The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 4

Jesus and His Family

   In the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the narrative in the sixth chapter of Mark shows that He "went out from thence," that is, from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and came into His "own country" meaning Nazareth.
   The local officials in the synagogue were astounded when Jesus suddenly appeared in the synagogue of Nazareth preaching and teaching and, true to human nature, they used the ancient old dodge, "Just who does he think he is?"
   The account says they were astonished and said, "From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda and of Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him" (Mk. 6:2-3).
   Jesus was a member of a large family. The eldest of at least seven children — at least four brothers (all named) and two sisters (plural!) in addition to Himself. Notice that this account occurs in the very beginning of His public ministry; this was apparently His first official appearance in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. By no stretch of the imagination could these rulers of the synagogue have been referring to men by the name of James, Joses, Juda and Simon, nor could they have been referring to "His sisters," in a religious sense. In no way could these religious leaders have meant that they understood that these individuals, whoever they were, were merely "acquaintances" of Jesus, and therefore were "spiritual brothers and sisters" rather than flesh-and-blood kin. Remember, this was the very beginning of Jesus' ministry — the Pharisees knew of no disciples yet! These brothers and sisters would not have been "spiritual brothers and sisters" because there weren't any yet known!
   These petty complaints of Mark 6:2-3 should tell us a lot. First, they knew He had great wisdom; they knew He was performing miracles. Second, their remarks indicate that Joseph, Jesus' legal father, was already dead, or they would have included him in their mention of the family members. Third, it proves Jesus lived most of His younger life in Nazareth; that He was a "carpenter" (contractor would be a better term today, as you will see), and that he had four brothers and at least two sisters!
   For reasons of traditional doctrine, some religions refuse to admit this simple truth.
   Some have argued, from Mark's account in Mark 3:31 of Jesus' mother and brother trying to communicate to Him through the crowd, that Jesus' subsequent statement is proof that there were no real flesh and blood brothers but only Jesus' brothers in the spiritual sense.
   "And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.'
   "And he replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?'
   "And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother'" (Mk. 3:31-35, RSV).
   Jesus never failed to turn a statement, a question, a situation into a vivid spiritual lesson concerning His calling, His gospel message of the coming kingdom, and man's brotherhood to fellow man.
   In Jesus' mind was the fullest awareness of His heavenly origins; His direct relationship to the entirety of the human race by virtue of being the very Creating Agent of the first human beings; His kinship to His own people, to whom He was sent; and finally by virtue of His teachings to His own disciples and close circle of confidants, the "brotherhood" which existed between Him and this group. Remember, however, that the leaders of the synagogue in Nazareth actually knew the names of Jesus' flesh and blood brothers and listed each of them in their plaintive protest against Jesus' miracles and His teachings — unable to believe that a local man could possess such powers.
   John 2:12 is very plain. "After this he went down to Capernauru, he, and his mother, and his BRETHREN, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days." Here, the biblical account written by John, that "disciple whom Jesus loved," very clearly shows that His disciples and His "brethren" were two different groups of people.
   Now read the critical verse of Mark 6:3 again. As Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, some of His persecutors began to say, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and loses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."
   Notice. Jesus plainly said, "Among his OWN KIN."
   He plainly admitted, then, that He, the prophet who was being dishonored, was, at that time, in His own country, and among his own kin.
   (The James who is mentioned here as one of Jesus' brothers is spoken of as "the Lord's brother" by the apostle Paul in Galatians 1:19. It was this James who later became the leading apostle of the headquarters church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13) and who wrote the book of James. Also, one of Jesus' earliest disciples was James the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. Then, there was another man whose name was James, who was also one of Jesus' disciples, who was the son of Alphaeus, and who was sometimes called "James the Less.")
   Jesus' brothers and sisters were no doubt converted following His crucifixion and resurrection (though there is no record that they all were).
   The events of their entire lives; of living with and around this remarkable man, seeing the throngs following Him and the vast ministry, which reached such proportions that people flocked up to the Galilean hills from as far away as Jerusalem and all the environs of Judea, and from as far north as up into modern Lebanon of today, the "seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon," were a powerful witness to Jesus' own kin.
