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Matthew 6:2: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Nazareth, the town in which Jesus grew up, is often portrayed as a tiny backwater town. As a result, Jesus is often portrayed as an unsophisticated man. He has been painted many times as someone who could more easily relate to farmers and shepherds than to the city dweller. Biblical researchers point out that this is not an accurate picture of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is true that Nazareth was only a small village of 400 people in Jesus’ time. However, only four miles away stood Sepphoris, the main city and capital of Galilee and Perea. Today, Sepphoris is nothing but ruins. But in Jesus’ day, it was a bustling city of 30,000, fully linked to the trade routes of the empire. It was the royal residence of Herod Antipas. It also boasted a 4,000-seat theater, public baths, archives, gymnasium, water works, and other public buildings. In other words, rather than a tiny backwater town, Nazareth was a suburb of a major Roman capital!

Researchers have concluded that Jesus lived in a more urban and sophisticated culture than many have believed. This explains why many of Jesus’ parables talk about the policies of kings, tax collectors, wealthy landlords, and even actors. Yes, actors. In His teaching, Jesus often referred to hypocrites. The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for stage actor. Stage actors, of course, pretend a role or play a part.

Not all scientists challenge Scripture. In this case, archaeology is helping us better understand the context of our Lord’s earthly life.

Prayer: I thank You, Lord, that there are scientists who are working to help us better understand the Bible rather than to discredit it. Bless and prosper such work and those who do it so that Your Name may be more greatly glorified among us. Amen.

Notes: Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1992, p. 52.

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