Nazareth update

Ken Dark For the last couple of years I have refrained from commenting on Prof. Ken Dark’s 2020 book, The Sisters of Nazareth Convent: A Roman-period, Byzantine, and Crusader site in central Nazareth. Already in 2006 Dark wrote that his goal in examining the Sisters of Nazareth site over several summers was to produce “a book-length report—fully illustrated with detailed scale drawings and photographs—covering all of the data.” I have already extensively rebutted Dark’s claims of a first century dwelling on the site, both in my book NazarethGate (Chapter 6) and also online ( The Sisters of Nazareth Convent is located about 100m west of the Church of the Annunciation. No one (not even Dark) contests the presence of a … Continue reading

Baker Books proposes a new time-shift

A reader (thank you, Alan) recently apprized me of a book hot off the press (May 3, 2022): Rethinking the Dates of the New Testament (RDNT), by Dr. Jonathan Bernier. According to the Amazon page, the book proposes that the New Testament was written twenty to thirty years earlier than traditionally thought, that is, towards the middle of the first century CE! I’d like to mention that the publisher, Baker Books, is a conservative Christian imprint on whose welcome page we read: Baker Books has a vision for building up the body of Christ through books that are relevant, intelligent, and engaging. We publish titles for lay Christians on topics such as discipleship, apologetics, spirituality, relationships, marriage, parenting, and the … Continue reading

Resurrection & Incarnation in the second century

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 23 Evangelical Christians view the bodily resurrection of Jesus as “the most important event in the history of the world.” For them, Jesus’ resurrection from the grave is proof positive that He was the Son of God, that He was God in the flesh, and that He was the Lynchpin of history. Of course, the bodily resurrection means that Jesus overcame death (point #2 in the above link). That’s a very powerful message, for the fear of death is a basic instinct in both man and animal. The Christian promise is that since Jesus overcame death, we can too, for “we have died with Him and will also live with Him” (point #3 above … Continue reading

The Protevangelium of James

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 22 It may surprise you that the Protevangelium of James is a work uniquely positioned in Christian history for its capacity to shed light on the origin of the canonical gospels. However, that capacity is hardly admitted by the tradition, which classifies PrJames with the New Testament Apocrypha (lit: ‘hidden’)—biblical or related writings not accepted as scripture, i.e., not considered genuine or ‘true.’ Terms such as orthodox, apocryphal, canonical, accepted are self-serving and ultimately depend upon a circular argument: if the Church approves a work (that is, if the work agrees with its theological positions), then the work is ‘admitted.’ But if the work conflicts with the Church’s position then it is ‘not genuine’, … Continue reading

A note on the Toldoth Yeshu

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 21 I have been studying the Toldoth Yeshu (Hebrew: “Generations of Yeshu”) for several weeks in the hope that this unusual work might shed some light on Christian origins. However, I have been disappointed and conclude that the TY is a rather poorly-written, scurrilous, and late anti-gospel composed, I suspect, by a disenchanted rabbi in distant Babylonia. Here is some of what the insightful Robert M. Price writes concerning the work: The Toledoth Jeshu (Generations of Jesus) is the title of several variants of an anti-gospel text portraying Jesus as a false prophet and magician… The wide distribution of various language versions and manuscript fragments, together with the numerous parallels with second-century Jewish-Christian polemic … Continue reading

A review…

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 20 Below is my summary of the birth and development of Christianity in the first three centuries. Of course, just about everything regarding the points below differs from the ‘received tradition’:   • I begin ca. 100 BCE rather than at the turn of the era; • I propose a different prophet than Jesus of Nazareth (namely, Yeshu ha-Notsri); • for me neither Paul nor Marcion existed—nor did the earliest Church Fathers until Justin Martyr; • the ‘Pauline epistles’ came after the canonical gospels, not before; • the canonical gospels themselves are products of the second half of the second century. The tenets above are fleshed out in slightly greater detail in the 22 points below, each … Continue reading

The ‘Watch and Wait Period’—II

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 19 Readers may not be aware that the traditional view of Marcion was my principal reason for fixing the authorship of the canonical gospels to the middle decades of the second century. However, in a recent post I proposed that Marcion was an invention of the Catholics, a useful tool in the fledgling church’s efforts to paint naysayers (those who rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the savior) as heretics (“Marcionites”). Now that ‘Marcion’ is gone, the dating of the 4G to the middle decades of II CE loses a good deal of force. Here I briefly summarize the reasoning that originally led me to connect Marcion’s presence in Rome to the dating of the … Continue reading

Pliny on Christians ca. 110 CE: Authentic (My view)

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 18 I have finished reading Hermann Detering’s chapter “Pliny the Younger—Christian persecution in Bythynia” from his book Falsche Zeugen (“False Witnesses”), and have also surveyed the rather copious literature on this seemingly obscure topic—at least, the literature readily available at my university library and online. While I have immense respect for the late Dr. Detering’s work, I have to disagree with him regarding these two Pliny letters (Bk. 10:96–97). Of course, few things are 100% certain in history, and Detering marshals evidence for his argument that the letters in question are forgeries. Uncharacteristically, however, he used outdated (19th century) references that became obsolete when newer evidence came to light in the early twentieth century. … Continue reading

Some questions for readers…

This is an experiment… I just received an awfully long comment (below) from one Peter Koerber, an informed reader who presents with a host of good questions that, unfortunately, I simply don’t have the time to answer. But they do deserve answers, and so I’m passing Peter’s questions on to readers—you. Please help us all out by responding to one or more of Peter’s queries, which I’ve numbered 1–7 below. Send your comment to this blog and please put the number of the question/paragraph that you’re addressing in your comment. That will help orient us readers. This might be quite informative… And thanks in advance!–René I don’t know exactly where I should put this, but thank you for your insights … Continue reading

Pliny on Christians ca. 110 CE: A forgery? (Detering’s view)

A New Account of Christian Origins / pt. 17 Adieu Pliny! June, 2011 by the late Dr. Hermann Detering Translated from the German by R. Salm with light editing for style. Note: In the comments below I play the ‘devil’s advocate’and intentionally give Dr. Detering’s argument a hard time.—R.S. It’s been a good 35 years since I first read the two so-called “Christian letters of Pliny” (Book X, nos. 96 and 97—in English here). At the time, I was—along with other graduate students—sitting in a New Testament seminar whose topic I have forgotten. I do remember the November rain prattling against the windows and, of course, the lecturer Dr. Walther Schmithals, who read the Latin text of the letter to us, amiably … Continue reading