Jesus spent much of his life in Nazareth, perhaps from about age 3 until his late 20's, but not much is known about the place and what he did there.
Today, Nazareth is a bustling city, the capital of modern Galilee. It is hard to imagine what it was like in Jesus' time -- a tiny hamlet consisting of about 35 homes spread over six acres. Even here though, the stones have a story to tell. right: rooftops of modern Nazareth at sunset - photo credit: Tiamut
Archaeologists have found some caves from that time that were modified to serve as dwellings. Remains have been found also of grain silos, cisterns for water and oil, presses for raisins and olives, a basin cut into the limestone for making wine and five stone watchtowers in the fields. Obviously, Nazareth was a simple agricultural village.
As it was customary, Jesus followed Joseph in his trade. The gospels identify Joseph as a worker, but not specifically a worker in wood; he may have been a smith or a stonecutter. Joseph may have chosen to settle in Nazareth because it was within walking distance of Zippori, (Sepphoris), then the capital of Galilee, which was being completely rebuilt after its destruction by the Romans.
On-going excavations reveal the splendors of this large ancient city of luxurious homes, a colonnaded main street, synagogues and reservoirs -- all only a short distance from the simple village where Jesus lived. The discoveries at Zippori raise new questions about the early life of Jesus. If Joseph and Jesus worked in Zippori, would they have understood or spoken some Greek as well as Aramaic? With the city so closeby, does it not seem that Jesus had more experience of city life, of the ways of the powerful and of cultures other than his own than previously thought? (left: excavations under the church)
Even if Jesus and his father were busy with their own work most of the time, they would likely have joined the villagers at harvest time. Everyone, no matter what they did during the rest of the year, put everything aside when the crop came in. Jesus may have crushed grapes with his bare feet or with others from his village spent nights in one of the towers -- a small room on a tall stone base, guarding the crop, telling stories, singing and playing a flute to pass the time.
In addition to work, Jesus received his early education in Nazareth. Until 70 AD when the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem brought many changes to Judaism, a father was responsible, not only for passing on his trade to his son, but also for teaching him the Torah. It is said that little children were taught by placing honey on their writing boards as they learned their alphabet and the Torah. This left the child with the lasting impression that God's word is sweet. right: Church of the Annunciation today in Nazareth - photo credit: Tiamut
Did Jesus learn only at Nazareth? Nazareth was too small to have a school of its own, is it possible that Jesus not only worked in Zippori but went to school there as well?
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