Hometown of Joseph And Jesus – Nazareth or Bethlehem?

The discussion so far as to whether Nazareth was or was not the hometown of Joseph is far from conclusive. There are more reasons as to why Nazareth may not have been the hometown of Joseph.

Some scholars claim that there are practical reasons why Nazareth could not have been the hometown of Joseph.

Not Everyone Accepts That The Birth Place Of Jesus Was Bethlehem

Although the birth narrative of Jesus has been around for 2000 years it does not mean that it has been universally accepted even among Christians that the birth place of Jesus was Bethlehem.

Some scholars contend that the birth place of Jesus could not have been Bethlehem. For instance Dr. Beckford asks whether it would have been possible for Mary who was supposed to have been nine months pregnant to have traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judea which is a distance of about 140 kms riding on a donkey (1). Luke says that Mary and Joseph had to do this in order to take part in the Roman census and taxation. Jesus was born while they were in Bethlehem. (Fig 1)

Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), stated that: “Basic medical knowledge tells you that a heavily pregnant woman could not ride a donkey that kind of distance without losing her baby.” Although medical knowledge was primitive in those days, something as basic as this would have been known generally. Joseph and Mary would not have had access to a method of transportation other than walking or riding on an animal (2).

Usual Jewish Route from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

1st Century Judea Women “…Were Considered Second-Class Citizens…”

In addition to this, in 1st century Judea women “…were considered second-class citizens, akin to slaves.” Only Joseph would be required to register with the authorities, because “the husband was the spiritual and legal head of the house.” The need for his teen-aged fiance or wife to be there with him would have been unnecessary. As a matter of fact Joseph would have traveled without Mary, probably in a group for the sake of better protection against bandits (3).

Besides this, there is no record of a worldwide census having been conducted in the last decade BCE, contrary to what was claimed by Luke. If such a census had been conducted, it would have been so unsettling that its effects would almost certainly have been recorded at that time in many Roman documents. There is reference to a local census having been conducted by Quirinius during 6 CE. However at the time this was conducted Jesus would have been about ten years of age. Besides, this census was held in Judea and not in Galilee where according to the Gospel of Matthew is where Joseph lived (4).

It does not stand to reason, requiring Jews and other inhabitants of the Roman Empire to return to their ancestral hometown for a census registration. The economy of the Roman Empire would have been put out of gear if everyone had to make such a visit. The transportation facilities would be completely overloaded. Besides, then as of now, censuses are generally conducted where people lived.

In circa 6 BCE the year that Jesus is said to have been born, it would have been impossible for adult Jews to return to the ancestral city of their tribe. Because of the annihilation and dispersion of Jews in the Northern Kingdom, and the enslavement and exile of the remaining Jews in Babylon of whom only a few returned, several, if not most Jews in Judea at that time would not have been aware of their tribal origins (5). It is therefore more likely that Bethlehem was the hometown of Joseph and the birthplace of Jesus.

People Rejected Jesus As The Messiah Because He Was Known To Have Come From Galilee

Mark 6:1 is not in agreement with the claim of a Bethlehem census. He states that Nazareth is the birthplace of Jesus and his “hometown.” John 7:41-43 is in agreement with this by saying that people in a crowd rejected Jesus as the Messiah because the Messiah was expected to come from Bethlehem in Judea, whereas Jesus was known to have come from Galilee.

There are several references in New Testament which state that Jesus is from Nazareth and not Bethlehem. The early Christians were referred to as “Nazarenes.” Jesus was himself referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Nazarene” or “Jesus the Nazorean” – but never as “Jesus of Bethlehem” (6).

Jesus Was Born In Another Bethlehem Which Is In Galilee

This may come as a surprise, but there’s another claimant for the birthplace of Jesus: another Bethlehem.

Dr. Beckford feels that probably Jesus was instead born in another Bethlehem which is in Galilee. He has reasons to believe this. Excavation in this Bethlehem showed that there was a 6th century church. This church the largest Byzantine church in Israel was built above a natural cave which many scholars think is where Jesus was born. In addition to the church, a monastery was also discovered there. Besides this there is also indication of the presence of a large Christian community there during that period.

bethlehem_map

Bethlehem in Galilee

Dr. Beckford feels that it is more likely that Jesus was born in this Bethlehem since it is only about 7 kms from Nazareth. However the church insists that Jesus was indeed born in the more famous namesake since that would be fulfilling an Old Testament prophesy (7).

A senior archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority wrote in Archaeology magazine that while the ‘Menorah,’ a voluminous database of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), portrays
Bethlehem of Judea as a primeval site with Iron Age objects and the fourth-century Church of the Nativity and other Byzantine and medieval structures, there is a total lack of information about antiquities from the Herodian period which is about the purported time of the birth of Jesus. While archaeological excavations resulted in revealing a lot of material belonging to the Iron Age i.e. 1200 to 550 BCE no materials belonging to the time of Jesus were found there. This has prompted scholars to claim that Bethlehem did not exist as a meaningful town during the time of Jesus.

The absence of artifacts from the period of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea prompted Aviram Oshri, a senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority to argue that Bethlehem of Galilee and not Bethlehem of Judea was the more likely birthplace of Jesus. Oshri reasons that it is because of the significance of the Bethlehem of Galilee that the early Christians built an imposing church in the middle of Jewish territory.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, conservative Christians maintain that Bethlehem in Judea is the birthplace of Jesus, since this fulfills the prophesy that a messiah would be born there (Micah 5:2). It is because of such discrepancies that theologians Don Cuppitt and Peter Armstrong urge that people should in general be wary of events in the New Testament that are supposed to be fulfillment of prophesies in the Old Testament (8).

The only archaeological evidence presented in all this is that there were some houses that existed in Nazareth during the time of Jesus. All indications are that a Jewish village did exist in Nazareth, but one that was so small that it did not find a place in the listings of Josephus and the Talmud.

Please also read my blog “Jesus May Have Had 6 Brothers And Sisters” at
bit.ly/1UktdAC

References:

(1) Leafe, David. (2006). Did Jesus Have a Secret Family? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesMiddEast/CanaanJesus01.htm

(2) Cook, Jonathan. (2004). The search for the real Bethlehem. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.jkcook.net/Articles2/0216.htm

(3) Robinson, B.A. (2004). The Christmas story: In what town was Jesus born? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmaswwjb.htm

(4) Robinson, B.A. (2004). The Christmas story: In what town was Jesus born? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmaswwjb.htm

(5) Robinson, B.A. (2004). The Christmas story: In what town was Jesus born? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmaswwjb.htm

(6) Robinson, B.A. (2004). The Christmas story: In what town was Jesus born? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmaswwjb.htm

(7) Leafe, David. (2006). The Middle East, Did Jesus Have a Secret Family?
Retrieved 2011, from http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesMiddEast/CanaanJesus01.htm

(8) Robinson, B.A. (2004). The Christmas story: In what town was Jesus born? Retrieved 2011, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmaswwjb.htm

Picture Credits:
(Fig 1) Usual Jewish Route from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
https://www.lds.org/ensign/1982/12/the-land-jesus-knew-part-1?lang=eng

(Fig 2) Bethlehem in Galilee.
https://www.lds.org/ensign/1982/12/the-land-jesus-knew-part-1?lang=eng
https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1024&bih=635&q=map+showing+bethlehem+in+galilee&oq=map+showing+bethlehem+in+galilee&gs_l=img.3…7517.30259.0.32167.32.20.0.12.3.0.105.1789.19j1.20.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..10.22.1717.c0Zyrdl6YYM#imgrc=KpMwnXA07-iE0M%3A

Jesus May Have Had 6 Brothers And Sisters

The other children of Joseph of Nazareth are probably the reason why there was no ossuary of Joseph among those excavated from the Talpiot tomb.

