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The Nativity of Jesus, the birth of the son of God, is a central event in Christian tradition, celebrated around the world each year on Christmas Day. According to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small town in Judea, during the reign of Herod the Great. While the account of the Nativity is familiar to many, the archaeological record offers a unique perspective on this pivotal event in Christian history. This chapter will explore the archaeological evidence related to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
The town of Bethlehem is located about five miles south of Jerusalem in the Judean hills. Archaeological evidence suggests that the site has been continuously inhabited for over 3,000 years. Bethlehem was an important town in the time of King David, and the book of Ruth in the Old Testament describes Bethlehem as the birthplace of David’s great-grandfather, Boaz. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread,” and the town was known for its wheat fields and bread production.
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke both describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the birth of Jesus occurred during the reign of Herod the Great, who was king of Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC. Matthew writes that when Herod learned of the birth of a new king, he ordered the massacre of all male infants in Bethlehem under the age of two in an attempt to eliminate the perceived threat to his own rule. The Gospel of Luke describes how Mary and Joseph traveled from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted in a census ordered by the Roman emperor Augustus. Luke writes that because there was no room at the inn, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable and laid him in a manger.
Archaeological evidence from Bethlehem provides insight into the physical and cultural context of the Nativity. One of the most important archaeological sites in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity, which was built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birthplace in the fourth century CE by the Roman emperor Constantine. The church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, but the current structure largely dates to the sixth century CE.
Inside the Church of the Nativity, visitors can see the Grotto of the Nativity, a small cave that is traditionally believed to be the spot where Jesus was born. The cave is reached by descending a flight of stairs from the nave of the church. The floor of the cave is made of rock and is worn smooth by centuries of pilgrims. An altar marks the spot where tradition holds that Jesus was born. The cave is also home to a silver star, which marks the spot where tradition holds that Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Another important archaeological site in Bethlehem is the Milk Grotto, a small cave located near the Church of the Nativity. According to tradition, the Milk Grotto is where Mary nursed Jesus before the family’s flight to Egypt. The Milk Grotto is an important site of pilgrimage for Christians, and many visitors believe that the powder from the walls of the cave has healing properties for nursing mothers.
Excavations in Bethlehem have also revealed evidence of the town’s ancient past. For example, a large reservoir was discovered in the 1990s that dates to the time of King Herod. The reservoir was carved out of the bedrock and was used to collect rainwater for the town’s inhabitants. The reservoir is an important reminder of the town’s reliance on water sources in antiquity and provides insight into the daily life of Bethlehem’s residents during the time of Jesus.
Outside of Bethlehem, in the nearby town of Beit Sahour, there is an important archaeological site known as the Shepherds’ Field. According to tradition, this is the spot where an angel appeared to a group of shepherds, announcing the birth of Jesus. Excavations at the site have revealed evidence of a large Byzantine-era church and monastery, as well as several tombs from the Roman and Byzantine periods. The church was built in the 4th century and later expanded in the 5th century, suggesting that it was an important pilgrimage site for early Christians.
In addition to the Shepherds’ Field, there are other sites in Bethlehem that are associated with the Nativity account. One of the most important is the Church of the Nativity, which is believed to be built on the site where Jesus was born. The church was first built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine, and it has been continuously in use ever since. Excavations beneath the church have revealed a complex of caves and tunnels that may have been used as a stable for animals.
Another site in Bethlehem that is associated with the Nativity is the Milk Grotto, a small chapel located near the Church of the Nativity. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary nursed the baby Jesus here, and the walls of the chapel are said to be stained with her milk. The chapel is built into a natural cave, and excavations have revealed evidence of several layers of occupation dating back to the 1st century BCE.
In conclusion, while the archaeological evidence for the Nativity account is limited, excavations in Bethlehem and the surrounding area have shed light on the cultural and religious context in which the account took place. The sites associated with the Nativity, such as the Church of the Nativity, the Shepherds’ Field, and the Milk Grotto, have all played an important role in the history of Christianity and continue to attract pilgrims from around the world.
