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In Search of Lost Years of Jesus_A Scholars Journey to First Century Galilee

Updated on May 2, 2013

Galilee, A Roman Province; Nazareth, A Hebrew Village

In Roman times, Province of Judea was divided into Judea, Samaria, & Galilee. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, ruled Galilee as tetrarch (governor). The Galilee region was likely home of Jesus during much of the 30 years of his life, known to scholars as "Lost Years'. The first three Gospels of the New Testament, Mathew, Mark & Luke (Synoptic Gospel) are mainly an account of Jesus' public ministry in this province, particularly in the towns of Nazareth & Capernaum in the last three years of his life.


Sea of Galilee & The Dead Sea

Link between the Essene Hebrew Sect & Hebrew Christians

The satellite picture on the right gives us a birds eye view of the relative location of Sea of Galilee, about 16 miles east of village of Nazareth, a thousand feet above sea level. The large lake, Sea of Galilee, is significantly below sea level. Jerusalem is located southwest of Nazareth, and the Dead Sea. Both lakes are linked by the Jordan River. In northern shore of Dead Sea, are caves in the left photo.

Here a startling 20th Century discovery by a Bedouin Shephard was a hidden library of Hebrew manuscripts near a settlement called Qumran. This discovery has given us an unexpected window to that time period. Scholars are still studying Qumran today. Much has been written about Qumran; much remains to be researched yet. Qumran is generally associated with a Hebrew sect, the Essenes. Josephus, the historian & at one time, Roman appointed governor, is another source of information about Essenes. This Hebrew sect is often linked to earliest Christians at Jerusalem.

Perhaps the most significant link to Jesus is John the Baptist. The Baptiser was a maternal cousin of Jesus, according to Luke. The baptism event of Jesus is still well remembered in Christianity today. Bible scholars have hypothesized that the Baptiser may have been raised at or near the Qumran community, as his father had died when he was still young.

From 1st Century Galalee (Inter-Faith Friends of Earth) - What Can We Know about Jesus of Nazarath ?


Jesus died at age thirty three. We are missing any historical record of the first thirty years of his life. Through centuries, his influence on humanity has been profound, following existence of a short life.

Questions of his "lost years' remain for millions today; for those who have heritage roots to Christianity & for persons of other great heritages of humanity, particularly those in search of inter-faith harmony today . .

Scholar James D. Tabor, in his recent book, The Jesus Dynasty, The Hidden History Of Jesus, His Royal Family, And The Birth Of Christianity (Simon & Schuter, 2006), have summarized this question, :"What can we know about Jesus of Nazarath?".

In Search of "Profound Knowledge" , Prosperity & Quality of Life Today !

There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.


Sepphoris at Galalee (Beginning of 1st Century CE)


A Christian tradition is that the parents of the Virgin Mary, Anna and Joachim, were natives of Sepphoris (Tzippori), at the time a Hellenized town. Notable structures excavated at the site include a Roman theater, two early Christian Churches. Biblical archeological scholars are still continuing excavation here today.

Another structure is a Roman villa recently found here, built around 200 AD. Center piece of a mosaic floor, was an image of a young lady, possibly meant to be Venus, which the researchers have dubbed "The Mona Lisa of Galilee".

After Herod's death in 4 BCE, the Jewish inhabitants of Tzippori rebelled against Roman rule and the Roman army moved in under the command of the Roman Governor in Syria, Varus. Completely destroying the city, the Roman army then sold many of its inhabitants into slavery.

Herod's son, Herod Antipas was made Tetrarch (governor), in 1 CE, and proclaimed the city's new name to be Autocratis, or the "Ornament of the Galilee. An ancient route linking Sepphoris further to the south to Sebaste-Samaria, is believed to have been paved by the Romans around this time.

