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 he 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 his 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.' " (Mark 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 his 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 his flesh and blood brothers and listed each of them in their plaintive protest against his 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 Capernaum, 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 Joses, 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. His 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 hangup 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 (Matthew 8:14, Luke 4:38, 1Corinthians 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 live 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 him 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.
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 non-biblical 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 honorable in all, and the bed undefiled .. ." (Hebrews 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 he was born is plainly indicative of the fact that Joseph did "know her" in full sexual intercourse after he 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 (Leviticus 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 he, 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 his hands, being the eldest son, together with the other brothers. He 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, his 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 super-religious 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 his 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.
Jesus in Palestine
False concepts of a false Jesus would be at least partially removed by understanding more of the environment that was Palestine during his day. Few understand the true picture of him as framed in the social customs, the type of architecture, the flow of commerce and business, and the whole panorama of Jewish life during that Herodian period.
It is incredible that so many books of theological research, Bible dictionaries, histories of the Holy Land, and other works on the life and time of Jesus use the illustrations of a Palestine of the turn of the century - the old woodcuts, travelogue photos, and oft-reprinted scenes of the bleak ruins of ancient cities, Bedouin tents, camel caravans, filthy streets and rocky, barren hillsides - which tend to leave the impression that this is the Palestine of the time of Christ.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The land that is now drastically depleted, mostly deforested, heavily eroded and reduced to dust, was, almost nineteen hundred years ago, a verdant, beautiful, rich part of the world, virtually unrivaled in industry, wealth and strength.
If you could have walked the streets of the cities of Capernaum, Nazareth, through any of the confederation of the "Decapolis" - the ten towns in the Galilean region - you would have been startled by the quality and wealth. And Jerusalem itself? You would have been even more amazed than were Jesus' own disciples over the beauty, magnificence and size of Jerusalem, especially of those buildings associated with the temple.
In ancient times, God had promised the Israelites a land "flowing with milk and honey." One remembers the account of the spies sent to search out the land who came back with tales not only of giant men., but of fruits and produce so abundant and so large that they are virtually unknown among modern agricultural products today.
The implication of the account of one cluster of grapes being carried on a pole by two men is clear; each grape must have been about the size of a plum or a lemon!
"And they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they brought also some pomegranates and figs.
"And they came to Moses ... and they told him, 'We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit'" (Numbers 13:23-27, RSV).
The early Israelites weren't only impressed by the gigantic size of the fruits and produce of the land - they were frightened to death at the size of the people living, there! They said, ". . . all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers . . " (Numbers 13:32-33). It is logical to have expected that the largest, and therefore strongest peoples would populate the richest areas.
The land of Israel combines every variety of climate, from the perennial snows on beautiful Mount Hermon and the cooler higher elevations of Lebanon, to the more pleasant warmth of the valleys of Galilee, and the tropical and humid climate of the Jordan River facing the Mediterranean Sea. According to the most ancient records, every fish imaginable teemed the waters of that country (fishing was a major industry as evidenced by some of Jesus' own disciples' occupations) and birds and wild fowl were abundant.
In your mind's eye, you need to imagine a country more like some of the western mountain states of the United States - perhaps portions of northern or central California, but in a much smaller area, encompassing a deep depression (such as Death Valley) wherein lies the Salt Sea and the terminus of the Jordan River, together with lofty snow-clad mountains, higher elevations festooned with conifers of every sort, especially the world-famed "Cedars of Lebanon," seemingly endless corn and pasture lands, terraced hills covered with olives and vines, glades and pleasant valleys bubbling with springs and streams. Naturally, by the time of Christ, a great deal of the land had been abused and no small amount of depletion of natural resources and subsequent erosion and loss of arable soil had already occurred. Still, it was immensely richer than it is today.
Therefore, although many glowing accounts of the beauty of that land exist in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and some of the major prophets, descriptions of pastures which seemed to be "clothed with flocks" and of "the land of milk and honey" may not have been quite so accurate by Jesus' day. Nevertheless, abundant literature exists, and archaeological finds substantiate, that the Palestine of his day was luxuriously wealthy in natural resources; dotted with towns and cities that were resplendent examples of the finest engineering and architectural principles of that day and represented one of the most important possessions of the Roman Empire. Palestine was prized for its exports of fruit, grains, olives, wine, oils, spices, and the by no means meager returns to Roman treasuries from the heavy system of taxation imposed upon the people.
Herod was a great builder. Not only was the temple during Jesus' day an absolute marvel of glittering stone and beautiful architecture, but there were so many fortresses, palaces, temples, amphitheaters and public monuments that it was said even in faraway Rome that some structures of the area of Palestine were among the very finest in the empire, looked upon as a jewel in the crown of Caesar himself.
Try to imagine the city of Capernaum, which in fact was a most important city, and frequently mentioned by the writers of the Bible in connection with the life and ministry of Jesus.
Millions of Bible illiterates think of Christ's ministry as having taken place in the streets of Jerusalem. Many suppose His "Sermon on the Mount" was probably delivered on the "Mount of Olives" adjacent to Jerusalem - few seem to understand most of this Ministry was conducted in northern Israel, around Capernaum and the dozens of towns in Galilee.
