From Gary... Stretch

Just a cat reaching for a butterfly. However, imagine for a moment that YOU are the one striving to reach that beautiful little creature.  And, to take it a step further, consider its parabolic symbolism. That is, you are stretching yourself to be the very best you can be.  Sounds like...

Philippians, Chapter 3 (WEB)
 7  However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.  8 Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death;  11 if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, if it is so that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 

Today's message is a simple one- Press on towards the goal of knowing Jesus by faith; again, PRESS ON!!!

God bless you all!!!


From Mark Copeland... "THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND THE PROBLEM OF SIN" The Gospel's Answer To The "Love" Of Sin (Faith In Jesus)


                 The Gospel's Answer To The "Love" Of Sin
                             (Faith In Jesus)

1. In the previous lesson, we introduced "How The Gospel Addresses The
   Problem Of Sin"

2. In this lesson we focus our attention to that part of the problem
   which is the "love" of sin...
   a. We saw that sin does have its pleasurable side - He 11:24-25
   b. This pleasure makes it easy for men to love sin...
      1) Such love often blinds men to the truth - Jn 3:19
      2) Such love definitely alienates one from the love of the Father
         - 1Jn 2:15

3. The gospel of Jesus Christ answers the problem of the "love" of sin
   by commanding us to have "faith," in particular, to "believe in Christ"
   a. E.g., notice Mk 16:15-16
   b. Faith can be defined as "a strong conviction, assurance"
   c. When we come to have the right kind of faith, we will come to no
      longer love sin, but even to hate it!
   d. As the Psalmist expressed in Ps 119:104

4. In this study, I want to do two things:
   a. Define the kind of faith the gospel requires to really hate sin
   b. Briefly consider the evidence the gospel presents to create that
      kind of faith


      1. That the gospel requires such faith is clear - Jn 20:30-31;1Jn 5:13
      2. I.e., a strong conviction that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary,
         was indeed:
         a. The Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets - Ac 2:36
         b. More than just a good man, but the only begotten Son of God
            - Jn 1:14

      1. Believing that Jesus died for our sins is a necessary part of
         the gospel - 1Co 15:1-3
      2. Understand...Jesus died for OUR sins!
         a. Just as the Scriptures foretold He would - Isa 53:4-6
         b. Why, because God loves us! - Jn 3:16; Ro 5:8

      1. This fact is also an important part of the gospel
      2. Consider 1Co 15:3-4; Ro 10:9

      1. If we are strongly convicted that...
         a. Jesus was truly the beloved Son of God
         b. He was really the Christ, the promised Messiah
         c. God loved us so much (and hated sin so much) that He sent
            His Son to die for us
         d. God raised Him from the dead to prove to us that His death
            was an acceptable sacrifice for sin
         ...then how can we not hate sin?
      2. With such faith, we now hold sin responsible for...
         a. Making the death of Christ necessary in the first place!
         b. The anguish God must have felt when He:
            1) Saw the separation between Him and us!
            2) Deemed it necessary to have His Son die for us!
         c. The pain and agony suffered by Jesus!
            1) In the garden of Gethsemane - Mt 26:39
            2) On the cross of Calvary - Mt 27:46
      3. When we understand and really believe these things, then we
         will say with the Psalmist: "Through your precepts I get
         understanding; therefore I HATE every false way." - Ps 119:104

[This is the kind of faith called for in obedience to the gospel, and
the kind of faith which effectively deals with the love of sin! But how
does one gain this kind of faith?

Faith comes from the Word of God (Ro 10:17).  Indeed, as the apostles of
Christ proclaimed the gospel, they presented evidence designed to
create faith in the hearts of their listeners...]