   They had known of His growing preoccupation with His ministry — His confrontation with Satan the Devil and His subsequent calling of His disciples — and had closely known of all the details of His ministry.
   If there was any individual with the psychological hang-up which would have represented a true barrier to accept the plain truth about Jesus' origins, it would have been His own flesh and blood brothers and sisters! (Incidentally, concerning these sisters, there is no reason really to limit the number of girls in the family to only two. There could have been three, or four, or even more.)
   But the Resurrection PROVED it to them. They had grown up together; had eaten, played, worked, laughed and sung together; had taken lessons from their tutors together; and had been educated in the languages, history, geography, science and literature of the day together, most especially a thorough education in the sacred scriptures.
   And what about Jesus' brothers? Did they all die celibates? Were none married? Did none of them survive that tumultuous first century following the establishment of the New Testament Church to live normal lives and raise families?
   Peter was married (Mat. 8:14, Luke 4:38, I Cor. 9:5). There is no proof one way or the other there were any children; though it is safe to assume there most certainly were, since this was the expected custom of the time, and it makes a great deal more understandable how Peter and Andrew (who some authorities say was Peter's elder brother) were able to leave their family's business, and to follow Christ in His journeys. If there were strong young sons coming along, brought up in the trade of their father, as was Jewish custom and tradition, then the narrative of Peter's and Andrew's call makes more sense. Of course, there could have been other brothers not mentioned.
   But do you realize what some of this implies?
   It merely implies that the human physical family of Jesus Christ of Nazareth did not necessarily die in the first century; that some of those family members no doubt did survive and continue to build families and leave progeny after themselves. If this is true (and there seems every likelihood it is) then the descendants of those families directly related to Jesus Christ through Mary, that is, the progeny of Joseph and Mary and their ancestors, may still be walking this earth today!
   Jesus, then, while He was not married, did grow up as a young man with brothers and sisters, and was very definitely a "family man" in the sense that He, as the elder brother, became the leader of the family, and directly responsible for it.
   Not one more word is heard of Joseph after the mention of the word "parents" in the second chapter of Luke. From that time on, whenever Mary and the other children are mentioned, they are alone. Obviously, though the Bible does not record the event, Joseph had died some time after Christ's twelfth birthday and prior to His thirtieth. Joseph is never mentioned, and is nowhere on the scene, during the entirety of Christ's ministry, or even at His death.
   To some, it was even necessary for Mary to be "immaculately conceived," in order that Christ's birth could be as holy and "immaculate" as it properly should be. But, if Mary, why not her mother, grandmother etc.? For that matter, why not her father, and his father, and so on?
   Interesting, isn't it — how some of the major doctrines of professing Christianity cannot be found in the Bible? There is no mention whatever of Mary being "immaculately conceived" and the words aren't even used in the Bible.
   Because of Augustinian guilt complexes, religious folk have taken the completely erroneous notion that sex is dirty, filthy, evil, and, even if necessary for the propagation of the human race, it is surely something of which to be ashamed.
   For some to entertain in their minds that Mary was conceived in the same way they were — by the ghastly, evil, "dirty" method of (blush!) sexual intercourse — is unthinkable.
   If Mary were "immaculately conceived" by a divine miracle, then she, and not Jesus, was the "first begotten" of God. This tends to place Mary above the Son of God, at least in form if not in substance. This seems to be the religion of millions. But the Bible teaches no such doctrine.
   While Mary is deeply respected and honored in memory of her sacrifice (for that's what it was!) in humbly accepting the calling of God to be chosen as the human mother by whom the very God of life would become human, there is no teaching whatever from Genesis to Revelation that she is to be worshiped. Respected, loved, yes; but worshiped, no. The Bible instructs that God (the Family of God including the Father and the Son) only is to be "worshiped"!
