1. JESUS' ORIGIN AND HIS FAMILY
1.1 Jesus' place of birth:
Among all the New Testament (N.T.) books, Bethlehem, as the place of birth, is asserted only in GMatthew and GLuke. But from the gospels, there are many reasons to doubt the nativity stories. What follows is a brief examination of the many "problems":
1.1.1 Apparent contradictions and differences between GMatthew and GLuke:
Mary's marital status during her pregnancy:
In Mt1:24 "[Joseph] took Mary home as his wife"
In Lk2:5 "Mary, who was pledged to be married to him [Joseph]"
Minor detail? Many women would object to that. Marriage and bethrothal are not the same, despite the efforts of apologists to "harmonize" the two.
Place of habitation, before birth:
In Mt2:22-23b "[after the birth] But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea [but not over Galilee] in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
[Joseph considers Judea (Bethlehem) his first choice for residence, as he would for his home (before leaving for Egypt)]
` Having been warned by a dream, he [Joseph] withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth ..."
"Matthew" did not have Joseph living in Nazareth before Jesus' birth.
In Lk2:4 "[before the birth] So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem ..."
But according to "Luke", Nazareth was Joseph's place of residence.
The visits after birth:
In Mt2:1-12, the family is visited by Magi (who gave them gifts, including gold), and only those are mentioned.
In Lk2:8-20, the shepherds are visited by angels, then the shepherds visit the family. No mention of worshipping by Magi (certainly something to be remembered!).
Events after birth:
In Mt2:13-22 "Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him."
[as the Pharaoh does for all Jewish baby boys when Moses is born (Ex1:16,22)]
` When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Hosea], saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son."
[Hos11:1-2b "When Israel was a child, I [God] loved him , and out of Egypt I called my son [Israel, not Jesus]. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals ... [see Judg2:11,8:33,10:6a,10]"]
` Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: ...
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee ..."
There is no mention of a "massacre of the innocents" in Luke's gospel or in any other writings. Furthermore, as shown in next quote, "Luke" described the holy family travelling to Jerusalem before going to Galilee. But GMatthew has Joseph afraid to go there!
eight days were completed
for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called
JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived
in the womb.
Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses [that's forty days after birth (Lev12:2-5)] were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord ..., and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ... When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth."
There is no mention of a flight to (and stay in) Egypt (a very important event) and little time to allow for it (forty days or less!).
Separately, the two gospel authors came up with inspired nativity stories which, with the exception that the birth is in Bethlehem, have nothing in common and show apparent conflicts between each other. Certainly, if the accounts of the events surrounding the birth in Bethlehem were based on known facts, or at least drawn from a common "tradition", many similar items would be expected.
Note: between the two authors, contradictions and lack of similarities can also be observed in stories such as the one about Judas' death:
Ac1:18-19 "(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field;
[but in Mt27:3 "... [Judas] was seized by remorse and returned the thirty silver coins ..."]
` there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.
[but in Mt27:5b "... Then he [Judas] went away and hanged himself."]
` Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this [but remembered two different stories!], so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)"
1.1.2 The theological motives:
As we saw already, it appears that "Matthew" was intent to fulfill (dubiously) some prophecies (five of them) from events surrounding Jesus' birth. Let's consider:
Mt2:4-6 "And when he [Herod the Great] had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"
"Matthew" (and possibly "Luke") had Jesus born in Bethlehem in order to fulfill the major Messianic prophecy in:
Mic5:2-5 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." ... And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; And this One shall be peace ..."
1.1.3 Jesus as the "Son of David":
And even with the Holy Spirit/God as Jesus' biological father (allegedly and appearing in the N.T. more than sixty years after Jesus' times), they introduced Jesus also as a "Son of David", through Mary's "no sex" husband (Mt1:24) or the "as it was thought" father (Lk3:23):
Joseph son of David
In Mt1:1 "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David ..."
Note: contradict Mt22:41-45 copied from Mk12:35-37.
In Lk1:27 "... a man called Joseph, a descendant of David ..."
In Lk1:32 "... The Lord God will give him [Jesus] the throne of his father David"
In Lk1:69-70 "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago)."
Note: contradict Lk20:41-44 copied from Mk12:35-37
And each one of them gave a long list of "father and son". Unfortunately, their genealogies are completely different between David and Joseph. First, by the number of ancestors: twenty five for "Matthew" and twenty for "Luke". And then, most names are not the same. For example, we have:
David > Solomon > ... > Eliakim > Azor > Zadok > Akim > Eliud > Eleazar > Matthan > Jacob > Joseph
David > Nathan > ... > Amos > Mattathias > Joseph > Jannai > Melki > Levi > Matthat > Heli > Joseph
Even Jesus' grandfather is different!
Note: "Matthew" removed four Davidian kings from his list, Ahaziah, the son of king Jehoram, Joash, the son of Ahaziah, Amaziah, the son of Joash & father of Azariah/Uzziah (GMatthew has "Jehoram the father of Uzziah"1:8) and Jehoiakim, the son of king Josiah & father of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah, the last king of Judah (GMatthew has "Josiah the father of Jeconiah"1:11). Why?
Mt1:17 "Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile of Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ"
a) Fourteen is 'two' multiplied by 'seven'; and 'seven' is God's most sacred number!
b) According to 'Genesis' and 'Ruth' (also 1Chronicles1-2), there are fourteen identified 'father to son' men from Abraham to David. Here, "Matthew" followed exactly these O.T. books!
c) Thanks to the four "removed" kings, only fourteen 'father to son' kings from David to Josiah remain in Matthew's genealogy!
d) The references for the Davidian kings' succession, 'father to son' relationship & years of reign are '1-2Kings' and '1-2Chronicles', books which were quasi-canonical during Matthew's times! The aforementioned data about the four "removed" kings come from:
2Ki8:25-26=>Ahaziah, 2Ki11:2,12:1=>Joash, 2Ki14:1-2,15:1=>Amaziah & 2Ki23:34,36,24:6=>Jehoiakim
e) In total, the four "removed" kings ruled over Judah for eighty-one years.
f) If the facts do not demonstrate God had a (Messianic) plan at work, change the facts! That seems to have been Matthew's way of thinking. And we have to wonder about the other gospelers!
1.1.4 The "evidence" from the other gospels:
In Mark's gospel:
Mk12:35-37 "How is it that the teachers of the Law say that the Christ is the Son of David? ... [then] ... David himself calls him [the Christ] "Lord". How then can he be his son? ..."
And "Mark" has Jesus as the Christ:
Mk14:61-62 ""... Are you the Christ ...?" "I am," said Jesus ..."
Consequently, the author is declaring Jesus is NOT a "Son of David" and, in the whole gospel, there is no comment otherwise.
Note: the epistle of Barnabas (written around 97) used the same psalm to "prove" Jesus is Lord, but not Son of David:
12:10-11 "See again Jesus, not as son of man, but as Son of God, but manifested in a type in the flesh. Since therefore they are going to say that the Christ is David's son, David himself prophesies, fearing and understanding the error of the sinners, "The Lord said to my Lord sit thou on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool."
... See how David calls him Lord and does not say Son."
In John's gospel:
Jn7:41-43 "... But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee? "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"
[suggestion of close association between birth in Bethlehem and "Son of David"]
` So there was a division among the people because of Him."