      1. An important foundation upon which faith in Christ was based!
         a. Jesus knew this was how people would come to believe on Him
            - cf. Jn 17:20
         b. Therefore, in their preaching and teaching, the apostles
            appealed to this line of evidence...
            1) Peter - Ac 2:32; 3:14-15; 4:33; 10:39-41
            2) John - Jn 20:30-31; 1Jn 1:1-3
            3) Paul - 1Co 15:3-8
      2. How strong is this evidence?  Consider...
         a. The number of witnesses
            1) This affects the strength or weakness of any testimony
            2) E.g., the OT required at least two or three - Deut 17:6
            -- In this regard, the strength is very strong - 1Co 15:5-8
               (over 500 people!)
         b. The character of these witnesses
            1) Some had not believed in Christ prior to His resurrection
               a) Like His brothers in the flesh - Jn 7:3-5; Mk 3:21
               b) But after the resurrection, they too became disciples!
                  - Ac 1:14
            2) Some were disciples who had been skeptical after His
               a) E.g., Thomas - Jn 20:24-25
               b) Only after hard, empirical evidence did he believe
                  - Jn 20:26-28
            3) Some were former enemies who had violently opposed Christ (e.g., Paul)
            -- They were not gullible people willing to believe
         c. The nature of their testimony
            1) Hard, empirical evidence - Jn 20:25; Ac 10:40-41; 1Jn 1:1
            2) Objective, not subjective evidence
            -- Testimony that cannot be attributed to hallucinations,
               dreams, etc.
         d. The transformation which took place
            1) Prior to the resurrection, they were cowards who had lost hope!
               a) They fled at His arrest - Mk 14:50
               b) Peter denied Him
               c) They hid for fear of the Jews - Jn 20:19
            2) Yet, after the resurrection, they were praising God and
               proclaiming Christ boldly as having been raised from the dead!
               a) Praising God in the temple - Lk 24:52-53
               b) Proclaiming Christ, despite persecution - Ac 5:28-32, 41-42
            3) Even an honest Orthodox Jew admits that the
               transformation in their lives is strong evidence for
               their testimony:
               a) "If the disciples were totally disappointed and on the
                  verge of desperate flight because of the very real
                  reason of the crucifixion, it took another very real
                  reason in order to transform them from a band of
                  disheartened and dejected Jews into the most self-
                  confident missionary society in world history."
                  (PINCHAS LAPIDE, former chairman of the Applied
                  Linguistics Department at Israel's Bar-Iland University)
               b) Lapide concluded that a bodily resurrection could have
                  possibly been that reason! (TIME, May 7, 1979)
            -- The change in the apostles gives strength to their testimony
         e. The high moral standard they taught and lived
            1) Exhorted the disciples to live holy lives - 1Th 4:1-7
            2) Lived their own lives in an unimpeachable way - 1Th 2:10-12
            -- Does this sound like people who would propagate a lie if
               they knew better?
         f. The sacrifices they paid in life and death
            1) They endured much hardship because of their testimony
               - 1Co 4:9-13
            2) All but one of the apostles died violent deaths because
               of their testimony of the resurrection
            3) Even James, Jesus' brother, was thrown off the temple and
               clubbed to death for his refusal to recant his eyewitness
               testimony of the resurrection of Jesus!
      3. Deny the resurrection of Jesus, and you impugn the honesty and
         integrity of these witnesses!
         a. They would have had to been rank liars and frauds, out to
            deceive the world!
         b. Yet, these are the very ones...
            1) Who tell us what we know of Jesus, whose life and
               teachings has transformed the history of the world and
               the lives of millions!
            2) Who gave us the New Testament, containing the highest
               standard of morality
               the world has ever known!
      -- Does it make sense to call such men liars and frauds?

   [To accept their testimony and the fact of the resurrection is not
   only rational, it is the beginning of the kind of faith which will
   come to hate sin!  But there is even more evidence which creates this
   kind of faith...]

      1. This was also an important foundation upon which faith in
         Christ was based
         a. Jesus used this to strengthen the faith of His disciples
            1) The two disciples on the road to Emmaus - Lk 24:25-27
            2) The apostles - Lk 24:44-47
         b. In their own teaching and preaching, the apostles appealed
            to fulfilled prophecy
            1) Peter - Ac 2:29-31; 3:18,24
            2) Philip - Ac 8:35
            3) Paul - Ac 17:2,3
      2. How strong is this evidence?  Consider...
         a. There are at least 330 prophecies in the OT fulfilled in Jesus Christ!
            1) Twenty-nine (29) were fulfilled in one day!
            2) Such prophecies were spoken at various times by many
               different people during the ten centuries from 1500 B.C.to 500 B.C.
         b. The science of probabilities demonstrates that it is nigh to
            impossible Jesus fulfilled these prophecies by coincidence
            1) In one study (by Peter Stoner), eight (8) prophecies were considered:
               a) The likelihood of anyone fulfilling just these eight
                  by chance was calculated to be 1 in 10 to the 17th power
               b) This would be like finding on the first try, while
                  blindfolded, a marked silver dollar in a pile of
                  silver dollars two-feet high covering the entire state of Texas!
            2) In another study (also by Peter Stoner), forty-eight (48)
               prophecies were considered:
               a) The likelihood of a coincidence was 1 in 10 to the 157th power!
               b) How big a number is 10 to the 157th power?
                  1] Counting at the rate of 250 a minute...
                  2] It would take you 19 million times 19 million times
                     19 million years to count such a number!
               c) Remember, that is just calculating the chance of any
                  one man coincidentally fulfilling 48 prophecies -
                  Jesus fulfilled 330!
         c. Look at it another way...
            1) Your chances of surviving a fall from 10,000 feet without
               a parachute is 1 in 10 million - would you "willingly"
               jump and take such a chance?
            2) Yet to reject Jesus because one thinks fulfilling 330
               prophecies was coincidental is infinitely more risky than
               jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet without a
            3) We would say that anyone who jumped out of an airplane
               with such odds against survival is either stupid, crazy
               or ignorant of the risks
            4) What about someone who takes the chance of rejecting
               Christ in view of the overwhelming odds he is wrong about Christ???


1. This is the kind of evidence in the Word of God to create faith in
   Jesus as the Son of God:
   a. Eyewitness testimony of the resurrection of Jesus by numerous,
      reliable witnesses
   b. Fulfilled messianic prophecy that overwhelmingly convinces any
      informed, rational and objective person!
   -- Yes, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
      - Ro 10:17

2. What kind of faith?
   a. A faith that hates sin...
      1) For what it did (separated us from God)
      2) For what it cost (the death of God's only begotten Son)
      3) For what it can do when engaged in by the unrepentant Christian
         (crucify again the Son afresh - He 6:4-6)
   b. A faith that loves God...
      1) For what He has done
      2) For what He is doing
      3) For what He will do
   c. A faith that will...
      1) Do whatever God desires me to do, to rid my life of the guilt
         of sin (e.g., faith, repentance, and baptism)
      2) Utilize whatever blessing God offers to overcome the problem of
         sin (e.g., remission of sins, gift of the Holy Spirit, the
         promise of eternal life)

Do you have that kind of faith which the gospel both gives and
requires...a loving and obedient faith?