   (The doctrine of the worship of Mary is as nonbiblical as is the fable of the Trinity. Mary was said to have been found "with child of the Holy Spirit." [As an aside, if the Holy Spirit were a person, then Jesus prayed to the wrong Father! Trinitarians admit that the Father is a distinct person of the Godhead. If He is the Father God, and the Father of Jesus, then it was He, by and through the limitless power of His Spirit, called the "Holy Spirit" that performed the miracle of Christ's begetting as a human being.])
   Mary was not "dirtied" or "defiled" or in some way unworthy of being named the mother of the son of God because she was conceived in the same way you and I were conceived.
   God "invented" marriage, and commanded that a man and his wife "become one flesh" in the normal, wholesome embrace of human love, in sexual intercourse. God says, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled... " (Heb. 13:4).
   Neither was it a shame for Mary to have other children, after Jesus was born; and yes, these were conceived through sexual union with her husband. Even the plain language of Matthew 1:24 ought to tell any thinking person that. The Bible says, "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."
   Even the translators of 1611 could not bring themselves to give the proper rendition of the Greek word by admitting it should have read, "And did not know her carnally until after... " or some similar rendering which would have made the verse more obvious.
   The fact that Joseph "took unto him his wife" is rather plain. The fact that Jesus was the "firstborn" implies a "second-born," and so on. The fact that Joseph "knew her [carnally] not until" after Jesus was born is plainly indicative of the fact that Joseph did "know her" in full sexual intercourse after Jesus was born.
   At the time of the annunciation and their journey to Bethlehem for the birth of their first child, Joseph was unable to afford anything more than a pair of turtledoves as a dedication sacrifice (Lev. 12:8; Luke 2:24). Apparently, he could not afford the price of a lamb.
   This has been taken by some to imply that Joseph and Mary were in a state of near poverty. While obviously not "wealthy" by any standards. Joseph, however. was an industrious worker and a more than adequate provider. Remember, they had been forced to make an arduous journey at a critical time in Mary's pregnancy. No doubt, it required extra expense for proper animals and conveyances to insure Mary a comfortable trip. Further, there was the problem of taxation, of enforced payoffs to various petty officials, Roman soldiers or others along the route.
   The family God selected to be the human guardian and physical mother of the very Son of God would have measured up to the strictest standards of God's own laws of industry, labor, honesty and thrift.
   God's laws established principles of hard work, and Joseph would have followed those principles diligently. There was no spiritual or biblical requirement that Joseph and his family be wealthy; but there is every reason to believe there was a strong requirement that he measure up to the biblical "work ethic" of the Old Testament.
   The biblical principles demanded that a man be energetic and hard-working enough to lay up for "his children's children" indicating that each tradesman was fully expected according to God's Word to be successful enough that he would, at the end of his life, have provided a sufficient estate that even his grandchildren would be given a little head start in their own careers.
   So, accepting the biblical account at face value, then, it is simply inconceivable that Joseph was anything less than moderately successful; not necessarily wealthy but certainly not poor. He would not have had a single child more than he could have afforded or provided for; and each of the children would have been partners with him as soon as his physical stature and grasp of the trade allowed.
   The word "carpenter" relating to Joseph is very misleading in modern terminology, and is far better rendered "stone mason" or "artisan." The Greek word is tekton and most biblical authorities agree it had a far wider application than merely the term "carpenter" as it might be applied today. In our specialized societies, carpenters are thought of as those who work with sawn and hewn lumber, and primarily work only at pounding nails into boards.
   Ask a modern carpenter if this is "all he does," and he will very likely give you a lengthy lecture about the many skills required to become a good carpenter.
   However, during the day of Jesus Christ, "carpentry" included much more than just the fabrication of wooden dwellings. Most of the homes were a combination of stone, mud and clay, hewn beams and "lumber."
   The city where Jesus spent much of His early ministry around the Galilean area was Capernaum. I have been to Capernaum several times, and have seen the remnants of the porches, the arches, the mosaics, and the walls of the buildings which were there during the time of Christ.
   Capernaum, at that time, was a beaming, modern, beautifully sculptured Grecian — type city. It was filled with beautiful multileveled homes which had large central gardens, mosaic walks, fountains and even, believe it or not, indoor bathrooms and steam baths!
