Life of Jesus

Map of Galilee showing where Jesus walked
Map of Galilee showing where Jesus walked.  Sepphoris is one day travel by caravan out of Capernaum (Capharnaum) along the Magic Trail although it is not drawn quite right on this map. The route would have gone through the ravine into Magdala and north of the ridgeline through the valley.

Jesus Grew-Up in Nazareth

(July 9, 2022) The evidence that Jesus grew up in Nazareth comes from its multiple attestations in the gospels:

  1. Mark 1:9, 1:23-24 (copied by Luke 4:34), 10:46-47 (copied by Luke 18:37), 14:67, 16:6
  2. Matthew 2:23, 4:13, 21:10-11, 26:71
  3. Luke 4:16, 24: 19
  4. Acts (same author as Luke) 2:22, 24:5, 3:6 (copied in 4:10)
  5. John 1:45-46, 18:4-7, 19:19

During the time of Jesus the village of Nazareth had a population of between two to four hundred people. They lived in houses on a sloping south facing hillside beside a small steam coming from a small seasonal spring now known as the “well of Mary.” This hillside was planted with grapes for the making of wine. The more watered ravines held olive trees and the good alluvial soil at the valley bottom grew wheat, barley, and millet.​

These families would have arrived shortly after 150 BCE. Prior to that time Galilee was mostly uninhabited due to various wars between the Hellenistic Seleucid empire to the north and the Ptolemaic empire to the south. The decline of these empires allowed the emergence of an independent Jewish state ruled by the Hasmonean dynasty which promoted settlement. The coins and pottery styles found in Galilee are the same as those found in Hasmonean Judah (Judea in Roman times). Yet the pottery is quite poor and almost never decorated. Both regions had stepped, plastered pools for ritual bathing and no pig bones have ever been found indicating that both sets of people did not eat pork.

The burial practices of both Judea and Galilee consisted of collecting bones into stone ossuaries which were placed into tombs carved into the limestone rock under the hills. These tombs also had horizontal “beds” onto which a freshly dead body was placed until the flesh rotted off. The doors of these tombs consisted of rolled rocks.​

Their houses would have had stone walls plastered with straw filled mud. Most houses had cisterns carved into the limestone rock for storing water during the dry season. The roofs would have been thatched using wooden poles for support and having a top mud layer. Caves carved into the hillside were also used for habitation for either people or animals. One such cave is preserved today as the Grotto of Annunciation. (Crossan and Reed 2001)


Crossan, J.D. & Reed, J.L. (2001) Excavating Jesus – Beneath the Stones, Behind the Text . HarperSanFrancisco
Aerial view of Capernaum after excavations but before the many tourist buildings
Aerial view of Capernaum after excavations but before the many tourist buildings. The bottom right shows the remains of an early Octagonal church likely built over the house of the Apostle Peter and his extended family. Up and to the left is the synagogue (300-399 CE) having the earliest Nature Spirituality symbols such as the Pentacle. Picture from Loffreda, Stanislao (1985) Recovering Capharnaum. Edizioni Custodia Terra Santa, Gerusalemme (Jerusalem)

Jesus Lived in Capernaum (Capharnaum) On the Magic Trail as a Young Man

(July 9, 2022) Once again the information that Jesus grew up in Capernaum is found in many places in the gospels:

  1. Mark 1:21, 2:1, 9:33
  2.  Q: (Matthew 8:5 & Luke 7: 1-2), (Matthew 11:20-23 & Luke 10:15)
  3.  Matthew 4:13-16, 17:24
  4.  Luke 4:23
  5.  John 5:16-24, 6:57-59

Capernaum had become a customs stop on the trade route between Egypt and northern Mesopotamia for the kingdom of Herod Antipas (one of Herod's sons). As a border control point, Antipas collected taxes there and likely stationed soldiers there although the oral tradition of Matthew remembered them as Roman soldiers (Matthew 8:5-13). 

Capernaum was located on a small strip of land beside the Sea of Galilee which, despite its name, was the fresh water lake which fed the Jordan River. It had a population of nearly 1000 people. The name is the Greek version of the Semitic name “Kefar Nahum” meaning “village of Nahum” where “Nahum” is a personal name and presumably the of name of its founder who established the town in the 400’s BCE during the long period of peace with the Persian Empire after the return of the Babylonian exiles.​

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Capernaum’s main economic activities were fishing, olive cultivation, and custom tax collections for Herod Antipas. The Gospels record that most of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen (Mark 1:16-20) and a few, such as Levi, were tax collectors (Mark 2:14-15).

