January 17, 2019

Jesus: Growing Up


Yes. Jesus had a life. He did not suddenly appear out of nowhere to begin his ministry. He had a human life. Obviously that is what God wanted. Here are some perfectly plausible episodes from his life as a boy. I believe the historical information is correct.

Or maybe not.

6 A.D.
There was a commotion in the street. The people of Nazareth were gathering to meet a large band of armed men who had gathered at the village well.

Mary went to the door of the shop. “Who is that man in front?”

“He is known as Judas of Galilee,” Joseph said quietly “he is from the village of Gamala.”

“Why is he here in Nazareth?” Mary asked.

“He is leading a rebellion against the Romans. He and his friend Zadok are preaching that only God has the right to rule over Israel..... He believes the Romans have no right to tax us.”

Joseph frowned. “Some are hailing him as the Messiah, because he wants to kill Romans and free us from their rule....”

Joseph prepared to leave the shop.

“I want to hear what he has to say.”

Jesus, who was soon to be ten years old, looked up from the scroll he was reading.

“Can I go with you father?” he asked excitedly “The boys in the village say Judas claims to have God on his side...”

Jesus ran to his father. “If he goes to fight the Romans,” he said with conviction “Judas will win.”

At first Joseph was reluctant to have his son accompany him to the village square. The talk of rebellion would be course and full of hate. But then he relaxed a little. With a shrug of his shoulders he motioned for Jesus to follow him out the door.

“This is as good a time as any to learn of man’s folly.”

In the square, Judas was speaking in a very loud voice to maybe 35 very agitated men and boys.

 “Join us in our righteous rebellion to the hated rulers of Israel. We refuse to enroll in the census imposed on us by Quirinius. Roman taxation is slavery..... God alone is King. His laws are supreme!”

There was a loud cheer from the crowd.

“This census is just a way to enroll us for Roman taxation!” he shouted. “We go to Sepphoris to liberate it from the Romans. Who has the strength to join us?”

Many hands went up. In a very short time some 25 men, mostly under the age of 20, ran home to gather their belongings and whatever weapons they owned. They returned to eagerly join the ranks of the men headed for Sepphoris. As they disappeared down the dusty road, Jesus noticed several women were weeping.

“Why are they crying, father?”

Joseph looked down at his son and sadly responded.

“Because some of their sons and husbands will never return.”


***


Jesus was helping his father in the little shop when their work was interrupted by cries of grief from the street. They dropped what they were doing and ran outside to see what the matter was. Two women were wailing in obvious anguish. A third woman, hugging her three little children with both arms, was sobbing uncontrollably. A young man lay in the street, his tunic covered with dried blood from an ugly wound that still oozed a trickle of red down his shattered arm.

Joseph was very upset and turned with disgust from the scene. He looked solemnly at Jesus.

“That...,” he said slowly “is the result of war.”

A man walked by them on the street, carrying a Roman sword. He grinned at Joseph and Jesus. He was obviously very proud of his new weapon.

“We ambushed the Romans.”

Joseph took Jesus by the shoulder and walked back into the shop.

“They have won.... for now.... But the Romans will punish all Galilee for this skirmish whenever it pleases them. Jewish blood and limbs will be everywhere.”

The grief of the three women shocked Jesus. The vision of their suffering tormented him for several minutes. He fidgeted with the tools and absently ran his hand over a piece of wood. His thoughts began to clear. Let the Romans have their empire. They will never have our souls. We have given them to God.


***


July, 9 A.D.
A whisper of a breeze brought welcome relief to the heat of a summer afternoon. Deborah (11), James (10), Joses (9), Jude (8) Simon (7) and Rachel (5) were playing a lively and animated game of hide and go seek. James had just found Rachel, who was hiding in a pile of hay. As was often the case, five year old Rachel was loudly screaming her disappointment because she was supposed to be “it” next. She liked to hide, but was not too sure about the frustration of seeking. The other children laughed merrily at their sister’s antics, but that only made Rachel obstinate. Deborah went over to the pile of hay to console her sister.

“Rachel calm down. Nobody is hurting you. I know you like to hide, but now it’s your turn to look for us.”

Rachel looked unmollified. “But how come I’m always the last one to be found?” she pouted.

“Because you are very small. That makes you harder to find.” Deborah gave her little sister a hug.

“Come on,” she said taking Rachel’s hand in her own “let’s see if you can find all of us.”

