In the August issue we saw proof that, contrary to popular tradition, Jesus Christ was a common, ordinary-appearing Jewish man with a fairly short haircut. This article clearly shows, from the Bible, that he was a hard-working builder, that he had four brothers and at least two sisters, and that he lived in a house just like anybody else.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth worked with his hands for a living. He was a builder by profession. He was well educated (speaking perhaps three languages) and well respected even in the official Jewish community. that is, until the time he began to proclaim his very highly controversial gospel message at about age 30. Even after he began his ministry. Jesus Christ was never, at any time, a frustrated Jewish revolutionary who was constantly coming into conflict with the establishment. He was what we would call in modern parlance a "good citizen." He paid his taxes as a property owner and was always subject to the civil authorities of his day. Jesus was born in to one of the finest families in the whole area of Galilee with an excellent genealogy. And notwithstanding nearly two thousand years of fable and false tradition, he had several younger brothers and sisters — all of whom looked up to him as the oldest. He and his family lived in what probably was a fairly fine home — certainly not a stone or adobe hovel. He was not, as popularly believed, a dirty, grubby, hippie-type vagabond who invariably slept out-of-doors with no opportunity to even bathe and clean up. Jesus Christ had a well-rounded social life ranging all the way from fairly frequent banquets wit h Roman soldiers. wealthy tax collectors. and clergymen in the well-to-do ruling class to his associations with the average man on the street. He was not a broke, itinerant preacher-type who traveled around from town to town banging on doors and begging people to believe on him. He never at any time in his 3 1/2-year ministry embarked on a "soul-winning" campaign designed to save the world then. I realize I've said a mouthful. But don't quit reading until you've seen the proof with your own eyes from the only totally reliable source — the New and Old Testaments of your Bible.
Complex Carpentry in Palestine
The Bible reveals that both Jesus Christ and his legal father, Joseph, were carpenters by trade — builders in the hard and stony country of Galilee (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). However, the English word "carpenter" does not properly connote the true function of a builder during the day of Jesus Christ. Perhaps "contractor" would be a better choice of terms in the ease of Joseph. At that time "carpentry" included much more than just the fabrication of wooden dwellings with hammer and nails. Most of the homes were a combination of stone and other types of masonry with hewn beams and "lumber." Jesus spent much of his early ministry in the Galilean city of Capernaum. At that time, Capernaum was a gleaming, modern, beautifully sculptured Grecian-type city. It was filled with beautiful multi-leveled homes which had large central gardens, mosaic walks, fountains, and even, believe it or not, indoor bathrooms and steam baths equipped with pipes and cut-off valves. A "carpenter" would have to have known a certain amount of mathematics, engineering principles (working with block and tackle, levers, and knowing how to construct arches and cantilever overhanging balconies, etc.), and especially would have to be skillful in finishing work, such as interior surfaces, mosaic hallways, and walkways. The New Bible Commentary: Revised says this about the English word "carpenter" as it is used in the New Testament: "The Greek (tekton) could mean a mason" (p. 834). M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature says of "carpenter": "A general name, applicable to an artificer in stone, iron or copper, as well as in wood" (vol. 2, p. 128). The fact that Jesus was a carpenter also says something about his physical appearance. Although the profession was highly advanced in that day, especially when compared to today's popular conceptions, still there were no power saws or precut timber. Much of the work was accomplished by fairly sophisticated hand tools that still required a lot of sheer physical strength. Foundations had to be dug out of the stony hillsides; trees had to be felled; stone had to be quarried. It is hard to imagine how Jesus could have been anything else but an evenly muscled person with a fairly well-developed physique. Christ's ministry did not begin until he was "about thirty." That means, from the earliest age of apprenticeship (perhaps as soon as age 10 or 12) on up to age 30, Jesus labored with his hands all over the hill country of Galilee — no doubt principally in the city of Nazareth and perhaps later Capernaum.
What Kind of a Home?