Certainly "John" was not promoting Jesus as being born in Bethlehem (and as a seed of David), or having Jesus' contemporaries know about it (a well kept secret!), despite what follows:
Jn6:42 "They said, "Is it not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know ...""
And in the whole gospel, there is no claim about Jesus being a "Son of David".
1.1.5 Incongruities in each gospel:
And then, each account of the events surrounding Jesus' birth in Bethlehem presents "problems" which are very difficult to explain away, such as:
In Matthew's gospel:
In Mt2:2 "[the Magi] ... asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? and have come to worship him.
[how could the Magi be so ignorant of the political situation in Jerusalem? Aging Herod had many mature sons ready to succeed him (if the Romans would allow it!)]
` We saw his star in the east."
Why would a "new" star, seen in a far-away land, be thought indicating the birth of a Jewish king?
In the O.T., the expression "star of David" does not exist and the closest we come of a star announcing a king is:
Num24:17-18a "... A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel [referring to David, according to what follows], And batter the brow of Moab [as David does in 2Sa8:2], ... And Edom shall be a possession [of David, as stated in 2Sa8:14] ..."
The star of GMatthew seems to have been stationary, like a supernova or the near-conjunction of two or three planets, as commonly suggested.
In Mt2:9 "After they heard the king, they [the Magi] went on their way,
[at night, with gold, on country roads, with bandits lurking in the dark: not recommended]
` and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was."
Here, the same star looks different: it is moving and able to pinpoint a particular home.
In Luke's gospel:
In Lk2:1 "In those days Caesar Augustus [died in 14C.E.] issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
[according to Roman regulations, subjects in the Roman controlled provinces had to register where they lived and worked (that also makes a lot of sense)]
` So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David,
[in the 44 instances of 'city/town of David' in the O.T., Jerusalem, and never Bethlehem, is considered the city/town of David, from 2Sa4:7 "Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David)." through 2Ki14:20 "... he was buried at Jerusalem with his fathers in the City of David." to Isa22:9]
` because he belonged to the house and line of David.
[this reason to register in Bethlehem is totally unfounded and illogical. See next paragraph]
` He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
[there is no apparent reason for Mary, not in condition to travel, to accompany Joseph. According to "Luke", Mary is not even the wife of Joseph yet, and nowhere in the N.T. she is said to be a descendant of David]"
From an official edict, written in 104C.E.:
"Gaius Vibius Maximus, the Prefect of Egypt, declares: The census by household having begun, it is essential that all those who are away from their nomes [Egyptian administrative districts] be summoned to return to their own hearths [homes] so that they may perform the customary business of registration ..."
From 'The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant' (1991), by John Dominic Crossan:
"First, there never was a worldwide census under Augustus. Second, the Palestinian census was undertaken by the Syrian legate, P. Sulpicius Quirinius, in 6 to 7 C.E., about a decade after the birth of Jesus
[in "Appendix A", I explain why "Luke" thought it was the census of Jesus' birth: because it caused Judas' revolt]
` ... Its occasion was the annexation of Archelaus' territories under a direct Roman prefecture. Third, and above all, even if Augustus had ordained a complete census of the Roman world, and even if Quirinius had overseen its administration in Archelaus' territories, the Roman custom was to count you in the place of your domicile or work and not in that of your ancestry or birth. That is little more than common sense. Census was for taxation; to record people in their ancestral rather than their occupational locations would have constituted a bureaucratic nightmare."
Considering the aforementioned absence of similarities and the apparent contradictions between the two stories, the obvious theological motives, "Mark" denying Jesus as "Son of David", "John" avoiding the issue, and also the incongruities of the two nativity "scenarios", there are many reasons to think that Jesus
was not born in Bethlehem.
And what about Jesus being a descendant of David?
In these days, there was no official record being kept to track down ancestry up to a whole millennium. The same observation is still valid today, for most people. It simply could not have been any undisputed proof. Therefore, Jesus, as "Son of David", was likely wishful thinking motivated by theological consideration: the conflicting evidence in the N.T. points to just that.
But at the same time, no one can be certain that Jesus did not have some Davidian ancestry in his blood. I might have some in mine, why not! The Davidian kings had many wives and concubines, and consequently many children; people move, intermarry, change religion: everything is possible! But then, so what?
Note: according to this article by Dr Yan Wong, evolutionary biologist, Jesus was very likely a descendant of David, like most Jews of Israel in these days.
Consequently, Jesus was likely born in Galilee, probably Nazareth, simply because his parents lived there.
a) Nazareth is not named among the Galilean towns in either the Talmund (63 of them) or Josephus' works (45 of them). But in Josephus' Life 45, it is reported "there are two hundred and forty cities and villages in Galilee".
b) No building material or artifacts were ever found which can be reliably dated from the first part of the first century. See here for details. However, a town (from the 4th century C.E.) grew up at the site, causing the abandonment and destruction of any ancient peasant dwellings, which for many, as in Capernaum (see later in "HJ-2a", Section 11), were likely without foundations. From that point on, the town was destroyed and rebuilt several times, with reconstruction of buildings going on along the centuries.
Jonathan L. Reed, Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus, p131-2.
"In terms of private space, one of the notable problems is that the later Christian constructions have obliterated any evidence of homes other than the subterranean cisterns, storage bins, and caves [but made when? 1st cent. B.C.E. or earlier? Later centuries? Pre-70 or post-70?]. The fact that so little has been found leads to the conclusion that the houses themselves were rather poorly made of fieldstones and mud, with thatched roofs and coverings over caves. The entire area seems to have been preoccupied with agricultural activities. On the outskirts of the village, traces of terracing have been found, as has evidence of a vineyard tower. Inside the village, wine-pressing vats with straining depressions, fermenting vats, and depressions to hold storage jars, along with grinding stones and silos [same questions] are complemented by simply locally made pottery and household items, without any trace of imported or fine wares from earlier periods. There are also no luxury items of any kind, though a few stone vessel fragments have been found."
Nazareth is also the site of an important spring, certainly a major "raison d'Ítre" for any rural community in the upper parts of Galilee. And the slanted elevated basin, itself surrounded by high hills, could support hundreds of peasants.
c) GMark (written 70-71) & GJohn (written 75-105) never qualify Nazareth as being a city, contrary to GMatthew (2:23) & GLuke (2:4,39). "Mark" used the Greek 'patris' for Jesus' former hometown (6:1,4). This word has a very vague meaning and signifies no more than "place of origin". Even a small area with widely spaced houses could be called 'patris'.
d) There is dependable evidence about the basin of Nazareth being populated in the 2nd century.
e) Jn1:46 ""Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"
Nathanael asked ..."
Here, "John" might have suggested Nazareth had a bad reputation or, more likely, was considered too insignificant to produce anybody of quality.
f) No anti-Christian propaganda in early Christianity contested the past existence of Nazareth.
g) As quoted in Eusebius' History of the Church (1,7), Julius Africanus (160-240), a Christian, wrote about "the Jewish villages of Nazareth and Cochaba", from where people, called "Desposyni", claimed to be related to Jesus' family.
h) In GMark, "Nazareth" (1:9) shows in the Greek as 'nazaret' (simplified Beta code, as in next transliterations). "Nazarene" (1:24/10:47--as in the most reliable ancient manuscripts--/14:67/16:6) is 'nazarhne'/'nazarhnos'/'nazarhnou'/'nazarhnon' (vocative/nominative/genitive/accusative).
