A stone and mortar building under a convent in Nazareth, Israel, may have been Jesus’ home while under Joseph’s tutelage, according to a British associate professor of archaeology.
“Five years of intensive research on the fieldwork data has consolidated the evidence for the first-century house,” Ken Dark of the University of Reading said to MailOnline.
The residence, found in the 1880s as nuns from the Sisters of Nazareth Convent stumbled upon its cistern, was constructed with professionalism commensurate with the Greek word used in Matthew 13:55 for Joseph’s occupation, Dark said. A tektón is a craftsman who works with wood, expert in carpentry but having other skills as well. He thinks Christ’s human father likely built the entire residence due to such ability.
The house the scholar has excavated since 2006 had a living room, storage area and courtyard as well as a second story for entertaining. “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,” Dark said.
Other notable, preserved original elements include a doorway and chalk floor, both of great craftsmanship. Digs there have turned up artifacts such as kitchenware and a spindle.
The Bible says in Luke 3:4, “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.”
The king had declared a census, causing Joseph to return to his ancestral home, some 70 miles away directly but, as now, a journey of more than 90 miles via paths. Nazareth then had 200-400 people and was not well-known. It is unmentioned in the Old Testament.
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael said to Philip in John 1:46.
Today, Nazareth is home to 60,000 Arab Israelis.
Professor Dark’s site is close to the Church of the Annunciation in the central part of modern Nazareth. Biblical researcher Victor Guérin identified the house as Joseph’s in the late 1880s, and work there continued nearly 50 years. In 1936, onetime architect Henri Senès, a Jesuit priest based in Jerusalem’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, began examining the home but published no findings, causing the house to disappear from Christian locations of interest.
Little happened till the site came to Dark’s attention. In 2015, he published “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?” in Biblical Archaeology Review. “It had been constructed by cutting back a limestone hillside as it sloped toward the wadi (valley) below, leaving carefully smoothed freestanding rock walls, to which stone-built walls were added,” he wrote.
Churches from the Byzantine and Crusader eras built over the house helped preserve it. Prior to that, a congregation had met next door to the dwelling in a space fashioned out of rock and dating to the Roman Empire’s embrace of Christianity in the 330s A.D.
“Was this the house where Jesus was brought up?” Dark asked rhetorically in his article. “It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds, but nor is there any archaeological reason why such an identification need be discounted. What we can say is that the Byzantines probably believed that it was.”
He now has a book out by the well-known academic publisher Routledge, The Sisters of Nazareth Convent. A Roman-period, Byzantine and Crusader Site in Central Nazareth. He is the first trained archaeologist to dig at the location, holding a doctorate in the subject from the U.K.’s University of Cambridge. He specializes in the archaeology and history of the first millennium A.D. in Europe and the Middle East as well as that of early Christianity.