Just in time to make a replica to place under your Christmas tree, a British archeologist claims to have discovered an ancient home in Nazareth that is from the right time period, location and construction to have been the first home of the biblical Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph. For those looking to build a wooden replica based on the carpentry element of the biblical story, you may want to invest in some modeling clay instead.
“Five years of intensive research on the fieldwork data has consolidated the evidence for the first-century house and fourth-fifth century churches, shedding new light on them. It has become clear that whoever built the house had a very good understanding of stone-working. [This] would certainly be consistent with what we might expect from the home of a tekton (the term used for Joseph in the Gospels) which although usually translated as carpenter, actually means a craftsman associated with building.”
Professor Ken Dark, a researcher at the University of Reading, has released a new book entitled, “The Sisters of Nazareth Convent: A Roman-period, Byzantine, and Crusader site in central Nazareth” in which he outlines the archeological history of the limestone hill beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent. In 2015, Dark found under the convent the remains of a Byzantine church with a crypt containing a first-century CE house. That took him to De locis sanctis (Concerning sacred places), a written account by the Irish monk Adomnán of a story told to him by the Frankish monk Arculf (The Kingdom of the Franks or Frankland was the predecessor of France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany) of his travels to the Holy Land around 380 CE – the story of a church known as the Church of the Nutrition, meaning it was home of Jesus during his nurturing or upbringing. What Dark found matches what Arculf wrote that he saw – a building that locals believed was the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
“The stairway was constructed skillfully using part of a natural cave and another part of the cave was used to support the ceiling of the room.”
Yes, Dark tells MailOnline the building was a two-story stone structure with a carved stone staircase leading up to a room. Dark found what was a doorway in the room that led to a smaller room. Remains of walls were identified, along with a compressed chalk floor. (Photos here.) Dark dates the structure to the first century CE, but it may have been built earlier. Historical records indicate an elaborate cave church was built on the site in the fourth century next to the house, and a surface church was built above both in the fifth century – a structure whose craftwork adds to the belief that this home was significant.
“Whoever built that with the house preserved, and probably venerated, in its crypt must have thought it pretty significant site in religious terms, especially given what texts tell us the Byzantines perceived to be other places of religious importance in the center of Nazareth.”
Adding even more credence to house is its location a street away from the Church of the Annunciation, built on what is believed by many to be the site of the biblical story of an angel announcing to Mary she would give birth to Jesus – a church originally built around the same time as the one over the house. The Sisters of Nazareth excavated the site in the 1800s after finding an ancient cistern and other archeologists studied it, but Dark appears to be the first to connect the dots.
So, is this the real first home of Jesus, built by his carpenter/stonemason father Joseph?
“On the one hand, we can put forward a totally plausible case that this was Jesus' childhood home. But on the other hand, actually proving that is beyond the scope of the evidence. It's debatable whether it would ever be possible to prove that."
While Dark rightfully admits to CBS News that this is not conclusive proof, he defends his finding’s significance.
"I'm an archaeologist. I'm not making up stories, I'm working off evidence. What's there on the ground is very consistent, very convincing."
Are you convinced? Ready to put a clay cave next to the manger under your tree? Whatever the case, this is yet another interesting discovery in the quest to prove the history of the Cristian and Hebrew bibles.