Jesus and the Jewish New Year

Jesus and the Jewish New Year

There is no doubt that Jesus and his family celebrated the Jewish New Year. They were Jewish, and they naturally celebated all the standard Jewish holidays. And they probably celebrated in Jerusalem. That was a major time commitment, as we’ll see shortly.

Several important holy days come in the fall, in the month of Tishrei:

  • Rosh HaShanah (the New Year) on 1 Tishrei
  • Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) on 10 Tishrei
  • Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) from 15 to 21 Tishrei

So the time spanned by these holy days is three whole weeks!

Why the New Year Starts in the Seventh Month

There’s something odd going on with the Jewish New Year. If you’ve read Exodus, you know that the holiday Pesach (Passover) begins on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month.

That first month is called Nisan in Hebrew and it normally begins in March or April. 

So how is it that the Jewish New Year comes in the fall, on the first day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the year? How does that make sense?

That makes sense because ancient Israel used two different lunar calendars. One began on the first day of Nisan, in the spring. The second began six lunar months later, on the first day of Tishrei, in the fall. 

So both Nisan and Tishrei are actually the “first month,”—just in different calendars. 

The holiday that became known as the Jewish New Year used the calendar that begins in the fall with Tishrei as its first month. 

A Long Walk To Jerusalem

The fall holidays were considered the very best time of the year. And ideally, you wanted to celebrate them in Jerusalem.

That was not so easy if you lived in Galilee. Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, was about 64 miles north of Jerusalem—as the crow flies.

But it was a bit farther as the Galilean family walks. 

The shortest route ran south from Nazareth through Samaria to Jerusalem. This is the route that I call “the Samaritan Road” in my novels, because it passed through Samaria. As you can see in the map below, the Samaritan Road was not quite a straight shot. There were some forks and wiggles in the road (to go around mountains and generally find the easiest route over rugged terrain.)

The distance was probably more like 75 miles of actual walking. If you were young and healthy, you could theoretically cover that in 3 days, but 4 days was much more doable. If anyone in your party was older and slower, then 5 days was probably best.

The Samaritan Road Was Not Safe

The problem was that the Samaritan Road was not terribly safe. There was bad blood between Jews and Samaritans, going back several centuries. 

The first-century historian Josephus tells us that Jewish travelers were sometimes killed on the Samaritan Road on their way to the annual holidays. On at least one of these occasions, Jews then went north from Jerusalem and wreaked their vengeance on the Samaritans. 

But we know that Jews often took the Samaritan Road to Jerusalem. They probably had two reasons:

  • The Samaritan Road was the shortest route from most parts of Galilee.
  • The Samaritan Road went through the hill country, which was cooler than the other routes.

The gospels tell of at least two occasions when Jesus took the Samaritan Road (John 4:4-6 and Luke 9:51-55).

The Jordan Way Was a Little Safer

But Galileans had another route they could take to Jerusalem. They could head east and south until they reached the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee. Then they could walk south along the Jordan River (on either the east or west side) until they reached Jericho. Then it was a steep one-day climb from Jericho to Jerusalem, going west on the Jericho Road.

I call this entire route “the Jorday Way” in my novels, because a big part of the trip was alongside the Jordan River. 

This was certainly a safer route for most of the trip, except for the last day climbing on the Jericho Road, which was notorious for bandits. (The story of the Good Samaritan is set on the Jericho Road). 

But there were three main problems with the Jordan Way:

  • For most Galileans, the Jordan Way was a longer route.
  • The Jordan Way ran along the Jordan Valley, several hundred feet below sea level, which made it hotter.
  • The last day of the route on the Jordan Way led up the steep Jericho Road, which made for a long, hard day of travel through lonely, dangerous country.

We know that Jesus took the Jordan Way at least once, on his final trip to Jerusalem.

A Backpacking Expedition

Whichever route you took to Jerusalem, you were looking at a trip of several days. 

Getting to Jerusalem was essentially a backpacking expedition with very stripped-down equipment. You could take a pack animal, in theory, but most travelers probably just carried or wore everything they needed.

