably exaggeration. As as been seen the only quotations I can find by Eusebius about Philip and his daughters say nothing of the kind. He's probalby basing that upon the miracle stories they told Papias. Yet they do provide a more important link to Papias than has been observed by scholars. These women have been overlooked, relegated to footnotes in the questions about their father's identity. They must have been important in their day, they show up in several sources even long after they were gone (Polycrates wrote in 190 and the report of Gaius and Prockleus was even latter). The site of their tombs was marked. They were prophetesses and that gives a status. Even though tehy were probalby weren't historians per se they surely did pass on stories about the early days as Papias attest. They knew their father who around in the early days of the faith. Even though the sources may have become confused on points such as which Philip we are dealing with, in my view it must be the evangelist  those are not big enough problems to lose the reality of Jesus as a real man in history.
All these connections provide a web of historicity. There are three major trajectories along which the historical evidence is found: the gospels (both canonical and extra canonical), the Pauline corpus, and the apostolic fathers. These form interdependent links that make a big web of historicity. Papias is linked to John or at least disciples of the Lord such as Elder John, and he's also linked to the Pauline corpus through his association with the daughters of Philip, who know Paul. Through Philip he has another link to the early days of the chruch. We have this big web all these groups of people that knew each other as we go more deeply into it the inner circles come close to knowing Jesus. Paul met several such as James and Peter who knew him intimately. He also knew Andronicus and Junia who were around in the early days and Priscilla and Aquila who were first followers of the Baptist. Irenaeus' teacher Polycarp knew Papias and knew he was a follower of eye witness disciples who saw Jesus. Yet how could it be that the core of the web is fictional?
How absurd to think people in Jerusalem just a few years after the disciples began preaching would say "my father never heard of this guy, my grandfather never heard of him, his followers say he spoke to throngs of people in the streets of Jerusalem they heralded him, they demanded his release when he was captured but no one has heard of him, no one I know has any memory of those events, I think I'll join his little band of twelve guys."
You might ask how this ties into Jesus, both groups, Paul and his circle and Philip and his circle understood Jesus as a man in history. They all knew people that had seen him. They clealry told Paul about him and no doubt told Philip about him too. There's a a good chance Philip himself saw Jesus as he began his ministry in Jerusalem in the first days of the chruch.
fragments Papias writing form sources other than Eusebius.
Sources on Eusbius
 "The Apostle Paul," Britannica Encyclopedia (1997) quoted on website "Was the Apostle Paul a Historical Person?" Kevin's Articles on Religion http://www.davnet.org/kevin/articles/paul.html aacessed 11/2/13.
 etherial library
 Gary R. Habermas Originally published in Dialog: A Journal of Theology, Vol. 45; No. 3 (Fall, 2006), pp. 288-297; published by Blackwell Publishing, UK. on Experinces of Risen Jesus, Website http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/dialog_rexperience/dialog_rexperiences.htm
Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1991), 81
 Ibid. also fn
 Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels
 Eusebius, Oracles of the Lord op cit.
 William Tabbernee, Montanists Inscriptions and Testimonia:Epigraphic Sources Illustrating The History of Montanism.Macan Georgia: Mercer University Press 1997, 504
 Tabbernee, op cit 503.
 ibid, 505
 "Tomb of Philip The Apostle Discovered in Turkey?" News Network Archaeology. website URL:
 FF Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable,published in USA by Wb Erdeman's Publishing company and Invervarsity press, originally published 1943, 1981 , p.43)
 The same quote by Papias about how he always tried to get word from those who had been with the elders, names Philip the Apostle among them. If he lived in Herapolis Papias would hardly need to learn his words form travelers coming in from elsewhere.