JESUS THE CARPENTER?
SINCE the above address was given to the United States Senate during the years of World War Two, several historians have examined the times of Jesus and of Joseph and Mary. Some unexpected findings have come to light in Nazareth. No historian suggests that the Holy Family did not live in Nazareth, nor that Joseph and by implication Jesus were occupied in the building and furniture trades. However, the commonly held belief in the abject poverty of the family is seen to be exaggerated.
First of all, ample gold was available due to the gifts of the Wise Men of the East. These men were probably of the Tribe of Levi, descendants from the Babylonian Captivity from among the many of Judah who did NOT return with Ezra and Nehemiah. The Book of Esther proves that a large number of Judeans were resident in the Persian Kingdom, and occupied high positions under the Persian King.
They brought gold suitable as a gift for a KING. Not just a mere speck of gold dust! After all Solomon received 666 Talents of gold in ONE YEAR. (I Kings 10:14). One talent is equivalent to 131 pounds weight therefore 666 talents will weigh just on 39 Imperial TONS. No one has suggested that the Wise Men carried this weight in the circumstances existing about 4 BC from the region called Parthia which was outside Roman domination to the east of the Euphrates River, but it was nevertheless a fairly substantial amount from a very wealthy region. The Parthian Empire extended from Armenia to India in Roman Times, and was allied to kinsmen in Scythia occupying Southern Russia from the Caspian Sea to the Danube River to the north of Roman dominated Thrace and Dacia.
Now, the Greek word describing Joseph's trade was "tekton" which included a master builder, master mason, and one skilled in metal technology. He was more than a simple carpenter in modern terms.
This extended idea applying to Joseph and Jesus is enhanced by the historical City of Sepphoris, situated a mere four miles from Nazareth. It was the largest city in Judea outside Jerusalem. Herod the Great had made it his Galilean Capital, but when he died in 3 BC his three sons were in Rome to confirm their inheritance. While they were absent a rebel leader named Judas attacked Sepphoris. The Roman legions soon crushed the rebellion, burning the city and enslaving the inhabitants. When the sons returned from Rome, Herod Antipas determined to rebuild the city, and he initiated a great building program that lasted for 20 years until he moved to Tiberias in AD 26. Jesus was about nine years old when the work began, and obviously much labour from Nazareth was employed in the work, including Joseph and his apprentice Jesus.
Archeological evidence from Sepphoris indicates that Greek was the common tongue. Richard Patey wrote two articles in "New Testament Studies" in 1983 expanding this theme (first introduced by Shirley Case in 1926), showing that Jesus appeared to have a knowledge of Greek Theatre from some of His statements in the Gospels. The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word meaning 'one who acts in a play,' and was often used by the Lord in His discourses. His familiarity with Greek usages and Greek Theatre is evident.
Jesus' work in Sepphoris brought Him into contact with Rornans and Greeks, thus enlarging His perspective beyond that of a lad restricted to a strictly Jewish environment. The experience of both Jewish and Roman-Greek worlds adds light to Jesus' ministry, wherein He never condemned the Roman occupiers of the Land. In fact, He castigated the Pharisees far more than He did Rome.
These researches do not fit in with common perceptions of the Lord. Yet by the tirne He was twelve years of age, He expounded the Scriptures with doctors of the Law in the Temple, and in His ministry he read from the Hebrew Scrolls in the synagogue.
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