And what would you need? Here is a list of the things I’d consider essential for the trip:

  • A tunic, made of wool, which covered down to your knees (if you were a man) or down to your mid-calf (if you were a woman). You did not wear underwear or socks. You did not need an extra tunic.
  • For women only—a hair covering that completely obscured your hair. 
  • A cloth belt that wrapped around your waist and could hold coins, a knife, and other small personal items.
  • Leather sandals.
  • A warm woolen cloak to protect against cold and rain. This also worked nicely as a sleeping bag.
  • A leather pack you could wear on your back to hold your cloak and a day’s worth of food. 
  • A waterskin to carry one day’s worth of water or beer. (In a world where you take water out of a well or a river, beer was often safer to drink, and it could purify water taken from a sketchy source.) The waterskin hung on a leather cord that you could sling over your neck and shoulder.
  • A few silver coins to buy food and drink along the way, and to pay for a place to stay in Jerusalem, and for any sacrifices you intended to make at the Temple. Two or three coins per person per week should be enough.
  • Optional (but strongly recommended)—a short knife. For general use, and for very modest protection from bandits.

And that’s all! You could wear all of it, leaving your hands free. It was light enough for each person to carry their own load. 

Along the way to Jerusalem, I would expect that most people just camped out under the stars at night. There just weren’t enough inns to house thousands of travelers during the busy season. 

I would also expect that they simply bought food along the way and either replenished their waterskins at every well or bought beer when they bought food. 

In Jerusalem, you would need to rent a house or a room to stay. This would probably be small and barely furnished, but it would be hardly different than your home back in Galilee.

Jesus made this trip every year for the major holidays. And like any good and loyal Jew, he loved every minute of it.

What Jesus Did on His Summer Vacation

What Jesus Did on His Summer Vacation

It sounds absurd to ask what Jesus did on his summer vacation. 

Except that we know exactly what he did on his summer vacation, because the gospels make that very clear.

Jesus Had a Day Job

Let’s start by noting the obvious fact that Jesus had a day job. He worked as a “tekton,” according to Mark 6:3. (This is the only verse in the Bible that says what Jesus did for a living.)

Note that “tekton” is a Greek word that means a manual laborer in stone, metal, or wood. This has been often translated into English as “carpenter,” but it’s not a great translation. From what I’ve been able to find, it seems that a better translation would be “builder.” Or “construction worker.” 

Jesus’s father Joseph was also a “tekton,” according to Matthew 13:55.  Without a doubt, Joseph taught Jesus and all his brothers the craft of the tekton, because that’s what a father did in those days. 

Now Jesus had four brothers, according to the verses quoted above in Mark and in Matthew. Together with Jesus and his father, that made a total of six healthy men, all working the same job. Nazareth was a small village, and my best estimate for its size was about 200 souls. It seems likely that there wouldn’t have been enough construction work in Nazareth for the whole family.

Which means some of them often went out of town to find work. They didn’t have far to look. Tsipori, one of the two largest cities in Galilee, was only about three miles from Nazareth, and it had a lot of building activity during the first century. That’s a very plausible place where Jesus and his family could find day labor.

A day laborer could come into Tsipori, find a job for the day, and go home with a silver dinar—cash in hand. That silver dinar would feed twelve adults for a day, as we know from the Talmud.

So if all the men in the family of Jesus worked every day, they could theoretically have supported a family of 72 adults. That was far more cash than they needed.

Jesus Didn’t Work Every Day

We know Jesus didn’t work every day, because the gospels tell us that he and his whole family went to the various festivals in Jerusalem every year. See, for example, John 7:1-9.  Those were big time commitments. 

Passover, in the spring, lasted a full 8 days. Pentecost, in the early summer, lasted only 1 day. The long series of holidays in the fall began with the New Year, continued with the Day of Atonement, and finished with the feast of Tabernacles—more than 3 weeks. 

And it took time to get to Jerusalem from Nazareth. Jerusalem is about 64 miles south of Nazareth as the crow flies. As the Galilean walks, it was probably closer to 75 miles. In theory, you could walk that in three very hard days, but four days would be much more doable, and five days would be a relaxed pace. 

What this means is that Jesus and his family were gone from Nazareth at least two months out of every year, just to attend the feasts in Jerusalem.

They could afford this because they had a steady income of cash from their construction work. That was a luxury not every family in Galilee could afford. Had they been a family of farmers, some of them would have been forced to stay behind to care for their livestock and manage the farm. 

But they were day laborers, able to work when they needed and take time off when they needed.

Jesus in Galilee

We know that sometime around the year Jesus turned 30 (plus or minus a couple of years), he began walking through Galilee preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was near.