The Biblical Accounts of the Nativity
The Nativity, or the birth of Jesus Christ, is a pivotal event in Christian theology and tradition. The account of the Nativity is recounted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, which provide different perspectives on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. In this chapter, we will examine the Biblical accounts of the Nativity, their historical context, and their significance in Christian tradition.
The Gospel of Matthew opens with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing his ancestry back to Abraham and David. The birth of Jesus is then narrated in the following passage:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:18-23)
According to Matthew’s Gospel, Mary was a virgin who conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary, initially planned to divorce her quietly after discovering her pregnancy. However, an angel appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to take Mary as his wife and name the child Jesus.
The Gospel of Luke presents a different account of the Nativity. It begins with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth. The narrative then shifts to the announcement of the birth of Jesus to Mary by the angel Gabriel:
“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.'” (Luke 1:30-35)
In Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to announce that she will conceive a child through the Holy Spirit. Mary is initially confused and asks how this could be possible, given that she is a virgin. Gabriel assures her that the child will be the Son of God.
Both accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small town in Judea, during the reign of Herod the Great, who was the king of Judea appointed by the Roman Empire. Matthew’s Gospel relates that the magi, or wise men, came from the east to worship the newborn king of the Jews:
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw him at his rising and have come to do him homage.’”
After Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, as were all of Jerusalem. He called together the chief priests and scribes of the people, asking them where the Christ was to be born. They replied that according to the prophet Micah, the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. Herod then secretly summoned the wise men, inquiring of them when the star had appeared. He instructed them to go to Bethlehem and search for the child, and to return and tell him where the child was so that he too could go and pay him homage.
The wise men set out and the star that they had seen at its rising led them to the place where the child was. They were overjoyed and upon entering the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. They knelt down and paid him homage, offering him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Afterward, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and so they departed for their own country by another way. When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the wise men, he became furious and ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, based on the time frame that he had learned from the wise men.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and the child, to escape Herod’s wrath. Joseph obeyed and they remained in Egypt until Herod’s death. Once Herod had died, the angel appeared to Joseph again, instructing him to return to Israel with Mary and Jesus. Joseph settled in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, fulfilling the prophecy that the Christ would be called a Nazarene.
The account of the Nativity has been retold in countless ways throughout history, inspiring countless works of art, literature, and music. It remains a cornerstone of the Christian faith, a reminder of the hope and promise that the birth of Jesus brought to the world.
Archaeological Discoveries from Bethlehem
Archaeological discoveries in Bethlehem have shed light on the historical and cultural context of the biblical accounts of the nativity of Jesus. Located just south of Jerusalem in the Judean Hills, Bethlehem has a long and rich history dating back to the prehistoric period. In this article, we will explore some of the most significant archaeological discoveries from Bethlehem and how they relate to the nativity account.
The Church of the Nativity
One of the most significant archaeological sites in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity. This church, which was built in the 4th century CE, is considered one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. It was built over a cave that was believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, and the church continues to be a site of pilgrimage for Christians around the world.
The site of the church has been extensively excavated, and several discoveries have been made that shed light on the history of Bethlehem and the life of Jesus. For example, in 2013, archaeologists discovered a mosaic floor that dates back to the 4th century CE, which is believed to have been part of the original church. The mosaic depicts different animals, including a leopard, a lion, and a bull, and is considered one of the finest examples of early Christian art in the region.
Another important discovery from the Church of the Nativity is the so-called “Star of Bethlehem,” a silver star embedded in the floor of the church that marks the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born. The star, which is surrounded by a marble frame, is inscribed with the words, “Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born.” While the authenticity of the star has been questioned, it remains a powerful symbol of the nativity account.
The Shepherd’s Field
Outside of Bethlehem, in the nearby town of Beit Sahour, there is an important archaeological site known as the Shepherd’s Field. According to tradition, this is the spot where an angel appeared to a group of shepherds and announced the birth of Jesus. The site is now home to a Catholic church and monastery, as well as a Greek Orthodox church.
Archaeological excavations at the site have revealed several important discoveries that shed light on the life of shepherds in ancient Palestine. For example, a 2,000-year-old wine press was discovered at the site, which suggests that the shepherds may have also been involved in viticulture. In addition, a complex of caves and rock-cut tombs was discovered, which may have been used by shepherds as shelter and burial sites.