          "If you love Me, keep My commandments."  (Jn 14:15)

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Mark Copeland... "THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND THE PROBLEM OF SIN" How The Gospel Addresses The Problem Of Sin


               How The Gospel Addresses The Problem Of Sin


1. A number of years ago a book came out with the title: "Whatever
   Happened To Sin?"

2. This is a relevant question, for today "sin" is often taken too lightly...
   a. By the world
   b. Even by the church

3. Exactly what is sin?  The Bible speaks definitively, describing sin
   a. A transgression of the law of God - 1Jn 3:4
   b. A failure to do what you know to be right - Jm 4:17
   c. Doing that which violates your conscience, even if the act is
      right within itself - Ro 14:23

4. The Bible also reveals the seriousness of sin, which is seen...
   a. In its universality - "all have sinned..." (Ro 3:23)
   b. In its consequences - "The wages of sin is death..." (Ro 6:23)

5. Even so, I am not sure that many people, even some Christians, truly appreciate...
   a. The problem of sin
   b. How the gospel of Christ effectively addresses this problem!

[The goal of this lesson is to introduce thoughts that should increase
our understanding and appreciation of "How The Gospel Of Christ Addresses
The Problem Of Sin".  We begin by first noticing...]


   [There is...]

   A. THE "LOVE" OF SIN...
      1. Sin does have its pleasurable nature - He 11:24-25
      2. It is this pleasurable side that makes it easy for men to love
         sin, which in turn can then blind them to the truth - Jn 3:19

      1. The seriousness of this aspect of sin is seen in that ALL have
         sinned! - Ro 3:23
      2. Even Christians continue to practice sin at times - 1Jn 1:8-10

      1. Those who both love and practice sin are said to be dead "in"
         sin - Ep 2:1
      2. This pertains to our relationship to God; as far as He is
         concerned, our practice of sin places us in a state in which we
         are dead "to" Him!

      1. In the Scriptures, this refers primarily to "legal" guilt, but
         it often includes as well "emotional" guilt
      2. We may try to deny or suppress this truth, but a Holy God still
         recognizes our guilt before Him - Ro 3:19

      1. Jesus spoke of the enslaving power of sin - Jn 8:34
      2. Sin is so powerful, that even when a person wants to do good,
         outside of Christ they are unable to do so consistently - cf. Ro 7:14-21

      1. "The wages of sin is death" (Ro 6:23)
      2. In the Scriptures, death includes the idea of separation (e.g.,
         physical death is the separation of body and spirit - Jm 2:26)
         a. The result of sin is "spiritual death," or separation from God
         b. Such separation exists in this life, but even more so in the
            life to come! - Re 21:8

[Such is the problem of sin.  Do we appreciate what a serious problem it
really is?  How does the Gospel Of Christ address this problem?  Bear
in mind that the gospel consists of:

                          - FACTS to believe
                          - COMMANDS to obey
                          - PROMISES to receive

The facts to believe are concisely stated in 1Co 15:1-4, which reveal
things that God has done in Christ.  These things which God has done
make it possible for the commands and promises of the gospel to really
address the problem of sin! Consider...]


   [First, the "Commands" of the gospel; the command to...]

      1. That it is necessary to believe is evident from Mk 16:15-16
      2. When a person really believes in Christ and the facts the
         gospel tells about Him...
         a. They will come to hate sin for what it cost God and Christ
         b. They will have the attitude expressed by the Psalmist in Psa 119:104
      3. The point is, true faith helps to eliminate our love for sin

      1. The gospel clearly calls mankind to repent - Ac 2:38; 17:30-31
      2. When a person truly repents (a decision of the mind that leads
         to a change of action), they will cease living a life devoted
         to the practice of sin

      1. Remember, outside of Christ our state is "dead in sin"
      2. The gospel includes the command to be baptized - Mk 16:15-16;Mt 28:18-20
      3. When we are baptized, our "state" changes
         a. For baptism puts us in Christ - Ga 3:27
         b. In Christ, we are now "dead TO sin", no longer "dead IN sin"
            - Ro 6:1-7

   [And now for the "Promises" of the gospel; the promise of...]

      1. Remission of sins is promised to those who repent and are
         baptized - Ac 2:38
      2. When sin has been remitted, there is no longer any guilt!

      1. The gift of the Holy Spirit is likewise promised to those who
         repent and are baptized - Ac 2:38
      2. With the help of God's Spirit, we are no longer under the power
         of sin - Ro 8:12,13; Ep 3:16,20

      1. Instead of spiritual death and eternal separation from God, we
         can have spiritual life and eternal communion with Him!
      2. As Paul put it so succinctly:  "For the wages of sin is death,
         but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ro 6:23)


1. In succeeding lessons we will examine these commands and promises
   more carefully

2. But I trust that we see "How The Gospel Of Christ Addresses The
   Problem Of Sin" in a wonderful and powerful way!

Have you let the gospel address your problem of sin?  By...

                - Believing the facts of the gospel?
                - Obeying the commands of the gospel?
                - Receiving the promises of the gospel?

Do so, and through Jesus Christ you can overcome the problem of sin!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

Responding to the Skeptic’s Attack Against Nazareth by Kyle Butt, M.A.