There are some practical questions to ask:

  • Why would anyone listen to a message like that? It sounds kind of weird.
  • What did Jesus live on while he was doing this? 
  • It sounds impossible to walk all through Galilee. Why take on such a gigantic task?

All these questions have simple answers.

Why Would Anyone Listen?

The people of Galilee were heavily taxed by Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, who was appointed by Caesar. Herod was not popular, and neither was Caesar. All of Galilee was looking for a better life. As they understood things, God would soon break in on their lives, raise up a new king—a son of David—who would toss out Caesar and Herod Antipas and all the rest and start over. 

That would be the beginning of a new age, the Age to Come, in which the Son of David would rule over the kingdom of God. And that Son of David would be the anointed king of Israel, just like in the good old days. An anointed king was called in Hebrew a “mashiach.” In English, that’s usually transliterated as a “messiah.” In Greek, it’s translated as a “christ.” 

News of the kingdom of God meant freedom to the oppressed people of Galilee. So if a man with a credible claim to be a Son of David came into a Galilean village, telling about a kingdom of God about to begin, the villagers would be only too happy to hear what he had to say. They weren’t thinking of a kingdom of God in the way a modern Christian might. They were thinking of a kingdom of God in the way a first-century Jew would naturally think of it—liberation from the hated Roman oppressors.

What Did Jesus Live on When He Was on the Road?

In first-century Galilee, villages had no entertainment except what they could create themselves. After the evening meal on summer nights, they’d gather in the village square to sing songs, tell stories, recite poems, study the Torah, make jokes. That was the normal entertainment.

But on a night when a visitor came to a village, he was the center of attention in the village square. A visitor was the only way to get news. So the whole village came to listen. And they all fought over who would get to offer the visitor hospitality.

Offering hospitality to strangers was a commandment, in the first place. But in the second place, it was the cool thing to do, because whoever had the visitor as guest would hear all the news first. 

So Jesus had no problem finding a place to stay every night. He’d be housed and fed like royalty. And it no doubt helped that he had a reputation as a healer. 

Jesus and his friends would have been able to find hospitality in any village of Galilee at no cost. 

How Big of a Job Was it to Walk Through All Galilee?

Galilee was a region of about 750 square miles at the time of Jesus. (The region called Galilee today is quite a bit bigger that that.)

If you do the math, a circle with a radius of 15.45 miles has an area of 750 square miles. So any two points in Galilee were no more than about 30 to 35 miles apart. We also know that there were about 200 villages in Galilee, plus a few midsized towns and two large cities. I estimated the total population of Galilee in my blog post Around Galilee With Jesus at about 84,000 people. 

In a region of 750 square miles, if there are 200 villages, that gives each village less than 4 square miles as its zone of influence. It works out that there must have been a village roughly every 2 miles or so. 

If Jesus spent five months every summer going through Galilee, that would give him about 120 days per summer. Which means he could visit more than half the villages of Galilee in a summer. This would not be terribly hard. If villages were only a couple of miles apart, that’s not a big hike to move on each day to the next village. 

No doubt he went back home many weekends to his headquarters at Capernaum. (Most of his men came from Capernaum, or thereabouts, and they had wives and children they wanted to see.) 

Walking through Galilee is not a gigantic project. It’s very doable. If Jesus had three years to work his way through Galilee, there’s no doubt he could have hit every village at least once, and some of them more than once.

So that’s what Jesus did on his summer vacation. Don’t you wish you could have tagged along?

On Mount Precipice with Jesus

On Mount Precipice with Jesus

One of my favorite places in Israel is the site known as “Mount Precipice” in modern Nazareth. Nazareth is built on a hill and overlooks the broad, flat, fertile plain to the south known as the Jezreel Valley. 

The Jezreel Valley runs east-west, and it makes a natural buffer zone between Galilee in the north and Samaria in the south.

Mount Precipice is quite close to the site of first-century Nazareth—it’s a walk of a bit more than a mile. I don’t expect that Jesus came there every day, but I suspect that when he wanted to be alone to think, he came there and sat on one of the giant rocks and enjoyed the view and had a chat with God.

The View of the Jezreel Valley

Napoleon called the Jezreel Valley the greatest battlefield on earth. I’m not a general. When I look at the valley, I see food growing. I see farms. Here’s a picture I took a few years ago, looking down on the Jezreel Valley from Mount Precipice.