The first disciples of Jesus came from Capernaum: Simon (also called Peter), his brother Andrew, and the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee (Mark 1:16-19). The Gospel of Mark then records that they went to Capernaum: (Mark 1:21, NIV) They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.

Jesus likely moved to the Galilee region when Tiberius started to be built. Tiberius was to become the local government center for the ruler Herod Antipas. Its construction and settlement started in 14 CE. Jesus would have been a young man of 18 at that time and that project would have needed builders. This may account for the distant memory recorded only in Mark 6:3 that Jesus was a woodworker. Many Galileans were forced to settle there by Herod Antipas as mentioned by Josephus:

(Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, paragraph 3) And now Herod the tetrarch (Antipas), who was in great favor with Tiberius (Roman Emperor 37-14 BCE), built a city of the same name with him, and called it Tiberius. He built it in the best part of Galilee, at the lake of Gennesareth. There are warm baths at a little distance from it, in a village named Emmaus. Strangers came and inhabited this city; a great number of the inhabitants were Galileans also; and many were necessitated by Herod to come thither out of the country belonging to him, and were by force compelled to be its inhabitants; some of them were persons of condition. He also admitted poor people, such as those that were collected from all parts, to dwell in it. Nay, some of them were not quite free-men, and these he was benefactor to, and made them free in great numbers; but obliged them not to forsake the city, by building them very good houses at his own expenses, and by giving them land also;
Artist reconstruction of Apostle Peter’s house
Artist reconstruction of Apostle Peter’s house (Loffreda 1985). The house was only 30 meters from the synagogue and it had a narrow “L” shaped courtyard. The courtyard was narrow in order to keep most of the area in shade during the day which during the summer months which had temperatures rising to 35 degrees C (95 degrees F). The future sacred room (shown without a roof) was large being nearly 6 meters (20 feet) square and having having a beaten earthen floor. A whole family would have lived here while working out in the courtyard with relatives.
Artist reconstruction of Apostle Peter’s house
At the top is a drawing of the second phase of the house in which the sacred room gained a waiting alcove and a path around the plastered floor corner (bottom picture)

The Sacred Room Where Jesus Likely Slept the Apostle Peter's Family's House in Capernaum

(July 9, 2022) One corner in a large room in a three room family complex in Capernaum was picked out as something special by the early Christian community. This special attention suggests that the house complex belonged to the apostle Peter's extended family. The sacred corner may have been Peter's sleeping area but it more likely is the sleeping place of Jesus.

 The room was preserved without change for 200 years except for occasional wall re-plasterings to cover up graffitti. The lower walls (all that remained) of this original house contained more than 150 graffiti inscriptions (now mostly unreadable) in various scripts: Latin, Greek, Syrian, and Aramaic. These graffiti inscriptions start to be seen between 100 and 200 CE. This graffiti shows that it had become a pilgrimage spot.

 In the northeast corner of the sacred room was found a 4 by 10 feet rectangular area of plastered floor (figure 6). It had been re-plastered six times. No debris of occupation was found in the adjacent dirt floor dating to this plastering time. This indicates that this room was no longer being used as a living space. All that was found were some broken pieces of pottery lamps (mostly by the walls) which dated to the latter half of the first century. Also found were some painted chips of wall plaster which had fallen off the walls. No other floor in Capernaum had this treatment.

In the late 300’s CE after Christianity became officially recognized, the sacred room experienced heavier pilgrim traffic. At this time an outer wall was placed around the whole house which destroyed the neighboring houses. The plastered corner floor area of the sacred room now became a sacred space which could be viewed by line of pilgrims coming in one side of the room and exiting the other (figure 7). An archway separating the western sacred side of the room from the eastern side was also put in.

 In the 400’s an octagonal church was built and centered over the sacred room.

Both the church and synagogue were destroyed prior to the Islamic conquest in 638 CE, possibly during the chaos which resulted from the Persian invasion of the area in 614. After the Islamic conquest, the village shifted east where a church dedicated to St. John was built. The town was essentially destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and it never recovered.​

 Despite this destruction, the memory that Peter’s house was converted into a house survived and is found in the writing of Peter the Deacon (1137 CE) who wrote:

The house of the prince of the apostles in Capernaum was changed into a church; the walls however are still standing as they were (as quoted in Loffreda 1985).