Joses, Jude and Simon joined the two girls. James went over to the community well to have a drink of water. He filled his cup and eagerly began to sip the cool clear water. When he turned round, he was confronted by two larger boys who were standing behind him.

“Well, look who is taking our water,” the taller of the two boys sneered “who gave you permission to drink our water?”

James was small for his age and easy to pick on. He wasn’t even as tall as his brother Jude.

“This water belongs to all of us, you know that.”

“Only if I say so, and I don’t give you permission.” the boy snickered. He pushed James backward by the shoulders, and then again, as though to push him into the large stone basin where the water collected. James was powerless to stop him. But Deborah, ever watchful for the safety of her brothers and sisters, saw what was happening. She frowned, tugged at the sleeve of her brother’s shirt, and pointed to James.

Joses looked annoyed, and nudged his two brothers. They turned to see what was happening. Then three of them began walking toward the well with some determination. Although they had teased James many times about his small size, no one was going to pick on their brother!

“What’s the problem?” Joses looked directly at the taller boy.

The boy mocked Joses and his brothers. “Stay out of the way–it’s none of your business.”

A scuffle broke out, Deborah and Rachel joined the group.

“You let my brother alone!” Rachel shrieked.

The boys ignored her and continued to scuffle with James and his brothers. Then a loud and commanding voice broke through the chaos. It was Jesus, 12 years old and soon to be 13. Although not much taller than either of the other two boys, Jesus could stand his ground.

“Back off!” he commanded. He then looked intently into the eyes of the taller boy.

“But.... we.... OK,” he mumbled backing away. It suddenly dawned on the two boys they were outnumbered by a very determined family.

Jesus spoke with authority. “Back off and go away,”

“And don’t come back!” little Rachel screamed.

The odds were too great, and besides there was something unusual about that kid Jesus. The boys walked backward a few steps and turned to flee the scene.


***


October, 10 A.D. 
Jesus, now 14, had assumed his place among the men of the community. A strong young man and mature for his age, he was quickly learning the skills of a carpenter and stone mason from his father. Jesus and Joseph worked together, and the young man often accompanied his father into Sepphoris.                                      

Joseph was a good teacher and his lessons were not limited to job skills. He often talked to Jesus about the cities and villages they had toured in Egypt, the great warehouse district in Memphis, the open air trading stalls in Alexandria, and the almost overwhelming variety of goods that passed between the Roman Empire and Kingdoms to the east. Grain, textiles, lumber, marble, metals, olive oil, spices, frankincense, wild animals, wine - and slaves. Alexandria was almost as important, and almost as big, as Rome itself.

The conversations between father and son occasionally included a discussion about religion. Joseph wanted to make sure Jesus had a broad perspective of the real world, or at least as much as Joseph had absorbed while in Egypt.  One afternoon, while working on the framing of a door jam, he brought up the subject of faith.

“Jesus,” Joseph spoke in a low voice. “Do you know the difference between a religion and a theology?”

“I think theology is belief and a religion is formalized theology.”

“Almost right. A theology is a system of beliefs. Our Jewish customs and laws are a good example. When we were in Egypt, I had many discussions with men and women who believed in the teachings of Buddhism, and Hinduism. These also are theologies. When people organize temples where a theology is taught or practiced, then they have established the formalities of a religion. Organizations that repeatedly practice a theology create a religious institution. It is important you understand the difference between a theology and a religion.”

“I think I do,” Jesus answered “a theology is what I hold within me as a set of beliefs. When we gather with others in the synagogue, we are participating in a religion.”

 “You have had your bar mitzvah ceremony,” Joseph continued “as you know; you re now accountable for your actions, Jewish ritual law, ethics and traditions. You have been invited to lead prayers and read before the congregation, as do for our family at home.”

Joseph smiled with satisfaction, and then became mischievous. “According to our laws, I have prayed to God about you. I gave him my heartfelt gratitude that you have reached manhood without incident. After your bar mitzvah I can no longer be punished for your sins. You are on your own.”

Jesus grinned at his father. “I know you and Mom will still guide me. She has been very insistent I know the law by heart. You have taught me the ways of the community.”

Joseph was not finished. He became serious.

“There is one more thing,” he intoned. “According to our customs, in the next year or two you will be married. That will give you additional responsibilities to your wife, your children, and the community. Becoming a man is not a trivial event.”

..................

Text from   “Am I Your Son?