The view is south and just a little bit west, with the camera angled downward to show the rocky slope. You can see a modern highway and modern farms in the valley. An ancient road ran south from Nazareth approximately where you see the highway in the picture. That was one of the two roads Jesus could take to go to Jerusalem for Passover, but it was a little hazardous because it went straight south through the enemy territory of Samaria. We know he took that road at least twice, and probably often. It’s the shortest route to Jerusalem from Nazareth, 64 miles south as the crow flies. That would be a three-day walk if you’re really pressing the pace, and four days at a moderate speed. 

Mount Tabor to the East

If you look east from Mount Precipice, you see that the Jezreel Valley continues all the way until it reaches the Jordan River on the misty horizon. The valley passes between two mountains. On the north is Mount Tabor, which looks like an upside-down bowl. On the south, there’s a range of hills called the hills of Gilboa. In the photo below, Mount Tabor is on the left and the hills of Gilboa are on the right.

When Jesus stood on this spot, looking at these hills, his mind would have instantly remembered the famous battles that happened there.

In the time of the Judges, the prophetess Deborah forced the commander of the Israelite army, Barak, to go to battle against the Canaanite general Sisera. Deborah and Barak set up a strong camp on the slopes of Mount Tabor. Sisera attacked from the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley, coming north against the Israelite forces. With 900 chariots, he should have routed the Israelite army. Instead, Barak’s foot soldiers ran down the slopes of Mount Tabor and destroyed the Canaanite army. Sisera fled for his life, and ended up in the tent of a woman named Jael, who hammered a tent peg through his head while he slept. You can read all the details in Judges 4.  

A century or so later, King Saul met his end on the field of battle with the Philistines. In that battle, the Philistines held the territory around Mount Tabor and Saul set up a position on the hills of Gilboa. The battle went badly. Saul and three of his sons were killed. The Philistines hung their bodies on the walls of a nearby city, Bet Shan, which is in the far distance in the photo, not visible in the haze. The story is told in 1 Samuel 31:2-12.

Jesus and the Kingdom of God

So when Jesus sat on the edge of Mount Precipice, he must have thought about these battles. And I think he wondered what was in store for Israel in his own future. During the decades he was growing up, Galilee, Samaria, and Judea were in turmoil. Local strongmen gathered bands of armed men and tried to attack the Romans. We know some of their stories, because they’re mentioned in the New Testament and in the works of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. 

During this time, tales were told in village squares about a man who would rise up and defeat the enemies of Israel. This man would be a son of David. He would destroy the Romans. He would sit again on the throne of David in Jerusalem. He would purify the Temple. And God himself would return in a visible Presence to the Temple. That would be the Kingdom of God on earth. And that son of David would also be known by a traditional title–“son of God”–which was the standard biblical name for the reigning king of Israel. You can read the traditional coronation psalm for the king of Israel in Psalm 2.

That was the theory, anyway. In practice, things didn’t turn out quite that way, but that’s what people were thinking. And if his countrymen were thinking about it, Jesus was thinking about it too. There is no sign of any warrior mentality in Jesus. But there is every sign that the world he grew up in was a warrior culture. And that was a problem, because one part of that warrior culture was led by the dominant wing of the party known as Pharisees. But that’s a story for another day.

How Mount Precipice Got Its Name

Mount Precipice is called that because of a famous story found in the gospel of Luke. Jesus had made a  name for himself throughout Galilee. He came back to Nazareth, possibly expecting a hero’s welcome. Instead, he got stony looks and angry fists. Things came to a head on Shabbat when Jesus read a passage from the book of Isaiah. He stopped right in the middle—just before the good part about the Day of Vengeance. It’s not clear if that was the tipping point, but somehow his friends and neighbors got extremely angry. Emotions took over and a mob formed. They hauled him to “the precipice” and tried to throw him down. You can read the full story in Luke 4:16-30.

The story is also told in my latest novel, Son of Mary. I may have used a few more words than the author of the gospel of Luke, but it’s the same story.

We don’t know for sure where this “precipice” was. Long tradition says it was the site now known as Mount Precipice, but tradition is not proof. I’ve been around Nazareth a fair bit, and I think Mount Precipice is as good a candiate as any. While Mount Precipice is not exactly a cliff, it’s also not a safe place. You can do a lot of damage if you push a person over a drop of even 10 or 15 feet, if they land on jagged rocks. If you have more rocks to drop on him to finish him off, then you’ve got all the ingredients needed for a traditional stoning. 

