Order the book

The Nazareth QUIZ

Comments received

Mythicist Discussion list

The movie AGORA

Submit feedback

Favorite mythicist websites


Dr. Robert M. Price

Dr. Hermann Detering

Earl Doherty

American Atheists

Secular Humanism
is my top match
on the Selectsmart.com quiz:
Spiritual Belief System Selector
Take this quizTake a different quiz

Support Wikipedia

An Essential Nazareth Bibliography

In reverse chronological order, with extensive comments by René Salm
Most important readings are marked with asterisks
(with links, several at the bottom of the page).
For older material, see The Myth of Nazareth pp. 343–55.

[15] Is the Caesarea Inscription a forgery? The first in a series of sixteen posts (offsite) on cutting-edge investigations carried out during the Summer of 2013 on three continents. Learn how this prime “evidence” for Nazareth’s early existence evaporates and certainty grows of its forgery in 1962 by Dr. Jerry Vardaman, the notorious pseudo-scholar who brought the world the astonishing (and thoroughly bogus) thesis of microletters on ancient Roman coins. A single post resumé of this fascinating story is here.

[14] Christine R. Perdue’s master’s degree thesis, “The Politics of Archaeology in Israel” (University of Oregon, Interdisciplinary Studies, 2005). This is a blistering indictment of Israeli government policies regarding the practice of archaeology both on Israeli soil and in the occupied territories. My 2012 book review is here (offsite).

*[13] René Salm, “The Archaeology of Nazareth: A History of Pious Fraud?” (PDF).

My 2012 SBL paper on Nazareth archaeology was presented in Chicago in November. Certain scholars were “outraged” that I was even invited to the SBL, as one can read here and here. In the PDF I’ve included a number of visuals, some drawn from my book. Scandal 8, “The Nazareth coin boondoggle” (see at right) complements this paper, as do the other scandal sheets. For my thoughts on the SBL convention, please visit my blog.—R.S.

[12] René Salm, “ Christianity at the crossroads—Nazareth in the crosshairs” American Atheist, July-Aug. 2010, pp. 8–12.

    This article brings the case against Jesus’ Nazareth up to date. It deals with the highly-publicized “house from the time of Jesus” which made headlines just before Christmas, 2009. Typically, no evidence dating to the turn of the era (“time of Jesus”) has been forthcoming. In addition, the small excavation site was quickly covered up, so that no subsequent investigation is possible. A recently-opened pilgrim center now rises on the site, known as the Mary of Nazareth International Center—with boutique, restaurant, and theatre!

*[11] René Salm, “ Nazareth, Faith, and the Dark Option” American Atheist, Jan. 2009, pp. 10–13.
(A reply to the various 2008 BAIAS articles listed below.)

    This important article reviews the problem-ridden history of the site’s archaeology, revealing that Jesus-era evidence has often been invented in the past by the tradition, is possibly being invented now, and may continue to be invented at Nazareth in the future. Forewarned is forearmed!

[10] Ken Dark, “The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus. Scholar’s Edition,” (book review).
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society,, vol. 26 (2008), pp. 140–146.

    A weak review which deals in generalities, dismisses the book out of hand, and does not engage the fundamental issue: that no evidence of human habitation at Nazareth is extant from c. 730 BCE–ca. 70 CE. In fact, Dark yields on this major point:

   Salm points to what he considers a lack of certain Late Hellenistic pottery from Nazareth… Adan-Bayewitz, Aviam, Frankel and others have shown that at least some Late Hellenistic and Roman period Jewish communities chose not to use ceramics made by non-Jews… Moreover, if Bagatti excavated an area used for agricultural storage and/or processing at the Church of the Annunciation, the lack of whole Late Hellenistic or Early Roman lamps at that site is unsurprising…