It seems "Mark" derived 'nazarhn/e/os/ou/on' according to what he wrote for "Gerasenes" (5:1) (inhabitants of Gerasa): 'gerashnwn' ("wn" is the common termination for genitive-plural-neuter nouns. The singular form is "ou"). That would explain the "hn"!
Josephus, in Wars, II, XVIII, 5, called the same inhabitants 'gerashnoi' ("oi" is the common termination for nominative-plural-neuter nouns. Its genitive form is "wn"), corroborating the spelling in GMark, even if he named the city 'gerasa' earlier in section 1 of the same chapter.
Another possible source of inspiration for "Mark": 2Co11:32 has "Damascus" and "Damascenes" in the following Beta transliterations: 'damaskw' ("w" is the dative termination, 'damaskos' for nominative) and 'damaskhnwn' ("wn" stands for the genitive form).
Josephus, in Ant., IX, XII, 3, called the same inhabitants 'damaskhnous' ("ous" is the common termination for accusative-plural-neuter nouns. Its genitive form is "wn"), corroborating the spelling in '2Corinthians'. In the same section, he named the city 'damaskon' ("on" is for accusative-singular-neuter noun. Its dative form is "w"). "Damascenes" appears also in Wars, I, IV, 8, as 'damaskhnoi' ("oi" stands for the nominative form).
Let's also notice some similarity by looking at "Magdalene" (15:40,47,16:1): the Greek shows 'magdalhnh' ("h" is an often used ending for a nominative-singular-feminine noun).
Note: "Nazareth" is called 'nazara' in Mt4:13 & Lk4:16: would it be spelled that way to fit 'nazarhnos' ("Nazarene", singular nominative)?
Not likely, considering Josephus (Wars, IV, VII, 3-5): he named a city 'gadara', and then its inhabitants 'gadarewn' (plural genitive form; the singular nominative is 'gadareos', NOT 'gadarhnos'). Also, in Josephus' Life, a city is named 'gabara' (25) and its inhabitants 'gabarwn' (singular nominative: 'gabaros', NOT 'gabarhnos') (61).
See references here
i) Mt2:22b-23 Darby "... he [Joseph] went away into the parts of Galilee, and came and dwelt in a town called Nazareth [Greek 'nazaret', as in Mk1:9] so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, He shall be called a Nazaraean [Greek 'nazwrios', usually translated as Nazorean]."
'Nazwrios' cannot be a derivation of 'nazaret' (because of the 'w'). Therefore it seems "Matthew" tried to "force" 'Nazorean' as the name of an inhabitant of Nazareth. Why? Probably in order to justify, as part of some God's plan formulated long ago, the choice of Nazareth as Jesus' place of origin. And "Matthew" (who knew GMark) would have undoubtedly preferred "Mark" to write 'nazoret' (and its inhabitant 'Nazorean, NOT 'Nazarene'), but had to acknowledge the 'nazaret' in Mk1:9.
But why 'Nazorean'? The name is not appearing in any prophetic writings we know of. However it shows not only in GMatthew, but also in GJohn and GLuke & 'Acts', always qualifying Jesus, except in Ac24:5: here Paul is said to be a ringleader of the sect of the Nazoreans. Furthermore the Mandaeans ("Christians of St John"; see HJ-1b, the next page) trace their origin from John the Baptist and the (Jewish) "Nasoreans". Could these Nazoreans/Nasoreans have belonged to a Jewish sect (possibly predating Christianity), and through their beliefs (such as expecting the Kingdom to come and watching for signs announcing its arrival), likely to become Christians (of Jesus or John)?
1.2 Jesus' brothers, father and mother:
1.2.1 Jesus' brothers and sisters:
He had four brothers and two or more sisters, according to:
Mt13:55b-56a "Isn't his mother's name Mary and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren't all his sisters here with us? ..." also in Mk6:3
Mk3:31-32 "Then Jesus mother and brothers arrived [in Capernaum]. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they told him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you."" also in Mt12:46-47 & Lk8:19-20
Jn2:12a "After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples"
Jn7:2-5 " ... For even his own brothers did not believe in him [Jesus]."
Ac1:14b "with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."
Paul in 1Co9:5
"Do we have no right to take along a believing
wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas [Aramaic for Peter]?"
Paul in Gal1:18-19 "Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles-- only James, the Lord's brother.
[James is the only named individual declared a "brother of the Lord" in all of Paul's letters]"
Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (37-105C.E.?) Antiquities of the Jews (published 93C.E.), Book XX, Chapter IX, Section 1:
"the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James [??-62C.E.]"
All Josephus' quotes are from the Complete Works of Josephus, Kregel Publications.
A) Later on, from the 3rd century, Christian fathers, due to the emerging concept of Mary's perpetual virginity, started to put some distance between themselves and Jesus' blood brothers. A turning point appears in Origen (185-254), 'Against Celsus' 1.47:
"Paul, a genuine disciple of Jesus, says that he regarded this James as a brother of the Lord, not so much on account of their relationship by blood, or of their being brought up together, as because of his virtue and doctrine."
An even earlier text, the uncanonical 'Book of James' (or 'Protevangelium') (140-170), expounding Mary's virginity, relegates the brothers as just the offsprings of Joseph from a previous marriage. More later ...
But the 2nd Apocalypse of James (120-180) has the later as a step-brother of Jesus, but born of Mary, with a certain Theuda as his father!
B) The names of the brothers of Jesus were
common in these days. Here are the occurrences
of their name in Josephus' works:
- "James, the son of Sosa" (Wars, VI, I, 8)
- "the sons of [former rebel] Judas of Galilee were now slain; ...The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander" (Ant., XX, V, 2)
- "one of my guards, whose name was James" (Life, 18)
a) "James" should normally be rendered as "Jacob" according to the underlying Greek (in Josephus' works, N.T. & its Apocrypha).
b) "James" is also the name of the brother of John the fisherman. This James was executed in Jerusalem around 42C.E., according to Ac12:2.
- "Joseph, the son of Matthias" (Wars, Preface, 1)
- "Antipater ... had four sons born to him by her, Phasaelus and Herod, who was afterwards king, and, besides these, Joseph and Pheroras" (Wars, I, VII, 9)
- "one Joseph, the son of a female physician" (Life, 37)
- "There was now one Joseph, ... His father's name was Tobias;" (Ant., XII, IV, 2)
- "Joseph, the son of Zacharias" (Ant., XII, VIII, 2)
- "he [Herod the Great] left his uncle Joseph procurator for his government" (Ant., XV, III, 5)
- "his [Herod the Great] treasurer Joseph" (Ant., XV, VI, 5)
- "Joseph, the king's brother's son" (Ant., XVII, I, 3)
- "Joseph, the son of Ellemus" (Ant., XVIII, VI, 4)
Furthermore, out of the twenty-eight last high priests, Josephus has three of them whose name includes "Joseph":
- "Joseph Caiphas" (Ant., XVIII, II, 2)
- "Joseph, the son of Camus" (Ant., XX, I, 3)
- "Joseph, who was called Cabi, the son of Simon" (Ant., XX, VIII, 11)
- "Joseph" is also the name of Jesus' father and "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the council" (Mk15:43).
- "[Archaeologist Zvi Greenhut of the Antiquities Authority, Israel] said that among the about 1,000 ossuaries from biblical times unearthed in Jerusalem, six carry the inscription 'Yeshua,' or Jesus. Of those, two are engraved with the words 'Jesus, son of Joseph' ... Joseph was the second most common man's name of the period."