January 16, 2019

The Story of Jesus: To Egypt and Back To Nazareth


Introduction

In December we described the marriage of Mary and Joseph, their encounter with the angel Micah, and the birth of Jesus. During this month, we will follow the life of Jesus as he grows up and finds love.

By late 5 B.C., King Herod the Great, ever ruthless and paranoid, was obviously very sick with a painful disease. His erratic behavior had increased the tensions between him and the Jewish population of Israel, and his reluctance to carry out the enrollment (a type of census) thoroughly irritated Emperor Augustus. Herod finally ordered the census in either late 6 B.C. or early 5 B.C., when Quirinius was legatos Aogusti to Syria. Enumerating an oath of allegiance to Augustus, or simply counting the number of people in Israel, only served to sharply increase the anger of a rebellious Jewish population because it was believed any kind of census was a violation of Jewish (religious) law.

Jesus was born in late September or early October of 5 B. C. Even before he was born, Mary and Joseph knew they must leave Israel in order to protect him from harm. Judas the Galilean, considered by some to be a Messiah, was threatening to gather an army to march on Sepphoris. The men of Nazareth were pressuring Joseph to become a Jewish nationalist. Mary and Joseph were fearful that if the Romans or the Jewish priests found out about the father-son relationship Jesus had with God, they would kill him. It is also likely Joseph had determined he needed to leave Nazareth because there would not be enough work there for both him and his father.

So. Lots of (credible) motivation to leave Nazareth. But go where?

They were advised to go to Egypt because there was a large Jewish population in Alexandria that maintained a relatively peaceful coexistence with the Romans. Alexandria was the second most important city in the Roman empire and the location of an endless stream of building projects. There would be plenty of work, good paying jobs, in Alexandria.

With a little money from their parents, Mary and Joseph left for Egypt (by way of Jerusalem) about a month before Mary was due to give birth. However, when they reached the outskirts of Jerusalem, the bloodshed of rebellion was already occurring. Frightened by what she saw, Mary urged Joseph to go on to Bethlehem. By the time they reached this little town, Mary was ready to give birth.

As was the custom, on the eighth day, Mary’s baby was circumcised and given the name Jesus. Four weeks later the couple took the incredible risk of journeying into Jerusalem and on the fortieth day they made a purification offering at the Temple. As they were leaving Mary and Joseph they were approached by a very frail man named Simon who knew all about Jesus the son of God. Fearful that others might know about Jesus, Mary and Joseph were determined to leave for Egypt as soon as possible.

Help, advice and money for the long walk to Egypt came in the form of a distant uncle, a rather large happy man by the name of Jethro. “If you make friends with the Essenes,” he said, “they will provide you and your family with a place to stay until you get settled.”

We pick up the story after their arrival in Egypt.

***

Egypt

Jethro was right. There was plenty of work in Egypt, the Essenes were very helpful, Joseph learned several new skills, and they met people from many kingdoms. Memphis was a busy trading port with acres of warehouses, shops, and animal pens. There was a large Jewish population in Alexandria which had become an important city in the Roman Empire, second only to Rome itself. The young couple traveled to several cities and villages along the Nile, and followed the Red Sea all the way to the Gulf of Aden. Mary and Joseph were able to talk with people of many faiths and philosophies.

Wherever they went people appeared to take a special interest in Jesus. Or perhaps it just seemed that way. Mary and Joseph were very proud of their new son.

Time passed quickly. In November of 4 B.C. Mary gave birth to a second child, a girl, whom they named Deborah, and in April of 2 B.C. Mary gave birth to a boy, whom they named James.

After the birth of James, however, there came a time of deliberation. Work had been plentiful and they were in good health. But Joseph and Mary yearned for a permanent home of their own. King Herod had died just before Mary gave birth to Deborah and a new ruler had ascended to power in Judea. Since Herod the Great was no longer a threat to them, and the news from Israel was relatively hopeful, Joseph and Mary believed it would be relatively safe to return to Israel. In June they decided to return to their family home. Joseph also picked Nazareth because he could find work in the bustling city of Sepphoris (now Zippori), which was located just north of Nazareth. Antipas was in the midst of his many construction projects and it was becoming a center for wealthy Jews.

***

Going Home

In July they started the long walk back to Nazareth. In early August they knocked on a familiar door. Genisia answered.

“Oh my, look at you!” she shrieked with joy. “And look at the little ones. Come in – come in.”