Loffreda, Stanislao (1985) Recovering Capharnaum. Edizioni Custodia Terra Santa, Gerusalemme (Jerusalem)
Wall plaster fragments from the sacred room having paintings of the Crown Anemone Poppy. These flowers are found along the Mediterranean coastline. Its red color would have represented blood and so corresponded to the spiritual power of life. This is why red poppies are still used to remember fallen war veterans. The early Christians also adopted it to represent the blood of Christ before that role was taken over by the bigger red Lilly in Europe.
Jesus Heals the Blind Man by Duccio di Buoninsegna
Jesus Heals the Blind Man by Duccio di Buoninsegna. This image was painted around 1300 CE. This healing was suppressed in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke despite appearing in Mark (and John) because it shows active magic in use instead of the acceptable passive magic of just laying on his hands.

Jesus was a Magical Healer

(July 9, 2022) The Gospel of Mark records twelve healing stories and the Q source has four more. None of these have enough attestation by themselves to go back to the time of Jesus. That Jesus was a healer is shown by some of his authentic teachings including those explaining why he could not heal in his hometown and his teaching about using spiritual power.

Two of Marks’ healing stories were completely ignored by both Matthew and Luke but were preserved by John suggesting they are authentic even if they are not counted as such by the mathematics.  These are: 

(Mark 8:22-25) Jesus heals the blind man at Bethsaida by spitting into his eyes.
(Mark 6:5) Jesus could not heal in Nazareth because of their disbelief.

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John's version of the eye spitting is:

(John 9:1-6) As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”… 6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Mark and John are widely divergent sources with little else in common. The only other event which they have in common is the “feeding the multitude” story which has enough attestation to be considered as a real event. This suggests that this eye healing event was suppressed because it was too magical for the developing apocalyptic theology.  

 Josephus also knew of Jesus' reputation as a healer:​

(Josephus, Antiquities, Book 18, chapter 3, paragraph 3 with possible Christian additions eliminated) Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, for he was a doer of wonderful works. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

That fact that Jesus healed at all is quite amazing for it was considered to be sinful. People were supposed to accept such illnesses as punishment for their sins. The Hebrew scriptures contain many prohibitions about magic use because of this. Trying to use the spiritual powers directly meant usurping the powers meant only for their lord God.

 Despite this anti-magic bias of dogmatic Judaism, some magic-like powers were expected to appear near the end-times as the spirit of God started to became manifest. This novel idea seems to have originated during the Jewish culture’s encounter with the wider Hellenistic world after Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire.

One of the first spiritual powers to appear were dream interpretation and prophecy as  described in the Hebrew Scripture book of Joel:

(Joel 2: 28-32, NIV) “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance.​

Jesus seems to have taken this spirit manifestation idea to its logical conclusion. If the spirit of God was on earth then humans had access to all sorts of divine powers if only they could became spiritually aware and confident. Jesus and his followers would have become convinced of this by their successes in healing (even if they are only considered to be  placebo effect healing magic). They did not pray to God and then passively wait for God to produce the results. They commanded the divine powers directly and with authority.

This magical use by Jesus was condemned by his opponents who accused him of taking these divine powers onto himself, something which the later Christians wholeheartedly accepted when they declared Jesus to be divine. Because illness was considered to be God's punishment for some past sin or even the sins of that person’s ancestors (see the book of Job) only God had the right to heal. This is shown by the following passages:

(Psalms 103:2-4, NIV) Praise the Lord (Yahweh in Hebrew), my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
(Mark 2:5-7) 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus Feeds the Multitude
Jesus Feeds the Multitude. This is the only "miracle" of Jesus which is attested often enough to say it goes back to his time.

Jesus Feeds the Multitude

(July 9, 2022) This is the only miracle which has enough validity to  go back to the time of Jesus yet it happened without any supernatural elements. It was a true miracle of love about strangers sharing their food. 

  1. Mark 6:34-44 (copied in Matthew 14:15-21 and Luke 9:12-17)
  2. Mark 8:1-9 (copied in Matthew 15:32-39)
  3. John 6:5-13)

Validity = Mark (0.39) + Mark (0.39) + John (0.23) = 1.01

Below is a reconstruction of the event based upon the source's common elements:​

(Reconstructed) “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish. “Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”  Jesus then took the loaves and gave thanks. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied. When they all had enough to eat he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

This event shows that Jesus was teaching to large groups around the Sea of Galilee and that his message inspired them to share what food they had.​