Only from Josephus' Wars (published 78 or 79C.E.):
- "Judas his eldest son [of Matthias]" (I, I, 3)
- "Judas ... He was of the sect of the Essens" (I, III, 5)
- "the one Judas, the son of Sepphoris" (I, XXXIII, 2)
- "one Judas (the son of that arch-robber Hezekias ...)" (II, I, 4)
- "a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas" (II, VIII, 1)
- "Judas, the son of Jonathan" (II, XVII, 10)
- "Judas the son of Chelcias" (V, I, 2)
- "Judas, the son of Judas" (V, XIII, 2)
- "Judas the son of Merto" (VI, I, 8)
- "Judas, the sons of Jairus" (VI, I, 8)
Note: another "Jairus" is named in Mk5:22, and still a different one in "Wars": "Eleazar, the son of Jairus" (II, XVII, 9)
Only from Josephus' Wars:
- "Simon, who was Jonathan's brother" (I, II, 1)
- "Simon, one of the servants to the king" (II, I, 4)
- "Simon, one of the sect of Essens" (II, VII, 3)
- "Simon the son of Ananias" (II, XVII, 4)
- "Simon; he was the son of one Saul" (II, XVIII, 4)
- "Simon ... the sons of Jonathan" (II, XXI, 7)
- "a son of Giora, one Simon" (IX, 3)
- "Simon the son of Ezron" (V, I, 2)
- "Simon, the son of Cathlas" (V, VI, 1)
- "Simon the son of Arinus" (V, VI, 1)
- "Simon ..., the sons of Jairus" (VI, I, 8)
- "Onias, the son of Simon" (VII, X, 2)
Note: Simon is also the initial name of Peter (Mk1:16).
1.2.2 Jesus' father:
a) Jesus' legitimacy:
Certainly, the "Virgin Birth" in Matthew and Luke's gospels was an easy opportunity to discredit Jesus (and latter Christians) by suggesting he was illegitimate. Some stories hinting or saying just that have survived to this day but they seem to have been anti-Christian propaganda and written late (2nd century).
Mary must have been a married woman in order to raise so many children. Any pregnancy out of wedlock would have prevented her to get married. And unfaithfulness during marriage, in the Jewish context of the time, led to divorce, disgrace and no other union (with a possibility of execution by stoning (Jn8:3-5) according to Lev20:10 & Dt22:22).
b) "Evidence" for a human father:
Mark's gospel does not mention a father for Jesus (but his father's existence is implied by Jesus' brothers and sisters), because it does not narrate "the early years" and Mary's husband had probably died before Jesus' public life. Consequently Joseph does not appear in the gospel.
Three gospels state that Jesus' contemporaries (and even Mary!) considered Joseph as his father:
Mt1:24 "... Joseph ... took Mary home has his wife."
Mt13:55a "Isn't this [Jesus] the carpenter's son?"
Lk2:33 "The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him [baby Jesus]"
Lk2:48b "Your father and I [Mary] have been anxiously searching for you [boy Jesus]."
Lk3:23 "... He [Jesus] was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph"
Lk4:22b "... And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"
Jn1:45b "... Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph"
Jn6:42a "They said "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? ...""
And finally the most revealing statements (indicating Jesus' father was a Jew), written by Paul more than one generation before the "godly conception" in GMatthew & GLuke:
"... concerning His Son, (who is
come of the seed
of David according to the flesh,"
Ro9:4-5a YLT "Israelites, ... whose [are] the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ, according to the flesh ..."
Gal3:16 "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He [God] does not say, "And to seeds [of Abraham]," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ."
1.2.3 The "Virgin Birth (godly conception)":
The concept of having a god as a biological father was not new in the Hellenistic world. I quote here Tom Harpur's 'For Christ Sake':
"It is significant that about A.D. 250 Origen (185-254), one of the earliest great Christian scholars, answered attacks against the idea of the Virgin Birth by citing similar events in pagan stories of deities or semi-deities. ..." He then goes on to tell how when Plato was born, Ariston was hindered from having sexual intercourse with his mother until she had given birth to the child she had by the god Apollo. Origen's quarrel with Celsus (...) gives ample evidence that in those days anyone regarded as in any way extraordinary could be called "divine" and be the subject of stories not only of miraculous birth ..."
In Greek mythology, Zeus is often copulating with earthly women, including one virgin, Danaë, having offsprings like Perseus (from Danaë) and Hercules as a result.
PS: Hercules, a mortal who had achieve extraordinary feats, sends himself to death on a fire. His father, at the last moment, saves his son and Hercules becomes immortal.
The same can be said for other gods in those days: in Josephus' Ant., XVIII, III, 4, there is a detailed account about a real aristocratic Roman lady, Paulina, who gladly accepted (with her husband's consent!) to lay in the temple of Isis. That was because the priests told her the (Egyptian) god Anubis had fallen in love with her. After enjoying a night of sex in total darkness, and then raving about it with her friends, Paulina found out later she had been tricked by an amorous wealthy Roman, Mundus: he had bribed the priests, through his freed-woman, Ide.
PS: the priests and Ide got crucified, the temple destroyed, and Mundus banished out of Rome.
According to Philo Judaeus of Alexandria (20B.C.E.-50C.E.), an illustrious, highly respected Hellenistic Jew, scholar, theologian, philosopher and a contemporary of John the Baptist & Jesus (but never mentioned them):
"Tamar, when she became pregnant of divine seeds, and did not know who it was who had sown them ..." (On the Change of Names, XXIII)
"For when she [Hannah] had become pregnant, having received the divine seed ..." (On the unchangeableness of God, ch. II)
"the angels of God went in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children unto them." (On the unchangeableness of God, ch. I)
The idea of a god impregnating a mortal woman was unheard of in Jewish literature. Philo was the first one to introduce it.
The godly conception involved the Holy Spirit (completely out of character for a spirit!) probably because that would not be respectable for
"the Ancient in Days"
(Da7:9), or too much "déjà vu"!
Or, as taken from Paul's 'Galatians', about the (promised by God) late (and only) pregnancy of Abraham's wife, resulting in the birth of Isaac, "the son born by the power of the Spirit" (Gal4:29).
This notion could have started from a common source in the latter part of the first century C.E. and later, "Matthew" and "Luke" used it in their gospel.
In those days, many Christians, under the influence (or because) of Jewish Christians, avoided to mention the divisive (and controversial) issue of the distinct "Son of God":
a) Only a few fragments survive from the uncanonical gospel of the Hebrews. This gospel (likely written early 2nd century) enjoyed great favor among Jewish Christians, as reported by Eusebius, 'The History of the Church' (HC):
3, 25 "Some have found a place in the [canonical] list for the 'Gospel of the Hebrews', a book which has a special appeal for those Hebrews who have accepted Christ"
3, 27 "... but nevertheless shared [with the (true) Ebionites] their refusal to acknowledge his pre-existence as God the Word and Wisdom ... using only the 'Gospel of the Hebrews', they treated the rest with scant respect."
From the gospel of the Hebrews itself, we read:
"When the Lord [Jesus, after the baptism] ascended from the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him, and [the Holy Spirit, NOT the Father] said to him,
"My son, in all the prophets I was waiting for you, that you might come, and that I might rest in you. For you are my rest; and you are my firstborn son,
[of the Holy Spirit (figuratively & happening right after the baptism). No pre-existence here!]