Responding to the Skeptic’s Attack Against Nazareth

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

The town of Nazareth is “located in the southern end of the hills of Lower Galilee at about 1200 feet above sea level” (McRay, 1991, p. 157). Nazareth is about four miles southwest of Sepphoris. During the time of Christ, Sepphoris was the capital of Galilee, a major center of political and economical activity, and home of Herod Antipas (DeVries, 1997, p. 318). Primary research was done on the city in the mid-1950s by Bellarmino Bagatti. He discovered that the village during the time of Jesus was “an agricultural settlement with numerous winepresses, olive presses, caves for storing grain, and cisterns for water and wine” (1969, p. 25). McRay noted that pottery found in Nazareth dates “from Iron Age II (900-600 B.C.) to the Byzantine period (330-640), including Roman pieces from the time of Christ” (p. 158). Bagatti stated:

The entire village of Nazareth has very many subterranean cavities, some used as
The Church of the Annuciation in Nazareth
stores, some used as tombs. The earliest documentation is indicated both by their form and the ceramics found therein. The latter put us in the presence of tombs already existing in the Middle Bronze Period, and silos already in use in the Iron Period (1969, p. 25).
During Bagatti’s digging in the 1950’s, he excavated an area underneath the modern Church of the Annunciation in an attempt to find any previously existing structures that dated before the 4th century A.D. Not only did he say, “The excavations in Nazareth have revealed grottos and basins of pre-Constantinian times which served for baptism” (1971, p. 243), he also noted:

From the excavations it emerged that the Byzantine church was not the first to be erected on the site, but it had been preceded by a religious site, of which notable remains still exist within the refill of over two metres height over the native rock.... We can, therefore, hold that the first edifice, raised on the traditional site of the Annunciation, was erected in about the 3rd century in the synagogal form of the edifices mentioned (1971, p. 125).


In 2008, the American Atheist Press published a book by René Salm titled, The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus. The thesis of the book simply is that Nazareth was uninhabited at the time of Christ, thus the Bible writers could not have been correct in their statements concerning Christ’s life there. The publishers are so positive that Salm has effectively proved his thesis, that the back of the book cover includes tremendously brazen statements by those who have read the book. The cover quotes Frank Zindler who says: “Christianity cannot survive unless this book can be refuted,” and “By proving scientifically that Nazareth was uninhabited at the time Jesus of Nazareth and his family were supposed to be living there, Salm strikes the Achilles’ heel of a very popular god.” Robert Price’s comment on the back cover states: “I am amazed by your work and can’t wait to see the pathetic attempts to reply.” According to his “fans,” Salm’s book must be answered in order for Christianity to remain a reasonable, historic religion.

The fact of the matter is, the skeptical community often writes and publishes material that makes such brash claims about its potency. One reason for such hubris is that outlandish claims of this nature excite the curiosity of those in both the Christian and skeptical community. Such bold assertions often draw the attention of those who are weaker in the faith and who do not understand that this tactic is used regularly by the skeptics. In truth, Salm’s book can be refuted. But more importantly, if no one in the Christian community chose to turn a page of the book or write a sentence in response, Christianity as a whole would certainly continue to survive.


Salm focuses his attention on the town of Nazareth because he says:

Unlike aspects of the gospel story that are quite beyond verification—the miracles of Jesus, his bodily resurrection, his virgin birth, or even his human nature—the existence of Nazareth two thousand years ago can be proved or disproved by digging in the ground. Because the archaeology of a site is empirically demonstrable, “Nazareth” is in a category apart. To this day, it preserves the explosive potential to either prove or disprove the gospel accounts. Upon that determination depends a great deal, perhaps even the entire edifice of Christendom (2008, p. xii).
Salm claims that work done by Bagatti and other researchers like Père Viaud are “unabashedly apologetic” in their attempts to prove that Nazareth was inhabited during the time of Christ. He also says that most people who study Nazareth go to Bible dictionary and encyclopedia articles about the site, and not to the direct sources. He claims that this reliance on “secondary literature” causes the average person to be “two steps removed from a correct appreciation of the site” (p. xiv). Salm then claims that his book “brings together all the primary reports for the first time, and allows an independent and objective opinion to be formed regarding the site’s history” (p. xv).

The irony of Salm’s statement is two fold. First, it is apparent from Salm’s title that his book is “unabashedly apologetic” in his attempt to disprove Nazareth habitation at the time of Christ. One could not read ten pages of his book without feeling the force of his blatantly one-sided attack against the biblical idea. Second, Salm’s book is “secondary literature.” He has not done primary excavations at the site himself, and while that fact does not disqualify him from writing on the subject, his accusation that secondary literature clouds the “correct appreciation” undermines his own work. In a very real sense, Salm is a biased author of secondary literature about Nazareth.

In his book, Salm acknowledges the numerous pieces of pottery and other excavated evidence that date the city of Nazareth as early as the Middle Bronze Age. He noted: “The Bronze Age finds at Nazareth come from five tombs and date to the Middle and late Bronze Ages (2200-1200 BCE)” (p. 36). He stated: “The fact that five tombs in the Nazareth basin already exist by the end of the Intermediate Period shows that this quiet and fertile location enticed a substantial group of people to cease their wanderings and settle down” (p. 40). In addition, Salm recognizes that artifacts from the site date to an extended period during the Iron Age, which he classifies as about 1100-700 B.C. He stated: “Combining historical data, the evidence from the ground, together with that from surveys of Southern Galilee, it is probable that a new group of people entered the Nazareth basin about 1100 BCE, and that they continued to live there for about four centuries” (p. 53). These statements are based primarily on the Bronze Period pottery Bagatti describes in Excavations of Nazareth (pp. 258-268) and pieces from the Iron Period (pp. 269-272).