It is important to examine the relationship that Joseph of Nazareth had with his six other children to understand whether he had more roots in Nazareth than in Jerusalem.

Joseph Was Married For 49 Years And Had 6 Children

According to apocryphal sources it appears that when he was forty years, Joseph married a woman named Melcha or Escha. Other sources name this woman Salome. In any case it is said that they were married for forty nine years and that the couple had six children – two girls and four boys.

The boys were named Justus, Simon, Judas and James and the girls Assia and Lydia. These six children of Joseph would thus be the step brothers and sisters of Jesus. And according to some sources James was the youngest of the four boys. Others claim that James was the eldest of the boys since he is almost always mentioned first in the list. However even Matthew and Mark do not agree on the order in which the boys were born. Matthew (Matthew 13.54–56) lists them as “James and Joseph and Simon and Judas”, whereas the order in which Mark (Mark 6.3) lists them is “James and Joses [a variant of Joseph] and Judas and Simon”.

According to these two evangelists it would appear that James was the eldest.
However it is possible that James was indeed the youngest of the four siblings. Consider the fact that Jesus names James to take care of his ministry after his death. This is probably because of his closeness to the step brother he grew up with and not the other step brothers who were too old for him to easily relate to.

According to some sources these six were referred to as the blood brothers and sisters of Jesus. However James Tabor states that “Once one insists that “the blessed Virgin Mary” was “ever-virgin,” with no sexual experience whatsoever, then the brothers and sisters have to be explained away. I say this with no disrespect for those who hold such views of Mary.” http://jamestabor.com/2012/12/27/sorting-out-the-jesus-family-mother-fathers-brothers-sisters/.

This is the reason for the speculation that the six could have been cousins/ step brothers and sisters.

What Were These Six To Jesus?

That Mary mother of Jesus refers to James as “my son” should not be construed as his being a natural brother of Jesus. In the apocryphal Nag Hammadi codex “The First Revelation of James” Jesus is supposed to have said to James “I called you my brother, though you are not physically my brother” (1).

According to other sources the boys and girls who are often referred to as the brothers and sisters of Jesus are in fact the cousins of Jesus. Some scholars claim that when John 19:25 talks of “Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdala”, he is talking about Mary the wife of Clopas who is the sister of the mother of Jesus. This Mary almost certainly isn’t the natural sister of the mother of Jesus but a cousin or a close relative. This is why the writer of the gospel uses the word “adelphos” to refer to James and Joseph (Jose), because the word could denote a brother or sister as the case may be or even a cousin, a nephew or a close relative.

Proponents of this theory reason that this is the most likely relationship between Jesus and the boys as James and Joseph/Jose are never referred to as the sons of Joseph. To further support the claim that James and Joseph/ Jose were not the children of Mary the mother of Jesus both John and the other Synoptic gospels refer to the Mary, the wife of Clopas as being the “mother of James and Joseph (Jose)”. Similarly Judas and Simon who are referred to as his brothers and the women referred to as his sisters are his near relatives from other branches of Jesus’ extended family (2).

So are James and Joseph/Jose and Judas and Simon and the girls the children of Joseph from an earlier marriage or are they the cousins of Jesus from his extended family?

The confusion as to whether the brothers and sisters of Jesus were indeed his full brothers and sisters arose because they are referred to as his brothers and sisters in the bible in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 (see also Mk. 3:31; Lk. 8:20; Jn. 2:12; 7:3-5; Acts 1:14; Gal. 1:19; 1 Cor. 9:5). This is because the bible uses the Greek words adelphos and adelphe – literally meaning brother and sister respectively – to describe Jesus’ relationship to the supposed brothers and sisters.

Why would the bible use these words if the brothers and sisters were not the full brothers and sisters of Jesus? This, scholars say, is an error of translation. Hebrew and Aramaic – the first being the original language of the bible and the latter, the language of the time – did not have a word to denote cousin or nephew or other such relationships. As a consequence, when required to be exact one would have had to say “the son of my father’s brother” or simply “my brother”. In the latter case the relationship was correctly understood because of tradition. Because of this, when the old testament was translated to Greek, the version called the “Septuagint” or “LXX” the traditional Hebrew expression adelphos was used even though there is a word in Greek to denote a cousin simply because the Hebrew expression was traditionally also understood as cousin. This convention was continued in the New Testament also (3).

Were These 6 The Blood Brothers And Sisters Of Jesus?

There is another theory. It is claimed by some that those referred to as the brothers and sisters of Jesus were indeed his own brothers and sisters born to Mary and Joseph after him. To support their claim they quote the reference in the bible where Jesus is called the “first-born son” of Mary, implying that Mary had other children besides Jesus. However St. Jerome refutes this claim by saying that during the time of Jesus it was tradition to use the moniker “first born” to refer to the child that first comes out of a womb, even though there may not have been other children after that. He states that “The word of God defines first-born as everything that openeth the womb” (4).
However the bible refers to Jesus as the first born of Mary. Therefore this does not mean that Joseph did not have children by a previous wife. Besides this, the Jews of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus still followed the Mosaic Law which encouraged married couples to have many children. So why would Joseph and Mary want to be different?

It is quite likely that these brothers and sisters of Jesus were indeed his step brothers and sisters – the children of Joseph from an earlier marriage and not from his marriage to Mary. Because if Mary did have children after Jesus would he have not given Mary to the care of one of his younger brothers instead of giving her to the care of the beloved apostle John? (5).

It is necessary to study the relationship of James and the others to Jesus and Joseph. If James and the others were the children of Joseph and Jesus was only a foster child, then it is only natural for Joseph to be more attached to his own children, especially in his waning years.

There is controversy even about Joseph’s marriage to Mary. According to some sources he is supposed to have married Mary when he was twenty one and she was fourteen and a half. But most sources say that Joseph was ninety one when he married Mary. This is more likely as the other temple priests would certainly not have entrusted Mary to the care of a twenty-one year old man (6).

After Joseph returned to Nazareth from Egypt he seemingly lived an easy, run of the mill life that befitted a Jew of his age and status. But for the Passover visit to the Temple when Jesus was twelve years, there is no mention of Joseph in the gospels. Subsequently Mary is depicted as a widow during Jesus’ adult ministry (7).

Joseph is not mentioned as being present at any of the events during the adult ministry of Jesus. Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the wedding at Cana nor at the crucifixion. According to Jewish custom were he present at the end he would have been required to receive Jesus’ body, whereas this task is performed by Joseph of Arimathea (8).

Joseph The Foster Father Of Jesus Was 111 when He Died

As per the apocryphal “Story of Joseph the Carpenter”, the patriarch of the holy family was a hundred and eleven years when he died, on 20 July 18 or 19 CE. But according to St. Epiphanius, Joseph was ninety years old when he died and was “buried in the Valley of Josaphat.” However, considering extra-biblical sources it would appear that Joseph died before Jesus began his adult ministry and was buried in Nazareth (9).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Josaphat Valley

Based on early tradition we learn that Joseph was buried in Nazareth (Bagatti 1969: 12; Kopp 1963: 64-66), possibly in the “tomb of the saints” on the property of the Sisters of Nazareth (Livio 1990: 28) (10).