` who reigns forever." Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah11:2
b) Paul in 1Co8:6a "yet for us there is but one God, the Father,"
c) Mk12:29 "The most important one [of the commandments]," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one [part of the Jewish Shema] ... '"
d) Jas2:19a "You believe there is only one God. Good! ..."
e) Some early Christian writings have Jesus as "Son of God" but do not mention any pre-existence (Eph, 2Pe).
f) Finally, and one step further, some Christian authors even refrained to use the expression "Son of God" (1Pe, 2Th, 1Ti, 2Ti, Tit).
So a compromise was proposed:
Jesus is the Son, not by being the pre-existent Word of God (not acceptable to Jewish Christians), but by having God (or the Holy Spirit) as his biological father. And as reported by Eusebius, that was accepted by the latter Jewish Christians (HC, 3, 27, 27 "They did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit ...").
Note: neither in GMark, GMatthew or GLuke (and 'Acts'), there is a mention of the pre-existence of Jesus. What follows can be considered a denial:
Lk1:32a "He will be great and will be called the Son of the most high"
Lk1:35b "So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God"
Ac17:31 "For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."
Let's also say the events surrounding the "virgin conception", as described in GMatthew and GLuke, seem to be "inspired" because they present the same "problems" as for the birth in Bethlehem:
a) Except for the virgin Mary, an angel naming Jesus & the Holy Spirit involvement in the conception, there is no similarity.
b) In Mt1:21, the naming is done after Mary is pregnant, but in Lk1:31,2:21, the naming occurs before the conception.
c) Angels are prominent in both conception/nativity stories but appear to different people and in dissimilar ways:
- In Lk1:11-22, Lk1:26-38 & Lk2:8-15, the angel(s) is/are seen by people (Zechariah, Mary and shepherds) when they are awake.
- In Mt1:20-24, Mt2:13 & Mt2:19-21, an angel appears three time to Joseph (and him only) while he is asleep (in his dreams).
d) In GMatthew, only the Holy Spirit is implicated in the conception (Mt1:18,20). However, in GLuke, it seems both God and the Spirit are involved, and more so God (with his "power") than the Spirit:
Lk1:35 "And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon [Greek 'epi'] you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."
Please note the Spirit is later "upon" (= Greek 'epi') Jesus himself, and with no attempt at conception:
Lk4:18a "The Spirit of the LORD is upon ['epi'] Me [Jesus], because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor ..."
and, in the following verse, the Spirit is NOT the power of God:
Lk22:69 "Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God."
1.2.4 Joseph's occupation and social status:
His father was a carpenter, according to Mt13:55. The Greek word for 'carpenter' is 'tekton' and can have three different main meanings, according to Strong:
- A worker in wood, a carpenter, joiner, builder
- Any craftsman, or workman
- A planner, contriver, plotter
Justin Martyr, a 2nd century Christian, wrote:
Trypho LXXXVIII "And when Jesus came to the Jordan, He was considered to be the son of Joseph the carpenter; ... making ploughs and yokes ...)"
Could Joseph have been a well-off master builder?
That would be denied by him & his family living in a small hilly village, and not in the nearby city of Sepphoris or even, less than two miles down the road, the walled town of Japha (mentioned in Josephus' Life, 45 & Wars, III, VII, 31).
"Luke" must have known Joseph & Mary were poor. In Lk2:24, the normal offering, a lamb, is not mentioned, just "a pair of doves or two young pigeons", according to:
Lev12:8 "... If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons ..."
"Next came the Artisans, about 5 percent of the population
[in the Roman empire],
below the Peasants in social class
because they were usually recruited and replenished from its dispossessed members.
Beneath them were the Degraded and Expendable classes - the former with origins, occupations, or conditions rendering them outcasts; the latter, maybe as much as 10 percent of the population, ranging from beggars and outlaws to hustlers, day laborers, and slaves.
If Jesus was a carpenter [according to Mk6:3], therefore, he belonged to the Artisan class, that group pushed into the dangerous space between Peasants and Degradeds or Expendables."
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)
1.2.5 Jesus' mother:
"come of woman"
(Paul in Gal4:4 YLT) and his mother was decidedly
not a perpetual virgin:
Lk2:7a "and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son."
"firstborn" implies Mary had other children.
And in Mt1:25, we are told that the alleged sexual abstinence of her husband is only temporary:
"But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son [Jesus]"
A) The Greek name "Mary" could be derived from the Aramaic Miriam, also Hellenized as Mariamne (name of Herod Antipas' mother). 'Mary' is certainly common in the gospels: half of the named women are called Mary! (Mk16:1, Lk10:39, Jn19:25). Paul in Ro16:6 mentioned another Mary, an early Christian. In 'Acts', another (Jewish) woman is called Mary (12:12).
"[Archaeologist Zvi Greenhut of the Antiquities Authority, Israel] said that among the about 1,000 ossuaries from biblical times unearthed in Jerusalem, ... about 25 percent of the women's caskets bore some form of the name Mary ..."
B) Why did Paul use the word "come" (Greek root 'ginomai'), as he did for Ro1:3 YLT "... who is come of the seed of David according to the flesh" (& also Ro9:5), instead of "born"?
Most likely because, according to Paul in 'Galatians' & 'Romans', Jesus is pre-existent and therefore already "born". The word "come" would indicate how Jesus was incarnated and "come" on earth.
As implied in GMatthew & GLuke, the alleged virginity of Mary lasts up to Jesus' birth only. But believers may have doubted and thought Jesus was conceived as his brothers, with Joseph as the biological father. Consequently, a process started in the 3rd century to relegate Jesus' brothers as just cousins, with Mary becoming the perpetual virgin.
Even earlier, the uncanonical 'Book of James' (or 'Protevangelium') stressed the virginity of Mary and likely started the trend. This book, full of legendary tales, is dependant on GLuke & GMatthew and written around 140-170. In it:
a) The brothers of Jesus are now the sons of Joseph from a previous marriage.
b) Young Mary is described very much like a "child goddess" of extreme purity:
"And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as a dove that is nurtured: and she received food from the hand of an angel" in the "Holy of Holies" for nine years!
c) After the birth of Jesus, the virginity of Mary is tested physically and positively by Salome!
1.3 Jesus' early years:
With so many mouths to feed, Jesus' family
must have been very poor:
Paul in 2Co8:9 YLT "for ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that because of you he became poor -- being rich, [when in heaven!] that ye by that poverty may become rich."
Note: in his epistles, Paul's usage of the words "rich" and "riches" is always related to spiritual (and not material) wealth:
2Co8:1-2 "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity."
Ro2:4 "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"
Ro9:23 "... the riches of his [God's] glory ..."
Ro11:33 "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ..."
Php4:9 "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
And Paul always used the word 'poor(ly)' in a material & earthly context:
Ro15:26; 1Co4:11,13:3; 2Co6:10,9:9; Gal2:10
Furthermore, Paul had no concept of material wealth in heaven.
Probably he never got married (but his brothers
did, according to 1Co9:5 quoted earlier). Alternatively, he might have become a widower but a union with Mary Magdalene is unevidenced and only a speculation (Jesus married or not, or having a liaison with anyone, does not affect my case whatsoever). And, as we can gather from Mk6:3-4,6, Jesus
looked very ordinary (like his brothers and
sisters) to the people of his own village.
With the proximity of the important and prosperous city of Sepphoris (where "rich and wealthy" people lived --Wars, II, XX, 6), it must have been plenty of talks at home about social injustice.
