The children of Nazareth

The Franciscan Missionaries Serving the Holy Land (Custodia Terrae Sanctae) have been excavating the ancient village of Capernaum for nearly a century. The archaeologist currently in charge is Father Stanislao Loffreda ofm. Their main interest is in the house of Peter, which became a house church (domus ecclesia) in the first century AD, and later an octagonal church. You can read about the site here.

Saint Peter’s house and the village layout also reveal a little of what life would have been for Jesus growing up in the neighbouring village of Nazareth, where archaeology has been limited by the density of current occupation (see this article). At the time of Jesus, however, Nazareth was a tiny hamlet, much smaller than its neighbour Capernaum.

It is unclear from the New Testament whether Jesus had brothers and sisters. There certainly were other closely related children growing up in the house where he lived. Each house held more than two parents and their immediate children, but the excavations show that these houses were not huge. Maybe the individual compounds were home to four or five adults and eight or nine children.

The children would have been able to run through the narrow streets formed by the high walls of the houses.  All the adults of the village would like have known all of the village children, so their behaviour was probably fairly restrained! They would also be required to help in tasks in the home and in the fields outside the little village.

Reconstruction of Capernaum (Kaphr Nahum)

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