Please also read my blog “Hometown Of Joseph And Jesus – Nazareth Or Bethlehem?” at
bit.ly/1OYigCA

Reference:

(1) History of Joseph the Carpenter. (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Joseph_the_Carpenter

(2) Bonocore, Mark. (2004). The Four Marys un the Gospels. Retrieved 2011, from http://catholic-legate.com/Apologetics/MaryAndTheSaints/Articles/TheFourMarysInTheGospels.aspx

(3) The “Brothers and Sisters” of Christ. (2003). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.cuf.org/FileDownloads/brotsist.pdf

(4) The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/749/Perpetual_Virginity_of_Mary_St_Jerome.html

(5) Behold Thy Son! (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleteacher.org/pdf_sermons/John_19_25t27.pdf

(6) Joseph and Mary were married, in accordance with Jewish custom, at Mary’s home in the environs of Nazareth when Joseph was twenty-one years old.
http://www.truthbook.com/index.cfm?linkID=1838

(7) Saint Joseph. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Joseph

(8) Jesus. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus

(9) Knight, Kevin. (2009). St. Joseph. Retrieved 2011 from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08504a.htm

(10) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/03/the-so-called-jesus-family-tomb-rediscovered-in-jerusalem.aspx

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) The Josaphat Valley  http://armin.schoech.de/pics/Israel_Jerusalem_pics.html

Mary Mother Of Jesus Departs After The Crucifixion

After Jesus was apprehended by the soldiers of the high priest most of the disciples fled for fear of their own life. The few that remained for part of the trial disappeared immediately thereafter. That is all except the disciple referred to only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Scholars generally believe that this disciple is John – also referred to as the beloved disciple. (1)

3 Marys Witness The Crucifixion Of Jesus

The beloved disciple was there in the courtyard of Annas and Caiaphas during the trial. And it was John alone, who stood with his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25) near the crucified Jesus. It was then that Jesus handed custody of his mother to John who reportedly took her away to spare her the agony of watching her son during his last moments.

3 Marys 2

Mary Magdalene and 2 other Marys at the cross

John is said to have stood close enough to the cross together with Mary the mother of Jesus and the other women to be able to talk to Jesus and hear what he said to him and his mother (2).

Jesus looked at his mother and his beloved disciple who stood close to her and told her “Woman, here is your son.” Then he addressed his disciple “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.’ John 19:26-27 (English Standard Version)

Mary Goes Away To Ephesus In Turkey

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary goes away to Ephesus in Turkey. The origin of this tradition is the gospel of John who wrote his narratives from there. According to the other evangelists the relatives of Jesus stand at a distance. It is only John who has Jesus speaking to them in spite of the fact that the dying Jesus was in no position to communicate and nor were the relatives close enough to hear what he spoke if indeed he did speak to them.

Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus

Virgin Mary’s House in Ephesus

Another tradition has Mary remaining in Jerusalem because this is where her son or step-son James remained and possibly the other members of Jesus’ family (3).

What happened to Mary mother of Jesus after the crucifixion will remain a perpetual enigma.

However the veneration of Mary became a significant issue from the very inception of Christianity. The idea that Mary went up to heaven bodily was accepted by the majority of Christians as historical fact.

And yet some Christians contended that Mary died a natural death and that her tomb is in Jerusalem’s valley of Jehoshaphat according to some and according to others in the Roman ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. After an investigation of both these sites, the Vatican decided that there was no historical evidence to support either claim.

However there is yet another theory

In his book “The Marian Conspiracy” Graham Phillips follows a trail of historical clues that takes him from “the Vatican to Jerusalem and from Turkey to the British Isles”. His search led Graham to unearth intriguing evidence of what actually happened to Mary after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Graham revealed that according to a fourth-century manuscript still in the possession of the Vatican, that during the persecution of the first Christians, Mary was smuggled out of Palestine to a place that was Christian and beyond the influence of the Roman Empire in distant Britain.

The Marion Conspiracy Of Silence Has Continued For 1400 Years

In AD 597, St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, uncovered evidence of the existence of Mary’s tomb on an island off the west coast of Britain. He immediately reported it to Rome. However the then reigning pope, Gregory the Great, immediately initiated a conspiracy of silence that continued for 1400 years.

In The Marian Conspiracy, Graham Phillips reveals the centuries-old ecclesiastical cover-up and learns about what may be the final resting place of the Mary mother of Jesus – beside a holy spring at Llanerchymedd on the Welsh island of Anglesey (4).

There Are 3 Competing Sites For The Final Resting Place Of Mary Mother Of Jesus

Now we have three competing sites for the final resting place for the mother of Jesus: Jerusalem’s valley of Jehosaphat, in the Roman ruins of Ephesus in Turkey and Llanerchymedd on the Welsh island of Anglesey. Was she buried in one of these three places or was she entombed elsewhere?

Please also read my blog “How Mary Mother Of Jesus Came Into The Life Of Joseph” at bit.ly/1Ozblja

References:
(1) Mock, Robert D. (1999). Joseph of Arimathea and the Closest Friends of Jesus Flee to Caesarea. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblesearchers.com/hebrewchurch/primitive/primitive5.shtml
(2) Who Was at the Cross? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.gospel-mysteries.net/witnesses-crucifixion.html
(3) Mary. (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/history/virginmary_1.shtml
(4) Phillips, Graham. (2001). The Marian Conspiracy. Pan Books. United Kingdom

Picture Credits

(Fig 1)Mary Magdalene and 2 other Marys at the cross https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Friday

(Fig 2) Virgin Mary’s House in Ephesus  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c5/Efeso_-_La_casa_di_Maria_02.JPG/512px-Efeso_-_La_casa_di_Maria_02.JPG

How Mary Mother Of Jesus Came Into The Life Of Joseph

One reason as to why an ossuary of Joseph of Nazareth was not among the other ossuaries excavated from the so called family tomb of Jesus could be Joseph’s relationship with Mary Mother of Jesus.

Let’s begin by seeing how Mary mother of Jesus came into the life of Joseph.

Second century sources named the parents of Mary mother of Jesus as Joachim and Anna. Joachim was a herdsman who lived in Nazareth not far from the house of Joseph. He was originally of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of King David. Anna was the daughter of Matthan a priest from the tribe of Levi. (1)

Every morning Joachim and his wife Anna milked their small flock of sheep and then Joachim set off towards the slopes of the hills carrying a sheepskin bottle of water and some unleavened bread. There he herded his sheep till almost dusk and then drove them back to their pen that abutted his single storey house.

Husband and wife milked the sheep twice a day. They used the milk to make cheese which they sold in Nazareth and when their stock of the stuff was more than they could sell locally Joachim took the excess to Sepphoris where he invariably found a buyer for their produce.

God Did Not Bless Joachim And Anna  With A Child Because They Had Sinned

To all outward appearance the couple looked quite happy. But they had a grievance. In spite of being married for fifty years the couple was childless. Because of this grievance Joachim often talked to God. At every opportunity he would tell God that he had blessed him in so many other ways. He thanked God for a wonderful wife, a sizable flock and a nice house. He told God that his neighbors looked at the couple as if to say that God did not bless them with a child because they had sinned (2).

One day Joachim went to the temple taking his ram as an offering to God and to ask for forgiveness for any sin that the couple may have committed. But when he entered the temple he was stopped by the high priest.

Even as Joachim introduced himself the pompous priest looked down his nose at poor Joachim and said “It is against the law for a childless person to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Do you not know this? I will not permit you to offer this sacrifice.”

Joachim hurried out of the temple red faced with shame. He decided that God wanted something more from him. And so he retreated to the desert where he did penance and fasted for forty days and promised God that if he gave them a child he would offer up that child in the service of God.

An Angel Appeared To Joachim And Anna

Legend has it that an angel appeared to Joachim after forty days and told him that Anna would soon be blessed with a child that the whole world would venerate and praise. The angel ordered Joachim to go to the temple gate. So Joachim decided that he would first go to the temple offer thanks to the lord and then go home.

In the meanwhile Anna who was praying to the Lord for the same purpose also saw an apparition. It was an angel. The angel gave her the happy news that the lord had heard their prayer and that she would soon bear a child.

Anna began to run towards the temple hoping to see Joachim. A little distance from the temple gate the happy couple met and exchanged the good news that the angel had given them. As they told each other about the angel, they realized that they had made similar promises to the lord about offering the child to serve him.