It is at this point in his writing that Salm interjects his thesis. He claims that habitation in Nazareth ended within “a generation or two of the Assyrian conquest” and did not resume until the middle of the 1st century (50-100 BCE) (p. 53). “Thus,” writes Salm,

732 is a terminus a quo for the beginning of a long hiatus in the Nazareth basin. I call it the Great Hiatus (or simply the hiatus), a multi-century gap in evidence of human habitation. The Babylonian and Persian periods are entirely unattested by evidence in the Nazareth basin (p. 60).
Salm bases his Great Hiatus hypothesis on the claim that no artifacts have been found that date between about 700 B.C. to about A.D. 50. He mentioned excavations done in the area of the Church of the Annunciation during the 1930s in which no evidence of a Greek or Roman settlement was found. Salm then wrote: “The following year, R. Tonneau wrote an article in which he registered an amazing fact: no evidence of either Greek or Roman settlement had been found in the excavations” (p. 65).

Notice, however, that Salm stresses the lack of material being found. Throughout the rest of his book, he equivocates the absence of evidence with the absence of a settlement. In essence, he says that since the excavations did not find a settlement, that proves that no settlement existed. Salm’s assertion violates one of the most fundamental rules of interpreting archaeological information. It is a well-known truth that “absence of evidence” does not provide “evidence of absence.” A host of reasons exist as to why the settlement may not have been discovered by the excavations. It could be that the small area excavated was a field or a yard in a settlement that did not have any artifacts to yield. Yet Salm insists that because no evidence of such a settlement was found at that time, then that proves there was not a settlement. He wrote: “The fact that habitations and other domestic evidence have never been uncovered on the hillside confirms the obvious. It is clear that the settlement in all ancient periods was situated on the valley floor” (p. 68). Actually, the only thing that the lack of evidence of a settlement proved at the time was that excavations had not yet uncovered one, not that one did not exist. All it would take to refute Salm on this important point is simply to find evidence of a settlement.

Salm’s Missing Settlement is Found

Salm’s faulty reasoning became apparent in late 2009 when evidence of a domestic habitation was unearthed in the area he claimed was never a first-century settlement. In December of 2009, Nazareth made worldwide headlines. Archaeologist Yardena Alexandre and her colleagues uncovered a small structure that they dated to the time of Christ (Hadid, 2009). The Israel Antiquities Authority official press release hailed this discovery as the first of its kind in which a residential structure was uncovered. The announcement noted the importance of the discovery, and quoted Yardena:

The discovery is of 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 (as quoted in “Residential Building...,” 2009).
Alexandre based her dating conclusions on the clay and chalk pottery shards that were found in the house. The pottery shards date from the Hellenic Roman period from 100 B.C. to A.D. 100. The researchers suggested that the existence of chalk indicated that Jews lived in the town, since such chalk “was used by the Jews at the time to ensure the purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels” (Hadid, 2009). The Israel Antiquities Authority confirmed this statement, and added that using such chalk vessels was unique and exclusive to the Jewish community (“Residential Building...,” 2009). Hadid also reported that Yardena and her fellow archaeologists believe that the lack of fancier, more expensive materials such as glass indicates that the residents of the small village were “simple,” maybe traders or farmers.

The house on which Alexandre and her team focused their research seems to have been about 900 square feet in area. Due to constraints at the sight, however, the team believes the house could be larger than the area that they have uncovered, but Yardena does not foresee the chance to excavate the area further. The remains of the house include “a wall, a hideout, a courtyard and a water system that appeared to collect water from the roof and supply it to the home” (Hadid, 2009). In addition, the team also found a hidden entryway into a small cave that Alexandre believes the Jews living in Nazareth used to hide from Roman soldiers.

The dating method used by Yardena and her team, of matching pottery from the site to other pottery in an attempt to properly identify the time frame of the dig, is one of the most frequently used dating methods in archaeology. McRay mentioned this dating method as one of the most effective:

The potters of antiquity were careful imitators but reluctant innovators.... At any rate style did seem to change from period to period, slowly but decisively, and we are now able to observe those changes in style and from them establish a chronology. The methodology is not exact, but within reasonable limitations it does provide a workable typology upon which to construct a fairly reliable chronology (1991, p. 32).
Since Salm’s book was published in 2006, he could not have included the 2009 find in his writings. And while he may attempt to dismiss the new find, or re-work his information around it, the fact that only one year after his major publication a new archaeological find in the area overturns numerous assertions he made shows that his misguided reasoning is inherently flawed.

