Caesarea MaritimaOn the west coast of Israel and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea is the ancient site of the port city of Caesarea Maritima (“by the sea”), where Herod the Great built a magnificent harbor in the first century BC, naming the refurbished city after Augustus Caesar. When Judea became a Roman province in AD 6, Caesarea Maritima replaced Jerusalem as the capital and was the home of Roman governors Pontius Pilate, Antonius Felix, and Porcius Festus. In 1961 the “Pilate Stone” was discovered here, an inscription identifying Pontius Pilate as prefect of Judea, the first known confirmation of this historical fact outside the biblical record. Caesarea Maritima was also an administrative center for King Herod Agrippa I, where he died an excruciating death in AD 44 (Acts 12:19-23).
In the early years of the Christian movement, a strong Christian community was established in this city, starting with Philip the evangelist and his family (Acts 8:40; 21:8-9), and the household of Cornelius, the first Gentile members of the Lord’s church (Acts 10:1–11:11). The city was visited by Simon Peter and six brethren from Joppa (Acts 10:23-24) and by the apostle Paul on multiple occasions (Acts 9:30; 18:22; 21:8-16), including a two-year stint in the local prison (Acts 23:23–24:27). It was here that Paul stood before Antonius Felix, Porcius Festus, and King Herod Agrippa II, and made his appeal to Nero Caesar (Acts 23:33–26:32).
From a small, obscure village in the first century AD,1 with an estimated population of roughly 400 or so, Nazareth is now the largest city in Israel’s northern district, with a population of around 80,000, mostly of Arab or Palestinian descent, about 31% of whom identify as “Christian.”
Nazareth was the residential home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his stepfather Joseph (Luke 1:26-27; 2:30). After Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and early childhood in Egypt, he grew up in Nazareth, which came to be recognized as his hometown (Matt. 21:11; Luke 2:39-40; 4:16). No less than twenty times in the New Testament he is called a “Nazarene” or “Jesus of Nazareth.”2 Later his followers were derogatorily labeled “the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).
Jesus was raised in a carpenter’s home in Nazareth and became a carpenter himself, with at least four half-brothers and at least two or more half-sisters (Matt. 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). In addition to the training young Jesus received at home (Deut. 6:6-7; Luke 2:51-52), like all other Jewish boys of his day, he would have attended the local synagogue school from age 5 or 6 until around age 15. He customarily attended and participated in the services of the Nazareth synagogue into adulthood (Luke 4:16).3
The last time Jesus was in Nazareth, even though he was among his hometown kinsmen, he was rejected and maltreated (Mark 6:1-6). When he preached his last sermon at his home synagogue, the locals, who had known him and his family for most of his life, were outraged by his messianic claims and led him to the brow of a hill on the outskirts of town to cast him over a cliff, but he managed to escape (Luke 4:16-30).
|Meeting with the Saints in Nazareth|
After Jesus had completed his mission on earth and his church began in Jerusalem, it quickly spread throughout the region into Galilee (Acts 9:31). In the early 1970s the Lord’s church was reestablished in Nazareth through the missionary efforts of George Bailey. Since then the Maurice and Inaam Jadon family have worked with the Arabic-speaking congregation, the only known church of Christ currently in Israel and neighboring countries. We were blessed to worship and fellowship with these dear brothers and sisters on the Lord’s day. Though we were in a foreign land with language and cultural barriers, we felt right at home with family, thanks to the common bond we share in Christ.
Just outside of Nazareth is Mount Precipice (a.k.a. Mount Precipitation or Mount Kedumim), overlooking a 1,000-feet (305 m) drop to the valley floor below. Traditionally this has been identified as the place described in Luke 4:28-30. However, the cliff is just over a mile (2 km) from the city center and traditional site of the ancient Jewish synagogue, so a closer locality is more likely. Nevertheless, Mount Precipice provides an amazing panoramic view of Nazareth to the north and the Jezreel Valley to the south.
|Jezreel Valley from Mt. Precipice Lookout|
Also visible from Mount Precipice, approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Nain at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, is Mount Tabor. It rises above the valley floor nearly 1,900 feet (580 m) and provided a boundary for the lands of Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali (Josh. 19:12, 22, 34). It was the subject of poetic and prophetic imagery (Psa. 89:12; Jer. 46:18; Hos. 5:1), and is where Barak gathered Israelite troops to battle and conquer Sisera’s Canaanite armies in the Jezreel Valley (Judg. 4:6-14).
|Mt. Tabor in Jezreel Valley|
Since the third century AD it has been called the Mount of Transfiguration, the alleged site of Jesus’ transfiguration in the presence of Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:1-9). But the “high mountain” is not identified in the Synoptic accounts, which if taken at face value, collectively seem to depict the glorious event having occurred farther north.
The places we have visited on this segment of our journey are reflective of hostile people who made valiant attempts to destroy Jesus and his church. Yet viewing the agriculturally fertile valley from the outskirts of Nazareth, not far from where the Lord’s saints presently meet, has reminded us of the agricultural image of the imperishable seed of God’s word (Luke 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:23), planted anywhere in the world, that sustains his indestructible church (Matt. 16:18; Heb. 12:28). “Then to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).
--Kevin L. Moore
1 Nicodemus asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46, NKJV). Outside the NT, the village is not even mentioned in extant sources until the third century AD.
2 Matt. 2:23; 26:71; Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:6; Luke 4:34; 18:37; 24:19; John 1:45; 18:5, 7; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 22:8; 26:9.
3 See K. L. Moore, “The Education of Jesus the Rabbi,” Moore Perspective (8 Feb. 2017), <Link>.
4 See K. L. Moore, “The Miracle at Nain (Part 1),” Moore Perspective (11 May 2022), <Link>.
Related Posts: Israel Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Jordan Part 1, Part 2, Palestinian West Bank
Caesarea Maritima, <https://the-israel-guide.com/mediterranean/caesarea/>
Meeting with Nazareth saints, photo by Katie Wadlington and Lynne MooreMt. Precipice Lookout, <https://www.ingermanson.com/on-mount-precipice-with-jesus/>
Mt .Tabor, <http://www.alluringworld.com/mount-tabor/>