A BRITISH archaeologist has said that he has identified the site of the childhood home of Jesus in Nazareth.
The archaeologist, Dr Ken Dark, Professor of Archaeology and History at Reading University, believes that a first-century dwelling now beneath a convent in the city in northern Israel is where Christ spent his early years.
It was first promoted as the likely house of Joseph and Mary after excavations below the fifth-century convent in the 1880s, but, by the 1930s, experts had dismissed the claim.
Professor Dark, however, who has spent 14 years studying the site, says that there is a strong case that the well-preserved house was, indeed, Christ’s home. It was a significant structure, partly cut into a limestone hillside and incorporating a natural cave. It probably included several living and storage rooms around a courtyard, a roof terrace, and a rock-cut staircase that still survives. The details are disclosed in a new book by the Professor: The Sisters of Nazareth Convent: A Roman-period, Byzantine and Crusader site in central Nazareth (Routledge).
He says that examination of the house showed excellent craftsmanship and a structural understanding of rock which would be consistent with its having been built and owned by a tekton: the original Greek description of Joseph’s occupation in the Gospels. Besides translating as “carpenter”, it also means a stonemason or builder.
Professor Dark also found a fourth-century cave church decorated with mosaics built in the hillside adjacent to the house, and believes that a fifth-century church built over them both was the largest church in Nazareth, and probably its cathedral. That building, elaborately decorated with marble and mosaics, matched a seventh-century description of the Byzantine church said to have stood on the site of Jesus’s home.
The fact that it was bigger than the Church of the Annunciation near by — at the site where Byzantine-period Christians believed that the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary with news that she would give birth to the Son of God — reflects its significance.
Professor Dark suggests that the knowledge that it was Christ’s childhood home would have passed down to the time when the first church was built, in the fourth century. Christianity was being adopted throughout the Roman Empire. “My conclusion is that, from anthropological evidence and studies of oral tradition, there’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have known,” the Professor said. “All the reasons to doubt that it might possibly have been have gone — this is exciting stuff.”
The Gospels say little about the childhood of Jesus; St Luke reports his life up to the age of 12 simply: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him” (Luke 2.40).