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Click me!  Click me!  Days of Awe and Joy - Jackson Snyder & the Royal KlezmerineMark 6:3 “Is this not the carpenter?”
Matthew 13:55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son?”

John 1:26. John answered them, "I baptize with water; but standing among you, unknown to you, 27. is the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal." 28. This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29. The next day, he saw Yahshua coming towards him and said, "Look, there is the lamb of Elohim that takes away the sin of the world. 30. It was of him that I said, `Behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.' 31. I did not know him myself, and yet my purpose in coming to baptize with water was so that he might be revealed to Israel." 32. And John declared, "I saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him. 33. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34. I have seen and I testify that he is the Chosen One of Elohim."

35. The next day as John stood there again with two of his disciples, Yahshua went past, 36. and John looked towards him and said, "Look, there is the lamb of Elohim." 37. And the two disciples heard what he said and followed Yahshua.  

Lost Years of "Yahshua"

   John the Baptizer is standing with two of his disciples when Yahshua first walks onto the Gospel scene.  John had previously described this mystery man as “The Son of Yahweh.”  Now, when he sees Yahshua from a distance, he points him out to his disciples, calling him “The Lamb of Yahweh.”  John had previously confessed, “I did not know him.”  Nor in this Gospel is any blood relation between John and Yahshua implied.  Rather, the philosophy that under girds the entire story is that Yahshua existed as the Word (logoV) in the spiritual realm with the Father since the dawn of eternity; then he simply appears on the scene out of nowhere.  In the second chapter of this Gospel, we see the introduction of his mother, then later on, the introduction of his brothers. But there’s no birth story in John’s Gospel – Yahshua just appears out of nowhere (as if from another dimension). 

   John (8:57) reports that Yahshua was about fifty years old.  Luke reports that he was about thirty years old when he “appeared,” and was the son of Joseph (3:23).  Luke’s previous report of Yahshua was at twelve years old, attending the Passover in Jerusalem with his parents.  So there are a number of years unaccounted for – his teen years through his twenties.  Some have designated these years as “the lost years” and there are a variety of theories as to where Yahshua had ‘disappeared.’  I thought you might be interested to know where he dwelt in his ‘lost years.’ I’d like to submit my own idea based primarily on just one little Bible word.  Where was he all that time?



   The traditional idea is that Joseph had a little carpenter shop in the tiny village of Nazareth, and that Yahshua, as his oldest son, hung around the shop building cabinets and little wooden trinkets.  Yahshua thus over time became a solid citizen and tradesman there, doing good deeds and reading the scroll of the prophet in synagogue every Saturday for twenty some years.  Then when he was thirty, he just exploded with enthusiasm and power.

   A newer theory that follows the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that Yahshua left Nazareth at an early age to join the religious order of the Essenes or some similar group around the Dead Sea near Jerusalem along with John the Baptizer.  There was a lot of religious activity out in the wilderness, texts were being copied, scribes educated, religious hermits were doing whatever they do, and there Yahshua became educated for his ministry before he made his appearance in the baptismal waters of the Jordan.  There are many similarities between the words Yahshua and of these desert Scrolls, which scholars say belonged to the baptizing groups of Yahshua’ time.  Three of the Gospels report that Yahshua spent time in the desert to be ‘tested by the devil,’ to pray or to recuperate.

   Another theory of Yahshua’s lost years is gaining popularity, especially within the liberal and New Age church movements: In 1887, a Russian war correspondent named Nicholas Notovitch was traveling through Kashmir and Tibet when he fell off his horse and broke his leg.  As he convalesced in a Buddhist monastery (at Himis), he gained the confidence of the head lama who told him about some verses in his library indicating that Yahshua had been there too!  Gaining access to 244 of these verses, Notovitch and his successors learned of a young man the Buddhists and Hindus called Holy (Saint) Isa (ee’sah) who traveled the silk trade route from Palestine to India to study under the great Yoga masters before returning to Palestine where he was crucified.  Isa, by the way, means “master” and is very close linguistically to Yahshua’ Aramaic name, which is Ieshua.  Today these Buddhist verses about Yahshua are available in translation and many believe they’re a genuine account of Yahshua’ lost years.

   Personally, I have a different idea that’s supported by the text and history.   But before I share my ideas with you about Yahshua and his father Yusef, let me first tell you about me and my father Jack Snyder.


Me, a Builder?