One author who wrote a book about Jesus said that the house he lived in had no furniture except some beds. Does that sound very logical with at least two carpenters in the family? If the family couldn't afford any furniture, that would say a lot about the quality and type of home in which he lived. It would be hard to imagine anything much better than a stone or adobe hut. This type of thinking is in the same category with the traditional conceptions of Jesus' physical appearance. Jesus' legal father, Joseph, was a just and righteous man (Matt. 1:19). It is inconceivable to think he wasn't a good provider when the Bible plainly speaks of a deliberately unemployed ne'er-do-well as having denied the faith and being worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). Hall Caine, in his book The Life of Christ, tells us: "Joseph is described as a carpenter, which is probably what we now, in country towns, call a builder, combining a variety of trades. Clearly he was widely known and generally respected, and it is possible that in the busy times that followed, when there was much building in Galilee, he became a man of certain substance" (p. 265). Believe it or not, Joseph and Mary were handpicked as parents by the Creator God. The Father would not have chosen "just anybody" to bring up and educate his own Son. Joseph would have had to have been a masculine individual who could properly provide for a large family. He would have had to have been a man who would follow the biblical principle of laying up for his grandchildren (Prov. 13:22). No accomplished artisan who is in the business of building homes in the modern world lives in a home that is not the finest reflection of his own craftsmanship — a custom-built home worthy of his profession. No, Jesus did not grow up in a ramshackle hovel with no furniture except a couple of beds. Very likely he lived his adolescent years in a home that was a reasonable facsimile of the type of fine work that Joseph performed as a true artisan of the building profession of that day. But what type of furniture did Jesus have in his home? William Foxwell Albright, a well-respected archaeologist and scholar of that Palestinian period, commented briefly on the furnishings of the day: "... The Israelites and Jews of the New Testament period generally slept in beds — high beds if the owner of the house was rich, low cots if he was poor. In Israelite times [previous generations] people sat on chairs or stools and often ate sitting at a table. By New Testament times the Greek custom of reclining at meals [on a couch] had gained the day, and guests always reclined at formal dinners" (The Archaeology of Palestine, p. 215). Professor Albright's succinct comment indicates that the Jewish people possessed the normal pieces of furniture including tables and couches. Mark 2:15 does say that "Jesus sat at meat," but the Greek word, katakeimai, means to "recline on a couch at table, dine" (BauerArndt-Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. p. 412).
Jesus as an Adult
When Jesus grew into manhood, did he continue to live in a home, or did he usually sleep out of doors as a vagabond? Time and time again, in the account of his early ministry around the Galilean area, the Bible shows Jesus was in a house — either Peter's, one of the other disciples, or his own. Notice a few outstanding examples: "And when Jesus was come into Peter's house..." (Matt. 8:14). Peter owned a home in Capernaum. So did Jesus! "While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without" (Matt. 12:46). Notice that Jesus was indoors on this occasion, and because of the large group of people inside, his own family could not enter, but had to wait "without" or outside. "The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside" (Matt. 13:1). Later "... Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house..." (verse 36). Again Jesus sent the crowds away and entered into a house. Very likely, it was his own since it was in Capernaum. Jesus continually went in and out of Capernaum in the normal course of conducting his Galilean ministry. Notice a few more examples: "And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house" (Mark 2:1). The New English Bible renders the expression "in the house" as "at home." So does the Revised Standard Version and Today's English Version. The New International Version has it: "He had come home." Clearly Jesus owned a home in Capernaum! His house in Capernaum was probably a fairly large one. Look at Mark 2:15: "And it came to pass that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house. many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many...." The companion account in Luke might lead one to believe that this was Levi's house. Notice the wording in Luke 5:29: "And Levi made him [Jesus] a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them." However, the wording in Matthew's gospel is very similar to Mark's. Also, the context itself of all three accounts tends to indicate it was Jesus' house. "And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him" (Mark 2:14; cf. Luke 5:27-28; Matt. 9:9). It would seem far more likely that Levi (Matthew) would have followed him to Jesus' house than to his own.
In spite of the contrary witness of biblical and secular history, some few still cling to the ludicrous view that Jesus lived the life of a dirty, grubby vagabond who almost never bathed and cleaned up. During the account of the first New Testament passover (commonly called the "Lord's Supper"), Jesus washed his disciples' feet, setting a deeply spiritual example for all Christians. (See John 13:1-17.) When it was Peter's turn, he protested at first, and then went to the other extreme of wanting his whole body to be washed. In verse 10, Jesus said: "He that is washed [bathed] needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit...." Here it is obvious that Jesus Christ and his disciples had bathed prior to their meal, and that only their feet were dirty, since they wore sandals in that day. W.F. Albright's book, The Archaeology of Palestine, adds this particular piece of knowledge: "Another point to be remembered is that the common people of an ancient Jewish village were much cleaner than the inhabitants of a native village a generation ago. Then people washed their hands before eating, instead of waiting until afterwards if they washed them at all. [Some of the Pharisees made a foolish ritual out of washing their hands up to their elbows.] Then the practice of taking frequent baths, or at least of partial bathing, was imposed by their law on all Jews, while Greek habits of bathing the entire body must have penetrated far down through the social strata of the day. These are only illustrations of the relatively high level of public and private cleanliness which then existed... " (pp. 215-216).
Jesus was not a broke, itinerant preacher-type who traveled around from town to town banging on doors and begging people to believe on him. During his ministry, he never embarked on a "soul-winning" campaign designed to save the world then.
Jesus a Taxpayer?