More “Absence of Evidence” Reasoning

In addition to his faulty reasoning from the absence of evidence regarding a first-century settlement in Nazareth, Salm applies the same type of reasoning to literature that does not mention Nazareth. He wrote: “Nazareth is not mentioned in Jewish scripture, nor in the writings of the first century Jewish general Josephus, nor in the Talmud of later times. How, then, was it possible for the town to exist and yet to evade mention for so many centuries?” (2008, p. 64). As we have seen, the fact that a city or settlement is not found, or is not mentioned, does nothing to provide positive evidence that it did not exist. In regard to Salm’s statement, one could easily respond that the New Testament documents do, in fact, mention the city and those documents happen to be among the best-attested and most historically accurate ancient literature available (see Butt, 2007). In addition, the New Testament testimony about the city reveals that it was most likely small and despised at the time. As Freund noted: “Although the city name of Nazareth might not have been known in antiquity, it is also possible that Nazareth is simply not mentioned in these other writings because it was a small, out of the way village” (Freund, 2009, p. 297).

Salm’s “Lack” of Evidence Lacks Evidence

It has been shown that Salm’s “lack of evidence” reasoning is inherently flawed. Furthermore, we have seen that a single new find can upset the most painstakingly devised assertions based on such thinking. Salm’s thesis runs into additional problems when one takes a close look at the evidence that is actually available, and that he acknowledges as authentic.

Bow-Spouted Lamps
As mentioned earlier, one of the most accurate ways to date any ancient location is by the pottery and lamps that are found there. In an attempt to prove his claim that none of the pottery or lamps
A bow-spouted Herodian lamp
found in Nazareth shows that the town was inhabited during the time of Christ, Salm must deal with the numerous pieces of pottery that others have dated to that time. He stated: “Ultimately, an accurate history of Nazareth can be determined only on the basis of datable material excavated on the site” (2008, p. 105). To describe evidence that he believed would meet that criterion, Bagatti wrote concerning the grotto he labeled #25: “Small pieces of ‘Herodian’ lamps found at the threshold and a little inside show clearly how this place was in use already in the first century” (1969, p. 46). Concerning the various “Herodian” lamps from this grotto and others around the site, Bagatti stated: “The ‘Herodian’ lamps give the known variants: without ornament, with circles near the wick-hole, the body with walls both roundish and angular” (1969, p. 309).

Concerning the lamps, Salm stated:

In 1961 P. Lapp wrote that undecorated bow-spouted lamps were current “75 B.C.A.D. 70.” In that same year, however, R. Smith tentatively dated the type from c. 37 BCE (the accession of Herod the Great). Smith even considered a later beginning for this lamp possible.... In 1980 J. Hayes wrote that such lamps were common in Jerusalem in early 1 CE. In 1982 Varda Sussman dated the appearance of this type in Judea to ‘the reign of Herod.’ A few years later, however, she was able to conclude: ‘Recent archaeological evidence suggests that their first appearance was somewhat later, after the reign of Herod (emphasis added). We will adopt the latter view in these pages. Thus, we can now date the first appearance of the bow-spouted lamp in Jerusalem to c. 1-25 CE. Because a few years must be allowed for the spread of the type to rural villages of the north, c. 15-c. 40 CE is the earliest probable time for the appearance of this type in Southern Galilee. Accordingly, we shall adopt 25 CE as the terminus post quem for the bow-spouted oil lamp at Nazareth (2008, pp. 168-169, italics in orig, emp. added).
This lengthy quote shows the inherent bias and subtle ways that Salm chooses to evaluate the available evidence. Notice that many writers date the Herodian lamp to much earlier than A.D. 1-25, yet with a quick scratch of the pen, Salm simply states. “We will adopt the latter view in these pages.” Yet the “latter view” happens to be the crux of the issue. Could it be that the latter view is not right—that the lamp dates to as early as 75 or 37 B.C.? Yes. Salm gives no verified reason why the reader must “adopt the latter view.” In fact, Salm’s primary reason to adopt that view is because he has to have it in order to construct his case that Nazareth was not inhabited from 75 B.C.

Furthermore, after arbitrarily adopting the “latter view,” he again gives a date of A.D. 1-25 for the lamp’s appearance in Jerusalem. Yet the “latter view” (that he arbitrarily adopted) only mentioned that the appearance was “somewhat after” Herod’s reign. Salm picks the dates of A.D. 1-25, when it just as easily could have been 4 B.C.-A.D. 4. Then he again arbitrarily pulls out of the air the idea that A.D. 25 is the earliest the lamp could have arrived at Nazareth. Salm notes that the lamp continued in use until about A.D. 135 and stated: “The time span, then, for the bow-spouted lamp in Lower Galilee is slightly over a century: c. 25 CE to c. 135 CE” (p. 169). Salm then writes: “In conclusion, the data clearly show that settlers did not come into the basin before c. 25 CE” (p. 172). Let us notice, however, that Salm’s conclusion is not “what the data clearly show,” but only what Salm arbitrarily adopts as his earliest estimates. Using other estimates that he mentioned from other writers as possible dates of the lamps, one could just as easily say that the data “clearly show” that the settlers could have come in the basin in 60, 37, or 4 B.C.

