10 – Childhood of Jesus

When: 4 BC to 7 AD
Where: Nazareth, Galilee

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What was Nazareth like? It was an unwalled (unprotected) village of some 200 to 400 persons. It was off the main roads, small and built on a hillside facing the east. There was one source of water for the entire village, and this one spring limited the number of people who could live in the village. A house was made of mud brick with a dirt floor and a raised platform in the back of the one room for the family to sleep on. People tended flocks of sheep and goats and/or raised crops such as flax, barley or wheat. They had grape vines, fig trees and olive trees.

Joseph was a handyman. However, to make “real money” he would do work in the nearby fast-growing city of Sepphoris about an hour’s walk (about 4 miles) to the north. Antipas, son of Herod the Great and ruler of the region of Galilee, was building Sepphoris to be the capital of the Galilee. It would eventually have a population of around 20,000, most of whom would be Roman and Greek.

Joseph, with his son Jesus, would commute to Sepphoris to work.

What kind of child was Jesus? There are some stories. For example:

  • When he was five, he made 12 clay birds. Then he clapped his hands, they became alive, and flew away.
  • When he was around six, a young man was cutting wood with an axe. When he missed and split his foot open, Jesus healed it.
  • When he was eight, Joseph was making a bed. One of the boards was too short so Jesus stretched it longer.
  • When Jesus was around ten, his younger brother James was gathering wood when a snake bit him. As James lay dying Jesus breathed on the wound, the pain left, the snake died, and James got well.

If these stories were true, then maybe the folks of Nazareth would have treated Jesus differently later. However, the Bible records only a one-sentence summary. Like Samuel, Jesus grew up as Mary’s firstborn son, and learned the trade of his father. He grew up healthy and obedient.


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