The Milk Grotto
Another important site in Bethlehem is the Milk Grotto, a small chapel located near the Church of the Nativity. According to tradition, Mary and Joseph sought refuge in the grotto during their flight to Egypt, and while they were there, a drop of milk from Mary’s breast fell onto the ground, turning the stones white.
The site has been venerated by Catholics for centuries, and many believe that the powdered stone from the grotto has healing properties. Archaeological excavations at the site have revealed a complex of caves and tunnels that date back to the Roman period. In addition, a small chapel was built at the site in the 5th century CE, which was later expanded and renovated during the Crusader period.
Relics are objects surviving from an earlier time, especially ones of historical or sentimental interest that are venerated (revered, adulated, idolized) or worshiped. Most Catholic relics are fakes and yet they venerated or worshiped in this twenty-first century? “The most precious treasures” of the Roman Catholic Church are its large collections of relics, which are highly esteemed and on which much veneration and honor are bestowed by the faithful. When it comes to the worship of images, it is indeed of interest to note that The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that “images can include not only pictures, icons, statues and symbols, . . . but also . . . symbolic acts of worship such as the Sign of the Cross.” We should not attach a worshipful religious sentiment to any of such things. The words of the apostle Paul apply: “do not touch what is unclean.” (2 Cor. 6:17) Thus, some archaeological sites are mentioned in this publication for their historical value only.
The Tomb of Rachel
Located on the outskirts of Bethlehem is the Tomb of Rachel, which is considered one of the holiest sites in Judaism. According to the biblical account, Rachel, the wife of Jacob, died during childbirth and was buried on the road to Bethlehem. The tomb has been venerated by Jews for centuries, and it continues to be a site of pilgrimage and prayer.
Archaeological excavations at the site have revealed a complex of underground caves and tunnels that were likely used for storage and as a water source. The most famous of these caves is the Milk Grotto, located just south of the Church of the Nativity. The Milk Grotto is a small chapel that is believed to be the spot where Mary nursed Jesus. According to tradition, a drop of milk from Mary’s breast fell on the ground and turned the stone white, which is why the chapel is called the Milk Grotto.
Another important archaeological site in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity itself. The church was originally built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine over the spot where Jesus was believed to have been born. Over the centuries, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and it now incorporates elements from the Byzantine, Crusader, and Ottoman periods.
One of the most important archaeological discoveries at the Church of the Nativity was made in 2013, when restoration work uncovered a mosaic floor that dates back to the 4th century. The mosaic is made up of colorful geometric shapes and contains inscriptions in Greek that refer to the church’s founders, including Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena.
In addition to the Milk Grotto and the Church of the Nativity, there are several other important archaeological sites in Bethlehem. Just outside the city, there is a hill known as Herodium, which was fortified by Herod the Great and served as his palace and tomb. The site has been extensively excavated, and the remains of the palace and tomb are still visible today.
Another important site is the Church of St. Catherine, located next to the Church of the Nativity. The church was built in the 19th century on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed during the Ottoman period. Excavations at the site have revealed a complex of underground tunnels and cisterns that were likely used by the early Christian community in Bethlehem.
Overall, the archaeological discoveries from Bethlehem provide valuable insights into the history and culture of the region, particularly during the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods. These discoveries help to illuminate the stories of the Bible and provide important context for understanding the birth of Jesus and the early Christian community in Bethlehem.
Insights into the Life and Times of Mary and Joseph
Mary was the mother of Jesus, and her father was named Heli. However, in Luke’s genealogy, Mary’s husband Joseph is listed as the “son of Heli”. According to M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia (1881), the Jews only counted males in their genealogies, so if a daughter passed on the blood of her grandfather to her son, her husband would be counted as the son of the maternal grandfather. This is likely why Luke records Joseph as the “son of Heli”. (Luke 3:23)
Mary belonged to the tribe of Judah and was a descendant of King David. This meant that her son Jesus also had a connection to David’s line through his fleshly ancestry. As Joseph was also a descendant of David, Jesus had a legal claim to David’s throne. Additionally, since Mary was also a descendant of David, Jesus held a natural right to the throne as well. This is supported by passages in the Bible that refer to Jesus as the “offspring,” “seed,” and “root” of David. —Mt 1:1-16; Lu 1:32; Ac 13:22, 23; 2Ti 2:8; Re 5:5; 22:16.
