If Nazareth was no provincial backwater, its neighbouring town, Sapphoris, was capital of Gallille until about AD 52. It is about an hour’s walk from Nazareth. Its most striking building is a great theatre, with a diameter of 70 metres which held about 4500 people. The theatre would have been built in Jesus’ lifetime, and would have been a great source of work for the local craftsmen. It would not be far-fetched to suppose that Jesus and his step-father may have worked on this great project.
5273 hypokritḗs (a masculine noun derived from 5259 /hypó, “under” and 2919 /krínō, “judge”) – properly, a judging under, like a performer acting under a mask (i.e. a theater-actor); (figuratively) atwo-faced person; a “hypocrite,” whose profession does not match their practice – i.e. someone who “says one thing but does another.”
[5273 (hypokritḗs) was commonly used of actors on the Greek stage. When applied in the NT, it refers to a hypocrite.
It was a word which meant ‘actors’ from which derives its meaning as used by the Lord, that is dissemblers, ones who (as the Greek players did) use masks to disguise reality.
It is unlikely that the son of pious parents would have frequented the theatre, as many of the plays were of questionable moral content, but with seating for more than 4000, it seems probable that many Jews did. So Jesus would have grown up in a cosmopolitan culture, familiar, if at second hand, with some classicla Greek drama, and in an environment where Greek and Latin were spoken, and where there was quite a degree of literacy.
Once you travel (as Jesus did) east of the Jordan river and the Sea of Gallille, you enter the area known at the time as the Decapolis. As the name implies this was a Greek confederation of ten cities in which the Jews were in a minority. It was here that the story of the Gaderene swine. For all the arguments over where the place was and what it was really called (the oldest manuscripts have ‘Gesara’, except that Codex Vaticanus also has it as Gadara in Matthew, whilst the Alexandriunus has Gadara in Luke and Matthew and a gap in Luke) the likeliest place is the town of Umm Qays in modern Jordan. Unlike Gesara, which is fifty kilometres away from the Sea of Galillee, in Jesus’ day the town was very close to it.Gadara was a centre of Hellenistic culture. It is interesting that Jesus, whose mission was to the children of Israel, went there and performed a miracle.
We understand Jesus better if we understand that in the flesh he was part of a cultured cosmopolitan world, one where traditional Jewish culture coexisted and sometime clashed with the Graeco-Roman world of which it was part. It is hardly surprising then that the Gospels were written in the everyday Greek of that world. The men who wrote them were bilingual and possibly trilibual – or in the case of those who spoke Aramaic, multilingual If you had wanted to take the message of the Jewish Messiah to the whole world, you’d have started off in such a place.