Soon a child was born to them and they named her Mary. When Mary was three years old Joachim and Anna offered her to the temple in fulfillment of their promise. Joachim and Anna were heartbroken and missed their daughter very much. They visited Mary as often as they could until their death even before their daughter was ten. However Mary remained in the temple for a further two years until she was twelve.

Mary Soon Grows Into A Woman

The priests in the temple could not help but notice that Mary had grown into a woman. They realized that her continuing to stay at the temple was not in their best interest. They were afraid that they could fall prey to their carnal desires and invoke the wrath of God. So they decided that they should entrust Mary with a good and virtuous man until she is of marriageable age.

In pursuance of this decision the priests summoned twelve old men from the tribe of Judah. They decided that they would decide by lot the man to whom Mary would be entrusted till the time of her marriage. Joseph was chosen as that person.

When Mary went to Joseph’s house the first person she noticed was James. He was still distraught over his mother’s death. For almost a year she endeared herself to the little boy because of her sincere affection for him. Much of the time they were the only two in the house since Joseph and Judas were away at Sepphoris vending their trade.

Joseph was attracted to Mary not only because of her beauty. He was attracted to her more because of her matronly love for James. Eventually Mary was betrothed to Joseph and he was to marry her shortly after her fourteenth birthday.

Mary Is With Child Even Though She And Joseph Are Not Married

The months passed and then one day something happened to Mary. For one she did not fully recall what it was and she was not able to understand the little that she was able to recall. She was confused. Mary was still a teenager and her confusion was understandable. The one thing she did know was this was a matter that she could not discuss with any of her relatives in Nazareth.

Mary knew that the one person with whom she could discuss this issue and the one who would be sympathetic was her cousin Elizabeth who lived with her husband Zachariah in a settlement in the hill city of Judea. It is not sure exactly where this settlement is, but some scholars think that it could have been either Jutta which is around five miles south of Hebron in Edomite territory or Ain Karim, a village about five miles from Jerusalem (3). Elizabeth was the daughter of Zoia who was the sister of Anna, the mother of Mary.

One morning Mary requested Joseph to let her go to Judea to see her cousin Elizabeth. There was urgency in Mary’s request that Joseph could not understand. However as much as he was disinclined, he finally acceded to her frenzied supplication.

People from this part of the world traveling to Judea avoided going through Samaria because of the ongoing enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Besides they would also avoid the mountainous regions of Samaria. Although going along the Jewish route meant traveling 30 miles more they considered it the safer. So they traveled through the Valley of Jezreel, then through the Jordan River Valley and finally onto Judea. Although the Bible does not say whether Mary made this journey alone or not, it is quite likely that she went along with a group. It is probable that this group broke journey every evening and rested at any house that gave them shelter. It is likely that on the evening of the fourth day Mary reached the house of Elizabeth.

Both Elizabeth and Zachariah were happy to see Mary. But Elizabeth was surprised that Mary should have come alone. At the first opportunity, when they were alone Mary blurted to her cousin that she was with child. Elizabeth was shocked. She just stood there petrified and waited for an explanation, knowing that Mary and Joseph were not married as yet.

Whatever may have been Mary’s explanation, according to some scholars, the first writers of the scriptures were so keen to make the events in Jesus’ life seem like the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that they construed Mary’s pregnancy as a miraculous conception – a fulfillment of one of the prophecies of Isaiah. They say that this is especially so in the case of the author of Matthew who relates the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 7.14) to the birth of Jesus.

The original Hebrew passage of the prophecy reads “’Hinneh ha-almah harah ve-yeldeth ben ve-karath shem-o Immanuel”.

The correct translation for this is:

“Behold, the young woman has conceived — and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel”.

The Annunciation

In Syriac, a form of Aramaic, spoken by the Nazoreans, the word “almah” could also mean virgin in addition to meaning a maid and a young woman. This seems to have been the cause of the error in translation. And as the church in Rome began to grow, it became increasingly critical of the Nazoreans who knew firsthand that Jesus was conceived naturally and that the biological father was Joseph and often preferred to tell the truth (4).

Events In Jesus’ Life Are Related to Fulfillment Of Old Testament Prophecies

Since Matthew was writing for a predominantly Jewish population it was important that he relate at least some of the events in Jesus’ life as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. This was primarily the reason for the passage in Matthew 1:23.

The prophecy of Isaiah contained in 7:14 also refers to the messiah as “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. However Mary named her son Jesus and not Immanuel, which was a vital requirement according to the prophecy. And even though the New Testament (Mt 1:23) uses the name Immanuel only once, scholars who claim that Jesus is Immanuel give the explanation that Jesus is the same as Immanuel since Jesus is the son of God it is the same as “God with us” (5).

The perpetual virginity of Mary was given significance in the teachings in the infancy Gospel of the Protevangelium of James. There the author narrates that Joseph was a widower with children – one of whom was James – when he was betrothed to Mary. The narrative states that Mary was a virgin not only at the time of conceiving Jesus, but continued to be a virgin through child birth and beyond, all through her life (6).

It is quite likely that the early writers of the scriptures were influenced by stories already in existence about virginal births. There were numerous stories of virginal births before Jesus’ time. It appears that during the time of Jesus there was a huge library in Alexandria and a vast network of information that extended from Europe to China. The early writers of the scriptures were influenced by the information that was available to them and at every opportunity they credited events from other godlike qualities from other parts of the world to Jesus. One such significant attribute is the virginal birth.

There Are Several “Sons Of God” Before Jesus

There are several “sons of God” before Jesus from different parts of the then known world. And many of these “sons of God” predate Jesus. Below is a list of gods and sons of God:

Adad of Assyria
Adonis, Apollo and Zeus of Greece
Agni of India
Alcides/Hercules of Thebes
Attis of Phrygia
Baal of Phoenicia
Bali of Afghanistan
Buddha/Beddhu of India, China and Japan
Deva Tat (Buddha) of Siam
Hesus of the Druids
Horus, Osiris, and Serapis of Egypt
Indra of Tibet/India
Jao/Iao of Nepal
Krishna of India
The Mikado of the Shintos
Mithra of Persia
Odin of the Scandinavians
Prometheus of Caucasus/Greece
Quetzalcoatl of Mexico
Salivahana of Burma
Tammuz of Syria
Thor of the Gauls
Universal Monarch of the Sibyls
Wittoba of the Bilingonese
Xamolxis/Zamolxis of Thrace
Zarathustra/Zoroaster of Persia (7)

Critics Challenge Mary’s Virginal Conception

Some critics of the virginal birth of Jesus say that if Mary did not conceive Jesus miraculously and if he wasn’t the biological son of Joseph then Mary must have had an illicit relationship. This accusation was made even at the time of a debate between Jesus and some Jews. The Jews said to Jesus “We were not born as a result of immorality! We have only one Father, God himself.” Yet others say that Mary conceived Jesus because of a relationship with a man other than Joseph and that this was probably a forced act by some Roman soldier. Even in the Gospel of Mark written around 70 CE, Jesus is referred to as “Mary’s son” instead of naming his father, probably implying that he was illegitimate. Again in Matthew the townspeople refer to Jesus as the “the carpenter’s son,” without mentioning his father by name (8).

Celsus a 2nd century Greek philosopher challenged the divinity of Jesus by suggesting that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera. He went on to say that Jesus was the son of a poor Jewish girl through an adulterous relationship with a Roman soldier and as a consequence was driven out of the house by her carpenter husband (9).

When Mary returned from Judea after visiting her cousin Elizabeth, she was about three months pregnant (Luke 1:56). Whatever the reason for Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph knew that he wasn’t the one responsible. He had a few options. He could defame his betrothed or he could simply send her away somewhere.

