The political, economic and cultural situation in the 1st century

The Old Testament does not make mention of the town of Nazareth. Nazareth, a small Galilean town of Palestine, however, is where Jesus spent his childhood with his parents, Mary and Joseph.

Nazareth was then an obscure, little town and, as in the rest of Palestine, under Roman domination, the domination that followed that of the generals of the famous Greek emperor, Alexander the Great.

 The Romans were very present in Galilee at the time of the Annunciation to Mary by the archangel Gabriel; and they remained there, as in the rest of Palestine, until the middle of the 3rd century.

The Jews of Palestine, called the Hebrews, are what the Bible designates as the nation of Israel and that the Scriptures will also name, in 7 BC, the "chosen people".

Therefore in the time of Jesus, we find in Palestine, and particularly in Nazareth, a rather mixed society, where Hebrews, Greeks and Romans live side by side. The different cultures are juxtaposed and interpenetrate each other, yet they do not really mix.

The town of Nazareth surnamed "the garden of Galilee", sits on the flank of a hill a bit like the "guard" ("Nasar", in Arabic "Nasirah") of the region. Surrounded by other hills, it is located in the midst of a green landscape. On its western boundary, the town was delineated by a small river today dried up.

The name of Nazareth appears for the first time on a plaque dating from the 4th or 3rd century BC, discovered among some fragments near Caesarea (a city of Palestine built by the Jewish king Herod the Great).

At that time the population did not exceed 150 inhabitants; among them were Mary, Joseph, and the relatives of Jesus. People made a living off agriculture (vines, olive trees, barley, and vegetables) and making handicrafts.

In the time of Jesus it seems that, according to archaeological discoveries, the houses of Palestine were built in the prolongation of natural caves.

 The salvation of the world came from this isolated town…

The house of the Annunciation was also one of these natural caves arranged into a house, according to archaeologists.

In particular, the discovery of domestic silos (where families preserved their food), cisterns, small lamps to light the basement of houses, ceramics inside the kitchens, and traces of hearths found at the foot of walls, have been real motivation demonstrating the authenticity of "Mary's House; (cf. the book by Antonio Olivan, "In the Native Land of the Holy Virgin", Commissariat of Holy Land Publishers, Ottawa where the author, who was well documented in the history of archaeological diggings in the Holy Land, also supports the authenticity of the "House of Loretto", which could very well be the "House of Mary", completely neglected after the seizure of Nazareth and the carnage perpetrated by the Emir Alah ed-Dine in 1263, then miraculously transported to Loretto).

At any rate, it was in Nazareth that Mary heard God's call; and afterwards it was there, after her betrothal to Joseph that the Holy Family settled down. It was there that Jesus grew up and spent most of his life, from childhood to adulthood (about 90% of his earthly life).

 The fact that Mary, betrothed, lived the Annunciation in the house where she lived before living with Joseph (when the angel said to him "do not be afraid to take in your house Mary your betrothed" Mt 1: 20) is not only in conformity with the Gospels but also with the current state of archaeological discoveries made in Nazareth (cf. Antonio Olivan's book quoted above, which we have extensively used in our summary. See below "to go further").

 During his public life, Jesus will go back to Nazareth. He intervenes in the synagogue to announce the liberation of the oppressed. Some of the population even attempts to kill him. No one is a prophet in his own country.

 Why then did Jesus live in Nazareth instead of a great capital such as Jerusalem or Rome?

  • On the one hand because Nazareth is the place where the princely descent of a fallen branch from the royal lineage of David had been established, a descent to which Jesus belongs through his parents (cf the article "What do we know of Nazareth in the year 0?")
  • On the other, because Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God and God himself, did not receive his throne and his renown from another, for He is himself:

"The one who is, who was and who is coming."

Since the founding event of the Annunciation to Mary by the archangel Gabriel, the small town of Galilee, humble and then quite set back, has become a high place universally recognized as the historic place where Mary's "yes" to Divine Will sprang up out of her heart, making the salvation of the world possible...