    Dark insists upon Hellenistic and Early Roman presence at Nazareth, while searching out reasons why such presence is not reflected in the material record. Not only is this argument from silence in conflict with the recovered evidence that we indeed have, but Dark’s stated reasons above are quite far-fetched. The clearly Jewish nature of the village explains the lack of Gentile evidence but certainly not of Jewish, and subsequent agricultural use may indeed have removed “whole” lamps, but we even lack any datable shards from the many centuries before Christ.
    Dark’s review also contains errors: he confuses “primary” with “secondary” sources (line 4), thinks the book’s stated aim is archaeologically unachievable (note: for the tradition, absence of evidence is hardly persuasive), thinks it is impossible to disprove “the existence of a Second Temple period village at Nazareth” (how convenient!), wrongly berates me for not mentioning a seasonal water source in the middle of Nazareth (see Myth pp. 21 [n.11] and 223; Illus. 5.2, “New Spring,”); posits occupation of Nazareth on the hillside and also before the construction of the Roman tombs, finds the evidence for tombs under the present Church of the Annunciation interesting but “inconclusive,” and thinks that R. Hachlili’s book on burials in the Second Temple Period is in any way applicable to my argument. In fact, Dark takes me to task for not consulting this book, which I have since done and find entirely incompatible with Dark’s claims. Hachlili focusses on Judea and has very little to say about the Galilee. Most importantly (and contra Dark), she emphatically does not present a competing chronology of kokhim tombs, and the British archaeologist should know better than to erect this strawman. Dark is contradicted by Prof. H.-P. Kuhnen, who is the world’s leading expert on Roman tombs in the Galilee and has published extensively on these matters. Kuhnen writes regarding my position: “Concerning the [post-50 CE] dating of the known tombs, you are certainly correct.” Indeed, Prof. Dark flails in the dark when he states: “This renders [Salm’s] chronology for tomb construction invalid.” It does nothing of the sort! Finally, Dark is wrong when he supposes that no agricultural installation cuts into a Roman tomb, and might look at Mansur’s work and several cisterns in the Venerated Area to see that his venturesome scenario of an early, tomb-less, hillside agricultural village is flawed.
    Dark’s overall summation, already re-quoted on the internet, is entirely misleading. He writes: “To conclude: despite initial appearances, this is not a well-informed study and ignores much evidence and important published work of direct relevance. The basic premise is faulty, and Salm’s reasoning is often weak and shaped by his preconceptions. Overall, his central argument is unsupportable.” In each clause Dark stands correction. To suppose that the book is poorly-informed denies the obvious and simply shows, once again, that the scholarship of The Myth of Nazareth “is of a higher order than that of those it criticizes” (Prof. L. Falvey, Univ. of Cambridge, U.K.). In fact, the shoe is on the other foot, for it is Dark and the tradition who not only ignore extant evidence but, equally importantly, stubbornly ignore the deafening lack of evidence for a village.

    A neutral assessment of Dr. Dark's review is here.

[9] Yehudah Rapuano, “The Nazareth Village Farm Pottery (1997-2002): Amendment,”
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, vol. 26 (2008), pp. 113–135.

    A wholesale and much-extended rewrite of the “Final”(!) NVF pottery results (see #4 & 6 below). Though clear diagrams of the modest pottery pieces are now presented, Rapuano (whose expertise is generally unknown) abandons his only standard reference for pottery (Adan-Bayewitz) and adopts remote, out-of-the-way, and little-known comparisons to authenticate a few tiny, allegedly pre-70 CE artefacts which, curiously, were apparently found laying right on the surface of the NVF. This expanded report is as problematic as the one it claims to correct.

[8] Ken Dark, “Nazareth Village Farm: A Reply to Salm,”
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, vol. 26 (2008), pp. 109–111.

    Conforms to the standard scenario on all points. Dark is evasive and typically unable to acknowledge that, in the field of archaeology, absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. He ignores that the valley floor is the ideal village location, and then asserts a village “in the Second Temple period” with no evidence for same. He dismisses pottery and survey contradictions with a literary wave of the hand as if they are mere inconveniences. Important professional reports with which he does not agree (e.g., Kuhnen on tombs, Alexandre on Mary’s Well) he calls “interim.” How convenient… If only I could similarly dismiss what I didn’t like as “interim!”

[7] S. Pfann and Y. Rapuano, “On the Nazareth Village Farm Report: A Reply to Salm,”
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, vol. 26 (2008), pp. 105–108.

    A desperate reply, which begins by characterizing me as “a layperson with little or no background.” Be that as it may, a lack of credentials and archaeological field experience did not prevent this curious reader from provoking a wholesale “Amendment” to the “final” NVF pottery report (#6 below). So, Pfann and Rapuano (what happened to Ross Voss?) duly accuse me of requiring correction. The pot calls the kettle black…Their desperation to establish Jesus-era evidence from the time of Christ is evident in, for example, noting that the official Haiman NVF survey did not say that shards were not found from the time of Christ! Thus we enter once again the shadowy world of negatives so characteristic of “Christian archaeology,” where lack of evidence somehow gives birth to certainties… Even while they rest their case on what was not found, the authors admit that “no matter how meagre the fragments and number might be,” that the early finds were not “substantial,” and that prior errors were “inevitable for such technical publications”… Rapuano closes with a long (and thoroughly unconvincing) explanation as to why the earlier report was so remarkably flawed. Incidentally, he is not above redating Bagatti when it serves the tradition’s purposes.

*[6] René Salm, “A Response to ‘Surveys and excavations at the Nazareth Village Farm (1997–2002): Final Report,’”
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, vol. 26 (appeared December, 2008), pp. 95–103.

    This article details a number of striking errors in Rapuano’s NVF pottery report, shows that no artefacts from the NVF are demonstrably pre-70 CE, and questions the astounding (forthcoming) claim of an unprecedented cache of Hellenistic–Early Roman coins, ostensibly “found” at Mary’s Well. As it happens, I possess the signed report of the archaeologist (Yardenna Alexandre) who excavated Mary’s Well, and in it she makes absolutely no mention of such early coins. Hmm. Zee plot sickens

*[5] René Salm, The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus,
American Atheist Press, Cranford, N.J. (March 2008, 375 pages).