Joseph Reacts With Disbelief And Anger

According to early texts on the subject, irrespective of the explanation that Mary may have given Joseph regarding her pregnancy, Joseph was not convinced. His reaction may have been of both disbelief and anger. In Matthew 1:18-19 the Holy Spirit bears out the fact that the dialogue between Mary and Joseph was neither calm nor conclusive. Joseph could break off the engagement. But an engagement was inviolate except in the case of adultery. According to Deut. 22:23-25, a man or a woman could be put to death for breaking off an engagement without a valid reason. Hence Joseph could have Mary stoned to death for being unfaithful. But Joseph being a righteous man decided to marry Mary thus accepting that he was the father of the child she was bearing as a consequence of premarital sex.

After the visit to the Temple for the Passover when Jesus was twelve years, there is no mention of Joseph. As per the Gospel of Luke (LK 3:23) Jesus’ ministry began when he was about 30 years and lasted for about a year as per the synoptic Gospels. However, as per the gospel of John Jesus’ ministry lasted for about 3 years. All through this period it appears that only Mary accompanied Jesus. Joseph is not mentioned either in the narration of the wedding feast at Cana or the story of the crucifixion (10).

Based solely on the fact that there are no records relating to her death and burial, the Catholic Church claims that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven and as such there cannot be any tomb containing her bodily remains.

Early Christian writers such as Augustine were of the opinion that the original sin of Adam was passed on through the act of sex. They did not want this sin to be passed on to Jesus who they claimed was holy and sinless. It followed therefore that he should not have been conceived through the sexual acts of his parents. In order to meet this condition the later church invented the concept of Immaculate Conception thereby preserving the purity and virginity of Mary.

It is apparent that both Matthew and Luke were inspired by the annunciation narratives in the Old Testament relating to the birth of Isaac, Samson and Samuel. Paul and other early Christian writers who regularly referred to James as the brother of Jesus and as one who held a position of prominence in the early church was eventually forgotten in later Christian tradition. It is probably for the reason of reinforcing the continued virginity of Mary that James and the others were made step siblings or cousins.

Please also read my blog “Mary Mother Of Jesus Departs After The Crucifixion” at http://bit.ly/1Q6LnpT

Reference:

(1) & (2)Joachim and Anna. (2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://orthodoxwiki.org/Joachim_and_Anna

(3) Wilson, Dr. Ralph F. (1985-2012). Mary Visits Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/1_39-56.htm

(4) Virgin Birth Controversy. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://essenes.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=377&Itemid=682

(5) Isaiah 7:14. Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_7:14

(6) Gospel of James. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_James

(7) http://www.wattpad.com/243410-the-origins-of-christianity-by-acharya-s-d-m?p=6

(8) Fatoohi, Louay. (2007). The Accusation of the Illegitimacy of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.quranicstudies.com/historical-jesus/the-accusation-of-the-illegitimacy-of-jesus/

(9) The Historicity of Jesus Christ: Did He Really Exist? (2007). Retrieved 2011, from http://thedevineevidence.com/jesus_history.html

(10) Hunt, Michal (1998). The Gospel According To John Chapter 2: The Wedding At Cana: The First Sign, Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Retrieved 2011, from http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/John_Gospel/Chapter%202.htm

Picture Credits: (Fig 1) The Annunciation

Is The Introduction Of Nazareth Retrospective Prophecy?

Some scholars say that Nazareth did not exist during the time of Jesus and that Nazareth was introduced as just a tale of convenience. Others say that it did exist.

It is crucial to see which of them is more likely to be right as this has a direct bearing on why the ossuary of Joseph of Nazareth was not among the ossuaries of the Talpiot tomb.

Indications That Nazareth was the hometown of the family of Jesus

Modern-day Nazareth is a busy city that is growing by the day. It is a little more than fifteen miles from the Sea of Galilee. Many scholars believe that it is situated quite close to the ancient village. Its population of about 200000 is made up of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Although it is populated predominantly by Jews, it is also home to a large Arab population. In fact it is home to Israel’s largest Arab community. In addition to these two communities, Nazareth also has a significant Christian population. This population is made up primarily of Maronite, Greek Orthodox and Coptic Christians. Nazareth is now a site of great significance to Christians (1).

Nazareth immediately before and during the time of Jesus was a puzzle. Some said that the place was continually inhabited; others were of the opinion that the claim of the existence of Nazareth during the time of Jesus was merely to imply the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy. So what is the truth: did Nazareth exist during the time of Jesus or was it just a tale of convenience?

Jewish Groups Began To Resettle In Nazareth Sometime 134-104 BCE

Jewish groups began to resettle in Nazareth sometime during the reign John Hyrcanus I, the Hasmonean king (134-104 BCE) (2). The size of the village may not have been more than a few hectares and included tilled fields and orchards. Others have estimated the size of Nazareth, including cultivated fields and orchards, to be in the region of 200X800 yards, based on the location of tombs belonging to the Herodonian period (3). Other archeological finds consist of caves, cisterns and storage silos and a large number of underground rooms. Indications are that Nazareth had been in continuous occupation since 200 BCE.

Nazareth is situated between the Jezreel valley and the mountainous sections of Galilee. Bordering Nazareth are lower Galilee and the Beti Netofa valley. All of ancient Nazareth consisted of no more than fifty houses spread across an area of less than five acres. The houses itself were small and made of mud bricks. Regular houses consisted of two rooms and a courtyard. Some houses were two stories. The doorframe was made of shaped stone and the door itself was of wood. In a few cases the walls were plastered with mud and straw. In the case of two-story houses the first floor was accessed with the help of a ladder. Most houses had a small garden with vineyards and olive trees (4).

In houses that were two storied the first floor, served as sleeping quarters. People normally slept on beds made of wooden structures and ropes stretched across the upper frame. Poor people slept on mats and it was not uncommon for more than one person to sleep on the same mat. After sunset, olive oil lamps provided light. In any case most people went to bed at sundown (5).

Excavation of a house from the time of Jesus

Food was usually cooked over a domed oven and utensils were made of mud and reed baskets were used for storing food. The kitchen always had some space where grain, oil and wine were stored. Sometimes food was hung from the ceiling to guard against rodents and insects.

Nazareth Was No More Than An Insignificant Little Village

Those that support the continuous habitation of Nazareth concede that at the best of times the place was no more than an insignificant little village in Galilee, about 65 miles from Jerusalem in spite of the fact that it figures significantly in the New Testament. Archeological study of the place is near neigh impossible because of subsequent buildings that have come up everywhere. However from whatever studies done there, some estimates approximate the population of Nazareth at the time of Jesus at around 400. Some sources state that the population of Nazareth at the time of Jesus was around 600. James Strange, an American archaeologist, who initially estimated the population of Nazareth to be about 1600 to 2000, later revised his estimate to “a maximum of about 480”. He also remarked that the earliest that Nazareth was referred to in ancient Jewish sources was not until the third century CE (6).

People who claim that Nazareth was inhabited at the time of Jesus state that the village was primarily agricultural. To back this claim they state that the soil in this region was rich and fed by a perennial spring. However agriculture here was family oriented. Excavations in this region have yielded vestiges of what could have been a wine and an oil press.

Life in this Nazareth was influenced by the city of Tzipori (ancient “Sepphoris”) which was just 6 kms away. Tzipori or Sepphoris was destroyed by the Romans in 4 BCE was thereafter rebuilt at a great expense (7). Its population was predominantly Jewish but also exhibited elements of Hellenization. Because of the proximity of this busy town it has been a matter of conjecture whether both Joseph and Jesus may have gone there daily to take part in the reconstruction work (8).

Israeli archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre who carried out excavations in Nazareth uncovered what could have been a Jewish house. He also came across a pit which he explains could have been a hiding place for Jews during the Great Revolt in 67 CE against the Romans. Even the Israel Antiquities Authority that conducted excavations in Nazareth came across a house that could have been inhabited during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE (9). Alexandre stated this “The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth” (10).

