November 5, 2007

Year-by-Year: 11 AD

Jesus turns 17. Germanicus and Tiberius patrol Germany.***************

In 11 AD, Jesus was 16, going on 17. By now, Jesus was a carpenter. Jesus lived with his mother. Jesus looked out for his brothers and sisters (who were much younger than he was)[1]. And Jesus worked with Joseph, pulling saws and swinging hammers.

By now, Joseph was old enough to need a helper. And Jesus was strong enough to be a good one. Somewhere in his mid-30’s, Joseph might expect to live another 20 years, but not more[2]. And past age 40, Joseph wasn’t going to see the plumb and cut-lines as well as he once did. So it was time to start training the boy – not just for working, but for taking over Joseph’s work.

In a few years, the family was going to have to rely on Jesus for income. That means that before long, after 11 AD, Jesus is going to start becoming the man of the house in many ways.[3]

Of course, Jesus had already spent the past few years becoming the Man of his Father.

Already, by age 17, Jesus was his Father’s Son and his Father’s Man. And yet, he was still becoming that, more and even more…

More than anything, Jesus just kept loving God. The Lord loved his Father with all his heart, all his soul, all his mind, and all his strength. Jesus loved his Father in every way that mattered. And the Father enjoyed it.

For several years now, God had had one man on the Earth who was doing what mankind was always supposed to be doing. Jesus was devoted to his Father.

That made God happy![4]

Meanwhile, of course, the rest of mankind was up to its usual business.


In 11 AD, mankind’s usual business was pretty boring! Not much happens, anywhere.

In Israel, everything was status quo. There were no major events.

In Europe, Tiberius finally stopped sitting on the bank of the Rhine. He started patrolling it. The old General even crossed the River a few times, but there were no major battles.

Back in Rome, Augustus Caesar was at his limit of patience with Tiberius. So he sent Germanicus into Germany to help the Emperor-to-be. Not that it did a lot of good…

Tiberius & Germanicus took their Legions across the Rhine, but not far. They knew the Emperor was hoping they’d reconquer Germany to the Elbe River. But the two Generals also knew they had to be cautious. The Germans had proven they were no pushovers!

The two Caesars were actually afraid to push too far. They fought no real battles. But they made a show of force. They marched up and down through Germany. They just didn’t go very far in, past the River.

Further in, Arminius heard what the Romans were doing. And he left them alone.

On September 28th, 11 AD, somewhere between the Rhine & the Elbe, Tiberius & Germanicus set up an altar to Augustus! They camped there and held games, celebrating the Emperor’s 73rd birthday! It was September 28th, 11 AD – the Emperor’s birthday!

After the games, Tiberius & Germanicus led their Legions right back over the Rhine, into Gaul. Safely back in Roman territory, they made winter camps. Tiberius stayed in Gaul, but Germanicus went home.

Back in Italy, Augustus was a bit upset about the lack of progress up north. But the Emperor kept Germanicus in Rome for the winter,[5] which proved to be a fateful decision…

Somewhere in Rome, late in 11 AD, Germanicus Caesar got his wife pregnant![6] Now, that child, born next year, is going to grow up and threaten all Rome, Italy… and all Israel, too! Who is this child?

The future Emperor… Caligula.

Next Year Book: 12 AD!

Begin Footnotes:
[1] How big was the family, by now? Jesus’ famous brothers (James and Jude) are both going to live until the 60’s AD. So they were probably born in the early half of this decade. Naturally, we don’t know just when, but it must have been soon, because Mary was at least 32 by now. (Health & safety issues get much more serious for women giving birth in their 30’s.) If James & Jude were alive at all “now”, they weren’t very old.

We can guess their ages with some rough accuracy, now. If James & Jude were both born by 15 AD, the younger would be 14 years old when Jesus left them all in Capernaum. Either way, James & Jude are anywhere from ten to twenty years younger than their older brother. It adds a little something to the picture of how they related to him. (Or didn’t; see John 7:2-5.) Now, the Tabernacles scene of John 7 happens in Autumn 31 AD, so James & Jude were at least old enough to go to Jerusalem together, by themselves, by that year.

What’s a reasonable, specific estimate? Figure James was born around 10 and Jude around 12 or 14 AD. That won’t be far off, and they die in their 50’s. (James dies violently – see 62 AD.) By the way, this also strongly suggests that Mary (or Joseph) spent the first several years of Jesus’ life deliberately avoiding other pregnancies, but began having more children after Jesus turned 13. (After Archelaus was gone!)

[2] How do we figure out Joseph & Mary’s ages? That’s a great question!

First, we assume Mary was at least 13 when Jesus was conceived in 8 BC. But Joseph was probably five to fifteen years older than Mary – as was very common. A young teenager didn’t often have enough income (or even prospects of income) to merit a successful betrothal. (Besides that, it’s hard to imagine two 14 year olds taking a baby down into Egypt by themselves!) That’s why we can safely guess that Joseph was at least 5 years older. So then, if Mary was exactly 13 in 8 BC, then Joseph was perhaps 18 at that time. That means, for example, that in 30 AD, Mary would be 50 and Joseph 55 (or so).

We know Joseph lives until at least 30 AD because the family moves to Capernaum in 29 and the townspeople there still have time to get to know both Joseph & Mary. (See 29 thru 31 AD & John 6:42, which is a past tense statement.) But we also figure strongly that Joseph has to die before 33 AD. Remember, when Jesus is hanging on the cross (in 33) he asks John to take care of Mary. This means (at least) that Joseph was gone. (We’re not sure what it says about James & Jude.)

Now, in the ancient world, only Kings or wealthy men lived very far past their 50’s, if they even got that far. The truth is, with health conditions being what they were, most common folks died long before that age. Still, we’re not pushing things at all if we say Joseph must’ve lived well and made it to age 55. He must’ve died in 30 AD. Again, living to 55 is impressive enough, but not out of the question for a common laborer.

(Note that the tightness of these constraints, altogether, make these numbers fairly attractive estimates! In fact, these ages are probably very close to the truth… That is, unless Mary & Joseph both lived inhumanly long lifespans, for commoners. And there is no reason to believe they lived miraculously long. Honestly, the fact that they both reached their 50’s is amazing enough!)

[3] Let’s put it all together. In 11 AD, we can now safely estimate that Joseph was about 36 years old. That’s old enough to be a grandfather in the ancient world. It’s also old enough to start giving his young, strong 16/17-year-old son more of the duties in their carpentry business, not to mention around the house. And after age 40, Joseph counted on Jesus almost entirely… but James & Jude weren’t old enough to help much for another dozen years or more.

This is all very important. Think about it. We’re talking about the Son of God here, sent to Earth to do the most important thing that ever got done here, or will get done here. And. He. Still. Took. Twenty. Years. To. Take. Care. Of. His. Family!!!!! (Oh yeah. And also get to know his Father & experience life as a Man.)

Come on, now. THAT’S Amazing!

[4] All four gospels record the event of Christ’s Baptism. Three of them record what God said there, and John says it in other ways. That makes this one of the most trustworthy things we find in all the gospels. The simple fact is: Jesus makes God happy! It’s a good, good thing that He does!

[5] Germanicus was also scheduled to begin a year as Consul in January.

[6] They already had 2 to 4 kids. Three of their daughters will also be famous, when grown.

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