René’s response has been reformatted and posted here with permission:
Obviously, the question of Nazareth archaeology is my special bailiwick and, to my knowledge, no one has specifically countered Ehrman regarding his pages 191-97. I can say here that Ehrman is evasive, tendentious and, of course, entirely wrong.
- He is evasive by casually ignoring vital elements of my case (e.g., he doesn’t even mention oil lamps, all of which date to the common era at Nazareth).
- He is tendentious
- by stressing extra-evidentiary elements (such as my lack of credentials–p. 194),
- by focussing on irrelevancies (kokh tombs were expensive and not used by “poor people”),
- and by grossly mischaracterizing actual evidence.
The boondoggle regarding Yardena Alexandre’s 165 coins (p. 195) is a case in point and is getting entirely out of hand.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) report Alexandre sent me in May, 2006 regarding her Mary’s Well excavation makes no mention of coins other than “many 14th-15th century small denomination coins.” It is inconceivable to me that coins dating “to the Hellenistic, Hasmonean, and early Roman period, that is, the days of Jesus” (DJE 195) would have been omitted from Alexandre’s report to the IAA. Furthermore, such a coin profile conflicts with the remaining evidence from Nazareth.
Nevertheless, such coins have subsequently been claimed, beginning with the Nazareth Village Farm report (BAIAS 2007, p.40) authored by Stephen Pfann and others. There, Pfann writes that a report on these early coins from Alexandre is “forthcoming” but, to my knowledge, no such report has appeared (now five years on). In his “Reply to Salm” in BAIAS 2008:106, Pfann and Rapuano write that Alexandre has provided a written statement to them attesting to such early coins in her 1997-98 excavation. Evidently, Pfann and the tradition are running with this. Ehrman now also mentions this: “Alexandre has verbally confirmed that in fact it is the case: there were coins in the collection that date to the time prior to the Jewish uprising” (196).
So, the plot thickens. We have “evidence” that is not published but is being passed from one scholar to another and must be taken on faith. Of course, had I admitted unverifiable evidence ten years ago, my Nazareth book would never have been written.
Finally, Ehrman is simply wrong in his conclusions regarding Nazareth. He thinks that not having excavated the Nazareth valley floor immediately obviates my argument — for that is where I maintain the settlement existed. But — and I personally emailed this to Ehrman in July 2011 — “What has been excavated at Nazareth is more than ample to infer a dating for the people who lived on the valley floor, for they of course are the ones who built the tombs and agricultural installations on the hillsides.” He ignores this in his book.
Ehrman closes by making a big deal of the ‘Nazareth house of the time of Jesus’ excavation (Alexandre again) which news broke in the press in Dec. 2009. Once again, we have no written report, only press releases. Furthermore, the excavation site was quickly covered over (by a religious tourist venue) making further digging impossible.
Do you smell a rat? Maybe half a dozen rats?
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