Day 5: The Roman City of Sefforis, Near Nazareth

Sefforis is a Roman town about six miles from Nazareth; during Christ’s time it was the capital of the Galilee region. Today, it has been thoroughly excavated and interpreted by Israel, as part of  Zippori National Park.

The city encompasses the ruins of a Jewish city described by Josephus Flavius as “the ornament of all Galilee,” it was the seat of the Sanhedrin and the home of Rabbi Judah Hanasi, third-century “redactor of the Mishnah.” It also has a Crusader connection, owing to its high, safe elevation.

What is significant about it is that as a hub of the Galilee region, it would have certainly been known to Jesus,  Joseph and Mary. As a person who had only seen Roman mosaics in museums, what strikes you here is how well the Roman history is preserved, and how easily you can experience the cosmopolitan nature of the city. To see Roman culture so powerfully spread into places like Zippori is to see how important Roman culture was in spreading Christianity; Rome was a universal way of life, and ubiquitous over a large area.

What also struck was the idea that Jesus, as a carpenter, was an average man and worker. That is to say that he was not a pauper; instead he might well have been much more cosmopolitan than we thought. PBS’ Frontline examined this, with a variety of views.

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