Factors Suggesting That Nazareth Did Not Exist During the Time of Jesus

Scholars who claim that Nazareth did not exist during the time of Jesus say that there is no legendary, archaeological or historical evidence to show that it did. They say that Nazareth was inhabited during what archeologists refer to as the Middle Bronze II period i.e. 2200 – 1570 BCE. According to them Nazareth was razed to the ground by the Tiglath-Pileser II, who conquered the whole of Galilee around 733 BCE. After capturing the region Tiglath-Pileser II sent most of the people of the Northern Kingdom into exile to Assyria and in their place settled the region with people from the other countries he had conquered (11).

Later, Antiochus, in an attempt to wipe out Judaism, desecrated the Temple and banned all Jewish practices (12). As a consequence of this when the Maccabean era under the Hasmonean dynasty began in 167 B.C., only a few isolated Jewish groups were living in Galilee. Later Hyrcanus and his successors compelled the Gentiles of the region to either leave or convert to Judaism (13).

Nazareth Is Not Mentioned In The Old Testament

Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud (the Jewish law code), nor in the Apocrypha and it does not appear in any early rabbinic literature. Besides this not only is Nazareth not mentioned in any historical and biblical texts of that time, it is not also among the list of settlements of the tribes of Zebulon (Joshua 19:10-16) which mentions twelve towns and six villages. Nazareth is also not mentioned by Flavius Josephus (37- 100 AD) a reliable historian of that time in his lengthy descriptions of the region. The name is also not among the 63 towns of Galilee mentioned in the Talmud (14).

In further support of this even though Nazareth is mentioned 29 times in the New Testament, it is mentioned only in the later texts of the Gospels and the Acts. Earlier writings of the New Testament, such as that of Paul, mention Jesus 221 times, but don’t mention Nazareth at all (15).
Based on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the books of Nag Hammadi, early Christian scholars have reason to believe that Nazareth did not come into being until about three centuries after the death of Jesus.

The Custodia di Terra Santa is an arm of the Franciscan Order. It was formed for the specific purpose of acquiring land in Nazareth that Christians believed is sacred to them. In pursuance of this Fr. Tommaso Obicini da Novara Custos of the Holy Land, acquired this sacred tract the Druse emir, Fakr ed-Din in 1620 CE. And this limited tract is the area in which all Roman Catholic excavation was done. Author René Salm who has studied this piece of land concludes that this area was not where the people of Nazareth lived, but is a stretch where they cultivated crops and buried the dead (16).

René Salm also argues that although the Catholic Church claims that Nazareth was inhabited from as early as the Bronze and Iron Ages, it was in fact a settlement not until a thousand years later. He adds that the name Nazareth does not appear in any Jewish text nor was it mentioned in the voluminous writings of Josephus in 1 CE (17).

Another Settlement In The Nazareth Basin Called Japhia Was Mistaken For Nazareth

It is also argued that another settlement in the Nazareth basin called Japhia was mistaken for Nazareth. The reasoning is that it is referred to in the Bible (Jos 19:12), and in the Egyptian Amarna letters of XIV BCE. Japhia was a settlement that lay about 3 kms South West of today’s Nazareth. However it was completely destroyed in 67 CE during the First Jewish Revolt. And even there no Bronze-Iron Age remains were found below the Roman ruins. It is claimed that it was Japhia that moved to where Nazareth is today after it was destroyed by the Assyrians in 732 BCE (18).

Fr. B. Bagatti who was the then chief archeologist claims that “…life did not begin in the place in a recent epoch, but already existed in the Bronze Period, to continue down to our own days” (Exc. 319). In other words he claims that Nazareth was continuously habited from the Bronze Age to the present day. However others refute this claim stating that it does not take into consideration all the facts that indicate the contrary. Those arguing against Fr. Bagatti’s claim state that the only reason that the Church sticks to this claim is to support the requirement of Christian doctrines (19).

Church Of The Annunciation Is In The Middle Of An Ancient Roman Cemetery

Another reason why this place cannot be the place where Jesus grew up is the location of the Church of the Annunciation where Archangel Gabriel is said to have appeared to the Blessed Virgin. What is wrong with the location of the church is that it is in the middle of an ancient Roman cemetery. Because the Talmud (m. Bava Bathra 2:9) stipulates that burial places be located at a minimum distance of “fifty ells” from the nearest house, as contact with the dead was considered a source of “ritual impurity” there is no way that Mary’s house could have been where it is claimed to be. Jewish law (halakha) stipulated that tombs should be outside the city walls at a distance no less than 50 cubits which is about 25 meters (20).

Since earlier Catholic archeologists were not aware of this Jewish stipulation they openly acknowledged the presence of tombs in the vicinity and even insinuated that some members of Jesus’ family may have been buried there (21).

basilica_of_the_annunciation

The Word Nazareth Was Used In The Scriptures To Trace The Lineage Of Jesus

Others who dispute the existence of Nazareth during the time of Jesus say that the word Nazareth was used in the scriptures to trace the lineage of Jesus and does not refer to a geographic location. They say that the word Nazareth was derived from the Hebrew netzer which in turn was obtained from the verb “to shine”. It is argued that Isaiah’s prophecy “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit” was wrongly interpreted to mean “from Nazareth”. What Isaiah meant was that a messiah would be born from the line of David. He was not referring to a village named Nazareth. However the evangelist Mark construes the word literally. On the other hand the evangelist Matthew interprets the word to trace the genealogy of Jesus when he says that Jesus “came and resided in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” It has also been claimed that the word Nazareth may have been derived from the Hebrew words na•tsar, meaning “to watch,” or from ne•tser, meaning branch (22).

In Judges 13:5 Samson is a Nazirite. A Nazirite was a unique type of religious ascetic. Some scholars say that Matthew originally referred to Jesus as a Nazirite. However when the ascetic necessities did not find favor with subsequent religious observances the word was later changed to Nazarene making it necessary for the continuous habitation of Nazareth in spite of the fact that the name does not appear anywhere until after the gospels were written (23).

Some scholars claim that Bethlehem was in fact the hometown of Joseph and Mary because that is where they were to return to after their flight to Egypt (Gospel of Matthew (2:13-23), in which he describes Joseph’s flight to Egypt with his wife Mary and infant son Jesus after he learns from the Magi that King Herod intends to kill the infants of that area). It was only after finding that Archelaus the son of Herod Antipas had become the new king of Judah, they fled to Galilee. Archelaus was supposed to have been an even crueler ruler than his father. He was in fact deposed in year 6 by the Romans because of the numerous complaints from the populace. Galilee was later ruled by a much calmer king (24).

Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar has insinuated that the accounts of both Luke and Matthew relating to the childhood of Jesus are inventions. He also suggests that the story of the flight of the holy family to Egypt may have also been one such fabrication. Since Matthew was writing for the people of Judea he was trying to compare Jesus to Moses. Some critics of this narrative believe that this was an attempt by the evangelists to relate both Bethlehem and Nazareth to Jesus (25).

If Nazareth Existed During The Time Of Jesus It Must Have Been Insignificant

While Nazareth may have existed during the time of Jesus, it may have been so insignificant that it is not included among the 45 cities of the Galilee that were mentioned by Josephus, and her name is missing from the 63 towns in Galilee mentioned in the Talmud. Probably Nathanael of Cana said “can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1: 46)”, merely to ridicule Nazareth for its insignificant size. Probably it is with the same objective that Pilot puts the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19) at the top of Jesus’ cross. He was probably saying that this king of the Jews is from an almost nonexistent place. Some suggest that the name Nazarene by which Christians of Galilee were referred to could have been a derogatory name given to them by the people of Judea. When the Christians of Nazareth were asked where their hometown was, they had to explain its location with reference to Gat-Hyefer (Jonah’s hometown, Kings II 14:25), a place that could be seen from Nazareth. The difference in the account of the nativity of Jesus between Matthew and Mark is just one of the problems of the synoptic gospels (26).