Jesus not only owned a home and was a good example of personal hygiene, but was also a law-abiding taxpayer. In Matthew 22:15-22 Christ plainly said it was lawful to pay tribute (taxes) and to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's (cf. Rom. 13:7). Why would anyone pay taxes? He either had an income, owned property, or both. Notice this example: "And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money [tax money] came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes." (See Matt. 17:24-25.)
A Family Man
Many find it very difficult to accept the fact that Jesus had real brothers and sisters. It has seemed important to the architects of religious philosophy over the centuries that Mary should remain virginal throughout life — thus somehow superior to the average woman. The Bible proves that Mary fulfilled the complete role of a wife to Joseph and that she bore at least seven children. The Bible exalts the state of marriage, not celibacy — for either sex. Salvation comes as a result of a spiritual relationship with God, which is likened to a marriage contract in the Bible. Christ's relationship to the church is said to be like that of a close, loving marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33). Thus, it in no way diminishes a Christian's love, admiration, and respect for Mary's example — in no manner sullies a wonderful spiritual record during her physical life — to admit the clearly proven fact that Mary was a total woman: a loving and dutiful wife and a thoroughly competent mother. There is proof that Mary was a complete woman in every respect. Notice a very clear-cut scripture. "And she [Mary] brought forth her firstborn son..." (Luke 2:7). The hard fact that Jesus was Mary's firstborn (Greek, prototokon, meaning the firstborn among other children) ought to tell us that other children followed. The Greek word for an "only child" is monogenes. (See usage in Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38.) The New Testament writers knew the difference between a "firstborn" and an "only child." The truth is that Joseph and Mary went on to have a large family by today's Western standards — which is clearly evident from Matthew 13:54-56: "And when he [Jesus] was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said.... Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas [Jude]? And his sisters [plural], are they not all with us?" So, by the very least reckoning. Mary gave birth to five sons and two daughters. The age-old argument that Jesus' brothers and sisters were really his disciples, being his brethren only in the figurative sense, is rejected out of hand. The brothers are specifically named in the account, and Jesus certainly had no female apostles. Search the list of the apostles, and you will never find one named Joses. John 2:12 is very plain in this regard. "After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples...." Here the biblical account written by John shows that his disciples and his " brethren" were two different, distinct groups of people. Further, in Matthew 12:46-50 we are plainly told that the disciples were inside the house while the other family members were outside (cf. John 7:3-10; Acts 1:13-14). Note the particulars: "While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood with out, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him. Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples [showing his family and his disciples were two distinct groups] and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Here, Jesus is simply capitalizing on circumstances to teach a vital spiritual lesson by way of an analogy to his physical family. But the account does not remotely indicate he had no physical brothers and sisters, but proves the opposite — that he was the firstborn of seven children.
Jesus Hobnobbed With the Upper Crust
Some people claim that Jesus did not associate with anybody in the "establishment." They apparently believe that he ate with the poor class only, avoiding the upper levels of society almost entirely. But the Bible plainly speaks of Jesus as a guest in the homes of some of the greatest and most respected men of the day. He was personally acquainted with people on the topmost rungs of the economic and social ladder. (That is not to say that Jesus showed these people any more special attention than he did the masses. He was never "a respecter of persons.") Notice an example in Luke 7:36-39. "And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he [Jesus] went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat [or to eat a meal]." Tax collectors (although very unpopular with the people of the day because they collected taxes from the Romans) were part of the wealthy intelligentsia or upper class. Some were counted among Jesus' personal friends and acquaintances. One of the twelve apostles (Levi or Matthew) was an ex-tax collector. But Jesus also knew others. Notice now the narrative of Jesus' visit to Jericho. "And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans [tax collectors], and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was.... And when Jesus came to the place... and said unto him, Zacchaeus... today [must abide at thy house.... And he [Zacchaeus] ... received him joyfully" (Luke 19:1-6). Jesus was fairly well acquainted with Joseph of Arimathaea, who eventually obtained Jesus' dead body from Pilate and buried him. Look at what the Bible tells us of this man. "When the even was come, there was a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple" (Matt. 27:57). Further: "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor [of the great Sanhedrin or Jewish legislative body]; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them [to crucify Jesus];) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God" (Luke 23:50-51). Jesus was also a personal acquaintance of Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler or the Jews. (See John 3:1-12; 7:50-53: 19:39.) The occasion of the healing of a centurion's servant is another case in point. A centurion was a leader over one hundred men, which in all likelihood, meant the head of the Roman garrison at Capernaum. The wedding feast at Canain Galilee was yet another case where Jesus was hobnobbing with the upper crust. Such a great feast with so many people present (attested to by the amount of wine) was obviously given by a wealthy host. This brings up another subject. Was Jesus a total abstainer, or did he drink wine when the social occasion demanded it?
