Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jesus and Geography

Robert Pattinson

The Pentagon




Oval office

Capitol Hill

What do all these have in common?

They give is a concrete picture, an image we can see in our mind.

Names like praetorium Golgotha and Antipas were loaded with meaning in Jesus time.

Who was the king who committed to try to kill baby Jesus?

Herod the Great

Herod Antipas was his son. He came to power when Herod died.

That's when the Angel told Joseph that it was safe to return to Jerusalem with Jesus.

They settled in the town of Nazareth in Galilee.

That is about the time Herod Antipas began his rebuilding and expansion project for the city of Sepphoris...

Sepphoris has been revealed as a cosmopolitan city of great wealth and beauty, the largest and most important city in all Galilee (according to roman historians). Even after Herod built Tiberias and moved his capital and residence there, Sepphoris continued to be a prominent and influential city.

Sepphoris was "perched like a bird" on a four hundred-foot hill. The city commanded a panoramic view of Lower Galilee, including the towns of Cana, and Nazareth, four miles to the south. The Jewish historian Josephus called it "the ornament of Galilee."

Sepphoris boasted a 4,000-seat amphitheater, built into the eastern side of the hill. Its stage was 156 feet wide and 27 feet from front to back. Herod’s rebuilt city included his palace, an upper city and a lower city, a new city walls, an extra large market place, a colonnaded street, and a residential area. Several large cisterns (like water towers of today), one holding a thousand gallons, supplied running water for the city. It was a fancy sophisticated and rich place.

During Jesus’ early years, Herod Antipas was restoring, developing and fortifying Sepphoris. It served as his principle residence and the administrative center of Galilee, until he built Tiberias in A.D. 18-20.

Why are we talking about Sepphoris?

Well it was less than 4 miles from a tiny village named Nazareth.

Jesus father, Joseph, was identified by the word tekton.

This word was used to identify, a carpenter, a builder, or any craftsman.

This would mean that they were construction craftsmen, skilled in wood and or stone work. Since it was the practice of a father to teach his son his trade or skill, and since we don't see Jesus studying under a rabbi (remember he got his authority at his baptism) Joseph probably trained Jesus for this vocation.

Nazareth was a very small village, presumably lacking in the kind of construction projects that would provide sufficient work for skilled builders. With extensive building in progress less than an hour’s walk away, it is likely that Joseph and Jesus would have been employed in Sepphoris.

There is evidence to lend credibility to this theory because Jesus was well acquainted with much of the predominantly Greek and Roman culture.

When He used the word "hypocrite" for instance:

The word Hypocrite means actor or pretender, literally "one acting under a mask," . It is a Greek word, not Jesus native Aramaic, and would be primarily used to speak about the actors in a Greek style theatre. Such as the one built at Sepphoris around when Jesus would have been a teenager.

So Herod the king who's father had committed genocide, and who maintained his power with the roman military muscle ran the kingdom from his fancy city on a hill.

Imagine what it would feel like to look up at the spectacle from the poor little village of Nazareth below it. Only a few hundred people lived in Nazareth, it had no civic structures... People still went to a well for water...

Herod then built another huge town called Tiberius (named after Ceaser and built on a grave yard).

So what does all this mean...

Jesus is recorded as going to Nazerath,Cana, Capernum (a small village next to Tiberius) and all kinds of other places around this great wealth and power. But he never goes to these places during his ministry. He never goes to the capital to lobby or seek an audience with the powerful folks there who were running the day to day political operations of that whole region.

In fact the text is very careful about where he goes and what roads or paths he takes to get there. He always avoids the places of imperial power. Although he does go to the places of religious power (as we have seen at the temple and we will see with pagan temple at cessarea philipi)

By the lake in the area of Zebulun and Nephtali these were land allocations given by God to the former Egyptian slaves (not the fancy Greek names provided by the empire). By using these names the text is underlining the fact that the land is Gods not the empires.

Jesus reminded people why they had come to the desert in the first place. They could gone to Sepphoris the theater... and watched a great play about a girl who meets a boy who happens to be a vampire and who's vampire family takes her in and defends her against other vampires, culminating in a fiery battle inside a dance studio... until she wakes up in the hospital with a broken leg...

Sorry that was totally uncalled for ;-)


They could have gone to tiberous to lobby the rich rulers and advisers to the king to "take their countyr back to its religous roots...

But they came to the desert to seek a new way to live, to seek a truth that was/is deeper than the plastic and fake ways of the world. They came out because they has a sense that a new world was possible and they needed to see/hear that a new world that was emerging.

Luk 7:24
After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
Luk 7:25
If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces.
Luk 7:26
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

This takes place at Capernum just a stones throw away from Tiberius (Herod's new shinier imperial city) where John sets on death row waiting to be beheaded...

Why didn't Jesus rush to save John?

More on that next time...