According to tradition, Mary’s mother was the wife of Heli, named Anna. Anna had a sister who was the mother of John the Baptist, making John the cousin of Jesus. Mary was also related to Elizabeth, who was from the tribe of Levi and a descendant of Aaron. It is believed by some that Mary’s sister was Salome, who was married to Zebedee and had two sons named James and John, who became apostles of Jesus.—Mt 27:55, 56; Mr 15:40; 16:1; Joh 19:25.
Visited by Angel
In the beginning of 2 B.C.E., a messenger named Gabriel from God appeared to Mary, a virgin living in Nazareth. Gabriel greeted Mary with unusual words, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” He informed Mary that she would become pregnant and give birth to a son named Jesus, despite being only engaged to Joseph at the time. Mary asked how this was possible, as she had not been intimate with any man. Gabriel replied that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, resulting in the birth of a holy child, God’s son. Mary, overjoyed but humble, responded by calling herself “the slave girl of the Lord,” and agreed to the plan according to Gabriel’s message. This is recorded in Luke 1:26-38.
To strengthen her faith for the experience that lay ahead, Mary was told that her relative Elizabeth, who was beyond the childbearing age, was already six months pregnant by the miraculous power of God. To confirm this, Mary paid Elizabeth a visit, and as soon as she entered the house, the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy. Elizabeth congratulated Mary and exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” In response, Mary was inspired to magnify God and express her gratitude for His goodness.—Lu 1:46-55.
Mary returned to Nazareth after spending about three months with Elizabeth in the Judean hills. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he planned to quietly divorce her to avoid public shame. Engaged couples were considered married, and divorce was necessary to end the engagement. However, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, revealing that the child in Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph followed the angel’s instructions, married Mary, but did not have sexual relations with her until after the birth of their son, Jesus. They named him Jesus as instructed by the angel.—Matthew 1:18-25.
Bears Jesus in Bethlehem
Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, as decreed by Caesar Augustus, to register in Joseph’s hometown. Mary was heavily pregnant at the time. When they arrived in Bethlehem, they could not find a place to stay, and so the baby Jesus was born in a manger, under humble conditions. This happened around October 2 B.C.E. The prophecy about Jesus’ birthplace had to be fulfilled, as stated in Micah 5:2.
Upon receiving the news from the angel that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city, shepherds hurried to Bethlehem where they found the newborn Jesus wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. They shared with the family the message from the angelic chorus, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Mary carefully kept these words and pondered them in her heart. – (Luke 2:8-20)
When Jesus was eight days old, he was circumcised in accordance with Jewish law. Then, after 40 days, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple in Jerusalem to make an offering. According to the Law, they were required to offer a young ram and a young pigeon or turtledove. However, if they were unable to afford the ram, they could offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons instead. Mary and Joseph offered the latter, indicating their financial difficulties. Simeon, a righteous man, saw Jesus and praised the Lord for allowing him to see the Savior before his death. He told Mary that she would experience great pain and suffering in connection with her son’s foretold death on the cross. (Luke 2:21-35)
Returns to Nazareth
At a later time, an angel warned Joseph about King Herod’s plan to kill Jesus and instructed him to flee with the child to Egypt. After Herod’s death, the family returned and settled in Nazareth, where Mary gave birth to at least four sons and daughters in the following years.
Mary and Joseph made a yearly journey of about 150 km (93 mi) to Jerusalem for the annual Passover celebration, even though it was not required for women to attend. One year, when Jesus was about 12 years old, they discovered he was missing after they had gone a day’s distance from Jerusalem. After three days of searching, they found him in the temple, listening to and questioning the teachers. Mary was distressed and asked Jesus why he had treated them this way, to which he replied that he must be in his Father’s house. Mary carefully kept all of these sayings in her heart.