The inhabitants of Autocratis did not join the resistance against Roman rule in the First Jewish Revolt of 66 CE rather, they signed a pact with the Roman army and opened the gates of the city to the Roman general Vespasian upon his arrival in 67 CE. They were then rewarded for this allegiance by having their city spared from the destruction suffered by many other Jewish cities, including Jerusalem. This then is some important historical background leading us to the time of birth of Jesus. For that event, remembered every Christmas now, today's best estimate is 6 CE, or 4 years after the death of Herod. (for further details, see Wikipedia, "Tzippori")


Joseph & Mary--Poor but Devout Hebrew Family

We know that Jesus and his family grew up poor. James D. Tabor shares just how poor in "The Jesus Dynasty".

According to Hebrew tradition, every first born male child was ritually acceped into the Jewish community thorugh an ancient ceremony called "Redemption of the Son" (pidyonha-ben, Numbers 817). It was the obligation for the mother of a male child, first born or not. The child was brought to the Temple sanctuary and the mother was required to give a lamb as a burnt offering and a dove to the officiating priest. If the family was too poor, a substitute could be made in the ceremony.

Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph, as observant Jews took Jesus up to the Jerusalem Temple to fulfill these ritual obligations. There she offered sacrifice "according to what is stated in the Law of the Lord-a pair of doves or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24). There is no mention of a sheep. They evidently could not afford such a modest gift

What else we can know about the lost years of Jesus ?

We return to scholar James D. Tabor, on page 90 of "The Jesus Dynasty".

"What does seem clear ii all our records, as I have noted already is that when Jesus begins his career as a preacher and healer at age thirty we consistently find "his mother and his brothers" mentioned but never a father . He took his "mother and his brothers" to Capernum not long after his baptism (John 2:12).

Later his"mother and his brothers" came looking for him when he was on the road (Mark 3:32). When he returned home to Nazareth at one point, as we have seen, the town people spoke of his mother Mary, his brother and sisters, but again, no mention of a father (Mark 6:3). Just before Jesus' death he turned over the care of his mother to a mysterious "beloved disciple" whom I identified as James, the next oldest brother (John 19:26-27).

After he is killed "Mary the mother of Jesus and his borthers" gathered behind closed doors with the rest of his followers, hiding for their lives (Acts 1:14)"

2nd Temple at Jerusalem where Joseph & Mary took Jesus 30 days after birth (Luke 2:24)


"Fatherless Father" as a teenager ?

Continuing with scholar Tabor,

"What we can safely assume given this silence is that Jesus himself takes on the role of a "fatherless father" to these six younger children. Just how early this responsibility fell to him we cannot say. But if we want to guess what occupied Jesus during his twenties, before he makes his public debut, we can best picture him acting as father and caretaker to his mother and younger siblings."

This was surely no easy burden. The family had no inherited land or wealth. Celsus, the 2nd century A.D. Roman writer, passes on a tradition that Mary earned money as a spinner. Whether this is accurate or not we have any way of knowing, but it would have surely fallen to Jesus as the eldest son of fatherless Jewish family to act as the primary breadwinner.

To support oneself as an artisan peasant in a small village in Roman occupied Galilee was burden enough, but to support a large family on daily wage was a near impossible task.

Jesus later tells a story about such day laborers, hired out to work in the vineyard of a landowner for a denarius (Four sesteces) a day. The workers assembled at dawn in the marketplace of a village and were hired on the spot for labor till dusk. They were paid the agreed amount in the evening. Jesus specifically mentions the "burden of the day and the scorching heat" (Matthew 20:12). He seems intimately familiar with the lot of the working poor, and one gets the impression he is speaking more from experience than detached observation."

James D. Tabor, "The Jesus Dynasty".

Sapphoris, Roman Capital of Galilee near Villege of Nazareth - A Scholar's Hypothesis, Sapphoris & Jesus in his 20's


Jesus spent his "lost years" growing up just outside this urban Roman capital of Galilee. Sapphoris lay just over the low hills that ringed the small village of Nazareth. The village itself was clustered around a natural spring at the base of these hills, today called the "Well of Mary". His family vocation has been described as "Carpenter" (Greek, "tekton) & "Son of a Carpenter' in (Mark 6:3).

According to scholar Tabor, the Greek word tekton is a more generic term referring to a "builder". It can include one who works with wood, but in its 1st century Galilean context it more likely refers to a stoneworker.