Note: Sepphoris, only 5 miles north of Nazareth (but behind a high ridge) was the largest city in Galilee and, at times, its capital.
The Galilean peasants did not seem to be fond of their cities and dwellers:
Josephus' Life 67 "The Galileans
[members of Josephus' makeshift army in 66C.E., during the rebellion]
` took this opportunity [the taking of Sepphoris], as thinking they had now a proper time for showing their hatred to them,
[the city dwellers. The Galilean soldiers appear to be mostly drawn from villagers]
` since they bore ill-will to that city [Sepphoris] also. They then exerted themselves as if they would destroy them all utterly, with those that sojourned there also. So they ran upon them and set their houses on fire ... So the Galileans carried off everything, and omitted no kind of desolation which they could bring upon their countrymen [living in the city]."
Later, Josephus congratulated himself of having saved (from his own army!), not only Sepphoris, but also Tiberias, another main city of Galilee, also at times its capital, by using ruse and diplomacy (Josephus' Life 67-70).
Josephus' Life 70 "... the Galileans bore ill-will to those of Tiberias, and this in account of their anger at what miseries they had suffered from them before the war ..."
We can assume the Galilean peasantry hated their cities and who was protected behind their walls: wealthy (from taxation) aristocrats, rich (from crop sharing and/or fees) absentee landlords and merchants/traders, all of them educated. These rural people were also probably conscious the embellishments and amenities in the cities (walls for protection against bandits from the outside, running water, sewers, paved streets, public buildings, etc.) were financed by their hard work. And in return, they were getting nothing.
1.4 The Galilee of Jesus:
The Galilee of Herod Antipas was a hilly & inland heavily populated country of about 900 square miles (75% of Rhode Island or 6% of Switzerland)
Josephus' Wars, III, III, 1
"Now Phoenicia and Syria encompass about the Galilees, which are two, and called the
and the Lower. They are bounded toward the sun-setting, with the borders of the territory belonging to Ptolemais, and by Carmel; which mountain had formerly belonged to the Galileans,
[see later note about "Galilee of the Gentiles"]
` but now belonged to the Tyrians; ... they are bounded on the south with Samaria and Scythopolis,
[one of the ten cities of the Decapolis, 18 miles SE from Nazareth]
` as far as the river Jordan; ...; its northern parts are hounded by Tyre, and the country of the Tyrians. As for that Galilee which is called the Lower, it extends in length from Tiberias to Zabulon ..."
Josephus' Wars, III, III, 2 "nor have the country [Galilee] been ever destitute of men of courage, or wanted a numerous set of them; for their soil is universally rich and fruitful, and full of the plantations of trees of all sorts, insomuch that it invites the most slothful to take pains in its cultivation, by its fruitfulness; accordingly, it is all cultivated by its inhabitants, and no part of it lies idle. Moreover, the cities lie here very thick, and the very many villages there are here are everywhere so full of people, by the richness of their soil, that the very least of them [cities] contains above fifteen thousand inhabitants."
Josephus' Wars, III, III, 2
"These two Galilees, ... encompassed [surrounded/"besieged"]
with so many
nations of foreigners
[Gentiles], have always been able to make a strong
resistance on all occasions of wars; for
are inured to war since their infancy, and
they had been very numerous
This passage suggests the foreigners (Gentile Syrians) were outside, not inside; and the Jews of Galilee were successful into defending their small homeland/"bastion" along the centuries.
But these foreigners did try:
1Maccabees5:15-17 "[around 164B.C.E.] While these letters were yet reading, behold, there came other messengers from Galilee with their clothes rent, who reported on this wise, And said, They of Ptolemais, and of Tyrus [Tyre], and Sidon, and all Galilee of the Gentiles, are assembled together against us to consume us."
Note: the "Galilee of the Gentiles" appears to be the territories around the aforementioned Syro-Phoenician coastal cities (except Sidon, too far north), west & north of Herod Antipas' Galilee. The coastal area, comprised of a littoral plain to the south (extending to mount Carmel) and hills to the north, was not a part of the Herodians' Galilee, but annexed before that by the Hasmonean kings. Also this "Galilee of the Gentiles" was traditionally the "divine" allowance for one of the Israelite tribes: Asher.
There are many proofs of hostility between this "Galilee of the Gentiles" and the Galilee of the Jews (Herod Antipas' former kingdom):
Josephus' Wars, IV, II, 3 "[66C.E.] and that he [John, a rebel against the Romans] pitched his camp further off the city [from Gischala in Galilee, about 4 miles away from the NW border] at Cydessa. This Cydessa was a strong Mediterranean village of the Tyrians, which always hated and made war against the Jews; it had also a great number of inhabitants, and was well fortified, which made it a proper place for such as were enemies to the Jewish nation."
Josephus' Wars, II, XVIII, 9 "so Cestius [Roman president of Syria] took part of his forces, and marched hastily to Zabulon, a strong city of Galilee, which was called the City of Men, and divides the country of Ptolemais from our nation [Galilee]; this he found deserted by its men, the multitude having fled to the mountains, ... [later] ... After this he [Cestius, in 66C.E.] overran all the country, and seized upon whatsoever came in his way, and set fire to the villages that were round about them, and then returned to Ptolemais. But when the Syrians, and especially those of Berytus [today Beirut], were busy in plundering, the Jews pulled up their courage again, for they knew that Cestius was retired, and fell upon those that were left behind unexpectedly, and destroyed about two thousand of them."
According to Josephus' Wars, it seems there was a clear distinction (or border) between Galilee (as delimited by Antipas' kingdom), belonging to the "Jewish nation" and territories to the west and north, populated by hostile Gentiles (Syro-Phoenicians). And with such hostility, it is rather difficult to imagine generations of isolated and vulnerable Gentile villagers living within Galilee.
Were Gentiles living in Galilee?
In all of Josephus' Works (and Josephus certainly knew a lot about Galilee, first hand!), the only incidence of non-Galilean people in Galilee is in Tiberias.
Josephus' Ant., XVIII, II, 2 "And now Herod the tetrarch, who was in great favor with Tiberius, built a city of the same name with him, and called it Tiberias. He built it in the best part of Galilee, at the lake of Gennesareth ... Strangers came and inhabited this city [see note following quote]; a great number of the inhabitants were Galileans also;
[according to the last sentence of the quote, these Galileans were Jews]
` and many were necessitated by Herod to come thither out of the country belonging to him, and were by force compelled to be its inhabitants; some of them were persons of condition. He also admitted poor people ... but obliged them not to forsake the city, by building them very good houses at his own expenses, and by giving them land also; for he was sensible, that to make this place a habitation was to transgress the Jewish ancient laws, because many sepulchers were to be here taken away, in order to make room for the city Tiberias whereas our laws pronounce that such inhabitants are unclean for seven days."
A) "Strangers came and inhabited this city": "Greeks" because later (66C.E.), in Josephus' Life, 12 "Jesus and his party slew all the Greeks that were inhabitants of Tiberias" (likely as retaliation of what happened outside Galilee; see later).
That was before Josephus "saved" the city, which means the Galileans of Josephus' army were not after the "Greeks" of Tiberias.
These "Greeks" were obviously enticed to move to Tiberias because the Galileans were reluctant to inhabit the new city.