   The homes of the wealthier class at that time were marvels of architecture, and a far cry from the stone and adobe hovels imagined by many as being the general domicile of the time.
   A "carpenter" would have to have a certain familiarity with 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, and would even have to know a certain amount about plumbing.
   For, during that period and in the first two or three centuries thereafter, home plumbing included indoor water, which was delivered via a system of pipes and could be cut off by valves just as in a modern home today.
   From their earliest age Jesus and His brothers learned the skills of the trade, and Jesus, as the older brother, could well have been the one primarily concerned with keeping of family records, payment of bills, ordering of materials, the writing and signing of contracts, and the required barter, both in the marketplace and with passing caravans, for tools and building supplies.
   From earliest moments of boyhood, Jesus, James, Joseph, and later little Simon would perhaps run down to the public market when they had heard the tinkling of the bells of a long heavily laden caravan coming through the area from the trade routes from the north and the east, realizing that it might be a timely opportunity to purchase some finely made tapestries, rugs, yardage of fine fabrics for Mary and the girls to make into clothing, or perhaps even some of the famous metal tools, adzes, drawknives, chisels and heavier quarrying tools produced by the nations to the east.
   Probably by the time Jesus was in His late teens or early twenties, His legal guardian Joseph was dead. The family business passed into the hands of Jesus, his eldest son, together with the other brothers.
   Jesus grew up in a family environment, with an intelligent and well-educated group of young men and women maturing under the careful guardianship of Joseph until his death, and later under the love, warmth and sympathetic concern of Mary.
   A greater grasp of the New Testament would lead any thinking person to ponder whether the great God — who shows us that the family represents the most basic building block of society, the underpinning of civilization, and the unit which is held up in the Bible as a divinely ordained unit and used as a direct analogy of the relationship between Christ and His Church — would have been an only child, and never would have known the sharing, giving, close relationship of a family.
   The family's concerns were Jesus' concerns for the bulk of His life on this earth. While His intensive studies and private tutelage sessions, plus His countless hours spent in fervent prayer and even fasting from time to time, were diligently preparing Him for the tumultuous and challenging ministry He was later to fulfill, from His boyhood and on up through His early teenage and beyond, Jesus learned that close-knit experience of living among the members of His own family and the conduct of a family trade.
   The family took yearly trips to Jerusalem on the occasion of annual holy days, and perhaps went twice a year or even more. Other shorter trips might have included a visit to the Mediterranean Sea in the Syrophoenician coastland (a place to which Jesus resorted for a much-needed rest during a particular stressful part of His ministry later on), to the snow-covered mountains of Hermon, or down into the beautiful Sharon valley and to the Mediterranean.
   Was Jesus ever cheated?
   Surely, Jesus' reputation as a tradesman was one of total honesty and generosity, and there were no doubt a great number of individuals who felt He was "an easy mark" for shyster deals.
   Jesus would have never entered into a loud argument with other tradesmen, suppliers, or homeowners about alleged mishandling of money or goods. His entire message later showed that gentle and meek spirit of a willingness to accept abuse, of turning the other cheek, of gladly handing a man an inner garment and also giving, if required, an outer one, and if, being pressed by a Roman soldier riding the mail circuit to carry the heavy mail sacks, not only to walk the required mile in the cool mountain elevations of Nazareth's beautiful conifers, but to go an extra mile or so down the trail with the Roman before turning back home.
   It is a great mistake to erase from your minds the entire life story, personality, boyhood, family environment and building trade of Jesus the carpenter, and try only to imagine Him in some superreligious postures, as a mature man during His ministry, gleaned from a few accounts in the gospels.
   Though God did not intend to give us a lengthy biography of Jesus' boyhood, neither did He want the terrible perversion of the plain truth concerning Christ's early life, which portrays Him as an only child, a sorrowful-eyed vagabond who seemingly appears out of nowhere at about age 30 and begins challenging the religious leaders with His strange doctrines.

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Publication Date: 1977
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