Galilee was a motley collection of many races and religions, distinctly tainted with foreign and distasteful elements, in the opinion of the religious bigots of Jerusalem.
Galileans were generally regarded as a crude, half-breed lot, looked upon with Varying degrees of pity and contempt. The present-day attitudes of some New Englanders toward those from Dixie with a "Southern drawl" might be an appropriate analogy. That's why the intellectual and spiritual leaders of Jerusalem called Christ and His disciples a crude and "unlearned" lot, without academic or spiritual credentials.
Even though Jesus grew up in Nazareth after His family returned from their exile in Egypt, Joseph's business took him and his sons into the other cities and towns in the Galilean area. Remember that a young Jewish boy was expected to join the adult community at about age 12; that it was a sober time of Roman occupation, heavy taxation and poverty, ferment and potential for rebellion (there had been a spate of abortive attempts at Maccabean revivals), and the fear of the life-and-death power of the religious leaders, as well as the oppressive rule of the previous Herod.
It was hardly a cheerful time for carefree young children to grow up with time on their hands for endless play and daydreams. Jesus had been taught His father's trade from His earliest youth, and no doubt labored, first at His father's side (Joseph), and, following Joseph's death, as the head of the family and its business.
His building trade was well known throughout the area; and, just as it is quite common for a contractor or a carpenter to live in a home built with his own hands, by his own design, or by his own firm, so Jesus and His brothers, Joses, Simon, Jude and James, together with their helpers, must have constructed a large home for their family in Capernaum. That home in Capernaum and the city itself are prominent in his early ministry. When He would return to Capernaum He was said to have been "at home" (Mark 2:1, RSV). His disciple Matthew (also called Levi), writer of the first of the gospels, was a resident of that city as well (Matthew 9:9).
According to archaeological discoveries, the city of Capernaum, like many other port cities, seemed to be divided into two distinct sections. The one part was almost wholly devoted to the fishery industry, the other to the business and residential sections of what was one of the finest cities of that part of the world.
Peter and Andrew both lived in nearby Bethsaida, along the shore of the lake a few miles further south (Mark 1:29), and Peter owned a home there (Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38).
Try to imagine that you are standing in one of the main streets in Capernaum. You would no doubt see houses of all types, differing in size and scope depending entirely upon the substance and wealth of the owners; the houses would range from small cottages only 30 or 40 feet square, on up to large homes of the fairly wealthy of two or even three stories or more. While not common, it would, not have been rare to see any number of homes of two stories or more which would have featured rich architectural embellishments of pillars and decorative friezes, built in the style of the Roman villas of the same period.
On entering such a home, you would have noticed the beautiful stone work, or marble or more expensive stone, the walls painted with delicate colors such as vermilion (or white-washed), and a large interior courtyard, where you would have seen a pool and possibly a fountain. Opening to either side would be living quarters, and to the rear and upstairs would be large public rooms for dining and family meetings. A wide stairway of beautiful quarried stone would lead directly from the street up the side of the home to the rooftop. Building codes of the time required that the large rooftops be provided with decorative handrails to protect people from falling. The roof would probably have been paved with brick or stone, or possibly one of the cements used at the time. The roofs always sloped slightly toward the front, so that the cisterns (sometimes contained even within the homes themselves) were filled with rainwater by ducts which caught the rains of the wet season.
It would be quite common to see families of the cities of Palestine - including Jerusalem and those of the Galilean area - gather in the cool of an evening on their roof-tops for discussion or to call to the neighbors across the way. Actually, the way the homes were built it was possible to go from roof to roof. Rabbinic literature spoke of the "road of the roofs." Read Jesus' statement in Matthew 24 of one who might be caught on the housetop during the time of severe national crisis. He told them not to come down to take anything which might be in their house, indicating that they could use the "road of the, roofs," passing from roof to roof until, perhaps at the final home in the block, they might make good their escape by descending to the ground.
Once, Jesus was gathered together with His disciples and a large crowd of people inside His own home in the city of Capernaum. A group of people, desperate to have their sick friend healed, took up the stones of the roof and let the sick man down into the large upper room where Jesus was.
"And again he entered again into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they came unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: And when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:1-5).
This reveals that Jesus was in a home which was obviously His own. It was noised abroad that He was "in the house" which is rendered by other translations "at home" This also illustrates the fact that those who were so anxious to have their friend healed were easily able to climb to the rooftop via the outer stairway. He was in His own home, either in a large upper room capable of accommodating more than one hundred persons, or, possibly, in a large central courtyard that was a feature of Jewish homes of that size and scale. Servants' quarters and the vestibule for guests were located near the front, sleeping quarters around both sides, and larger upper rooms toward the rear with a large family kitchen. It was not unusual for such homes to have interior fountains with plantings, and many of them would have been open to the outside air, not unlike those Spanish villas designed at a much later time.
Jesus' ministry centered around the area of Capernaum, and later, the city where He grew up and was so well known, Nazareth. The synagogue into which He entered and healed the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Mark's third chapter) was no doubt the synagogue of the city of Capernaum. He was teaching "by the seaside" (Mark 4:1) of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum occupied its northwestern shore. When the fifth chapter speaks of him going "to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes," it refers to the Golan Heights of today.