Furthermore, there is an extremely important point to be made about Salm’s biased dating of the lamps. Even if we allow him to use all the latest possible dates, adding to them arbitrarily designated times spans of how long it would have taken the lamp to get to Nazareth, his own statements show that Nazareth could easily have been inhabited during the time of Christ. Salm wrote:

The incipience of a village is not equivalent to the arrival of the first settlers at the site. No village springs up overnight. It requires a certain amount of time—perhaps a generation or two—to come into existence.... The presence of tombs [in Nazareth] indicates both permanence and population, and it is strongly suggestive of a “village.” Thus, the earliest tomb at Nazareth is a significant clue regarding the existence of a village. Determining its date will be an important goal of these pages. The period of tomb use can be revealed by dating funerary artefacts found in situ (pp. 156-157, italics in orig.).
In this regard, Salm further noted that several of the bow-spouted lamps were found in tombs. Thus, according to Salm’s reasoning, tombs show the presence of a village, and settlers in the area could/would have been in the area possibly two generations before that village came into existence. Using Salm’s personally concocted date of A.D. 25 for the earliest date of the lamps, that means that the earliest tomb could possibly date to A.D. 25. And, if settlers were in the area two generations before that (using 40 years as a generation), that would put people in the area in about 55 B.C. Taking that into account, there is absolutely no way that Salm can prove that Nazareth was not inhabited during the time of Christ. The most he can do is suggest that, if his arbitrarily chosen dates are adopted, it seems improbable. Yet even this “improbability” does not accord well with the ranges of dates that are often adopted for such artifacts as the “Herodian” lamps.

Kokh Tombs
One of the most prevalent archaeological features of the area of Nazareth is the abundance of tombs. Salm and others recognize approximately 20 tombs in Nazareth as “kokh-type” tombs. Salm admits that kokh tomb use began in Jerusalem about 150 B.C. But he does not believe that such an early date can be attributed to the tombs in Galilee and Nazareth. Thus, he states: “As regards to Nazareth, the failure to completely appreciate a lag time between the appearance of kokh tombs and bow-spouted oil lamps in Jerusalem and their appearance in Galilee has generally resulted in an early chronology for the site” (p. 158). Salm asserts

that kokh tomb use begins c. 150 BCE in Jerusalem, comes to prevail in that city after Herod’s accession, and spreads to Galilee only after c. 50 CE. Thus M. Aviam has noted that “no Jewish tombs from the Hasmonaean or Early Roman periods have yet been excavated in the Galilee.” In all, there is a 200-year delay between the first beginnings of kokh use in Jerusalem and its appearance in Galilee (p. 159).
Again, notice Salm’s “absence of evidence” argumentation when he claims that since M. Aviam states that no kokh tomb from Hasmonaean or Early Roman times has been found or excavated, that must mean that none exists. Such is simply not the case. Furthermore, if one were to date the bow-spouted lamps back to 75 or 37 B.C., that would put the tombs at Nazareth in the early Roman period, as Chancey and Porter stated: “One of the more commonly discovered lamps for the early part of the Roman period is the so-called ‘Herodian Lamp,’ which appears at sites all over Palestine. The wide distribution of these lamps is probably a result of their relatively easy manufacturing process” (2001, p. 184).

A typical Kokh tomb in the first century A.D.

Salm then reasons that the earliest kokh tomb in Nazareth could date to A.D. 50. Yet, again, his number is nothing but arbitrary determination. Are we supposed to believe that it was impossible for the tomb design to reach Nazareth in less than 200 years? Could it have been 50 years earlier that the tomb design reached Nazareth? There is no evidentiary reason to conclude that such is not a possibility. In addition, using Salm’s own admission that such tombs show that settlers had been in the area for possibly two generations, using 40 years for a generation would still put people in the area by 30 B.C., well before the early childhood of Jesus. Once again, even if Salm is correct about his date (which is most likely not the case), his reasoning could only be used to suggest that there “might not” have been a village in the time of Christ, based only on the scant excavations done up to 2006. But he has taken it upon himself to prove that there could not have been, which he very well has not, and cannot, do.


The excavations of Nazareth have stirred intense debate among scholars in recent years. In an effort to disprove biblical inerrancy, the skeptical community, led by René Salm, has attempted to prove that Nazareth was not inhabited during the time of Christ. Much of the argumentation used to come to this conclusion is based on a lack of evidence, and such reasoning has been repeatedly shown to be flawed. Furthermore, the recent find of a structure that corresponds with a domestic habitation in the area, with datable pottery, overturns a host of the skeptical community’s false assertions concerning Nazareth.

In addition, the dates for bow-spouted lamps and kokh tombs admit, at the very least, the possibility of a settlement in the area, even using Salm’s dating and reasoning. And to the unbiased observer, exhibit obvious signs of habitation during the time that Christ was said to be living in the area. Salm’s arbitrary dates, however, show an evident bias and subjective stance, and far earlier dates could most rationally be assigned to both of these archaeological artifacts. In summary, a reasonable investigator must recognize that Nazareth was inhabited as early as 2000 B.C., and its habitation by Jews between 100 B.C.—100 A.D. fits well with all the information currently extant from the site.


Bagatti, Bellarmino (1969), Excavations in Nazareth From the Beginning till the XII Century, trans. E. Hoade (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press).

Bagatti, Bellarmino (1971), The Church from the Circumcision (Jerusalem: Franciscan Press).

Butt, Kyle, (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Chancey, Mark A. and Adam Porter (2001), “The Archaeology of Roman Palestine,” Near Eastern Archaeology, 64[4]: 164-203.

DeVries, LaMoine (1997), Cities of the Biblical World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Freund, Richard A. (2009), Digging Through the Bible: Understanding Biblical People, Places, and Controversies through Archaeology (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield).

Hadid, Diaa (2009), “First Jesus-era House Found in Nazareth,” MSNBC, December 22, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34511072/ns/technology_and_science-science/.