Genisia reached out and took James from Mary’s arms, cuddled the baby, gave him a kiss on his forehead, and motioned for them to follow her into the little house. Tired, and a little dirty - actually very dirty from the dusty road - Mary and Joseph were relieved to see Genisia. Jesus and Deborah followed them into the house.

“You must be starved!” Genisia exclaimed.

Mary responded with gratitude. “We could use a little water to wash up. May we use the trough in the yard?”

“Of course dear, I’ll help you wash your babies and then while I dry them in the house you and Joseph can bathe in peace.”

And so it was. Jesus, Deborah and James were carefully washed to remove sixteen days of dirt from walking on dusty roads. Although Jesus insisted on dunking in the trough, Deborah and James were quite content to be bathed with a wet cloth. After the children were (relatively) clean, Genisia took Jesus and Deborah inside to give them something to eat. James was quite content to sleep. Joseph and Mary were happy to bathe by themselves, and gave their thanks to God for a safe trip.

***

“And what are your plans?” Genisia asked.

“We plan to find a place in Nazareth,” Joseph answered. “We would like to settle down in a home of our own.”

But Genisia shook her head with obvious apprehension. “You have to be careful!” she exclaimed.

“Why?” Mary and Joseph responded with surprise.

Genisia paused to collect her thoughts. Then she spoke with conviction.

 “When Herod the Great died, his will divided his kingdom among three sons and his sister. Herod Achelous has become King of Judaea. Achelous is a cruel, violent and aggressive man. If he gets wind of Jesus, he will have him killed just for sport.”

Mary was despondent. Joseph looked uncertain. Their dream of a peaceful life in Nazareth was suddenly in doubt.

“What shall we do?” Mary asked.

“Follow your plan. Go north, go back to Galilee. Just be careful where you travel. Herod’s son Herod Antipas is now the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. Antipas appears to be so busy with his building projects, and endless attempts to gain more land to rule, he doesn’t have time to bother his subjects. He also seems to allow the people under his rule a certain amount of freedom. Don’t attract any attention and you will be safe in Nazareth. Nobody goes there.”

***

Genisia was busy kneading bread dough, her hands white with flour. Mary had just finished washing the strips of cloth (diapers) she would need for James and Deborah. After hanging them up to dry, she came into the kitchen. Mary was distraught. Of course Nazareth would be comparatively safe from Roman oppression and bandits seldom came near the village. Their parents were there. Her sister lived nearby in Bethsaida. Joseph would be able to see his brother again. But the nagging problem of the long trip home hung over their heads like a dark cloud. Genisia understood her apprehension and tried to brighten Mary’s thoughts.

“You haven’t told me about your adventures in Egypt. Where did you go?”

Her mood interrupted, Mary smiled at the older woman.

“The Romans liked Joseph’s work and sent him to help with several construction projects. We went to Memphis, Heliopolis, Alexandria, and more places than I can remember. We saw the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  It was taller than 30 buildings placed on top of one another. We went up the Nile River. The fields of green stretched forever. But by the time James was born we were tired of the constant travel. That’s why we are going to Nazareth.”

“I am afraid I have never traveled much beyond Jerusalem or Masada. I envy your adventure. How did Jesus take all the travel?”

“He was amazing. Everywhere we went people were delighted to see him. He looked at each person as though trying to understand their feelings. I do believe Micah was right. Jesus is special in the eyes of the Lord.”

Then Mary looked warily at Genisia. What is she thinking?

“Do not worry; your secret is safe with me,” Genisia gently tried to console Mary. “Gabriel made sure I understood who he was and why we must protect him–until he is ready to God’s work.”

Genisia continued to knead the dough into the bread rolls she would put in the baking oven.

“And what about Deborah and James?”

“Deborah is a flirt,” Mary grinned. “She can get her father’s attention any time she wants. I do believe she will be very good with people. And James is also very special. He was, thankfully, a small baby. Birthing was easy.”

Mary jolted as though she had just remembered something she had to do and quickly left the room. In a few moments she returned with James cuddled in her arms. She opened her blouse and gently guided James to her breast. He was soon happily consuming his lunch. She continued her response to Genisia.

“He often looks at me as though waiting for me to tell him something. I just tell him I love him.... and he seems content just to hear my voice.”

“Will you have more children?” Genisia asked.

“It’s up to God. I trust in his judgement,” Mary responded. “The angel Micah told us we would have seven children.... We shall see.”

