This House In Nazareth Offers Hints About Jesus' Childhood Town

This House in Nazareth Offers Hints About Jesus' Childhood Town

Archaeologists have excavated a house in Nazareth, Jesus' home town, that dates back to the first century. Local Christians have long believed it was Jesus' childhood home, but scientists say that's impossible to know for sure. What the house reveals about life during Jesus' childhood, however, is fascinating.

University of Reading archaeologist Ken Dark and his colleagues spent several years excavating this house, which is currently located beneath a convent -- itself built on top of a Byzantine church that is roughly 1500 years old. The Byzantines controlled Nazareth and its environs until the 7th century, and they put their church on top of the house because they believed it was where Jesus had spent his infancy. So there is already a long history of people in the area thinking of the spot as Jesus' childhood home.

The house itself, pictured above, was built into the limestone face of a hillside, its stone walls and courtyard jutting out into what would have probably been a lively street. It had several rooms with chalk floors, and archaeologists have also found the remains of a stairway. Inside the home, they found limestone dishware along with other household items. In a paper out this week in Biblical Archaeology Review, Dark points out that the limestone vessels suggest the home belonged to a Jewish family because Jews at the time believed limestone could not become impure. Thus it would have been an ideal material for holding food.

Dark compared what he's discovered about first century Nazareth with another local settlement, Sepphoris. What he's found undermines the traditional idea of Nazareth as a tiny village at the time Jesus was born. Instead, it appears to have been a lively town, bustling with activity. What set it apart from Sepphoris is its lack of Roman iconography. While Sepphoris is full of Roman writing and art, Nazareth seems to have rejected Roman culture. In his paper, Dark suggests this might mean that Nazareth was a largely Jewish town, holding out against Roman influences that dominated the area at the time. Romans of the first and second centuries were extremely anti-Semitic, often banning Jewish religious expression, so it's no surprise that Jewish towns might not look kindly on Roman culture.

Though very little remains of first century Nazareth, this home has remained relatively well preserved. LiveScience explains that this is probably because both the Byzantines and Crusaders believed it was a holy place:

The fact that the house was protected explains its "excellent preservation," Dark wrote. "Great efforts had been made to encompass the remains of this building within the vaulted cellars of both the Byzantine and Crusader churches, so that it was thereafter protected," he said.

"Both the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine period, suggesting that they were of special importance, and possibly venerated," he wrote.

We will never know if this is the home where a Jewish rebel named Jesus grew up, before challenging the Roman government and founding one of the most popular religions in the west. But we can be certain that the home dates to the time when Jesus is said to have been born. It offers us a window on the past, and a glimpse of what Jewish villages were like under the Roman Empire.

Read the full scientific paper via the Biblical Archaeology Review.

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    Interesting approach, wording the article to suggest the existence of "Jesus" is a decided issue.

      What makes you say Jesus wasnt a real person? Are you a historian who can prove there has been nothing ever written to say Jesus was real, or just an idiot with an opinion? The bible wasnt the only historic document ever written. I am a Christian but I can also state that believing in Jesus as Gods son, and believing that he actually existed as a person are two completely different things. You can believe one, both or none of these two things but history is history.

        can you explain sorry how he's gods son. i believe him to be a prophet, this comment isn't to spark any negativity, so i hope you dont take offence

          No offense taken, it was prophesied for over a millennia that he would appear. In fact he fulfils about 180 of 200 prophesies that spoke of God coming to earth. This is just one small example of many.

          Jesus was here that is for certain. He was either delusional and crazy, to which he paid the ultimate price, lying for which he also paid the ultimate price, or he was telling the truth that he was the Son of God. Does what the things he says in the bible strike you as something someone who was crazy and delusional would say? Would you have the conviction to be able able to lie your way right up until the end after 3 days of crucifixion? Then there is only one other logical conclusion.

          This is for you as an intellectual to figure out for yourself. Don't dismiss stuff because you don't know enough about it, make it your quest in life to find out more about subjects rather than feign ignorance. It's what Spock would do.

          Live long and prosper

          Last edited 04/03/15 9:20 am

      No actual historians doubt the existence of a man named Jesus, in fact any legitimate historian would tell you that the evidence for a man named Jesus around the 1st Century AD is overwhelming.

      Fact: There are more texts and manuscripts (around 10,000) written about Jesus around 70-200yrs after his death than there are of Julius Ceasar, of which accounts of his life were written centuries after Ceasar's death and only a handful of copies survive (Less than 10). There are also extra biblical references to Jesus outside of the bible by Greek and Roman historians.

      Get your facts right before dismissing what was probably the biggest event in human history. Whether you believe he was the Son of God is up to you, but he was definitely and undeniably here.

        The "70-200yrs after his death" part is the real problem here.

          But Julius Caesar documents were written centuries, and some 1000 years after his death but we do not dispute his existence?

          Last edited 04/03/15 10:39 am

            We actually have texts written by Julius Caesar...

          You obviously haven't dabbled much in ancient history etc. 70 years for a text is actually considered very early. As stated before, there is not one serious academic historian in any reputable university who wouldn't say that a Jewish man named Jesus, as written about in the Bible doesn't exist.

            I have dabbled enough. I am not saying that there definitely wasn't a dude called Jesus, I'm just pointing out that the minimal contemporary records of his existence aren't the strongest defense of a historical Jesus.

              could you define 'minimal contemporary records'? are you saying that records which aren't in the bible? there are only a few' non-christian' texts which refer to jesus (Tacitus and Josephus). but to discount the new testament (which includes letters from people to various 'churches' around Greece, Italy and Turkey) , as people would say because it's biased, goes against what any ancient historian would tell you, and they can be regarded credible.
              what other evidence can we (from a non believer standpoint) show for a historical Jesus other than this? there's more evidence that jesus existed than Alexander the great. if argue that if he didn't exist, then the alternative is that a large group of people all had the same delusion/hallucination (and I'm talking about thousands of people).
              now, whether Jesus was the son of God, or had mystic powers etc.... that's a completely different kettle of fish. :)

        Actually i think there are more government records about Julius Ceasar than about Jesus.

          You can google that opinion and find an amazing amount of evidence to the contrary. But you are entitled to your opinion... "i think" was a vital part to your sentence.

      I'm an atheist and have no issue accepting that Jesus was probably a real person who existed and promoted peaceful protest against the ruling Romans whilst preaching religious philosophy.. It's the whole supernatural, "Son of God" thing I have a problem with.

    The Jesus of popular culture is about as real as Robin Hood, .ie he never existed. Kind of sad that we'll probably never have a historical understanding of the real person it's all attributed to, much the same as we know bugger all about William Wallace beyond the fact that he was born, cut some people up, and died.

    I thought Diaz lived in Rose Bay with a similar upbringing to a young Monty burns...

    All this talk about a man that was made into a prophet, by those around him, and nothing about the fact that there were dozens of prophets at that time, any of which would have been venerated just as much as this one. Also, lets not forget that the name "Jesus" was very common back then, as it is now.

    Jesus didn't rebel. He obeyed God. It's the pharisees were rebelling against God through hypocrisy.

      I think context is important here. The Jewish people under Roman rule were not allowed to execute their criminals. Jesus was falsely accused and crucified as a Jew rebelling against Roman rule.
      In actual fact, he was inviting people to join a Kingdom beyond the jurisdiction of either Roman or Jewish authorities, so both sides really wanted to get rid of him.

    Jesus probably received the best marketing back then for any messiah. Unlike Brian.

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