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October 27, 2003

The bathhouse of Jesus

A Roman bathhouse is being excavated in the basement of a modern gift-shop in Nazareth. I quote the following passage for two reasons. First, as it explains the significance of the site for ancient geopolitics and subsequently our understanding of the life of Christ. Second, to point out the contortions some Guardian editorialist went to work the words "occupying power" in there. This sort of news must prove a serious problem for the anti-Israel mind as it is a powerful reminder of the two millenia of persecution of the Jews only now mitigated by the existence of a strong, free Israel.

Freund, of the Maurice Greenberg Centre for Judaic Studies at Hartford University in Connecticut, says the discovery means that historians will have to rethink the place and significance of Nazareth in the Roman empire and consequently the formative experiences of Jesus. It has been assumed that the Nazareth of 2,000 years ago was a poor Jewish village on the periphery of the empire, where local families inhabited caves on the hillside that today contains the modern Israeli-Arab city. On this view, the young Jesus would have had little contact with the Romans until he left Nazareth as an adult; his father, Joseph, one of many craftsmen in the town, may have worked on a Roman palace at nearby Sephori.

But the huge scale of Shama's bathhouse suggests that Nazareth, rather than Sephori, was the local hub of military control from Rome. The giant bath could only have been built for a Roman city or to service a significant garrison town. That would mean Joseph and Mary, and their son Jesus, would have been living in the very heart of the occupying power. This is likely to have huge significance for New Testament scholars in their understanding of Jesus's later teachings.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at October 27, 2003 09:26 AM


I think I saw Jesus in a bathhouse, once.


Posted by: David Strain at October 28, 2003 07:28 PM