Sometimes some Muslims pick up on a very outdated atheist critique that Nazareth didn't even exist in Jesus time. Here is a response from a resident of Nazareth, February 1998.
Perhaps the Muslim "scholar" referred to the fact that there was no Christian Church in Nazareth until Queen Helena, Constantine's mother came through Nazareth on her famous Holy Land trip in the fourth century and had the little basilica built over Mary's Well to mark the spot of the annunciation by the angel Gabriel. They were recently repairing the road in front of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation at Mary's Well in Nazareth. They discovered earlier ruins in the process, so now the whole plaza in front of the church is now an archeological site and you cannot drive a car through!
Down the road in the center of town the huge Basilica to the Annunciation built by the Roman Catholics preserves as its altar the first Century cave home of the Virgin Mary and its foundations are built over numerous cave dwellings. They have a little archeological museum with artifacts found during this period. Up the hill is the Church of Joseph built over caves which they claim were used as carpenter shops. Across the street the Sister's of Nazareth Hospice is built over an ancient first century or earlier grave with the huge rolling stone door still in place. A block away (modern term!) the Greek Catholic Church in the market is built next to the ancient synagogue that Jesus read the Torah in and the people took him out to throw him off the hill the city was built on.
So, anyone with eyes to see needs no proof of the existence of Nazareth in the first century and many centuries earlier! Nazareth was know as a city of refuge, tucked away in a mountain valley above the Valley of Meggido, or Esdraelon. It was a sleeply little hollow less than 2-3 miles from the metropolis Zippori where Mary's mother was from. Zippori has recently been excavated by Duke University and is now one of the largest archeological sites in the country which shows first century and earlier synagogues and homes with beautiful mosaics still intact.
There is debate about the location of Cana of Galilee, about five miles down the road from Nazareth toward Tiberias. The present Cana may not have been the site in the first Century. The site was moved in the early Christian centuries because the original site (Tel Kana) was unreacheable in the winter when the Natofa Valley flooded from the winter rains. The modern site does contain artifacts from the early Roman period. But the original site, which a local Muslim friend of mine took me too, is about three miles across the Natofa Valley in Tel Kana, which by the way, is also a network of cave homes.
I can assure you the local Muslim villagers who live at these sites and use many of the caves for their stables do not doubt their authenticity!
Dr. Ray Register (who lived in Nazareth for 25 years)
Bible and archaeology
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