Who was Jesus of Nazareth?
F rom the accounts in Luke Chapter 1, we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, lived for a while as a child in Egypt, and settled later with his family in the town of Nazareth.
He must have been an intelligent young man. At age twelve he amazed everyone by his understanding.
"He grew up in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:47)
How was he educated? In the Gospel of John we read:
"The Jewish authorities were greatly surprised and said 'How does this man know so much when he never has been to school?'" (John 7:15)
The Revised Standard Version, which was a revision of the King James Version, translated this phrase slightly differently "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?"
We know that the Greeks had schools long before Jesus' time on earth. Did the Jewish nation also have schools? It is most likely that schools combined religious with general education such as reading and writing.
But the above statements seem to contrast with what Luke wrote:
"On the third day they found him (twelve year old Jesus) in the Temple, sitting with the Jewish teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his intelligent answers." (Luke 2:46)
Is this unusual? It appears to be. Why would the spiritual leaders of that time, who had great influence and respect in Israel, be willing to listen to a child from Galilee at a time when Jerusalem was bursting with activity because of the Passover festivities!
Jesus' family was from the royal line of King David. That is why they had to go to Bethlehem for the census. In a culture where family relations and ancestry were highly valued, being part of a royal line certainly must have given his family respect and a high societal status. The blind Bartimaeus cried out:
"Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10:47)
The Jewish religious leaders protested when children in the Temple shouted;
"Praise be to David's son." (Matthew 21:15)
This praise must have been instigated by the people in the Temple. Children would not shout such praise unless taught or encouraged by their parents. It was without a doubt an honor to be named David's son, a reference to the greatest Jewish king.
From age 12 to 30, we know very little about what Jesus did except that he must have worked as a carpenter.
"Is not he the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mark 6:3)
Being a carpenter, a highly respected vocation, cannot be compared with the blue collar craftsmen image of our time. In Jesus' time, as far as we know, there were no design companies, so that all creative building and construction was executed by the trades, including carpenters, as it still was practiced in medieval times.
In a recent review of Homer's Odyssey, several academics on the History Channel confirmed that a carpenter's artisanship was highly esteemed in Greek culture because carpenters were not only craftsmen, but also designers.
There is further evidence that Jesus could read:
"He stood up to read the scriptures and was handed the book of Isaiah." (Luke 4: 16, 17)
We also know that Jesus was a very good speaker:
"They were all well impressed with him and marveled at the eloquent words he spoke." (Luke 4:22)
Only a very few people could read twenty centuries ago. It is not an unreasonable assumption that when one can read, one can also write, because words and symbols are known. This makes Jesus an intellectual in his time and this is also evident by the respectful way he was addres