Jesus Drank Wine on Social Occasions
Because of society's continual abuse of alcoholic beverages, many people recoil at the very thought that Jesus might have raised a glass of wine to his lips. But he did! (Both the Old and New Testament strongly condemn drunkenness [Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:29-32; I Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:18], but not drinking in moderation [Amos 9:14; Gen. 14:18; Eccl. 10:19; I Tim. 5:23, etc.].) Jesus Christ drank wine at the New Testament passover just before he was led away to his trial by the religious leaders. "I tell you I shall not drink again [proof that he had just done it] of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29, RSV). Jesus drank wine regularly enough that some of his enemies falsely accused him of being a winebibber (Matt. 11:19). This in itself ought to tell us that the wine he drank was real fermented wine and not grape juice. His first public miracle involved turning water into over 100 gallons of wine, showing that he did not discourage the use of wine at a wedding feast. The account begins in John 2. "On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine'" (verses 1-3, RSV). (The Greek word here rendered "wine" in English is oinos — a fermented beverage with a natural alcoholic content)
Jesus Christ of Nazareth knew how to sing; he knew how to laugh; he was masculine and hard-working; he was always compassionate and understanding to the suffering masses around him; he was continually helping those in need on a day and night basis.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, oinos is used several times in the context of someone being drunk. Revelation 17:2 talks about "the wine [Greek, oinos] of whose fornication the dwellers on the earth have become drunk." Also Ephesians 5:18: "And be not drunk with wine [Greek, oinos]...." Nobody ever got anything but a sick stomach and a purple tongue from drinking too much grape juice. Now, back to the account of Jesus' first miracle in John 2, starting in verse 6: "Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, 'Fill the jars with water.' And they filled them to the brim. He said to them, 'Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast....' When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine [Greek, oinos]... the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now" (verses 6-10, RSV). As a long meal wears on, the senses are gradually dulled and the taste of the wine is not quite as sharp as it was. Then a wily host could slip in wine of poor vintage. This is yet another proof that this was wine and not grape juice. Jesus did not do the things his generation expected of him. His actions were incongruous to his society — a far cry from what they expected. He just couldn't seem to satisfy anybody. He himself said: "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking [wine], and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners" (Matt. 11:16-19). Neither did Jesus do the things that this present generation thought he did. The real Jesus simply does not fit into our society's traditional image of him. For instance, many have been under the mistaken impression that Jesus converted people to Christianity during his 3 1/2-year earthly ministry. But the shocking truth is that Jesus Christ not only did not personally convert one single person at any time during his physical lifetime on this earth, but also never even had acquaintance or association with one solitary converted person.
Jesus Didn't Disturb Spiritual Blindness
It comes as a profound shock to most to realize that Jesus did not attempt to convert people then, nor did he even attempt to get the world saved. It just goes against the grain. But the Bible is plain on the subject. Jesus frequently spoke to the general public of that day in parables all sorts of similes, analogies, and interesting stories mainly based on the agriculture of his generation. But neither those Jewish people nor even his disciples seemed to have the faintest idea of what he was talking about when he was conversing in parables. His disciples asked him why he spoke in parables. They wondered why he was confusing people. Notice it in Matthew's account: "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered... Because it is given unto you [the disciples and future apostles] to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [the general public] it is not given" (Matt. 13:10-11). Conventional "Christianity" has always taught its Sunday-school children that Jesus spoke in parables because he wanted people to better understand the gospel message. But Christ continued in verse 13: "Therefore speak I unto them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Jesus then added: "And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias [Isaiah], which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's [Jesus' generation — and it is no different today] heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (verse 14-15). And then Jesus went on to explain and expound the real meaning of the parable to all of his disciples in the very plainest of language. Does this sound like Jesus was desperately on a "soul-saving" campaign to the people of his generation? Or didn't he say in another place: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom"? (Luke 12:32.) Later on in Luke's account someone asked Jesus: "Lord, are there few that be saved?" (Luke 13:23.) Jesus' answer was: "Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (verse 24).
Not Even His Own Disciples
Believe it or not, Jesus did not even convert his own disciples — and that includes the twelve apostles. In the very last moments of his ministry while he was in Jerusalem, Jesus told Peter: "... When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren," acknowledging he was not yet converted up to that time. To sum it all up, Jesus Christ was a very normal person in the human sense except that he did not sin in any way or break the great spiritual law of God, though the potential for it was there. He was a flesh and blood human being just like you and me. He constantly called himself "the Son of Man," alluding to his humanity. Jesus knew how to sing; he knew how to laugh; he was masculine and hard-working; he was compassionate and understanding to the suffering masses of his day; he helped people on a day and night basis. Only this Jesus — the real Jesus — could qualify to be anybody's Saviour. Read the gospels of your own Bible and come to know more fully the tremendous personality, generosity, humility, and divinity of the real Jesus!