I do believe that Jesus was both a man and God. How that combination can co-exist is a total mystery to me. In that light I continue to study and try to learn as much about Jesus, both his God side and his human side. In this post I want to reflect a few things that I have learned about his human side.
We know almost nothing about the person Jesus outside the gospel accounts. He simply did not show up in any written Roman accounts of the time. His trial before Herod is not documented by any Roman sources. But from what we have learned from archeological studies and such about the times he lived we can make a pretty good guess on just who the man might have been.
We know that Jesus lived in and was probably born around Nazareth in Palestine. Palestine was very much under the control of the Roman empire and was considered a hot bed of political unrest. Kind of like Berkeley was in the 1960’s in the U.S. We know Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus who was known as “the Son of the Divine One” or “Son of God”. So when Jesus took on that self-proclaimed title he assuredly raised the ire of a least a few local Roman officials. This self declaration was likely one of the main reasons that the Romans executed him especially by crucifixion. They considered no one, especially a lowly Jew, except their king to the the “son of God”!
Nazareth is never mentioned in any pre-Christian text but it has recently been found to be about four miles north of the major Roman city of Sepphoris. Nazareth was probably never really identified by the Romans because it was never considered anything but a suburb of that major city. Given its location it was likely not the backwater town as depicted in the biblical accounts. Since Sepphoris was experiencing a major expansion during Jesus’ time it is likely that he and his father were employed by Roman authorities in that massive building program. Everyone in that area likely was. If Jesus was a carpenter he was not lower class as some biblical myths proclaim. He would have been considered a skilled artisan in that time and place and paid accordingly.
Outside archeological discoveries, what we know of Jesus is mostly interpretation of those who followed him. The earliest Christians, almost all of whom were illiterate, kept Jesus alive by verbally telling their stories over and over again. Those stories were eventually written down several years after his death and resurrection. The four most recognized written accounts are found in the Gospel text. But Jesus also is mentioned in several other Christian writings of the time; some have just been recently discovered as part of the “Dead Sea Scrolls”. Many of these new sources are identified as gnostic in origin. More on that in a later post.
To finish up this post we must make it very clear that Jesus was first and foremost a Jew. He likely attended daily worship as a Jew and later even became a Jewish clergyman. The biblical account show that he commanded that his followers restrict themselves to only jewish land and people. It was only after his death that Gentiles were included as his followers. All of the twelve apostles were most certainly Jews as well as Paul who would come along later. There is no real evidence that Jesus ever intended to stray from his Jewish roots.