When Jesus was 12 years old, he impressed those around him with his knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures during a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. His parents had discovered he was missing after a day’s journey and returned to Jerusalem to find him. They found him in the temple, listening to and questioning the teachers. Jesus’ abilities reflected the fine training he had received from both Mary and Joseph, who had brought him up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” and taught him the custom of attending the synagogue every Sabbath. (Luke 2:41-51; Ephesians 6:4)
Jesus Loved and Respect His Mother
After Jesus was baptized, he did not treat Mary any differently than he did anyone else. In fact, he addressed her simply as “woman” rather than using the title “mother.” This may seem disrespectful in today’s language, but it was not meant to be. In German, for example, the word used in this way is similar to “madam,” “Mrs.,” or “lady.” Mary was Jesus’ mother in a physical sense, but after his baptism and being begotten by holy spirit, he was primarily God’s Son, and his true “mother” was “the Jerusalem above.” Jesus emphasized this fact when Mary and her other children once interrupted his teaching session to speak with him outside. He made it clear that his spiritual family was more important than his fleshly family, and spiritual matters were of greater significance than physical concerns.
At a wedding in Cana of Galilee, when the wine ran out, Mary asked Jesus to help. However, Jesus replied by saying, “What have I to do with you, woman? My hour has not yet come.” This may sound disrespectful in modern English, but it was a common question used in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures to indicate an objection to the thing suggested. Jesus used it in a gentle way to let his mother know that his direction came from God. Mary understood the point and humbly accepted the correction. She then stepped back and let Jesus take the lead, telling the attendants to do whatever he said.
When Jesus was crucified, Mary was standing beside the cross. Jesus was not just her son, but also her Lord and Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God. At this time, Mary was likely a widow. As the firstborn of Joseph’s household, Jesus fulfilled his responsibility by asking his apostle John, who was likely his cousin, to take Mary to his home and care for her as his own mother. Some may wonder why Jesus did not entrust Mary to one of his half brothers. However, it is not clear if any of them were present at the time, and they were not yet believers. Moreover, Jesus believed that spiritual relationships were more important than fleshly ones.
The final mention of Mary in the Bible portrays her as a woman who continued to demonstrate her faith and dedication to God and remained closely connected with other faithful individuals following the ascension of Jesus. Mary was among the 11 apostles and other believers who gathered together in an upper room and prayed together with one accord. (Acts 1:13-14)
Joseph, the Adoptive of Jesus
Joseph was the adoptive father of Jesus Christ and husband of Mary. He was also the father of at least four sons and several daughters. Joseph was the son of a man named Jacob and was also referred to as the son of Heli, likely his father-in-law. He was known for his obedience to God and adherence to the Mosaic Law, as well as his submission to the decrees of Caesar.
Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, was engaged to Mary, a virgin girl. He had limited financial resources, and when Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit before their marriage, Joseph initially intended to divorce her secretly to avoid public shame. But an angel explained the situation to Joseph in a dream, and he took Mary as his legal wife, refraining from having relations with her until after the birth of her miraculously conceived Son. (Matthew 1:18-21, 24-25, Luke 1:26-27)
Joseph, as a descendant of King David, obeyed the decree of Caesar Augustus and traveled with Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born and laid in a manger due to lack of accommodations. Later, shepherds visited after being informed by an angel about the birth. After 40 days, Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem as required by the Mosaic Law, where they heard Simeon’s prophetic words about Jesus’ future accomplishments.
It seems that after presenting Jesus at the temple, Mary and her son were visited by astrologers while they were living in Bethlehem. Even though Joseph and Mary may have returned to Nazareth after this, a brief account doesn’t provide all the details. However, their lives were in danger due to the envious King Herod who was seeking to kill the child. Through divine intervention, Joseph was warned in a dream, and they fled to Egypt to escape harm.Top of Form
When Herod died, an angel of Jehovah appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to take Mary and Jesus back to Israel. However, when Joseph learned that Herod’s son Archelaus was now in power in Judea, he was afraid to return there. In another dream, he was warned to go to Galilee instead, so he settled with his family in Nazareth.
Joseph made it a tradition to take his entire family to Jerusalem every year for the Passover celebration. On their way back to Nazareth from one of these trips, they discovered that Jesus, who was then 12 years old, was missing. Joseph and Mary searched for him and eventually found him at the temple in Jerusalem, questioning the Jewish religious leaders and answering questions with the teachers there.