   “Dad” was in Germany in the Army when I was born.  When he returned in 1955, he went into business with his father, who was a real estate broker.  My father had a natural gift for building, fixing things, plumbing, masonry, electrical work and drafting.  Although he never went to school to learn any of these skills, when I was a little boy, Dad built entire houses from the ground up, doing all the work himself to save money.  His father bought a large plot of land outside our town, named it “Country Club Acres,” and my father began to build houses on it in 1956.  This area is still known as “The Country Club” but is no longer rural.  Today, thousands of homes stand on that ground, including the ones my father built.

   I was often the only one on the work site with Dad, even as a child.  I can remember being five or seven years old and standing in front of a pile of joist supports (short 1 x 2 boards) with a hammer and nails in my hands.  When I wasn’t in school, I was often at work with him, especially in summers.

   In the 1960s, Dad invented a new way of building scales for trucks and trains, and we began to go on the road, staying on some jobs for weeks at a time.  At an early age, I got to see Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chattanooga, New York and many small towns I can’t remember.  I also went to Gettysburg.  But usually, we would see only the work site, the trailer or motel room we stayed in, and the inside of a fast food restaurant.  We met lots of people and experience many unusual situations.  I learned a lot in these travels.  When we’d finish a job, he loved it like a child.  He took great pride in doing a job right and always gave his best.  This carried over into his mission work later on.

   (The latest photo I have of him was on his fifty-ninth and last birthday.  For years, he’d been dying by degrees from heart failure, yet just before the photo was snapped, he was hanging off the third floor stud wall of a mission building in Haiti, holding on with one hand and swinging a hammer with the other.  It was pointed out in his eulogy that he had been a very strong person with the skill to accomplish anything he set out to do.)

   By the time I was nineteen, I had muscles of steel, but I hadn’t learned a thing about the building business in all those years with Dad.  My mind was always on music or philosophy, my natural inclinations.  But Dad thought everyone that worked for him ought to be a natural builder like himself, and he frequently let me know what a poor helper I was.  And he was right.  I was no good at it.  Finally, he secured me other employment in our town and encouraged me to leave his construction company.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was a happy day for me.  I worked hard for his business, but was never cut out for it.  My father, an expert at building technology, finally realized that I’d never take over the company, and he let me go.  (It was my youngest brother Phil that was a natural builder, and the company continues in his name.)



   What does my story have to do with the lost years of Yahshua?  Now I’ll show you.  Consider how the people of Nazareth referred to Yahshua’ father in Matthew 13:55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son?”  Also consider how these same people referred to Yahshua in Mark 6:3 “Is this not the carpenter?”  Both Joseph and Yahshua, his oldest son, are now thought to have been ‘carpenters.’  But were they carpenters?  In the earliest language of the Gospel we have, the people are actually saying, “Is this not the tektwn (tektōn)?”  Is a tektwn a carpenter?  Well, not necessarily.

   “Carpenter” is an early English translation that just stuck in these verses all these years.  It’s quaint and homey to think of Joseph and Yahshua in their tiny village carpentry shop fashioning Christmas tree ornaments.  We have a word today that’s an exact replication of tektwn -- it’s “technician.”  tektwn may be more accurately translated as “builder” or “contractor” or “building technician” than “carpenter.”  I can’t imagine Joseph or Yahshua as simple village woodcarvers.  I think Joseph was a building technologist like my father.  Here’s why.  Joseph had a large family to support – a wife, four sons and two daughters.  He could hardly manage that burden in a poor town fashioning wooden toys for children.  Matthew’s first two chapters show us that Joseph traveled a great deal.  And Matthew says that Joseph was a righteous man (i.e. an intelligent man).  His patron, Yahweh, had given him the ability to be a natural-born tektwn - a building technologist – so he could adequately support that special, holy family.


Building Sepphoris

   You see, there was a desperate need in Palestine during the time of Yahshua’ youth for skilled builders.  Nazareth was a tiny village on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Sepphoris, one of King Herod’s headquarters.  At about the time of Yahshua’ birth, the Jews in Sepphoris rebelled, and Varus, the governor of Syria, sent troops that destroyed the city.  Afterward, Herod (Antipas) decided to rebuild Sepphoris as a showcase.  The rebuilding effort coincided exactly with Yahshua’ teens and twenties.  Hundreds of artisans and technologists from all over Palestine were brought in to work in the reconstruction business.  What about the firm of Joseph and Sons of Nazareth only five miles away?  I’m certain that they were among the rebuilders of Sepphoris.  Remember the prophet saying,

Isaiah 58:12.  You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in? 