But who were these "Greeks" and "strangers"?
a) Gentiles from outside Galilee? Very likely:
Ant., XIV, VII, 2 "There were four classes of men among those of Cyrene; that of citizens, that of husbandmen, the third of strangers, and the fourth of Jews"
Ant., XIV, XV, 1 "By this time Herod [a Jew] had sailed out of Italy to Ptolemais, and had gotten together no small army, both of strangers and of his own countrymen"
b) Jews from outside Galilee? Rather improbable: these Jews would mind to settle on former burial grounds and could not have been called "Greeks" and "strangers".
B) If Gentiles were already inhabiting Galilee, it would have been cheaper for Herod to entice them to live in Tiberias. But from inside Galilee, Josephus reported that only Jews moved into the new city (at great expense for the king!).
C) The Galileans thought "to make this place a habitation was to transgress the Jewish ancient laws", causing them to be "unclean" for (only) seven days. This shows that these Jews were most respectful of ancient traditions.Note: the "foreigners" in Taricheae (Josephus' Wars, III, X, 4-5 & 10) are "innovators" (rebels) who "had gotten together at Taricheae" (III, X, 1). They are contrasted from the peaceful "inhabitants themselves, who had possessions there". Consequently, these "foreigners" were rebellious Jews from the rest of Galilee. One of those who took refuge in Taricheae (Magdala) was "Jesus, the son of Shaphat, the principal head of a band of robbers" (III, IX, 7-8 & X, 5), who had previously killed the "Greeks" of Tiberias.
Please note that Josephus (Wars, II, XVIII & XX) reported many killings (62-66C.E.) between the Jews and the Gentiles living in the same cities:
"so that the disorders in all Syria
[according to the context, here "Syria" also includes Phoenicia, the Decapolis and part of western Judea]
` were terrible, and every city was divided into two armies, encamped one against another,"
Josephus reported about cities where Jews were murdered or in danger:
- "Now the people of Cesarea [Judea] had slain the Jews that were among them"
- "the people [Gentiles] of Scythopolis
[city of the Hellenistic Decapolis, situated a few miles south of Galilee]
` lay still for the interval of two days, to tempt them [the Jews of the city] to be secure; but on the third night they watched their opportunity, and cut all their throats, some as they lay unguarded, and some as they lay asleep. The number that was slain was above thirteen thousand ..."
- "Besides this murder at Scythopolis, the other cities rose up against the Jews that were among them; those of Askelon [Judea] slew two thousand five hundred, and those of Ptolemais [Syro-Phoenicia] two thousand, and put not a few into bonds; those of Tyre [Syro-Phoenicia] also put a great number to death, but kept a greater number in prison; moreover, those of Hippos [Decapolis], and those of Gadara [Decapolis], did the like while they put to death the boldest of the Jews, but kept those of whom they were afraid in custody; as did the rest of the cities of Syria, ... As for the Gerasans [Decapolis], they did no harm to those [the Jews of Gerasa] that abode with them;"
- "In the mean time, the people of Damascus, when they were informed of the destruction of the Romans, set about the slaughter of those Jews that were among them;"
Except for Askelon, the aforementioned cities were all around Galilee, but nothing of that sort is reported there.
What would that imply?
That no Galilean cities had a large population of Gentiles. And for the one (Tiberias) with a minority of them, we know what happened!
Now, let's look at Sepphoris:
"But Cestius sent Gallus, the commander of the twelfth legion, into Galilee, and delivered to him as many of his forces as he supposed sufficient to subdue that nation.
[Josephus would not have used "nation" if the Galileans were divided along religious lines. Also, he could not have commented this way if Sepphoris was inhabited by Gentiles]
` He was received by the strongest city of Galilee, which was Sepphoris, with acclamations of joy; which wise conduct of that city occasioned the rest of the cities to be in quiet; while the seditious part [evidently some Jews] and the robbers ran away to that mountain which lies in the very middle of Galilee, and is situated over against Sepphoris; it is called Asamon."
Let's also remember about Josephus' Life 67, previously quoted:
"So the Galileans
[Jewish villagers of the later Josephus' makeshift army]
` carried off everything, and omitted no kind of desolation which they could bring upon their countrymen [city folks of Sepphoris]"
It is tempting to conclude there were no Gentiles or even "Greeks" in Sepphoris, one of the most likely place for them to inhabit in Galilee.
And then, in Ant., XIII, V, 6, Josephus wrote:
"But when he [Jonathan, the Maccabee, a Jew] heard that the generals of Demetrius's forces [the Seleucids] were come to the city Cadesh with a numerous army, (the place lies between the land of the Tyrians and Galilee) for they supposed they should hereby draw him out of Syria, in order to preserve Galilee, and that he would not overlook the Galileans, who were his own people ..."
That does strongly suggest that all Galileans then were Jews.
A) None of the gospels shows Jesus preaching to Gentiles within (or even outside) Galilee. In Mark's gospel, Jesus does not meet Gentiles in Galilee but only in:
a) The Decapolis:
Mk5:1,17 "They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes ... Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region."
b) "the viscinity of Tyre" (Mk7:24a):
Mk7:26a, "[a woman] Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia"
B) Paul, who had contact with eyewitnesses (Gal1:18), never mentioned Jesus preached to Gentiles, something of the greatest benefit for his case: towards the end of his ministry, Paul was under tremendous pressure to justify that the "good news" was also meant for non-Jews (Gal3:6-4:7, Ro2:17-5:2,9:6-29,15:8-12).
But Paul wrote Jesus dealt with Jews only:
Gal4:4b-5a "[Jesus] born [Greek root 'ginomai'; better translated as "come" or "made"] of a woman, born under law [as a Jew], to redeem those under law ..."
Ro15:8a "For I tell you that Christ has become [Greek root 'ginomai'; translatable as "has been made"] a servant [Greek 'diakonos', means also "minister"] of the Jews [Greek 'peritome', means "circumcision"] on behalf of God's truth ..."
Certainly, the evidence points to the fact that the Galilee of Herod Antipas and Jesus was overwhelmingly Jewish.
2. JESUS' EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE
2.1 Jesus' education:
Because of his social background, it is very unlikely that Jesus had the opportunity to learn how to write or read. In these days, people of poor origin and from rural area were illiterate (as for all over the world, up to modern times).
"...Since between 95 and 97 percent of the Jewish state was illiterate at the time of Jesus, it must be presumed that Jesus also was illiterate, that he knew, like the vast majority of his contemporaries in an oral culture, the foundational narratives, basic stories, and general expectations of his tradition but not the exact texts, precise citations, or intricate arguments of its scribal elites."
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)
See also this article about literacy rate in 1st century Israel (less than 3% overall and close to 0% among rural people).
He was certainly known for not having any formal education:
Jn7:15 "The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did that man [Jesus] get such learning without having studied.""
Mk6:2,3b "When the Sabbath came, he [Jesus] began to teach in the synagogue [of Nazareth] and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked ... And they took offense at him"
And his future fishermen followers, of the same (lower) class as Jesus, also did not have any education:
Ac4:13a "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men ..."
And writing around 155 C.E., Justin Martyr, the main Christian apologist of the 2nd century, thought the disciples were illiterate:
1Apology XXXIX "... men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking ..."
In all the gospels,
the only occurrence
is reported to read, appears in:
Lk4:16b-18 "And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
[someone has to be very familiar with this (big) scroll in order to find what he is after!]
` "... He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, ..."
What Jesus allegedly read shows marked differences with the closest passage in 'Isaiah', which is:
Isa61:1-2a "... He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners [LXX: blind], ..."
