Friday, November 30, 2012

Jesus Existed (Part 2) - Jesus Grew Up in Galilee (31 Days with Jesus - Day 6)

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

I hope one day you will get to travel to Israel. Linda and I were privileged to do this six years ago. We landed in Tel Aviv, and went first to Mount Carmel. Then to Tiberias, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We spent three days touring the Galilee area, to include Capernaum.

Then we traveled south along the Jordan river. We stayed for 2 days on the Dead Sea, from where we saw Qumran (famous for the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the incredible fortress at Masada.

We ended up with four more days in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, to include Bethlehem.

One of the many highlights for us was a visit to Nazareth, which is west of Tiberias in the area of Galilee. We were walking on the very ground Jesus walked on. Amazing! And insightful. To understand the Real Jesus we must know about the land he lived in.

Jesus grew up in Galilee, in an insignificant village called Nazareth, close to the major city of Sepphoris. It was home to fewer than four hundred people, almost all farmers.
A house from the time of Jesus was recently excavated. With two rooms and a courtyard where a cistern collected rainwater, it is probably the sort of modest home Jesus’ family would have owned. Many of Jesus’ parables and sayings are are influenced by the rural agricultural context in which he grew up.     (See Richard Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction, p. 28)

Jesus of Nazareth was born somewhere around 4 BC. Jesus’ mother was related to the priestly families, and Jesus had a cousin, John, who in the ordinary course of events would have worked as a priest.
Jesus’ mother’s husband, Joseph, was from the ancient royal family, the family of King David, of the tribe of Judah, though by this time there was no particular social status attached to such family membership.

We know very little of Jesus’s early life. One of the gospels tells a story of him as a precocious twelve-year-old, already able to ask key questions and debate with adults.
His later life tells us that, like many Jewish boys, he was from an early age taught to read Israel’s ancient scriptures, and that by adulthood he knew them inside out and had drawn his own conclusions as to what they meant. The strong probability is that Jesus worked with Joseph in the family business, which was the building trade.

So far as we know, Jesus never traveled outside the Middle East. And, he never married. Even though some today speculate that Jesus was married, N.T. Wright says that there is not the slightest historical trace of any such relationship, still less of any children. 
Then, from a life of near-total obscurity Jesus suddenly came to public attention in the late 20s of the first century, when he was around thirty years old. Almost everything we know about him as a figure of history is crammed into a short space of time; it’s not easy to tell if it lasted one, two, or three years, but pretty certainly it wasn’t any longer.    (I've here quoted and slightly adapted from N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, Kindle Locations 228-238)

This gives us some information about the historical context Jesus was born into. And one more thing. Eventually Jesus walks from Galilee south into Jerusalem. Jerusalem was seen as the center of the world was because that’s where all the pressure was concentrated. N.T. Wright says: “That’s where the fault lines all came together, where the tectonic plates ground relentlessly into one another, as indeed they still do. And it is to Jerusalem that we have to go to understand Jesus of Nazareth. That’s where the real perfect storm took place. That’s where all the dark forces converged, one spring day in, most likely, the year we call AD 30 (or, less likely, 33).”   (Ib., 27)
Jesus was a Galilean, a Nazarene.

Note: two excellent books on Jesus are Wright's Simply Jesus and Bauckham's Jesus: A Very Short Introduction.