Genisia looked with compassion at Mary. “You are chosen, Mary of Nazareth. You are special in the eyes of God.”

***

As it happened, fate worked in Joseph’s favor. The large town of Sepphoris, just over 8 kilometers north-northwest of Nazareth, was almost destroyed following the death of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas rebuilt and fortified Sepphoris as the capitol of his government in Galilee starting in 3 B.C. He renamed the town Autocratoris, linked it to Legio, a Roman military camp, and the ancient city of Samaria. When Joseph and Mary returned home construction was underway. Although it took almost 2 hours to walk from Nazareth to Sepphoris, Joseph was able to find work there as a carpenter and as a mason. He would often sleep overnight in Sepphoris, thus giving him more time for work.

When Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth, they were warmly welcomed by their families, and immediately found a small house to buy. When Joseph wasn’t working in Sepphoris, or on projects he found in Nazareth, he could be found expanding their new home to accommodate additional members of the family. As the years passed, sons Joses, Jude and Simon, along with a daughter Rachel, were added to the family.

Joseph and Mary were very busy. It was a happy period in their lives. They had enough to eat, lived in a reasonably comfortable home, made friends, renewed old friendships, and became very close to their parents. Joseph and Mary taught the children the customs of their culture and did a good job home schooling their children. Jesus learned basic arithmetic and geometry, became proficient in reading, and - thanks to Mary’s help - developed a strong interest in Jewish law and customs. By age 8 Jesus was already learning to be a carpenter and stone mason. Joseph proved to be a firm but gentle father.

.....

Text from   “Am I Your Son?”






January 15, 2019

Israel During the Life of Jesus


King Herod I. became a Roman Client King over Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, and Peraea in 37 B.C.  He is known for his huge building projects including the port at Caesarea Maritima, a fortress at Masada, a palace fortress at Herodium, and the second Temple (Herod’s Temple) on an expanded Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He totally alienated the Jews and when he died in 4 B.C. the temporary gap in Roman rule encouraged Judea and other provinces to erupt in full revolt. Would be Messiahs, temple priests, and ordinary Jews rebelled, hoping to restore freedom from the hated Roman oppressor. Publius Quintilius Varus, Rome's governor in Syria, was ordered to restore order throughout Israel. He led two complete Roman legions and a large number of Arab troops led by King Aretas into Galilee. He then marched south to Jerusalem. Varus systematically crushed the rebellion with incredible brutality. Sepphoris was destroyed and many of its residents were sold as slaves. He occupied Jerusalem and as a symbol of Roman power; crucified 2,000 Jewish rebels. Herod’s son Herod Antipas became the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. He ruled until 39 A.D. He loved Sepphoris, perched on a hill overlooking the valleys below, and in 3 B.C. started an ambitious program to rebuild the city as his capitol.

Herod’s son Philip became tetrarch of territories north and east of the Jordan (including the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee). He ruled until 34 A.D.

 Herod's son Herod Archelaus became ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. As a ruler, he was totally incompetent and like his father, he managed to alienate most of the Jews in his kingdom. Archelaus was also incredibly cruel. By 6 A.D. the aristocracy was so incensed they sent a delegation to Rome to warn Augustus if he did not remove Archelaus there would be a revolt. Augustus agreed. In 6 A.D. Samaria, Judea and Idumea were combined into the province of Iudaea (Judaea) under direct Roman administration. The capital was at Caesarea Maritima. Coponius was appointed prefect. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, who had been appointed legate governor of Syria, was put in charge of a census for the purpose of taxation over a geographic area that included Iudaea (Judaea) and Galilee.

The census was immediately met by another rebellion led by Judas the Galilean, and Zadok a Pharisee. Jewish law prohibited the taking of a census. Judas proclaimed the Jewish state as a republic which would only recognize God as king and ruler. God’s laws were supreme. The revolt continued to spread, and in some places serious conflicts ensued. The Jewish high priest Joazar, who was responsible for maintaining a peaceful population, failed to quell the rebellion. Although initially successful, Judas died by the sword in 7 A.D.

Pontius Pilate was the fifth prefect (governor) of the Roman province of Judaea from 26 A.D. to 36 A.D. His relationship with Herod Antipas was one of mutual distrust (and occasional hatred). Antipas was an ambitious man. He longed to gain control over Judaea and he was continually trying to undermine Pilate’s authority. But neither the first Roman Emperor Augustus (ruled 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.) nor his adopted son Tiberius (Emperor 14 A.D. to 37 A.D.) trusted Antipas.

