Upon the death of Herod the Great, the kingdom was divided between Herod Antipas, Archelaus and Philip, three of the numerous sons born to his nine wives.
Cast in the same mold as his father, Archelaus took over rule of the area that included Jerusalem. Finding the capital in turmoil, he sent in troops to establish control. This sparked a riot in which the crowds turned on the soldiers, stoning them to death. Enraged, Archelaus sent in the rest of his army, and 3,000 Jews died in the bloody massacre that followed.
By sharp contrast, there was peace in the northern areas where Antipas and Philip ruled. And it was to Nazareth in the Galilee that Matthew’s gospel tells us Joseph came to make a new home for the family on their return from Egypt. Modern excavations have shown that Nazareth was just a modest hamlet, 2,000 years ago. With a population of only a few hundred souls, Joseph would probably have had a good social standing as a carpenter among his less educated neighbors.
This view seems confirmed by the Talmud, the compilation of Jewish law, which indicates that where a community has no Rabbi (teacher) the carpenter, or the carpenter’s son, may be consulted on matters of religious law.
This shines an interesting light on the scriptural passage that tells of Jesus’ early visit to Jerusalem’s great Temple, “And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem as was the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it…
And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers”, Luke 2:42
- Built on the traditional site of his workshop, St. Joseph’s Church covers the remains of a 6th century structure.
- This ancient mosaic was found when building the crypt of the present church. It may have been a ritual bath, perhaps used by Nazareth’s early Judeo-Christian community.
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