Childhood Environment

Jesus grew up in Nazareth (Luke 4:16) in a Jewish community, but there were Greeks, Romans and Samaritans mingling as minorities around Him. The ironic facet of his neighbourhood is that the smallest minority of Romans wielded power oppressively and Jews with a Greek or Samaritan culture would sympathize with the Romans’ government, taxation and benefits. Many Jews in Nazareth would have mixed ancestry with neighbouring Greeks and Samaritans. Pure Jewish pedigree was not common in northern Israel and marriage itself was not esteemed & respected in Nazareth as it would be in the south and Jerusalem. Divorce was common!

Nazareth was a small village of farmers and 4 miles north was a growing town called Sepphoris.
Nazareth’s Synagogue would have been a sort of refuge for Jewish piety in the face of a community swamped by foreign values threatening the sanctity of God’s people. This would one day be the scene of hypocrisy and hate, which would quickly turn into a miraculous escape for Jesus, Luke 4:28-30. During His childhood, the Romans built an armoury and Herod enlarged Sepphoris. Joseph the legal guardian of Jesus would indeed have worked there. The historian Josephus called Sepphoris “the ornament of Galilee”.
According to tradition, Sepphoris was the home of Joachim and Anna, the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If true, it could also mean that Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, perhaps while working on a building in Sepphoris, met the girl Mary and took her back to Nazareth as his bride. Jesus may have worked in Sepphoris for a length of time, so there is reason to believe that He was well acquainted with its predominantly Greek and Roman culture. When He used the word “hypocrite”, He may have been thinking of the meaning the word had in the theater at Sepphoris, “one acting under a mask,” (Mt. 7:5), the practice in dramatic productions. After Jesus died, and the Temple was destroyed, Sepphoris grew in importance as headquarters for the Sanhedrin. Later on around AD200 Sepphoris saw the codifying of the Mishnah. This was an attempt to establish the oral tradition of the Jewish Elders and their interpretation of the Old Testament, which Jesus had previously challenged.

Zealots & Tax Collectors: No two groups could be more at odds with each other. Zealots had the method of stealth and violence to disrupt Roman rule in Israel, and their strongholds were in Galilee where Jesus grew up. They were Jews which hated paying taxes to Rome and resented the Roman political system surrounding them. However, Tax Collectors were usually Jews which had lost hope in Israel’s future, and saw cooperation with Rome as an essential ally in defence of attacks from Persia and other enemies. Jesus would have seen both of these people, and it made him aware of the total opposite views God’s people held. While Jesus began to seek and save the lost, he would have faced the anger & frustration these two groups experienced in their debate. Luke 6:15-16, Mt. 10:3-4. Proves that Jesus faced the fact of deep personal convictions which cause conflict with brethren, but being resolved in God’s loving words in action and powerful truths taught.

Pharisees & Sadducees: Judaism flourished with various rabbinic theories about several types of Messiahs coming. Jesus grew up facing public confusion about His own type of Messiahship. He would have rarely, met a Sadducee, because they were the rich minority, elite in the Jewish Temple where Jesus probably met them first. But the Pharisees were almost every where (apx 7000 in AD80), Jesus would have met them as a boy. There could have been a few in Nazareth itself, and from the legalistic attitude they took toward Jesus returning to read in the Synagogue, it looks like they indeed were influential in Nazareth, Lk. 4:28-30.  Jesus would have known that the greatest strength of His faith was the resurrection, (Gen. 22:5-14) but even with that accepted amongst Pharisees, He did not have a favourable opinion of them, Mt.23:26-29, Jn. 8:52-59.

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