Here’s a picture I took of a spot that I think would fit the story quite well.

Mount Precipice is Part of the Story of Jesus

However you slice it, Mount Precipice is part of the story of Jesus. Whether he came there with a mob, or he came there alone, he was there. And now you’ve been there too, at least in pictures. Maybe someday you can go in person.

With Jesus on the Sea of Galilee

With Jesus on the Sea of Galilee

Jesus spent an enormous amount of time around the Sea of Galilee. The remarkable thing is that the Sea today looks very similar to the way it did two thousand years ago. 

Here’s a snip of a map that I drew for my novel Son of Mary, showing the area around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his time. (In the book, I call it the Lake of Ginosar, which I think is more likely what the locals called it in the time of Jesus.)

Map of Sea of Galilee

A Few Facts About the Sea of Galilee

  • The Sea of Galilee is not really a sea. It’s a fair-sized lake, about 8 miles wide at its broadest point. 
  • It’s called the “Sea of Galilee” in Mark 1:16 and Mark 7:31, in Matthew 4:18 and Matthew 15:29, and in John 6:1.
  • But it’s also called the “Sea of Tiberias” in John 6:1, in honor of the emperor Tiberius. I don’t know why the sea’s name is spelled differently than the emperor’s, but it is.
  • It’s also called the “Lake of Genessaret” in Luke 5:1, presumably named after the village of Genessaret mentioned in Mark 6:53 and Matthew 14:34. There is a modern-day kibbutz on that site named Ginosar, which is the Hebrew spelling of the word transliterated Genesserat in the Bible. 

Places Mentioned in the Story of Jesus

If you look at the map, you’ll see that it’s thick with places named in the gospels:

  • Capernaum was the headquarters of Jesus. It appears that at least four of his disciples lived there (Peter, Andrew, James, and John), and probably a couple of others (Matthew and Thomas). Capernaum was one of the ten largest villages in Galilee, with a population estimated at a whopping level of about 1500 to 2000.
  • Bethsaida was just a few miles west of Capernaum. It appears that Peter and Andrew may have been born there, and two other disciples lived there (Philip and Nathanael). 
  • South of Bethsaida a few miles on the east side of the lake was the small gentile village of Kursi. This is the traditional site at which Jesus healed a demonized man and there was an unfortunate episode in which about two thousand pigs got drowned. (Mark 5:1-17).
  • South of Capernaum a few miles is the village of Ginosar, where Jesus and his disciples landed after the story of the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:53).
  • South of Ginosar a few more miles is the large and important town of Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. This town was even larger than Capernaum, and I’d estimate its population at up to 5000.
  • Looming above Magdala was the asymmetrical mountain, Mount Arbel. This mountain is not mentioned directly in the gospels, but it’s the key landmark of the entire region. We sometimes read in the gospels that Jesus went up on a mountain. Some of these occasions may be referring to Mount Arbel, because it’s an obvious place to go if you know this area well.
  • South of Magdala was the city of Tiberias, the capital of Galilee and therefore the site of a palace of Herod Antipas, who was the ruler over Galilee during the time of Jesus. When we read in Mark 3:6 that certain Pharisees got together with “the Herodians,” these Herodians were court followers of Herod Antipas, and they lived for a good part of the year in Tiberias. The city was the largest in Galilee, with a population of about 10,000.

Mount Arbel as a Landmark

There’s a lot more to say about the area around the Sea of Galilee, but I’ll save some for another blog post. I’ve spent a lot of time in the area, and my wife and I once worked for a week on the archaeological excavation at Magdala, in the shadow of Mount Arbel.

So I’ll just add this one point. Mount Arbel absolutely dominates the Sea of Galilee. From the top, you can see the entire lake, from north to south and all the way across to the eastern side. 

And no matter where you are on the shores around the lake, you can see Mount Arbel. When Peter and Andrew and James and John went fishing on the lake, they could never be lost. No matter where they were on the lake, all they had to do was find Mount Arbel and they instantly knew where they were.

Here’s a picture of me and my wife, taken a few years ago on a boat trip on the lake. The view is looking west. Mount Arbel is the lopsided peak directly behind my wife’s head.

You can be sure of one thing. When you’re looking at Mount Arbel, you’re seeing a sight that looks exactly the same as it did when Jesus sat in a boat on the lake and looked toward the mountain. 

