The House That Jesus Might Have Grown Up In

By Heather Ramsey on Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Close-up of a crucifix
“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ ” —Matthew 8:20

In A Nutshell

In Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, archaeologists have unearthed a first-century house that may be the place where Jesus grew up. There is quite a bit of archaeological evidence that points to this being His boyhood home. Archaeologists also noted that the house was recognized as Jesus’s house by people who had lived in the area centuries after He died. However, no one can say with complete certainty that Jesus actually lived in the house, only that the evidence makes it possible.

The Whole Bushel

In Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, archaeologists have unearthed a first-century house which may be the place where Jesus grew up. The walls were constructed of mortar and stone and had been cut into a hillside. Although the structure was initially discovered by nuns in the 1880s, it wasn’t dated by archaeologists until 2006. They also noted that the house was recognized as Jesus’s house by people who had lived in the area centuries after He died. However, no one can say with complete certainty that Jesus actually lived in the house, only that the evidence makes it possible.

Although there are still skeptics who believe that Jesus never existed, the historical and scientific evidence is more than sufficient to convince most scholars, even those who aren’t Christian, that He did. However, they’re careful to make the distinction between the historical Jesus and the religious icon. Scholars know that the historical Jesus was born just before 4 BC and that He was raised as a Jew in Nazareth by His carpenter father. So it’s not unreasonable that His childhood home has been found.

After the house was initially abandoned, area residents quarried there. Two tombs were also built by the house. While we don’t know who was buried there (both tombs are currently empty), we do know that both the house and the tombs were adorned with mosaics in the Middle Ages by people from the Byzantine Empire. They did this because they believed the tomb belonged to the Virgin Mary’s husband Joseph. The mosaics suggest that the house and tomb were important, even venerated. Those same people also built a church over the house to protect it. The church was called the “Church of the Nutrition.”

The Byzantines constituted the eastern half of the Roman Empire that survived after the collapse of the western part. Their empire was based at Constantinople, although they always called themselves “Romans.” Eventually, the Byzantine Empire was destroyed by an Ottoman raid in 1453.

When the Byzantines could no longer maintain the structure, Crusaders repaired the crumbling church in Nazareth in the 12th century. According to archaeologists, this suggests that the Crusaders also believed this was Jesus’s boyhood home. Archaeologists were able to determine much of what they know from records of the nuns’ excavations in the late 1800s and those of Henri Senes, an architect turned Jesuit priest who made meticulous records of the nuns’ findings.

From the artifacts inside the house, archaeologists believe that a Jewish family lived there, further supporting the belief that Jesus lived there. The use of limestone pots, for example, is significant in Jewish culture because they can’t become ritually impure.

Even though various people had tried to protect the house, it was burned down sometime in the 1200s. However, we do have a text from Scottish monks in AD 670 that says they made a pilgrimage to Nazareth to a church where a house once stood that nourished Jesus when he was a baby.

Show Me The Proof

Discovery: Jesus’ House? Structure May Be Where He Grew Up
LiveScience: Who Was Jesus, the Man?; History of the Byzantine Empire