Jesus Life

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Jesus Life – Culture and Demographics of Nazareth
Most of Jesus’ life was spent in and around the farming villages of Nazareth and the surrounding areas. Similar to many farming villages throughout the world, life was patterned after traditions, roles, and rituals passed down from many generations beforehand.

  • Population: The village area of Nazareth was populated mostly by Jews, but also with some diversity of Syrians, Greeks, and Romans. The major city of Palestine was Jerusalem, which was more cosmopolitan and contained far greater ethnic diversity.

  • Language: The common language in the Roman Empire was Greek. However, at the time it was common for Jews to also use Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin. Jesus’ everyday language was Aramaic.

  • Village Life: The hub of a village was the marketplace and shops. And for a Jewish village, the synagogue was a central meeting place, and the seat of the local Jewish government.

  • Housing: Houses were all purpose 1-2 room squares, with dirt floors, flat roofs, low and narrow doorways, and front wooden doors. Often people would sleep on flat roofs during hot nights. The houses were arranged around a central shared courtyard where neighbors performed daily chores (cooking, laundry, etc.) in each other’s company. Water was carried in from a public well and stored in a courtyard cistern. Lighting was provided by earthenware oil lamps. People slept on mats, and owned limited personal goods.

  • Food: The woman’s daily job included preparing food for her family. For example, they would grind grain, bake bread, milk the animals, and make cheese. Typically a family ate two meals: Breakfast – light or small amounts of food taken to work; and Dinner – A large meal with cheese, wine, vegetables and fruits, and eggs. As for meat, fish was most common, followed by chicken or fowl. Red meat (beef and lamb) was served only on special occasions, and pork and crustaceans were absolutely forbidden. Most foods were boiled or stewed in a big pot and seasoned with salt, onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, mint, dill, and mustard. Food was sweetened with wild honey or syrups from dates or grapes. Food was generally served in a common bowl and eaten by dipping in with the fingers.

  • Clothing: The undergarment was called a “tunic.” The outer garment was called a “mantle.” It was loose fitting with fringes, bound by blue ribbon. Men wore a belt – a four-inch wide leather belt or cloth “girdle.” If one was wearing only an undergarment, then he was said to be “naked” or “stripped.” If one was wearing only an undergarment (tunic) and belt, they were said to be wearing a “loincloth.” The phrase “to gird your loins” meant that the tunic was pulled up between the legs and tucked into the belt. People also wore sandals on their feet, and a white cloth over their head, hanging to their shoulders. This cloth protected them from the sun.
Jesus Life – The people of Jesus’ day
What was Jesus’ life like as a first century Jew? What characterized the people of that day?
  • General Physique: Most Jews were fairly small in stature, light-skinned but tanned from sun. Most had black or brown hair worn long, and most men wore beards.

  • Family Structure: The husband was the spiritual and legal head of the house. He was responsible for feeding, sheltering, and protecting the family. Children were instructed early to honor their parents. A Jewish family lived by very strict moral, social, and religious rules. Parents, unmarried children, and a married son and spouse would often all live under one roof.

  • The Role of Women: In first century Israel, women were considered second-class citizens, akin to slaves. The fact that they are mentioned as avid followers of Jesus is unusual -- both that they would be allowed to follow Him with His disciples, and unusual that the authors of Jesus’ biographies would mention their presence at all.
Jesus Life – His family
Jesus’ life with his family is noted several times in the Bible. Joseph (Jesus’ father) was a carpenter, making their family a part of the middle class. Mary (Jesus’ mother) was a teenager who was “promised” by her parents to be married to Joseph (at the time when Jesus was considered to be miraculously conceived). Following their marriage, and Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph had other children as well.

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Jesus Life: Key References to Explore

  1. Luke 2
  2. Matthew 1:18-25
  3. Matthew 27:11-66
  4. Mark 16

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  • Jesus Life Story
  • Years of Jesus Life
  • People in Jesus Life
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