With Jesus In Nazareth

With Jesus In Nazareth

I live in a small town. The population is about 20,000. I don’t feel terribly isolated, because we’re half an hour from a much larger town of about 200,000. And we’re right across the river from a good sized city of over 600,000.

It’s worth noting that my small town is about twice the size of the largest cities in Galilee at the time of Jesus. At the time he began preaching the news of the kingdom of God, the capital of Galilee was Tiberias, with a population of about 10,000. Tiberias was a day’s walk from Nazareth, so Jesus probably didn’t get there very often.

The other large city in Galilee was Tsipori, which also had a population of about 10,000. This city had been the capital of Galilee when Jesus was a boy, but the ruler of Galilee (Herod Antipas) moved his capital to Tiberias at some point when Jesus was in his twenties. 

Tsipori was only about an hour’s walk away from Nazareth, so it would have been easy for Jesus to visit. It’s a good bet that he went there often, because Nazareth was quite small. Archaeologists have estimated the size in acres of the village of Nazareth to be 5 to 10 acres, with a population absolutely no more than 400, and probably a lot less.

What Nazareth Was Like

My best guess is that Nazareth had a population of around 200 people. That may seem tiny, but in the time of Jesus, it was a respectable size. In my blog post Around Galilee With Jesus, I estimated the sizes of the villages and towns in Galilee to range from around 10,000 down to about 100. A village of 200 souls would have been slightly above the 50th percentile, meaning 50% of villages were smaller. So Nazareth was a typical-sized village.

Jesus and his father and his four brothers probably all worked in the same trade, which was a problem. If there were 50 adult men in the village, then the six men in his family would have been 12% of the entire adult male population. 

It seems implausible that there would have been enough work in Nazareth for all of them. Their trade is named in Mark 6:3 using the Greek word “tekton.” This is usually mistranslated “carpenter,” but the Biblical scholars say that a tekton could be any worker in wood, metal, or stone. In essence, they were builders. A sleepy village like Nazareth would probably not have enough work for them all, but the large town of Tsipori had a lot going on. So that explains why I think Jesus and his family went there often.

Nazareth today is a densely packed town in Galilee with a population of more than 75,000. The first-century village was built alongside the broad avenue now called Paulus ha-Shishi (named after Pope Paul the 6th). The modern Basilica of the Annunciation sits at the southern end of the first-century village, and the modern Mary’s Well is located a few hundred yards north of the northern end of the first-century village.

Reconstructing Nazareth

Only a very few first-century houses have been excavated (near the southern end). So we don’t have a very good idea of how things were laid out. All we can say is that the village was shaped somewhat like a zucchini, with the fat end in the south and the thin end in the north. 

There’s a tourist site called Nazareth Village that I found helpful in visualizing the first-century village. It’s not perfect, but it was built in consultation with some real archaeologists. The guides dress up in first-century garb, and you can see a carpenter’s shop, a weaver’s shop, a synagogue, a threshing area, a pen with some livestock, all manned with humans dressed approximately like first-century villagers. You can also eat a first-century lunch. It’s definitely worth a visit, and the more you know about history and archaeology, the more you’ll appreciate the place. 

 When I was working on my most recent novel, Son of Mary, I created a map of first-century Nazareth based on everything I know—some books I’ve got, plus several visits I’ve made to Nazareth, which included two stops at Nazareth Village. 

Nazareth is built on a hill. If you walk a bit more than a mile south from the first-century village, you’ll come to a place now called Mount Precipice. This is a fairly steep slope going down into the Jezreel Valley. It’s the traditional site of the story told in Luke 4:16-30, in which Jesus is nearly thrown off the “precipice” by his own hometown. I’ve visited this site several times, and it seems to me a very plausible place to stage a traditional execution by stoning. (The traditional method is to push somebody into a pit or over a drop of about 10 feet. If that doesn’t break their neck, then you drop large rocks on them until they die. Everything needed for this kind of stoning was available right there at Mount Precipice.)

A Map of Nazareth

It’s not possible to make an accurate map of the first-century village of Nazareth, because we just don’t know enough. But it’s possible to imagine the village and create something that is at least consistent with the information we have. 

And that’s what I did for my book. Here is the map I ended up drawing, based on the 10% we actually know and using my imagination for the 90% that we don’t know.

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