Courtesy Duby Tal and Moni Haramati, Albatross

Rising 400 feet above the rolling terrain of central Galilee, the acropolis at Sepphoris is crowned by a late box-shaped citadel (far right) that overlooks excavations in the city’s first-century C.E. residential area. Located a mere 4 miles north of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, Sepphoris was a thriving urban center during his lifetime and in the centuries that followed, and many scholars have wondered if Jesus was influenced by the cultural and intellectual trends that prevailed in the nearby city.

Some scholars think Sepphoris was a thoroughly Hellenistic city and try to place the teachings of Jesus in the context of Greco-Roman philosophical traditions. But authors Mark Chancey and Eric Meyers contend that extensive excavation at Sepphoris has only confirmed the opposite view: that first-century Sepphoris was a town with a strong Jewish cultural identity.