In the afternoon of our first day of touring, we made our way through Nazareth, which was the town Jesus largely grew up in.
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At the time of Jesus, Nazareth was a backwater, hence Nathaniel asking, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" As I described in a blog post a few days ago, nearby Zippori (Sepphoris) was the major center of learning and culture for the immediate area. Nazareth was the backwater, blue collar 'burbs to Zippori at the time. Ironically, Zippori is now nothing but ruins that even most Christians have never heard of, and Nazareth is now the major population and economic area of the immediate region (over 180,000 people in Nazareth). It is also now known as the Arab capital of Israel with roughly 69% of the population as Muslims. (Christians largely make up the other part.)
I was taken by how rugged Nazareth was geographically. It is situated on very steep hills and many rocky precipices and ravines both in and around the town. When the Bible talks about Jesus making a trip from Nazareth, it was not some Florida-like hike along the beach side, it was major rock climbing hike! In fact, our tour guide, Ezra, said of Mary going to visit Elizabeth on foot while she was pregnant "was, as we say in Yiddish, quite a schleppe!" He was not kidding:
Also of note, though you can likely not see it in most of the above pictures I had to take from the bus, there isn't a lot of trees. No trees mean not much wood. That is as true now as it was in Jesus' time. If Jesus was a carpentar, it likely meant he had to hike some miles to attain wood, or did as much rock carpentry as wood working. Our tour guide was adamant that Jesus was more like a stone mason by profession, doing more in rocks, as that was the general building material available. There was some logic to that, but as we will see in another blog entry in a few days about the "Jesus boat" that was uncovered about 15 years ago from the time of Jesus in the mud of the Sea of Galilee, there was wood to be had. So, I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle: Jesus was probably trained to do carpentry of both wood and stone. We usually see depictions of Jesus the Carpenter making wood chairs or whatever, which is wrong as wooden chairs did not exist at that time and that place. But, the fact that he would have had rough hands is evidenced by either having to haul wood long distances or doing stone working as part of the family business. At the very least, Jesus was not the soft skinned, pasty blonde guy we see in Sunday school pictures.
Something to ponder...