McRay, John (1991), Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

“Residential Building from the Time of Jesus Exposed in Nazareth” (2009), Israel Ministry of Foreign, December 21, Affairs, 21 December, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early+History+-+Archaeology/Residential_building_time_Jesus_Nazareth_21-Dec-2009.htm.

Salm, René (2008), The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press).

Respect the Variety! by Brad Bromling, D.Min.


Respect the Variety!

by  Brad Bromling, D.Min.

When those of us who believe in verbal inspiration make the claim that “the Bible is right,” we are often misunderstood. Unfortunately, many people—believers and unbelievers alike—assume we are affirming that every line of the Bible is to be taken literally. There is wide-spread confusion over the import of the words “literal” and “true.” To illustrate this confusion, consider the three options offered by Gallup pollsters to ascertain America’s view of the Bible. Those responding to the 1993 poll were asked which of the following statements best reflects their understanding:
  1. The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word [35% chose this option].
  2. The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally [48% chose this option].
  3. The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts written by man [14% chose this option] (Newport, 1993, p. A22).
So, almost half of those polled who believe the Bible is from God believe it must be taken literally, word for word. For many people, to suggest otherwise is an attack on the Bible’s reliability and truthfulness.
The problem is, the terms “literal” and “true” are not equivalent. In fact, they make different claims about a statement or literary product. To say a writing is “literal” is to say that it is to be understood as speaking plainly, directly, and without the use of figurative language (see McArthur, 1992, p. 615). But to say a writing is “true,” is to say that it is correct in what it claims—that it is in accord with reality. A writing or statement can be both literal and true, but literalness is no guarantee of truth. For example, imagine a man who says, “I flew from Alabama to California on my own power—I simply flapped my arms and flew.” He clearly intends for his words to be taken literally, though you know from experience that he cannot possibly be making a truthful claim. By the same token, a writing or statement may be both non-literal, and truthful. When John pointed people to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), he was not being literal; but certainly he was being truthful!
This is a crucial distinction to keep in mind when reading the Bible, since Scripture comes to us through a variety of literary forms. Accurate exegesis (ascertaining the intended meaning of a biblical text) requires that we understand what type/form of literature we are reading. Elizabeth Achtemeier has explained why this is important:
We bring different expectations to different kinds of texts. If a story begins, “Once upon a time,” we know it is a fairy tale, and we expect to read it as such. If a letter begins, “My dearest,” we expect from it affection and intimacy. Expectation makes a lot of difference in the way we read a text, and so it is with the Bible (1989, p. 44).
The Bible is all true—it is not all literal. Some of it is poetry, some historical narrative, some proverbial wisdom, and some of it is written in apocalyptic language that challenges our modern minds. All these literary forms (and there are many others in the Bible; see Fee and Stuart, 1982) are capable of carrying and conveying truth; they just do so in different ways. If we ignore this variety and literalize everything we read, we risk abusing the Bible by making it affirm things that its Author never intended.
If we literalize poems, for instance, we ruin them and often miss their truth-claims. Take Psalm 22:6 as an example. David wrote, “I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by people.” Have we been wrong about David all these years? Have we simply assumed he was a human being when in fact he was an annelid? (No wonder Goliath laughed when David met him on the battlefield—who could keep a straight face in the presence of a worm carrying a slingshot?) Was David literally a worm? Of course not; he was describing the deep despair of feeling apart from God. Was he speaking the truth? Yes, but he conveyed that truth through memorable, figurative language.
Sometimes in otherwise good creationist writings there are instances where the writer has literalized some phrase or line of a psalm (or other equally poetic passages) to argue a factual point in the creation/evolution controversy. This is lamentable. To illustrate this concern, consider the intriguing book, Starlight and Time by D. Russell Humphreys. In this book, Dr. Humphreys presents a fascinating theory from physics to explain why we are able to see stars that are billions of light-years away, even though creation took place less than 10,000 years ago. According to his proposal, space is a material substance that can be “stretched.” To show biblical support for his view, Dr. Humphreys turns to poetic passages like Psalm 102:26, 104:2, Isaiah 13:13, 40:22, and 64:1 that speak of the stretching, tearing, wearing out, and shaking of the heavens. He literalizes these phrases and suggests that God actually stretched the “material” of space until the sixth day, when the creation was completed (1995, pp. 66-67). Although Dr. Humphreys has the highest regard for Scripture, such arbitrary literalizing of isolated words from songs and poems to support a theory about the physics of Creation is inappropriate. The real truth-claim of these passages has to do with the Majesty of God Who, as Creator, is over even the vast hosts of heaven. The beauty and power of these poetic expressions is lost in literalizing, and the intended truth-claim is obscured.
The message of Scripture comes to humanity through virtually every form of literature imaginable. This points us heavenward toward a God Who understands the broad spectrum of human expression, and Who is willing to do whatever it takes to communicate understandably to His Creation. This variety must be respected if we are to Hear the Living God speak through His ever-living Word.


Achtemeier, Elizabeth (1989), Preaching from the Old Testament (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox).
Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart (1982), How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books).
Humphreys, D. Russell (1994), Starlight and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: Master Books).
McArthur, Tom (1992), The Oxford Companion to the English Language (New York: Oxford University Press).
Newport, Frank (1993), “God Created Humankind, Most Believe” The Sunday Oklahoman, p. A-22, September 12.