Preoccupation With Nazareth Being The Hometown Of Jesus Is Retrospective Prophecy

The reason for the preoccupation with Nazareth being the hometown of Jesus is, according to some scholars, “Vaticinia ex eventu — retrospective prophecy”. This process involved relating an event to a prophecy in order to give the event greater credibility. According to some scholars, this was done in one of two ways. One way was to fabricate a document that appeared ancient and foretells future events. These scholars often cite the Old Testament book of Daniel which they say was in fact written centuries later than it was claimed. The other way of retrospective prophecy was to interpret ancient passages as prophesying later events.

During the time of Jesus it seemed to the Jews that unless an event was prophesied in the scriptures it was not only insignificant but also lacked in credibility. It was such an obsession that events in the New Testament were edited to show that they were fulfillments of Old Testament prophesies. The reason for such incorrect relation between the Old and New Testaments could have arisen because of errors in translation, after all the authors of the New Testament were only familiar with the Greek translations of the ancient scriptures. Another reason could be the use of non-canonical ancient texts.

One such error could be the Nazareth controversy. Even though there is no prophesy in the Old Testament relating to a messiah, king, or prophet coming from Nazareth, it was generally understood that Jesus was from Nazareth. However there is a contrary belief of the Jews that Jesus could not have been the messiah if he is from Galilee and not from Bethlehem. (John 7:41-2). Even the biblical authors may have been aware of this because of the following passage from the Old Testament: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” Micah 5:2 (27).
This is the reason why the evangelists wrote contradictory accounts of the nativity of Jesus. And they probably did feel secure in the knowledge that not many people in those days knew how to read and even those that did could not prove the veracity or otherwise of what was written because the scriptures were not accessible to the public at large. Another example of retrospective prophesies is the reference by Mark 14:49 and Matthew 26:56 relating to the arrest of Jesus. There is no such prophesy in earlier literature (28).

Please also read my blog “Mysterious Joseph Of Nazareth – Facts And Myths” at bit.ly/1No6crL

Reference:

(1) Nazareth. (2012). Retrieved 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazareth

(2) Nazareth – location profile (n.d.). Retrieved 2011 from
http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/nazareth.htm

(3) Strange, James F. (2010). Hellenism, Sepphoris, Nazareth and the Formation of Christianity. Retrieved 2011, from
http://www.afglc.org/Hellenistic_Sepphoris_James_F_Strange_James_Keynote_AFGLC_Forum_2010.pdf

(4) Hadid, Diaa. (2012). First Jesus-era house found in Nazareth. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34511072/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/first-jesus-era-house-found-nazareth/#.T4WG4oHxRvw

(5) The Hidden Years: Growing Up in Nazareth. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from
http://www.welcometohosanna.com/LIFE_OF_JESUS/012_NazarethHiddenYears.htm

(6) Nazareth. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazareth

(7) Sunday in Shefa Amr and Sepphoris. (2011) Retrieved 2011 from http://www.don.trinityhartford.org/2011/06/sunday-in-shefa-amr-and-sepphoris.html

(8) Yudkin, Gila. (2005-2012). Pilgrimage Panorama. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.itsgila.com/highlightssepphoris.htm

(9) Uncovered days before Christmas: Is this the Nazareth home where Jesus prayed? (2009).
Retrieved 2012, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1237532/Uncovered-days-Christmas-Remains-home-Nazareth-Jesus-known.html#ixzz1rm9FZX8E.

(10) Nazareth. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazareth

(11) Nazareth – location profile. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/nazareth.htm

(12) Pack, David C. (2002). What Is the “Abomination of Desolation”? Retrieved 2011, from http://rcg.org/articles/witaod.html

(13) Nazareth – location profile. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.ancientsandals.com/overviews/nazareth.htm

(14) Nazarene or Nazareth? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.thenazareneway.com/nazarene_or_nazareth.htm.

(15) Nazarene or Nazareth? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.thenazareneway.com/nazarene_or_nazareth.htm

(16) Salm, René. (n.d.). The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from
http://www.atheists.org/images/wiki/images/c/cf/Myth_of_Nazareth_article_ed.pdf

(17) Salm, René. (2006) Why the Truth About Nazareth Is Important. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.nazarethmyth.info/naz1article.html

(18) Salm, René. (n.d.). The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus. Retrieved 2011, from
http://www.atheists.org/images/wiki/images/c/cf/Myth_of_Nazareth_article_ed.pdf

(19) Salm, René. (2006). Why the Truth About Nazareth Is Important. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.nazarethmyth.info/naz1article.html

(20) Gibson, Shimon. (2009). The Final Days of Jesus, The Archaeological Evidence, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York

(21) Salm, René. (2006). Why the Truth About Nazareth Is Important. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.nazarethmyth.info/naz1article.html

(22) Nazareth. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazareth

(23) Flight into Egypt. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_into_Egypt

(24) Flight into Egypt. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_into_Egypt

(25) Flight into Egypt. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_into_Egypt

(26) Nazareth History. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.inisrael.com/news/?p=841

(27) Beware of false prophets..(2010). retrieved 2011, from http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/cd0_prophesy.htm

(28) McDonald, James. (2010). Christian Deceptions The Retrospective Prophesy. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/cd0_prophesy.htm

Picture Credits:

(Fig1) Excavation of a house from the time of Jesus  http://www.antiquities.org.il/Article_eng.aspx?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1638&hist=1

(Fig 2) Basilica of the Annunciation http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/basilica_of_the_annunciation.html

Mysterious Joseph Of Nazareth – Facts And Myths

The Family of Jesus is a simple nuclear family. We are told that Mary is his mother and that Joseph is his foster father. At first blush this seems straightforward.

But not if you look at the story of Joseph of Nazareth from the perspective of the Talpiot tomb.

In March 1980 construction workers uncovered part of a burial cave belonging to the Second Temple period in the south of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the vicinity of East Talpiot. Based on the names inscribed on the ossuaries (bone boxes) excavated from this tomb some scholars claim that this is the family tomb of Jesus.

Other scholars vehemently oppose this claim. One of the principal reasons they cite as to why the Talpiot tomb cannot be the Family Tomb of Jesus is that the ossuary of Joseph the foster father is not among those excavated from this tomb.

Could there be a reasonable explanation for this?

The seemingly straightforward Joseph of Nazareth is actually ambiguous.

Matthew And Luke Are The Principle Source Of Information About Joseph

The principle source of information about Joseph the patriarch of the family of Jesus is from the first chapter of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. They are also probably the only reliable source. However apocryphal literature abounds with information about Joseph. Yet the reason they have not found their way into the Canon of the Sacred Books could be because they are not considered to be reliable. Besides this, even though some of this literature is based on dependable traditions they are considered too fantastic for a place in the Sacred Books.

The apocryphal literature concerning the life of Joseph include the “Gospel of James”, the “Pseudo-Matthew”, the “Gospel of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary”, the “Story of Joseph the Carpenter” (Fig 1), and the “Life of the Virgin and Death of Joseph” (1). To make matters worse not all of this little information is consistent. There are differences in the accounts of Matthew and Luke.

Joseph the carpenter

Joseph Of Nazareth Is A Controversial Biblical Character

Joseph of Nazareth is probably one of the most controversial biblical characters. The controversy begins with his very genealogy. While Matthew refers to him as the son of Jacob (2), Luke refers to him as the son of Heli (3). Although these two claims are different they both attempt to trace the lineage of Joseph to David

There are quite a few explanations for the difference in the genealogies of Joseph as per Matthew and Luke:

Matthew was Jewish and wrote for a Jewish audience. Therefore if he is to present Jesus as the king of the Jews, his descent from David was paramount. This is why he begins verse one in 1:1-17 by describing Jesus as the “son of David, the son of Abraham.” In his statement Matthew gives more importance to Jesus’ kinship to David the king of Israel than to his descent from Abraham the father of Israel (4).