    Eight years in preparation, the book attempts to account for every known artefact documented in the literature of the Nazareth basin from the beginnings of excavation in the late nineteenth century to the present. It contains six chapters, seven appendices, seven chronological charts, and twenty-five maps, photographs, and illustrations. The Myth of Nazareth reviews the history of the basin from the Stone Age through Late Roman times, with an appendix continuing up to the present. The essentials of its argument, with which Prof. Ken Dark and all other apologists for the tradition must grapple in order to be relevant, are: (1) the post-25 CE dating of all the Nazareth oil lamps (Illus. 4.3); (2) the post-50 CE dating of all the Nazareth tombs; (3) my astonishing conclusion that “not a single post-Iron Age artefact, tomb or structure at Nazareth dates with certainty before 100 CE” (p. 205); (4) the presence of numerous late Roman-era tombs under and around the Church of the Annunciation; and (5) a now documented history of shoddy work, evasion, and even duplicity associated with a long line of Christian archaeologists working in Nazareth.

[4] S. Pfann, Y. Rapuano, and R. Voss, “Surveys and excavations at the Nazareth Village Farm (1997-2002): Final Report,”
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, vol. 25 (2007), pp. 19–79.

    This is the original NVF report, whose critical concluding pottery section (authored by Y. Rapuano) I discovered to be full of errors. The basic problems with this NVF pottery report, however, go far beyond specifics and are: (1) the official Haiman survey did not find any Hellenistic or Early Roman evidence [see #6 above]; (2) contrary assessments place Rapuano, an M.A. graduate of the Univ. of the Holy Land (directed by his colleague, Stephen Pfann) at odds with one of the most distinguished archaeologists in Israel (Mordechai Haiman, past Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority); (3) Rapuano himself is in every case uncertain regarding the dating of the eleven alleged pre-70 CE pottery shards (which, additionally, were small, found “on the surface”, and in unstratified contexts); and (4) Rapuano’s pre-70 claims are inconsistent with the evidentiary profile of the Nazareth basin, as determined through a century of digging and detailed in The Myth of Nazareth.

[3] René Salm, “The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus—Does it really matter?”
American Atheist, March 2007, pp. 13–14.

    This short article summarizes the ongoing results of my research and concludes: “The Myth of Nazareth boots Christian certitude out the window, and the door is now wide open to ask, ‘What else did the evangelists invent?’…” This article also notes that the Bronze and Iron Age tombs, etc., in the basin are probably the considerable remains of biblical Japhia (Josh 19:12).

[2] René Salm, “ Why the Truth About Nazareth is Important,”
(With Introduction by Frank Zindler)
American Atheist, Nov.–Dec. 2006, pp. 14–19.

    This illustrated article is a good resumé of my book’s argument. It is introduced by Frank Zindler, former Editor of American Atheist. Frank has long been aware of the compromised archaeology of Nazareth and, in fact, of many other places associated with the gospel story of Jesus (see below, #1). As The Myth of Nazareth was still being written and self-published in chapters through Kevalin Press, Frank got wind of the project and immediately became a staunch supporter. Indeed, he eventually edited the book for publication. The present article lays out the book’s argument and documents the Great Hiatus (i.e., no evidence from Nazareth for 800 years before c. 70 CE), the problems with Bagatti’s methods and results, the tombs under the Church of the Annunciation, etc.

*[1] Frank Zindler, “Where Jesus Never Walked” American Atheist, vol. 36 (Winter 1996–97), pp. 33–42.

    Zindler considers many places mentioned in the canonical gospels (including Nazareth and Capernaum), and finds that they are all without historical foundation at the turn of the era. As regards Nazareth, Zindler’s 1996 article presciently arrives at many conclusions detailed in my subsequent book, without the benefit of a close itemization and analysis of the material record. He correctly places the town on the valley floor (not on the steep and rocky hillside, which is pockmarked by Late Roman-era tombs and agricultural installations), notes that the Venerated Area was itself full of tombs and quite uninhabitable by the ancient Jews, points to the lack of masonry remains dating to the first century, notes the vague (mis-)use of the phrase “Roman period” to backdate movable evidence, and concludes that the basin was settled long after the turn of the era.

Page updated June 30, 2014

Scandal sheets
Coverups relating to Nazareth archaeology.

Scandal 1
Hidden tombs under the house of Mary
(the Church of the Annunciation)

Scandal 2
The shell game with Nazareth evidence

Scandal 3
Alleged Hellenistic finds

Scandal 4
“Herodian” and the misdating of Nazareth evidence

Scandal 5
The Nazareth Village Farm Report

Scandal 6
A ‘House from the time of Jesus’?

Scandal 7
“Israel’s Evangelical Approach” and Nazareth

Scandal 8
The Nazareth coin boondoggle

Scandal 9
The 1962 forgery of the “Caesarea inscription”

Scandal 10
Nazareth archaeology causes peer review breakdown

The earliest Nazareth evidence