Nazareth – Nazareth Village

1/21 – This morning we walked over to Nazareth Village, a restoration of first century Nazareth, to see the town where Jesus grew up.

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Our guide was raised in Nazareth, then educated in Arizona to become a minister. He took us through daily life in the time of Jesus, providing context to scripture. The village is populated by people dressed in period robes, demonstrating daily life. We learned that the roads of the old city of Nazareth were donkey paths, and were not paved until the Pope visited in 2000.

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We met a shepherd abiding with his flock. Goats are independent, but sheep follow mindlessly. Goats lead the sheep astray. Our guide talked about how the nature of sheep and goats would not have to be explained to Jesus’ parable audience.

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We saw a really old olive tree – some live for more than 1000 years. Our guide asked where in the Bible was it foretold that the Messiah would come from Nazareth. The answer is that it doesn’t – Isaiah says that the Messiah will come from the root of Jesse. Nazar translates as “branch”, which fulfills the prophesy, kind of.

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We saw a vineyard and the area where wine was pressed. This was a community activity, where families worked together. The grapes are pressed using bare feet, so that the seeds don’t crack, which would make the wine bitter. We learned the process for pressing olives, which uses heavy weights to crush the entire fruit. The first pressing is for virgin olive oil, the second pressing is for cloudy oil that can be used for lotions and creams, and the third pressing provides oil for lamps. Then the pits are used as fuel to keep the fire going throughout the night.

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We watched a woman crushing herbs, and a builder making tools. Joseph was a builder (tekton), and would have worked with both wood and stone.

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We watched women making yarn, and learned that wool was dyed with herbs or vegetables, and the colors set with vinegar. Purple dye came from imported snails ( very expensive), which is why purple was associated with royalty.

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A typical house, with a ladder up to the roof, where it was cooler to sleep on warm nights. All the family slept in the one room, and rolled up their mats during the day to provide work space.

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We saw a cross typical of crucifixion, with a footrest and a seat to rest on that would prolong suffering. A man in our group was concerned that the workmanship of the cross seemed crude. Our guide explained that, with thousands of crucifixions to perform, the Romans weren’t particularly interested in workmanship. Crosses were repaired and reused between executions.

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Jim asked if the Mount of the Precipice, on the other side of town, was really the place where the townspeople tried to throw Jesus off the cliff (it is a very gently sloping hill). Our guide said that hill was too far from town for a Jew to travel on the Sabbath, but was a good tourist attraction. All Holy Land locations should be considered approximate.

Nazareth Village was built using only materials available in the first century. Our visit provided a great context for the rest of our day.

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