Scholar Tabor explains:

It is surely reasonable to suppose that Joseph would have been drawn to the massive building projects of Sapphoris, where he would be able to ply his skills as a stoneworker, and that Jesus would have learned the same trade as he grew into manhood. Inspired by this thought some of us decided one early afternoon to try walking from or dig site at Sephoris to Nazareth. It took us about an hour and a half at a moderate pace in the heat of the day.

We do not know the precise chronology of Sepphoris rebuilding but one can assume such a massive project might have well taken ten or fifteen years. If Jesus was born in 5 BC, which seems likely, he would have been old enough to work with Joseph during the boom years. And there is every reason to suppose that building project in that city continued after that. We don't know when Joseph died but we can imagine that Jesus might well have labored as a stoneworker in Sepphoris into his twenties-particularly if he had responsibility of caring for his family.

So, this in summary is the continuing search for the lost years of Jesus. Much is yet to be known, both for those whose family heritage is rooted in Christianity, and those of other great heritages of humanity, be it Judaism, Islam in the West or Hinduism, Buddhism & Jain in East.

My own search is rooted in "Inter-Faith Friends of Earth" and my family heritage linked to the Silk Road Trade from Historic India & China to Judea, further west to Rome & beyond, for a thousand years & more. . This is a life long journey for me & hope it will be for you, dear reader.

Bon Voyage, till we meet again at a sanctuary or a oasis perhaps--at the promised land by the sea !

Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.


In Search of Lost Years of Jesus


So, this in summary is the continuing search for the lost years of Jesus. Much is yet to be known, both for those whose family heritage is rooted in Christianity, and those of other great heritages of humanity, be it Judaism, Islam in the West or Hinduism, Buddhism & Jain in East.

My own search is rooted in "Inter-Faith Friends of Earth" and my family heritage linked to the Silk Road Trade from Historic India & China to Judea, further west to Rome & beyond, for a thousand years & more. .

This is a life long journey for me & hope it will be for you, dear reader.

Bon Voyage, till we meet again at a sanctuary or a oasis perhaps--at the promised land by the sea !

Avi Dey

On Behalf of "Our Family Origins"

In Search of Lost Years of Jesus

Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.


Roman Public Buildings at Sapphoris bult at the time of the "Lost Years of Jesus".


Remains of a Hebrew Temple that was rebuilt but was in existence at the time of Jesus


Roman Theater at Sapphoris located about a 2 hour walk from Village of Nazzarath


The Page of Brian The Folk Singer--Traveling On The Way

Arts & Science Bridge__Cafe Twin


Comments from fellow travelers, in search of your own heritage & family roots, in Christianity or one of the other great traditions, welcome to share your thoughts & comments in this meeting place guestbook . Will look to meet you again soon when our paths crosses at this 'sanctuary'. (forgive me, i am borrowing a term from our fellow travlers from the Buddhist cultures).

Lost Years of Jesus Traveler's Lounge

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    • shana273 profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens. Very informative.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent lens with deep investigation on the topic. I thought I knew a lot about the subject but after reading your lens I changed my mind... Thanks for the great information:=)

    • Virginiangare profile image


      5 years ago

      The beloved disciple of Jesus was Peter and as for the brothers of Jesus, they were actually his cousins from Mary's sister also known as Mary but the wife of Clopas. You can find it here Jn 19: 25 Mat 27:56.

    • Virginiangare profile image


      5 years ago

      I think the lost years of Jesus are from when he was 12 to 30 years, I would love to know what he did from the time his parents found Him at the temple to the time He started active ministry.

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 

      5 years ago

      Great topic! Great lens!

    • pcgamehardware profile image


      6 years ago

      Fantastic research and great info.

      Thanks for sharing. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for this treasure!...* I really have not done a heritage and family roots search, as far as I know, all my roots are in Finland on both sides.

    • GypsyLyric LM profile image

      GypsyLyric LM 

      6 years ago

      This is a subject I have always been interested in - thank you for giving me some enjoyable reading.

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 

      7 years ago from California

      Interesting subject.


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