Tracing The Lineage Of Jesus Through Joseph

If the bloodline of Jesus is to fulfill the condition that he is the son of David and the son of Abraham (5), then his lineage must only be traced through the legal father of Joseph i.e. Jacob. Doing this was important from Matthew’s perspective because he was trying to project Jesus as the heir to the throne of David – the new “King of the Jews”. In an attempt to emphasize this Matthew refers to Jesus as the “son of David” seven times in his gospel (6). And it is only in his gospel does Jesus refer to the “The throne of his glory” (19:28, 25:31). By tracing the lineage of Jesus through Joseph the adopted father, Matthew was following Jewish tradition since it was the practice then for an adopted son to be given the lineage of the adopted father (7).

One explanation as to why Matthew refers to Joseph as the son of Jacob is that of Julius Africanus (Epistle to Aristides, c. 200-225). According to him a woman named Estha (the name according to tradition) was married to Matthan a descendant of Solomon (Mt 1). She bore a son named Jacob. After the death of Matthan, Estha married Matthat a descendant of Nathan (Lk 3). She bore him a son called Heli. This made Jacob and Heli half-brothers. When Heli died without any heirs, his half-brother Jacob took his widow as his levirate wife. Joseph was born of this union. Thus Joseph became the biological son of Jacob while being the legal son of Heli. Julius Africanus claims that his account is based on information given to him by the descendants of James the brother of Jesus (8).

However this explanation does not pass Jewish tradition. According to Jewish tradition the genealogy of a levirate son would show him as the natural son of his deceased father and not as the son of his natural father. The author of the gospel of Matthew was either fully aware of Jewish tradition or tended to ignore it as otherwise he would have had to reproduce the genealogy of Joseph on similar lines as that of Luke. However this explanation will be true if Jacob was the legal father of Joseph and Heli the biological father. It is quite likely that the relationship of Joseph to Heli and Jacob was misunderstood by Julius Africanus or an error of textual tradition.

Tracing The Lineage Of Jesus Through Mary

Luke on the other hand not being Jewish did not concern himself with details and limited himself to tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Nathan. Besides this Luke was writing for a non-Jewish audience and was more concerned with showing Jesus as descended from God. He had to do this, since being a descendant of King David was not of any great significance to non-Jews. Therefore he traced the genealogy of Jesus through Mary who was the daughter of Heli. Had he traced the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph and Jacob, then Jesus would not qualify as the son of God. The genealogy of Luke was inspired by the baptism of Jesus when God cried out from heaven that “This is my beloved son”. By doing this not only did Luke show that Jesus was a descendant of David through Nathan, but that he was also the son of God (9).

Even though it was Jewish custom to trace only male genealogies, Luke did not commit an error by tracing a female genealogy. There were two conditions under which it was proper to trace female genealogies. One “If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall let his heritage pass on to his daughter” (10), and two “This is what the Lord commands with regard to the daughters of Salphahad: They may marry anyone they please, provided they marry into a clan of their ancestral tribe, so that no heritage of the Israelites will pass from one tribe to another, but all the Israelites will retain their own ancestral heritage” (11). Mary satisfied these two conditions: her father had no sons and she married within her tribe: the tribe of Judah (12).

Are Joachim And Heli The Same Person?

On the surface this explanation to reconcile the difference in the genealogies of Jesus by Matthew and Luke seems reasonably satisfactory. But this gives rise to another controversy. According to the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal Gospel written sometime during the end of the second century, the Gospel of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and the Book of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the parents of Mary are given as Joachim and Anna. So are Joachim and Heli the same person? Many scholars answer this question in the affirmative. They say that Joachim is just a variation of Joakim or Eliakim. The following two verses tend to support this line of thought:

Kings 23:34, “And Pharao Nechao made Eliakim the son of the Josias king in the room of Josias his father, and turned his name to Joakim…”

Chron 36:4, “And he made Eliakim his brother king in his stead over Judah and Jerusalem; and he turned his name to Joakim…”

It is probable that over the centuries the name Eliakim was shortened to Eli or Heli, after all, what is Heli in Greek is Eli in Hebrew. For instance the high priest in Sam 1:3 is called Heli in the Challoner-Rheims, but is referred to as Eli in the New American Bible and in Mark 2:14. Joachim and Heli seem to be the same person (13).

The Controversy About Joseph’s Hometown

The other principal controversy relates to Joseph’s hometown. Joseph is supposed to have descended from a Bethlehem family in Judea. This is also the birthplace of King David. Although by profession Joseph was a carpenter he was said to be a wise and learned man who was also a priest of the temple of the lord. He was a good-natured man, hard-working and a strict adherent of Jewish religious principles and observances (14). Even though it is generally understood that Joseph was from Bethlehem a town in Judea, there is nothing known about how he then finds himself in Nazareth in Galilee. It is quite likely that the skimpy means of his family and the rebuilding of Sepphoris and the ample work that was available there may have prompted Joseph to shift to Nazareth which was in proximity to this bustling town. Joseph was a carpenter by trade a skill that was in demand in Sepphoris. Whatever the reason we learn from the scriptures that Joseph is settled in Nazareth a short time before the Annunciation.

However from the lengthy stories relating to Joseph from apocryphal sources it would seem that Joseph was in Nazareth long before the Annunciation. According to apocryphal sources it appears that when he was forty years, Joseph married a woman named Melcha or Escha. Other sources name this woman Salome. In any case it is said that they were married for forty nine years and that the couple had six children – two girls and four boys.
More about the hometown of Joseph of Nazareth later.

Please also read my blog “Is The Introduction Of Nazareth Retrospective Prophecy?” at bit.ly/1NkO85k

Reference:

(1) Souvay, C. (1910). St. Joseph. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2011, from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08504a.htm

(2) Matthew 1:16 (New American Standard Bible)
“Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”

(3) Luke 3:23-38 (New International Version, ©2011)
“Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli”

(4) The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. (1973, 1978, 1984, 2011). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+1:1&version=NIV

(5) Pursiful, Darrell. (2010). The Genealogy of Jesus 6. Retrieved 2011, from http://pursiful.com/2010/10/the-genealogy-of-jesus-6/

(6) The Genealogy of Christ. (n.d). Retrieved 2011, from
http://www.abecedarian.org/Pages/Lineage.htm

(7) Genealogy of Christ. (n.d). Retrieved 2011 from http://www.geocities.ws/christiantriviaworld/GenealogyofChrist.htm

(8) Pursiful, Darrell. (2010). The Genealogy of Jesus 6. Retrieved 2011, from http://pursiful.com/2010/10/the-genealogy-of-jesus-6/

(9) Unique Placement of the Genealogy. (2010). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.lifeofchrist.com/life/genealogy/luke.asp

(10) Laws Concerning Heiresses.(n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.usccb.org/bible/numbers/27/

(11) Stanley, Bob. (2000). The Genealogy of Jesus Christ Through Mary… Retrieved 2011, from http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/geneal.htm

(12) Stanley, Bob. (2000). The Genealogy of Jesus Christ Through Mary… Retrieved 2011, from http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/geneal.htm

(13) Stanley, Bob. (2000). The Genealogy of Jesus Christ Through Mary… Retrieved 2011, from http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/geneal.htm

(14) The Urantia Book, BIRTH AND INFANCY OF JESUS. (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.truthbook.com/index.cfm?linkID=1374#U122_1_1

Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Joseph of Nazareth – the carpenter https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Tour.jpg