The Life of Jesus

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Who was Jesus

The Birth of Jesus

Early life of Jesus

The Mount of Temptation

Much of this information is credited to BBC's excellent documentary Son of God

Early Life of Jesus

It wasn't long after the birth of Jesus that Joseph and Mary took him to a new town ten miles from Bethlehem and a new life - to Nazareth - all gospels agree that this is where Jesus grew up. Why there ? Did they talk to Jesus about the special circumstance about his birth? There is little evidence in the Gospels that Jesus grew up knowing that he was special as it seemed after the rather unusual birth that Jesus grew up in normal surroundings.

The Gospels say Jesus had siblings - two sisters (not named) and four brothers named James, Judas, Joseph and Simone. They are mentioned in several bible verses (such as Luke 8:19, Matthew 13:56). It is not entirely clear whether they were the children of Joseph from a previous marriage or the actual children of Joseph and Mary. And the official position in the Roman Catholic church is that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life, thereby ruling out her having other children (unless by divine intervention also!). However this is not evident in the Bible and is also dependent on the interpretation of the translation of certain words. So to-date there is no conclusive evidence either way. Could they be the ancestors of people alive today?

We know the types of games that Jesus would have played with his siblings and friends which historians have pieced together. In time this ordinary boy from a rural background would become a public figure pulling in huge crowds. Something must have stirred him into wanting to right the wrongs he saw in society.

When did Jesus realise his destiny. When was his interest in religion and politics born. Was it when he was 12 and was brought to Jerusalem by his parents for the annual passover. Perhaps his awaking happened there.

Today little of the city Jesus visited still exists. The Jewish temple was the center of the city in his day, but this was destroyed by the romans in 70 AD. When the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century AD the site became one of Islam's holiest places. Modern Jerusalem is just a bustling as it was 2000 years ago. We don't know what impact Jerusalem had on Jesus - it supposed to have been was one of the most beautiful cities in the ancient world.

Thanks to archaeology and old jewish writings it is possible to reconstruct what Jerusalem would have looked like in those days. Generations of archaeologists have worked out what the whole complex would have looked like. The temple mount started in 20 BC was the brainchild of Herod the great, a tyrant who ruled Judea on behalf of the Romans. The brand new temple was the headquarters of the Jewish faith and it must have been breathtaking and knocked a young country boy of 12 sideways. (Would have assumed you would have only have seen this in Rome).

One day Jesus would come back to challenge much of what the temple and Jewish priests who ran it stood for. This could have been his first brush with the Jewish hierarchy. When Mary and Joseph were returning to Nazareth they suddenly realised they lost their son. Eventually, the story goes, they found him in the temple deep in conversation with the rabbis, debating with learned scholars - a rural boy. Could it have happened.

Certainly evidence shows that the vast steps of the temple were a place for people to meet and converse. Is this where he began to learn and think and discuss with the great Jewish minds of that time who would frequently gather at the temple.

Or was it in Cehpreus? - a trading town of about 10000 people. Could Jesus have set foot in this place - it was only an hours walk from where Jesus grew up (Nazareth) and was being built at the time. Historians think that he visited here regularly and it had a large impact on him - the town was home to many priests and they had excessive wealth and were well to do, in established family's, and these were the priest that ran the temple - this contrasted to the life of so many others around the region who were poor - like Jesus's family. Perhaps this had a bearing on the direction Jesus would take.

Political turmoil was ravaging this region Galilee. It was a hotbed of religious and political discontent. The cliffs around the sea of Galilee are dotted with 100s of caves - the hideaways of jewish rebels against the Romans. The jews had been fighting invading armies for centuries. Rebellion was not new. It just had never been successful. The jews dreamt of a saviour who could fight their battle and gave him a special name. The called him the anointed one. In Hebrew - the messiah, in Greek - the Christ. The Jews were looking more and more for the great redeemer, maybe it is God, maybe it will be one of his messengers, an angel, rebellion is in the air, Jesus arrived in a time that was really a powder keg .

The Gospels don't say much else about Jesus's life - until he reached the age of about 30. When they do its to tell us about the real turning point in his life. The Gospel say a prophet dressed in animal skin called John had started baptising crowds in the river Jordan. John was offering a one off baptism so they could cleanse their souls and get ready for the big moment, the arrival of the messiah. Jesus too was baptised.

The Gospel of Matthew describes John the Baptist as being a contemporary of Jesus. He preached " the wilderness of Judea." He urgently called on people to repent because he believed that the kingdom of heaven was in his immediate future. The author of the Gospel of Mark relates that John survived by eating locusts and wild honey. He recognized Jesus as the " mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose."