August 10, 2009

Dealing with Nazareth - 7

This is the obligatory post on chronology, to establish some boundaries before we proceed. Support for the dates given here can be found on this blog via the index and search window.

Mary must have been 13 or more when betrothed, so she was closer to 14 when Jesus was born, which was 7 BC (most likely in April/May). Joseph was almost certainly a few years older, at least. They moved to Bethlehem, had the baby, fled to Egypt, and were back home in Nazareth for April of 4 BC, some weeks after King Herod's death.

Joseph was afraid to bring Jesus into Judea until Archelaus' exile, mid-6 AD. Jesus was still 12 years old at the Passover of 7 AD. By then, Mary was at least 26 and Joseph was closer to 30.

By the time Mary was 35, she'd had at least some (perhaps most if not all) of her other kids [six or more, besides Jesus - do the math and the biology]. Jesus would have been 21. With Joseph closer to 40, he was going to lean on Jesus more and more in the upcoming years. Given the average life expectancy for a common laborer, 40 was relatively old. (Also note: with the odds that Joseph was more than just a few years older than Mary, we are making the safer estimate, here.)

Altogether, those numbers give us two very solid historical facts. (1) The Lord got to be a big brother during his teen years and (2) he spent his 20's becoming the man of the house, a greater and greater source of the family's income. These are significant, fairly specific details of Jesus' life that should be included in any reconstruction based on the Gospels. It is worth pointing out that we are neither imaginging things nor judging by any special interpretations in order to say so much. Thus far, we have gone strictly by the numbers.

Jesus was 34 when John [and God] baptized him, in 28 AD. He'd been in Nazareth for 31 years and had been intently focused on finding and doing his Father's "business" since age 12. Evidently, that resulted in Jesus choosing to work for a living and take care of his family for another two decades. So Jesus worked with Joseph, did chores for Mary, and to some degree helped raise each of the children (James, Joseph, Simon, Jude and at least two little sisters). All in all, Jesus was living life. One might even say, abundantly.

This is a beautiful picture, of course, in so many ways. This is also the basic chronological framework for the life of Jesus in Nazareth. Furthermore, it sets our historical sights on a particular set of years about which we are going to attempt even more reconstruction.

To be continued...

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