After it’s rebuilding, Sepphoris became known as “the ornament of the Galilee” and was the most fortified city in the region (Josephus).   Surely it was to Sepphoris that Yahshua was referring when he said, “A city set on a hill can’t be hidden.”  He’d seen that city since girth just up the hill from Nazareth

   Archaeologists have excavated Sepphoris.  They have made amazing discoveries.  When I found myself seated in the stands of the ruined but still very impressive theater in the heart of what’s left of Sepphoris, I felt like the twenty year-old Yahshua surely worked here, surely saw the actors rehearsing as he worked, surely compared these actors, playing roles, to the religious bigots of his day.  Later, he called the Scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites,” which, as you may know, is a Greek word (`upokritai) that literally means “actors.” 

   There were also hundreds of great and beautiful mansions and a civic center to be rebuilt in Sepphoris.  I think of the restoration of these great edifices when I hear Yahshua’ famous words, “In my father’s house are many mansions.  I go to [build] one for you.”  Yahshua, trained as a tektwn, may well have had the mansions of Sepphoris in mind when he made the promise.

   Further, when in Matthew 16:18 Yahshua promises that “on this rock I will build my assembly,” he uses the interesting verb oikodomhsw for “I will build,” which literally means, “I will construct a house.”  (“Oiko-“ means “house.”)  Here is one more of many interesting references to building.

   If Joseph and Yahshua were employed in Sepphoris as builders, they were certainly also called to other places where great building projects were being conducted; for many such were going forth at that time: the Herods were known as the greatest builders in history.  Even the construction of the temple in Jerusalem was in full swing when Yahshua was a young man.  When he told his disciples, “See these great stones?” he might have actually helped place them.


On the Road

   As I mentioned before, being on the road with my father and later, as a young man, on the road playing music, I had opportunities to see and do and learn things that others may not do in a lifetime.  Travel is a great educator.  You don’t have to be rich to travel; you just need to make your way as you go – to paddle your own canoe down the river.

   Why is Joseph so little mentioned in the Gospels?  Did he die prematurely?  Maybe he was just on the road a lot, just like my father was.  The holy family didn’t see much of him – and there was obviously resentment about having an absentee father and brother.  (See John 10, for instance.)  However, traveling as they did provided a far better education than that of the Nazareth synagogue school.  Yahshua learned not only Hebrew, but also the Greek language that was used for business and the Latin language of his Roman overlords.  I’m certain Yahshua could read, write and calculate – wasn’t he the Son of Yahweh?  He found favor with people, business people, people in hotels, in bars, big city people – workers, prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners; he learned compassion and he made some people mad. 

   And maybe, because he had this kind of education and disassociation with the local synagogue early on, he also avoided acquiring the hateful kind of religious bigotry and inflexibility of his chief antagonists.  Maybe part of the reason he was made to become the Lamb of Yahweh, the final blood sacrifice for sin, was because he was just a cut above the ignorant hypocrites that ruled Judaism, a little more open-minded than the religious elite, a little more cosmopolitan than the Nazareth bumpkins, a little more compassionate than the philosophers of Greece, a little more zealous than the patriots, a little more righteous than the saints.  Maybe the whole accumulation of resentment and hatred against Yahweh and all gods was finally directed against this Son because he followed his calling as a prophet rather than profiting from assuming the family business.  His building skills might have been less than adequate, but his genius resided in other areas, and he followed his star rather than do what others expected.


More Lost Years

   My friends, we have just filled in the lost years of Yahshua’ youth; but what of the lost years since his resurrection?  What about the last 1970 years he’s been gone?  Sure, we’re told know he’s in heaven interceding before the Father and building mansions in the sky.  He’s a good enough carpenter for that.  We also know that he’ll come home to our town some day, and probably very soon.  But will we know him when he returns to earth?

   There is a popular bumper sticker I see all the time – “I work for a Jewish carpenter.”  Have you seen that?  A Jewish carpenter is who some people are looking for.  But remember, when he came back to Nazareth after a long stay away, working with is father, the “Lamb of Yahweh” wasn’t even recognized in his hometown!  “Isn’t this the Jewish carpenter?” they wondered.  “Then where did he get all this?”  “He shall be called a Nazarene,” said the prophet.  The Nazarenes should have recognized one they claimed as their own.  But they couldn’t.  He wasn’t what they expected at all.

   I wonder, will we ask ourselves the same dumb question that these Nazarene did?  When he returns as the “Lion of Judah” with his angels, saintly hosts, heavenly lights and winnowing fork, will we ask in bewilderment, “Is this the Jewish carpenter?  Where did he get all this?” Jackson Snyder  December 14, 2002