Tag Archives: Nazareth Village

He’s just a carpenter

Jesus is called a carpenter in Mark 6:3. In Matthew’s account He is called the carpenter’s son. The study note in the NET Bible suggests that this was probably a derogatory term. Those who used the term thought of Him as “a common laborer like themselves.”

Lane says the term carpenter (Greek tekton) “commonly designates a worker in any hard material: wood, metal or stone, and so comes to mean a builder.”

Louw-Nida says,

There is every reason to believe that in biblical times one who was regarded as a tekton would be skilled in the use of wood and stone and possibly even metal.

A carpenter’s shop is exhibited at Nazareth Village. It is correct in showing tools for stone cutting as well as wood working.

A carpenter's shop at Nazareth Village, showing woodwork and stone work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A carpenter’s shop at Nazareth Village, showing wood work and stone work. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This post is about what the term carpenter implies, but we concur with Josh McDowell that He is More Than A Carpenter.

They removed the roof and let down the bed

During the ministry of Jesus at Capernaum four men brought a paralyzed man to see Jesus, likely seeking healing, but there were so many people in the house that it was not possible to get in to see Jesus.

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:4 ESV)

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Notice the few weeds growing on the roof. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Craig S. Keener describes the way the roofs of these houses were constructed.

The roof was approached by an outside staircase, so they could reach it unimpeded. The roof of single-story homes was sturdy enough for walking but was normally made of branches and rushes laid over the roof’s beams and covered with dried mud; thus one could dig through it. (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament)

M. J. Selman says,

Roofs were constructed from beams covered with branches and a thick layer of mud plaster, though the rafters were sometimes supported by a row of pillars along the middle of the room. Cylindrical stone rollers about 60 cm. [23.6 inches] long were used to keep the roofs flat and waterproof, though roofs needed to be re-plastered annually prior to the rainy season to seal cracks which had developed during the summer heat. (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

The picture below shows a reconstructed house at Nazareth Village with a roof like the one mentioned above. Notice the beams made from small trees, the mud on the top, and some grass and weeds growing in it.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Reconstructed house at Nazareth Village showing roof construction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows a portion of a roof made from wood and mud. You will also notice a roof roller on the roof. After the winter rains it was necessary to pack the roof with a roof roller. Roof rollers are commonly discovered during archaeological excavations.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Typical roof from NT times with roof roller. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The account of Luke, a gentile physician, adds an interesting point that creates a small problem in interpretation.

But since they found no way to carry him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19 NET)

Did you notice the reference to roof tiles? One of the Translator’s Notes in the NET Bible discusses this problem.

There is a translational problem at this point in the text. The term Luke uses is keramos. It can in certain contexts mean “clay,” but usually this is in reference to pottery (see BDAG 540 s.v. 1). The most natural definition in this instance is “roof tile” (used in the translation above). However, tiles were generally not found in Galilee. Recent archaeological research has suggested that this house, which would have probably been typical for the area, could not have supported “a second story, nor could the original roof have been masonry; no doubt it was made from beams and branches of trees covered with a mixture of earth and straw” (J. F. Strange and H. Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?” BAR 8, no. 6 [Nov/Dec 1982]: 34). Luke may simply have spoken of building materials that would be familiar to his readers.

There are other possible interpretations, but I hope this information with the photos will help you better understand the biblical text.

Using an animal skin churn

The practice of churning to make butter has been around for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible.

For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose brings forth blood; So the churning of anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NAU)

The ESV consistently uses the word pressing, from the Hebrew mits, three times in that verse.

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 ESV)

The NET Bible probably best conveys the meaning of the text by the use of churning, punching, and stirring up.

For as the churning of milk produces butter and as punching the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. (Proverbs 30:33 NET)

The photo below shows a churn made of an animal skin in the reconstructed first century kitchen at Nazareth Village. I remember from childhood that we kept our churn on the hearth near the fire.

A churn in the kitchen. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A churn in the kitchen. Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Don’t “churn” anyone in the nose today.

The shepherd and the sheepfold

One may visit an ancient biblical site without sensing the reality of people living at the place. One sees only the foundation of ancient buildings. But when one visits Nazareth Village he sees real people acting out the common activities of Bible times.

I have visited Nazareth Village several times and it is always different. It may be because of the time of the year, but sometimes it is because there are different actors filling the various roles. No two visits have been the same. This photo of the shepherd with sheep in the sheepfold was made in May, 2010. Look carefully at the sheep between the sticks of which the sheepfold is made.

Shepherd and sheep fold at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd and sheep fold at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several biblical references to the sheepfold, or the fold of the sheep (Jeremiah 50:6; Micah 2:12; John 10:1, 16). Jesus used an illustration involving the sheepfold:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 ESV)

Children in the Marketplaces

To those dissatisfied with both Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus used a simple illustration that must have happened many times in each city of ancient Israel.

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:16-19 ESV; see also Luke 7:31-34) Some English versions use market places).

Keener, in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, explains:

Spoiled children who pretend to have weddings and funerals (one later game was called “bury the grasshopper”) stand for Jesus’ and John’s dissatisfied opponents; dissatisfied with other children who will not play either game, they are sad no matter what. The term for “mourn” here is “beat the breast,” a standard mourning custom in Jewish Palestine. Custom mandated that bystanders join in any bridal or funeral processions.

This photograph made at Nazareth Village helps to illustrate the Biblical text.

Children at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Children at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jesus and the Sabbath

The Jews made charges that Jesus broke the Sabbath but they were not able to establish their charge. The basic charge was that Jesus was working in violation of the Mosaic law (Leviticus 23:3). Here is a list of the specific instances of events that took place on the Sabbath. Read the full accounts to see how Jesus responded.

  • Healed a man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9, 18; Jesus replied to accusations (John 7:21-24).
  • Healed the blind man (John 9:1-14).
  • Answered charges made against His disciples (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-6).
  • Healed a man with a withered hand (Luke 6:6-11).
  • Healed the woman who was bent over (Luke 13:10-17).
  • He questioned the Pharisees regarding healing on the Sabbath and they could not answer Him. He healed the man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-5).
  • He taught in the synagogue in His “home town” on the Sabbath (Mark 6:1-6).

The photo below shows the interior of the model synagogue at the Nazareth Village.

Interior of the Nazareth Village Synagogue. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior of the Nazareth Village Synagogue. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The account of Jesus reading in the synagogue at Nazareth is recorded in Luke 4:16-21, with the reaction in the following verses.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21 ESV)

The first attempt on the life of Jesus

Nazareth is located in the hills of Lower Galilee, where the elevation is about 2000 feet above sea level. These hills lie on the north side of the Valley of Jezreel (Esraelon, or Megiddo).

In this photo some of the buildings of upper Nazareth can be seen to the left. The hill on the right, with the scaring from quarrying, is popularly called the hill of precipitation. If this is correct, and we have no certain evidence, then this would be the the hill spoken of in Luke’s account of Jesus speaking in the synagogue at Nazareth.

And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. (Luke 4:29, ESV)

A synagogue, similar to the one that might have existed in Nazareth during the time of Jesus, has been built at the Nazareth Village. The photo shows the view from the door of the synagogue. The hill of precipitation can be seen. Jesus was brought up in a small town that was located near the heart of all important travel through the land of Israel (Canaan, Palestine).