Actually, it is as if Jesus read from the old Greek bible (LXX), and at the same time edited, modified & combined parts of Isa61:1b with a bit from Isa58:6 "set the oppressed free"!
In other words, Jesus could not have read that.
Note: the setting, a trip to Nazareth (Lk4:14-30) at the beginning of Jesus' "ministry" (and the only one also), is most questionable: it is not reported in GMark and GMatthew, that is not so early. And we have also:
Lk4:23 "Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: `Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'""
Jesus is said to be known for his miracles in Capernaum before they occur there (Lk4:31-41,7:1-10)! And there is NO mention that Jesus performed a single miracle anywhere prior to calling on Nazareth!
It looks here "Luke" relocated forward his/her own expanded & modified version of the similar visit in GMark (6:1-6), and for a purpose: explaining (through his rejection) why Jesus did not base his "ministry" in the most logical place, his own hometown.
And what about writing? The only "writing" of Jesus occurs in Jn8:6,8. This passage is most likely a late import in the gospel because it does not appear in all the oldest found copies. Anyway, the so-called writing was probably meant to be just doodling: in the story, nobody cares about the "writing"! Furthermore, Jesus is said to write on the ground of the Temple courts. But these courts were paved!
2.2 Jesus' language:
Jesus, like almost everyone else in rural Galilee and (Jewish) Judea, spoke and understood only Aramaic. In the 6th century B.C.E., Aramaic had replaced Hebrew in the area, as the language in the streets and homes. But of course, Hebrew was still being used among the educated Jews of Palestine involved in religious functions, especially the priests.
The Semitic languages diversified along geographic lines as Northwest Semitic, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast.
- Northwest Semitic consists of 2 major groups, Aramaic and Canaanite. Canaanite is represented by Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Hebrew.
Hebrew and Aramaic are about like Spanish and Portuguese.
Aramaic ceased to be a uniform language during the anti-Semitic period of the Hellenistic Seleucids prior to the Maccabean revolt. During this period various dialects began to form on a regional basis, each with variations in pronunciation and vocabulary. These influences caused Aramaic to divide into a Western Branch with several dialects and an Eastern Branch with its dialects.
Jesus spoke the Galilean dialect of Middle Western Aramaic.
The Galilean dialect had some idiosyncratic pronounciations such as the dropping of glottals and softer consonants and was noticeable to Judeans.
The above paragraph follows closely Jack Kilmon's comments.
In all likelihood, "Luke" knew that Jesus
did not know Greek:
Ac26:14 "... and I [Paul, whose mother tongue was Greek!] heard a voice saying to me in 'hebraidi dialekto' [Italics are original Greek words], "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me [Jesus], ...""
Note: What would be this 'hebraidi dialekto' (Hebrew dialect)? According to:
Ac21:40b "... he [Paul] said to them in 'hebraidi dialekto' [Italics are original Greek words]: ...
[to the crowd in Jerusalem: "the whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions" (21:30)]"
the language that "Luke" had in mind was the common one of the streets: Aramaic.
In Jn12:20,22, it seems that "John" had the Greek/Aramaic-speaking Philip used as interpreter between Greeks and Jesus & Andrew.
"Mark" went out of his way to quote Aramaic words spoken by Jesus (5:41,7:44,14:36), repeated most likely by an Aramaic-speaking eyewitness. But it is revealing to note that in the N.T., Jesus is never mentioned to have spoken in Greek (but Paul included Aramaic words in his epistles! 1Co16:22;Gal4:6;Ro8:15). That would have been advantageous to declare, considering that most of the early Christians were Greek-speaking.
And, Peter, the Galilean fisherman and Jesus' follower, was known to require an interpreter (to address Greek-speaking audience):
Penguin Classics: Eusebius (influential bishop of Cesarea 260?-335?), 'The History of the Church', 3, 39 'the writing of Papias' (late 1st, early 2nd century prominent Asia Minor Christian and bishop of Hierapolis)
"Mark, who had been Peter's interpreter, ..."
Note: in his works, Josephus never mentioned the word 'Aramaic'. Why?
- Aramaic is a language from the Gentile world, raising questions about the Jews' origin.
- Aramaic is rather primitive and unsophisticated:
"The interesting interface between Aramaic and Greek is that where Greek has many words for one meaning, Aramaic .... a "meat and potatoes" language ... has one word with several meanings."
Jack Kilmon (see his home page in my Jesus' Links)
Instead of 'Aramaic', Josephus used expressions like "the language of our country" (Wars, Preface, 1), "their own country language" (Wars, V, VI, 3) and "our own tongue" (Ant., XX, XI, 2).
However, when, for the second time, Josephus himself harangues the besieged Jews of Jerusalem, it is "in the Hebrew language" ('hebraizon', Wars, VI, II, 1). But the first time around, it was "in their own language" (Wars, V, IX, 2).
Was Josephus tired? Did he dispense with finding still another expression for 'Aramaic'?
Let's also note Aramaic and Hebrew are closely related but it is only here, in all his works, that a post-exile Jewish crowd is addressed (or speak) in Hebrew.
Consequently, the son of the carpenter was likely called Yeshua, not Iesous, the Greek translation and certainly not Jesus. 'Yeshua' was probably pronounced Yey-SOO-a by Galileans and Yey-SHOO-a by Judeans (more about Jesus' name in HJ-3a, Section 17).
Aramaic was the first language of the Jews born in Galilee or Judea. Educated ones (most likely to inhabit cities) could also learn Greek as a second language (with difficulty, as shown next).
Example: Josephus, a priest from Jerusalem (and from aristocratic/priestly descent):
Ant., XX, XI, 2 "I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations ...
[Josephus considered Galilee as part of the "Jewish nation":
Wars, III, VIII, 3 "he [Josephus, before surrendering to the Romans after they overrun Galilee and took Jotapata] put up a secret prayer to God, and said, "Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their good fortune is gone over to the Romans.""
However, as in Ant. XVIII, IV, 1, the Samaritans are said to be part of a separate nation]"
Ant., Preface, 2 "Now I have undertaken the present work, as thinking it will appear to all the Greeks
[Josephus used "Greeks" to mean all Greek-speaking people, not only inhabitants of Greece]
` worthy of their study; for it will contain all our antiquities, and the constitution of our government, as interpreted out of the Hebrew Scriptures ... I grew weary and went on slowly, it being a large subject, and a difficult thing to translate our history into a foreign, and to us unaccustomed language [Greek]."
Wars, Preface, 1 "I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country"
Please note Josephus considered Greek as a foreign language and acknowledged
"our own tongue"/"the language of our country", despite the fact that he probably knew also Hebrew:
Ant., X, X, 6 "I intended to do no more than translate the Hebrew books into the Greek language,"
And it appears that Josephus did not even learn most of his Greek during his years in Jerusalem:
Against Apion, I, 9 "Afterward I got leisure in Rome [after 70C.E.]; and when all that material were prepared for that work ['Wars'], I made use of some persons to assist me in learning the Greek tongue ..."
Note: in most of the rest of the eastern Roman world, Greek was the first language of the inhabitants of cities and many of those living in the countryside. Other (local) languages were also spoken, such as Syriac (very similar to Aramaic then) in northern Mesopotamia and Lycaonian (Ac14:11) in "southern" Galatia.
=> Next: HJ-1b, Sections 3-10 "John the Baptist"