Most people, who know me personally, know that I come from a family of craftsmen, my grandfathers were machinists and carpenters, my father is a concrete mason, my brother is a stone and brick mason. Since the age of fifteen I have spent nearly every summer working alongside them, augmenting and building homes for our clients.
Jesus was a craftsman too. And not just a carpenter, the greek word to describe Jesus’ occupation, tekton,could be a simple carpenter, but it could also mean master craftsman, working in either wood or masonry. A tekton was the person each village depended on to set their foundations right, or to build a properly functioning door. In other words, Joseph and his son, Jesus, were the go-to guys when you wanted to build a house for a growing family.
And lots of growing families there were. The essential unit of Israelite culture since the time of the patriarchs was the bet av (“house of the father”). The ideal life was made up of a patriarch living with his wife (or wives), and his sons and their wives, down to the fourth generation — all on a single parcel of land, frequently in a single home. As a patrilocal society, when sons married, their wives were brought to the home of the family patriarch and a new room or floor was added to accommodate the newlyweds and their offspring.
New people meant new rooms. New rooms meant remodeling. Remodeling meant someone needed to, at least, call the village tekton.
By the time of the first century, particularly in Hellenized areas of Galilee, these homes had been organized into what were known to the romans as insulae. In Rome, the insulae were considered the slums, but in backwater Capernaum, the insulae lay over the bet av family structure. What would have been a complex of apartments for unrelated families in Rome, was turned into a complex of rooms for a single extended family in Capernaum.
One such house in Capernaum, was the home of Peter, his wife, his mother-in-law and likely, his brother Andrew. As it just so happens, it also became the base of operations for Jesus in Galilee. It was a home that would see all sorts of people knock on its door:
- Roman centurions
- God fearing gentiles
- Tax collectors
- Disciples and
- mobs of Sidonians, Galilleans, Judeans, Hellenists, and Jews;
Foreign to one another, they would all come to encounter each other around Jesus in a house in Capernaum.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, that same house in Capernaum would become, perhaps the first house-church, welcoming tens, or hundreds of new people to “the way” made possible by Christ.
It’s no surprise that Jesus would follow up a statement about how his father’s house “has many rooms,” with a proclamation that he is “the way, the truth and the life,” that “no one comes to the father except through him.”
In the bet av, new people meant new dividing walls needed to be erected, or new doorways through existing walls needed to be cut. In other words: remodeling. Remodeling meant someone needed to call a tekton.
We too, are foreign to this first century-world of Capernaum! In need of a place to stay.
That is why I am excited to offer a new course entitled, “In a house in Capernaum: Encountering the foreign Characters of the New Testament.”
You can find out more information on how you can host this adult bible study in your community by clicking on the link above!