Question, Ask Questions: (ἐπερωτάω eperōtaō; ἐρωτάω erōtaō; akin to ἔρομαι eromai) The Greek word eperotao, which means to ask, to question, to demand of, for “questioning” was far more than the Greek word erotao, which meant to ask, to request, to entreat, such as a boy’s curiosity. Eperotao refers to questioning, which one might hear in a judicial hearing, such as a scrutiny, inquiry, counter questioning, even probing question, a sort of interrogation. “After three days they [Joseph and Mary] found him [12-year-old Jesus] in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning (eperotao) them [Jewish religious leaders].” The Jewish religious leaders “were astounded.” – Matt. 16: 27:11; Lu 2:46; Mark 5:9.
It is unclear from the Bible how much Jesus learned from Joseph, but it is likely that he helped Jesus to gain wisdom. Additionally, Joseph taught Jesus the trade of carpentry, as Jesus was known as both “the carpenter’s son” and “the carpenter.”
The Bible doesn’t mention Joseph’s death, but it’s believed that he likely died before Jesus, as Jesus entrusted the care of Mary to the apostle John when he was crucified on the cross. This happened in 33 C.E., around the time of Passover.
The Caiaphas Ossuary is an ancient burial box, believed to have belonged to the high priest Caiaphas, who is mentioned in the New Testament as one of the key figures involved in the trial and condemnation of Jesus Christ. The ossuary was discovered in 1990 in a burial cave in Jerusalem, and since then it has been the subject of much discussion and controversy among scholars, archaeologists, and historians.
The Caiaphas Ossuary is a small limestone box, measuring about 50 cm in length, 30 cm in height, and 35 cm in width. It has an inscription on the side that reads “Joseph son of Caiaphas,” which has led many experts to believe that it belonged to the high priest Caiaphas, who is mentioned in the New Testament as the man who presided over the trial of Jesus Christ. According to the Gospels, Caiaphas was instrumental in the decision to have Jesus arrested and tried before the Roman authorities, and he is depicted as a central figure in the conspiracy to have Jesus executed.
The discovery of the Caiaphas Ossuary was made by a team of archaeologists led by Amos Kloner, who were excavating a burial cave in the south of Jerusalem. The cave was part of a larger complex of tombs that dated back to the Second Temple period (516 BCE-70 CE), a time of great religious and political upheaval in ancient Judea. The Caiaphas Ossuary was found together with a number of other burial boxes, or ossuaries, which contained the remains of other individuals who were buried in the same cave.
The discovery of the Caiaphas Ossuary caused a sensation among scholars and archaeologists, who saw it as a major historical and archaeological find. It was the first time that the name of Caiaphas had been associated with an archaeological artifact, and it seemed to confirm the historical accuracy of the New Testament accounts of the trial of Jesus Christ. However, the discovery also sparked controversy, as some experts questioned the authenticity of the ossuary and the accuracy of the inscription.
The authenticity of the Caiaphas Ossuary has been the subject of much debate since its discovery. Some experts have argued that it is a forgery, created by modern forgers in an attempt to deceive the public and the academic community. They point to a number of inconsistencies and anomalies in the inscription and the decoration of the box, which they claim are evidence of a modern origin. For example, some have noted that the lettering on the box is inconsistent with other examples of Second Temple period writing, and that the decoration on the box is not typical of the period.
However, others have defended the authenticity of the Caiaphas Ossuary, arguing that there is strong evidence to suggest that it is a genuine artifact from the Second Temple period. They point to the fact that the box was found in a legitimate archaeological context, together with other burial boxes and human remains that date to the same period. They also argue that the inscription on the box is consistent with other examples of Second Temple period writing and that the decoration on the box is not necessarily unusual for the period.
Despite the controversy surrounding the Caiaphas Ossuary, it remains one of the most intriguing and significant archaeological finds from the Second Temple period. It provides a tangible link to the historical figures and events described in the New Testament, and it sheds light on the religious and political climate of ancient Judea during a critical period in its history. It is a reminder of the enduring legacy of the New Testament stories and the ongoing fascination and debate that they continue to generate among scholars and the public alike.
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