Tiberius became a dark and reclusive ruler. He withdrew from Rome and went to Capri in 26 A.D. That left Sejanus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, effectively in charge of the Roman Empire. But then Tiberius, fearing Sejanus was leading a conspiracy against him, had Sejanus executed in 31 A.D.

The life of Jesus was thus framed by continual intrigue, treachery and suspicion among Israel’s Roman rulers. They also were incredibly arrogant, malicious, and - in the eyes of the Jewish population - highly immoral. From 4 B.C. onward, the rebellion started by Judas of Galilee continued to spread and fester even after his death. The Romans eventually crushed all resistance, destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and scattered the Jews (Jewish Roman wars 66 A.D. to 136 A.D.)

Ron
History from “Am I Your Son?”
.

January 13, 2019

Who Was Joseph, The Father of Jesus?


My father had an incredible sense of duty. So when his National Guard regiment went to war, he went with them - to Australia. He was about 50 years of age. But that didn’t stop him. If his boys (soldiers) were going to war, he was going with them. It was his duty as their chaplain.

But since my mother had deceased, that left a lonely five year old boy a quasi-orphan for the next 5 years.

So I searched for a substitute father. Luck was with me. Or perhaps God reached out to help a little boy. The caretaker at the UNH chicken farm decided he could be my stand-in father until my Dad came home. He fulfilled the role with quiet wisdom for over 4 years. I shall forever love his memory.

The years passed. Something prompted me to research the life of Jesus. Of course, one cannot understand the life of Jesus without knowing his parents. And then a thought struck me. Was Joseph the kind of father I needed as a little boy?

He was. And more.

Joseph
It’s easy to think of Joseph as a simple uneducated carpenter, born in Nazareth, protected by his parents, employed to help his father at age 8 and naive to the ways of the world outside the tiny village of Nazareth. Gospel writers and early church fathers diminished Joseph’s importance in the life of Jesus. They even argued he married Mary after God made her pregnant (which would have breached Jewish Law) or perhaps he was an old man too fragile to father a baby (which ignores the energy required to raise six additional children).

As I researched first century Jewish culture and whatever information I could find about Joseph, it became evident the only way to properly judge him is by his accomplishments and his devotion to the God he loved. To write about Joseph is to develop a deep respect for this boy who became a man at 14, always supported and loved his wife, was a good father to seven children, and faithfully supported the life and work of his eldest son Jesus. And he did all this despite the incredible stress of ever present danger from bandits, Romans, Roman mercenaries, and Jewish zealots. He managed to earn enough money to support his family, and rejected the ever present temptation to become a Jewish nationalist - a decision that could have easily left him maimed or dead.

Joseph's grandfather Mattan (descendant of Solomon) had a wife called "Esther" (not recorded in the Bible) with whom he fathered Jacob (Joseph's father). We know very little about Ruth, Joseph’s mother.

Under Jewish law a boy could transition to manhood at age 12 or 13. My hunch is Joseph joined the men at prayers when he was just shy of 14 years of age. Research suggests Joseph was born in 21 B.C., betrothed at age 14 (7 B.C.), married at age 15 (6 B.C.), and became a father to Jesus when he was 16. In our story, Joseph dies in 26 A.D., at age 46. Death at this age was not uncommon. In the 1st century, children who were still alive at age 10 could look forward to an average life expectancy of 47.5 years.

Given his probable diet and genetic heritage, it is likely Joseph was less than 168 cm (5 feet, five inches) tall, had brown eyes, dark brown or black hair, and a slender build.

Like Mary, Joseph was self-educated. We know he could read because he read from the law in the Synagogue. It is highly likely he mastered the fundamentals of mathematics. In order to be a successful carpenter and stone mason, Joseph would have to be proficient in addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, as well as the skills of basic geometry and elementary algebra. These intellectual achievements would mean he had a better education than 85 percent of his peers. Being a good father, Joseph would have passed whatever knowledge he accumulated on to his children.

Joseph provided an anchor of knowledge and maturity for Jesus, trained him to be a carpenter and stone mason, and took Jesus with him to find work in Sepphoris, a relatively easy walk from Nazareth. Joseph would have been acutely aware of his obligation to God, and he apparently carried it out with wisdom and grace.

........

Background for my novel   “Am I Your Son?”